rethren regularly meet to corporately discuss issues of faith and practice as well as renew friendships. The earliest denomination wide gathering was convened by Martin Urner and George Martin in 1742 to discuss matters that could have affected the unique identity of the Brethren. About thirty-five years later the Brethren began meeting every year during the celebration of Pentecost, to especially emphasize their need of spiritual guidance in deciding matters of faith. Early members first referred to this event as Annual Meeting until around the turn of the Twentieth Century when they started calling it Annual Conference. Records and minutes of business proceedings were not kept until 1778. Delegate representation started in 1848. Majority rule was instituted in 1880. Online availability first began in 1996 through a cooperative effort of Church of the Brethren Network and the News Service of the General Board (now Mission & Ministry Board), since we had preceded the General Board's own web site (www.brethren.org) by several years. This technological innovation permitted non-conference goer's the opportunity to personally share in the activities of the Conference. The News Service would send daily postings about Conference activities including regular news items, sermon texts, and the daily Journal. When the General Board established their own web site and began uploading live Conference information, we shifted our emphasis toward a brief archive of the event itself. Here you will find a pictorial highlight, business history, local history, web addresses, exhibit displays, and other pertinent information. Conferences are listed starting from the most recent to the earliest.
|Click above images to enlarge
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
Grand Rapids hosts several noteworthy museums, such as the
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
Van Andel Public Museum.
are possible from the Grand River's rich supply of water. Lengthy
on both sides permitted conference goers easy access to a
A number of river walkers received a
Bird Attack from a
who was undoubtedly protecting her nested young.
The usual catered buffet dining was served indoors and
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
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
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
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.
Registration took place in the immense lobby where Attendees frequently stopped at the
The traditional and delightful opportunity to hear the Children's Choir was experienced on both
Thursday Night and
Stan Dueck introduced several
Jay Wittmeyer acknowledged
from Brethren churches in Nigeria, Spain, Haiti, Brazil, South Sudan, Burundi, and Rwanda. President of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN), Rev. Joel Stephen Billi, presented an update on the spiritual and political situation in Nigeria.
35 Exhibits were located in
Exhibit Hall C, directly across from where Conference Business and Worship was conducted in the Steelcase Ballroom. Every year these booths provide an opportunity for Brethren to learn about established agencies within the denomination and the programs or services they offer, or special interest groups promoting their cause, or Brethren related commercial ventures, or to enjoy a glimpse of heritage and history. Of special mention was the
Hymn Sing conducted by Bob Kettering in the very midst of the Exhibit Hall.
OFFICERS & LEADERSHIP:
2017 Conference Officers were Moderator Carol Scheppard, vice president and dean for Academic Affairs at Bridgewater College; Moderator-elect Samuel Sarpiya, Pastor of Rockford Community Church of the Brethren in Rockford, Illinois; and Secretary James Beckwith, Pastor of Annville Church of the Brethren in Annville, Pennsylvania.
At the conclusion of the Saturday business session, Moderator Carol Scheppard Passed the Gavel to Moderator-elect Samuel Sarpiya.
During the Sunday morning worship service, the Leadership Team, family members, and relatives participated in the Leadership Consecration which prayerfully installed Samuel Sarpiya as Moderator of the 2018 Annual Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, Donita Keister as Moderator-elect of the 2019 Annual Conference in San Diego, California, and Jim Beckwith as Conference Secretary.
Newly installed Moderator Samuel Sarpiya shared his vision for next year's Conference and announced its theme: “Living Parables.”
- UB 1 VISION OF ECUMENISM FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
A new item of business at AC2012 called for the discontinuation of the Committee on Interchurch Relations, and requested of the Leadership Team to appoint a new committee to draft a “Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century” that would determine a future path for the Church of the Brethren toward being a part of the larger ecumenical church. An interim report was heard in AC2013. The AC2014 report stated: “The study committee examined the assignment with two objectives: to look at the history of the Church of the Brethren and celebrate the strides made possible in relationship with others of shared values and concern; and to examine the various ways members, congregations, and the denomination might engage with the larger community of communions in cooperative efforts toward ‘God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done.’ ”
Delegates at AC2016 received a report from the Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century study committee that a final draft would be completed for AC2017. However, discussion on the extensive work of the Review and Evaluation Committee lasted until the end of the Saturday afternoon business session. Moderator Sheppard called for a vote to refer this report until AC2018, which was then passed by the Delegate Body.
- UB 2 REVIEW AND EVALUATION
This committee is elected in the fifth year of each decade and reports their recommendations to the Delegate Body in the seventh year. Former Annual Conference moderator
Tim Harvey carefully articulated the committee's ten recommendations for improving the organizational structure of the denomination. After many requests for clarification, discussion, and prayerful considerations, Delegates were asked to vote on the first five recommendations as one block, and numbers six through ten on an individual basis.
- 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:
g. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
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.”
- 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).
- UB 3 VITALITY AND VIABILITY
The Future District Structure query presented to AC2015 was returned to the Mid-Atlantic District as recommended by the 2015 Standing Committee. Many hours of discussion centered around this item of business because of a perceived conflict with the mandate of the Review and Evaluation Committee which is also an item of that year's business. Some microphone speeches raised concerns that a study committee on future structure might result in a duplication of efforts by the Review and Evaluation Committee, while others, conversely, expressed opinions that a study committee on the vitality of the denomination would look far beyond the narrow structural issues pursued under the Review and Evaluation Committee. Delegates finally decided that a study committee be formed to examine the broader concern of vitality across the denomination, congregations, districts, and the wellness of their interactions. A report is expected at AC2017.
During this interim two years, chairperson
John Jantzi explained that a significant turnover of committee members has resulted in the current membership only being finalized in the summer of 2016. Therefore, the committee requests an additional year to complete a final report.
- UB 4 THE AUTHORITY OF ANNUAL CONFERENCE AND DISTRICTS REGARDING THE ACCOUNTABILITY OF MINISTERS, CONGREGATIONS, AND DISTRICTS
A new item of business at AC2016 by the West-Marva District petitioned Annual Conference to consider: “How shall districts respond when credentialed ministers and/or congregations conduct or participate in same sex weddings.”
Executive Director David Steele presented the committees multi-segmented report with a final recommendation given from the floor (which does not appear in the report itself): “That this statement of clarification about our current polity and standard practice be received as the answer to our assignment and that the church turn its attention to the framing of a compelling vision for how we will continue the work of Jesus together.”
Additional information was granted in Authority and Accountability Questions Answers.
Changes to the original report:
- 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”
- UB 5 CREATION CARE
This committee met several times online, conducted a survey to better understand the tempo of Brethren regarding this issue, and then met with Brethren Benefit Trust and other department officers at the denominational headquarters in Elgin, to present their survey data. After much consideration, the committee requested another year to present a completed report at AC2018 with these interim thoughts: “We are optimistic. There are many ways for individuals, congregations and the denomination to meaningfully act on the conviction of caring for God's earth and people. We plan to provide informational resources, grounded in Brethren values, that will increase the collective efficiency of our energy use and increase our use of renewable energy. We believe this can be done while strengthening our communities and spiritual life.”
- NB 1 POLITY FOR AGENCIES
Two queries of business submitted to AC2016 (NB1 & NB2) questioned the viability of On Earth Peace and whether it should retain official status as an Annual Conference agency. The 2016 Delegate Body referred these items to the current Review and Evaluation Committee to bring recommendations concerning these items of business. In consideration of this situation, On Earth Peace submitted their own query of business in Polity For Agencies to point out a possible lack of a standard polity process to remove an official agency, plus a suitable framework to resolve such conflicts. The 2017 Delegate Body voted to accept the recommendation of Standing Committee that this query be respectfully returned to On Earth Peace, and that the Annual Conference Leadership Team update current polity to rectify any misunderstandings.
- NB 2 PATIENT HOPE IN MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE
On Earth Peace presented this query in an attempt to bring greater consistency within the denomination regarding forbearance when Brethren disagree over matters of conscience. “...there is a largely unnoticed inconsistency in the practice of living with disagreements in matters of conscience. Large numbers of congregations are routinely granted forbearance on a wide variety of matters in which their conscience will not permit participation in a particular aspect of denominational program or adherence to certain beliefs.”
The Delegate Body accepted the two-part recommendation of Standing Committee that 1) “...there be no delay in processing related items of business”, (Review and Evaluation Committee recommendations), and 2) “Insights of NB 2 be referred to the entire church for serious and prayerful consideration.” Standing Committee also requested that the Mission and Ministry Board in consultation with On Earth Peace and others provide resources, and further incorporate this work as a continuation of the “ Living Together as Christ Calls ” query (AC 2016, NB 4).
- NB 3 BRETHREN VALUES INVESTING
Brethren Benefit Trust has for many decades administered their pension plan and asset management services to refuse investing in firms that do not adhere to Church of the Brethren Annual Conference statements which they have termed Socially Responsible Investing (SRI). However, SRI is a generic acronym that means different things to different people. Therefore, BBT requested a change in terminology. “Because of the ambiguity of what Socially Responsible Investing means, the Brethren Benefit Trust Board has taken action to adopt a term that articulates what SRI means within the context of the Church of the Brethren. In November 2016, the board named that term – Brethren Values Investing (BVI). BVI is distinct in that it articulates what the social screens are, and are not. They derive from Church of the Brethren Annual Conference statements; they are not the lone opinions of a single agency or individual within the denomination. As a result of Brethren Benefit Trust adopting the term Brethren Values Investing to replace Socially Responsible Investing, it is the Brethren Benefit Trust Board’s desire that references to Socially Responsible Investing that are in the organization’s Articles of Organization be replaced with Brethren Values Investing.”
Due to the Saturday afternoon business session approaching 4:30 p.m., the Conference Officers declared that this Query will need to be delayed until the 2018 Annual Conference.
- NB 4 POLITY FOR ELECTING BRETHREN BENEFIT TRUST BOARD DIRECTORS
Brethren Benefit Trust laments the inability to garner qualified names to be selected for Annual Conference ballots. “Brethren Benefit Trust has answered the request of Annual Conference to locate, vet, and nominate four people each year. However, this means that at least three of the four people Brethren Benefit Trust each year identifies to be a potential board member are either not chosen for the final Annual Conference ballot or lose in the final election. Brethren Benefit Trust finds this reality to be problematic. In a denomination the size of the Church of the Brethren, it is increasingly difficult for Brethren Benefit Trust to identify people who are willing and who have the skills to serve on the organization’s board. People who have willingly applied to be candidates for several election cycles no longer want to put their names forward given the likely outcome of not being elected once again. While Brethren Benefit Trust supports the Annual Conference election process and wants to help find qualified candidates, it believes a new process should be adopted. The new process would require no more than two nominees for the election of a director on the Brethren Benefit Trust Board.”
Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Articles of Organization
A. Four directors are to be elected by Annual Conference from a ballot submitted by Standing Committee. The officers of Annual Conference shall be responsible for this election. A minimum of two nominees are to be identified by Standing Committee’s Nominating Committee for the Brethren Benefit Trust Board position elected by Annual Conference delegates. If only two are identified, those two will be the nominees on the Annual Conference ballot. If there are more than two nominees for the Brethren Benefit Trust Board position, the Nominating Committee will present a ballot of no more than four nominees to Standing Committee, which shall vote and reduce the initial ballot to its tentative final form.”
Due to the Saturday afternoon business session approaching 4:30 p.m., the Conference Officers declared that this Query will need to be delayed until the 2018 Annual Conference.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 1.0%.
Leading In Worship: Bev Anspaugh, Music Coordinator;
Scott Bacon, Adult Choir Director;
Marianne Houff, Children's Choir Director,
Debbie Noffsinger, Worship Center;
Jonathan Emmons, Organist; Jenny Williams, Pianist; Jon Wilson, Guitar; Andy Duffey, Drums.
At the beginning of the evening services, a
Worship Bell announced that it was time for worship. Innovative for this year were
Risk Hope Moments which challenged and encouraged worshippers to reexamine their lives along the Conference theme of Risk Hope.
- Wednesday Evening, JUNE 28 : Moderator Carol Scheppard - RISK HOPE! OUR GOD REIGNS IN THE DARKNESS
Professor at Bridgewater College and member of the Lebanon Church of the Brethren, Mount Sidney, Virginia.
- Thursday Evening, JUNE 29 : Jose Calleja Otero - STRANGE WORLD
District Executive of the Puerto Rico District - Church of the Brethren. He has also served in various roles in the Vega Baja congregation.
- Friday Evening, JUNE 30 : Michaela Alphonse - CAN I GET A WITNESS
Involved in pastoral ministry at Miami First Church of the Brethren, Miami, Florida. She also serves with Mission Evangelique des Eglises des Frères D'Haiti and Global Mission and Service.
- Saturday Evening, JULY 1 : Donna Ritchey Martin - HELD TOGETHER FOR GOOD
Co-pastor at Grossnickle Church of the Brethren, Mid-Atlantic District. She also served congregations in the Illinois-Wisconsin District.
- Sunday Morning, JULY 2 : Matthew Fike - BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING
Pastor at Lebanon Church of the Brethren, Shenandoah District. He has also served congregations in the Southern Ohio, Virlina, West Marva, and Districts.
|Click above images to enlarge
The 230th Annual Conference (June 29 - July 3, 2016) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center/Sheraton Hotel, located at 3121 Gate City Blvd, Greensboro, NC 27407, which claims to be the largest hotel/convention center between Atlanta and Washington, DC. The Convention Center offers over 250,000 square feet of meeting and event space, 100,000 square feet
of pre-function and exhibition space, three major ballrooms that accommodates functions with up to 6,000 guests, plus 71 breakout rooms, and 14 board rooms. The entire complex includes wireless Internet access. The adjacent Sheraton Hotel is a member of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., and their Starwood Preferred Planner program is the largest reward and recognition program for meeting planners in the hotel industry. Across the parking lot was a Shopping Mall offering a variety of dining options in a food court that was frequented by Conference goers.
The Greensboro Sit-Ins began a series of nonviolent protests against racially segregated lunch counters beginning at the Woolworth department store at 132 South Elm Street in Greensboro. On February 1, 1960, four young black men sat down at the white only lunch counter of the Woolworth department store and asked for coffee. Known as the Greensboro Four, Joseph McNeil, David Richmond, Ezell Blair Jr., and Franklin McCain were denied service but refused to leave. This was not the first such sit-in but it became the most famous. In the coming days, hundreds of people joined them in similar protests at Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Durham, Charlotte, and out-of-state cities of Richmond, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee, and Lexington, Kentucky. The Woolworth store in Greensboro is now the International Civil Rights Center and Museum which preserves a section of the original lunch counter.
An hour drive east of Greensboro is the well known Research Triangle Park, a private non-profit organization created in 1959 by state and local governments, nearby universities, and local businesses to provide a high-tech research and development complex. Over seven thousand acres provides a home for over two hundred companies who employ about 45,000 persons and engage over 9,000 contractors. IBM operates their second largest service center in the world. Simply known as The Triangle it is bordered by North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and the cities of Raleigh, Durham, Cary, and Chapel Hill.
Just about an hour's drive northwest of Greensboro is Mt. Airy, the home town of Andy Griffith whose immensely successful television program by the same name aired from 1960 to 1968. TV Guide magazine ranked it the 9th best program in American television history. It never fell below seventh place in the Nielsen television ratings service and held a solid first place during its last year. None of the show was filmed in North Carolina. Desilu Studios was the setting for all of the interior scenes, and the exterior scenes filmed at the famous RKO Forty Acres in Culver City, California. Even the woodsy opening to the show was filmed at the Franklin Canyon reservoir north of Beverly Hills.
2015 Moderator David Steele will assume the responsibilities of the denominations General Secretary on September 1, 2016. He was introduced by Mission and Ministry Board chair Don Fitzkee during the Church of the Brethren report. The delegate body also expressed their gratitude to Interim General Secretary Dale Minnich, especially since his responsibilities broadened after the sudden death of Associate General Secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury in March 2016. Duties of the General Secretary include but not limited to the following:
- Convenes the executive officers of the church as the Leadership Team
- Facilitates the development of the Church of the Brethren Executive Forum Leadership
- Articulates and interprets the mission, vision and core values of the Church of the Brethren, Inc.
- Reports to Annual Conference as the principle staff executive for Church of the Brethren, Inc.
- Reports to Standing Committee the work of the Leadership Team
- Coordinates arrangements and agenda for the Inter-Agency Forum
- Understands and directs the implementation of Annual Conference decisions
- Guides planning for all financial aspects of the Church of the Brethren and the Mission and Ministry Board
- Oversees management of Stewardship and Donor Development Staff
- Maintains and nurtures partnerships with institutions and agencies of the Church of the Brethren.
- Coordinates the ecumenical relationships and speaks on behalf of the Church of the Brethren as the Ecumenical Officer
Rev. Joel Stephen Billi was elected President of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) and began serving in that office on May 1, 2016. Billi replaces Samuel Dante Dali whose term would have expired in 2015 but was extended because of the terrorist conditions that affected the church in Nigeria. President Billi well understands the persecution climate of northeast Nigeria, having served several large congregations at Biu, Utaku, Maiduguri, and most recently at Michika which is considered on the front lines of the terrorist insurgency.
5 New Fellowships were recognized: New Beginnings and Veritas in Atlantic Northeast District, Jonah’s People in Northern Ohio District, Betel International and Ministerio Uncion Apostolica in Southeastern District, and Gospel Assembly in Atlantic Southeast District.
Witness to the Host City gifts were placed in Small Rooms due to lack of space at the front of the conference ballroom. Donations this year went to BackPack Beginnings which grew from a young mother using her dining room table into a volunteer network that serves the needs of over 4,000 children. Donations were also given to the Encore! Boutique Thrift Store, a ministry of First Presbyterian Churchs Step Up Program that provides professional grade clothing for people interviewing for new jobs. Additional cash donations amounted to $2,793.
Steven Schweitzer, Academic Dean at Bethany Theological Seminary presented morning biblical studies centering on Light in Scripture: Study 1, Study 2, Study 3.
62 Insight Sessions housed in Mini Auditoriums and Conventional Classrooms were offered to better educate, enlighten, and equip individuals and congregations for more effective ministry. Topics ranged over a wide category of faith, witness, discipleship, worship, Brethren specific topics, heritage, clergy specifics, family life, youth specifics, inter-culture, health issues, and legal advice.
37 Exhibits were located throughout Various Hallways and numerous Meeting Rooms. Every year these booths provide an opportunity for Brethren to learn about established agencies within the denomination and the programs or services they offer, or special interest groups promoting their cause, or Brethren related commercial ventures, or to enjoy a glimpse of heritage and history.
2016 Conference Officers were Moderator Andy Murray, member of Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, PA; Moderator-elect Carol Scheppard, vice president and dean for Academic Affairs at Bridgewater College; and Secretary Jim Beckwith, Pastor of Annville Church of the Brethren in Annville, Pennsylvania.
Delegate seating around tables has become the Conference standard. This innovation from AC2012 frequently offered delegates the opportunity to participate in Table Talk discussions concerning business and personal matters.
- Review and Evaluation (interim report was received)
- Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century (interim report was received)
- Vitality and Viability of the denomination (interim report was received)
- Same Sex Weddings by a motion from the floor was referred to the Leadership Team of the Church of the Brethren, and to also be in consultation with the Council of District Executives. The Leadership Team is composed of the Annual Conference officers: Moderator, Moderator-elect, the Conference Secretary, and the General Secretary of the Church of the Brethren. Before the delegates could address the Standing Committee recommendation of this query, they first needed to satisfy the decision of AC2011 stipulating that human sexuality matters should be discussed outside the query process, and this would have required a two-thirds majority to overturn the former decision. Following hours of discussion and numerous speeches emanating from long lines before microphones, the vote failed to reach a two-thirds majority which immediately places the original query to the delegates as a new item of business. An amendment to remove selected wording ( The districts shall respond with discipline, not with allowances based on personal conscience. ) from the query also failed. Near the end of the business session a motion to return the query was left hanging until the next day, at which time the sponsor retracted his own motion in order to defer to another motion that would refer the query to the Leadership Team. A simple majority vote succeeded and the Leadership Team was asked, to bring clarity and guidance concerning the authority of Annual Conference and districts regarding the accountability of ministers, congregations, and districts, bringing recommendations to the 2017 Annual Conference.
- On Earth Peace Reportability / Accountability was accepted per the recommendation of the 2016 Standing Committee, that both querys ( Reportability/Accountability to Annual Conference from West Marva District ) and ( Viability of On Earth Peace as an Agency from Southeastern District ) be combined into one item of business, and be referred to the Review and Evaluation Committee for a report in 2017, stating: recognizing that the Review and Evaluation Committee has the responsibility to consider the balance and unity of denominational agencies.
The query from West Marva District questioned
the Accountability and Consistency of On Earth Peace because:
- If Annual Conference agency status is granted, the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference is now advised of On Earth Peace Assemblys intent and commitment to work honorably, as a full program partner, to further build the institution of the Church of the Brethren and the peaceful kingdom of God here on earth as in heaven.. OEPA promised in their original AC1998 request to: ...commit itself to providing ministry that is within the scope of Annual Conference directives and congruent with articulated values of the Church of the Brethren.
...the 2015 On Earth Peace flyer that accompanied the On Earth Peace report in the Annual Conference packet referenced the scripture, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, She has anointed me to... referring to God as She. This same flyer includes a picture of a rainbow-scarved pastor and the concept of Inclusion.
...while the declared intent is to work through conflict and resolve disputes, On Earth Peace, since 2011, through report, statements, and actions, has brought more tension than peace.
- The recent actions of On Earth Peace, during the last three years, have brought more conflict in the denomination and reflect their unwillingness to follow Annual Conference mandates or directives.
Each decade Annual Conference elects a Review and Evaluation Committee in the fifth year of the decade to review and evaluate the denominations structure and function, give and interim report in the sixth year, and then present a final report in the seventh year. Their mandate is to analyze the harmony between church agencies, the level of interest that Brethren exhibit in programs of the denomination, the success of denominational programs to achieve their stated goals, and the connectedness of those programs with each of the twenty-four districts.
- Christian Responsibility to Care for God’s Creation was accepted per the recommendation of the 2016 Standing Committee that: a Creation Care study committee be appointed to work with Brethren Benefit Trust to develop ways to support and extend our knowledge of renewable energy production with our financial investments and involvement in community projects to reduce our contributions to greenhouse gas concentrations and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. A three member committee was elected by Standing Committee. This query came from the Polo Church of the Brethren in the Illinois/Wisconsin district which expressed dissatisfaction with the action of AC2014 that returned the query Guidance for Responding to the Changing of Earth’s Climate to the sponsoring district and congregation. Standing Committee presented the reason for acceptance of this query due to an emphasis on financial investments to be the major difference from the previous query that was returned. Some microphone speakers expressed concern that the denomination should make better utilization of its finances in the area of evangelism.
- Living Together as Christ Calls was adopted per the recommendation of the 2016 Standing Committee that it be referred to the Mission and Ministry Board. This query came from the La Verne Church of the Brethren which petitioned Annual Conference, to address the roots of our tension and develop strategies that will aid us in treating one another in a truly Christ-like manner.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 1.0%.
- Total registered attendance was 2,439, comprised of 704 Delegates, and 1,735 Non-Delegates.
- Total offerings received were tentatively announced as $68,516.00.704
- Delegate election resulted in Samuel Sarpiya being chosen as Moderator-elect to serve as the 2018 Annual Conference moderator in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- Church of the Brethren Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised $10,050 for world hunger outreach.
- Blood Drive collected 160 units from 161 people with the help of many Dedicated Volunteers.
- Grand Rapids, Michigan will be the host city of AC2017 in the DeVos Place.
- Review all Future Locations announced by the Program & Arrangements Committee.
- Wednesday Evening, JUNE 29 : Moderator Andy Murray - SHINING THE LIGHT ON OUR STATE
Murray is retired from the faculty of Juniata College having been a professor, administrator, and chaplain.
- Thursday Evening, JUNE 30 : Kurt Borgmann - LIGHT UP THE DARKNESS
Borgmann is pastor of Manchester COB in North Manchester, Indiana.
- Friday Evening, JULY 1 : Dennis Webb - EVERY NIGHT NEEDS THE LIGHT...LET’S BE THAT LIGHT
Webb is pastor of Naperville COB in Naperville, Illinois, and a member of the denominations Mission and Ministry Board.
- Saturday Evening, JULY 2 : Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm - TRAILING WISPS OF GLORY
Ottoni-Wilhelm is Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana.
