In an historic meeting Monday evening, corporation members of the Brethren Missionary Herald Co., Inc. (BMH), approved a recommendation from the board of directors to merge with and into the Charis Fellowship (Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches). There were three dissenting votes.
The Brethren Missionary Herald Company, Inc., is the parent organization of GraceConnect, the communications platform for the Charis Fellowship, and BMH Books, the publishing company that focuses on a niche of theology and Christian living in its products. Annual corporation members are those who have given $50 or more in a calendar year. There are also a number of Life Members, individuals who made a one-time gift under previous guidelines and were “grandfathered in” when the board reorganized in 2002.
The recommendation will now go to the Charis Fellowship council and its corporation members. They must vote on the issue, which will occur later this summer. If approved, it will take effect once a plan of merger is filed with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office.
Upon approval BMH will cease to exist as a separate Indiana nonprofit corporation. All operations, assets, and liabilities of BMH will become the operations, assets, and liabilities of the Charis Fellowship. The brands and work of Grace Connect and BMH Books will become part of the Charis Fellowship, and the Fellowship Council of the Charis Fellowship will become the governing board over operations.
At their meeting in late January, the Fellowship Council made a motion to affirm that the Charis Fellowship office become the central hub of communication and information for the Charis Fellowship. At the same time, the motion requested that BMH merge into and under the control of the Charis Fellowship office. These motions were the culmination of years of speculative consideration and months of specific discussion.
The BMH board met on February 25, 2021, and voted to look with favor on the request. Earlier this month, the board gave unanimous written consent asking that the BMH members approve the proposed Plan of Merger and that the corresponding proposed merger proceed toward consummation.
It has been noted more than once over the years that the charter of BMH and the goals of the Fellowship office were largely similar. While the two offices frequently worked together, for many reasons, these observations never materialized into a plan to combine operations.
“This motion was received by the board of directors of BMH as we were putting together the details of recruiting a new executive director for BMH,” said Ben Russell, BMH president in a letter to members. “Liz Cutler Gates’s pending retirement presented an opportunity for new leadership.”
“Early communication with incoming Fellowship Coordinator Tim Hodge and Executive Director Phil Sparling was insightful and inspiring,” he added. “They expressed the Fellowship’s desire to step in where present leadership is leaving off, using the brands, connections, and resources of BMH to further communication and connectedness in the Fellowship. Though there were some early reservations, it became clear with time that the merger would be a win-win for the Fellowship, even though it was a sacrificial move for the BMH board and the corporation members. A merger would mean entrusting the future of communication from within the Fellowship to the Fellowship Council. It was, perhaps, the best way to the foster Great Commission teamwork that the board in 2002 envisioned.”
The mission statement of BMH reads, “BMH exists to nurture great commission teamwork between the people and the churches of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches [now Charis Fellowship] by building bridges of communication.” They approved this statement during a time when the Fellowship was undergoing transition and recovering from many challenges that it faced from between 1985-2005. This period of difficulty for the Fellowship represented an opportunity for BMH to reinvent itself as more than a magazine and publishing house. Under the direction of first, Terry White, then Liz Cutler Gates, BMH took the lead in digital and print communications within the Fellowship.