2017 Grand Rapids, Michigan 231st
2017 Logo

The 231th Annual Conference (June 28 - July 2, 2017) of the Church of the Brethren was held in DeVos Place, located at 303 Monroe Avenue, NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. The conference center features a 162,000 Square Foot column free space for conventions or exhibits, comprised of a 40,000 square foot ballroom, 26 sub-dividable meeting rooms (32,000 square feet), and a 2,404 seat performing arts theater. DeVos Place is also home to the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. Michigan is the eleventh largest state and the eighth most populated. Education is a premium in Michigan, offering 22 colleges and 29 universities. Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan, and a three time All-American City. It gets its name from the Grand River which is the states largest inland river. Before roads and railroads provided faster travel, the 225 navigable miles of the Grand River served as a major transportation route. The city was built next to a large rapids (thus its name), much of which has disappeared from the installation of a low-head dam and fish ladder. The current rapids is actually a series of Smaller Ripples.


Grand Rapids hosts several noteworthy museums, such as the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and the Van Andel Public Museum. Fountains and Water Art are possible from the Grand River's rich supply of water. Lengthy River Walks on both sides permitted conference goers easy access to a Relaxing Stroll A number of river walkers received a Bird Attack from a Red-Winged Blackbird who was undoubtedly protecting her nested young. The usual catered buffet dining was served indoors and Al Fresco. Annual Conference was previously held three times in Grand Rapids: 1950, 1955, and 2011. In the 1950's, it was then held in the adjacent Civic Auditorium, a neo-classical building completed in 1932 which still remains apart of DeVos Place. Although most of the original facility is now ballrooms and meeting halls, the Former Lobby still retains its historical appearance. The anchor hotel for this year was the Amway Grand Plaza, a 1981 renovation of the 1913 Pantlind Hotel offering 682 guest rooms, spas, gift shops, fitness center, Meeting Rooms, and 5 restaurants. This hotel is a pleasant combination of Old & New facilities, retaining the Historic Richness along with the advancing contemporary. Skywalks above street level traffic offer greater safety. Many of the other downtown hotels also Connect to the same Walking Network that also includes Parking Garages. Some Brethren took advantage of Horse Carriage transportation. What is the meaning of this Business Sign? Is it the “Fifth” bank which happens to be the third one in the city? Or, is it the “Third” bank which happens to be the fifth one in the city?

The Amway hosted numerous Insight Sessions, Hearing Sessions, and provided several ball rooms for Reserved Dinners such as the Ministers Association. District Groups also found time to dine together and rekindle friendships. Saturday evening (July 1) the downtown area was treated to a very enjoyable Fireworks Display from several locations.






  1. Recommends to the Mission and Ministry Board that the duties of the Leadership Team as described in Section III.C.2. of the Manual of Organization and Polity be amended as follows:
    Coordinate a gathering of denominational leadership every three to five years. The Leadership Gathering would potentially include representatives from denominational and agency staff and board members, Annual Conference-elected leadership, and district leadership. The purpose of the Leadership Gathering is to focus on matters of shared vision and ministry collaboration in the Church of the Brethren.
  2. Recommends to the Mission and Ministry Board that Article V., Section 1 of the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren be amended to include further responsibility for ensuring the implementation of denominational vision, as follows:
    Coordinate denominational envisioning; assume responsibility for how denominational vision shall be implemented, giving consideration to emphasizing a unified vision among denomination, districts, and congregations.
  3. Recommends to the Mission and Ministry Board that the functions of the Leadership Team as described in Article V., Section 1 of the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren be amended as follows:
    • general oversight for Annual Conference and its budget, in consultation with the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee, the Conference Director, and the Corporation Treasurer.
    employ the Conference director and provide for his or her periodic evaluation
  4. Recommends to the Mission and Ministry Board that the membership of the Leadership Team as described in Article V., Section 2 of the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren be amended with the addition of a District Executive. The District Executive would be recommended by the Council of District Executives and affirmed by Annual Conference, serving a three-year term.

