Annual Conference attendee receives death threat


A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Our communications staff have received feedback that the information about the threat made at Annual Conference -- included in the July 7 Newsline overview of the Conference -- was missed by many readers. Although information about the death threat was shared immediately with the delegate body on Tuesday, July 5, this more detailed news account was held until the victim was ready to have it released. The victim does not wish to be named publicly.

A credible death threat was received by an attendee of the 2011 Annual Conference, during the event held in Grand Rapids, Mich. The recipient of the threat is a gay person, and the threat made reference to the person’s sexuality.

The person had been receiving harassing e-mail communications for about a year in advance of the Conference. Onsite in Grand Rapids, the victim received threatening notes slipped under the hotel room door. The nature of the threats escalated onsite.

A statement about the threat was shared with the whole Conference at the start of the extra evening business session on July 5, which had been made necessary by the length of time earlier in the day for Special Response discussions related to human sexuality.

General secretary Stan Noffsinger was called to the microphone to share the following statement, and Annual Conference moderator Robert E. Alley then led the body in prayer.

"When we come to Annual Conference we’re a family and we have a concern related to a member of our family," Noffsinger said "When one person is affected, the Bible assures us that we all are affected. A gay person here at Annual Conference has received a credible death threat. We have contacted security, and the Grand Rapids police are involved in the investigation. 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. This is not behavior that is acceptable within the Church of the Brethren and we want to be very clear that it will not be tolerated."

Police have been investigating both the e-mails and the threatening notes. To our knowledge no identification has been made of the perpetrator.

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