689 tweets. That's what it would take for us to send out this Special Edition of Momentum via Twitter. Yes, we admit that this issue is content-heavy. But we think any disadvantages to such a lengthy newsletter are far outweighed by several important up-sides:
- The issues facing the General Conference Board over the last two years have been many. On behalf of the GCB, we're looking to communicate the questions GCB has encountered and the progress GCB has made on each matter.
- The issues facing the General Conference Board over the last two years have also been complex. We've done our best to offer "tweet-style" context for each issue, as well as the action steps that GCB is proposing. Then, if there are any areas that you'd like to explore more deeply, we're providing links to pages with additional information.
- At General Conference 2012 this July, we will gather as a community of faith to discuss and make decisions about these issues. In the meantime, we hope that you can use the information below to confer about these matters with others—at Regional Conference Annual Meetings and within congregations—between now and July.
- Most of all, we remain inspired by the knowledge that our Church is a vibrant community of faith. In all of these issues, we seek to interact with each other with humility, honesty, and grace. We trust that you are praying for the Church. And we look to the Lord to provide direction and encouragement to us as we glorify Him.
In 2012, leaders in the Church at all levels—local, regional and general—are being called to set strategic goals for Transformation 2020.
The question for all who are entrusted with leadership, especially at the local church level, has to do with reaching the four Transformation 2020 calls related to personal transformation: How can we help the persons entrusted into our care to follow Jesus, grow in Christ-likeness, serve others, and go to all people?
Pastors and local church leaders are encouraged to establish an annual pattern of setting goals for their congregation based upon these calls. To assist congregations in measuring their progress, we offer an evaluation tool, based on the practice of several congregations. Download customizable congregational survey (doc) »
The question for all who are entrusted with leadership at every level has to do with striving toward the three Transformation 2020 priorities related to communal transformation: How can we help this faith community to equip leaders for transformation, multiply sites for life change, and send workers for witness and service?
To this end, Leadership Council has created Transformation 2012, three ambitious goals for the General Church in the coming year. Learn about Transformation 2012 »
Name change study
The Canadian Conference petitioned the 2010 General Conference to initiate “a process that considers” a new denominational name. To find out levels of interest in changing the name, a survey was distributed in November 2011 to people who are part of the BIC. As of December 5, 2011, a total of 3,050 surveys had been completed.
The study indicated that some 21 percent of those surveyed favored changing our denominational name, 52 percent did not, and 26 percent weren't sure. It also revealed that two-thirds of respondents have a positive view of the current name. View executive summary of survey results »
Based upon these results, the General Conference Board intends to recommend to the 2012 General Conference that the name change study be concluded at this time, and that a study group be convened at least two more times, at four year intervals, to consider whether a name change should be pursued in the future, using the 2011 survey as a baseline for comparison.
Pension Plan underfunding
Effective January 1, 2010, the defined benefit portion of the BIC Pension Fund (U.S.) was frozen, ending pension accruals for current participants. Concurrently, the existing Tax-Sheltered Annuity (TSA) component of the Fund was spun off as a new plan. These actions were the first steps in a multi-year plan to address the Fund’s underfunding, which currently stands at $4 million. Now, the Leadership Council has further developed this plan to honor all commitments to our pastors and missionaries, while still providing funds for ongoing ministry and outreach.
Already, the Leadership Council has appealed to Regional Conferences and the General Church for cash infusions of $2.7 million from undesignated fund balances. The Council plans to spread the remaining amount of underfunding over the next 40 years, with an annual allocation from Cooperative Ministries starting around $180,000 in 2014. To further reduce long-term exposure, the Council is exploring the possibility of a special offering(s) and fundraising.
Trends in Cooperative Ministries
In 2011, the Leadership Council initiated a 20-year overview of Cooperative Ministries (U.S.) to provide background on shifts and trends in CM over that time. The findings of this study clarified information about the following three trends:
(1) New funding streams: Over the past decade, congregational giving to Cooperative Ministries has fallen by $100,000. Over the same span of time, revenue from new funding streams (which are primarily designated funds in the form of bequests, team-based funding, etc.) has risen by nearly $1.2 million. Overall, there has been a net increase in funding by over $1 million.