    Section 2. Membership

    The Leadership Team consists of the current moderator, moderator-elect, Conference secretary, a district executive, and the general secretary. The district executive will be appointed by the Council of District Executives, approved by Annual Conference, and will serve a three-year term.
  5. Recommends to the Mission and Ministry Board that a study committee be appointed by the Mission and Ministry Board to assess prudent stewardship related to the General Offices in Elgin, IL.

    Recommendations #1 to #5 were accepted by the Delegate Body as one vote that all five be referred to the Mission and Ministry Board since they were by-law changes.
  6. Recommends to the 2017 Annual Conference that On Earth Peace no longer remain an agency of the Church of the Brethren.

    Voting from 650 of the 672 registered Delegate Body resulted in 370 voting Yes (56.9%) and 280 voting No (43.1%) which failed to meet the required two-thirds majority. Although this recommendation failed the required percentage necessary, it validated Tim Harvey's repeated assertion that On Earth Peace “ministers to some, but not all of the denomination.” The substantial 57% Yes votes reflects a growing dissatisfaction with the unpopular positions taken by On Earth Peace in recent years. In other words, although OEP has retained their official status, the denomination has given them an approval rating of only 43 percent. See also this implication to Recommendation #8.
  7. Recommends to the 2017 Annual Conference that all congregations, districts, denominational, and agency staff find ways to involve the work of On Earth Peace in the ongoing mission and ministry of the Church of the Brethren.

    This recommendation failed by a simple majority vote.
  8. Recommends to the 2017 Annual Conference that Query: Viability of On Earth Peace as an Agency of the Church of the Brethren be returned to the Southeastern District. Conference Secretary, Jim Beckwith ruled that Recommendation #8 was answered when Recommendation #6 failed.
  9. Recommends to the 2017 Annual Conference that all congregations examine their financial contributions to both district and denominational ministries, and bring their giving into compliance with the Congregational Ethics Polity as outlined in Chapter 4 of the Manual of Organization and Polity. Congregations that feel they cannot do so should be in conversation about this with their district, in accordance with the 2004 Annual Conference Statement, Congregational Disagreement with Annual Conference Decisions.

    This recommendation was adopted by the Delegate Body with a simple majority vote.
  10. Recommends to the 2017 Annual Conference that Standing Committee rescind the 2014 rejection of On Earth Peace’s Statement of Inclusion (2014 Annual Conference Minutes, p. 117).
    • On Earth Peace Statement of Inclusion: “We are troubled by attitudes and actions in the church which exclude persons on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any other aspect of human identity. We believe God calls the church to welcome all persons into full participation in the life of the faith community” (2012 Annual Conference Minutes, p. 68).
    • 2014 Standing Committee response: “Standing Committee does not support the 2011 statement of inclusion of OEP as an agency of the church, but we will continue to commit ourselves to walk in love together in the face of differing interpretations of scripture and AC statements and decisions” (2014 Annual Conference Minutes, p. 117).

    A response from the current Standing Committee essentially nullified this recommendation: “Standing Committee humbly receives the chastisement of the Review and Evaluation Committee in Recommendation #10 of their report. We apologize for the misunderstanding and hurt caused by our 2014 response to On Earth Peace's Statement of Inclusion.”
  • In the sentence originally reading: “We will not take lightly decisions that will terminate an individual’s ministerial credentials or expel a congregation from the body.” The word “disorganize” will replace the former word “expel.”
  • Also delete “from the body” at the end of the sentence.
  • Added was “Some districts have begun to speak out about expelling member congregations but current polity and standard practice provide only for the disorganizing of congregations.”
  • Added to the next paragraph to read: “The officiating of same sex weddings by credentialed clergy shall be handled in the same way as any other report of ministerial conduct: if a district executive minister receives a report based on direct knowledge that a minister has performed a same gender marriage, the information shall be reported to the district's credentialing body as a matter of ministerial conduct. This is a standard practice established by the Council of District Executives”







Annual Conference 10 Year Attendance

“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