Newsline Special for Oct. 26, 2018: Fall meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board

Galatians 6:10


1) Denominational board holds Fall meeting, adopts 2019 budget, hears from SCN delegation

2) Thriving in Ministry Initiative


3) Church of the Brethren seeks director for Brethren Volunteer Service

Quotes of the week:

“We need each other to encourage each other to press each other to good works…. Let us be the voice of consciousness to one another so the whole body will be built up.”
— Mission and Ministry Board member Thomas Dowdy in his opening devotions for the fall meeting, speaking on Galatians 6:6-10.

“It takes incredible humility to be in a place of transformation…. It will unfold in God’s perfect timing and I pray that we will be ready to receive it.”
— Annual Conference moderator Donita Keister updating the board on the Compelling Vision Process that is gathering input from Church of the Brethren members across the country and that will shape events at the 2019 Annual Conference.

1) Denominational board holds Fall meeting, adopts 2019 budget, hears from SCN delegation

The Mission and Ministry Board adopted a budget for Church of the Brethren ministries in 2019, received news of a large grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, and participated in a Compelling Vision Process session, among other agenda at the fall meeting Oct. 19-22. The meeting was held at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., led by board chair Connie Burk Davis assisted by chair-elect Patrick Starkey and general secretary David Steele.

The board spent a short time hearing a presentation by a delegation from the Supportive Communities Network (SCN) of the Brethren Mennonite Council on LGBT Interests (BMC). Board members worshiped on Sunday morning with Church of the Brethren congregations in the area including the Highland Avenue congregation in Elgin, the Naperville congregation, the Neighborhood congregation in Montgomery, and York Center in Lombard.

Mission and Ministry Board attendees visit Naperville Church of the Brethren.
Mission and Ministry Board attendees visit Naperville Church of the Brethren. Photo by Jay Wittmeyer

As at every meeting, time was spent in worship, singing, and prayer. Thomas Dowdy from Long Beach, Calif., brought opening devotions. Christina Singh from Freeport, Ill., led the closing worship. Find a link to a photo album at

Thriving in Ministry

News that the Church of the Brethren has received a grant of $994,683 to help establish a “Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church” program was shared by Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of the Ministry Office. It is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.

Find a full report below in this Newsline and at

2019 budget

A Core Ministries budget of $5,167,000 in anticipated income and $5,148,690 in anticipated expense, with a proposed net income of $18,310, was approved for 2019. The board approved a total budget for all Church of the Brethren denominational ministries of $9,129,220 in anticipated income and $9,101,260 in anticipated expense, with a proposed net income of $27,960. The total budget includes Core Ministries, Brethren Disaster Ministries, Brethren Press, Global Food Initiative, Material Resources, and the Conference Office.

Treasurer Brian Bultman and assistant treasurer Ed Woolf shared background information including anticipated Ministry Enablement Contributions and Brethren Press contributions totaling $296,000 to support the Core Ministries, as well as several transfers from various funds including the Bequest Quasi-Endowment, the Brethren Service Center Quasi-Endowment, and designated funds, among others. The transfer of $339,000 from the Brethren Service Center Quasi-Endowment represents a portion of the proceeds of the sale of the upper campus property in New Windsor, Md. The board held an in-depth discussion of the use of reserve funds as part of the budgeting process.

The 2019 budget also includes a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment for employees, continuing employer contributions to employee Health Savings Accounts as part of the medical insurance benefit, and lower than expected cost for medical insurance premiums.

In other business

  • The board called Carl Fike as its next chair-elect, beginning at the 2019 Annual Conference when chair Connie Burk Davis concludes her term and current chair-elect Patrick Starkey begins as chair. Fike will serve two years as chair-elect, and then two years as chair beginning in mid-2021. He is an at-large member of the board from Oakland, Md.
  • Nominations to the Germantown Trust were approved, with the board naming incumbents William C. Felton and Thomas R. Lauer to second terms. The nominations were received from the Brethren Historical Committee. The trust oversees the historic Brethren property at Germantown, Pa., where the first congregation of Brethren was established in North America.
  • The board continued work on the “Living Together as Christ Calls” task assigned by Annual Conference, approving two recommendations from a small working group. The board approved the following as suggestions to be made to the appropriate bodies: use of “dialogue sermons” between people of various cultures, theological views, genders, and districts at each denominational gathering; that Messenger magazine continue to publish stories of two or more churches working together across differences.
  • Action was postponed on proposed changes to the by-laws that potentially would increase the number of delegates to Annual Conference and Standing Committee. The matter will be taken up again at the board’s spring meeting in March 2019.
  • A financial report on the 2018 year-to-date budget was received, along with a report on the denomination’s investments, reports from general secretary David Steele and Annual Conference moderator Donita Keister, a report on this summer’s National Youth Conference and appreciation for the work of coordinator Kelsey Murray, and a report on exploration of the possibility of installing solar panels at the General Offices, among others.