(Note: Even though total revenues have increased, the CM spending plan has experienced a great amount of pressure. One reason for this is that most of the $1 million in revenue from new funding streams has been designated for a particular use and hasn't been available to be shared among all ministries. Another reason is the ongoing rise of personnel costs—driven by cost-of-living increases and jumps in insurance costs—as they've pushed overall ministry costs upward, both for local churches and for the denomination, in the U.S. and overseas.)
(2) Allocations to regions: In response to the changes described above, church leaders have reduced allocations for all ministries. It follows, then, that over the last 10 years, there has been a reduction in funding for church planting and regional ministries. However, the greatest allocation to Regional Conferences—the cost of deploying bishops—does not appear in regional financial reports but is covered directly by the General Conference. Over the decade, decreases in funding for church planting and regional ministries have been offset by increases in the cost of compensation for bishops. In short, the amount of CM funds distributed to Regional Conferences has actually increased.
(3) Fundraising by missionaries: The most successful new funding stream, team-based funding for missionaries, was launched in 2004. BICWM calculated the averagecost of supporting all its missionaries around the world, and the expectation was that each missionary would raise was 70 percent of that average field cost. In 2011, a decision was made to base the percentage calculation on actual field costs rather than average field costs. The total cost of deploying a missionary (which includes actual field costs, as well as other expenses, such as administrative support) continues to be shared approximately 50/50 between funds raised by the missionary and funds allocated to the global worker by Cooperative Ministries.
The BIC in the United States and Canada have enjoyed a close relationship for over 200 years. In the 1990s, due to a new Canadian law needed to be addressed. The outcome was the creation of two legal entities—the BIC Church in Canada and the BIC Church in the U.S.—bound by a covenant agreement that expressed our intention to operate in spirit and practice as one Church. Believing that review of this relationship would be beneficial, a working group of representatives from both nations was convened.
Based upon its findings, the group has recommended that the relationship between the two entities move from a binational General Conference configuration to a fraternal relationship of two distinct, national Church bodies: the Brethren in Christ in Canada and the Brethren in Christ in the United States. The GCB, in turn, is bringing this recommendation to the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Canadian Conference and the 2012 General Conference.
Messiah Home was founded by the Brethren in Christ Church in 1896 as a church-owned institution. Later, the ministry expanded into a retirement community and changed its name to Messiah Village. Again in transition, this ministry for older adults is diversifying and adopting a new name. Now known as Messiah Lifeways, the ministry looks forward to a continuing and mutually-beneficial relationship with the Brethren in Christ Church by moving from a "church insitution" status to a covenant relationship.
For several years now, the GCB has been anticipating changes in leadership. Five church leaders will conclude service (retire) between 2012 and 2014. Four others will complete terms of service in 2014. These transitions and end-of-terms can enable the Church to change the configuration of leadership roles without undue disruption.
To resolve short- and mid-term challenges (which are primarily financial in nature) in ways that create options for broader organizational changes, the GCB intends to propose to the 2012 General Conference a plan that reduces the number of General Church administrators (i.e., General Church leaders, executive directors, and bishops) from 10.5 to 7.5 full-time equivalent positions.
Moderator succession plan
After seeking the Lord’s direction and dialoguing over the issue for three years, the GCB has approved a plan for succession in the moderator position. Warren Hoffman will conclude his service as moderator in July 2013, and a new moderator would begin his/her work on August 1, 2013.
To be sure, these are all stiff challenges. But the good news is that, in the strength of the Lord, we can overcome challenges, even giant ones. With David, in 1 Samuel 17, we can declare: “Let no one lose heart! The Lord will deliver us! The battle is the Lord’s! He will give every giant into our hands!”
With hope and joy,
Brethren in Christ Church of North America
431 Grantham Rd, PO Box A | Grantham, PA 17027 USA
717.697.2634 | email@example.com