1997 Long Beach, California 211th
1997 AC Logo

The 211th Annual Conference (July 1-6, 1997) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Long Beach Convention Center, 300 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, California; consisting of a convention center, a performing arts center, and an arena nicknamed the Fish Tank because the exterior wall is covered with the worlds largest mural of any type. The city gets its name from a land deal involving the Long Beach Land and Water Company when it was incorporated as a city in 1888. Originally the six mile long ocean front was planned to be a resort community but its proximity to the ocean eventually gave way to shipping interests. Long Beach is the nations second busiest container port and one of the world's largest shipping ports. It is the fifth largest city in California and the nations largest municipally owned marina comprised of 3,400 boat slips. The waterfront marina and especially Terminal Island has been host to literally a boatload of movie sets.


Annual Conference was held only once before at Long Beach (1961) in the former 8,000 seat Municipal Auditorium, a classical 1932 building which hosted some the greatest entertainers in show business. In 1961, the Fish Tank arena was still under construction. The rear of the old Municipal Auditorium can be seen at the far right. It was demolished in 1975 to make room for the new convention facility. That former auditorium is not the only thing that has been descending. In March of 1995, the General Board was given the news that significant budget shortfalls were expected for the foreseeable future. In wrestling with the implications of this news, the board discerned that the problem involved something deeper than finances. “While the financial realities had brought our situation to our attention most forcefully, this deeper problem had more to do with vision and identity”.
This year also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the General Board. To begin the process the board appointed a Vision Discernment Team and after receiving their report, established a Redesign Steering Committee to gather information from all corners of the denomination, and to develop the initial elements of the new design of the General Board. From July 1995 through October 1996 the committee worked hard to sort out what can be done to restore momentum to the program and mission of the Church of the Brethren General Board. A sometimes overlooked aspect of this redesign is the changes of staff persons who are employed by the various departments of the board. The committee has been listening to hundreds of people describe what is going on, what has happened in the past, and what their aspirations are for the church tomorrow. The process continued as a Transition Team worked to bring the new organizations into existence. Here's what they found (submitted by then board chairman Christopher Bowman).


1997 Conference Officers were Moderator David Wine, then president of Mutual Aid Association; Moderator-elect Elaine Sollenberger from Everett, Pennsylvania; and Secretary Anne Myers.


Moderator David Wine

Moderator David Wine also has the distinction of being the first “Moderator on the WEB.” Moderator Wine and the Program & Arrangements Committee worked in cooperation with Church of the Brethren Network to issue eight special web publications directed toward denominational and congregational leadership. It was called the MODCOB (Moderator + Church of the Brethren). Moderator Wine is the president of Mutual Aid Association, a Church of the Brethren oriented insurance company located in Abilene, Kansas. He is the first Moderator to significantly participate in the electronic age by using e-mail, list servers, and COB-NET to augment his desire to reach as many Brethren as possible, with news and information about this years Annual Conference in Long Beach. Get to know him and his vision by reading the following issues of his newsletter, The MODCOB. Included in these several issues are business items of the Conference, the redesign of the General Board, and basic information about how questions from districts and congregations are sent to the denominations highest ruling body. The theme of this years Conference is taken from Luke 28:14 where Jesus admonishes His disciples to “Count the Cost” of following in His footsteps. The price of salvation has been paid by Christ's substitutionary death on the cross, but the cost of sacrificing personal desires and behavioral patterns is enormous.

Moderator Wine, a graduate of McPherson College, Bethany Theological Seminary, and General Board chairperson from 1991 to 1995, has issued a call for all Brethren “to become more deeply grounded in faith by renewing our investment in prayer and the things of the Spirit ... Let us count well the cost of spiritual discipline” (Agenda Newsletter, January/February, 1997). Brother Wine has raised the bar for all Brethren by taking meditative strolls and praying an hour each day.




General Board Redesign Process:





June 30, 1997

July 1, 1997

July 2, 1997

July 3, 1997

July 4, 1997

July 5, 1997

“They determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain other of them,
should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders (about this question).”
Acts 15:2