- Sunday Morning, JULY 3 : Eric Brubaker - A CITY ON A HILL
Brubaker is an ordained minister serving in plural ministry at the Middle Creek COB in Lititz, Pennsylvania.
|Click above images to enlarge
The 229th Annual Conference (July 11-15, 2015) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Tampa Convention Center, located at 333 South Franklin Street, Tampa, Florida 33602. Built in the very heart of downtown Tampa at the mouth of the Hillsborough River, this mid-sized Convention Center opened in 1990 with 600,000 square feet of event space, 200,000 square feet of exhibit space with a 30 foot ceiling, a ballroom accommodating over 2,000 guests, and 36 meeting rooms. The $140 million facility opened in October 1990 and hosts over 300 events each year. In 2012 it served as the media center for the Republican National Convention which met in the nearby Tampa Bay Times Forum. The word Tampa is thought to possibly mean sticks of fire in the language of the Calusa, a Native American tribe. This meaning could have resulted from the frequent lightening strikes in the area. Tampa is the name of the city and Tampa Bay is the entire area surrounding the bay which also includes: St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Bradenton, Largo, Gulfport, and ending just north of Sarasota. Two hotels adjacent to the Convention Center were the Embassy Suites and facing it next to the bay was the Marriott Waterside and the seemingly never ending Bayside Marina.
The area surrounding Tampa has experienced international culture as having first been ruled by the Spanish in the 1500s under the governance of Hernando de Soto. Great Britain later acquired Florida in 1763 as part of the treaty ending the French and Indian War. During this time the bay was renamed Hillsborough Bay after Lord Hillsborough who served as Secretary of State for the American Colonies from 1768 to 1772. A stipulation of the Treaty of Paris which concluded the American Revolution in 1783 was that control of Florida should return to Spain. And lastly, the United States purchased Florida from Spain in 1821. The city of Tampa now offers a rich cultural experience from the contributions of the British, Spanish, Cuban, and several native tribes. There are numerous world famous attractions in the area. Disney World is about seventy miles from Tampa, but just thirty miles to the east near Winter Haven is the lush expanse of Cypress Gardens, a botanical garden theme park opened by husband and wife Dick and Julie Pope in 1936, charging an admission price of 25 cents. Only a few more miles beyond is the famous Bok Tower, a National Historic Landmark commissioned by Edward W. Bok, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, successful publisher, humanitarian, and advocate of peace. This 250-acre garden and centerpiece 205-foot Singing Tower with its carillon bells is built on Iron Mountain, one of the highest points in the state of Florida.
Puerto Rico was welcomed this year as the twenty-fourth district, formerly apart of the Atlantic Southeast District. Johnathan Shively welcomed the new district of Puerto Rico and invited members to express their thoughts and expectations during the Sunday afternoon business session. Brethren congregations in Puerto Rico began the process of becoming the 24th district on January 25, 2014. Formerly the churches of Puerto Rico had been part of the Atlantic Southeast District which now includes the states of Georgia and Florida.
General Secretary Stanley Noffsingers term of service to the Church of the Brethren will conclude when his contract ends on July 1, 2016. In addressing the Conference Noffsinger said: I hope we make a decision to be a unified body of Christ in this particular community known as the Church of the Brethren ... We have an important voice, small that we may be--a voice that is sought after. So choose your words wisely because we are being sought out as followers of Jesus and another way of living. I pray for this church to flourish, to celebrate the goodness of our God and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the ever present knowledge that the Holy Spirit does not beckon to us but is ever present awaiting our attentiveness. I pray that we can respond with the way, the voice, and the action and behavior that would signal to the world that there is another way of living and it is a way of living of compassion and radical discipleship. Noffsinger was consecrated as the General Secretary for outgoing Judy Mills Reimer at AC2003 in Boise, Idaho. Over the past twelve years he has modeled Gods message of peace at world conferences on behalf of the denomination. A transition team has been appointed. The General Secretary serves as the Chief Executive Officer and Ecumenical Officer for the Church of the Brethren. Some of their duties include:
- Convenes the executive officers of the church as the Leadership Team
- Facilitates the development of the Church of the Brethren Executive Forum Leadership
- Articulates and interprets the mission, vision and core values of the Church of the Brethren, Inc.
- Reports to Annual Conference as the principle staff executive for Church of the Brethren, Inc.
- Reports to Standing Committee the work of the Leadership Team
- Coordinates arrangements and agenda for the Inter-Agency Forum
- Understands and directs the implementation of Annual Conference decisions
- Guides planning for all financial aspects of the Church of the Brethren and the Mission and Ministry Board
- Oversees management of Stewardship and Donor Development Staff
- Maintains and nurtures partnerships with institutions and agencies of the Church of the Brethren.
- Coordinates the ecumenical relationships and speaks on behalf of the Church of the Brethren as the Ecumenical Officer
Headlining the entire Conference was the crisis in Nigeria where militant Islamic extremist have been killing Christians and Burning Homes and Worship Facilities. Conference-goers enjoyed the EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir which first performed during the Saturday evening service as well as a few other Worship Services. They were frequently seen at numerous functions or just Relaxing between appearances. The kidnapping of hundreds of girls from a school (built by the Church of the Brethren) in the Nigerian city of Chibok remained a central issue. The Bring Back Our Girls rallying cry was captured in textile and oil by Sandra Jean Ceis, depicting the original 276 girls that were abducted and the several who have managed to escape. A Wall of Healing chronicling the thousands upon thousands of Nigerians who have been killed by militant Islamic extremist was presented during the Monday afternoon business session. Seventeen Nigerian representatives carried their Banners of Names throughout the delegate seating and then posted them in the Exhibit Hall.
On Monday afternoon President Rev. Dr. Samuel Dante Dali of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren) addressed the Conference, detailing the present state of affairs in Nigeria. With his wife Rebecca Dali standing by his side, he expressed a chronological account of the distressed situation in his native land and how the government rendered very little assistance.
While we were going through these attacks and sinking deep into the Boko Haram valley of death, we were cried out loudly to the government of our country for help. We presented the seriousness of our case to the government both in writing and in person, but the only response we received was flattery and empty promises. The government said that they would help us as long as it would not backfire on them, fearing repercussions from Boko Haram ...
With these responses, we felt very discouraged and nearly lost all hope in human effort. We decided to rely completely on God, the creator, and owner of the world. Then, you the Church of the Brethren suddenly and dramatically came to our rescue beyond expectation. You rescued EYN from the burning misery of Boko Haram. Since then you have been crying and groaning together with us. You have held our hands, walking with us through the valley of the shadow of death ...
So Brethren, it is right and imperative that I am standing here before you this day on behalf of the entire members of EYN to say thank you very much for your memorable support. We are very happy and proud to have you as our founding parents with all our limitations. EYN for generations to come will continue to be very grateful to all of you for your unconditional Christ-like love and care ...
My appreciation will be incomplete without recognizing and appreciating the contribution of the children of the Church of the Brethren, who, as we have heard did different things to raise money to support EYN. We will not forget the children of COB who have forfeited their own personal interests and went the extra mile to raise money to help EYN members. Particularly, the little girl who we heard forfeited getting a pair of special shoes and took all her money and donated it to EYN victims of Boko Haram. Also, we thank John Andrew’s son who raised some money to assist the parents of the abducted Chibok school girls, and many others who have done different things to raise funds to support EYN.
A militant Islamic extremist group formed in 2002 and known as Boko Haram has ravaged the northeast region of Nigeria, killing and bringing harm to Christians, Jews, Hindus, destroying homes and worship centers. It was stated privately by a former missionary to Nigeria that one of the reasons why the government is hesitant to act upon this militant group is because many of them have infiltrated the Nigerian army. Additionally, this source stated that there is no life insurance for Nigerian soldiers which means that families would lack financial stability, if Boko Haram soldiers would kill regular Nigerian soldiers.
Witness to the Host City gifts were brought to the front of the worship area by Conference-goers Sunday morning. In addition to these Host City Gifts the Conference presented a check in the amount of $3,951.15 to Tammy Charles, director of Donor Relations at Metropolitan Ministries, a donor and volunteer-fueled organization servicing the city of Tampa and four surrounding countries.
Jay Wittmeyer acknowledged International Guests from Brethren churches in Nigeria, Spain, Haiti, Brazil, South Sudan, Burundi, and Rwanda.
Brethren continue to embrace the advances in technology. Registration Desks were mostly empty after the first couple of days, possibly due to an increase in online registration. There was also a scarcity of notes on this years Message Board as compared to the Message Boards of several years ago. Text Messaging and cellular communication is becoming the staff of Brethren life around Annual Conference, necessitating fewer and fewer posted notes. The 2015 Mobile Device App continued the innovation which debuted at AC2014, placing an impressive amount of Conference Booklet information on mobile devices.
Steven Schweitzer, Academic Dean at Bethany Theological Seminary presented morning biblical studies centering on Biblical Covenants.
Annual Conference without the traditional Ice Cream Fellowship would be unthinkable, (but, it did happen at AC2010).
More than forty Insight Sessions were offered to better educate, enlighten, and equip individuals and congregations for more effective ministry. Topics ranged over a wide category of faith, witness, discipleship, worship, Brethren specific topics, heritage, clergy specifics, family life, youth specifics, inter-culture, health issues, and legal advice. These photos display a small but representative glimpse of the wider selection of presentations that were available to Conference attendees.
More than thirty booths in this year's Exhibit Hall provided an opportunity for Brethren to learn about established agencies within the denomination and the programs or services they offer, or special interest groups promoting their cause, or Brethren related commercial ventures, or to enjoy a glimpse of heritage and history.
2015 Conference Officers were Moderator David Steele, District Executive Minister for Pennsylvania Middle District; Andy Murray, Moderator-elect from member of Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, PA; and Secretary Jim Beckwith, Pastor of Annville COB, Annville, Pennsylvania.
Delegate seating around tables has become the Conference standard. This innovation from AC2012 frequently offered Delegates the opportunity to participate in Table Talk discussions concerning business and personal matters.
- There were no Unfinished Business items for this year, however there were three matters of business carried over from AC2014 because of constraints for time. Since these items were not processed in any manner, they were resubmitted this year as new business items. Two items were presented with no changes: Amendments to the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren, and Interpretation of Polity Regarding Agency Financial Reports. The third item was divided into two new items of business by the Annual Conference officers: 1) Amendments to the Brethren Benefit Trust Articles of Organization, and 2) Polity Change Proposal from Brethren Benefit Trust.
- Amendments to the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren, Inc. was accepted by a two-thirds majority vote as recommended by the 2015 Standing Committee, to adopt the 2014 Standing Committee recommendation which proposed that the amendments be accepted. This includes reference to the newly formed 24th district of Puerto Rico, and the renaming of the Oregon-Washington District to become Pacific Northwest District. Conference delegates also approved proposed changes in the bylaws of the Church of the Brethren that: clarify the term of service for a member of the board who is chosen chair-elect, and clarify that the full five-year term allowed for a director [board member] who serves less than half of an unexpired term is subsequent to that unexpired term, not in place of it.
- Interpretation of Polity Regarding Agency Financial Reports was accepted per the recommendation of the 2014 Standing Committee that Annual Conference Agencies will not be required to present their financial statements in Conference delegate packets, as long as their statements are available in printed format during the Conference. Standing Committee also urged the delegate body to affirm this action to be an interpretation of the current polity instead of a change in the polity.
- Amendments to Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Articles of Organization was accepted by a two-thirds majority vote as recommended by the 2015 Standing Committee to amend the Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) Articles of Organization. These include minor changes to style format and grammatical corrections; and major changes such as the legal understanding of BBT as an independent organization with a relationship to Annual Conference. The most significant amendment includes language that conveys an understanding that Annual Conference should receive instead of approve BBT’s annual report and newly appointed board members.
- Polity Change Proposal from Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust was accepted by a two-thirds majority vote as recommended by the 2015 Standing Committee that would permit: an incumbent member of the BBT board who is eligible for a second term to automatically become one of two nominees that Standing Committee recommends for Annual Conference election, with a recommendation from the BBT board.
- Mandate for the 2015-2017 Review and Evaluation Committee was adopted as recommended by the 2015 Standing Committee, to continue the practice of appointing a Review Committee in the fifth year of each decade, to evaluate the denomination's structure, how well it is functioning, the effectiveness of church agencies cooperating with each other, membership interest in denominational missions, and the viability of district goals. An interim report is expected at AC2016 with the final report to be presented at AC2017.
- Query: Future District Structure was returned to the Mid-Atlantic District as recommended by the 2015 Standing Committee. Many hours of discussion centered around this item of business because of a perceived conflict with the mandate of the Review and Evaluation Committee which is also an item of this year's business. Mid-Atlantic District executive Gene Hagenberger gave a presentation on behalf of the sponsoring district. Table-Talk discussions and microphone speeches revealed varying assumptions on current district structure sustainability, in view of the continuing loss of membership and how that affects districts, especially the growing inequality between larger districts with larger resources and smaller districts with little or no such resources.
Some microphone speeches raised concerns that a study committee on future structure might result in a duplication of efforts by the Review and Evaluation Committee, while others, conversely, expressed opinions that a study committee on the vitality of the denomination would look far beyond the narrow structural issues pursued under the Review and Evaluation Committee. Delegates finally decided that a study committee be formed to examine the broader concern of vitality across the denomination, congregations, districts, and the wellness of their interactions. A report is expected at AC2017.
- Resolution on Christian Minority Communities brought by the Mission and Ministry Board was adopted. The focus of the resolution concerns the severe persecution and diminishing status of Christian communities, especially in northeast Nigeria, north Africa, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, and Syria.
Because of the destruction of these Christian communities, the resolution cited Galatians 6:10: So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. The resolution further stated: We also are alarmed by the rapidly diminishing Christian communities in places such as Iraq, Palestine, and Syria. The elimination of these ancient yet still vital Christian communities would not only be a human rights disaster and a loss for the peoples of the region, but also a tragic loss of historic Christian witness in the land where the church first took root. and We reaffirm our commitment to stand with targeted minority groups across the world and call not only for increased awareness of their persecution, but for renewed efforts by the church and the international community to build solidarity and protect minority religious groups who are under threat.
- The resolution identified seven steps for Brethren to take in response:
- Praying for sisters and brothers in Christ across the globe
- Learning about the experience of Christians in places of persecution and conflict
- Extending expressions of love and support to those communities
- Committing to participate in interfaith dialogue and peace initiatives
- Supporting advocacy efforts of the church in places where it is in danger of disappearing
- Developing relationships with Muslim and other religious communities in the US in an effort for mutual understanding
- Reaching out with hospitality and welcome to those in our own communities who have entered the United States in search of refuge from persecution, violence, and threats to their lives and their faith
- Standing Committee met in special session with On Earth Peace concerning their Statement of Inclusion (September, 2011) that calls for full participation in ministry of everyone regardless of sexual orientation. Standing Committee asked On Earth Peace to re-examine its position in regard to the 1983 Annual Conference statement on Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective, but OEP remained unwavering in its decision to retain the original language. Standing Committee responded at AC2012 with their own A Way Forward statement. Discussion this year proved to be emotionally restrained but futile. The AC2014 response states: Standing Committee does not support the 2011 Statement of Inclusion of On Earth Peace 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 Annual Conference statements and decisions. A few microphone speeches strongly objected to the OEP Brochure included in the delegate packet which depicted a statement and images which they believed to be contrary to Scripture.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 1.0%.
- Total registered attendance was 2,075, comprised of 647 Delegates, and 1,428 Non-Delegates. This was about a 10% drop in delegate attendance from last years 719 at Columbus, a 15% drop from the last 10 year average of 762.3, and a 21% drop from the last 20 year average of 823.9. Since most Brethren reside in the Northern and Eastern states, this was a predictable change. See attendance chart below.
- Total offerings received were tentatively announced as $48,334.03.
- Delegate election resulted in Carol Scheppard being chosen as Moderator-elect to serve as the 2017 Annual Conference moderator in Grand Rapids. She is vice president and dean for Academic Affairs at Bridgewater College, and a member of the Lebanon Church of the Brethren in Mount Sidney, Virginia.
- Church of the Brethren Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised $8,750 for the Nigeria Crisis Fund.
- Congregational Life Ministries executive director Jonathan Shively welcomed one new New Fellowship, Rios de Agua Viva (Rivers of Living Water) of Leicester, North Carolina. Special attention was given to the announcement of a new district. Puerto Rico became the denomination's 24th district. It was previously apart of the Atlantic Southeast District.
- Blood Drive collected 181 units with the help of many Dedicated Volunteers.
- Greensboro, North Carolina will be the host city of AC2016 in the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center/Sheraton Hotel, which claims to be the largest hotel/convention center complex between Atlanta and Washington, DC. Brochures were available at their exhibit hall booth.
- Review all Future Locations announced by the Program & Arrangements Committee.
- Saturday Evening, July 11 : Moderator David Steele - ABIDE IN MY LOVE
Steele is the Executive Minister of the Pennsylvania Middle District.
- Sunday Morning, July 12 : Rodger Nishioka - EMBODY A NEW COMMUNITY ... AMONG US
Nishioka serves as professor of Christian Education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
- Monday Evening, July 13 : Katie Shaw Thompson - CREATE A CLEAN HEART ... WITHIN US
Thompson has served as pastor of the Ivester Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District since graduating from Bethany Theological Seminary in 2012.
- Tuesday Evening, July 14 : Don Fitzkee - MY NEARLY PERFECT APPLE TREE (AND WHY I WANT TO CUT IT DOWN)
Fitzkee is Director of Development for COBYS Family Services, a Christian family service agency affiliated with the Atlantic Northeast District.
- Wednesday Morning, July 15 : Thomas Dowdy - CHOSEN TO BEAR FRUIT
Dowdy is the pastor of Imperial Heights Community Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles, California where he is passionately serving in intercity ministries.
|Click above images to enlarge
The 228th Annual conference (July 2-6, 2014) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the SMG managed Greater Columbus Convention Center, located at 400 North High Street Columbus, Ohio 43215. Originally opened in 1989, an $81 Million Dollar Renovation finished in 2001 now offers a total of 1.7 million square feet of space, including 426,000 square feet of exhibit space, two ballrooms, and 61 meeting rooms. Interior Design was spacious and complemented by Natural Lighting when possible. Welcome Signage was prominent throughout the Multilevel Facility and Floor Plans enabled quick access to specific areas of interest. Delegates convened in Hall C which provided 98,000 square feet of meeting space. The entire center covers more than four city blocks. Towering above the Convention Center was the Hyatt Regency which served as the official anchor hotel and site for many of the Insight Sessions and small group meetings.
Ohio is a word that originated from the Iroquois word ohi-yo´ meaning Great River. It stretches over 980 miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the Mississippi River. At this confluence just south of Cairo, Illinois, it is actually wider than the Mississippi River. Columbus is both the capital and largest city of Ohio, the 15th largest city in the United States with a population slightly over 820,000. During the 1700's this region frequently suffered the pain of war and massacre between Native Americans, the encroaching French, and the determination of the British resulting in the French and Indian War on our homeland and the Seven Years war on the European continent. Ohio achieved statehood in 1803 and Columbus was designated as the capital in 1812. This river city soon became home to several major manufacturing businesses. Labor unions predictably evolved in this climate. The American Federation of Labor (1886) and the United Mine Workers of America (1890) were birthed in Columbus. Industry played a large role in the steady development of the city. More than two dozen buggy factories contributed to the city being called the Buggy Capital of the World.
The city of Columbus was planned from the beginning as the capital city in honor of Christopher Columbus. In 1992, to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of Columbus' Epic Voyage in 1492, the city commissioned a replica of his flag ship, the Santa Maria. Unfortunately during the summer of 2014, the Commemoration Replica was distant from visitors by a downtown revitalization project. Nationwide Insurance decided to headquarter here in 1926, and their label is seen on Building Entrances, Street Signs, Walkways, and their own downtown Nationwide Arena. Entertaining the city during this early part of July was a Street Fair that occupied many of the downtown streets, where vendors sold the usual goods anticipated at these short-term markets. Captivating the interest of many were the Balloon People advertising an event at the Columbus College of Art & Design. Students walked in colors of Green, Yellow, Orange, and mixtures. Two men utilized this opportunity to boldly proclaim the human penalty of Unforgiven Sin. A special initiative by the city to keep its downtown area safe and clean resulted in Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District which employs safety ambassadors, special-duty Safety Officers, a homeless outreach specialist, and a safety coordinator, all of which focus on a holistic approach to crime prevention. At major pedestrian hubs especially involving auditoriums and hotels, Overhead Skywalks are quickly becoming the normal fixture in many cities, and growing in popularity are out-of-the-weather Ground-level Skywalks. It was a blessing to escape the Hurried Walk of smaller avenues and the hazards of vehicular mishaps and criminal misdeeds. Peace minded Brethren offered humours observations of benign ill will in the conference center. In the very next hall was the USA Fencing National Championships where contestants of all ages engaged in sword fighting. Next to the convention center Food Court was Mischief that specialized in leather goods, jewelry, luggage, and travel accessories. Thursday night the city displayed its annual 4th of July Fireworks.
A new technological first this year delighted Conference-goers having Smart Phones who could install a free, specially developed APP that would place an impressive amount of Conference Booklet information on their phones. Just by touching and scrolling, instead of laboriously thumbing pages, this innovation provided users with a Table of Contents, from which they could: retrieve an Area City Map, retrieve a map of the Facility, discover what exhibits are in the Exhibit Hall accompanied with clickable profiles about the exhibit presenters, research Insight Sessions, also, with clickable profiles about the presenters, and quickly refer to much of the Annual Conference schedule.
Nigerian families were shocked by the wanton abduction of the Chibok Schoolgirls Kidnapping. Brethren sent many Cards & Letters of prayerful support to the families and relatives of the girls. Dr. Rebecca Dali, wife of Samuel Dante the president of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN) was among the Ecumenical Guests, and gave an emotional testimony of the horrific and violent events in her homeland. See New Business.
The year 2014 marks 150 years since the tragic murder of John Kline, a very well known Brethren elder, pastor, four time Annual Conference moderator, and Horse Riding Preacher/Missionary. During the Friday morning business session, the Church of the Brethren, Inc. report chronicled many events in Kline's life. Throughout the Civil War he regularly crossed Battle Lines with the message of salvation and peace. While returning from Annual Conference in 1864 and almost within sight of his home, He Was Shot and killed from atop his horse by sharpshooters. Brethren authors continue to Write His Legacy of Giving Light to those in spiritual darkness. Brethren historians have suggested that he was one of the most beloved of all Brethren. It was also the 50th anniversary of the publication of Middle Man, the illustrated children’s book about John Kline by Dorothy Brandt Davis and her children.
The Registration Booths and the Message Board were situated in the main concourse adjacent to Hall C, the meeting place for worship and business sessions. During the opening Thursday evening worship service, Conference goers presented their Witness to Host City (AC2008) gifts of more than 20,000 diapers, over 1,700 hygiene kits, and Additional Goods for the new homeless shelter sponsored by the Columbus YMCA/YWCA. These hygiene kits should have included 1 hand towel, 1 wash cloth, 1 bath-size bar of soap, 1 bottle of shampoo, 1 container of deodorant, 1 container of dental floss, 6 band-aids, 1 comb, and 1 nail clipper.
The Brownsville COB of Knoxville, Maryland, donated 2,500 Prayer Shawls to Conference attendees, blessing each bearer with an Inspirational Reading. The usual food buffet in exhibit halls of most previous years was absent due to the huge Food Court that provided an enormous array of culinary delights, such as:
Steak and Sides,
National Chains, and the more familiar
Chicken & Eggs.
In addition to this wide selection of eatery possibilities, Annual Conference also provides the opportunity for Special Groups to reacquaint themselves.
Light-hearted moments with Peter & Paul offered a refreshing break. National Youth Conference which convenes this year was also highlighted.
This year, 51 Insight Sessions
were offered to better educate, enlighten, and equip individuals and congregations for greater ministry in the avenues of faith, witness, discipleship, worship, Brethren specific topics, heritage, clergy specifics, family life, youth specifics, inter-culture, health issues, and legal advice . These photos display a small but representative glimpse of the wider selection of presentations that were available to Conference attendees.
There were 32 booths in this year's Exhibit Hall that provided an opportunity for Brethren to learn more about established agencies within the denomination and the programs or services they offer, or special interest groups promoting their cause, or Brethren related commercial ventures, or to enjoy a glimpse of heritage and history.
2014 Conference Officers were Moderator Nancy Heishman, Tipp City, Ohio; Moderator-elect David Steele, District Executive Minister for Pennsylvania Middle District; and Secretary Jim Beckwith, Pastor of Annville COB, Annville, Pennsylvania.
Moderator Heishman pleasingly endeavored to process a full schedule of business, yet for constraints of time, it was necessary to defer a couple items until the following year. Moderator Heishman had previously challenged the denomination at large to read Apostle Paul's Letter to the Philippians. Throughout the many business sessions, as well as worship, numerous verses from Philippians served as a Continuous Resource for on stage devotional moments. The same configuration of Delegates Sitting at tables, first introduced at AC2012 (St. Louis) is becoming the Conference standard. This year the tables extended all the way from the stage to the rear wall, leaving no room for rearward seating by rows. Grouping delegates around tables contributes to a unique discussion format that has come to be known as Table Talk In the interest of enhancing how the church does business, a new procedural framework was introduced this year labeled The Four D's: Discovery, Discussion, Deliberation, and Decision-Making, but as usual in the past Microphone Speakers could still voice their individual opinions.
