Tuesday, November 13, 2007

ABC to Sell ABC Mission Center to ABC in Order to Endow ABC Office of the General Secretary and Stop Flow of Red Ink That Imperils ABC? Huh???

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/13/07) — At their November meeting, the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board's (MMBB) Board of Managers voted to join a Limited Liability Company (LLC) of American Baptist Churches (ABC) Partners with a goal of purchasing the Valley Forge Mission Center. This was the next in a series of steps that began last June when the ABCUSA General Board approved a proposal to sell the property.

Following the General Board’s decision, the property was offered to Brandywine Realty Trust, a real estate investment trust with a long term lease on the ABCUSA-owned property adjacent to the Mission Center. Included in its lease, Brandywine had a "right of first offer" on the property should ABCUSA ever decide to sell the property. As per the agreement, the property was offered to Brandywine with the anticipation that they would decline the offer due to lease terms that were intentionally favorable to ABC Partners. As expected, Brandywine declined the offer in October which allowed the recent vote by the MMBB Board to take place.

The next step in the process will be for ABCUSA to petition the New York State Supreme Court for permission to sell the property. Because ABCUSA is incorporated as a "not for profit" in New York, that state’s Supreme Court must determine if it is in ABCUSA's best interest to complete the sale. After that decision, the LLC would be legally formed and the property transferred to ABC Partners, which includes the Office of the General Secretary, National Ministries, International Ministries and MMBB.

It is anticipated the sale will be complete early in 2008. Proceeds of the sale will provide an endowment to partially fund the work of the Office of the General Secretary and related ministries.

Please help me understand this.

Last November, didn't Lloyd Hamblin explain to the GB meeting in Orlando that the Mission Center was a poor building? Didn't he stress that the Office of the General Secretary should not be in the land, building, or rental business? Didn't he suggest that the building is inefficient as a rental facility and that it needs a major renovation in order to compete with surrounding rental properties?

And, wasn't the idea of selling the Mission Center an effort to off-load a white elephant building and staunch the flow of red ink imperiling the larger ABC mission effort at home and abroad?

Furthermore, in the famous Tucson meeting (you know the one where they "fixed" the human sexuality issue for all time in the ABC), whenever the denominational restructuring was discussed didn't the Office of the General Secretary receive NO AFFIRMATION? Why does it keep appearing in the picture and in the restructure documents?

Finally, how much will MMBB "invest" in endowing the Mission Center and the Office of the General Secretary? And, if they really have that kind of money, why was it necessary to take corrective action to reduce the rapid depletion of the endowment funds?

Most of my organization's 180 employees are part of the MMBB system at my recommendation. I have been a member of MMBB since the mid 1970s. This does not sound like good stewardship to me. Please tell me how it all makes sound money sense.


Amill-Presup said...

I'm never quite certain if the institution you run is still affiliated with ABC or not, but I can say this:

Those who are no longer affiliated with ABC, but who still have MMBB benefits (as well as those who "got in" without ever having been affiliated with ABC) have been given a great gift--it's a privilege, not a right. When MMBB, then, does something to aid the organization that birthed it (through a huge Rockefeller grant), those people are not in much of a position to complain. In my mind, it's kind of like someone from Ecuador coming to American and getting some dual citizen naturalized status, and then being off-put when some of his sales tax money is spent on programs that don't help Ecuador. Even though Mr. Ecuadorian is receiving some benefits from his relationship with the U.S., America's first responsibility and concern is Americans....as to whether the keeping of the facility and the weird "selling to ourselves" setup is really the best way to go, I have no idea. I'm not sure the O.G.S. should exist.

Dennis E. McFadden said...


Sorry to be confusing.

1. Yes, Atherton is affiliated with the ABC because we are not only affiliated with TM, but also with ABCLA and ABCOSH.

2. I have been in MMBB since the mid-70s.

3. The congregation I pastored in the 80s/90s gave the largest gift to the RMMO to that date ($27,300).

4. About a half dozen years ago I recommended that Atherton enter into a relationship with MMBB for retirement plans for all of our employees. We have been affiliated with MMBB since then.

So, both formally and historically, I feel a right to express opinions on the use of funds by the organization.

As to your analogy, it would be more like several sons working in the family business, one of them contributing quite significantly to it. After a falling out the one son is alienated from the business but retains his stock in the company and still has opinions on the business decisions made by his siblings from whom he is now alienated.

I did not come up from "Ecuador" and obtain dual citizenship. Rather, I was naturally born into the family and participated from age 2 until age 53 (through ABCPSW) and continue to participate through my ABC affiliated institution.

Oh, and by the way, when PSW withdrew, we were not "given" anything. Yes, our pension funds are vested, but that is the law, not an act of grace. Churches that go with TM lose most of the "benefits" we all think of as family benefits (e.g., annual thank you checks, visits by MMBB reps, emergency grants, extended disability, educational stipends for minor children in case of our deaths, etc.). In fact, whereas 1% of your MMBB goes into an emergency fund from which you are eligible to draw, that 1% is paid to MMBB as administrative expense by TM pastors.

