The 2016 Annual Conference will be the 230th recorded annual meeting of the Church of the Brethren, on June 29-July 3 in Greensboro, N.C., at the Koury Convention Center and Sheraton Hotel. All are invited, particularly members and attenders of the church, as well as family and friends. Each congregation and district is encouraged to send its delegates. More information and registration is at www.brethren.org/ac. Contact the Conference Office at 800-323-8039.
On the agenda
Districts have passed five queries to the Conference officers for consideration in 2016:
- “Same-Sex Weddings” from West Marva District
- “On Earth Peace Reportability/Accountability to Annual Conference” from West Marva District
- “Viability of On Earth Peace as an Agency of the Church of the Brethren” from Southeastern District
- “Living as Christ Calls” from Pacific Southwest District, and
- “Continuing the Study of Our Christian Responsibility to Care for God’s Creation” from Illinois and Wisconsin District
Because the 2011 Conference decided “to continue deeper conversations concerning human sexuality outside of the query process,” the officers will ask Standing Committee to first decide whether to recommend that the delegate body reopen the query process to discuss a topic related to human sexuality. Only if the delegates decide it is time to open up the topic again through the query process, can a recommendation regarding the query on same-sex marriage be considered. The full text of the queries is online at www.brethren.org/ac/2016/business.
Also on the agenda are numerous reports and interim reports from three committees: the Review and Evaluation Committee, the Vitality and Viability Committee, and the committee charged with bringing a “Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century.”
Hearings will be held by the Review and Evaluation Committee and the Vitality and Viability Committee on the opening evening, June 29.
On the ballot
Additional information, including candidate profiles, is available at www.brethren.org/ac/2016/business/ballot.html.
Annual Conference moderator-elect: Samuel Kefas Sarpiya of Rockford, Ill., and Walt Wiltschek of Broadway, Va.
Program and Arrangements Committee: Emily Shonk Edwards of Nellysford, Va., and John Shafer of Oakton, Va.
Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee: Raymond Flagg of Lebanon, Pa., Elsie Holderread of McPherson, Kan.
Mission and Ministry Board, Area 3: Marcus Harden of Gotha, Fla., and John Mueller of Fleming Island, Fla.
Mission and Ministry Board, Area 4: Katie Carlin of Monument, N.M., and Luci Landes of Kansas City, Mo.
Mission and Ministry Board, Area 5: Thomas Dowdy of Long Beach, Calif., and Mark Ray of Covington, Wash.
Bethany Theological Seminary, representing the laity: Miller Davis (incumbent) of Westminster, Md., and Robert C. Johansen of Granger, Ind.
Bethany Theological Seminary, representing the colleges: Mark A. Clapper of Elizabethtown, Pa., and Bruce W. Clary of McPherson, Kan.
Brethren Benefit Trust board: Katherine Allen Haff of North Manchester, Ind., and David L. Shissler of Hummelstown, Pa.
On Earth Peace board: Beverly Sayers Eikenberry of North Manchester, Ind., and Mary Kay Snider Turner of Gettysburg, Pa.
June 29: Moderator Andy Murray will give the opening sermon.
June 30: Kurt Borgmann, pastor of Manchester Church of the Brethren, North Manchester, Ind., will preach.
July 1: Dennis Webb, pastor of Naperville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, will bring the message.
July 2: Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Seminary, will preach.
July 3: The closing sermon will be by J. Eric Brubaker, a minister at Middle Creek Church of the Brethren, Lititz, Pa.
Concerts and dramas
“Sing with Us,” a hymn sing and concert with Brethren musicians Shawn Kirchner, Mutual Kumquat, and Terry Murray, is open to all Conferencegoers on the first evening, June 29. The concert is sponsored by Bethany Seminary.
The Ted & Co. drama 12 Baskets and a Goat will be performed during the “Jubilee Afternoon” on June 31 as a benefit. There is no cost to attend, but items will be auctioned to support the work of Heifer International. The drama is sponsored by Brethren Benefit Trust and the Council of District Executives.
A Jubilee afternoon on July 1 will offer a range of activities for the whole family including opportunities to serve and reach out to the community, learn more about the civil rights history of Greensboro, enjoy “mini-concerts,” participate in inter-generational activities, take in “Equipping Workshops” on three tracks–Spiritual Practices, Bible Study, and Music–and even eat ice cream.
Greensboro’s civil rights legacy
The Jubilee afternoon includes bus trips to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in downtown Greensboro. This archival center, museum, and teaching facility is devoted to the international struggle for civil and human rights. It celebrates the nonviolent protests of the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins that served as a catalyst in the civil rights movement. The museum is housed in the original F. W. Woolworth building where the “Greensboro Four” sit-in movement began. The guided tour showcases numerous films, enactments, interactive displays, live narration, and civil rights artifacts that include the original lunch counter. Tickets may be purchased when registering for the Conference at www.brethren.org/ac.
Several insight sessions and meal events also highlight Greensboro’s civil rights legacy and links it to today’s concerns. See the list of guest speakers or go to www.brethren.org/ac/2016/activities.