- Revision to Ministerial Leadership Polity was adopted per the recommendation of Standing Committee with a two-thirds majority vote. These polity changes have been in development for several years and were first presented at AC2013. Following the initial reading of the paper, that delegate body then returned it to the Mission and Ministry Board for revision. The length of the paper (32 page PDF version) presented challenges to many delegates. Changes of this revision include a new category of a Commissioned Minister to set-apart ministry, so that smaller congregations would benefit from these ministers who would not be required to complete the more advanced training of the Ordained Minister, a 10 year limit on licensed ministers, greater uniformity in credentialing among the districts, the category of lay speaker has been removed at the denominational level, integrate the AC1998 paper on Plural Non-Salaried Ministry, seek intentional conversation with leadership from ethnic congregations, and provide greater ministerial harmony and uniformity throughout the denomination.
- Guidelines for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Paper was adopted per the recommendation of Standing Committee with a two-thirds majority vote. Pending acceptance of the Ethics Paper, delegates also adopted Recommendations for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Polity by a simple majority vote. A code of ethics was also included. Discussion was moderately emotional as delegates questioned how a congregation would be dealt with if the congregation refused to follow the necessary outlined steps toward resolution of an issue. Others expressed concern about unforeseen legal implications. Still others pondered the ramifications that the ethical process may have on other congregations.
- More Equitable Representation on the Mission & Ministry Board was returned. The original member formation of the Mission & Ministry Board (MMB) was perceived to have over-representation from areas with low population of Brethren, and under-representation from areas with a higher concentration of Brethren. AC2013 returned this item of business to MMB with the expectation of another resolution. This year MMB presented a series of charts and financial data to propose leaving everything the same, but several delegates continued to raise the same concerns over the disproportional membership.
One particular that contributes to this inequality is that when the former General Board of 25 members was restructured into the 17 member Mission & Ministry Board, persons responsible used Congregational Life Teams (CLT) areas to set the boundaries for member representation. But these CLT areas reflect geography - not Brethren population. The concept was flawed from the beginning as stated in the AC2012 query: Area 1 has 41% of COB membership but 12% representation; From the former structure this constitutes a 50% loss of representation; ... Area 5 has less than 4% of COB membership but 12% representation; From the former structure this constitutes a 325% increase in representation; (Thus) Areas 1, 2, and 3 represent 91% of COB membership, but under the new structure have 36% representation; and Areas 4 and 5 represent less than 10% of COB membership, but under the new structure have 24% representation. After considerable discussion with no clear alternatives, the delegate body returned this item of business having no way to amicably resolve the matter.
- A Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century study committee was appointed at AC2013 to draft a vision statement. In order to accomplish this directive, the committee is doing two things: utilize Insight Sessions to foster discussion, and conduct an on-line survey of numerous groups including delegates, youth, Mission & Ministry Board members, district ministries to formulate an evaluation of how the denomination at large views the subject of Ecumenism. The 2014 report stated: The study committee examined the assignment with two objectives: to look at the history of the Church of the Brethren and celebrate the strides made possible in relationship with others of shared values and concern; and to examine the various ways members, congregations, and the denomination might engage with the larger community of communions in cooperative efforts toward God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done.
- Guidance for Responding to the Changing of Earth’s Climate was returned to the district and congregation where it originated. AC2011 adopted this item and referred it to the Advocacy Office of the Public Witness Office. AC2012 received a first report and granted additional time for a more thorough response. A Congregational Study Resource was developed and presented to AC2013, and granted yet another year to fully revise a complete statement for 2014. Debate on this item of business and the accompanying discussion of global warming was strong but civil. Scientific assumptions and conclusions were argued from both sides of this environmental issue, but there was a gradual realization that progress in either direction was becoming more and more elusive. One delegate finally declared that the Church of the Brethren is not of one mind at this time, and proposed a motion to return the query with gratitude to the questioning congregation and district.
- A Resolute Fast and Fervent Prayer: A Resolution Responding to Violence in Nigeria was approved by delegates that all Brethren commit themselves for a week of prayer and fasting during the week of August 17-24. The nation of Nigeria has experienced an inordinate amount of violence in the past few years from Islamic militant groups intent on deWesternizing the country, and their scale of violence has intensified in 2014. Hundreds of Christians have been killed or kidnapped. Their buildings have been burned. In April of 2014 over 200 female students were kidnapped in an over-night raid of a government school in Chibok, a city with a population slightly over 60,000.
During the Saturday afternoon business session, part of a letter from Samuel Dante, president of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN) was read by his wife Rebecca Dali: On behalf of EYN, I wish to express our appreciation for your concern over our situation here ... We have been struck down by the enemy, but not destroyed. We are hard pressed and persecuted, yet we still have Christ and are doing our Father’s business. Your prayers of support have been a source of encouragement for us, and show us that we are not alone in our suffering. Brethren sent many Cards & Letters of prayerful support to the families and relatives of the kidnapped girls.
- Revision to the Special Response Process of A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues was adopted as recommended with guidelines proposed by Standing Committee. Revisions and amendments to the Special Response process were generally along the line of fine tuning a process that was implemented in the recent human sexuality issue. A number of such adjustments were the requirement of training for the district facilitators, time limits for open dialogue, scientific materials to be provided as needed, and mandatory observance of Roberts Rules of Order.
- Amendments to Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Articles of Organization (deferred until 2015 for constraints of time)
- Amendments to the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren (deferred until 2015 for constraints of time)
- Standing Committee met in special session with On Earth Peace concerning their Statement of Inclusion (September, 2011) that calls for full participation in ministry of everyone regardless of sexual orientation. Standing Committee asked On Earth Peace to re-examine its position in regard to the 1983 Annual Conference statement on Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective, but OEP remained unwavering in its decision to retain the original language. Standing Committee responded at AC2012 with their own A Way Forward statement. Discussion this year proved to be emotionally restrained but futile. The 2014 response states: Standing Committee does not support the 2011 Statement of Inclusion of On Earth Peace 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 Annual Conference statements and decisions.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 1.4%.
- Total registered attendance was 2,524, comprised of 719 Delegates, and 1,805 Non-Delegates. Throughout the Conference, Attendance figures and registration totals were regularly displayed.
- Total offerings received (undisclosed).
- Election resulted in Andy Murray of Stone COB, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, being chosen as Moderator-elect to serve as Moderator in 2016 at Greensboro, North Carolina.
- Church of the Brethren Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised $5,100 for world hunger relief.
- Three New Fellowships are welcomed into the denomination: Common Spirit COB, Michigan District; Hanging Rock COB, West Marva District; and Iglesia De Los Hermanos Remanente de Salvación, Atlantic-Southeast District.
- Blood Drive collected 115 units with the help of 26 volunteers.
- Tampa Convention Center will host AC2015 and Brochures were available at their exhibit hall booth.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that SAN DIEGO, California, will be the location for AC 2019.
Evening Worship Drama was complemented by morning Bible Studies. Inspiration was enhanced by music coordinator Andrew Wright, orchestra director Victoria Ullery, Adult Choir director Joy Brubaker, and Children's Choir director Donita Keister. Of notable mention was the
Candle-Light Moment following the Friday evening service when hundreds of glow sticks safely illuminated the worship area. During the Sunday morning worship service, the traditional Moderator Consecration installed David Steele as Moderator for 2015 (Tampa) and Andy Murray as Moderator-elect for 2016 (Greensboro).
- Wednesday Evening, July 2 : Dr. Thomas G. Long - WHAT DOES IT MATTER
Professor of preaching at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, GA, ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and is the author of 14 books.
- Thursday Evening, July 3 : Moderator Nancy Heishman - I Want the Same, Please
Co-Interim pastor of the West Charleston and Cristo, Nuestra Paz congregations in the Southern Ohio District, and served with husband Irv as mission coordinators in the Dominican Republic.
- Friday Evening, July 4 : Robert Kettering - OUR STAR-SPANGLED FAITH
Pastor of the Lititz COB in the Atlantic Northeast District, and chair of the Brethren World Mission board and member of the Mission Advisory Committee.
- Saturday Morning, July 5 : Erin Matteson - THE SONG OF LIFE
Co-pastor of the Modesto COB in the Pacific Southwest District, currently that district's moderator, and officer of the Brethren Minister’s Association.
- Saturday Evening, July 5 : A TRIPLE CONCERT
- Blue Bird Revival is an intense gospel band featuring: Traditional Hymns, Country, Gospel, and Bluegrass.
- Community of Song is a Brethren, male singing group from the Southern Ohio and South-Central Districts. They offer a variety of religious selections: Gospel, Contemporary, Spirituals, and Early American.
- Mutual Kumquat is a Brethren youth band formed at Manchester College in 2000. They have performed at: Annual Conference, National Youth Conference, National Older Adult Conference, District Conferences, and Brethren colleges.
- Sunday Morning, July 6 : Stafford Frederick - HOW TO BE A JOYFUL, COURAGEOUS FOLLOWER OF CHRIST
A native of the island of Trinidad, accepted Jesus Christ as Savior at the age of 17, Church of the Brethren pastor for the past 27 years, currently serving the Olathe (Kansas) and Summerdean (Virginia) congregations.
|Click above images to enlarge
The 227th Annual Conference (June 29 - July 3, 2013) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Charlotte Convention Center, located at 501 South College Street, Charlotte, NC 28202. It offers Halls A, B, and C featuring 280,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space that is divisible into separate rooms. Delegates convened in Hall C that provided 80,000 square feet of meeting space, which could accommodate 6,000 people, plus an optional raised seating for an additional 1,400 seats. Additionally the Central Ballroom offered 35,000 square feet with a ceiling height of 30 feet, and the Crown Ballroom is 40,000 square feet with a tiered ceiling height of 24 feet, plus a 17,800 square foot Ballroom Terrace for outdoor gatherings. It covers more than Four City Blocks which presents large trucks with a total of 20 covered loading docks with direct access to all exhibit halls. Bisecting the downtown Convention Center was the easy access Charlotte Area Transit System rail line which afforded Brethren a comfortable ride from surrounding hotels. Students of the University of North Carolina also utilize this service to the main campus which is just north of the city. Every year Brethren are presented with that same initial experience of where do we go? Yet they quickly familiarized themselves with the large Main Concourses which led to Hall C and the main gathering area for Business and Worship. Enhancing the spacious drama of the Center was Hanging Art. Complimenting the fresh exterior was a Fountain & Garden that offered Brethren a quiet respite from the fatigue of business and the scurrying tempo of rushing to meetings. Dominating the skyline above the Convention Center is the Westin Hotel, and immediately to the east is the Nascar Hall of Fame. The Night Skyline of North Carolina's largest metropolitan city is a performance of brilliant colors, enhanced only by a Welcome Sign to the Brethren. It is known as the Queen City, for it was named after Queen Charlotte Sophia and the surrounding county was named for the city of her birth, Mecklenburg, Germany. She was the grandmother of Queen Victoria and the wife of Britain's King George III, the one who fomented the American colonists toward Revolution. Americans looked upon him as a tyrant and the British regarded him as an abject failure at Colonialism. Incorporated in 1768, Charlotte became the center of the nations first Gold Rush when a 17 pound nugget was discovered in 1799. Railroads later made it a textile industry center and distribution hub. Today, it's metropolitan area ranks as the 23rd largest US city with a 2012 Census population of 2,296,569. It is a major U.S. financial center with total assets slightly behind New York City. Bank of America and Wells Fargo's east coast operations center are headquartered here.
Famous Christian evangelist Billy Graham was born just south of the city and raised on the Graham Family dairy farm. A foundation Moved The Buildings to this present site, in order to Preserve The Legacy of this great American. Entrance Is Free to all ages. Photography of the Graham House is permitted and staff graciously explain the Farm Business of that era. Kitchen Stories inspire us about every aspect of life, business, the Church, and the ministry of Jesus. Next to the farm area is a Memorial Garden where one may sit and enjoy the flowers or take a quick stroll to the grave of his wife, Ruth Bell Graham. She was born to missionary parents in China which explains the Chinese letter for Righteousness at the top of her grave plaque. His sermons were broadcast on radio and personal crusades on television. Graham became a spiritual adviser to many US Presidents. It has been estimated that more than 3.2 million people accepted Christ at his crusades. The George Gallup Poll figures repeatedly list Billy Graham as one of the most admired men in the world, appearing on the list 55 times since the 1950s, which is more than any other individual.
Jim Beckwith began his first year of a five year term as Annual Conference Secretary, filling the position of Fred Swartz who completed two terms of service last year. As Moderator of AC2008, Beckwith quickly demonstrated strong administrative capabilities. His reading of motions, proposed amendments, and knowledge of past decisions was articulate and easy to understand.
Online Registration was situated in one of the Main Concourses which conveniently faced worship and business sessions in Hall C.
Live coverage was projected on Three Large Screens with a fourth mounted on the rear of a large ceiling support column. Webcasts of the proceedings were also available online.
During the opening Sunday afternoon worship service, Conference goers presented their (AC2008) Witness to Host City School Kits.
Absent this year were the Message Boards which had been a regular fixture at every Conference in recent memory, including the later addition of a Prayer Board, and the addition of a Call Wall at AC2012. No explanation was given.
Pleasingly noticeable was the Signage leading attendees to their proper destinations.
Adults received a special treat this year as the Chidren's Choir sang twice. First on Monday Evening followed by a Special Story, and then again at their traditional Tuesday Evening songfest.
There were many opportunities for Brethren to learn about programs of the church and grow spiritually through numerous Insight Sessions and Equipping Workshops. Springs of Living Water
, is a spiritual renewal project of David Young for churches that are interested in revitalization. There were a multitude of other topics such as: Grace, Forgiveness, Worship, Discipleship, Music, Scripture, Youth, Faith-sharing, Diversity, Nurturing, Justice, Evangelism, Service, Loving Others, Demographics, Sharing, Training, Economics, Gifts, Mission, Curriculum, Disaster Ministries, Investing, and Leadership.
This year's Exhibit Hall was spacious enough to accommodate all Brethren interests with room to spare. Virlina District was the host district. Council of District Executives offered an imaginative way to view the Denominational Membership, of course, by Districts. Each Grain represented one member of that Respective District.
Most of the regular exhibitors were present again this year. Brethren Affiliated Colleges offered interpretative literature plus an attractive Logo Shirt Display.
Brethren Seminary presented a comfortable area to view Mission Statements, Gather Literature, Post Your Thoughts, and then Read Other Thoughts.
Brethren Benefit Trust explained their Financial Products (Charlotte had its own unrelated BBT).
The Bible Project gave visitors an opportunity to see
How It Came into existence in
Various Forms with
Actual Samples. One even had the chance to have their name automatically written in
Also seen were
Food Resource Bank,
Brethren Volunteer Service,
Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists,
Global Women's Project,
New Community Project,
On Earth Peace,
Rule of Faith, and
There were several Park Benches available for the tired, and
Sign Posts for the not so tired.
Handouts and Brochures were commonly seen.
It was a great opportunity to learn about All Things Brethren.
Next year AC 2014 will be held in Columbus, Ohio.
2013 Conference Officers were Moderator Robert Krouse, pastor of Little Swatara COB, Bethel, Pennsylvania; Moderator-elect Nancy Heishman, Tipp City, Ohio; and Secretary Jim Beckwith, Pastor of Annville COB, Annville, Pennsylvania (first year of first term).
Delegates were seated at Round Tables again this year as implemented in AC2012, an innovation of the Revitalization Task Force recommendations of Doing Church Business AC2007. Tables were Numbered from 1 to 100. Last years trial run of this arrangement was enthusiastically received by Delegates for many reasons, such as the increased opportunity to discuss issues with people holding varied opinions on the same issue. Each table was assigned a Facilitator to enhance discussion, request a scribe to document opinions, and call for a Reporter to speak for their Table at the microphones. Having designated speakers from each Table minimizes the inclination of someone to dominate speech at the Microphones for frivolous reasons. The first Business Session convened on Monday morning.
Some thoughtful individual(s) had children in mind by providing them with Activity Materials during business and worship.
- Guidance for Responding to the Changing of Earth's Climate granted an additional year to the study committee appointed by the Peace Ministries Office to revise their materials and report to the 2014 Annual Conference.
- Guidelines for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Paper gave a first hearing of a proposed Congregational Ethics Revisions from the Congregational Life Ministries. A final draft will be presented to the 2014 Annual Conference for approval.
- Church of the Brethren Ecumenical Witness received a report that a study committee has been appointed to write a Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century paper that would be presented to a later unspecified Annual Conference.
- More Equitable Representation on the Mission and Ministry Board fell just short of the required two-thirds majority vote. The original query calling for equity had been approved by delegates at AC2012 and still stands. For the past year, the Mission and Ministry Board (MMB) had been working on a plan of members and percentages to achieve greater equity. The present vote simply indicates to the MMB that their suggested proposal was not suitable. Thus, they will spend another year working on a different set of numbers. One of the major objections by the Western Brethren was that to accept the current plan would result in a lesser representation of Western members who are already overwhelmed by traveling hundreds of miles to neighboring congregations, whereas in the East, there is a proliferation of churches in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolina's. The original formation of the MMB constituted members from various Congregational Life Team Areas that resulted in 91% of Brethren members having only a 36% representation.
- Biblical Authority adopted the recomendation of Standing Committee that the 1979 Annual Conference statement on Biblical Inspiration and Authority is still relevant and represents the current position of the denomination. A protracted discussion ensued as many delegates felt it necessary to express their views on the need for and retention of scriptural authority, which was not the point. The recommendation from Standing Committee was to affirm the 1979 Paper with the expectation of a simple yes or no vote. Finally, after much expressing of opinions, the vote was a strong vocal yes to accept the recommendation.
- Revision to Ministerial Leadership Polity accepted the recommendation of Standing Committee that the paper be returned to the Mission and Ministry Board (MMB) for further study. This paper has been in the works for many years by the Office of Ministry, the Ministry Advisory Council, the Mission and Ministry Board, and the Council of District Executives. The Paper introduced new concepts such as the Circles of Ministry, and the office of a Commissioned Minister in addition to Licensed and Ordained Ministers. The scope of the Paper broadly challenged mechanisms that had worked successfully. No where in the paper did it even mention the Plural or Free Ministry which involves several churches in Pennsylvania totally almost three thousand members.
Standing Committee recommended five proposals to the Ministry Advisory Council:
- Integrate the 1998 paper on Plural Non-Salaried Ministry.
- Change Cohort Make-up from polity to guidelines.
- Find a way for persons to move from Commissioned Minister to Ordained Minister without needing to re-enter the licensing process.
- Allow for a change of call for Commissioned Ministers with district permission.
- Seek intentional conversation with leadership from ethnic congregations, specifically Hispanic and Haitian, regarding how the Ministerial Leadership Paper will affect ministers in their context.
- Membership on Executive Committee of the Mission and Ministry Board adopted with a two-thirds majority vote the recommendation of Standing Committee to amend the Church of the Brethren Bylaws, that would increase the membership of the Executive Committee from four to five.
- Recognition of New Church of the Brethren in Spain accepted the recommendation of Standing Committee that Church of the Brethren in Spain be approved with enthusiasm. The Spanish Brethren originated principally from an influx of Brethren coming from the Dominican Republic and other parts of Latin American more than ten years ago. Native Spaniards became more involved. The city of Madrid has four vibrant congregations alone. Each one is self-sustaining and developing their own mission focus. Thus, formal recognition of the Spanish Brethren will not place any financial commitment or drain of resources on the Church of the Brethren in the United States.
- Resolution against Drone Warfare adopted the recommendation of Standing Committee with little debate, calling on members of the Church of the Brethren to:Call upon the President and Congress to halt the use of drones in places both foreign and domestic. During the Presidential election, Candidate Obama promised the most transparent Presidency in history, but instead has delivered one of the most secretive and one of the most lethal. Unmanned remotely controlled Drones along with aircraft strikes in Pakistan have killed a multitude of innocent civilians, mostly women and children. One air-strike killed an entire Wedding Party. It has been estimated the Drone kill ratio is 50 Civilians to 1 Terrorist. Additionally, President Obama has not restricted the FBI from using Drone Surveillance on US citizens. There is no governance policy or assurance that the constitutional rights of Americans are being protected.
- Standing Committee met in special session with On Earth Peace concerning their 2012 Statement of Inclusion that calls for full participation in ministry of everyone regardless of sexual orientation. Standing Committee asked On Earth Peace to re-examine its position in regard to the 1983 Annual Conference statement on Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective, but OEP remains unwavering in its decision to retain the original language.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 1.4%.
- Total registered attendance was 2,481, comprised of 721 Delegates, and 1,760 Non-Delegates.
- Total offerings received amounted to $41,411.31.
- David Steele, District Executive of Pennsylvania Middle District, was elected as Moderator-elect to serve as Moderator in 2015 at Tampa, Florida.
- Delegates were kept on schedule with the On Screen Clock during breaks.
- Music Coordinator was Carol Elmore; Choir Director was John Shafer; both were assisted during the Saturday evening worship service by the La Verne Adult Choir and the Antioch Handbell Choir.
- The Worship Center was designed by Bekah Houff, Tracy Primozich, and Amy Gall Richie.
- Church of the Brethren Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised $6,300 for world hunger relief.
- The Blood Drive succeeded in collecting 134 units for the American Red Cross.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan, will be the location for AC 2017.
Sunday evening, Moderator Krouse led members in an evening Concert of Prayer
since business was limited to Monday and Tuesday only. Moderator Krouse also handed out Wooden Crosses
made by his congregation, Little Swatara COB. During the Wednesday morning worship service, the traditional Moderator Consecration
installed Nancy Heishman as Moderator for 2014 and David Steele as Moderator-elect for 2015.
- Saturday Evening, June 29 :
Moderator Robert Krouse, MOVE IN OUR MIDST, pastor of Little Swatara COB, Bethel, Pennsylvania.
- Sunday Morning, June 30 :
Philip Yancey, GRACE, famous author of more than 25 books, full-time writer for Christian Century, and Editor-at-Large for Christianity Today.
- Sunday Afternoon, June 30 :
Mark Yaconelli, WONDER, GRIEF, AND LONGING: THE LIFE OF PRAYER, program director for the Center for Engaged Compassion at Claremont School of Theology, retreat leader, and author of Contemplative Christianity and Wonder, Fear, and Longing: A Book of Prayers.
- Monday Evening, July 1 :
Paul Mondey, TEACHING THAT TACKLES AND TRANSFORMS, senior pastor of Frederick COB, Frederick, Maryland, who served 13 years as program director for the Parish Ministries Commission (Church of the Brethren).
- Tuesday Evening, July 2 :
Paul Brubaker and Pam Reist, ROAD BETWEEN EPHRATA AND ELIZABETHTOWN, Brubaker, member of the Middle Creek COB near ephrata, Pennsylvania, represented the conservative voice; and Reist, pastoral team member of the Elizabethtown COB, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, represented the progressive voice.
- Wednesday Morning, July 3 :
Suely Inhauser, MOVING OF GOD IN OUR MIDST AND THROUGH US, pastor and co-national director of the Igreja da Irmandade in Brazil.
|Click above images to enlarge
The 226th Annual Conference (July 7-11, 2012) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the America's Center Convention Complex, located at 701 Convention Plaza Street, Louis, MO 63101. The Conference Center features 502,000 square-feet of exhibit space, 80 meeting rooms, a 28,000 square-foot ballroom, and a 1,400 seat theater. The Main Concourse was lined with easy to read Signage, large artwork, and comfortable seating, comfortable enough on which To Sleep (Note: the man's face has been blurred to respect his privacy). Worship Services convened in the same hall as business. Just across Washington Avenue, the anchor hotel this year was the Renaissance Grand. St. Louis is an up-to-date city where pedestrian signs Count Seconds for your added safety. It is also an attractive town where Street Musicians quietly entertain. The Missouri River is the Longest River in North America, flowing 2,341 miles to join the Mississippi about fifteen miles north of St. Louis. Although both rivers first touch at Confluence State Park, aerial photographs demonstrate that they do not thoroughly mix until the outer limits of the city of St. Louis.
Missouri is nationally known as the Show Me
state, with a population that stems from early German immigrants who highly valued tobacco and alcohol. In fact, Missouri is one of the nations largest producers of tobacco and alcoholic products. Still on the books is a law, Section 290.145
, that restricts an employer from refusing to hire or discharge employees who legally use tobacco and alcohol during non-working hours
. Prohibition became the law of the land with the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1920, but the issue was locally rejected by voters in 1910, 1912, and 1918. The Anheuser-Busch Brewing Co. is headquartered in St. Louis, famous for Budweiser, its flag-ship product.
