The 218th Annual Conference (July 3-7, 2004) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Charleston Civic Center 200 Civic Center Drive, Charleston, West Virginia 25301. The CCC is a megaplex of four venues: the the Municipal Auditorium, the Little Theater, Convention Center, and the Coliseum with a seating capacity for up to 13,500. Additionally, there are numerous conference rooms, parlor rooms, a large Banquet Hall, and a Convention Hall that offers over 50,000 square feet of exhibition space, plus on site paid parking that can accommodate up to 2,000 vehicles, with adjacent paid parking for more than 4,000 vehicles within a three-block area. The original 1959 facility completed at a cost of $3 million offered 6,000 seats. In February, 1966 Wilt Chamberlain broke the NBAs all time scoring record at the Civic Center. National Hotels were nearby with Spacious Room with nice Dining Facilities that offered comfortable features as well as great food. A huge Shopping Mall enabled Brethren to pickup traveling necessities and souvenirs. Near the middle was a Water Fall that became a favorite meeting spot for Brethren groups.
The issue of slavery is the reason for the existence of the State of West Virginia. Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 who was a strong advocate of freedom, Southerners became enraged that the previous 32 years of Jacksonian-Democratic control might come to a halt in the US Congress, and that would jeopardize their heritage and industry built on slavery. Eleven states quickly seceded from the Union and the State of Virginia, voted to join them on April 17, 1861. However, 26 northwestern counties refused to go along with them, for the rugged terrain of this area made slavery unprofitable, and social development year by year only increased the differences between these two parts of Virginia. At the Wheeling Conventions they repealed the Ordinance of Secession passed by Virginia, and became known as the Restored Government of Virginia, and later, West Virginia.
The Coliseum gave Worshippers plenty of room. The uppermost blue section was originally roped off but the volume of attendees eventually forced convention officials to open it, and it remained open throughout the week. Talented Musicians enhanced the spiritual atmosphere of each service. A Brass Ensemble performed for the Saturday evening worship service, and also for passersby in the convention lobby, a wide area that depicted many Historical Items of Charlestown. On Sunday morning, worshippers were blessed to hear the Palmyra Canticle Bell Choir. Tuesday evening worship is the treasured moment to hear the Children's Choir, this year one song involved Coordinated Movement. New for this year was a special fragrance free section located at the front-right of the convention hall to accommodate persons suffering from allergies or similar health related issues. Live Updating of business on the projection screens, allowing delegates to more clearly visualize how proposed amendments from the floor would affect the reading of the original draft. This is a welcome improvement
Brethren agencies displayed and interpreted their ministries in the Exhibit Hall. Art enthusiasts had an opportunity to express their ideas for peace through the Living Peace Church Art Project
2004 Conference Officers were Moderator Christopher Bowman, pastor of Memorial COB, Martinsburg, Pennsylvania, and former General Board Chairperson; Moderator-Elect Jim Hardenbrook, Idaho District Executive; and Secretary Fred Swartz.
- Duties and Relationship of Moderators report from the Annual Conference Council was accepted following minor revisions such as annulling the requirement that Moderators hold no other office in the congregation over which they preside. This would have effectively hamstrung many western congregations that do not have a neighboring Brethren church for hundreds of miles.
- Denominational Name study committee related their efforts and methods to hear the membership express their views about the denominational name (Church of the Brethren) and announced that there was overwhelming support for the current name that was established in 1908. Committee members indicated that they did not witness broad support or compelling need to change the denominational label that is almost a century old.
- Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues The committee recommended that the 1988 be updated and used as a future tool to process such controversial issues. Report was accepted though a minority of voices expressed dissatisfaction. Statistical information regarding degree of support was not revealed by the Committee.
- Congregational Disagreements with Annual Conference received Lengthy Discussion with many voices representing different theological and ideological perspectives vying to produce a final draft that would be more favorable to their causes. Paper was finally adopted following an amendment removing a stipulation that district conferences not seat delegates from such congregations.
- Doing Church Business was adopted per Standing Committees recommendation that would form a study committee (report at AC 2005) to investigate alternative methods of processing denominational business while enhancing the spiritual side of things which desires to seek the Mind of Christ in ecclesiastical matters.
- Becoming a Multi Ethnic Church and Need for Cross-Cultural Ministries were recommended by Standing Committee to be grouped as one item of business. Several voices, including the existing Cross Cultural Ministry team, asked that each one be dealt with separately, claiming that the original intent of either query was not addressed by the recommendation. In other words, Standing Committee's approach was to deal with the issue through the existing district structure, whereas ethnic voices preferred a study committee that would help identify particular areas for improvement.
- Standing Committee recommends to Annual Conference that the concerns of the queries be approved and that we direct their implementation to the district leadership, through the district executives, in consultation with the Annual Conference agencies, Standing Committee, congregations, and individuals, so that an increased priority to do cross-cultural ministry might be pursued. We further recommend that Congregational Life Teams provide training for district leaders and pastors in understanding the dynamics of cross-cultural ministry. We further recommend that a written and oral report on progress in this area be made each year to Annual Conference for the next five years, and that Annual Conference in 2010 reassess the future direction of cross-cultural ministries in the denomination.
A couple of speakers expressed feelings that pockets of racism in the denomination have frustrated past efforts to attain greater ethnic harmony. Delegates finally accepted an amendment that would create a seven member culturally diverse study committee with the stipulation that one be an ex officio member of the American Baptist Church. (This denomination has achieved notable gains in cultural matters).
When the names of the study committee were announced it was embarrassingly noticed that no African-Americans had been elected, the very type of subtle discrimination which previous business discussion had identified and sought to reverse. Business was reopened and delegates passed a motion that required the study committee to add an eighth member from the original African-American nominees.
- General Board resolution on Iraq was adopted that calls for districts and congregations to be ...a constant witness to Christ as a living peace church of today against all war and the violence of its nature.
- Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee report was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 3.1% to keep pace with the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
- Total registered attendance was 4,038 comprised of 920 Delegates and 3,118 Non-Delegates.
- Ronald Beachley, Pennsylvania Western District Executive Minister, elected as Moderator-Elect who will serve in 2006 at Des Moines, Iowa.
- Quilt Auction conducted by the Association for the Arts Church of the Brethren raised a total of $20,400 from three twin-bed size quilts and three wall hangings representing 167 churches. AACOB is also celebrating its 30th Anniversary.
- 300th Anniversary Committee announced their new web site at ( www.churchofthebrethrenanniversary.org, now offline ). A joint Annual Conference will be celebrated with other Brethren denominations in 2008 at Richmond, Virginia. COB-NET was honored to be recognized by the Committee for their having borrowed and posted some of our literary resources at this new site.
- Blood Drive succeeded in Conference-goers donating 164 pints for local blood banks.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that SAN DIEGO, California, will be the location for AC 2009.
- Saturday Evening, July 3 :
Moderator Christopher Bowman, LOVING GOD AND NEIGHBOR, Pastor, Martinsburg, Pennsylvania
- Sunday Morning, July 4 :
Dena Pence Frantz, GOD IS A LIVING GOD, Associate Professor of Theological Studies, Bethany Theological Seminary
- Monday Evening, July 5 :
James Washington, LOVINGLY LIVING TOGETHER, Pastor of Faith Center Fellowship, Whitehouse, Texas
- Tuesday Evening, July 6 :
Tim Button-Harrison, LESSONS FROM LOVE FEAST>, Pastor of Ivestor COB, Conrad, Iowa
- Wednesday Morning, July 7 :
Andrew Murray, ARE WE THERE YET, Director of Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, Juniata College
They determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain other of them,
should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders (about this question).