|Worshipers carry candles at the close of the Mission and Ministry Board’s Sunday morning service. The service, held in the chapel at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., was led by a class of Bethany Seminary students who were at the board’s fall meeting.|
A budget for denominational ministries in 2014 and responses to items of business sent back by Annual Conference–the Ministerial Leadership document and a query on equitable representation–were high on the agenda of the Mission and Ministry Board at its fall meeting Oct. 18-21. The meeting was chaired by Becky Ball Miller (find a photo album from the Mission and Ministry Board’s fall meeting at www.brethren.org/album ).
Also on the agenda were a review of the organization’s strategic plan, changes to financial policies, capital proposals, discussion of the future of the Brethren Service Center, a celebration of the Gather ’Round curriculum, discussion of expanding the Annual Conference delegate travel stipend, resolution of issues related to terms of board members, and reports–among others a report from National Older Adult Conference and plans for the 2014 National Youth Conference.
A class from Bethany Theological Seminary attended and led the Sunday morning worship service. At the close of the meeting, an afternoon workshop sponsored by Congregational Life Ministries was led by David Fitch, B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary in Chicago.
|“By and large there’s hope on every one of these doors for us to be ‘strangers no more.’” — Janet Elsea, a Mission and Ministry Board member, commenting on how intercultural ministry is increasingly part of various ministries of the denomination. Her comment came during an exercise to assess the Strategic Plan and its six goal areas–Brethren voice, vitality, service, mission, planting, and sustainability. Each goal was represented by a door, and participants wrote sticky notes to place on the doors showing how the goals are being carried out in the church.|
Revision to Ministerial Leadership Polity
The Mission and Ministry Board adopted a revision to the Ministerial Leadership Polity document, after the 2013 Annual Conference returned it with instruction for certain changes. Once adopted the document will represent a major revision to Church of the Brethren polity for ministers. It was presented to the Conference in early July.
The new revision was presented to the board by Mary Jo Flory-Steury, associate general secretary and executive of the Ministry Office. The revision was prepared by the Ministry Advisory Council after conversations with key groups in the denomination including representatives of the plural non-salaried ministry (free ministry) and the Intercultural Advisory Committee. In all, the Ministry Advisory Council has been working on the revision of the document for about seven years.
Numerous revisions respond to Annual Conference concerns in several areas: integration of plural non-salaried ministry (free ministry) into the document, guidelines for the make-up of “calling cohorts” for ministry candidates, a process for commissioned ministers to be ordained and a process for change of call for commissioned ministers, and intentional conversation with ethnic congregations about how the document will affect ministers in their contexts.
The board received the report of the revisions with appreciation, focusing particularly on the guidelines for makeup of calling cohorts. The board made one significant change, to state that calling cohorts “will include” an ordained mentor appointed by the District Ministry Commission. With that change the document received approval from the board, and will be brought back to the 2014 Annual Conference.
|“We live so intimately with our culture that we grow comfortable, not recognizing the consequences…. Baptism is a radical act of civil disobedience. It marks the clear shift of allegiance from a nation state to our God.” — General secretary Stan Noffsinger in his closing remarks to the Mission and Ministry Board.|
A budget for 2014
The board approved a total budget of $8,033,860 income, $8,037,110 expense, for all Church of the Brethren ministries in 2014. Those figures include a Core Ministries balanced budget of $4,915,000 for next year, as well as separate budgets for the “self funding” units of Brethren Disaster Ministries, Brethren Press, Conference Office, Global Food Crisis, Material Resources, and Messenger.
The 2014 budget reflects one-time use of funds from the Gahagan Trust for youth and children’s ministries to support the planning for National Youth Conference and curriculum development by Brethren Press, among other youth and children’s ministries. The budget includes a cost of living increase for employee salaries of 2 percent, and continuing employer contributions to employees’ Health Savings Accounts.
Changes to financial policies
The board approved a new Gift Acceptance Policy to help staff evaluate proposed gifts to the church’s ministries, and to set up a committee that reviews proposals for large gifts.
The board also followed up on previous board critique of the practice of charging interest on interfund borrowing within departments of the denomination, and acted to end the practice and delete the section on interfund borrowing from the financial policies.
|“What will the neighborhood look like if all the violence and the crime we read about ceases to exist? …That’s what it means when Jesus moves into the neighborhood, lives are transformed.” — Samuel Sarpiya, Rockford, Ill., pastor who attended the Mission and Ministry Board meeting with a class of Bethany Seminary students. He was one of two students who gave homilies for Sunday morning worship, along with Tara Shepherd. The seminarians planned and led worship centered on the meeting theme “Jesus Moved into the Neighborhood” (John 1:14, The Message).|
Two capital proposals were approved by the board. A proposal for use of up to $125,000 was approved for renovation to the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., to create a handicapped accessible entrance to the building and to renovate two bathrooms to make them handicapped accessible. Funds for the project were raised in a campaign that was carried out some years ago.
A capital proposal for a new database including software, technical support, and design consultation, was approved to the amount of up to $329,000. A “phase two” of the project may require a small amount of additional funding in future years. The money for the project will come from funds set aside in the Building and Equipment Fund for the General Offices.