The city is also the historic gathering point for westward migration during the 1800s. Along the shore of the Mississippi River is the Thomas Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as the Gateway Arch
, a 630 foot Stainless Steel
memorial that offers a spectacular East View
of Illinois, and a West View
of the city from its Observation Deck
. The courageous and non-claustrophobic ride to the top in a Tram of small Five Seat Pods
which operates something as a cross between an Elevator, a Ferris Wheel, and a Cable Car
- but entertains with heat, noise, and vibration. The basic structure of the Arch was completed on October 28, 1965, but the dedication was not realized until May 25, 1968, following years of constructing the north and south Trams. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Corp of Discovery in 1803 with U.S. Army Captain Meriwether Lewis as its leader, who then selected William Clark as his assistant and partner. Jefferson wanted them to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase for the purpose of gaining sovereign control over the territory itself and a Northwest Route to the Pacific Ocean and its Asian markets. Although westward migration trails and the Lewis-Clark Expedition started from nearby cities, St. Louis commemorates all these endeavors at the Thomas Jefferson National Expansion Memorial National Park and Museum of Westward Expansion with the Gateway Arch
as its symbol.
Momentous legal decisions for civil rights were argued in the Old Courthouse
where Dred Scott
sued to gain freedom from slavery in 1847, and Virginia Minor
was the plaintiff in Minor v. Happersett, when she argued in 1874, that the Fourteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote. Both litigants were unsuccessful. Scott was a slave who put a face on the issue of slavery. He had traveled with his master Dr. John Emerson, a surgeon in the US Army, to free states - Illinois and Minnesota (then Wisconsin Territory). Scott argued that since he had lived in free states, he should be regarded as a free man. The Missouri court agreed but appeals from higher state and federal courts extended the case through eleven long years of litigation. Eventually, the United States Supreme Court ruled in March of 1857, with a landmark decision, that slaves were non-citizens and therefore could not sue in a federal court. The Scott decision brought the nation one step closer to the Civil War, and Minor's defeat precipitated the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. The infant nation, not yet a century old, was gradually forced to reassess its views regarding civil liberties. The realities of time and practice sometimes teach hard lessons.
The civil landscape of Annual Conference was altered this year with the controversial approval of exhibit space for BMC, a sexual orientation interest group. The homosexual issue has been dividing Brethren for many years, and each side has only become more entrenched in their desire, to prevail. Many conservatives assumed that the AC 2011 decisions would arrest further discussion of this issue at the Annual Conference level, thus approval of a booth in the exhibit hall for BMC by the Program & Arrangements Committee was met with tension and dismay. Districts and congregations registered their concerns to leadership previous to the Conference. One congregation has officially left the Church of the Brethren while others ponder various methods of dissent. On the other hand, progressives viewed this decision as a minor victory toward full acceptance of alternate lifestyles within the scope of ordination. Since the AC 2011 amendment called for discussions to continue outside of the query process, an exhibit booth was determined to be outside of Conference business. Repeated pleas for unity from both sides seemed largely ignored, as unity is too often presumed by at least some to infer defeat. For an historic peace church, the battle lines have been drawn and the trenches have been dug.
Registration took place in the modest size lobby where Attendees may also complete their Registration Online. Presented along side the main concourse were the Bulletin Boards and the Prayer Board. A new innovation this year was the Call Wall, an opportunity to suggest individuals deemed worthy of a higher calling. In keeping with AC 2008 Conference Witness to Host City, during the Sunday morning worship service, worshippers brought forward 417 Backpacks filled with school materials for the St. Louis school districts. Another 40 boxes of supplies was estimated to fill an additional 600 backpacks, for a total of more than 1,000. Tuesday evening continues to be the traditional moment for the Children's Choir, and presenting the evening worshippers with a nice selection of music was the Adult Choir. Brethren continue their pursuit of technology as numerous Laptops were a common sight throughout the conference center. Especially noted were the growing number of hand-held devices, in one case this man was using Two at Once. Spanish Language Translation was available for those not yet bilingual. St. Louis offers many dining experiences. The PA Southern District Group celebrated another Conference together at The Spaghetti Factory, a former hotel that saved Head Boards from discarded beds to fashion booths. A new innovation this year was Delegate Seating around assigned tables, instead of lined chairs. This arrangement encouraged delegates to be More Interactive with each other, and hopefully achieve greater participation in discussion and learning from each other. It may not have succeeded at some tables but some others were All Smiles. Only time will judge if it was a wise and successful endeavor.
Many and diverse were the Insight offerings this year. Conference goers had a wide and pleasant range of topics to chose from, and often confronted with how to decide which one of several to attend at the same time. Some were new, others continued previous interests. One of the new ones was Bullying in the Church, skillfully presented by Eric Bishop who gently illustrated how factions within a congregation utilize behaviours and tactics that both damages fellow members in Christ and further creates mistrust. Laughter was heard a few times when he forcefully made a point, only to be lovingly told by Attendees to Stop Bullying. Deb Olskin presented Demystifying Clergy Taxes with an impressive knowledge of tax structures and how to remove the veil of mystery. The Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield was impressively presented by Terry Barkley, who now serves in place of the late Ken Shaffer at the Brethren Historical Library and Archives.
With dismay the Conference Director announced that the SERRV Exhibit Booth experienced the disappointing theft of an undisclosed amount of their products resulting in the loss of hundreds of dollars. It was unclear when the articles were taken, or who the suspects might have been. Concerned individuals donated a total of $750 to reimburse them. The regular exhibits displayed their customary literature, brochures, and gifts to those interested, such as the
Brethren Benefit Trust,
On Earth Peace,
Brethren Publications, and
Council of District Executives.
Also seen were
Midwives for Haiti, and
A Changing Climate.
2012 Conference Officers were Moderator Tim Harvey, pastor of Central COB, Roanoke, Virginia; Moderator-elect Robert Krouse, pastor of Little Swatara COB, Bethel, Pennsylvania; and Secretary Fred Swartz (his tenth and last year). Swartz began serving at AC 2003 in Boise, Idaho, after Cathy Huffman completed her service at AC 2002 in Louisville, Kentucky.
- Guidelines for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Paper study committee of AC 2010 gave their report and was granted an additional two years to sufficiently and attentively complete the needed revisions and additions to the paper. The 2010 query was adopted per Standing Committee recommendations: The 1993 Ethics in Congregations paper be reviewed, revised, and updated; ... the revised document would also include guidelines and suggestions for a denominational process of accountability ... that these revisions be facilitated by Congregational Life Ministries staff in collaboration with the Council of District Executives and the Office of Ministry.
- Guidance for Responding to the Changing Earth's Climate working group, appointed in AC 2010 by the Washington Advocacy Office of the Global Mission Partnerships, gave an updated report and were granted an additional year to more thoroughly respond to the original query which asked: ...what is the position of Annual Conference on climate change, and how can we as individuals, congregations and as a denomination take concrete action to live more responsibly and offer leadership in our communities and nation?
- Annual Conference Elections accepted the recommendation of Standing Committee that the query be returned, and that the 1979 Call to Accountability statement be reaffirmed.
- More Equitable Representation on the Mission and Ministry Board adopted the recommendation of Standing Committee that the query be referred to the Mission and Ministry Board to resolve the inequity of representation. At its creation, Mission and Ministry Board members were chosen from the five geographical areas originally designed for Congregational Life Teams. The problem arises because those areas represent geography - not the number of Brethren actually living in those areas. For example: Area 1 has 41% of COB membership but 12% representation; From the former structure this constitutes a 50% loss of representation; ... Area 5 has less than 4% of COB membership but 12% representation; From the former structure this constitutes a 325% increase in representation; (Thus) Areas 1, 2, and 3
represent 91% of COB membership, but under the new structure have 36% representation; and Areas 4 and 5 represent less than 10% of COB membership, but under the new structure have 24% representation.
- Church of the Brethren Vision Statement 2012-2020 accepted the recommendation of Standing Committee that for the rest of this decade, the vision Statement of the Church of the Brethren would be: Through Scripture, Jesus calls us to live as courageous disciples by word and action: To surrender ourselves to God, To embrace one another, To express God's love for all creation.
- Revitalization of Annual Conference accepted (2/3rds) the recommendation of Standing Committee to receive the report from the Revitalization Task Force and approve their four recommendations. This report addresses the complex issues that have been affecting the financial stability and the spiritual vitality of Annual Conference. In recent years, the Program and Arrangements Committee has witnessed a number of factors that call for solutions: declining Annual Conference attendance (see Additional Notes below), increasing costs of Annual Conference, the shifting landscape of generational attitudes (decreased loyalty to large organizations), contentious debates during Annual Conference business sessions, feelings of anger and bitterness within the denomination body, mistrust of leadership, and a wake of alienation.
Another difficulty facing the Program and Arrangements Committee is the sheer urgency of planning each meeting, coupled with frequent membership turnover due to elections. This does not often yield stability for making prudent decisions. In view of this situation, when the Program and Arrangements Committee met in November of 2009, it resolved to petition the denominational Leadership Team to organize a Revitalization Task Force to address this issue. In January, 2010, the Leadership Team assembled a task force and charged them to: 1) Review compiled information on revitalizing Annual Conference plus statistical research that has already been performed; 2) Assess the long-term viability of Annual Conference; 2) Research future trends that might contribute to the vitality of Annual Conference; 4) Utilize open, creative, outside-the-box thinking; 5) Affirm or make a recommendation about the mission statement and core values of Annual Conference; 6) Analyze whether Annual Conference should remain in its present format, or recommend viable alternatives.
Recommendations of the Revitalization Task Force:
- That the timing of Annual Conference remain in a broad time range of mid-June to mid-July, with Program and Arrangements Committee being given the freedom to exercise sound fiscal stewardship in making commitments with convention facilities.
- That the length of Annual Conference currently four nights be maintained, and that the Program and Arrangements Committee be released from the requirement of setting Annual Conference from Saturday evening to Wednesday morning, in order to creatively address issues of spiritual renewal, fellowship, outreach, and business.
- That Program and Arrangements Committee be released from the requirements of the Polity updates approved by the 2007 Annual Conference in regards to a strict geographical rotation, allowing them to focus on a handful of locations that maximize sound fiscal stewardship for Annual Conference and attendees by addressing overall costs including, but not limited to, hotel rates, airline costs, and meeting facility costs. If this recommendation is approved, a travel scholarship should be offered by Annual Conference set by the Program and Arrangements Committee to every delegate from a congregation west of the Mississippi River.
- That by Annual Conference 2015, Annual Conference officers, with the assistance of Program and Arrangements Committee, will have incorporated the recommendations of the 2007 Doing Church Business paper related to the management of business sessions at Annual Conference, and discernment groups in particular. This will require the Nominating Committee of Standing Committee to include in the list of qualifications for moderator-elect the ability to facilitate discernment groups, or a willingness to learn and seek assistance from those who do.
- Standing Committee updated the Special Response process for dealing with controversial issues in closed meetings, and issues A Way Forward Statement to anticipate how Brethren may: express strong convictions while exhibiting compassion ... eliminate ridicule, bullying, hatefulness, and bigotry ... come together in intentional Bible study and focused prayer.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 1.7%.
- Total registered attendance was 2,341, comprised of 731 Delegates, and 1,610 Non-Delegates, a loss of 859 total registrants from last year, or a reduction of about 26%. This is the lowest in the last ten years except for 2009 in San Diego. Attendance has naturally peaked in east coast locations: 6,184 Richmond 2008; 4,038 Charleston 2004; and 5,029 Baltimore 2001 - but dropped in west coast locations; 2,844 Boise 2003; and 2,077 San Diego 2009.
- Total offerings received amounted to $38,595.82. In their report for this year, the Revitalization Task Force noted the huge differences in east coast offerings and west coast offerings. For example, compare 2012 with 2008 (Richmond) which had a total of $58,333.72, or 2003 (Boise) which had a deficit of $89,000, or 2009 (San Diego) which had a deficit of $259,000.
- Nancy Heishman of Tipp City, Ohio, was elected as Moderator-elect to serve as Moderator in 2014 at Columbus, Ohio.
- James Beckwith, pastor of Annville COB in Lebanon, PA, was elected as Conference Secretary to begin serving in 2013 at Charlotte, North Carolina.
- Music Coordinator, Dean Sensenig; Choir Director, Raechel Sittig-Esser, assisted by the Ephrata Praise Band.
- Five new Fellowships & Congregations were welcomed on Sunday afternoon by Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries.
- Church of the Brethren Association for the Arts Quilt Auction, conducted by Tara Hornbacker, raised $6,000 for world hunger relief. Auctioneer and humorist Eddie Edmonds auctioned Seven Quilts, comprised of five wall hangings and two mini-quilts for a total of $6,000. Unfortunately, quilt auctions are steadily decreasing in the number of people bidding, the total money received, and crowds gathered. Compare 2006 Des Moines $13,240; 2005 Peoria $21,450; 2008 Richmond $19,200; 2004 Charleston, $20,400; 2003 Boise $25,550; 2002 Louisville $18,400. Previous crowds numbered in the hundreds (Richmond, 2008) but 2012 numbered about fifty.
- The Blood Drive succeeded in collecting 191 units for the American Red Cross.
- The New Windsor Conference Center was officially closed on June 4, 2012 - not the entire Brethren Service Center complex. Other ministries such as Brethren Disaster Ministries will continue to operate. Primarily due to financial losses over the past several years, the Conference Center showed a negative balance of assets amounting to over $600,000 by August 31, 2011, which was deemed unsustainable.
- Program & Arrangements Committee did not announce a location for AC 2016, due to financial and scheduling uncertainties.
- Saturday Evening, July 7 :
Walter Brueggemann, BEHIND BARS: FREEDOM UNCAGED, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary
- Sunday Morning, July 8 :
Tim Harvey, CONTINUING THE WORK OF JESUS. PEACEFULLY. SIMPLY. TOGETHER, 2012 Moderator and pastor of Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, VA
- Monday Evening, July 9 :
Becky Ball-Miller, FROM THE INSIDE OUT, CEO of Troyer Foods in Goshen, ID
- Tuesday Evening, July 10 :
Jennifer Leath, LOVE IN ACTION, Ordained minister in the First Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
- Wednesday Morning, July 11 :
Daniel D'Oleo, PLANTING FOR THE KINGDOM, Developer of Renacer Ministry, a church planting strategy Hispanic congregations
|Click above images to enlarge
The 225th Annual Conference (July 2-6, 2011) 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 exhibits or conventions, a performance theater, four ballrooms, and 26 meeting rooms. DeVos is 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 offering with 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. The usual catered buffet dining was served indoors and Al Fresco.
Annual Conference was previously held twice in Grand Rapids: 1950 and 1955. It was then held in the adjacent Civic Auditorium, a neo-classical building completed in 1932 which still remains apart of DeVos Place. The anchor hotel for this year was the Amway Grand, a 1981 renovation of the 1913 Pantlind Hotel offering 682 guest rooms, spas, gift shops, Meeting Rooms, and 5 restaurants. 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. The Amway hosted numerous Insight Sessions and provided several ball rooms for Reserved Dinners. Monday evening (July 4) the downtown area was treated to a brief yet enjoyable Fireworks display.
Registration took place in the immense lobby where Attendees frequently stopped at the Bulletin Board and the Prayer Board. What would a Brethren gathering be without Four Square. Lunch & Dinner buffets were also served in the main lobby, and beautiful weather made Outside Dining especially enjoyable. Unfortunately, sound on the main conference floor was disappointing as reverberation was strong from the middle backward, and especially near the back wall of the large room. The suspect unlowered Middle Partition may have contributed to the poor sound quality. People seated in front of the Partition were able to sense better sound quality. Thus, seats at the front of the hall became a premium. During the Saturday evening worship service, and immediately following the receiving of the regular offering, worshippers brought forward School Kits that had been assembled and collected during the previous months. Church World Service will distribute these to needy children. Each of the twenty-three districts were asked to bring a Comforter (similar to a quilt) that would be sold during a silent auction to also benefit Church World Service. Tuesday evening continues to be the traditional time for the Children's Choir to precede the evening worship. Reflecting on the Conference Theme of Extending the Table, Moderator Alley arranged for a Special Table at each worship service. Each evening/morning, worship participants sat around this table to express harmony and unity of spirit.
A new first-time exhibit from the Council of District Executives appeared this year. Maps & Greetings were to the left, and various pieces of Resource Literature was on the right. District Staff have worked together since the early 1970s for these Statements of Purpose. Monday afternoon they presented their Annual Report to the delegate body. The high ceiling Exhibit Hall provided ample space for the usual booths from the Colleges, a lofty On Earth Peace, Brethren Press, SERRV, Church World Service, Mutual Aid Agency, Outdoor Ministries, and many other Projects & Interests.
Brethren Benefit Trust arranged for Free WiFi throughout the conference building. Technology is becoming more important to the Brethren as numerous Laptops and hand mobiles were seen on the main conference floor. WiFi first appeared at 2007 Cleveland in a very limited area. Bethany Theological Seminary again provided Webcasts through LiveStream.com which made it possible for anyone with a computer and Internet connection to view worship and business sessions.
2011 Conference Officers were Moderator Robert E. Alley, pastor of Bridgewater COB, Bridgewater, Virginia; Moderator-elect Tim Harvey, pastor of Central COB, Roanoke, Virginia; and Secretary Fred Swartz.
- A Statement of Confession and Commitment & Language on Same Sex Covenantal Relationships are two queries of business from AC 2009 which have been treated as one item. These queries initiated the Special Response Process for Controversial Issues, of which an upgrade to the original Special Response paper of AC 1988 was also adopted at AC 2009. For the past two years, districts and congregations have been following this Special Response framework to discuss the issues of homosexuality, same-sex relationships, and the relevancy of the 1983 Human Sexuality Paper.
Standing Committee's recommendation was to return both queries to their place of origin with the following: In light of the Special Response process, as outlined by the 2009 paper A Structural Framework For Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues, the Standing Committee recommends to the 2011 Annual Conference that A Statement of Confession and Commitment and Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships be returned. (Amendment) It is further recommended that the 2011 Annual Conference reaffirm the entire 1983 Statement on Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective and that we continue deeper conversations concerning human sexuality outside of the query process.
AC 2011 is the first time that the five step Special Response Process was followed at Annual Conference. Sunday evening during Steps 1 & 2 the Forms Reception Committee (a subcommittee of Standing Committee) gave a report summarizing the Special Response hearings. This amounted to over 1,200 pages of material representing 6,638 people who participated in 121 hearings. Their conclusion was that about two-thirds of the Church of the Brethren supports the Statement of Confession and Commitment, and about one-third reject it; and that about two-thirds reject Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships, and about one-third accept it.
During the Monday afternoon Step 3 discussion on the two items, Moderator Alley cautiously guided the delegate body through the Special Response Process with the additional help of suspending Robert's Rules of Order. Time limit for speaking from the floor was reduced to one minute and no amendments could be offered. Conference secretary Fred Swartz explained to the delegate body what is meant by Return an item of business. It is one of seven possible responses to new business. To return an item may indicate several things, he said, among them that the concern already has been answered, that the concern may not be appropriate, or that it has prompted another way of responding other than a simple yes or no. In this case, he said, Standing Committee felt the concern was answered in another way. To return an item of business is not synonymous with rejection, he added, saying the Forms Reception Committee report indicated both query and statement served valuable functions.
Step 4 of the Special Response Process began Tuesday morning with delegates having their first opportunity to offer amendments and motions. Moderator Alley tested each by asking the delegate body if they wished to process the matter before them. A simple majority was necessary to proceed or dismiss. Several amendments and motions were offered by Delegates before the time of voting on the Standing Committee recommendation. Frequent calls for clarification, points of order, and questions or challenges to the Special Response process extended debate into the afternoon. During this extended period is was easy to sense that the Church of the Brethren is not of one mind on the matter of homosexuality. There was tension. There was disunity. There was unhappiness by almost anyone's definition of the term. One person condemned a national news network with blatant lying. Some appealed to science instead of the Bible. Some appealed to the Bible in place of everything. During the week a serious threat to an individual was made outside of the conference facility. General Secretary Stan Noffsinger was called to express dismay for the Leadership Team: We in the Leadership Team are grieved by this, especially if it is someone within our gathering who is responsible for the violence of this threat. Grand Rapids police began an investigation. Comments by delegates in the hallways and exhibit areas concerning the general mood of this years Conference were disheartening. Previous calls to forbearance were largely ignored. The desire to win overshadowed the desire to love.
The recommendation of Standing Committee with one amendment was adopted. A tally of the votes was not much different that the two-thirds originally cited by the Forms Reception Committee. Step 5 was a period of closure and reflection of the process. See also the following resources.
- Guidelines for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Paper was a query adopted at AC 2010 and referred to a study committee that brought the following recommendations: The 1993 Ethics in Congregations paper be reviewed, revised, and updated; ... the revised document would also include guidelines and suggestions for a denominational process of accountability ... that these revisions be facilitated by Congregational Life Ministries staff in collaboration with the Council of District Executives and the Office of Ministry. The revised paper will return to a future Annual Conference for delegate approval.
- Guidance for Responding to the Changing of Earths Climate was adopted which asked, ...what is the position of Annual Conference on climate change, and how can we as individuals, congregations and as a denomination take concrete action to live more responsibly and offer leadership in our communities and nation? Standing Committees recommendation asked that the query: be adopted and that it be referred to the Washington Advocacy Office of the Global Mission Partnerships. Discussion and proposed amendments required the delegate body to return after the evening worship.
- Proper Decorum (orderliness, politeness) was returned as recommended by Standing Committee who stated that the query be returned with appreciation and that the district be referred to the section in the Annual Conference booklet entitled Accountability to One Another. One person questioned the history behind this section of the Conference booklet, particularly its source of origin and when it came to be included. No one was able to fully respond, although Conference Secretary Fred Swartz noted that it had been included for many years.
This query was largely in response to the wearing of specially crafted rainbow clothing or accessories which first appeared at AC 2009 that signaled ones position on certain issues both theological and political. Some regarded these colors as divisive while others contended they presented opportunities for open discussion. Adoption of this query would have requested Annual Conference to implement rules of appearance and behavior that may prove to be unworkable and unenforceable.
- New Vision Statement was recommended by Standing Committee to AC 2012 for adoption. It reads: Through Scripture, Jesus calls us to live as courageous disciples by word and action: To surrender ourselves to God, to embrace one another, to express Gods love for all creation.
- Four New Congregations were received by the delegate body: Peace Covenant Church near Raleigh, NC; Renacer in Roanoke, VA; Light of the Gospel Fellowship, Brooklyn, NY; and Mountain Dale Church in West Marva District.
- Afghanistan Resolution accepted from Ministry and Mission Board calling on the US President and members of the US Congress to withdrawal combat troops from Afghanistan, and contribute resources to restore and develop that country and its people.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 3.6%.
- Total registered attendance was 3,200 comprised of 861 Delegates and 2,339 Non-Delegates.
- Moderator Consecration took place Wednesday morning. It was an Emotional Moment for Moderator Alley during the traditional passing of the gavel to Moderator Tim Harvey. It would have been a difficult task for any moderator to preside over such an emotionally tense and politically charged Conference. In his closing remarks Moderator Harvey said: ...being called as moderator of the 2012 Annual Conference has made me realize the depth of the body of Christ. During this past year (and especially during the week at Grand Rapids) Ive learned how deeply you love the church.
- Robert Krouse was nominated from the delegate floor (even though two candidates were already on the prepared ballot) and then elected as Moderator-elect. He lives in Fredericsburg, PA, and pastors the Little Swatara Church of the Brethren. Krouse will serve as Moderator of the 2013 Annual Conference in Charlotte, NC.
- Bev Anspaugh served as the Music Coordinator.
- Blood Drive endeavored to reach their goal of 200 units, assisted by Count Dracula who roamed the building searching for willing volunteers.
- Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised a total of $5,085 to benefit the Global Food Crisis Fund. The silent auction for the District Comforters was $3,240.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that GREENSBORO, North Carolina, will be the location for AC 2016.
- Saturday Evening, July 2 :
Robert Alley, A TALE OF TWO TABLES, Moderator and Pastor of the Bridgewater COB in Bridgewater, Virginia
- Sunday Morning, July 3 :
Craig Smith, THIRD DAY PEOPLE, District Executive of Atlantic Northeast District
- Monday Morning, July 4 :
Samuel Sarpiya, WE ARE A GIFT WITH A PROMISE, Rockford Community Church, Rockford, IL
- Tuesday Evening, July 5 :
Dava Hensley, THE INVITATION LIST, First Church of the Brethren, Roanoke, VA
- Wednesday Morning, July 6 :
Stan Noffsinger, LETS PARTAKE: CALLED TO..., General Secretary, Church of the Brethren
| Click above images to enlarge
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.
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
, 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. 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.
A first for the Church of the Brethren. Webcasts of many Annual Conference events were streamed by Bethany Theological Seminary through the services of LiveStream.com. Brethren "back home" and elsewhere were able to view live televised events over the Internet. This worldwide offering gave non-attending persons the opportunity to, at least, feel as though they were apart of the event.
