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Newsline - Church of the Brethren weekly news update

From Church of the Brethren News Services
Date 22 Oct 1998 10:02:02

Date:      October 22, 1998
Contact:  Nevin Dulabaum
V:  847/742-5100   F:  847/742-6103
E-MAIL:   CoBNews@AOL.Com

Newsline                                         Oct. 22, 1998
1) Coverage of the General Board's Fall meetings
     a) The Board votes to spin SERRV International off into a
          new, separate, Church of the Brethren-related nonprofit
          organization during its fall meetings at the Brethren
          Service Center, New Windsor, Md.
     b) A brief update is given about the Board’s centralized
          offices location question.
     c) The Board sets aside its structure agenda to work in a
          fluid, deliberate, contemplative and spirit-led manner,
          sans tight time constraints.  
     d) The Board’s considers other business, hears reports.
     e) This year’s fall meetings were held at the Brethren
          Service Center, New Windsor, Md.

1a) After several hours of discussion, discernment, prayer, and
executive session, the Church of the Brethren General Board this
week voted to spin off SERRV International, its New Windsor,
Md.-based self-help handcrafts ministry, into a new, separate,
Church of the Brethren-related nonprofit organization.

With a vote of 18-5 Monday afternoon during its fall meetings at
the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, the Board agreed to
allow the 49-year-old ministry to become an independent agency on
Jan. 1 or whenever thereafter it is granted nonprofit status.
SERRV's request for that designation is currently being processed
by the Internal Revenue Service.

"We believe this step will help SERRV maximize its ministry to
the many current and future artisans who depend on this income
for the basic necessities of life," said Board chair Mary Jo

SERRV, which was established by the General Board in 1949, is a
$5 million-per-year business with assets of $1.2 million. It has
agreements with thousands of artisans worldwide and currently
sells the handcrafts of producers from about 30 countries.
SERRV's goods are sold through gift shops and within 27
denominations, both through congregations and at conventions. The
ministry mails out 300,000 catalogs each year.

The move toward SERRV's independence was formally begun as part
of the Board's recent redesign process, when it sought to limit
financial liability to the General Board and to determine whether
SERRV would be able to function more effectively as a separate
nonprofit corporation. After several years of study by two
committees, the proposed separation received tentative approval
this summer by Board members during their pre-Annual Conference
meeting in Orlando.

Nevertheless, Monday's consideration of this business item was
methodical and deliberate, spanning several hours. It was clear
that this vote would not be taken until all of the questions were
asked, all of the voices heard. 

The process also reflected learnings by Board members and staff
from a spirituality workshop they attended on Saturday; the
workshop's focus was how to integrate spirituality into the
administration and governance of an organization. Occasional
pauses for prayer, contemplation, and song peppered the
discussion as Board members moved toward making their final

The SERRV debate began with an overview by director Bob Chase and
General Board treasurer Judy Keyser. Following lunch and a
routine tour of the Brethren Service Center, Board members were
asked by Flory-Steury for a word or phrase about what SERRV means
to them. She then asked members to tell what SERRV means to the
Church of the Brethren, and then to the world. Flory-Steury then
opened the floor for debate.

Following numerous questions and a 20-minute closed session, the
Board approved the motion allowing for separation. Although
concern was raised over what the decision's impact could have on
the service center's future and whether SERRV could within the
General Board structure be granted the independence it states it
needs to increase its competitiveness, a number of Board members
used the analogy of a child growing up to state it is time for
the ministry to be set free. Some members drew parallels between
this action and the General Board's spinning off of Heifer
Project International in the 1950s; HPI is now a much bigger,
multinational, ecumenical ministry. Many also remarked, however,
that it is their hope that SERRV will maintain its strong ties to
the Church of the Brethren. 

The first of three SERRV-related votes called for the ministry to
be given its independence on Jan. 1 or whenever thereafter it is
granted nonprofit status. "Separation cannot occur without
nonprofit status," the Board said. 

Covering follow-up actions, the second vote, among other items,
establishes a $650,000, three-year loan with interest from the
General Board to SERRV, with the expectation that SERRV will
occupy its current warehouse and office building at the Brethren
Service Center until the loan is repaid. The agreement also
allows for the transfer of all SERRV assets over to the new
corporation, minus the loan. 

To prepare for the possibility of separation, all SERRV employees
on Oct. 1 were given their 90-day termination notices by the
General Board. All SERRV employees, however, have reportedly been
offered jobs in the new organization.

