The Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren held its Fall meeting on Oct. 15-19 at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The meeting was led by chair Don Fitzkee, and chair-elect Connie Burk Davis.
Financial reports and the adoption of a 2016 budget were prominent items on the board’s agenda. The General Secretary Search Committee also updated the board on the process to name a successor to general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger, who completes his service by mid-year 2016. The committee has issued a position posting and is actively seeking candidates for the position of general secretary (see the Newsline report below, and at www.brethren.org/news/2015/church-of-the-brethren-issues-general-secretary-position.html ).
In addition to addressing the business of the denomination, the board members also shared daily devotions and worship, with a visiting class from Bethany Seminary leading the service on Sunday morning. The weekend included time for fellowship, meetings of board committees, and orientation of new board members.
Adoption of a 2016 budget
The board approved a 2016 budget that includes a balanced budget for Core Ministries of $4,814,000 in income and expense. The overall budget for all Church of the Brethren ministries was set at $9,526,900 in income, $9,554,050 in expense, with an expected net deficit of $27,000 for next year. The budget proposal was presented by treasurer Brian Bultman and assistant treasurer Ed Woolf.
Approved as part of the budget decision were a transfer of redirected one-time designated funds of $130,990 to offset extra expenses related to the transition in the General Secretary’s position; a transfer of $350,330 from the New Windsor Buildings and Grounds Land, Building, and Equipment Fund to offset expenses at the Brethren Service Center; and a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in staff salaries, among other particulars.
In a related action, a Stewardship Task Team was appointed to bring recommendations to the board in March for how board and staff can work together to increase congregational giving and support of the denomination’s Core Ministries. Named to the team were board members Donita Keister and David Stauffer, David Shetler as a representative of the district executives, and donor relations staff Matt DeBall and John Hipps, who will serve as convener.
The board also made a number of changes to financial policies, the bulk of which were editorial. The few substantive changes included a reduction from $2 million to $1.5 million in the net assets for Core Ministries, that will be maintained in order to provide for stable operating needs.
Brethren Service Center
The board received a report on the work to sell property at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. A realty company that specializes in large church and nonprofit properties has been hired to work on the sale. The listing can be viewed at www.praisebuildings.com .
The realty company has put the property on the market, reported treasurer Brian Bultman, and already there is a “for sale” sign posted on the property. In addition, the realty company is carrying out an ad campaign to publicize the availability of the property, and at the same time is working to fill empty apartments with tenants and to find tenants for the empty office space at the Brethren Service Center. The realty company expects such a sale to take from one to three years, treasurer Bultman told the board.
The board learned that one of the large long-term tenants at the Brethren Service, IMA World Health, has moved its offices to a new location. IMA was headquartered at the Brethren Service Center for decades, but now has moved its offices to Washington, D.C. By the end of the year, most if not all IMA staff will no longer be working at the Brethren Service Center.
Mission philosophy study committee
A new mission philosophy study committee was named to rewrite the mission philosophy document of the Church of the Brethren, using as a basis the 1989 Annual Conference document on mission philosophy. The revision will be brought first to the board for its approval, and then will be proposed to a future Annual Conference.
The impetus for the committee grew out of a discussion of mission philosophy at the board’s March meeting, where members of other mission-minded Brethren groups were invited to participate. In late summer an ad hoc committee was formed by the board to follow up on the March discussion. That ad hoc committee has been named to serve as the study committee, and includes Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer as convener; board member Dennis Webb; former board member Brian Messler; former mission worker and past Annual Conference moderator Nancy S. Heishman; and Roger Schrock and Carol Waggy from the Mission Advisory Committee.
In other business
— The board acted to follow up on an October 2014 invitation to staff to bring a proposal for ways to invest up to $250,000 per year for five years to work at revitalization of the church. At this meeting a proposal that had been brought by staff and presented to the board in March 2015 was respectfully returned. The board also rescinded its action of last fall, with the statement that the decision to rescind was made “even as the board continues to be eager to provide resources and support for the revitalization of the domestic church, anticipating further interaction from the Vitality and Viability Study Committee.” In the meantime, the 2015 Annual Conference in July had created and named a Vitality and Viability Study Committee, and the board discussion anticipated receiving direction from the study committee for how to further the work for church revitalization.
— After discussing the benefits and cost of its March meeting held offsite at Lancaster, Pa., the board decided to hold such a meeting every five years, in an area of the country with a high population of Brethren. The board will be seeking invitations from congregations, districts, or other Brethren organizations like camps, retirement communities, or colleges.
— The board received numerous reports, focused primarily on 2015 finances. Other reports were received on the Nigeria Crisis Response, the National Older Adult Conference, the relationship with Heifer International, and reports from the general secretary and board committees, among others. Parts of the strategic plan of the organization were reviewed. Board ex officio members also reported from their work or their agencies, including Annual Conference moderator Andy Murray and secretary James Beckwith, Bethany Seminary president Jeff Carter, Brethren Benefit Trust president Nevin Dulabaum, and On Earth Peace executive director Bill Scheurer.
— Dedication of the Donald Miller papers, which have been donated to the Brethren Historical Library and Archives, was a special event of the weekend. A former general secretary and faculty of Bethany Theological Seminary, Miller was present for the dedication and heard in person several presentations commending his service to the church. Speakers included Noffsinger, who commended Miller for furthering the peace witness in ecumenical circles and international events, and former Bethany academic dean Rick Gardner, who offered a look at Miller’s achievements from the perspective of a colleague and a friendship of more than 50 years.