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 2,558 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 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
| Click images to enlarge
The 224th Annual Conference (June 26-30, 2009) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Town & Country Resort & Convention Center located at 500 Hotel Circle North, in the Mission Valley district or the heart of San Diego. Extending over 32 acres, guests are accommodated in 996 rooms in either of Two Main Towers or many ranch style Garden Bungalows. Unlike most Conference venues with a large city auditorium in the midst of several downtown hotels that requires walking on unfamiliar streets at night, this location is better described as a walled Campus that offered attendees meeting space, accommodations, eateries, and shopping, immediately surrounded by a treasure of beautiful scenery, all in one place without the incursion of walking at night on city streets. There were several very good campus Restaurants, a few providing Alfresco Dining.
Personal security afforded by this type of location was overheard in not just a few conversations. Additional delights of the Town & Country Resort were spacious Brick Walkways surrounded by Flowers. There were Tiny Pools,
Large Pools, and Ornate Pools. There were Short Trees, Tall Trees, and Banana Trees. Conference is a time for chatting and there was
Lady Chatting, Group Chatting,
Dinner Chatting, and Puzzle Chatting. Security was a blessing for young as well as old. Frequently one would see Children & Youth going about their activities in Complete Safety of the campus confinement. Tuesday evening remained the traditional time for the Children's Choir. Saturday evening, worship leader Jonathan Shively told a Children's Story on the main floor.
Across the San Diego River was a huge Shopping Mall complete with many familiar stores and great restaurants. The Metropolitan Transit System, referred to by locals as The Trolley, completely encircles the city of San Diego with its pleasing mixture of Old & New. Any visit to this region begs to also include a side trip to the world famous San Diego Zoo. Confusing for at least a few Brethren was the fact that the city of San Diego has its own Convention Center adjacent to the harbor. Presuming this venue to be the correct location for Conference, they had reserved rooms in one of the nearby Towering Hotels without going through the Annual Conference office. Landing at the San Diego airport from the east includes one of the steepest descents in the nation. Airplanes must clear the ridge of Balboa park and then drop over 250 feet to the runway in less than one mile, further complicated by a parking garage immediately under the flight path. Ex-military pilots now in commercial aviation enjoy the extra challenge and passengers facing west get a spectacular view of the Downtown Area.
The Main Entrance to the Conference Center from the city was seen by fewer Brethren as most entered from the opposite Campus Side of the building. Registration took place in the lobby inside from the the city entrance. First greeting inside the campus doors was the host Pacific-Southwest District's Hospitality Room. Technology has not replaced the old fashioned Bulletin Board which is always a mixture of personal contact requests and mini-announcements.
High ceilings of previous years gave way to low ceilings and multiple rooms for exhibits. The regulars such as SERRV, Brethren Colleges,
Outdoor Ministries, and Brethren Press, to name a few, were well represented. New themes were witnessed in Cross-Cultural Ministries emphasis or life-style changes from Brethren Volunteer Service. Exhibit booths came in all dimensions from the elaborate of Stewardship to the plain message of Global Missions, to the exotic of the Brethren Service Center. A variety of WiFi Games (bowling here) were available and enjoyed by all ages.
2009 Conference Officers were Moderator David Shumate, District Executive of the Virlina District; Moderator-elect Shawn Flory Replogle, pastor of McPherson COB, McPherson, Kansas; and Secretary Fred Swartz.
- There was none for this Conference but delegates still received a full schedule of business, discussion, and reports.
- A Structural Framework For Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues was adopted that would upgrade the 1988 Paper (same name) to a more complete process for denomination-wide conversation on special issues, because the 1988 Paper only called for resources to be provided for such wide Area conversations and lacked direction over how to process the responsive information that would be gathered from such discussions.
- Statement of Confession and Commitment from the AC 2008 Standing Committee expressed concern over the continuing division and tension within the denomination over the issue of homosexuality. They affirmed that the 1983 Human Sexuality paper has honest tension wherein the paper calls for open conversations with homosexuals but also views covenantal relationships between them as unacceptable. We own this tension. We acknowledge that in our fallenness we may not reach uniformity on this issue. But may we strive for unity in love, mission, ministry and witness in Christ. We also confess and ask forgiveness. For over 20 years we have allowed the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee to be a lightning rod for controversy on this issue. There have been many mean-spirited, unkind attacks leveled against these faithful servants. This unchristian behaviour must stop. (Annual Conference booklet, p. 206.)
- Language on Same Sex Covenantal Relationships questioned if the language of the 1983 Human Sexuality paper should continue to guide the church. Delegates spent many hours on two afternoons speaking to both this query of business and the overall issue of homosexuality. Opinions were sharply divided between maintaining status quo and full acceptance. There were several persons who expressed weariness over the entire matter. A few even wanted to reopen the 1983 Statement for revision. Some expressed that there never can be unity from two such vastly diverse points of view. Some recommended a denomination wide conversation, while others pointed out that the denomination has already been in conversation for more than twenty years. A few cited that at the heart of the real issue is a lack of biblical authority in the life of the believer.
Conference finally accepted both documents jointly as Special Response items that would call for a Two Year denomination wide conversation of these issues. In order to fully implement the Structural Framework paper, Standing Committee appointed a Special Response Resource Committee that would gather information for denominational use in the conversation process.
- Secret Oath-Bound Societies was returned to the District with a reaffirmation of the 1954 Membership in Secret Societies decision. A special three member resource team was appointed by the Conference Officers to gather resources that would better inform Brethren on this issue.
- A new eight member VISION COMMITTEE was created by Standing Committee to formulate and establish long-range goals for the Brethren in each upcoming decade. Each Vision Committee will be appointed by Standing Committee in the fifth year of a decade and charged to report their progress to Annual Conference in the eighth year of that same decade. Four members will be selected, one from Mission and Ministry Board or Staff, one each from Bethany Theological Seminary, Brethren Benefit Trust, On Earth Peace, and four at-large members from the denomination.
- Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren, Inc. from AC 2008 was submitted for informational purposes with action expected at AC 2010. Following the 2008 merger of the General Board and the Association of Brethren Caregivers plus the absorption of the Annual Conference Council into the newly incorporated Church of the Brethren, Inc., it became necessary to revise the bylaws that would govern the new corporation. However, the bylaws revision that was adopted in 2008 and now in operation was deemed so lengthy and complex that corporate attorneys urged simplification.
- Report called for by Child Abuse Prevention from AC 2007 recommended three goals: (1) districts, camps, agencies, congregations, and related ministry programs adopt and implement child abuse prevention policies, (2) the Church of the Brethren gather information that would assist these entities to develop such policies, (3) the Church offer to strengthen families with knowledge and skills for protecting children.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a zero cost of living adjustment, based on the fact that the Consumer Price Index actually decreased this year.
- Total registered attendance was 2,077 comprised of 670 Delegates and 1,407 Non-Delegates.
- Lerry Fogle is retiring as Annual Conference executive director. He assumed office at AC 2003 in Boise, Idaho.
- Robert E. Alley, pastor of Bridgewater COB (Virginia), was elected as Moderator-elect and will serve as Moderator in 2011 at Grand Rapids.
- Erin Matteson of Modesto COB (California) led and coordinated the music during worship each evening.
- Blood Drive participants were successful in donating 121 units of blood for the American Red Cross.
- Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised a total of $6,275 from seven Wall Hangings to benefit the Global Food Crisis Fund. There were no large quilts this year.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that COLUMBUS, Ohio, will be the location for AC 2014.
- Friday Evening, June 26 :
David Shumate, FROM NOW ON, Moderator and District Executive of the Virlina District
- Saturday Evening, June 27 :
Richard Shreckhise, THE RISK OF HOLY GROUND, Pastoral team member of Lancaster COB, Lancaster, PA
- Sunday Morning, June 28 :
Eric H.F. Law, LOOKING BEYOND FEAR-FINDING INTIMACY WITH OTHERS AND GOD, Episcopal Priest & Author
- Tuesday Evening, June 29 :
Nancy Heishman, HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE, Church of the Brethren mission coordinator for the Dominican Republic
- Wednesday Morning, JUNE 30 :
Jaime Diaz, TOGETHER IN UNITY THOUGH UNIQUELY DIVERSE, Pastor of Iglesia de los Hermanos, Casta, Puerto Rico
| Click images to enlarge
The 222nd Annual Conference (July 12-16, 2008) and the 300th Anniversary of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Richmond Coliseum, 601 East Leigh Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219. The facility opened in 1971 at a cost of $24 million with 10,000 seats and was upgraded in 1993 with additional seating for 2,500, all on Five Levels. Nearly 180,000 square feet was available for Brethren Exhibits that were displayed in the Greater Richmond Convention Center, located just across the street from the Coliseum at 403 North 3rd Street. Registration took place in the massive front lobby. The second floor Food Court was one of several on site eateries. Smiling Faces and happy tummies were easy to find. As in other years, Contracted Buses assisted Brethren moving back and forth from their hotels and the Conference site.
This year marked an historic event as two of the largest Brethren denominations that emanated from the original Schwarzenau Brethren, the Church of the Brethren and The Brethren Church, jointly worshiped and fellowshiped in a spirit of unity. A unity that had not occurred at the denominational level since the year 1882 when H.R. Holsinger was repudiated or disowned by Annual Conference (then Annual Meeting). His progressive wing of Brethren members quickly joined together the very next year to establish The Brethren Church.
It was auspicious that this Conference of Unity took place in the historic city of Richmond, Virginia, for it was here that Abraham Lincoln came on April 4, 1865, immediately following the evacuation of the Confederate government and only five days before the surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox Court House. Then, it was a time and place for healing national wounds. Now, both the Church of the Brethren and The Brethren Church would seek to heal denominational wounds that have left scars since their split more than a hundred years ago. Lincoln's visit was more symbolic than substantive. Some residents looked upon Lincoln with disdain. He was greeted mostly by Freed Slaves. Much of the city Lay In Ruin, either from bombardment or set afire by fleeing Confederate soldiers. The mercantile Shockoe District (pronounced SCHOCK-ohh) was immediately rebuilt and still retains the same pre-war appearance. Shops along its Cobblestone Streets make it a great walking tour. It is especially noted for shopping, dining and entertainment. You'll be greeted by an occasional Cannon Barrel which now serves as a depository for cigarettes. President Lincoln came to Richmond To Bind Up the Nations Wounds. It would be many years before genuine reconciliation occurred between the North and the South, but Richmond was a beginning. Likewise, it will be many years before both Brethren denominations stand in full reconciliation with each other, but Annual Conference 2008 in Richmond was a step in that direction.
Also sharing space in the front lobby was the 300th Anniversary Quilt, composed of 4,779 two inch squares made from 223 different fabrics, intricately pieced together by artist Rachel Brown. On a Convenient Table was a large book detailing all the submitted Patch Work. This quilt represents the Colors and Textures of people that are bound together by common threads. The more diverse are the colors the more beautiful the overall appearance. Brown reflects on her project: At every step of the way, I found myself wondering how grand the church of Jesus Christ could be if we would begin to treat each other as pieces in a quilt ... If a block seems out of place, think about the people in your community that might feel out of place in your church ... The church needs to be the model for a world unraveling.
Wide Pedestrian Areas
between the Coliseum and the Exhibit Hall
provided room for spacious exhibits such as the Eyes Wide Open
peace exhibit. Each pair of boots represented a fallen US service man or women and each pair of shoes represented a civilian Iraqi casualty. The presentation was organized by the American Friends Service Committee and sponsored by the Brethren Witness/Washington Office and On Earth Peace. This wide area also gave opportunity for presentation of The John Kline Horses
. Newly released Business Session Delegates
happily stopped to enjoy some hands-on interaction with the horses, even Little Hands
. Tuesday evening is the traditional time for the Children's Choir
, and solid color T-shirts are an instant give-away that Our Youth
are involved in a well planned schedule of indoor and outdoor activities. The Adult Choir
delivered inspiring musical selections for worship services.
It has been almost 126 years since members of the Church of the Brethren and members of The Brethren Church last worshipped together at their Annual Meeting in a field in Kosciusko County, Indiana. On Sunday July 13, 2008, members of both denominations worshipped together again, to mutually celebrate their 300th Anniversary. It was only appropriate that they sang that historic hymn: Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord, our God.
A highlight ceremony of unity was the mixing of Waters. Poured into a Common Pool was symbolic water from: the Eder River (scene of the original European baptisms), both denominations, numerous districts, congregations, agencies, and church camps. It exemplified a spirit of reunification as they mixed their differences into a Final Commonness.
First Sermon: Arden Gilmer, pastor of Park Street Brethren Church, Ashland, Ohio, titled,
No Root; No Fruit.
Second Sermon: Shanthi Edwin, pastor of Brush Valley Brethren Church, Adrian, Pennsylvania, titled, Power In Unity.
Third Sermon: Chris Bowman, pastor of Oakton COB, Vienna, Virginia, titled, Well Grounded Grain Brings Phenomenal Fruit.
The 2008 Annual Conference officially began the previous Saturday evening with Moderator Jim Beckwith, pastor of Annville Church of the Brethren, Annville, Pennsylvania, calling all Brethren to unity with the sermon title: Begin With Surrender. Beckwith spoke of the challenges faced by Alexander and Anna Mack as they sought to do the Lord's will at a time when European state churches were hostile to people seeking their faith mission outside of their established protocols. He was 27 and she was 25 but they risked everything to count the cost of radical discipleship, by surrendering all they had known and fleeing their home. Beckwith also revealed his personal genealogical connection to the original founding eight Brethren, My great-grandmother, was a Vetter, descended from Lukas Vetter, one of the first 8 Brethren baptized in the Eder River at Schwarzenau in 1708.
Brethren are partially defined by their Fellowship around mealtime. Richmond was no different. Numerous Groups related by congregation or district sought nice restaurants to celebrate another year together. Eugene had exceeded his gastronomic limits but ordered desert anyway, thinking that there was still room for Chocolate Cake. He was wrong. Several people gratefully came to his rescue. This eatery was one of several great restaurants in the historic Shockoe part of Richmond.
Technology is becoming more a part of the Brethren lifestyle. Use of personal Laptops during Annual Conference is increasing. Business sessions are accompanied by a greater dependency on the digital side of things, and occasionally you may see Two Laptops in the same row. These conference goers might be researching the history surrounding a current item of business on the conference floor, or searching for a good restaurant, or perhaps using a map program to better navigate the city -- but certainly not playing games.
As membership of the Brethren continues to diminish, it would appear that their Exhibit Space at Annual Conference continues to increase. Much of the increase this year was certainly due to the 300th Anniversary Celebration. Brethren Memorabilia of all types from Several Collections were on display, including the first and second edition Christopher Saur Bibles. The Saur editions are actually reprints of church reformer Martin Luther's German Translation. Of special trivia note is that some leaves were reversed: Psalm 38 before Psalm 23. Note: Slideshow of exhibits is now under reconstruction.
2008 Conference Officers were Moderator James Beckwith, pastor of Annville COB, Annville, Pennsylvania; Moderator-elect David Shumate, District Executive of the Virlina District; and Secretary Fred Swartz.
- Implementation of the New Denominational Structure was adopted. This resolution was presented by the Implementation Committee, elected at AC 2007, to create a plan for merging the Association of Brethren Caregivers and the General Board into one legal corporation, finally labeled Church of the Brethren, Inc., following discussion to drop the original suggestion of Church of the Brethren USA. The Annual Conference Council, created at AC 2001, is now dissolved as its functions will be included in this new organizational body that will be called the Mission and Ministry Board. Lengthy discussion surrounded the detailing and examination of articles of incorporation and modification of bylaws for the new entity. The result is one board called the Mission and Ministry Board. This does not affect Annual Conference or its reportable agencies: Brethren Benefit Trust, Bethany Theological Seminary, and On Earth Peace.
- Selection and Function of the Process Committee for Discerning Uses of the Doing Church Business Recommendations from AC 2007 installs a one year term three-member Process Committee to work with Conference officers and the Program and Arrangements Committee, to review options for enhancing how church business is done.
- Update to Ministerial Ethics was adopted with amendments. It is the culmination of twelve years of following the implementation of the 1996 Statement of Ethics for Congregations in the Church of the Brethren. The new version will prohibit the intervention of former ministers into ministerial relationships of current pastors, which has apparently been a frequent issue. An amendment was adopted to permit former pastors to perform ministerial services for a former congregation with the approval of the current pastor. Supporting the amendment were several pastors who expressed their appreciation of former pastors in mentoring.
- Resolution on Minister's Medical Insurance Crisis was adopted. This finalizes the action of AC 2007 to formally end the Brethren medical Plan which suffered chronic years of high draw-down from older members, coupled with low contributions from younger and healthier plan members.
- Resolution on Slavery in the 21st Century was adopted with a Standing Committee amendment that added: to change our personal lifestyle habits that support it (slavery).
- Resolution Urging Forbearance was adopted with considerable opposition. The resolution came from the Association of Brethren Caregivers, On Earth Peace, and the General Board. It is an attempt to maintain unity and civility among Brethren especially in the wake of deep and strained interchanges between individual Brethren and congregations involving wide differences concerning interpretation of scripture and practices, the latter of which had escalated to district intervention. A few of these districts, embroiled in the midst of these conflicts, questioned if this paper would rescind previous district decisions, and or, would reinterpret long withstanding denominational polity.
- Conference Witness to Host City was adopted with little discussion and referred to the Program and Arrangements Committee for future implementation with hosting Districts.
- Revision to Unfunded Annual Conference Mandates was adopted. See also AC 1999 Statement and AC 1998 Revision.
- Child Abuse Prevention interim report given by the Association of Brethren Caregivers (ABC) as requested from AC 2007. ABC was disappointed with a poor response from a survey to congregations. Out of 1,128 requests sent out by ABC, 193 completed surveys were received--only 143 congregations responded, she said. Of the congregations that responded, only 35 percent had a child protection policy in place. A final report will be presented at AC 2009.
- A Statement of Confession and Commitment adopted by Standing Committee on Monday morning (July 14) to be considered at AC 2009. The statement is the result of a plea from the Program and Arrangements Committee for guidance on how to best handle warring factions that have made the Annual Conference exhibit hall a battleground between pro and anti homosexual camps. Pro-groups want exhibit space to explain their views and anti-groups fear that such an exhibit may appear to some as legitimizing that lifestyle. The one page statement expresses an honest tension, over the issue and states that the 1983 Human Sexuality From A Christian Perspective remains our official position.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 4.2%.
- Total registered attendance was 6,184 comprised of 864 Delegates and 5,320 Non-Delegates.
- Shawn Flory Replogle, pastor at McPherson, Kansas COB, was elected as Moderator-elect who will serve in 2010 at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
- Leslie Lake coordinated the music during worship and also served as a member of the 300th Anniversary Committee.
- Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised a total of $19,200, much of which benefits the Global Food Crisis Fund.
- Blood Drive collected a total of 247 units from 275 donors.
- Close of this Conference also brought to a close the work of the 300th Anniversary Committee.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that CHARLOTTE, North Carolina will be the location for AC 2013.
The National Christian Choir blessed worshippers following the Saturday Evening Worship Service.
- Saturday Evening, July 12 :
Jim Beckwith, BEGIN WITH SURRENDER, Moderator and Pastor of the Annville COB in Annville, Pennsylvania
- Sunday Morning, July 13 :
Arden Gilmer, NO ROOT; NO FRUIT, Park Street Brethren Church, Ashland, Ohio
Shanthi Edwin, POWER IN UNITY, Brush Valley Brethren Church, Adrian, Pennsylvania
Chris Bowman, WELL GROUNDED GRAIN BRINGS PHENOMENAL FRUIT, Oakton COB, Vienna, Virginia
- Monday Morning, July 14 :
Mary Jo Flory-Steury, ITS ALL ABOUT YOU, executive director of the General Boards Office of Ministry
- Tuesday Evening, July 15 :
Bob Neff, THE STORY OF WIND AND FIRE, Coordinator of Chaplaincy Services at The Village at Morrisons Cove, Pennsylvania
- Wednesday Morning, July 16 :
Shawn Flory Replogle, WHERE ARE WE GOING, Pastor, First Church of the Brethren, McPherson, Kansas; newly elected Moderator-Elect
Melissa Bennett, FAITH GUSHING OUT IN THE WORLD, Pastor for Youth, Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Leroy Solomon, PETERS PERSONAL JOURNEY, Dean, Doctor of Ministry Program, Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio, The Brethren Church
| Click images to enlarge
The 221th Annual Conference (June 30 - July 4, 2007) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Cleveland Convention Center Public Auditorium, 500 Lakeside Avenue East, Cleveland, OH 44114, located next to Lake Erie, the Cleveland Browns Football Stadium, the Great Lakes Science Center, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the latter promoted by 9 foot Guitars on most street corners. Lake fronts provide an attractive place for Weddings and more Weddings, and in Cleveland the customary transportation is a Stretch Hummer. The Convention Center has over 278,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 10,000 seat Auditorium, a 3,000 seat Music Hall, a 600 seat Little Theater, and a spacious 21,000 square foot Registration Lobby. Unfortunately, this facility was not as modern as Brethren have enjoyed recently. Construction of this neoclassical edifice began in 1920 and received a few upgrades, the last being in 1964. But as of 2007, this auditorium is an aging facility. Plaster is hanging loose from walls and ceilings. Fixtures are heavily worn. Ramp paving blocks have numerous chips and cracks. Springs are pushing up through the padding of balcony seats. Entrance to the facility is confusing. One entrance is above ground, a second is below ground, and the lobby is Underneath Both. City Planners have been seeking to replace it for several years, yet it is one that is rich in history. Despite its drawbacks, the convention officials were accommodating and rolled out the Welcoming Banner.
The word Cleveland brings to mind one of the all-time great football legends, Jim Brown, who played professional football for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 until 1965. His lifetime statistics are overwhelming, especially considering the league's expansion to 16 games in 1978. In National Football League history, Brown is the only rusher to average more than 100 yards per game for a career. Brown's record of scoring 100 touchdowns in 93 games withstood all challengers until the 2006 season. He was the rusher who could not easily be tackled. Brown's lifetime rushing record was an astonishing 5.2 yards per carry. Sometimes it required three or four opponents to bring him to the turf. One surely must wonder what his lifetime stats would have been if he would have played 16 games per season instead of 12. Jim Brown is rated by the NFL as the #2 Player of all-time (as of the 2009 season).
Another milestone took place in 1957, when two denominations met in this very Auditorium to form a new denomination of about two million members: The Evangelical Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches became the United Church of Christ. History was made again this year when Belita Mitchell
, pastor of Harrisburg First COB
, became the first African-American women to preside as Annual Conference moderator. (The first African-American man to serve as moderator was William Hayes in 1988, and the first women to serve as moderator was Elaine Sollenberger in 1989.)
Mitchell has achieved a milestone which reflects a growing openness among Brethren to diversity and cultural issues. Her Sunday Morning sermon emphasized the need for prayer in every avenue of our life. She encouraged members to be intense about the work of Christ: I don't believe declining membership was a part of Christ's mission!
A pleasant drive south on Interstate 71 from Cleveland is the city of Ashland which is headquarters to our sister denomination The Brethren Church and home to Ashland University, founded in 1878. Administrative control and hence the future mission of this university (then a college) was hotly contended by two major factions in The Brethren Church during the 1930s. Thousands left to form the Grace Brethren denomination and those remaining in The Brethren Church were sometimes referred to as the Ashland Brethren. Continuing south along the Interstate is the city of Mansfield and the Bible Walk museum and Cathedral which portrays biblical stories through numerous scenes of Wax Figures. (Note: These wax figures are in the lobby where photography is not restricted.) Just around the corner is the former Ohio State Reformatory whose Castle Like structure has been film location for several movies including the emotionally charged Shawshank Redemption. It is now a museum and open to the public for scheduled events such as meetings, parties, and receptions, as well as regular guided tours.
With a post 2000 Conference shorter time frame for business it has forced Conference Officers
and the Delegate Body
to work harder in order to process the usual amount of business. The long times of conversation following business sessions of many years ago have been exchanged for Rushing and Running
. This year it was necessary to convene a special two hour business session immediately following the Tuesday evening worship service, in order for Delegates
to process the load of business. Many other particulars seemed to continue as usual: persons in wheelchairs found special niches provided for them in the main seating area, persons with allergies congregated to the odor free zone, closed-circuit captioning was again provided for the hearing impaired, and Spanish Translation
was available for those not understanding English.
Year by year, Whole Families
are taking advantage of the unrestricted open area behind the main conference seating. Children love to run and this open area permits a freedom that would otherwise be hindered by regular connected chair seating. Conference-goers were happy to make friends with Fuzzy Dog
who gave warm hugs and hand-shakes. Tuesday evening worship is the traditional time for the Children's Choir
Numerous opportunities abounded for Conference attendees to be enriched by these classroom type sessions, and several agencies offered more than one. Enhancing Worship with Digital Stained Glass or Multimedia Worship explained how technology is enhancing the worship service and also how to stay focused on the essence of worship so that technology does not become a distraction. Awards were given for the best submitted presentations.
