By Ed Woolf
The 2021 year-end financial reporting to this Spring’s Mission and Ministry Board meeting covered the Church of the Brethren denomination’s Core Ministries and its self-funding ministries including Brethren Press, Material Resources, and the Conference Office. Special purpose funds, including the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF), which supports Brethren Disaster Ministries; the Global Food Initiative Fund, which supports the Global Food Initiative (GFI); and the Emerging Global Mission Fund were also reported on.
Congregational giving to Core Ministries totaled $1.6 million. This was down $87,000 from 2020 and $168,000 behind budget. At $709,000, individual giving to Core Ministries was up $135,000 from last year and $164,000 ahead of budget. This is the highest individual giving total since 2009.
Director-level expenses were underspent by $542,000 with staff not traveling and events either being postponed or moved to a virtual/hybrid model.
Altogether, Core Ministries ended 2021 with a net surplus of $214,000. Along with the surplus, the Church of the Brethren was able to set aside $200,000 for future budget shortfalls. For the first time since 2014, Core Ministries finished with a net asset balance over $2 million.
The Core Ministries are considered crucial to the denomination’s program and include the General Secretary’s office, Global Mission, Office of Ministry, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, Brethren Volunteer Service, FaithX, Discipleship Ministries, Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Older Adult Ministry, Intercultural Ministries, Brethren Historical Library and Archives, and departments that sustain and serve the program work including Mission Advancement, finance, information technology, human resources, buildings and properties, Messenger magazine, and communications.
A $100,000 special distribution from the Gahagen Trust to be used for expenses related to children’s curriculum, along with some staff costs shifted to Core Ministries for 2021, helped Brethren Press close the year with a $118,000 surplus. Brethren Press ended the year with a net asset deficit of $433,000.
Starting in 2022, Brethren Press will be part of Core Ministries and will no longer be considered a self-funding ministry. There is no plan to immediately pay down the Brethren Press deficit as the deficit will be addressed after Brethren Press has had a couple of years to operate within Core Ministries.
With the continuing pandemic, donations for Material Resources were not able to reach pre-pandemic levels. Primary sources of income, including processing health kits, medical supplies, and quilts, were all reduced in 2021. As a result, the significant decrease in service fees and processing income led to a deficit of $21,000 for Material Resources. With this loss, Material Resources has a net asset deficit of $185,000.
The board’s Stewardship of Properties task team is considering questions about property management at both the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., including further assessment of Material Resources. The team will be bringing recommendations to the board.
The Conference Office realized lower expenses in 2021 due to a virtual Annual Conference. The lower expenses helped the Conference Office finish with a $46,000 surplus last year. Built-up surpluses from prior Annual Conferences helped the Conference Office absorb the significant losses caused by no Annual Conference in 2020. With the surplus from 2021, the Conference Office net asset balance increased to $436,000.
Brethren Disaster Ministries
District disaster auctions that raise funds for Brethren Disaster Ministries were held for the first time since 2019, raising $530,000 in support of the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF). Donations totaled $1.7 million, an increase of $582,000 from 2020 when the district fundraisers were cancelled due to the pandemic. The EDF ended the year with a balance of $1.94 million.
Global Food Initiative (GFI)
An appeal was sent out to individuals and congregations late last year after the GFI Fund balance had decreased to $51,000. With the help of this appeal, the fund received $215,000 in donations, an increase of $9,000 from the prior year, and it ended the year with a balance of $106,000. As pandemic restrictions are being lifted, staff are starting to travel, plan trips, and hold meetings for volunteers to both financially support and actively participate in GFI programs.
Emerging Global Mission Fund
The Emerging Global Mission Fund ended 2021 with a balance of $115,000, an increase of $5,500 from 2020. In the past, grants have been used to fund church missions, new and emerging international missions, and church planting in the US.
Total net assets and investments
At $48.5 million, the Church of the Brethren’s total net assets increased $6.2 million from 2020. The increase is due to investment gains, the large surplus in Core Ministries, an increase in restricted giving, and a significant increase in bequest giving.
The denomination’s investments are managed by the Brethren Foundation of Brethren Benefit Trust. At $41.7 million, investments increased $5.5 million in 2021. The increases in both net assets and investments leave the Church of the Brethren in a very healthy financial position entering 2022.
The Church of the Brethren remains humbled and sincerely grateful for both the increase in giving and for the active participation in support of our denominational ministries this past year. In 2021, the Church of the Brethren continued to issue grants from the Ministry Assistance Fund, EDF, GFI Fund, the Brethren Faith in Action Fund, and other designated funds–including grants for Afghan evacuees, grants for the Haiti earthquake response, and grants for other disaster responses, providing mutual support for the larger church body.
[The above amounts were provided prior to completion of the 2021 audit. Complete financial information will be available in the Church of the Brethren, Inc. audit report published in June 2022.]
–– Ed Woolf is treasurer of the Church of the Brethren. Find his video report and background documents for the Spring meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board at www.brethren.org/mmb/meeting-info.
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