The 235th Annual Conference (July 10-14) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the CHI Health Center, located at 455 North 10th Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68102. It is a multipurpose-hybrid facility offering over 345,000 square feet of convention floor space, 63,000 square feet of meeting space, a 30,996 square foot ballroom, and 194,000 square feet of contiguous Exhibition Space, plus an adjoining 18,000 seat arena. The convention center represents a small portion of downtown Omaha’s $2 billion riverfront revitalization project. Included is an imaginative Pedistrian Walking Bridge across the Missouri River. Located directly across 10th street was this years anchor hotel, the 600 room Omaha Diamond Hilton, offering additional meeting rooms and connected to the convention center through a spacious environmentally controlled glass-enclosed skywalk. Annual Conference had previously been held in the State of Nebraska four times in the city of Lincoln which is the capital: 1970, 1964, 1926, and 1901.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled through here in 1804 on their exploratory journey to the Pacific coast. Shortly thereafter, pioneer fur trader Manuel Lisa established a trading post. First to settle this area were native-americans looking for land where big game animals would be plentiful.
The very word Omaha is derived from an Indian phrase translated as “Upstream People.” and the word Nebraska evolved from the Indian words “Ní Btháska” meaning “Flat Water” which described the Platte River. Lincoln is the capital boasting the only single legislative chamber of nonpartisan senators that do not recognize its members’ political party affiliations.
Brethren Benefit Trust officially changed its name to Eder Financial. This agency originally began as a Brethren pension board in 1943 to serve the Church of the Brethren. Nevin Dulabaum, the president, explained to the conference delegates that the financial landscape has changed in this modern age with new growth investment firms offering new products, restructured market capitalizations, and numerous financial mergers; the previous agency label needed to pursue a wider range of faith-based communities. Whereas the word Brethren might appear to serve a more defined community of investors. He stressed that only the name has changed. All funds and services will remain the same.
Attendance at this years Conference was the lowest of gathered persons in the last six decades. Two major factors affected this outcome. Since the greater population of Brethren live in the eastern states, gatherings in the mid to far west regions typically have lower attendance from the eastern Brethren. Additionally, over one hundred congregations have recently departed from the Church of the Brethren, for a number of issues: a perceived lack of respect for biblical authority, increasing acceptance of alternate life styles and unions, plus a growing dissatisfaction and mistrust of denominational leadership.
This fracturing amounts to the loss of nearly 12,000 members, the largest of all single departures in the history of the denomination. Some congregations joined the newly formed denomination known as the Covenant Brethren Church. while other congregations navigated through the nebulous waters of independence. The 2022 total of 425 delegates represents one half of those delegates from the 1980s and 1990s, and very close to one third of those delegates from the 1960s and 1970s.
New Annual Conference director Rhonda Pittman Gingrich assumed the office after the 2021 Conference. She continues the duties of retiring director Chris Douglas who began serving in 2010 after the departure of Lerry Fogle who served from 2003-2009.
- James Beckwith has completed 10 years as Conference secretary. He will be followed by David Shumate beginning in 2023 at Cincinnati.
Discipleship Ministries co-coordinator Stan Dueck introduced and welcomed new congregations: Eglise des Freres Haitian, Gospel Assembly, Haitian Church of the Brethren (Naples, FL), Haitian Church of the Brethren (Orlando, FL), Iglesia des los Hermanos Nuevo Comienzo, Tabernacle the Restoration, Unify Christian, and Un Nuevo Renacer. Additionally, the following were reconized at the 2021 virtual Annual Conference: Centro Agape en Acción, Conexion Pasadena, Light of the Gospel, and Nuevo Vision la Hermosa Iglesia des los Hermanos.
COVID-19 moved the Program and Arrangements committee to require N95 & KN95 Face Masks for all attendees at this years gathering. Perhaps the New Normal for future Annual Conferences.
Enjoy a random selection of Conference highlights in our Photo Gallery
Insight Sessions are now labeled as Equipping Sessions. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday gave Conference attendees a selection of 44 different Insight Sessions and Equipping Sessions. Topics included a wide variety of subjects that would be of interest to clergy, administrators, deacons, teachers, church staff, youth, and laity. Scheduled times were 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
- Agencies, Missions, and Special Interest groups offered conference goers information concerning their recent accomplishments, future vision, or service updates in the Exhibit Hall.
OFFICERS & LEADERSHIP:
2022 Conference Officers were Moderator David Sollenberger, field of communication Rockford, Illinois; Moderator-elect Tim McElwee, Associate Pastor for Children and Pastoral Care, Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren, Mifflinburg, Pennsulvania; and Secretary James Beckwith, Pastor of Annville Church of the Brethren in Annville, Pennsylvania.
Madalyn Metzger was elected to serve as moderator-elect at next years Conference in Cincinnati, and David Shumate was elected to serve as the Conference secretary, among election results
Eight items of business faced the Conference this year: one Unfinished and seven New. AC2020 was cancelled because of COVID-19 and AC2021 was severely limited to a virtual platform. This years delegate body successfully consumed an enormous volume of paperwork, listened to numerous reports, and accomplished their agenda in three days.
