The 224th Annual Conference (July 3-7, 2010) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, located at 1000 Fort Duquesne Boulevard, immediately adjacent to the Allegheny River, and in the very heart of the downtown area. Decades ago, the city of Pittsburgh had the unfortunate reputation of being a polluted city that was usually covered with a blanket of smoke due to the numerous Steel Mills in the area. That has dramatically changed over the years, as mayors, city planners, and vested interests have striven to produce an environmentally friendly city with Clear Blue Skies. The conference center is touted as a Green 1ST facility. Not only was it constructed with environmentally responsible innovations such as more than 75% of the building using natural light through Moveable Sail Panels and open walkways with Glass Walls, but that natural light is then reflected from Brightly Colored Walls. Its daily operation incorporates policies such as Recycling and conservation. The Light Weight Roof is suspended by cables attached to Huge Anchors that were also seen inside the Conference Center. Brethren were Welcomed to a structure that also reflects many of their simple living values. The adjacent Westin Hotel served as the primary base for attendees. It is connected to the Center through a Skywalk that reminded some Brethren of the many similar Skywalks of the Des Moines 2006 Annual Conference.
A technological first for the Church of the Brethren were Webcasts. Many Annual Conference events were streamed by Bethany Theological Seminary through the services of LiveStream.com. Non-attending Brethren back home were able to view live televised events over broadband Internet connections. This worldwide innovation gave Brethren the opportunity to feel as though they were apart of the event.
Also known as the City of Bridges, at a total of 446, Pittsburgh has three more bridges than Venice, Italy. Persistence could have been learned by Conference goers from this tree that was growing from a bridge abutment. The downtown area is a mixture of different Building Styles, cultural flavors, and the opportunity to get wet on a hot afternoon at the PPG Complex. Along both the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers which parallel the city, one can see a wide variety of River Craft. Coinciding with the Brethren event was the annual Three Rivers Regatta that garnered even more boats and thousands of people to the riverfront. Saturday evening the hometown Pittsburgh Pirates lost to the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, 12-4 at PNC Park. Sports fans in this town are stridently loyal. Hometown colors of Gold & Black are prominent everywhere. Late Sunday evening, the July 4th Fireworks entertained most of the city and surrounding river-front districts. River Construction also provided attendees with side-enjoyment.
This is a great place to dine with friends. Two hundred and one Pittsburgh restaurants have national reviews. Friends, Relatives, and District Groups had no trouble finding a nice place for their annual get-to-gether. Lunch & Dinner were again offered to attendees in the Exhibit Hall.
Children & Youth were often seen going to activities. Tuesday evening is the traditional evening for the Children's Choir to perform. After singing, the Children presented Moderator Replogle with a Special Quilt that had been uniquely signed by each child with their painted hand. Presenting evening worshippers with a nice range of music was the Adult Choir. The Message Board held many notes, and the Prayer Board had a few requests. This year a new face gave official announcements. Chris Douglas assumed responsibilities as the new Conference Director in September 2009, from the retiring Lerry Fogle who had served Conferences 2003-2009. Standing Committee member John Shelly found time to have some fun.
A total of 63 sessions gave attendees a wide range of topics and interests from which to choose. Many attended the Special Response Committee hearing since this item of business was a major topic of concern. During this same time frame, Youth Activities gave younger Brethren a chance to similarly grow, learn, and interact.
The very low ceiling of the San Diego 2009 exhibit hall returned to the customary High Ceiling of most Conferences
(2008 2006). The 2010 Exhibit Hall represented a wide array of Brethren concerns and interests. Spacious walkways and unused areas provided ample room for the traditional Brethren game of Four Square and the new innovation of Nine Square. While youth waited for the Sunday evening July 4th fireworks display, Four Square was enjoyed on the roof top walkway of the Center.
2010 Conference Officers were Moderator Shawn Flory Replogle, Co-Pastor of the First Church of the Brethren, McPherson, Kansas; Moderator-elect Robert E. Alley, pastor of the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren in Bridgewater, Virginia; and Secretary Fred Swartz. Moderator Replogle drew attention to the captioning that appears at the bottom of the large screens, to inform delegates that this service was actually being done by a firm in his native state of Kansas. Everyone laughed when the captioneer responded by stating that they were actually located in Topeka. He replied by saying: That's where my taxes go.
- A Statement of Confession and Commitment was bound to a two year process by AC 2009 as a Special Response Statement. This was the first time that such a process was set in motion whereby hearings will be held in each of the twenty-three districts, for members to voice their opinions concerning the issue at hand. Two such hearings took place during the Conference which gave attendees an opportunity to see what their own district hearings would be like.