Other sites of interest in Greensboro are listed at www.brethren.org/ac/2016/greensboro.
Jubilee afternoon service projects include a community prayer walk, a Random Act of Kindness activity to hand out water bottles at the Four Seasons Town Centre, serving at the Habitat ReStore, sorting and organizing food at Greensboro’s Urban Ministry Food Pantry, gardening with clients at a facility serving people with developmental or other disabilities called Peace Haven Farm, building a fence at the Caldcleugh Organic Outreach Garden, and entertaining children at Shalom Christian Community Church Camp.
Those who have registered for the Conference but have not yet indicated interest in a service project may contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who have not yet registered may sign up during the registration process.
Witness to the host city
Conferencegoers are invited to bring items to donate as part of a collection for BackPack Beginnings and Encore! Boutique Thrift Store.
BackPack Beginnings provides children in need with nutritious food, comfort items, and basic necessities. Donate hygiene items for Comfort BackPacks from the following list: toothbrushes, toothpaste, new backpacks, shampoo, new washcloths, spiral notebooks (wide-ruled), combs or hairbrushes, fleece blankets that are rolled and tied with a ribbon.
Encore! Boutique Thrift Store is part of First Presbyterian Church’s Step Up Program providing job readiness and life skills training, and economic stability. The boutique provides professional clothing for people interviewing for and starting new jobs. Bring gently used classic clothing, shoes, and accessories for men and women, including business casual and professional attire. Please bring only dresses, pantsuits, suits, dress shirts, dress pants, belts, shoes, and handbags, that are in top-quality condition.
A number of events before and during the Conference offer
continuing education credit, among them:
The Ministers’ Association Pre-Conference Event, “Walking Toward Peace” with John Dear, June 28-29.
Two workshops on congregational care and vitality, June 29: “Living in Unconditional Love: The Power of Forgiveness,” 9 a.m.-12 noon; “How Our Story Shapes Us,” 1:30-4:30 p.m.
A Latino Leadership Conference on the theme “Para Su Gloria,” June 29, 12-6 p.m.
“Equipping Insight Sessions” on a wide variety of topics are offered June 30. Many other insight sessions and events also offer continuing education credit. A detailed schedule is included in the Conference Book.
International and ecumenical guests
Stephanie Adams, director of the Greensboro office of Church World Service, will lead an insight session on “Showing Hospitality to Strangers: Action for Refugee Resettlement.”
Dominican Church of the Brethren board president Rafael Augusto Mendieta Amancio and treasurer Gustavo Bueno Lendi, insight session, “Iglesia de los Hermanos– Looking Forward and Looking Outward.”
Vildor Archange, community health coordinator for Haiti Water Projects, and Jean Bily Telfort, staff of the Haiti Medical Project, insight session, “New Pure Water Projects and Maternal Care Work in Haiti.”
Britt Cesarone, president of Ponder Investment Co., insight session, “Keeping an Eye on the Market.”
Jennifer Copeland, executive director of North Carolina Council of Churches, General Secretary’s Luncheon.
Alan Cross, Evangelical Immigration Table, Montgomery, Ala., insight session, “Hispanic Ministries in America–The Sojourner, the Law, and God’s Law.”
Joyce and Nelson Johnson, co-directors of the Beloved Community Center and founders of Greensboro’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, insight sessions, “Biblical Basis for Racial Justice: A Black Lives Matter Update” and “Greensboro’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
Wesley Morris, Beloved Community Center, Congregational Life and Intercultural Ministries Dinner, “The Pain You Don’t See–Bridging the Gap Between Dr. King’s ‘Two Americas.’
Ruoxia Li and Eric Miller, who have established a hospice program in Pingding, once the center of the Church of the Brethren mission in China, Global Mission and Service Dinner.
Tracy S. Murray, founder of RecycloCraftz, Elizabethtown College Alumni and Friends Luncheon, “Bringing Hope in a Handbag to Zambia.”
Marie Schuster, refugee resettlement case manager, International Institute of Buffalo, N.Y., insight session, “BVS: Informing Current Refugee Resettlement.”
Wayne and Turner Tamborelli, president couple of North Carolina Better Marriages Organization, insight session, “Every Marriage Can Be Better–Starting with Our Own!”
Julie Taylor, executive director National Farm Worker Ministry, insight session, “Shining Light on America’s Fields.”
Request for photos
Every congregation is invited to send creative pictures of its ministries illustrating the Conference theme “Carry the Light.” Photographs will be used for a “congregational collage” on the screens before and after worship and business sessions. Send no more than 10 photographs in jpg format, including one of the church building or meeting place. Send photographs as e-mail attachments to email@example.com with the subject line “Collage and [name of congregation].” Photos are due no later than May 15.
Children’s and other group activities
Mutual help groups, single adults, and age groups will have special programming. Childcare is provided for the youngest children, and programming and field trips for children in elementary school, junior high, and senior high. Young adults also have an activity each day.