- UB 1 Update to Polity Regarding Annual Conference Agencies
Annual Conference Leadership Team of AC2021 received the cancelled 2020 Conference changes to polity request and decided that no changes to polity proposals be considered until after the extensive Compelling Vision process would be finalized. This would permit the opportunity to make thoughtful changes to polity with the Compelling Vision outcomes. The delegate body adopted the motion by a required two-thirds majority.
- NB 1 Amendments to the Appeal Section of the Ethics in Ministry Relations Polity
The current polity of Standing Committee regarding termination of a ministerial license by a district ministry commission is stated that: “Standing Committee will hear such appeals received forty-five (45) days prior to its next regularly scheduled meeting. If an appeal is received less than forty-five
(45) days prior, it will be heard at a subsequent meeting of Standing Committee.” The business of appealing to Standing Committee by this polity raised concerns as presented in Amendments to Ethics in Ministry Relations. The delegate body adopted the motion by a required two-thirds majority.
- NB 2 Standing with People of Color
Standing Committee expressed their desire that the following amendment to the query be accepted: “We recognize the struggles faced by many of our sisters and brothers of color and believe the church should be agents of change. We encourage congregations, districts, agencies, and other denominational entities to continue to follow the teachings of Jesus by living out the great commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves ...” The delegate body adopted the recommendation that a two-year study/action process be charged with developing such materials for wide denominational use. The results of this process will then be reported to Annual Conference both in 2023 and 2024.
- NB 3 Breaking Down Barriers – Increasing Access to Denominational Events
Recommendations of Standing Committee to the Breaking Down Barriers query was that the delegate body select a study committee to determine practical methods that would address possible ways of implementing Breaking Barriers suggestions in the form of a feasibility study to Annual Conference 2024.
- NB 4 Revisions to the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren, Inc.
While the Leadership Team had been reviewing the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren, they noticed a few inconsistencies, and recommended Revisions to the Bylaws. They noted one particular example. The Bylaws permit the Leadership Team to propose changes to Standing Committee in consultation with Mission and Ministry Board Directors. However, the Bylaws do not permit amendments except those coming through the query process from a district or congregation or the Mission and Ministry Board itself as a new item of business. Delegates adopted the recommendations by a two-thirds majority.
- NB 5 Integrated Annual Ministry Agreement and revised Guidelines for Pastors' Salaries and Benefits
Conference delegates adopted Standing Committee's recommendation to the Guidelines for Pastors Salaries and Benefits which will permit the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee to report minor changes to the guidelines to ensure compliance to relevant insurance and employment laws.
- NB 6 Revised Minimum Cash Salary Table for Pastors
For many years Annual Conference has retained a Minimum Cash Salary Table for pastors that recommends to congregations how they might determine salary increases in regards to their pastor's education and years of service. Each year the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee has proposed to the delegate body a suggested percentage increase in salaries due to inflation. Occasionally the core mathematical formula that calculates the increases needs to be reconsidered. This year the Compensation and Benefits Committee called for a whole new Minimum Cash Salary Table for Pastors which better reflects starting salaries to be more competitive with employment in other organizations. A significant change in the new table is to gradually narrow the range between a pastors experience and his/her educational level. Delegates adopted the recommendation of Standing Committee that approves replacing the current Salary Table with the new one. Any cost of living increase for the this Conference will be addressed in New Business Item 7.
- NB 7 Recommended Cost of Living Adjustment to the Minimum Cash Salary Table for Pastors
Delegates spent a considerable amount of time discussing what a new percentage increase to pastoral salaries might be. Several reasonable suggestions were made by delegates. Eventually an increase of 8.2% was adopted.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 8.2%.
- Total registered attendance was 1,315, comprised of 425 Delegates, and 890 Non-Delegates (748, present; 142, virtual). See Attendance Chart below.
- Total offerings received onsite and online were as $39,295 .
- Church of the Brethren Association for the Arts (2018) was not held this year because of the COVID pandemic.
- Blood Drive collected 105 units with the help of many dedicated volunteers.
- Cincinnati, Ohio will be the host city of AC2023 in the Duke Energy Center.
- Review all Future Locations announced by the Program & Arrangements Committee.
Worship Leaders Christina Singh, Jessie Houff, Matt Rittle, Jess Hoffert, Naomi Edwards, Rudy Jensen, Cesia Salcedo, Brandon Grady;
Liturgy: Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Paula Bowser, Timothy Hollenberg-Duffey;
Music Coordinator: Scott Duffey;
Adult Choir Director: Julie Richard;
Children's Choir Director: Michael Stern;
Worship Center Design: David Thornburg;
Organists: Billy Martin, Jonathan Emmons, Ellen Gilbert, Shawn Kirchner;
Pianist: Ryan Arndt,
- Sunday Evening, JULY 10 : Moderator David Sollenberger - FOLLOWING JESUS AGAIN… MUST WE
Annville, Pennsylvania & North Manchester, Indiana
- Monday Evening, JULY 11 : Leonor Ochoa - LOVING BEYOND THE PAIN
- Tuesday Evening, JULY 12 : Anna Lisa Gross - THE JOY OF LITTLE DEATHS
North Manchester, Indiana.
- Wednesday Evening, JULY 13 : Nathan Rittenhouse - THE FAMILY OF GOD
Green Bank, West Virgina
- Thursday Morning, JULY 14 : Belita Mitchell - SHARE THE LOVE AND MAKE THE CONNECTION
They determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain other of them,
should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders (about this question).