by Dawn Hammond
As reported by Dawn Hammond, Associate Conference Minister and Staff to the Board
At their March 10 meeting, the lay folk and clergy who serve as your Board of Directors focused on several concrete challenges and decisions.
Support for the Pastoral Excellence Program
The Rev. John Zehring noted that the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Campaign has passed the $900,000 mark. The campaign’s Executive Committee hopes to announce pledges and gifts of $1 million by the Annual Meeting. He asked Board members to consider several ways to assist: taking a potential donor to lunch along with a member of the campaign committee, hosting an event, or sharing the names of individuals who might be interested in making a gift to the campaign. If any of you readers would like to do any of these things, I am sure John would appreciate hearing from you also! He may be reached via an email link at the web address at the end of this posting.
Minister and President Jim Antal reminded the group that grants to the MA Conference from the Lilly Endowment, which have funded the Pastoral Excellence Program for 10 years, will expire as of 12/31/12. Communities of Practice, New Clergy Groups and other PEP efforts are among the most widely-appreciated aspects of our shared work. Some bridge funds have been set aside to support key components of the program in 2013 and 2014, but, for long-term continuity, we need to endow this area of ministry.
New Model for Conference Leadership?
There was further discussion of a possible change to the Conference volunteer leadership structure. The general concept is that each of three Leadership Councils would support multiple task groups – some short-term and some longer-term. The hope would be to provide opportunities for people to engage with projects in response to their passion and calling, while relieving the Volunteer Development Committee of the impossible task of populating seven program commissions (which were defined in 1988, based on a significantly larger conference of churches). Other possible benefits would be enhanced coordination of program efforts and more flexible staff assignments.
Several Board members, including Jim Antal, had visited program commission meetings to hear concerns about the evolving proposal, and the Board had received thoughtful letters from the Commissions for Educational Ministries and Leadership Development. Commission members urged the Board to 1) allow enough time for the people most affected to contribute their thinking, and 2) carefully consider the names and portfolios of the three proposed Leadership Councils as they relate to core functions of the Conference.
Board members expressed much flexibility as to the details of a plan, and willingness to involve a broader circle in its development. As a next step, Jim will convene a meeting involving representatives from each program commission, the Board of Directors, and key staff members. It is not yet clear whether proposed changes will come before the 213th Annual Meeting in June.
Financial Recommendations to Annual Meeting
The Board voted to recommend to the Annual Meeting an unchanged Basic Support sharing ratio (53% National, 47% Conference) for 2013, an increase in the Fellowship Dues rate from $17.20 to $17.60 per member (there was no increase for 2012), and a 2013 budget. Notable details of the proposed budget are the discontinuation of grant funding for the Pastoral Excellence Program, as mentioned above, and the fact that Hispanic Ministries will once again be contingent on the receipt of restricted gifts rather than general operating funds. More information will be available in the Annual Meeting Advance Materials to be published in early April.
In a more generative mode, the Finance Committee has been in conversation for a year or more about the paradoxes and difficulties inherent in our decades-old financial structure. Board and staff members hear frequently that our system of collecting Fellowship Dues and Basic Support is poorly understood by the people in our pews. Fellowship Dues as currently calculated provide congregations with an odd disincentive for membership growth. And, there is a perennial question as to whether those churches who do not pay Dues or Basic Support should be able to access Conference services.
Any change in the way our congregations fund our shared work would be complicated and risky, but, there is a growing sense among Board members (echoed by the occasional comment at Annual Meeting) that the old system works less and less well over time. Stay tuned for possible conversation about alternatives for the future.
The people who serve as your Board members may be contacted via email links found here: http://www.macucc.org/pages/detail/2315 .
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