Response to the query on equitable representation
After lengthy discussion, and review of suggestions and responses from the table talk at Annual Cnference 2013, the board decided to recommend to the 2014 Annual Conference that no change be made in the process for selecting members of the Mission and Ministry Board.
Several board members and staff expressed trust that the current system works effectively to ensure equitable representation from the various areas of the denomination.
The query that originated in Southern Pennsylvania District was directed to the Mission and Ministry Board by Annual Conference in 2012. However the board’s proposed amendments to the bylaws to respond to the concerns of the query did not receive enough votes from the 2013 Conference, so the business was returned to the board for further work.
Board member terms
The board acted on a by law change that clarified the intention to fill the unexpired term of a board member named chair elect, which requires a separate term of service.
The moving of a board member into the chair elect position has in recent years caused a complex and unequal staggering of terms on the board. The board approved a leadership team proposal that will bring about consistent number of new members on the board each year.
|“To give up on publishing our own material for our church members is to give up on the Church of the Brethren.” — Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden, reviewing the history of the Gather ’Round Sunday school curriculum, which is in its concluding eighth year of publication and was celebrated at the Mission and Ministry Board’s fall meeting. She is at the podium with Gather ‘Round project director and senior editor Anna Speicher. Shine, the follow up curriculum to Gather ’Round, will be available beginning next fall. Find out more at www.shinecurriculum.org .|
Discussion of the Brethren Service Center
The fall meeting included a discussion of the Brethren Service Center, located in New Windsor, Md. The conversation followed up on a decision made by the Mission and Ministry Board at the summer meeting on June 29, authorizing staff to pursue all options for the property, up to and including receiving letters of intent.
In June the board received a brief update on the situation of the Brethren Service Center following the closing of the New Windsor Conference Center, and heard that staff have been working hard to seek options for the use of two of the main buildings on the campus that are not being fully utilized, including meeting with county officials and real estate consultants.
At this meeting, general secretary Stan Noffsinger gave more background information and reviewed the studies of the denominational properties that began in 2005 and included an intensive study of the Brethren Service Center by the board-appointed Stewardship of Property Committee, which was followed by another committee that looked at ministry options for the property in New Windsor. After the economic downturn that started in 2008 adversely affected the New Windsor Conference Center, the board subsequently decided to close the conference center. Since then staff have continued the search for options for use of the property while monitoring the costs of having some large buildings mostly vacant, and having conversation with other agencies that use center facilities.
“There has been exhaustive work by your staff and people who love the center to find ways to utilize the center,” Noffsinger told the board. He asked the board’s help to discern “how to approach the heart side of this conversation with the church,” noting that the property is not on the market but staff need to be prepared “if and when a bona fide offer comes.” He emphasized that if concerned church members came up with a solution it would be considered, although he warned that upgrade and renovation costs might come to around $10 million.
|“I am astounded at the impact a denomination of our size has in this world, and proud–if that’s a Brethren way to say it.” — Annual Conference secretary Jim Beckwith (at right, above) after the Mission and Ministry Board heard reports on the impact of Gather ’Round, a curriculum produced by Brethren Press and MennoMedia and used by 6 partner denominations with 18 denominations represented among customers, and opportunities for Brethren to participate in new ways in ecumenical circles particularly at the World Council of Churches. Beckwith is shown here with board chair Becky Ball Miller.|
Several rounds of small group “table talk” followed. Board members, staff, and guests including the class of Bethany Seminary students who were at the meeting, responded to questions including “Identify what has been the essence of the legacy of the Brethren Service Center?” and “Who do we need to engage in similar conversations to identify the holy memories to carry forward?”
The staff hope for a time for similar small group conversations during “table talk” time at the 2014 Annual Conference, Noffsinger said. In the next few months, the Inter Agency Forum and the Council of District Executives’ annual retreat are also possible venues for conversation about the Brethren Service Center.
In other business
A review of the organization’s Strategic Plan and the six goal areas for the work of the board and staff was led by the executive staff. Stories were told about successes in each area, and continuing work. Then the group was led in an exercise to affirm what people were seeing happening in each area of emphasis.
In a celebration of the Gather ’Round curriculum jointly produced by Brethren Press and MennoMedia, the board saw a presentation highlighting the accumulation of Christian education resources produced by the curriculum staff over the eight years of Gather ’Round. The board expressed appreciation for the work of project director and senior editor Anna Speicher, managing editor Cyndi Fecher, and editorial assistant Roseanne Segovia, who are completing the work and concluding their employment this year.
|“When we come together as the body of Christ our hearts begin to beat as one…. So it is that in these gatherings the space becomes holy ground.” — Board member Trent Smith, preaching for the closing service of the Mission and Ministry Board’s fall 2013 meeting.|
The board’s Audit and Investment Committee report included the information that the investments managed for the denomination by the Brethren Foundation have increased in value by more than $1.5 million since the end of 2012. The value of the investments now totals more than $26 million.
The Executive Committee of the board approved a proposal for a grant of $47,500 from the David J. And Mary Elizabeth Wieand Trust to fund a new web platform for the sharing of worship resources.
Board member Jonathan Prater was named to the Board Development Committee.
Find a photo album from the Mission and Ministry Board’s fall meeting at www.brethren.org/album .