SCN delegation

Presentation by a delegation from SCN and BMC
Presentation by a delegation from SCN and BMC. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The board heard a presentation by a delegation from SCN and BMC. A year ago, the board heard a presentation by a delegation from the “Moorefield gathering” including leaders of the Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF).

The SCN delegation included BMC executive director Carol Wise; Susan Stern Boyer, pastor of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren; Brian Flory, pastor of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Naomi Gross, coordinator of BMC’s Kaleidoscope program.

During the presentation, the board did not make a verbal response although individual board members spoke with delegation members at the dinner that followed. Later in the weekend, the board discussed the presentation in closed session. After the meeting, the board worked by email to prepare a written response. The full text of the response appears below.

In welcoming the delegation, board chair Davis clarified that the purpose was for the board to listen, as she had done when the board heard from the Moorefield group. She repeated the same invitation extended last fall, welcoming any group from within the denomination that seeks a similar opportunity.

Each member of the SCN delegation spoke, led by Wise. She reviewed the history of BMC and the development of its focus over the decades. BMC has moved from a focus on educating church leaders about the experience of LGBT church members, to providing safe spaces and sanctuary for the community to heal, to a time of “dancing at the wall” and celebration of identity, to the current understanding that structures of injustice within the church do harm to the whole body and ought to be removed.

“What can we create together that is just and humane for all people?” she invited the board to consider. “Who is still missing? What voices do we still need to hear? … Where are those places of great suffering and need where the Spirit is moving?”

Wise also reviewed the process by which congregations join SCN and shared findings from a survey of SCN congregations. Church of the Brethren and Mennonite congregations are in the network. Among the 51 Church of the Brethren congregations, the survey found very high levels of support for denominational programming, good use of denominational resources, very high levels of support for their districts, among other findings. When SCN congregations were asked “How supported do you feel by denominational leadership?” the survey found 10 percent feel very supported, 35 percent feel somewhat supported, 15 percent are neutral, 15 percent feel somewhat unsupported, and 25 percent feel very unsupported.

“They are intensely Brethren…deeply committed to their Brethren values and traditions and witness,” Wise concluded her description of SCN congregations.

Boyer and Flory spoke as pastors of SCN congregations. “Please, please consider us, the members of BMC and SCN, as part of this beloved denomination that you serve,” Boyer asked the board. Flory shared how his congregation’s participation in SCN has allowed them to “embrace a vision that is at the heart of Jesus’ gospel” and how the emphasis on inclusion unexpectedly extended Beacon Heights’ welcome to people with disabilities. “We now have a broader representation in our congregation of each and every one of the categories in our vision statement…because our commitment became fabric of who we are,” he said.

Gross told about her work with youth and some of the latest statistics revealing difficulties faced by LGBT and “trans” young people. One concern is their high rate of suicide attempts, at over 40 percent a much greater rate than the general population’s 14 percent. She shared that family rejection, which is more prevalent among religious families, is a contributing factor.

The Mission and Ministry Board response to the SCN delegation:

October 24, 2018

Brian Flory, Chair
Supportive Communities Network

Carol Wise, Executive Director
Brethren Mennonite Council

Dear Brian and Carol,

On behalf of the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren, I would like to thank the two of you plus Naomi Gross and Susan Stern Boyer for coming to our October 2018 meeting in Elgin to share personally with us about the life and health of our denomination from your perspectives.

