At its fall meeting on Oct. 15-17, the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board approved a 2022 budget for denominational ministries. Among other actions, the board also moved the Brethren Press budget into the denomination’s Core Ministries, ending the publishing house’s status as a self-funding ministry. The board received a year-to-date financial update for 2021 and numerous reports from ministry areas, board committees, and church agencies.
The meeting was a hybrid event with in-person events held at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Chair Carl Fike, who has served previously as chair-elect, was assisted by new chair-elect Colin Scott and general secretary David Steele.
Students from Bethany Theological Seminary observed the meeting and led the board’s Sunday morning worship service on the theme of resurrection, with a focus on the Bible story of the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones. The four students who led worship for the board were Phil Collins, Gabe Nelson, Hope Staton, and Tim Troyer. Faculty member Dan Poole accompanied the group.
Bethany faculty member Dan Ulrich, Weiand Professor of New Testament Studies, led a board development training on “New Testament Models of Giving.”
The board approved a total budget for all denominational ministries of $7,822,300 in income and $7,840,330 in expense, representing an anticipated net expense of $18,030 for 2022. The decision included budgets for the Church of the Brethren’s Core Ministries as well as “self-funding” budgets for Brethren Disaster Ministries, the Annual Conference Office, the Global Food Initiative (GFI), and Material Resources.
Following the decision on Brethren Press (see below) that budget was merged into Core Ministries for 2022.
The Core Ministries budget of $4,959,000 (income and expense) covers the General Secretary’s office, Global Mission, Service Ministries including Brethren Volunteer Service and FaithX, Discipleship Ministries, Brethren Press, the Ministry Office, the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, the Brethren Historical Library and Archives, finance, communications, and other areas of work.
As reported by treasurer Ed Woolf, factors that went into the 2022 budget included estimated giving from congregations and individuals; departmental budget requests; draws from the Bequest Quasi-Endowment Fund and other funds; ministry enablement contributions to Core Ministries from the Emergency Disaster Fund and GFI; other transfers to Core Ministries from designated funds and some money from previous years’ unspent budgets, as needed; among other factors.
In the area of employee benefits, the 2022 budget includes a 2 percent cost-of-living increase in employee pay, continued employer contributions to health savings accounts, and a decrease in the cost of medical insurance premiums.
The board approved moving Brethren Press–which is the Church of the Brethren publishing house–into the denomination’s Core Ministries, ending many decades of self-funding status. The financial situation of the publishing house has been the subject of discussion by the Mission and Ministry Board for some years, with the pandemic putting more pressure on sales figures.
In June, the board affirmed the intent of this recommendation from a Brethren Press Reimagining Team and asked staff to explore the financial implications prior to taking final action (see the Newsline report at www.brethren.org/news/2021/board-sets-priorities-for-denominational-ministries).
As an overview of the recommendation noted, immediate financial implications for Core Ministries are expected to be minimal–although the full effect will not be known for some years. All Brethren Press income and expenses will be merged into Core Ministries so that any net income will add to the Core Ministries Fund bottom line, and any net losses will be absorbed by that fund as well.
The existing Brethren Press net deficit at year-end will remain on the books for up to three years, allowing time to realign the publishing house’s ministries with the board’s Strategic Plan and the needs of other denominational ministries.
In other business
— The board made a number of changes to the denomination’s bylaws, which will be brought to the 2022 Annual Conference for approval. The changes update titles, clarify duties of various positions and groups including the Annual Conference officers and the denomination’s Leadership Team, align language with the Annual Conference minutes, remove outdated language, and make other non-substantial changes.
— A Foreground Initiative #7 was approved for the board’s Strategic Plan. Titled “By This All People Will Know (Understanding Discipleship)” it will establish a common vocabulary and understanding of Christian discipleship among board members and denominational staff.
— A new Stewardship of Properties Committee was called. The five-member committee includes board members Dava Hensley, who will serve as chair of the committee, and Roger Schrock, along with staff representative Shawn Flory Replogle, executive director of Organizational Resources, and two members yet to be announced pending their agreement to serve. The committee will address considerations of property stewardship and the Material Resources program. It is to report back to the board in March 2022.
— Next steps in responding to the “Living Together as Christ Calls” query were approved. In 2016, this query was referred to the board by Annual Conference. The decision lifts up the recently approved priority by the board to develop a program focused on healing and reconciling relationships within the church. “Encouraging the church to embrace a commitment to focus on healing and reconciling relationships is a foundational strategy toward treating one another in a truly Christ‐like manner,” said the language adopted by the board. “Resources and support for pastors, congregational leaders, churches, and districts will come as staff develop the programmatic framework prioritized by the board.”
— Chris Douglas was present in person for a recognition of her service to the church, on her retirement as director of the Annual Conference office.
A photo album of the meeting is at www.brethren.org/photos/nggallery/photos/mission-and-ministry-board-fall-2021. The full agenda, list of board members, accompanying documents, and video reports are at www.brethren.org/mmb/meeting-info.
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