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General Board Redesign Steering Committee

Survey 3

by Christopher Bowman
(General Board Chairperson during Redesign)


Survey 3 - Summary of Responses

Here is a summary of responses for Survey #3 which asked questions
concerning location of the General Board offices.

The overall response to the third mailing was approximately 25 percent (115
of slightly over 400). This included a 29 percent return from pastors and
laity on our mailing list, 36 percent of surveyed General Board members, 
and 18 percent of staff.

With this set of questions, we were looking for your guidance in making
recommendations about location. What follows is a summary of your responses.

What can national staff do that local or district staffs cannot?

Coordination of national programs -- Some of you expressed this idea in
generalities while others mentioned specific programs, but it was the
concept that was mentioned most frequently. Some specifics included National
Youth Conference, Brethren Volunteer Service, curriculum, National Older 
Adult Conference, work camps, and many others. The overall idea is that 
national staff have the opportunity and ability to provide programs 
throughout the denomination that local churches can seldom offer on their 
own. This was the number one function mentioned by all three groups.

Unifying the denomination -- This was an especially strong call from
pastors and laity; enough so that it became second on the list overall. 
Respondents clearly want denominational links that connect us all, and they 
believe the General Board and staff are in a position to provide those 
links. Many respondents went further, mentioning specific tasks relating to
communications and other programming. We find it significant that our 
respondents are supportive of the denomination and, at a deeper level, 
hunger for a sense of community.

Ecumenical contact -- Contacts with other denominations, both nationally
and globally, are clearly seen as the function of the General Board and 
staff. Many respondents noted that national staff members are in a position
to have a broader, more global view than individual congregations. The hope 
was also expressed that this wider vision can be better incorporated at the 
local level.

Mission -- Mission was identified as a General Board function with
direction and support coming from the church at large as facilitated and 
empowered by General Board staff. Several respondents called for mission to 
be defined in a way that includes domestic programs, not just international 

Ministerial issues -- Although not mentioned by either the staff or board,
pastors and laity singled out national coordination as important in this
area. Coordination of pastoral profiles, credentialing, and pastoral ethics 
were some of the specifics mentioned under this heading by 4 percent of the
respondents in this category.

Should the denomination have a single office or multiple locations, and
where should the office(s) be located?

Centralization versus regionalization -- There was an interesting
difference of opinion concerning highly centralized offices versus 
regionalization. Responses were evenly divided between these two options. 
Of those who support regionalization, nearly all favor a central, but 
smaller, national headquarters that is identifiable as a home base. 
A few  people also listed pros and cons for each idea without coming 
to a conclusion.

Favored locations -- Overall, the Midwest was identified most often by our
respondents (37) as the favored region for a national headquarters,
regardless of whether it is part of a centralized or regionalized structure.
Six people (including four staff members) suggested Elgin is the best 
location. Another 31 respondents, including seven who reside east of Ohio, 
mentioned a number of potential sites including Indianapolis, Dayton, St. 
Louis, Cincinnati, and Kansas City.

The East was identified by 32 respondents as the best site for
denominational offices, including 24 who specified New Windsor. Twenty-seven
of those 32 people reside east of Ohio, including 13 staff based at New 

Four respondents expressed the desire that there be no changes made, and
three suggested they did not have enough information about costs and other
factors to express an informed opinion

Where you live makes a difference -- Where a respondent lives often has a
great deal to do with where you think the denominational headquarters
should be located. In general, our responses show that those who live east 
of Ohio were more likely to believe the denomination's offices should be 
located in their area. While there was a similar identifiable pattern in 
other responses, those from other regions of the country (Ohio and west) 
were less likely than their Eastern brothers and sisters to indicate the 
offices should be located in their regions.

The same pattern was true of the staff. Those who work at New Windsor were
almost unanimous that the entire denominational staff should be based
there. Many of those who are based in Elgin also support their home base as
the ideal site. However, Elgin staff members were more likely to consider 
other locations and staffing patterns.

Among those who support a move east of Ohio, about a third indicated
concern over what such a move would mean psychologically to those who live 
farther west. This was born out by comments from their brothers and sisters 
who reside west of the Mississippi that such a move would increase their 
feelings of isolation.

Washington office -- One other interesting result was a dichotomy of
opinion about the future of the office in Washington, D.C. An equal number 
of people expressed strong opinions that this office should either continue 
or be closed (five in each camp).

What issues are most important in making decisions about location?

Cost -- By far the most frequently mentioned factor was cost. This included
the cost of operating facilities, the cost of any potential relocation, and
the cost of living in the area where the offices are located. This was such
an important issue that it was mentioned by more than 40 percent of our
respondents -- far outdistancing any other factor. It also cut evenly
across all opinions about location. Those who favor centralization believe 
it will be less expensive than having multiple offices, while those who 
support regionalization believe it would reduce overall travel costs and 
allow staff to live in less expensive areas.

Accessibility -- Denominational staff should have easy ways to get to
congregations. Nearly 25 percent indicated a critical factor is access to
excellent transportation -- both by road and by air.

Population center -- A close corollary to accessibility is locating the
offices in proximity to the population center of the church (i.e., toward
the East). However, several of the 20 percent who named this as a factor
acknowledged that such a move might speak negatively to those who reside in
the West.

Relate to all -- Following immediately on the factor above was the
sentiment that the location should be in a place that can speak to all 
parts of the church -- a bridge between East and West. There is great 
concern that moving the denominational offices to the East will be a move 
toward making the Church of the Brethren a regional sect instead of a 
national or global denomination.

Other -- A few other factors were suggested by a handful of respondents.
They include proximity to Bethany Theological Seminary, the impact on 
staff, and accessibility to communications technology.