Well represented were Agencies, Colleges, Special Interests, Brethren Press, Just For Kids, and the General Board. Ohio Northern District and Ohio Southern District were the host districts which typically provides a Hospitality Center where people can relax, enjoy Puzzle Working, play games, and chat. Bible Visit encouraged Brethren to reexamine their biblical connections with a strong emphasis on reading the Bible and understanding their biblical heritage. Free DVDs were passed out to further explain their purpose, especially the historical contributions of the Christopher Saur family. An original Saur Bible printed in 1763 along with accompanying Framed Pages and interpretative text was on display.
A first for Conference this year was the public use of Wi-Fi (pronounced why-fye) or wireless Internet connection offered by Bethany Theological Seminary. Conference goers having wireless enabled devices could pick up the SSID of Bethany when inside the broadcast perimeter of their Access Point. Bethany also provided Laptop Computers for anyone to stop and check their e-mail. Bethany president Eugene F. Roop announced his retirement at AC 2006 and has been succeeded by Ruthann Knechel Johansen.
2007 Conference Officers were Moderator Belita Mitchell, pastor of First COB, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Moderator-elect James Beckwith, pastor of Annville COB, Annville, Pennsylvania; and Secretary Fred Swartz.
- Brethren Medical Plan AC 2005 study committee called for the phasing out of the Brethren Benefit Trust Medical Plan due to decreasing membership and the inability to spread costs over a large pool of users, plus the increasing cost of health care in general. Membership in the plan was at 3,119 in 1993 but dropped to 796 in May, 2005. Insurance consultants advised BBT that stability was urgently needed. The report of BBT at AC 2004 announced that the Plan was in a death spiral. December 31, 2007 was announced as the beginning of the phasing out period for ministers and retirees. Although the imminent demise of the plan had been expected for the past two years, it was still discomforting to some pastors and it left others disillusioned. The report was amended to include that BBT continue to determine if the Plan could be retained for agencies who have 100 per cent participation, and that BBT assist plan participants to find alternate coverage.
- Review and Evaluation AC 2005 study committee recommended ten changes to improve denominational consistency, financial considerations, and ministry, the first of which called for the merger of the General Board and the Association of Brethren Caregivers into a new entity labeled The Church of the Brethren, U.S.A. Some delegates felt these trailing letters to be more of a political statement than a geographical reference. All instances of U.S.A. were removed by amendment. This proposed merger would not affect Bethany Theological Seminary or Brethren Benefit Trust.
- Merger of General Board and Association of Brethren Caregivers including Annual Conference Council
- Leadership roles examined and enhanced for consistency
- Core values should be promoted through identity and heritage curriculum
- Evangelism needs to be strengthened
- Stewardship education with necessary staffing
- Professional growth and sabbatical to alleviate burnout. Review calling out process
- Stagger denominational conferences so as not to convene in the same year
- Technological methods should be explored to better communicate information and activities
- Congregational Life Teams need to promote their mission to congregations
- Encourage churches to be more welcoming to diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds
- Doing Church Business AC 2004 study committee presented delegates with a broad brush of suggestions to improve how we process business. A one year extension had been granted from AC 2005. Some observations of the committee were: the adequacy and fairness of Roberts Rules of Order, pain and loss from elections which produces winners and losers, Holy Spirit inspired preparation of delegates before Annual Conference, lack of training in some areas of leadership, and the AC 2000 initiated shorter business time frame has challenged delegates to properly discern the mind of Christ. The committee enumerated and explained several possible tools and methods for delegates. The large scope of their suggestions invited a motion that the report be received as resource and study information and to be viewed as possible options for future Annual Conferences.
- Becoming a Multi-Ethnic Church & Need for Cross-Cultural Ministries AC 2004 chose its theme scripture from Revelation 7:9: of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. The 41 page report was one of the longest reports in the Conference booklet. AC 2004 combined these originally two separate queries into one and required that committee membership be purposefully composed of an ethnically diverse representation of those cultures presently in the Church of the Brethren. Committee activity included establishing definitions to resolve confusing terminology, identifying denominational barriers that hinder the fulfillment of Rev. 7:9, exposing unwillingness of some to share power across cultural boundaries, observed congregational inertia to explore cultural opportunities, and questioned structures that intentionally inhibit recruitment of minorities. After much prayer, study, research, and deliberation, our committee concluded that one essential part of the answer to that question is for us to be Separate No More.
- Reverse Membership Trend adopted per Standing Committee recommendation to reexamine solutions and reverse the current declining membership in the Church of the Brethren. It was a lengthy recommendation that called for taking the Great Commission of Matthew 29:19-20 more seriously, a fresh reading of the 1981 Diminishing Membership paper, and identifying actions for congregations and districts.
- Annual Conference (New) Schedule was referred to the Conference leadership. Financial burdens and stress of meeting on an annual basis coupled with the general acceptance by Brethren of new communication technologies prompted a reexamination of the current schedule and its real effects.
- Child Abuse Prevention to examine how Annual Conference statements regarding prevention are actually implemented was referred to the Association of Brethren Caregivers.
- Annual Conference Polity adopts a recommendation from the Annual Conference Council to change the rotation schedule so that Annual Conference is held more frequently in areas where there is a higher population of Brethren.
- Christian Churches Together recommendation adopted that the Church of the Brethren become a full participant.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 2.7%.
- Total registered attendance was 3,578 comprised of 831 Delegates and 2,747 Non-Delegates.
- David Shumate, District Executive/Minister of Virlina District, was elected as Moderator-elect to serve as Moderator in 2009 at San Diego, California.
- Folk singer Joseph Helfrich coordinated the music during worship along with a talented group of Accompanying Musicians.
- Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised a total of $7,558.58 from several wall hangings, worship tapestries, plus a special Moderator autographed 300th anniversary calendar. Volunteers donated lots of personal time in order to finish the quilts in the shortened post 2000 Conference time frame. Serious Bidders helped raise funds which also benefits the Global Food Crisis Fund.
- Blood Drive participants were successful in donating 212 units for the American Red Cross.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that ST. LOUIS, Missouri, will be the location for AC 2012.
- Saturday Evening, June 30 :
Jeff Carter, (not available) Pastor of Manassas COB in Manassas, Virginia
- Sunday Morning, July 1 :
Moderator Belita Mitchell, (not available), pastor of First COB in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- Monday Evening, July 2 :
Duane Grady, BUILDING WELL RELATIONSHIPS, member of General Board Congregational Life Team
- Tuesday Evening, July 3 :
Tim Harvey, WHEN SHAME MEETS GRACE: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS, Pastor of Central COB, Roanoke, Virginia
- Wednesday Morning, July 4 :
Ataloa Woodin, SERVANTS ENABLED WITH A GREAT POWER, Pastor of Community Brethren Church, Fresno, California
|Click images to enlarge
The 220th Annual Conference (July 1-5, 2006) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Iowa Events Center, 730 Third Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309, a four-time All American City. Finished only about two years ago at a price tag of $217 million, this complex is the most costly public project in the state's history. It consists of the renovated 7,200 seat Veterans Memorial Auditorium, the 250,000 square-foot Hy-Vee Hall, and the 17,000 seat Wells Fargo Arena. When the Auditorium was first constructed in 1954, it was one of the largest auditoriums in the nation, rivaling those of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Especially appropriate for the gathering of a peace church was the Veterans Peace Memorial which stands just outside the Auditorium. Two Hands reach skyward beckoning passersby to pray for peace. Worship services and business sessions were held in the Auditorium. Registration, Exhibits, Insight Sessions, Message Boards, and the Cash Buffet were located in Hy-Vee Hall.
It was in 1908 Des Moines that the German Baptist Brethren decided to change their name to the Church of the Brethren. The divisions of twenty years earlier had left them groping for a new identity. The conservatives departed in 1881 and the progressives two year later. Few members spoke German anymore and their agrarian subculture was slowly disappearing. They simply were not who they used to be. No longer distinctly German and eschewing the word baptist, the label Brethren was the only thing left, so, they became the Church of the Brethren. In 1958 in this Same Auditorium, the Church of the Brethren celebrated its 250th Year of Existence and 172nd Annual Conference. Several Brethren who had attended that 1958 Conference posed for a commemorative Group Photo. Madison County to the southwest has many Covered Bridges that have been featured in books and movies.
Iowa leads the nation in the production of corn, soybeans, pork, and eggs. Alternative fuels proponents will be happy to know that at 1.2 billion gallons annually, Iowa produces more ethanol per year than any other state. Just a few miles south is the little town of Winterset, birthplace of television and movie star John Wayne. The house is, naturally, located on Wayne Drive. The capital of Iowa is Des Moines and boasts nearly Three Miles of enclosed climate-controlled, overhead walk-ways called Skywalks. You see them all over town. There are Short Spans, Long Spans, and Inside Building spans.
It was especially nice for Conference Goers to be sheltered from both rain and traffic. It's the most extensive such system per capita in the world. After Monday evening services, a beautiful Rainbow blessed worshippers as they walked back to their hotels. Conference is also that time of year when Brethren are blessed with the opportunity of renewing friendships. In addition to regularly scheduled agency luncheons and dinners, many Brethren arrange private group get-to-gathers such as the members of Southern District, Northern Zone at the Spaghetti Works. Tuesday evening is the traditional time for the Children's Choir. Of special appreciation were the Shuttle Buses that operated on a regular loop from all hotels to the Auditorium. Lunch and dinner were again served with a Cash Buffet which permits good dining without leaving the convention complex. This year Brethren had the opportunity to post special prayer requests on the Prayer Square board. A small textual change to the Conference Theme added Spanish to the common English version.
The spaciousness of HY-Vee Hall provided Ample Room for Exhibits. Brethren agencies and related organizations were well represented such as Church World Service. At the booth of Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists Thomas Liby explains their work and provides tips on research. Northern Plains District was the host district which typically provides a Hospitality Center. SERRV had a special table for Nativity Scenes.
Association of Brethren Caregivers sponsored a wellness campaign this past year called Lighten Up, Brethren! It challenges members to re-examine their lifestyles and adopt behaviors that would promote better physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Posters throughout the complex reminded Brethren to consider healthier living practices. Brethren Benefit Trust promoted this theme by constructing a working Miniature Golf course in their exhibit area. Bethany Theological Seminary president Eugene F. Roop will be retiring after fifteen years of leadership.
2006 Conference Officers were Moderator Ronald Beachley, District Minister of Pennsylvania Western District; Moderator-elect Belita Mitchell, pastor of Harrisburg First COB, Harrisburg Pennsylvania; and Secretary Fred Swartz.
- Doing Church Business study committee overwhelmed Delegates with a report filled with sweeping changes and suggestions including a return to the previous Annual Conference (pre-Kansas City, 2000) schedule. In immediate response, a representative of the Annual Conference office reminded delegates that planning and arrangements for AC 2011 is already in place and that a return to the previous schedule before that time would be difficult. Several delegates spoke in affirmation of the report but questioned the complexity and cost of implementation. The report was referred to the Annual Conference Program Feasibility study committee for reconsideration at AC 2007.
- Brethren Benefit Trust to revise their Articles of Organization was adopted. Moderator Beachley guided the delegate body through this large item of business that would permit BBT to provide additional services to the Brethren Medical Plan and assume oversight of the Church of the Brethren Credit Union. Standing Committee requested that the ability of BBT to seek funding beyond fees might lead to conflicts of interest and privacy violations with other Brethren agencies.
- Call to Stewardship Education was referred to the General Board.
- Together: Conversations on Being the Church invited delegates into four half-hour Small Group Conversations to Discuss Reflections on what it means to be a part of the church.
- Resolution on an End to the War in Iraq: from the General board calling for an end to the war in Iraq was narrowly accepted with a strong negative vote. It called upon all nations to implement other ways of bringing peace to that region.
- Resolution on Divestment: from the General board was accepted calling for companies to refrain from selling products that would be used as weapons of war in Israel and Palestine. The resolution also asks individuals to reconsider their own investments goals, to not include weapons of war or related matters.
- Resolution on A Call to Reduce Global Poverty and Hunger from the General Board was accepted calling on all Brethren to pursue the Millennium Development Goals developed by the United Nations.
- Resolution on Commitment of Accessibility and Inclusion: from Association of Brethren Caregivers was adopted that calls on congregations and organizations to be more intentional about be fully accessible to the handicapped. ABC had introduced a similar resolution in 1994 calling upon the denomination to make facilities more accessible to the physically disabled but most congregations have not followed suit. A good example of one congregation that has constructed a new facility that is completely accessible is Bunkertown COB in Pennsylvania Southern District.
- Annual Conference Council responded to the Michigan District which presented questions in the query Clarification of Confusion at AC 2003. The matter centers on an incident in that District where a practicing homosexual man was seeking ordination, but the AC 2002 decision on the query Licensing for Ordination of Homosexual Persons resulted in delegates accepting Standing Committees recommendation that it violated the spirit of the 1983 Human Sexuality paper: ...it is inappropriate to license or ordain to the Christian ministry any persons who are known to be engaging in homosexual practices. The Annual Conference Council stated that the AC 2002 decision was based on polity. Delegates received this as a report without discussion.
- Review and Evaluation study committee gave an interim report.
- Intercultural and Brethren Medical Plan study committees were both granted one year extensions.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 4.2%.
- Total registered attendance was 2,996.
- Kathy Johnson and Jim Jones were the musical coordinators, offering Vocal Groups (Johnson, center) and Instrumental Groups (Jones, right).
- Ken & Gita Gresh staffed the Blood Drive which garnered 253 pints for the American Red Cross.
- James Beckwith, pastor of Annville COB, Pennsylvania, was elected as Moderator-elect to serve in 2008 at Richmond, Virgina.
- Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised a total of $13,240 from twin-bed size quilts, wall hangings, and worship tapestries. Some of the money raised benefits the Global Food Crisis Fund.
- Wallpaper 2006 summarizes the essence of this years experience.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan, was announced as the venue for the 2011 Annual Conference.
- Saturday Evening, July 1 :
Kelly Burk, IN LIGHT OF SCRIPTURE, Pastor of Richmond COB in Richmond, Indiana
- Sunday Morning, July 2 :
Moderator Ronald Beachley, WOVEN TOGETHER BY PRAYER, Executive Minister of Pennsylvania Western District
- Monday Evening, July 3 :
Myrna Long Wheeler, AEROBICS FOR THE SOUL ... NO PAIN, NO GAIN, Chaplain at Brethren Hillcrest Homes in La Verne, California
- Tuesday Evening, July 4 :
Dennis Webb, WALKING BY FAITH...AGAIN, Pastor of Naperville COB, Naperville, Illinois
- Wednesday Morning, July 5 :
Brian Maguire, RUNNING HOME, Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Xenia, Ohio
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The 219th Annual Conference (July 2-6, 2005) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Peoria Civic Center, 201 SW Jefferson Avenue, Peoria, IL 61602. The Center comprises three separate venues under one roof: the Carver Arena with a total seating capacity of 12,145, an Exhibit Hall providing 63,668 square feet of display space, and a Performing Arts Theater, plus additional small Meeting Rooms. Business and worship convened in the large Carver Arena, also home of the Peoria hockey team the Rivermen. Some conference attendees joked about sitting in the penalty box. It is the largest convention facility anywhere in mid-state Illinois. Peoria is the third most populated city in the State, and the largest on the Illinois River. It was named after the Peoria Tribe. Because of references to Peoria in Horatio Alger's novel Five Hundred Dollars and perceiving Peoria to be a good representation of an average American city, Vaudeville entertainers would often say that succeeding in Peoria, meant succeeding anywhere. That phrase or question Will it play in Peoria? has now become common place in American mainstream conversation. Peoria is also known as the home of Caterpiller, Inc., the world's largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel engines, and gas turbines.
Leisure activities were plentiful along the riverfront, including a flea market with local Artisans
demonstrating their trade, Street Musicians
entertaining passersby, and children jumping around in this animal Air House
. Especially refreshing to Adventurous Brethren
was the afternoon cruise on the resident paddle wheeler The Spirit of Peoria
that offered Comfortable Seating
, refreshing mist from the Paddle Wheels
, calm river breezes, and Friendly Faces
, lots of Friendly Faces
. Can you see Mother Duck
? This female mallard sat quietly and motionless as People Waited
to board the Paddle Wheeler. The Convention Center Grounds
was more like a city park, with ample room to sit on the warm grass or under an Umbrella Table
. Families and Special Groups
frequently used the ornate Pedestal Clock
as a meeting spot.
Special words of greeting were expressed to the delegate body on Tuesday afternoon from Ken Hunn, Executive Director of The Brethren Church, especially remarking that their past Conference theme centered on Evangelism, and their current theme centers on Evangelism, and that their next theme will center on Evangelism. Also during the Tuesday evening worship the traditional Children's Choir blessed worshippers with several songs. Immediately before each worship service the Christ Candle was lit. A new technological innovation for the deaf and hearing impaired this year was the use of Closed-Circuit Captioning instead of Sign Language. Meals were served at lunch and dinner from a buffet. There was a large area of tables and chairs, where Brethren had no difficulty in Fellowshipping with other Brethren.
Bethany Theological Seminary celebrates their 100th Anniversary with a large exhibit of archived material including former student desks, paraphernalia, and numerous photographs covering their different ministry phases: Hastings Street Mission, Bethany Bible School (1905-1909), Bethany Bible School (1909-1931), and the Bethany Biblical Seminary (1931-1963) on Van Buren Street. Brethren Benefit Trust, the people with the green logo, encouraged us to Think Pink, in an effort to create awareness concerning good health (taken from the common slogan of being In the Pink).
2005 Conference Officers were Moderator Jim Hardenbrook, Idaho District Executive; Moderator-elect Ronald Beachley, Pennsylvania Western District Executive Minister; and Secretary Fred Swartz.
- Doing Church Business Study Committee and the Intercultural Study Committee were granted one year extensions for additional time that would enable them to deliver a more complete report.
- Cross Cultural Ministries Team presented a report as requested by AC 2000. The Delegate Body gave the team another year extension in order to complete their work and then present their findings at AC 2006.
- Review and Evaluation Committee: New Mandate, created in 1971 to evaluate and report on the work of the General Board, was handed another and much larger responsibility. Delegates expanded their scope to include an examination of the entire denominational structure. This committee (presently) meets every ten years for a two year review process.
- General Board Polity Revisions were numerous changes in wording that would make all documents and subsections conform to current practice. Functions of the General Board were amended to provide leadership in prophetic social policy development for the denomination. Annual Conference Polity Revisions included expanding the rotating location of Annual Conference from the current three geographic areas (Eastern-Southeastern, Central, Western-Pacific) to six:
2. MIDWEST (east of the Mississippi)
3. MIDWEST (west of the Mississippi)
5. MIDWEST (east of the Mississippi)
6. FAR WEST (alternating between north and south)
- Also see the new Rotation Map. This rearrangement offers greater traveling consideration to the heavier concentration of Brethren in the eastern half of the nation. Duties of the Moderator to convene and review were also curtailed since program agencies are now conducting their own reviews as well as the Review and Evaluation Committee.
- Brethren Benefit Trust announced continued disappointing growth in the Brethren Medical Plan (a health insurance plan for pastors, church employees, district staff, and affiliated institutions or agencies) that has moved the Plan beyond a financial crossroads to a death spiral. Various reasons were cited such as a steady increase in health care costs and specifically younger pastors choosing lower costing and more competitive plans which unfortunately diminishes the pool of payers into the Brethren Medical Plan that increasingly supports older pastors whose utilization is generally higher. BBT had previously asked the twenty-three Districts to target a minimum of seventy-five percent enrollment to keep the Plan financially solvent. In an effort to resolve the current financial crisis, Brethren Medical Plan Resolution called for a one year study committee that would examine the situation in greater detail.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 2.8%.
- Total registered attendance was 3,341 comprised of 858 Delegates and 2,483 Non-Delegates.
- Belita D. Mitchell, pastor at Harrisburg COB, Pennsylvania was elected as Moderator-elect who will serve as Moderator at Cleveland in 2007.
- Keith (pastor at York First COB) and Beth Hollenberg Coordinated Music with organist Marilyn Mason. The Adult Choir performed under the direction of Joan Fyock Norris.
- Quilt Auction of the Association for the Arts Church of the Brethren raised a total of $21,450 from two twin-bed size quilts and five wall hangings. Some of the money raised benefits the Global Food Crisis Fund.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, will be the location for AC 2010.
- Saturday Evening, July 2 :
Moderator Jim Hardenbrook, I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY, Pastor of Nampa COB in Nampa, Idaho
- Saturday Evening, July 3 :
Galen Hackman, BY FAITH . . . EXPERIENCING THE SMILE OF GOD, Pastor of Ephrata COB, Ephrata, Pennsylvania
- Monday Evening, July 4 :
Sandy Bosserman, DUTIES, DEVILS, & DISTRACTIONS, Executive Director of Missouri and Arkansas District
- Tuesday Evening, July 5 :
Anastacia Bueno Beltre, LETS LOOK TOWARD OUR HEAD, WHO IS JESUS CHRIST, Pastor in the Dominican Republic
- Wednesday Morning, July 6 :
Chris Douglas, ABUNDANT LIFE - DISCIPLESHIP - DON'T LOSE HEART, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry
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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. 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
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The 217th Annual Conference (July 5-9, 2003) of the Church of the Brethren was held on the 175 acre main campus of Boise State University in their 13,000 seat, 17,472 square foot sports complex called The Pavilion (later renamed Taco Bell Arena). The university has an enrollment over 19,000 students pursuing 190 fields of interest with degrees of undergraduate, graduate, technical programs within the scope of seven colleges. Their football stadium, home to the Broncos, is the only such stadium with a Blue Field playing surface. Earl Boen and a few other Boise State alumni have become famous motion picture stars.
Idaho produces more potatoes than any other state in the nation. Approximately 400,000 acres are planted every year and accounts for about 34% of the nation's consumption. More than thirty varieties are grown in regions from high elevations to the low flat lands. What makes this area of the country so unique is that Idaho enjoys the warmest mean temperatures in the Northwest. Every year farmers can expect about 90-100 growing days within a 180 frost-free day window. Potato Souvenirs
are to be found in most Boise Gift Shops
Nicknamed the City of Trees
has a population slightly over 403,000 and rests at an elevation of 2,842 feet. Straddling the Boise River, it has become a haven for water sports and recreational pursuits such as Rafting
. There are many city parks and Court Fountains
that offer relief from the hot dry climate. This shift to a campus environment is in keeping with increasing requests to lower the cost of Annual Conference by utilizing the facilities of universities or second-tier cities.
Ice-Blocking is a fun sport in the Boise foothills. Visitors to this area usually ask: What's Ice-Blocking? It's sort of like sled-riding, except without snow or a sled. You sit on a block of ice and glide down a hill of grass. You won't have trouble finding a hill of grass. Just look towards the foothills and it will be the only Green Hill
visible. Potato magnate J.R. Simplot
lived in the mansion on that green hill, but donated the entire hill to the State of Idaho to be used as the governor's mansion. Children in the area soon discovered that they were welcomed to play on its slopes and that's when Ice-Blocking
was invented (in this area anyway). Local residents were about the friendliest of any recent Annual Conference venue. Many Brethren were surprised to discover being waved at from across the street. Boise shows its religion on its arm-sleeve. Rescue Missions
and charity minded associations were noticeable everywhere. Transportation around the city often had a Western Flair
There is a new Annual Conference Executive Director this year. Lerry Fogle of Frederick, Maryland, assumes the helm from Duane Steiner who resigned at AC 2002. Traditional buffet meals were served in the Student Union cafeteria, and the western bar-b-que style under outside tenting. Groups had no difficulty locating a place for their Annual Dining get-together. Judging by the photographs in the COB-NET photo album, the Message Boards contained more notes than any other Annual Conference, before or after. In Jesus' Name was the theme and logo of the Conference but Prayer was the emphasis. Youth from each District made drawings of what prayer meant to them and was displayed on Prayer Walls. Each one expressed their deepest Heart Feelings of what they such prayer would accomplish. Tuesday evening provides worshippers with another opportunity to enjoy the Children's Choir.
Exhibits were housed in both the college Pavilion (main Conference arena) or the adjacent Kinesiology Center. The regular agencies, SERRV & Outdoor Ministries were well represented with a few new ones Proclaiming Christ and listing every living Church of the Brethren Licensed and Ordained minister.
2003 Conference Officers were Moderator Harriet Finney, Co-District Executive of Indiana South-Central District; Moderator-elect Christopher Bowman, pastor of Memorial COB, Martinsburg, Pennsylvania; and new Secretary Fred Swartz beginning his first term, as Cathy Huffman finished her service at AC 2002.
- Duties and Relationship of Moderators was referred by delegates to the newly installed Annual Conference Council (formed at AC 2001, Baltimore) for redrafting, and to also include suggestions made by this Conference.
- Denominational Name study committee of AC 2002 requested an additional year to listen and encourage dialog among the denomination. Extention was granted and a full report will be presented at AC 2004 in Charleston, West Virginia.
- India Church Relationships recommendation calls for the Church of the Brethren to maintain its existing relationship with Churches of Northern India (CNI), and also establish new ties with the Brethren churches that have withdrawn from that coalition.