Ironically, my own personal status is somewhat in doubt. Since Atherton never took action to "leave" the ABCUSA (our board steadfastly wishes to affiliate with all three "sides" in the southwest), it is possible that my 1% is still going to the "family" allowing me access to family benefits now and in retirement. My wife, on the other hand, is Assoc. Pastor in a congregatino that withdrew from ABC and went with TM. She did receive the "drop dead" letter from Sumner, informing her that whereas her pension funds are vested, she will no longer be entitled to any of the non-contractual benefits (mentioned above).

Actually, while I have personal reasons for wishing the OGS to go away and not be put on life support, what is being done is certainly legal and probably smart from the ABC perspective.

My analogy would be of a child who is in debt and cash poor and can hardly afford to live. So, he sells his house to the rest of the family who allow him to continue living in it for reduced rent.

The sale will endow OGS so that, like the hardy cockroach, the OGS will survive to the end of days regardless of natural disasters or political catastrophes. It will insulate the OGS from political vicissitudes and allow it the same kind of "who cares what you think" freedom that has always been the hallmark of National Ministries (certainly for the last four decades that I have been watching).

Was it a smart financial move for MMBB to participate in the purchase of VF? Not if you believe what the GB was told last November. However, insofar as MMBB has a vested interest in the health of the ABC organization, it can certainly be justified. I just object to an organization of which I am still a "dues paying" member, not acting in a manner that fulfills its fiduciary responsibility.

Your points are well taken, otherwise. I was waiting to see what you would write, given my somewhat provocative posting.

Amill-Presup said...

I tried to carefully clarify that my analogous Ecuadorian (sp?) is not you. I'm thinking about CBF, PNB, independent fundamental churches, etc. as well as some withdrawn region's churches who have entered into individual relationship with MMBB. Within a generation, these churches will forget their manner of entering in and will not only continue to complain about the mutual back-scratching b/w MMBB and ABC, but will probably intensify their voices and push for an equal place for all at the table.

Paul Higgins said...

Don't have to worry about the CBF folk forgetting within a generation... They're already cutting ties to MMBB at the end of this year so they can "offer more flexible and competitive benefits."

Dennis E. McFadden said...


Interesting observation! I have said for some time that if MMBB wants to play hardball with Transformation Ministries (removing all of the former "family" benefits), then TM might be advised to shop the market and see if they can find anything competitive for their pastors. In terms of size, it is probably still smart to stay with MMBB. However, now that they are treating TM on a "strickly business" basis, they almost invite the return of the favor.

briantara7 said...

Dennis...you're at it again...let by-gones be by-gones...for all the inside "scoop" you receive, I'm not so sure you ought to be so confident your information is as accurate as you think...in this week of Thanksgiving, let us all be thankful for the church families of which we're a part and stop critiquing those with whom we no longer associate...All the best to you.

Dennis E. McFadden said...


Good grief. My "scoop" was the ABNS on the ABCUSA web site! And, last time I checked, a good bit of my money is involved as well. (Frankly, a very small minority of my posts deal with the ABC anymore, anyway.)

Briantara7, my entire organization is in MMBB at my recommendation! That, and the fact that our institution remains affiliated with ABC would seem to give me the right to speak. As much as some would like, there really is no opportunity for me to "no longer associate." Last week I was chatting amiably at a funeral with the loyal EM of an ABC region and today I was sitting next to TM's Dale Salico at a banquet. Like it or not, I associate with lots of people. Shoot, one of the members of my board is the current VP of the ABC and another one is the ED of Cornerstone Church Network (the former AB Evangelicals! We all get along fine.

Anyone who does not like what is written here can solve that problem quite easily: they don't have to log on to my blog.

BTW, any comments made to me by ABC officials and used in my blog are documentary and preserved as e-mails. If they are not true, then the denomination has MUCH bigger problems than I could ever invent.

Dennis E. McFadden said...

On one point, I agree with Briantara7. This is Thanksgiving week. Regardless of what is happening in the denomination at large, we all have much to be thankful for in terms of the Lord's provision. Today, our congregation celebrated 120 years of faithful ministry. Under the present senior pastor we have gone from a 75% white congregation to one that almost EXACTLY matches the demographics of our city: 45% Asian, 35% Hispanic, the rest African-American and White. During that same time we have doubled in size to 400 on a Sunday and now have simultaneous translation into Mandarin and Spanish (and a third that various). 150 of our people have completed a rigorous 26-28 week discipleship program with lots of Bible memorization, others are doing Precepts, 175 show up on Wednesday nights for a panoply of programs, and the like. And, our pastor, a leader of the movement OUT of the ABC, regularly exhorts the congregation to divide their volunteer time EQUALLY between our church and the local community. He models this in a variety of significant venues of community service and is highly respected in our community of nearly 100,000.

Praise the Lord! Soli Deo Gloria!