Endowment Votes: "An Act of Ongoing Becoming"

Endowment Votes: "An Act of Ongoing Becoming"

In what one board member called " an act of ongoing becoming," delegates to the 4th Annual Meeting of the Southern New England Conference voted overwhelmingly to “gratefully and soberly” accept the transfer of more than $26 million in endowments and invested funds from the historic Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island Conferences.

The three historic conferences joined to form the Southern New England Conference on Jan. 1, 2020, but the historic entities have also continued to have their own boards of directors in order to manage historic endowments and properties. Moving restricted funds requires legal approvals, and obtaining those approvals is still in process.
Rev. Brent Damrow, Persephone Hall and Shirley Hardison
After the vote, SNEUCC Board member the Rev. Brent Damrow, who serves in Massachusetts, was joined by Persephone Hall of Connecticut and Shirley Hardison of Rhode Island in leading a prayer with the response “That we may all be one.”

“What we have just done is no small thing. What we have just done is not about finances or endowments. What we have just done is an act of faith and trust and hope. All of it in God, yes, and in each other too.” Damrow said when introducing the prayer.

“What we have just done is an act of ongoing becoming. This decision may be something that you have worked hard toward, or it might be something you don’t yet support or might not support. This decision may bring joy to your heart, it may bring worry or fear, it may feel like loss or it may feel like the new beginning it has and will continue to be. For this, in the words of William Sloane Coffin, is risking something big for something good,” he said.

The Rev. Timoth Sylvia, Moderator, reflected on the road leading to this point.

"In 2017, when we began this journey to become a new Conference, we faced some significant stones with names like anxiety and mistrust, tending to hold us in our old, separate places. We kept talking and meeting and working together, reaching for one another in love. And today, we see evidence that angels have been among us, rolling those stones out of the way and making more room for new life. Hallelujah," he said.

Moving the funds only required votes of the boards in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but Connecticut bylaws differed, requiring an Annual Meeting vote. As a result, a “meeting within a meeting” was held during the SNEUCC Annual Meeting, with only Connecticut delegates voting on the proposal to turn over $16 million in endowment funds from the Missionary Society of Connecticut (the legal name of the former Connecticut Conference) to the SNEUCC.

In proposing the action, Missionary Society of Connecticut Treasurer Calvin Price said that the original intention was to only move income from endowments, rather than principal, but that the state assistant attorney general has questioned that move, saying it is much less costly and time-consuming to move the funds all at once, rather than petition for legal permission to move funds year after year.

“With new understanding of the legal and financial options, and full trust that the Southern New England Conference will continue to manage historic Connecticut endowments with accuracy and integrity, as it has for the past three and a half years, your Board recommends this vote,” Price said.

The motion passed by a vote of 98 to 8. 

Before the Connecticut vote, Rhode Island and Massachusetts representatives reported on the actions of their boards.

Shirley Hardison, the treasurer of the historic Rhode Island Conference, reported that the Rhode Island board voted last year to move their endowment and other unrestricted funds to the Southern New England Conference, totaling $873,000. 

“The SNEUCC Board voted to designate $600,000 as the new Conference’s first endowment fund, known as the Historic Rhode Island Hamlin Fund,” she said. “Those of us on the Rhode Island Board are proud to have provided the first endowment for the general mission and ministry of the Southern New England Conference.”

Chip Hamblet, the treasurer of the historic Massachusetts Conference, reported that the Massachusetts board had made a similar decision, transferring just under $9.2 million.

“The Southern New England Conference has administered all our Massachusetts endowment funds for the past three and a half years, honoring diligently all restrictions and the utilization guidelines of our Massachusetts Conference Investment Committee.  We have full confidence that it will continue to do so,” he said. “Moving the endowments will simplify administration.  More importantly, it will align our financial practices with the reality that we are doing all our ministry together with our siblings in Connecticut and Rhode Island.”

The full body of the SNEUCC then voted to accept all of the endowment funds by a vote of 297 to 8, with 2 abstentions. 

The actions that were taken, FAQs about the endowment moves, and information on the funds can be found here.


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Tiffany Vail

Tiffany Vail is the Director of Media & Communications for the Southern New England Conference.

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