- Congregational Disagreements with Annual Conference Decisions from Indiana South-Central District was given to a new five person study committee that will seek to advise congregations and districts with guidelines concerning disagreements, and report their findings at AC 2004. One delegate noted that this situation is nothing new to the Church of the Brethren. He cited that women were permitted to enter the ministry in 1922 and yet many congregations will not accept women in the pastorate. Additionally, he observed that the COB was a founding member of both the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches, yet many Brethren still object to participation in each body.
- Clarification of Confusion from Michigan District was also given to the new Annual Conference Council to provide greater interpretation and answers to questions of last years delegate action that rejected the licensing and ordination of homosexual persons.
- The Person and Redemptive Work of Jesus Christ was returned per Standing Committee recommendation to the sponsoring Eaton COB congregation and Ohio Southern District as delegates feared a creedal statement may be the result. Discussion centered on referring the scriptures themselves instead of a position paper or statement.
- Living Peace Church resolution from On Earth Peace and the General Board was adopted that calls for continued efforts toward peace through prayer and studying the scriptures. One delegate questioned the Conference to explain why abortion, the war in the womb, was not included as a part of this peace effort.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 2.1%.
- Total registered attendance was 2,844 comprised of 843 Delegates and 2,001 Non-Delegates.
- Jim Hardenbrook, pastor of Nampa COB in Nampa, Idaho, elected as Moderator-Elect who will serve as Moderator at Peoria in 2005.
- Brethren Benefit Trust celebrated the 60th Anniversary of its Pension Plan.
- Stan Noffsinger was consecrated as general secretary for outgoing Judy Mills Reimer.
- Howard Royer was recognized for 50 years of service with the General Board. He will be retiring in August.
- American Red-Cross was on hand for the annual Blood Drive.
- Quilt Auction of the Association for the Arts Church of the Brethren raised $25,550 for world hunger relief, plus a $2,000 donation.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that RICHMOND, Virginia, will be the location for AC 2008 and the 300th Anniversary of the Brethren.
- Saturday Evening, July 5 :
Moderator Harriet Finney, IN PERFECT HARMONY, Co-District Executive: Indiana South-Central District
- Sunday Morning, July 6 :
Stephen Breck Reid, THE BIG EMPTY IS AWAKE, Professor at Bethany Theological Seminary
- Monday Evening, July 7 :
Dan Ulrich, A WELL-CONNECTED CHURCH, Professor at Bethany Theological Seminary
- Tuesday Evening, July 8 :
Bonnie Kline Smeltzer, RISE TO NEW LIFE, Pastor of University Baptist & Brethren, State College, Pennsylvania
- Wednesday Morning, July 9 :
Rev. Larry Dentler, OPENING THE DOOR TO NEW LIFE, Pastor of Bermudian COB, East Berlin, Pennsylvania
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The 216th Annual Conference (June 29-July 3, 2002) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Kentucky International Convention Center, 221 Fourth Street, Louisville, KY 40202, just a few blocks from the Ohio River with the State of Indiana on the opposite side. Brethren enjoyed the use of a 1999 renovated facility that covers 300,000 square feet of total space, including 200,000 square foot of exhibit space, 145,000 of which is column-free, plus 52 meeting rooms. Additionally impressive were the terrazzo flooring which depicted many of the important events in Kentucky history. The settlement that later became the city of Louisville was founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark and named after King Louis XVI of France. Locating the convention center was very easy as three major Interstates I-64, I-65, and I-71, all pass within a few blocks of the facility and surrounding Hotels. Downtown atmosphere was enjoyable, residents were friendly, and many notable figures of Kentucky were easy to engage in Conversation.
Louisville is naturally home to the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum, easily located by its mammoth 120 foot tall Baseball Bat leaning against the building. Since 1884 they have been literally Turning Out Bats for all major league baseball players, a few of which have been retired to their Baseball Museum following an impressive player career or one-time event. The river walk permitted Conference-goers an opportunity to relax, take a quick river tour on a Paddle-wheel Boat, or adjust their time to the gigantic 40 foot Colgate Clock at the Colgate-Palmolive factory across the river. It has been featured as a backdrop in several motion pictures. For those who like side trips, it's only a few blocks south to Church Hill Downs, famous for the Kentucky Derby, or several miles south to the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox.
Moderator Paul Grout opened the Saturday evening worship service by erecting his Cross of Jesus. He implored conference goers to recognize that sincere repentance is an extremely important segment of preparation before conducting and processing denominational business. Following the Old Testament custom for repentance as found in Daniel 9:3, And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes, Grout provided several tables of Ashes & Sackcloth. Following the main worship service but still under inspirational music, Willing Penitents spread ashes over their heads and set patches of sackcloth on their shoulders to outwardly express their inward spiritual need. Candles on the Worship Table were lit before each service to continually emphasize the theme of repentance. The Children Walking in their monitored groups were often observed around the city, and Tuesday evening is the treasured moment to hear the Children Singing before the evening worship service. Volunteers Quilted hundreds of patches sent in from districts and congregations. Finishing touches are given to the main 2002 Logo Quilt, featuring the Conference logo prominently centered and surrounded by patches from congregations, districts, camps, and agencies. A technological innovation permitted delegates to visually see Proposed Admendment Changes on screen, instead listening to them being read by the Conference Secretary. It was a welcome change.
2002 Conference Officers were Moderator Paul Grout, pastor of Genesis COB, Putney, Vermont; Moderator-elect Harriet Finney, Co-District Executive of Indiana South-Central; and Secretary Cathy Huffman.
- Resolution Of Healing with The Brethren Church headquartered in Ashland, Ohio, received strong approval. This Brethren group was the second to split from the original German Baptist Brethren in 1883, when headed by prominent denominational figure and publisher Henry Holsinger.
- Denominational Name Change was sent to a study committee of Jeff Carter, Ben Barlow, Alberto Gonzalez, Shirley McCracken Spire, and Shawn Kirchner, assigned the task of engaging denominational dialogue on the issue and reporting back to AC 2003 in Boise, Idaho.
- Licensing for Ordination of Homosexual Persons was heavily debated with delegates finally accepting by a narrow two-thirds majority the recommendation of Standing Committee that it violated the spirit of the 1983 Human Sexuality paper: ...it is inappropriate to license or ordain to the Christian ministry any persons who are known to be engaging in homosexual practices.
- A Call to Prayer was affirmed with the delegates asking that resources be further developed, plus establishing a time for prayerful reflection at AC 2003.
- Duties and Relationship of Moderators to the Church of the Brethren Organizational Structure received a call for revision. Discipleship and Reconciliation polity will have a Shalom Team model that will respond in the form of assessment and consultation.
- Church of Northern India Relationship, a General Board Recommendation gained prolonged discussion with the matter eventually being tabled without a further timeline. The paper had called for cooperating with two groups, the Church of North India (CNI) and also with other Brethren who have separated to form their own identity. Questions over land issues and foreign protocols left delegates confused on how best to respond.
- New Life Ministries Request for Reportability to Annual Conference was tabled by the Annual Conference Council until their August meeting. Secretary Cathy Huffman stated: The council was not of one mind.
- 300th Anniversary Theme was announced by the Annual Conference 300th Anniversary Committee to be celebrated until AC 2008: Surrendered
to God, Transformed by Christ, Empowered by the Holy Spirit.
- General Board Deficits reviewed by the Board and its Executive Committee prior to Conference. Financial officers raised a yellow light for the next several years. The remainder of 2002 appears to be stable but the ensuing years will present difficult challenges.
- Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee report was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 1.2%.
- Final registration was a total of 3,802.
- Christopher Bowman, pastor of Memorial COB in Martinsburg, Pennsylvania, elected as Moderator-Elect who will serve at AC 2004 in Charleston, West Virginia.
- Fred Swartz from Manassas, Virgina, was called as Conference secretary. This will end twenty-three years of service as editor of the Conference Journal. Swartz will begin serving at AC 2003 in Boise, Idaho. This year will be the last year of service for Cathy Huffman who began as Conference secretary at AC 1998 in Orlando, Florida.
- AC Executive Director Duane Steiner resigns after ten years of service and is succeeded by Lerry Fogle from Frederick, Maryland. Fogle will also begin his duties at AC 2003 in Boise, Idaho.
- Music coordinator was Andrew Wright, pastor of New Carlisle COB, Ohio, who was a late stand-in for the scheduled coordinator.
- Association for the Arts Church of the Brethren quilt auction raised $18,400 from four twin-bed size quilts, four wall hangings, and one Returned Quilt from AC 2001. One quilt garnered a single-sale record of $6,000.
- Moderator Grout lamented that a US Flag was prominently displayed on the back wall of the convention area and asked to have it removed during the Conference stating: I face another banner, and I'm not sure quite what to do. I find myself in conflict even as we begin. When we focus on the kingdom of God, these become confusing symbols. After convention center officials flatly refused to remove the US Flag, Grout later apologized if his remarks had offended anyone.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that CLEVELAND, Ohio, will be the location for AC 2007.
- Saturday Evening, June 29 :
Moderator Paul Grout, NEW SIGHT, Former pastor of Genesis COB, Putney, Vermont
- Sunday Morning, June 30 :
Eugene F. Roop, TWO SONGS TO SING, President of Bethany Theological Seminary
- Monday Evening, July 1 :
Valentina Satvedi, THE HEART OF THE MATTER, Pastor of South Bay Community congregation
- Tuesday Evening, July 2 :
Dr. Tex Sample, THE UPSIDE DOWN KINGDOM, United Methodist author and pastor
- Wednesday Morning, July 3 :
The Worship Team, ( untitled )
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The 215th Annual Conference (June 30-July 4, 2001) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Baltimore Convention Center, 1 West Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201, located about three blocks from the Inner Harbor complex which includes the National Aquarium and the Baltimore Maritime Museum. The City of Baltimore owns the facility and built it in two phases. An opening date of 1979 at a cost of fifty-one million offered over 425,000 total exhibition and meeting room space square feet with a ceiling height of thirty feet. Just in time for the Brethren, a second building phase completed in April 1997 increased the Center's total space to 1,225,000 square feet. Nearby hotels and the Inner Harbor are accessible by elevated open air skywalks. Annual Conference has previously visited the State of Maryland thirteen (13) times:
Pipe Creek, (moderator unknown) in
and 1867 H.B. Davy, Moderator;
Beaver Dam, 1842 (moderator unknown) and 1853 George Hoke, Moderator;
Hagerstown, 1891 Daniel Vaniman, Moderator;
Frederick, 1897 L.W. Teeter, Moderator;
and Baltimore, 1983 Paul W. Hoffman, Moderator.
There were historical things that happened at this conference
Messenger, the Church of the Brethren flagship publication celebrates its 150th anniversary. During the Tuesday morning business session Henry Kurtz (portrayed by Lee
Krahenbuhl) was invited to share his views on the need for a denominational publication during the 1850s. The real Henry Kurtz started the Gospel Visitor in 1851 in a spring house on a small farm in Ohio. It later merged with the Christian Family Companion and renamed The Primitive Christian. In 1876 it absorbed the Pilgrim. J.T. Myers and L.A. Plate started the Brethren's Messenger from Germantown, Pennsylvania and then moved it to Lanark, Illinois, with a new title, Brethren at Work. In 1883, these two papers were merged to form the Gospel Messenger. The word Gospel was dropped with the January, 1965 issue and the frequency of publication changed from weekly to monthly. All these publications were on exhibit under the title, In The Midst of You.
A Tuesday morning Fire Alarm during a business session witnessed the orderly and respectful egress of delegates from the building, which gave an impressive and memorable witness to the Brethren way of doing things. Thankfully the cause was due to an electrical short-curcuit which present no actual danger to anyone. Some delegates expressed their need for a welcome break. Friday evening is the treasured night to hear the Children's Choir.
SHALL WE GATHER AT THE RIVER:
The theme of the Conference was Revive Us Again taken from Psalm 85:6. Intending to light the fire of revival, Moderator Phil Carlos Archbold gave a stirring call for the Church of the Brethren to be Helpers instead of Hinderers. Moderator Archbold further reminded us that God stirs people to accomplish great tasks for His glory, as when Nehemiah was moved to revive building of the Jerusalem city wall. During the opening part of Saturday's evening worship, a slow procession of worshippers carried District Banners from most of the twenty-three districts. They entered to the music of Shall We Gather at the River, a traditional hymn written by Robert Lowry in 1864. Its poetic call to final rest with God was stiring.
2001 Conference Officers were Moderator Phil Carlos Archbold, pastor of Brooklyn First COB, Brooklyn, New York; Moderator-elect Paul Grout, pastor of Genesis COB, Putney, Vermont; and Secretary Cathy Huffman.
- Process of Calling Denominational Leadership from AC 1999 to make the ministerial calling process more consistent in all districts, and especially the acceptance and certificating of ministers coming from other denominations. Annual Conference balloting procedures will attempted to create greater balance and fairness in the biographical information. Additonally, fifteen (15) General Board members will be elected by the districts, three (3) will be selected by the General Board with affirmation by Annual Conference, and three (3) will be elected by Annual Conference. Process will be in effect for AC 2003.
- Litigation also from AC 1999 was adopted following considerable discussion. Delegates affirmed the basic intent of the item, there were numerous questions over the clear definition of words and the nuances of language. The central issue is the biblical admonition from 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 where Apostle Paul upbraids spiritually minded people who use legal and secular processes of the world to settle spiritual conflicts. This resulted in several amendments, many of which were accepted. The final draft called for Brethren in all careers, including legal careers, to examine what it means to be conformed to Christ in our occupations and daily living.
- Review and Evaluation Committee Report (committee created at AC 1997 to review the continued process of General Board redesign) sought to establish a uniform panel to mitigate administrative and procedural conflicts arising from the General Board Redesign of 1997, and serve to relieve delegate overburden by interpreting polity and resolving misunderstandings between reporting agencies. Acceptance by delegates creates the Annual Conference Council, headed by current officers, the past moderator, another former moderator, and one District Executive. Earl Zeigler and Sandra Bosserman were elected to four year terms.
- Ethnic Representation was adopted per Standing Committee recommendation. The Castaner COB of Puerto Rico in Atlantic Southeast District petitioned Annual Conference to essentially make good on its original 1979 Annual Conference Elections paper that sought to encourage more equal representation of men and women in denominational leadership, and the 1991 Brethren Black Americans paper that acknowledged: the devastating effects of racial discrimination within the church and society, generally we have failed to implement those statements. Standing Committee also praised the efforts of the General Board's Cross Cultural Ministries Team to address these issues.
- Responding to The Brethren Church, was unanimously adopted per Standing Committee recommendation of a General Board resolution asking the denomination: to repent of the stubbornness that has caused brokenness between our denomination and The Brethren Church of Ashland, Ohio, since the Split In 1883.
- Evangelism and Church Planting was adopted. The Virlina District, in view of its AC 2000 query being returned, asked the denomination for: increased attention to evangelism and church planting in the Church of the Brethren, and to heighten awareness of our need to fulfil the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). This year the Virlina District's concerns were met.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 3.6%.
- Total registered attendance was 5,029.
- Harriet Finney, Co-District Executive Minister of Indiana South-Central District, elected as Moderator-Elect who will serve as Moderator at Boise in 2003.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that DES MOINES, Iowa, will be the location for AC 2006.
2001 Annual Conference Report created in Power Point by Michael D. Martin of Phoenix First COB in the Pacific-Southwest District. One hundred and twenty different slides explain Annual Conference business, elections, and committee reports. Great for presenting information to your local congregation.
- Saturday Evening, June 30 :
Phil Carlos Archbold, REVIVE US AGAIN, Brooklyn, New York
- Sunday Morning, July 1 :
Tom Zuercher, AND LET IT BEGIN WITH ME, District Executive/Minister, Northern Ohio District
- Monday Evening Evening, July 2 :
Harold Carter, BREAK OUT, O CHURCH IN EVANGELISTIC VICTORY, Pastor of New Shiloh Baptist Church, Baltimore, Maryland
- Tuesday Evening, July 3 :
Frank Ramirez, REVIVE US AGAIN... IN SOUL WINNING EVANGELISM, Pastor of Elkhart Valley Church of the Brethren, Elkhart, Indiana
- Wednesday Morning, July 4 :
Christy Waltersdorff, REVIVE US AGAIN... TO GO FORTH TO SERVE, Pastor of York Center COB, Lombard, Illinois
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The 214th Annual Conference (July 15-19) of the Church of the Brethren was held in Bartle Hall of the Kansas City Convention Center, located at 301 West 13th Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64105. This huge multilevel convention center houses six different multipurpose facilities which encompasses over eight city blocks and 388,800 square feet of Column Free presentation space. This is achieved with roof mounted cables attached to towers called Sky Stations that support the entire roof, permitting extremely large display constructions which companies now expect of exhibition centers. It was a feat almost necessary since Interstate 670, a six-lane highway, passes directly underneath the center. To permit steady flow of interstate traffic, four 300 foot pylons called Sky Stations to support the center by cables. Bartle Hall claims to be the largest, column free convention environment in the world. Total cost of the project was 91.7 million. It opened in 1994 on schedule. Movement throughout the building is intuitive and enhanced by several well placed escalators and elevators.
Kansas City has more fountains than any city in the world except Rome, Italy. Kansas City is known as the City of Fountains
. There are slightly over 200 Fountains
within the city limits. The nearby Missouri River provides no shortage of water for these fountains, most of which continuously recycle their own water supply. Green conscious Brethren will be happy to know that the League of American Bicyclists has awarded Kansas City, Missouri, with a Bronze Level rating as a Bicycle Friendly Community.
Several miles west on Route 40 one can visit what is left of the Oregon Trail, a 2,000-mile east to west wagon route that linked the Missouri River to Oregon and California. The early trapper footpath of the 1810s was improved enough for wagons by 1840. The Gold Rush of 1849 found it also being called the California Trail. However, the advancing Union Pacific Railroad gradually displaced its usefulness by the 1870s, especially after the completion of the Transcontinental Railway at Promontory Summit, Utah, May 10, 1869.
Annual Conference has previously visited the State of Missouri, five times:
William A. Hayes, Moderator;
I.W. Taylor, Moderator;
D.M. Garver, Moderator;
H.C. Early, Moderator;
Enoch Eby, Moderator.
Brethren are not new to this part of the nation, for Annual Conference has also visited the State of Kansas, nine times:
Earl K. Ziegler, Moderator; 1982
Earle W. Fike, Jr., Moderator; 1976
A. Blair Helman, Moderator; 1917
H.C. Early, Moderator;
W.W. Peters, Moderator;
V.F. Schwalm, Moderator;
D.E. Price, Moderator; 1887
Enoch Eby, Moderator; and
Enoch Eby, Moderator. This is a first time, though, for the city of Kansas City, which happens to be on the Missouri
side of the Missouri River. An easy way to explain the difference between Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, is that all the tall buildings are on the Missouri side of the river. Kansas City on the west side is mostly flat row-homes, factories, schools, and parks.
A new Annual Conference schedule begins this year commencing with Saturday evening worship, followed by Sunday morning worship, Sunday evening business sessions (a first), and continuing with regular daily business sessions, luncheons, insight sessions, and age group activities finishing with closing ceremonies on Wednesday morning. Brethren Ministries LIVE is a new innovation for Annual Conference reportable agencies to present their reports through imaginative use of drama. It was hoped that a storytelling / dramatic approach would create greater interest and appreciation, instead of the traditional often stale monotone reading of reports.
Moderator Emily Mumma ended her Saturday evening message The Most Excellent Way
by telling of a woman in her congregation who experienced continuous, intense pain. Carol telephoned pastor Mumma to say that she had had enough. She was going to end it. The phone call was just her way of saying goodbye. Out of that true life story came Fuzzies. Not the warm, fuzzy experiences to provide comfort and emotional stability that is too often shattered by the cold prickly events of daily life. No, real Fuzzies that you can hold in your hand, stroke, and feel the intimacy of knowing that someone loves you. With a challenge to serve and love from Moderator Mumma, Carol committed herself to making 10,000 Fuzzies by the time of Annual Conference. Someone has suggested that: For every Prickly experience, it generally takes about eight Fuzzies to compensate. Mumma announced to worshippers that she wanted to share Fuzzies from her friend Carol. During the last of her message, Mumma would occasionally throw a Fuzzie
out into the audience from the stage area. It was a positive expression of love to compliment the Annual Conference theme: Love as I have Loved You
, which is taken from the Gospel of John 15:12. Later, ushers carrying boxes filled with Fuzz Balls roamed the aisles and gingerly tossed them into the worshippers. It was a barrage of Fuzzies. It was a love fest. Many recipients thankfully remembered those precious moments of celebrating the warm, fuzzy feeling of receiving Christ's love, as demonstrated through Carol.
2000 Conference Officers were Moderator Emily Mumma from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania; Moderator-elect Phil Carlos Archbold, pastor of Brooklyn First COB, Brooklyn, New York; and Secretary Cathy Huffman.
- Congregational Structure was adopted to evaluate and study our current congregational structures, and propose other congregational options that also maintain the integrity and biblical precedences of our Brethren heritage. Acceptance contained a provision that congregations may adjust options to suit their own unique circumstances.
- Caring for the Poor was adopted with a small number of changes.
- Calling Denominational Leadership study committee was extended another year to complete their duties, with their current information received as an interim report.
- 1981 Diminishing Membership Report was returned per Standing Committee recommendation. The Virlina District Board asked the delegate body to reaffirm the intent of the 1981 Diminishing Membership report which Standing Committee recommended be returned. Delegates affirmed its intent but voted to return it.
- District Executive/Minister Relationship to the Council of District Executives was returned per Standing Committee recommendation. The Pacific Southwest District Board asked for additional enlightenment on the role between the District Executive (called District Minister in some districts) and the Council of
District Executives in the Church of the Brethren organizational structure.
- Update Discipleship and Reconciliation Polity was accepted and a study committee created.
- World Council of Churches Decade to Overcome Violence invitation to join was accepted. Districts and congregations were empowered to decide at the local level as how best to implement their efforts.
- 300th Anniversary Committee in 2008 at Richmond, Virginia is created to plan and develop a year long celebration of the founding of the Church of the Brethren in 1708 at Schwarzenau, Germany.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 3.1%.
- Total registered attendance was 3,458 comprised of 883 Delegates and 2,575 Non-Delegates.
- Paul Grout, pastor of Genesis COB in Putney, Vermont, elected as Moderator who will serve as Moderator of the 2002 Annual Conference in Louisville, KY, and Fred Swartz, Secretary.
- Association for the Arts Church of the Brethren Quilt Auction raised $11,525 from seven twin-bed size quilts and wall hangings.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that PEORIA, Illinois, will be the location for AC 2005.
- Saturday Evening, July 15 :
Emily Mumma, THE MOST EXCELLENT WAY, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania
- Sunday Morning, July 16 :
Joel Nogle, BRAND NEW THING, SAME OLD ME?, Pastor of Gettysburg COB, Pennsylvania.
- Monday Evening, July 17 :
Belita Mitchell, WALK IN LOVE, Los Angeles, California>
- Tuesday Evening, July 18 :
Emanuel Cleaver, WIDE MARGINS OF LIFE, St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, MO
- Wednesday Morning, July 19 :
Thomas Troeger, SEEDED IN THE STARS, Professor at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado
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The 213th Annual Conference (June 29-July 4, 1999) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Milwaukee Arena which is now the U.S Cellular Arena, 400 W. Kilbourn Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203. The exhibition center opened in 1998 with 188,695 square feet of contiguous exhibit space along with a 37,506 square foot ballroom. The arena seats 12,700 people and offers 41,000 feet of floor space. Extensive activity has recently surrounded this convention center with renovation and new construction, as the city is erecting a new exhibition hall that will cover four city blocks at a projected cost of $172 million. According to legend, Milwaukee gets its name from Algonkian Indians who called this area Millioki: gathering place by the waters (Lake Michigan and three converging rivers). It's a culturally diverse city with restaurants serving a broad taste of ethic groups: French, Irish, German, Norwegians, Poles, Czechs, Russians, Yugoslavs, Italians, and Greeks. Preferences also differ from Lake Michigan fresh seafood, cuisine-focused bistros to cheap bohemian college cafes.
Annual Conference was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, once before in 1990 with Moderator Curtis W. Dubble presiding. It may have seemed unusual to some Brethren that the Program & Arrangements Committee would have picked Milwaukee as location for Annual Conference, since Milwaukee has enjoyed and even touted its city acclaim of being: The Beer Capital of the World. Some of the most famous breweries, Pabst, Schlitz, and Miller have contributed to its fame. Actually it was the other way around. Lack of 4th of July holiday business drove the Milwaukee convention association to invite the Brethren to come back at very reasonable rates, explained Duane Steiner, Annual Conference Director. He further addressed questions from delegates as to why Annual Conference is held over this holiday since traffic accidents pose an increased risk. Steiner explained that Annual Conference receives extremely good rates on convention space and hotel accommodations nation wide because most other groups rarely meet over this holiday; an important consideration for the Annual Conference Office that struggles to make financial ends meet. On Friday evening, National Youth Conference Speech Contest Winners presented their messages. Linetta Alley, a student at Bridgewater College, spoke to the title: Living in Community. Cindy Laprade, a high school student from Franklin County, Virginia, addressed evening worshipers with the title: Staying Reconciled.