We found your presentations informative and heartfelt. You had our full attention as you shared the history of your organizations and statistics on denominational involvement by the 51 Church of the Brethren congregations who are members of SCN. We appreciated the time you took to educate us on the personal toll that non-support takes on persons who feel rejected by their families and church communities. You did not disparage other groups or seek their exclusion, but rather spoke about your own lives and experience.

Thank you for the pamphlets and book of worship resources you gave to each board member. You also gave to us the gift of naming several issues and challenging us to look closer at how we, personally and denominationally, respond to persons feeling unsupported and measure our faithfulness. We heard your concerns. Our hope is that you will pursue ways of sharing your stories and statistics with the denomination.

While we did not initiate an invitation for you to join our meeting, we appreciate that you responded to our October 2017 statement that, as the board of the entire denomination, we are open to hearing from any group within the Church of the Brethren that may not feel heard or understood. You honored the stated limitations that the sharing be about the state of the church, not be anonymous and, when in person, subject to enough notice and scheduling issues.

The Church of the Brethren is a diverse body with a shared commitment to following Jesus. Our Compelling Vision process hopefully will help define what makes us unique as a denomination, even with our differing views and ways of being. Those of us currently in leadership in the Church of the Brethren love the church and want all to experience it as spiritually grounded and vibrant. We believe this also is the desire of those whom you represent. Our prayers are with you, and we ask for your prayers for us as we seek to be faithful to the entire denomination.

With sincere hope and appreciation,

Connie Burk Davis, Chair,
on behalf of the Mission and Ministry Board,
after discussion and with their blessing

2) Thriving in Ministry Initiative

Nancy Sollenberger Heishman announces new initiative
Nancy Sollenberger Heishman announces the Lilly Endowment grant to the Mission and Ministry Board. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The Church of the Brethren has received a grant of $994,683 to help establish its Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program. It is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.

The Endowment is making nearly $70 million in grants through the Thriving in Ministry initiative.

The objective of the Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program is to promote the thriving of multi-vocational pastors by providing access to resources, education and relationship in their own ministry context. Because multi-vocational pastors serve congregations as one among many vocational commitments, they face particular challenges in accessing denominational support structures and educational resources. The Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program aims to address these challenges and nurture the thriving of these multi-vocational pastors by sending “circuit riders” to meet with and listen to them where they are; connecting them with “exemplars” willing to share particular expertise in needed areas; and creating accessible groups of multi-vocational pastors to provide support and accountability.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to encourage, support, and equip the many dedicated multi-vocational pastors in our denomination,” commented Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Director of Ministry for the Church of the Brethren. “We believe this program will not only enhance the ministry of pastors but will bring vitality and inspiration to many small congregations with the end result of blessing entire communities.”

The Church of the Brethren is one of 78 organizations located in 29 states that are taking part in the initiative. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox.

Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States. This has been a grantmaking priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years.
“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives. These promising programs, including the Thriving in Ministry: Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. The Endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state Indiana. Its grantmaking in religion focuses on supporting efforts to strengthen the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the country and to increase the public’s understanding of the role of religion in public life.

Contact: Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, 847-429-4381,

3) Church of the Brethren seeks director for Brethren Volunteer Service

The Church of the Brethren is seeking an individual to fill the full-time salaried position of director of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). A successful candidate will be an energetic and dynamic leader who connects well with people of all ages, is skilled at leading through programmatic change, and facilitates Christian discipleship formation.

Major responsibilities include directing the program, ministry, and staff of Brethren Volunteer Service and the Workcamp Ministry. This position is part of the Global Mission and Service team and reports to the associate executive director. The position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

Required skills and knowledge include: program development, management and administration, volunteer management; competency in Microsoft Office component applications; knowledge and experience in budget development and management; supervision and mentorship of staff and staff volunteers; ability to work with a minimum of supervision, be a self-starter, and readily adapt to change; ability to act within a multi-cultural and multi-generational team environment; ability to articulate, support, and lead from the core values of the Church of the Brethren, and to operate out of the vision of the Church of the Brethren denomination and the Mission and Ministry Board; ability to relate with integrity and respect within and beyond the organization; five years of proven experience in social services, program development, and administration; three years of experience in volunteer management; bachelor’s degree, with an advanced degree in a related field preferred.

Applications are being received and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. To apply, send a resume to, Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

For more information about BVS go to

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