Annual Conference is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren.
Preparation and Processing of Queries
The work of the Lord that transpires at Annual Conference is vital to our denomination and, always in some way, has some bearing on Kingdom work. The work we do at Annual Conference that we call ‘business’ explores our faith in God, provides meaningful information for Christian living and sets forth shared understanding for following Jesus. Our work together at Conference, positioned between and amid a spirit of worship, is central to who we are as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Over the years, queries have become the primary vehicle for bringing a business item to Annual Conference. A process for generating a query was developed and has been refined over the years to improve the quality of the work we do for and with the Lord. The methodology that we have today for query creation is one that aims for thoughtful, spiritual inquiry and thorough preparation.
Many queries have been carefully researched, developed, presented and moved to action on the delegate floor of Annual Conferences as a result of following the proven query process of our denomination. Some, however, lack thorough research before submission, may not be well written and, very importantly, may not ask a question to be considered; rather, they offer solutions and suggestions. Some queries are sent to the Annual Conference Office without appropriate and required authorization and trackage, required to consider them official business items for Standing Committee and Annual Conference.
Many undesired results are achieved by not carefully following the methodology developed for query creation. Some queries are very confusing to Standing Committee and Annual Conference delegates. Some queries have already been answered and should not be submitted. Some are not queries at all and would be better served as resolutions, processed through an agency of the church.
Annual Conference officers realize that queries can take quite a long time getting to the Conference floor and have been hesitant to return those that do not properly follow procedure. With a growing increase in incomplete and invalid queries, however, it is getting increasingly difficult to accept items that have not been thoroughly reviewed and handled. Though it may mean that a query intended to reach Conference the following summer fails to do so, future queries that are not complete will likely be returned for further processing.
Preparation and Processing of Queries
The Right to Raise Questions and Seek Answers
Any member of the church, or any congregation, has a right to raise questions and concerns that relate to the Christian life or to the mission and work of the church. Counsel and help may be sought from the pastor or the local church board, the district executive or the district board or commissions, the Mission and Ministry Board (formerly General Board), or the Church of the Brethren staff (formerly General Board staff). When an adequate and satisfactory answer to an important question cannot be found in any of the above channels, a query may be formulated to go to Annual Conference. (Minutes 1965-1969, p. 317)
Types of Questions That May Go to Conference for Consideration
Distinction should be made between different types of questions and concerns. Legislative action by the highest deliberative assembly of the church is not necessarily the most helpful answer to many concerns that we may have.
On any matter when legislation by the Conference is felt to be necessary, a query is the means to follow. A query may originate in the local church, in the district, in the Mission and Ministry Board, or in the Standing Committee. (Minutes 1965-1969, p. 317)
The following procedures should be followed in the preparation and the processing of a query.
Note: In 1991 Annual Conference adopted a Standing Committee recommendation . . . that current polity be interpreted so that any query arising from a congregation or from a district board must be approved by a district conference in order to be accepted by Standing Committee as an item of business; . . . (Minutes 1991).
Recommendation for Preparation of Queries
The query should always state clearly the issue, remain open-ended for the widest possible base of judgment and response, and include some of the factual details by which to identify it. The following specific suggestions may prove to be helpful. The query should:
Queries coming from the Standing Committee will follow as many of the above specific suggestions as apply. (Minutes 1965-1969, p. 60).
The officers of Annual Conference shall list queries for consideration by Conference which in their judgment have fulfilled the preliminary steps. (Minutes 1965-1969, pp. 318-319)
The Standing Committee of Annual Conference, fulfilling its legislative functions, studies all queries and items of new business and recommends answers to the delegate body. (Minutes 1965-1969, p. 318)
Over the years, a variety of ways of recommending actions regarding queries has evolved. The following is a summary of some of the options to be followed by Standing Committee:
If for any reason Standing Committee does not feel it appropriate for Annual Conference to consider the query, it can recommend that the query be returned with a letter of explanation from Standing Committee stating the reasons for the return.
The delegate body of Annual Conference can:
(If the final answer presented in response to a query is totally rejected by the Conference, the query shall be regarded as unanswered and shall be immediately disposed of as though it were an item of new business.) (Minutes 1965-1969, p. 260)
The final decision regarding a query made by the delegate body of Annual Conference is the directive which is followed.
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