Friday evening is the treasured night to hear the Children's Choir
. The groups consists of about 140 children under the direction of Peg Lehman from Elgin, IL. Next to the Conference Arena is the Midwest Express Center
(now Frontier Airlines Center
) which hosted all the agency and special interest exhibits. But what seemed to attract the most attention for Conference-goers and vacationers was the incredibly lifelike house Security Guard
who stood right inside the 4th Street tower entrance. Many people stood for several minutes to admire the intricate attention to detail of this plastic and wax creation. Detail of perhaps a sixty year old man that showed freckles, skin deformities, protruding veins, fuss arm hair, naturally looking hands, and the most lifelike facial features.
1999 Conference Officers were Moderator Lowell Flory, chairman for business and economics at McPherson College; Moderator-elect Emily Mumma from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania; and Secretary Cathy Huffman.
- Congregational Structure requested delegates to evaluate and study our current congregational structures, and propose other congregational structure options that also maintain the integrity and biblical precedences of our Brethren heritage. The study committee was granted another year to complete its work.
- Standing Committee Tenure query to extend the length of service from three to five years was rejected.
- Unfunded Mandates was adopted per Standing Committee recommendation that offered a new process for considering the financial impact of unfunded mandates. The recommendation calls for a review committee to assess the magnitude of future mandates.
- Caring for the Poor study committee was granted another year to complete their work and develop a recommendation.
- Ministerial Leadership Statement was adopted with several amendments that calls for historic changes in polity regarding the licensed and ordained ministry, defines consistent guidelines for advancement within the ministry, and outlines clear expectations and requirements for ministerial training. More than nine years in development, this paper sought to achieve consistency among the districts which had dissimilar methods of training, licensing, and ordination. Additionally, pastors from other denominations were received into Brethren ministry in different ways. The paper is the result of years of studies and conversations with ministry commissions from all twenty-three districts, that involves polity and procedural changes. Following the vote Moderator Lowell Flory said: This statement establishes a far clearer set of guidelines and moves us toward consistency from district to district.
- Children and Violence was a General Board approved statement drafted this week that requests congregations to: actively work to change the current culture of violence in communities and schools and to reaffirm the 1978 Annual Conference Statement Violence and the Use of Firearms in its call to eliminate all weapons used for human destruction.
- Non-Violence resolution drafted by General Board was approved that would encourage congregations, districts, and individuals to recommit themselves to stressing our heritage of peace in the wake of school killings. Many people rel ted how gun violence had touched them or their families in a very personal way.
- Litigation query from the Haxtun COB (Colorado) asked for clarification regarding litigation and appropriate Christian response. Brethren have historically endeavored to settle personal disputes by avoiding legal entanglements (1 Corinthians 6:6-7), but our modern litigious society presents complications for Brethren when they are sued by parties outside of the faith walk. The delegate body elected a study committee to present a draft position paper to AC 2001 that would include such guidance.
- Delegates were given a preview of the new conference schedule change that will begin on Saturday and end on Wednesday morning, instead of the current Tuesday to Sunday morning format. The Program and Arrangements Committee explained that the intent is to save one whole day of Conference, and thus permit delegates to take off one less day of work.
- Total registered attendance was 3,528 comprised of 868 Delegates and 2,660 Non-Delegates.
- Phil Carlos Archbold of Brooklyn First COB was elected as Moderator-elect who will will serve as Moderator of the 2001 Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland.
- Blood Drive participants were successful in donating exactly 302 units of blood for the American Red Cross.
- Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised a total of $11,925 to alleviate the suffering from world hunger.
- On Earth Peace Assembly celebrates its 25th birthday in October, 1999.
- Ice cream reigns with the Brethren who consumed about 80 gallons at the Hilton Hotel from Tuesday to Friday. Not to be outdone, Brethren at the Hyatt Hotel vanished 50 gallons per night. Someone calculated that would total about 2,500 cones and about 1,000 sundaes.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that CHARLESTON, West Virginia, will be the location for AC 2004.
- Tuesday Evening, June 29 :
Lowell Flory, WHO, ME?, 1999 Annual Conference Moderator, Professor at McPherson College
- Wednesday Evening, June 30 :
Nancy Faus, THE TIMELINESS OF AN ANCIENT MESSAGE, Retired professor of Bethany, Theological Seminary,Richmond, Indiana
- Thursday Evening, July 1 :
Patrick Mellerson, THE GREAT SERVANT, Pastor of Butler Chapel, Orangeburg, South Carolina
- Friday Evening, July 2 :
Linetta Alley, LIVING IN COMMUNITY, Student at Bridgewater College
Cindy Laprade, STAYING RECONCILED, Student at Franklin County High School, Virginia
- Saturday Evening, July 3 :
Kurt Snyder, WHAT'S THAT SMELL?, Pastor of Roann Church of the Brethren, Roann, Indiana
- Sunday Morning, July 4 :
Paul Mundey, SOARING SERVANTS, Pastor of Frederick Church of the Brethren, Frederick Maryland
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The 212th Annual Conference (June 30-July 5, 1998) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Orange County Convention Center,
9800 International Drive, Orlando, Florida 32819, the second largest convention/exhibition facility in the nation (just behind McCormick Place in Chicago). Spanning over a half-mile in length, this three story building comprises six huge convention halls and seventy-four meeting rooms, individual reception rooms, plus Gigantic Hallways that converge into spacious atrium's with large amounts of glass for natural lighting. Although not open to outside traffic, the central hallway is wide enough to accommodate four coach buses, side by side. The entire complex would provide 1.2 million square feet of exhibition space within a building totaling 4 million square feet. If you like to walk, you've found the right place. In fact, many physically challenged Brethren without the benefit of scooters did express disappointment at the long walking distances which also included another three to four hundred yards from the convention complex to the two closest hotels. The convention center was completed in four phases between 1983 and 1996, two short years before the Brethren arrived. The newness of the facility was noticeable and appreciated.
Seven quick miles southwest on Interstate 4 toward Tampa is Disney World
, the world's largest and most-visited recreational resort having four major theme parks, twenty-three on site hotels, camp grounds, fitness centers, and spas. The park opened in 1971 with the Magic Kingdom and its towering castle. Epcot Center was added in 1982, Hollywood Studios in 1989, and Animal Kingdom in April 22, 1998, just two short months before the Brethren arrived. Twelve miles northwest is the host Atlantic Southeast
district's outdoor ministry Camp Ithiel
and its motto: A Quite Space ... near a Busy Place.
Conference-goers participated in two major historical celebrations that were observed this year: 75th Anniversary of Nigerian Church of the Brethren and 50th Anniversary of Brethren Volunteer Service. On Friday morning, July 3, delegates were treated to a re-enactment of that 1948 historical moment when 22 year-old, 4' 10" Ted Chambers mounted a strategically placed orange crate in front of a microphone, to introduce a new business item that was not on the regular agenda. In his place, Matt Stauffer, assistant director of BVS orientation stood on a similar crate as did Chambers in 1948, but this time proposing another 50 years of volunteer service projects. Moderator Sollenberger asked for all BVSers and future prospective inductees to stand in recognition. The motion to continue BVS for another fifty years was adopted with a concert of applause.
Moderator Elaine Sollenberger is the first woman to serve as Annual Conference moderator in 1989 and again in 1998, thus completing two historical firsts. She was appointed by AC 1997 delegates to fill the position of Moderator vacated by Moderator-elect Jimmy Ross who resigned for health
reasons. The new General Board web site Brethren.Org is now online and conference business, news, tid-bits, and sermons will go immediately from the News Service to this new web presence, instead of through COB-NET.
1998 Conference Officers were Moderator Elaine Sollenberger from Everett, Pennsylvania; Moderator-elect Lowell Flory, chairman for business and economics at McPherson College; and Secretary Cathy Huffman.
- New Testament as our Rule of Faith and Practice was adopted per Standing Committee recommendation with little discussion, since there were very few changes to its content when presented to AC 1997 as a draft statement.
- World Mission Philosophy and Global Church Mission Structure was adopted with near unanimous approval. The Virlina District requested that Annual Conference more clearly define district responsibilities for their congregations outside of the United States, because complications and uncertainty have arisen especially in the training of persons to those areas of ministry.
- On Earth Peace Assembly Request for Reportability to Annual Conference was adopted without serious objection.
- Association of Brethren Caregivers Request for Reportability to Annual Conference was adopted with near unanimous approval.
- Congregational Structure was adopted that included appointing a three-person study committee to present a report at AC 1999 on the most efficient ways for congregations to reorganize according to their own membership size and uniqueness.
- Caring for the Poor was overwhelmingly adopted per Standing Committee recommendation which included appointing a three-person study committee to explore ways that congregations may become more involved in alleviating poverty.
- Fetal Tissue Use was returned per recommendation of Standing Committee following discussion and some confusion regarding the original and larger request for a study committee to examine this issue when updating the 1987 Genetic Engineering Statement.
- Process Regarding Unfunded Annual Conference Mandates was adopted per Standing Committee recommendation.
- Plural Non-Salaried Ministry report by the Polity for Free Ministry task force was adopted per Standing Committee recommendation. This paper seeks to clarify the status of the free ministry in the professional pastor dominated arena of ministry, and requests that possibilities if the free ministry model not be overlooked by congregations.
- Relationship with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) report was given to Standing Committee by the Committee on Interchurch Relations who were charged by AC 1997 to explore the financial costs and implications of a relationship with the NAE, including a lesser role as observer status. The CIR report to Standing Committee was accepted with a recommendation to appoint a visitor to the next NAE convention. In a following session, Standing Committee rescinded the visitor recommendation, but encouraged the CIR to seek Brethren who participate with NAE and gather information for a future report.
- Inter-Agency Forum was founded at AC 1997 to work with the Annual Conference agencies so that the mission of each one might be more effective and in greater harmony with the others. IAF asked to continue working on the organizational issues related to the ongoing restructuring of the General Board.
- Proposed Changes to the Brethren Benefit Trust Articles of Organization was adopted that would broaden the scope of the Retired Church Workers Fund (to include active pastors) and change its name to: the Church Workers Assistance Plan.
- 300th Anniversary of the Church of the Brethren was anticipated by Standing Committee and requested that the Inter-Agency Forum create an anniversary committee to coordinate efforts among the different agencies and explore networking with other Brethren groups, to jointly celebrate the 300th Anniversary at during the entire year of 2008 and especially at AC 2008.
- Role of Standing Committee Subcommittee suggested that, due to increased responsibilities of Standing Committee, it might be advisable to lengthen the term of service of members from three to five years. Opponents voiced concern that a longer term may deny fresh perspective from new members. Since this would also be a change in Polity, Standing Committee accepted the report as a tool for continued guidance.
- Total registered attendance was 3,509 comprised of 893 Delegates and 2,616 Non-Delegates.
- Emily Mumma of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, was elected as Moderator-elect to serve in 2000 at Kansas City.
- Judy Mills Reimer is elected as the new executive director of the General Board to fill the vacancy of outgoing board chair Chris Bowman.
- Celebrated 75 years of Brethren presence in Nigeria.
- Blood Drive participants were successful in donating 221 units of blood for the Central Florida Blood Bank.
- AACOB quilt auction totaled near $14,000 from its regular and silent auctions to benefit people in Nicaragua, Korea, and the Washington, D.C. Soup Kitchen.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that BOISE, Idaho, will be the location for AC 2003.
- Tuesday Evening, June 30 :
William Willimon, FAITHFULNESS: KEEPING ON SEEING, Professor of Christian Ministry, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
- Wednesday Evening, July 1 :
Elaine Sollenberger, LIVING THE CONNECTION, 1998 Annual Conference Moderator, Everett, Pennsylvania
- Thursday Evening, July 2 :
Fred Swartz, MAKING THE REAL SACRIFICE, Pastor of Manassas COB, Manassas, Virginia
- Friday Evening, July 3 :
William S. Coffin, TO SET AT LIBERTY THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, Retired Pastor of Riverside Church, New York City
- Saturday Evening, July 4 :
Donna Forbes Steiner, FAITHFUL PEOPLE WITH A HEART FOR WORSHIP, Associate District Executive, Atlantic-Northeast District
- Sunday Morning, July 5 :
Robert Alley, GOING WITH A PROMISE, Pastor, Bridgewater COB, Bridgewater, Virginia
|Click images to enlarge
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.
FIRST ANNUAL CONFERENCE MODERATOR ON THE WEB:
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.
- World Mission Philosophy and Global Church Mission Structure progress report was presented to delegates. This item looks at structural problems faced by congregations who administrate congregations outside the United States. It will return to AC 1998 for acceptance.
- New Testament as Our Rule of Faith and Practice was presented to Standing Committee and copies will be made available to Conference attendees. This item will return as unfinished business at AC 1998.
- Denominational Polity Statement on Property and Stewardship Issues was adopted. This regards the authority of each district to preserve congregational property and other assets in the case that a congregation may neglect such or default on loans.
- Fetal Tissue Use was a firebrand issue that put delegates into lengthy and forceful debate. Some voices feared that approval of this business would promote the abortion industry which is the only source of fetal tissue. Other voices attempted to champion the benefits of fetal research related to alleviation those experiencing pain and suffering. After a moment of prayer and thoughtful consideration, Moderator Wine suggested: God has not spoken to us in uniformity on this issue, but has spoken to us as a body The item was returned to Standing Committee who were charged to formulate a recommendation to be presented at AC 1998.
- Human Genetic Engineering was adopted with little discussion.
- The Review and Evaluation Committee presented its final report and was adopted. The committee had also decided at the 1995 Annual Conference to study and review the work of the General Board over the past decade.
- The delegate body was reminded during business sessions that the Congregational Structure issue, though still an item of business, has been deferred until AC 1998 when it will be received as a new item of business.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a cost of living adjustment of 3.2%.
- Due to health reasons, moderator-elect Jimmy Ross is vacating his position. Delegates accepted per Standing Committee recommendation that Elaine
Sollenberger be appointed to serve as Moderator in 1998 at Orlando, Florida.
- Total registered attendance was 3,325 comprised of 826 Delegates and 2,499 Non-Delegates.
- Lowell Flory of McPherson, Kansas, was elected as Moderator-elect to serve in 1999 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Flory is a professor and chairman for business and economics at McPherson College.
- Retiring Annual Conference secretary Anne Myers of North Manchester, IN, received a standing ovation from the delegate body for her ten years of service to the Conference. Association for the Arts presented her with a quilt that included the ten Annual Conference logos of each year of her service.
- Cathy Simmons Huffman of Rocky Mount, Virginia, was elected Annual Conference Secretary and will serve for five years.
- Jonathan Shively served as Music Coordinator.
- Brethren were joined on July 4th in downtown Long Beach by a crowd of more than 20,000. The city of Long Beach has a reputation of offering the great fireworks, second only to Disneyland.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, will be the location for AC 2002.
- Tuesday Evening, July 1 :
David Wine, COUNT WELL THE COST, President of Mutual Aid Association, Abilene, Kansas
- Wednesday Evening, July 2 :
Judith Kipp, NOT TO BE TRIFLED WITH, Pastor of Ridgeway Community COB, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- Thursday Evening, July 3 :
Dawn Wilhelm, THE SIMPLE LIFE, Pastor of Stone COB, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania
- Friday Evening, July 4 :
Millard Fuller, HAMMERING HOME SERVICE, President of Habitat for Humanity, Americus, Georgia
- Saturday Evening, July 5 :
Glenn Mitchell, WHAT THE STONES KNOW, Pastor of University Baptist & Brethren Church, State College, Pennsylvania
- Sunday Morning, July 6 :
Rich Hanley, LAUNCH OUT, INTO THE DEEP, District Executive of Western Plains District
The First Church of the Brethren Annual Conference on the WEB
A cooperative effort of COB-NET and the News Service of the General Board
The 210th Annual Conference (July 3-7, 1996) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the (then named) Albert B. Sabin Convention Center, 525 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. When the convention center opened in 1968, it was named after Dr. Albert Sabin who developed the polio vaccine. Over the years it has been renovated several times and experienced three grand openings, the last being in 2006 as the Duke Energy Convention Center. There is over 750,000 square feet of exhibit hall, meeting hall, and entertainment space. Duke Energy, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a Fortune 500 company supplying 35,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity in the Carolinas and the Midwest, and natural gas distribution services in Ohio and Kentucky. Brethren will be happy to know that Duke Energy is a green company that is focusing on renewable sources of energy.
Annual Conference has been held in the State of Ohio seventeen times and twice before in Cincinnati: 1987 with Moderator Guy E. Wampler, and 1972 with Moderator Dale W. Brown. In 1790, the city (more of a settlement) was named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, the retired Roman consul who was entreated from his farm to save the Republic by Senators who promised him unchecked authority. He saved the city of Rome from plunder by the Sabines from one direction and the Aequi from another. He humiliated both foes with incredible wisdom and iron-fisted resolve. Rome welcomed their hero with a gigantic celebration, but after enjoying the unquestioned power of a dictator for only sixteen days, he relinquished that power and returned to his farm and family. Cincinnatus is regarded as the virtuous politician who truly serves the people by completing his term and then leaving office to go back home, instead of the modern career politician who feathers his/her nest with exemptions, privileges, favors, pensions, and most of all - tenure. What an inspiration for the delegates this year as they tackle a mountain of business.
1996 was the first year that Annual Conference enjoyed a cyber home ON THE WEB, a technological milestone for the Church of the Brethren. The COB News Service of the General Board worked directly with Church of the Brethren Network, by providing special communication about news, daily journals, and sermons to be uploaded each day of the week. Non-conference going Brethren were able to keep updated on Conference business and worship as the News Service of the General Board sent information directly to COB-NET for posting. In the middle 1990s this achievement was of little notice to many Brethren, for only a three churches, two colleges, and one camp had a web site. Nonetheless, this is history.
1996 was also the first year that Habitat For Humanity enjoyed a simultaneous presence with Conference attendees. In what has been described as a blitz-build, hundreds of volunteers labored to construct and completely finish, Three Houses in Ten Days. This was also the tenth anniversary for Habitat for Humanity in the city of Cincinnati. Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity was present at a Friday luncheon to personally congratulate the workers and encourage all Brethren to: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
2011 Conference Officers were Moderator H. Fred Bernhard, then pastor of Oakland Church of the Brethren, Gettysburg, Ohio; Moderator-elect David Wine of Abilene,
Kansas and then president of Mutual Aid Association; and Secretary Anne Myers.
- Ministerial Leadership final report from the committee will be presented to delegates. As it waited for a final report, last year's Conference called for a five year emphasis on ministerial leadership to begin immediately in preparation for the final report on the denomination's ministerial structure.
- The Simple Life Study Committee will present its paper to Conference delegates. The committee, which was named at the 1994 Annual Conference, was chosen to study ways to re-emphasize the Brethren tradition of the simple life and to discern its full meaning in our time.
- Congregational Ethics final draft from the Study Committee will be presented to delegates. The paper, which grew out of the 1992 Ethics in Ministry Relations statement, reviews the ethical guidelines of congregations in such areas as church responsibilities to its pastors and the denomination at large.
- Nonviolence and Humanitarian Intervention from the General Board will be presented for final approval. The paper, which was a congregational study document during the past year, questions the use of armed forces to deliver humanitarian aid. According to Tim McElwee, director of the Washington Office, this business item is an example of a paper that had its origin from congregational inquiries.
- End of Life Decision-Making final draft will be submitted to Conference delegates by the General Board. The paper includes last year's query on Assisted Suicide. Although this statement began as a rewrite of the 1975 Annual Conference Life Stewardship paper, the committee instead chose to present a brief faith statement because so much has happened with 'end-of-life' issues since 1975. Thus, a rewrite of an existing paper seemed insufficient, the committee said.
- Office of Deacon statement will be given by the drafting committee as it aims to bring recommendations to the 1997 Conference. The committee's work centers on reviewing and updating the 1983 statement on the Office of Deacon.
- Human Genetic Engineering and Fetal Tissue Use study committee on will give a report of its review of the 1987 statement as its prepares for its final report in 1997.
- The Review and Evaluation Committee will give its interim report, and will return to the 1997 Annual Conference with its final evaluation. The five-member committee has spent its first year reviewing the General Board and its programs.
- Congregational Structure from the Atlantic Northeast District after an appointed task committee concluded that all congregations cannot fit into the present denominational structure system. According to District Executive Allen Hansell, the committee found that the current structure is not flexible enough with a board and three commissions, and ministry issues should mold ministry teams, not vice versa, as is done in the current structure. Hansell added that Annual Conference has not addressed the issue of congregational structure in more than 30 years.
- How Christian Faith Should be Expressed in the Political Process, from Northern Indiana District. This query originated in a Crest Manor Church of the Brethren, South Bend, Indiana, Sunday school class. The class determined that the church's involvement in politics is an issue for denominational study. According to District Executive Herman Kauffman, the concern is over various groups taking a political stance in the name of the church.
- The New Testament as our Rule of Faith and Practice, from the Middle Pennsylvania District Board which questions the recurring issues that have come to Conference in recent years concerning this basic denominational tenet, said District Executive Randall Yoder. The query asks Annual Conference for a statement of interpretation on our understanding of the New Testament.
- The Ethics in Ministry Relations statement revision was initiated by Standing Committee after Conference adopted the paper in 1992. The paper has been revised and expanded, especially in the area dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct. The final report will be brought to Standing Committee, and, if approved, to Annual Conference delegates.
- Statement on Child Exploitation, originating from the 1995 Christian Citizenship Seminar. It received General Board approval in March and is being sent to Annual Conference with the recommendation that it become a study paper for one year, returning in 1997 for final approval. The paper deals with ethical behavior of multinational corporations, and consumers who buy goods made by children in developing countries.
- Guidelines for Developing and Recommending Curriculum in the Church of the Brethren, from the General Board. If approved by Conference, the guidelines will be available for use throughout the denomination. The last set of guidelines were approved by the 1986 Annual Conference.
- Church of the Brethren's Pastors' Insurance Package. A proposed change will be brought by the Annual Conference Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee. The committee recommends that the maximum Life and Accidental Death and Dismemberment benefit be increased from $40,000 to $50,000.
- World Mission Philosophy and Global Structure, from Virlina District asking that Annual Conference determine district responsibilities with congregations outside the US, define set-apart ministry and calling in other countries, and develop a better system to include these congregations in the actions of Annual Conference.
- Denominational Polity: Property and Stewardship Issues was repackaged into a substitute motion: a committee be appointed to review and recommend revision on polity to allow districts and the General Board to assume ownership of real property in cases of default and report their recommendations to the 1997 Annual Conference.. Originally, Standing Committee had recommended that each district take responsibility for legal agreements and loans to congregations.
- Total registered attendance was 4,935 comprised of 918 Delegates and 4,017 Non-Delegates.
- Andrew Wright served as the Music Coordinator, and introduced contemporary music, along with a group of talented musicians from Ohio Southern District.
- Jimmy Ross of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, was elected as Moderator-elect to serve in 2000 at Kansas City, Missouri.
- A first for Annual Conference. A Habitat For Humanity house was built by Conference attendees. Founder Millard Fuller was present on Friday at its completion.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that Baltimore, Maryland, will be the location for AC 2001.
- Tuesday Evening
Worship Leader ~ David Wine - Moderator-elect and president of Mutual Aid Association
Evening Speaker ~ Fred Bernhard - O GIVE ME A HOME - Annual Conference moderator and pastor of Oakland Church of the Brethren, Gettysburg, Ohio
- Wednesday Evening
Worship Leader ~ Bob Kurtz - Pastor of Potsdam, Ohio COB
Evening Speaker ~ Robin Wentworth Mayer - COME AS YOU ARE - Pastor of Kokomo, Indiana, Church of the Brethren
- Thursday Evening
Worship Leaders ~ Mary Jane and Tim Button-Harrison, team pastors of Ankeny (Iowa) COB
Evening Speaker ~ Pete Kaltenbaugh - WHO IS WELCOME AT THE TABLE? - Pastor of Hartville, Ohio, Church of the Brethren
- Friday Evening
Worship Leader ~ Jim Chinworth, pastor of Mountville COB
Evening Speaker ~ Joyce Stoltzfus - AN HONEST WELCOME - Pastor of Glade Valley Church of the Brethren, Walkersville, Maryland
- Saturday Evening
Worship Leader ~ Elizabeth Kee, interim pastor of Covington (Ohio) COB
Evening Speaker ~ Richard Schreckhise - SOMEONE'S KNOCKIN' AT THE DOOR - Pastor of Annville Church of the Brethren, Annville, Pennsylvania
- Sunday Morning
Worship Leader ~ Keith Funk, pastor of East Chippewa COB
Morning Speaker ~ Stafford Frederick - LIVING OR DYING, GLORIFY GOD - Pastor of Olathe Church of the Brethren, Olathe, Kansas and General Board member