- Language of Same Sex Covenantal Relationships this query was also bound to a two year process by AC 2009 as a joint Special Response Query with Statement of Confession and Commitment. Standing Committee member Larry Dentler of Pennsylvania Southern District described the hearings as modeling Acts 15. He describe it as a wonderful process in which Brethren may express themselves. Each district hearing will last about two hours, comprise ten to twelve people, and require a facilitator and scribe. During this hearing, Church of the Brethren members will be able to express what they would like Standing Committee to hear.
- The Structure of Annual Conference was adopted per Standing Committee recommendation, and the concerns of the query be referred to the Annual Conference Revitalization Task Force, a recent creation of the Annual Conference Officers. Standing Committee member Vicky Ullery, of Ohio Southern District, related the quest of pastors from her district wanting to discover additional ways in which to enhance the effectiveness of Annual Conference. It is not designed to change the traditional manner of dealing with business, but to uncover new avenues that would strengthen unity and better fulfill the mission of Annual Conference: To unite, strengthen, and equip the Church of the Brethren to follow Jesus.
- Guidelines for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Paper was adopted per Standing Committee recommendation and referred to a committee consisting of Congregational Life staff and persons appointed by the Annual Conference officers, and then confirmed by Standing Committee. The query asks for a uniform denominational process to deal with congregations involved in unethical behavior, since the Ministerial Ethics Paper (see AC 2008) now stipulates a uniform process for dealing with ministers engaged in questionable behavior.
- Appeals of Program and Arrangements Committee Decisions was adopted as new polity per Standing Committee recommendation by more than the necessary two-thirds majority, and that Standing Committee would be the body that would hear appeals from the Program and Arrangements Committee.
- Church of the Brethren Against Torture was adopted per Standing Committee recommendation that the Church of the Brethren have an official statement on the issue of Torture, since the practice is so widespread and routine throughout the world, and alarmingly becoming more acceptable and even justifiable to some Americans in reaction to threats of terrorism. An amendment to define Torture was defeated, mainly because of concern that any definition would effectively narrow and weaken the force of the paper. In other words, if certain words are used to define Torture, then by assumption, Torture may not necessarily mean other words that were not included. Some noted that Annual Conference statements already voice opinion on a few of the words that were suggested for inclusion in a definition.
- Church of the Brethren Bylaws Revision was adopted per Standing Committee recommendation by more than the necessary two-thirds majority, that the document presented to the delegate body supersede all previous documents. The original bylaws were first adopted by AC 2008 when the General Board and the Association of Brethren Caregivers merged into one body. AC 2009 delegates received a brief revision, and made appeals for greater clarity and textual consistency. Questions were raised regarding membership composition of the newly created Mission and Ministry Board, especially the call for one at-large member with expertise who may not be a member of the Church of the Brethren. General Secretary Stan Noffsinger replied that the original committee wanted: to provide for the opportunity if needed.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 2.0%.
- Total registered attendance was 3,381 comprised of 793 Delegates and 2,588 Non-Delegates.
- Chris Douglas assumed responsibilities as the new Conference Director in September 2009 from the retiring Lerry Fogle, who had served Conferences 2003-2009.
- Moderator Consecration took place Wednesday morning. Tim Harvey, pastor of Central Church of the Brethren, Roanoke, Virginia, was elected as Moderator-elect and will serve as Moderator in 2012 at St. Louis, Missouri. Moderator-Elect Robert Alley Accepted the Gavel and the office of Moderator for the coming year. He will preside at AC 2011 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- Leah Hileman, pastor of A Life In Christ, Cape Coral, Florida, led the music during evening worship services and business sessions. During the evening worship service, she was accompanied by Singers and Musicians from the Atlantic Southeast District.
- Blood Drive participants were successful in donating exactly 200 units of blood for the American Red Cross.
- Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised a total of $5,700.50 to alleviate the suffering from hunger through the sale of eight Wall Hangings and one Large Quilt returned from 1981.
- NO ICE CREAM FELLOWSHIP this year as the proposed cost would be $8 per bowl with the stipulation that a minimum number would need to be purchased, and that the Annual Conference Office would need to pay the difference, if that amount was not reached.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that TAMPA, Florida, will be the location for AC 2015.
- Saturday Evening, July 3:
Shawn Flory Replogle, WHEN HEAVEN AND EARTH TOUCH, Moderator and Co-Pastor of the First Church of the Brethren, McPherson, Kansas
- Sunday Evening, July 4:
Marlys Hershberger, EXPECTANT LIVING, Pastor of Hollidaysburg COB, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania
- Monday Evening, July 5:
Earle Fike, Jr., MEASURABLY NEW, Former Moderator of Annual Conference, and former professor at Bethany Theological Seminary
- Sunday Evening, July 6:
Nancy Fitzgerald, ALL WE CAN BE, Pastor of Arlington COB, Arlington, Virginia
- Sunday Evening, July 7:
Jonathan Shively, IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL, Executive Director of Congregational Life Ministries ~ Church of the Brethren
They determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain other of them,
should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders (about this question).