VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 9/29/06)-The General Board Executive Committee (GBEC) unanimously voted at its September 9 meeting to recommend to the General Board that ABCUSA begin the process offering the Mission Center property for sale, acting upon the recommendation of the Building Management Council to sell the Mission Center property. This recommendation sets the stage for action by the General Board at its November meeting and accommodates any action that might require Board approval in the process. The General Executive Council which met from September 25 - 27 also endorsed the recommendation.
But the decision involves more than selling a building. The beautiful Mission Center in Valley Forge, PA, represents for many American Baptists an enduring symbol of God's work among the 1.5 million members. For many this building is iconic. The decision, therefore, was not entered into lightly. ABC enlisted the services of Cope Lindner Architects to perform a site development study and the GBEC thoroughly reviewed the use and development possibilities of the site. This internationally-recognized firm examined three options. Based upon analysis, however, of economic implications, timelines and needed expertise, among other things, the recommendation was not to pursue these.
The divestiture of this circular-shaped office building is responsible stewardship. "We believe that God is calling all denominations to a new direction," said General Secretary Roy Medley, "and we must remain open to what God is doing. We must also better position ourselves for ministry in the 21st century." In addition, the total office space occupied by ABC entities is less than 50 percent. The remainder is occupied by outside tenants and this fact exposes us to the risk of vacant space. "We want to be good stewards of our resources and to "right-size" to fit our current space requirements," Medley added. "We should not be in the real estate business. We need to remain focused on our primary work of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ as radical disciples." ABC's President Arlee Griffin,Jr. also expressed the thought that "in selling the building we are being responsible stewards and doing the right thing."
All buildings need extensive maintenance as they age, and this 42-year old Mission Center seems to have arrived at this point with its need for capital work, and costly maintenance is no exception. Over the years the Building Management Council and the Budget Review Committee of the General Board regularly reviewed the use of the building and has worked diligently to reconfigure the utilization of space for greater efficiency. "ABC needs to use its largest asset in a different way to enable its ministries," said Cheryl Wade, ABC's treasurer. "Just as the church is not a building," she continued, "so the Mission Center is not ABCUSA." The decision to sell the building at this time, therefore, is timely and this is a favorable real estate market. "It makes good business sense," said Lloyd Hamblin, ABC's Budget Review Officer.
The sale of the building will create an endowment fund for ABCUSA. Any negotiations will include an ABC option to stay in the building for a 3 -5 year period of time to determine where the core functions will be housed. It seems that ABCUSA has a very good opportunity to position itself for its mission and ministry well into the future, just as many other denominations are also reshaping themselves to be responsive to God's leading. ABCUSA is seeking to seize the moment to refocus on its true centers of mission, the local church.
Andrew C. Jayne American Baptist Churches, USA Mission Resource Development http://www.abc-usa.org/