(March 30, 2007) — The 2001 Annual Conference referred concerns for the funding of Conference to the Annual Conference Council. Taking that responsibility seriously, the council took an in-depth look at the financial situation of Annual Conference in its spring meeting March 12-13 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.
CORRECTION: Newsline gave incorrect e-mail addresses for two of the Annual Conference officers, in the March 28 issue. The correct address for moderator-elect Jim Beckwith is firstname.lastname@example.org. The correct address for secretary Fred Swartz is email@example.com. The address for moderator Belita Mitchell was given correctly: firstname.lastname@example.org. The editor apologizes for this error.
Of utmost concern to the council is a trend toward deficit funding, exacerbated by a shortfall of congregational delegates at the 2006 Annual Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. The Annual Conference Fund ended 2006 with a $31,000 deficit. Income for the current year is projected to be nearly $70,000 less than the costs of having the Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, where labor and security required by the convention facilities are inflating the budget much higher than usual.
The council received the unsettling news via a portfolio of reports generated jointly by executive director Lerry Fogle, and treasurer Judy Keyser. The reports also observed that one query and two reports coming to the 2007 Conference include questions about Annual Conference frequency and purpose.
The council also considered a number of suggestions, some of which have been implemented, from a Conference marketing task force it commissioned last year.
Arising out of the council’s discussion and prayer came several significant decisions:
The council voted to delay booking a Conference site for the year 2012 until the 2007 Conference resolves its agenda.
A concise but future-looking report of the Conference financial situation will be included in the report of the Program and Arrangements Committee to the 2007 Conference.
Information about the Conference Fund will be shared with the Church of the Brethren Inter-Agency Forum.
The Standing Committee of district representatives will be made aware of the financial situation and consulted regarding ways to increase the Annual Conference offerings.
The council will add an extra day to its November 2007 meeting in order to devote major attention to evaluating the future of Annual Conference in light of the financial situation.
Other items on the March agenda included follow-up with the Brethren Historical Library and Archives related to questions of transcription of past Annual Conference business sessions; a progress report toward achieving a finished draft of the current denominational organizational and polity manual, scheduled to be completed by this fall; agreement with the Program Feasibility Committee that the Unfunded Mandates paper of Annual Conference needs revision and greater clarity, with the council deciding to take a revised draft to the 2007 Standing Committee for consideration; a review of the ratio of district Standing Committee delegates in light of the most recent membership statistics for the denomination; an updating of the Annual Conference contingency and disaster plan; a review of the 300th Anniversary Committee’s activities and funding; and a recommendation to the Annual Conference officers that Standing Committee be given copies of the 1981 Annual Conference study committee report on diminishing membership as background material for a 2007 query from Idaho and Western Montana District.
The council expressed its appreciation for the leadership of past Annual Conference moderator Ron Beachley, who chaired the council during the past year.