An historic vote on Tuesday night was the last hurdle in the proposed merger of the Brethren Missionary Herald Company, dba GraceConnect and BMH Books, and the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Church, dba Charis Fellowship. In an online session that constituted the 2021 official business meeting, delegates from various churches from around the Charis Fellowship approved the plan of merger with a 99 percent vote.
It was the fourth and final approval needed to pave the way for the merger. The board of directors and corporate members of the Brethren Missionary Herald Company and the Fellowship Council, the governing organization for the Charis Fellowship, had already approved the proposal in separate meetings. All that remains is the filing of paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office.
The online meeting was led by Phil Sparling, the executive director of the Charis Fellowship (and pastor of Grace Community Church, Auburn, Calif.). He was assisted by Tim Hodge, fellowship coordinator, and Andrew Saunders, assistant executive director. There were 92 credentialed delegates on the call.
In explaining the merger, Tim noted that much of the communications developed by GraceConnect will continue. Randi Walle, who has been coordinating the GraceConnect eNews since last fall, has taken on an expanded role with GraceConnect. BMH Books will continue to serve the Fellowship with continued availability of titles. Current obligations to authors will be met. New resources will be developed for the benefit and use of Charis churches.
Tim also noted that the Fellowship office is taking definitive steps to continue to preserve and archive information related to the history of the Fellowship. Plans for a Charis Fellowship Historical Society will be announced in a few months.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, two organizations were approved for status as a national ministry, but not until the updated process for granting such approvals was confirmed through additions to the Manual of Procedure. Among the changes:
- The ministry shall not be a subsidiary of only one local church; it shall have representation on its governing board from each of the geographical regions of the Fellowship.
- The ministry must be able to demonstrate a tradition of financial stewardship and accounting practices.
- The Fellowship Council must believe that is in the best interest of the Fellowship for the ministry to receive this recognition.
With those additions, Assist Church Expansion and The Eagle Commission were granted National Ministry status.
Assist Church Expansion is a church-planting organization with a vision to help the Charis Fellowship become a movement by 2023. They have also come alongside a number of existing churches who are seeking to restart or retool their ministries. Nathan Bryant is the executive director.
The Eagle Commission is the Charis Fellowship chaplains ministry. It previously operated under the umbrella of the Grace Brethren Investment Foundation, but this last year became an independent organization with its own board of directors. Dr. Mark Penfold, who leads the organization, is the chaplain ministries endorser for the Fellowship.
In other business, the delegates approved the following recommendations from the Fellowship Council:
- extended Phil Sparling’s term as executive director for one additional year since he got short-changed because of Covid. Likewise, the term of Andrew Saunders, the assistant executive director, was extended.
- ratified the appointment of Tim Hodge to serve as Charis Fellowship secretary, and Doug Courter to serve as Charis Fellowship treasurer.
- approved a request from the Canadian churches that they be designated as a district connected with the Charis Fellowship USA. They made this request to help with some legal issues in Canada. The churches plan to continue to affiliate with their current districts on the other side of the border.
- approved resolutions submitted by the Social Concerns Committee for 2021-2022.
- adopted the 2022 budget as printed.
- elected three individuals to the Fellowship Council. They include Collin Curfman, representing Region A; Nick Cleveland, representing Region B; and Devin Livingston, representing Region C.
A number of upcoming events in the Fellowship were noted.
- There will be a designated prayer time for Afghanistan on Tuesday, September 7, via Zoom. (Watch graceconnect.us for more information.)
- The Charis Celebration is set for October 31. This is a day set aside to celebrate and support churches in the international Charis Alliance.
- The Charis Global Prayer Walk will take place November 2021.
- National conference is July 19 – 24, 2022, on the campus of Grace College, Winona Lake, Ind. It is scheduled over a long weekend so that local church elders, key leaders, and other volunteers may attend.
Charis Fellowship churches may contact the Fellowship office for the complete Delegates Report, if desired.