The Board's final vote pertaining to this issue established
SERRV's first board of directors, a group of seven that will
initially include four Church of the Brethren members. They are
Charles Layman, Lori Sollenberger Knepp, Ivan Patterson, and
Benton Rhoades. The three non-Brethren will be Patti Crane, John
Krieck, and Jacqui McDonald. 

1b) Still on the Board's agenda is the question of the location
of the General Board's centralized offices. General Board
executive director Judy Mills Reimber reported that a recently
reconfigured site committee has not yet been able to convene but
is working toward a meeting in February.

1c)In addition to the impact that the spirituality retreat made
on the SERRV debate, its mark was evident throughout the
meetings. Most most notably were the actions taken Saturday night
by Flory-Steury and Reimer who on Saturday night set aside the
remaining 2 1/2 days of structured agenda in lieu of an order of
business that called for the Board to do its work in a fluid,
deliberate, contemplative and spirit-led manner, sans tight time

1d) Within this framework, the Board did consider and approved
one additional main business item -- a balanced 1999 general fund
budget of $5,218,000.

The Board also approved the budgets of its self-supporting units,
which are independent from the general fund. Brethren Press, with
estimated sales of $1,018,700, is expected to have a $33,210
deficit but provided a detailed report of the factors affecting
sales and the steps being taken to address the situation.
Messenger magazine, with gross sales of $239,610, is expected to
break even. Emergency Response/Service Ministries, with income
and service fees that exceed $1.25 million, is expected conclude
the year with $7,830 of income over expense. ER/SM's refugee
resettlement ministry, which collects $45,650 in service fees, is
expected to balance its budget. The New Windsor Conference
Center, with $624,310 in gross sales, is also expected to balance
its budget.

With regard to the 1998 general fund budget, Board reports
through September show that congregational giving is about
$88,000 behind the projected income of $2,349,590. Nevertheless,
Board staff from the Treasurer's and Funding offices stated that
the Board is projected to meet its budget at the end of the year
with $224,000 of income over expense. Of the self-funding units,
Brethren Press and the New Windsor Conference Center are expected
to conclude the year with slight deficits; ER/SM is expected to
conclude the year with a slight surplus.

In other business, the Board --
     * received a proposed Ministerial Leadership paper, which is
a a rewrite of the 1986 Annual Conference "Licensed and Ordained
Ministry" paper. Following the meetings of the Ministerial
Advisory Council and Council of District Executives, this paper
will be presented to the Board for approval in March. If adopted,
it will be sent to Annual Conference delegates for consideration
in July.
     * approved a paper with recommendations pertaining to new
church development, in response to inquiries from districts and
pastors. This paper affirms the Board's dedication to this
ministry in conjunction with districts and congregations but
states that the Board will no longer issue mortgages for new
church development projects. The Board voted to establish an
Emerging Churches Advisory Committee of people who have
experience with new church development to coordinate an Emerging
Churches Network, to develop policy and guidelines, give counsel
to districts and fellowships, provide information on training
events and other resources for church planters, and sponsor
events at Annual Conference that are deemed necessary to "provide
support and visibility for this vital denominational mission."
     * decided that $345,827.98 in funds designated years ago by
the Board for nine specialized purposes that no longer exist will
be made available to the Leadership Team for use according to the
priorities of the Board's new design. 
     * heard numerous reports, including three indepth stories
from three Leadership Team members -- Merv Keeney, Wendy McFadden
and Glenn Timmons -- of unique challenges the three face as they
go about directing their ministry areas. The Board also heard
30-minute presentations by the executives of the four other
official Annual Conference agencies -- Association of Brethren
Caregivers, Bethany Theological Seminary, Brethren Benefit Trust,
and On Earth Peace Assembly.

1e) This fall's Board meetings, which began Thursday with
orientation for new members and concluded Tuesday at noon, were
unique in that they were held at the Brethren Service Center. The
Board typically meets twice a year at its General Offices in
Elgin, Ill., and then once prior to the Church of the Brethren
Annual Conference. However, to ensure that all members gain
familiarity with the service center, the Board holds its fall
meetings in New Windsor once every five years.

Newsline is produced by Nevin Dulabaum, manager of the Church of
the Brethren General Board's News Services. Newsline stories may
be reprinted provided that Newsline is cited as the source and
the publication date is included.

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