Newsline Special: Standing Committee report and recommendation on Special Response




The Annual Conference officers today released the Standing Committee report and recommendation on the two "Special Response" business items related to issues of sexuality--"A Statement of Confession and Commitment" and "Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships." The Standing Committee of district delegates held its discussions of the two items in closed sessions during pre-Conference meetings.

Read the accompanying report of the Forms Reception Committee, a committee of Standing Committee that received and collated the reports from Special Response hearings that took place in each Church of the Brethren district.

The two business items have been the subject of a two-year Special Response Process across the denomination.

The Special Response report and recommendation are to be presented during this evening’s business session at Annual Conference. The Conference officers encourage church members who are not present at Annual Conference to watch the live webcast of the session, scheduled for 6:55-8:30 p.m. (eastern time). Find the webcast at www.brethren.org/webcasts .

Following is the full text of the Standing Committee report and recommendation: 

Unfinished Business--A Statement of Confession and Commitment and Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships
Report of the Standing Committee

Introduction

The Church of the Brethren affirms the New Testament as our rule for faith and practice and seeks to place Jesus at the center of our lives and life together (1998 paper "The New Testament as Our Rule of Faith and Practice"). It is clear that good people of faith, through Bible study and prayer, are not of one mind in how we as a church interpret the Bible or how the Bible is understood concerning homosexuality and same-sex unions.

The Special Response process, as outlined by the 2009 paper "Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues," revealed strong affirmation for the 1983 paper "Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective" as evidenced by the consistent support of "A Statement of Confession and Commitment," herein referred to as the Statement, and a desire to return the "Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships," herein referred to as the Query. At the same time, a credible minority could not offer support for the Statement and pointed to a number of reasons to accept the Query. Both positions were supported with scripture and a desire to place Jesus at the center of our lives. A strong and consistent moderate voice challenged the church to find a way through the difficulties of the current discussion, calling for the church to love and care for one another as members of God’s creation.

Within the Special Response process, the Statement and Query have served their purpose in allowing Standing Committee to take the "temperature" of the denomination as it relates to homosexuality and same-sex unions. In the end, many participants affirmed the known differences in biblical interpretation and expressed a desire and willingness to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Acknowledgements and Affirmations

The Church of the Brethren acknowledges the diversity of understanding related to the inspiration and authority of scripture and the recognized call to draw all members of Christ’s church together. Standing Committee encourages study of the 1979 paper "Biblical Inspiration and Authority." (1975-1979 Annual Conference Minutes, p. 563)

The Church of the Brethren continues to affirm the entire 1983 paper "Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective" which encourages open and forthright conversations with those of different sexual orientations. "When we stop alienating one another and instead venture toward understanding, our fears disappear and interpersonal relationships become more honest." (1980-1984 Annual Conference Minutes, p. 580) Standing Committee encourages individuals, congregations and districts to continue deeper conversations concerning human sexuality outside of the query process.

The Church of the Brethren acknowledges the call for mutual trust and shared responsibility echoed in the 2004 paper "Congregational Disagreement with Annual Conference Decisions." Standing Committee urges disagreeing parties to continue in their conversation through visits, forums, and consultations so as to gain greater understanding of the disagreement and how each party might learn more about the other’s perspective, thereby moving closer to reconciliation. (2000-2004 Annual Conference Minutes, p. 1278)

Standing Committee acknowledges our brokenness and advocates the 2008 resolution "Urging Forbearance," in that "we commit ourselves to forbearance which recognizes and respects differences of opinion and differing degrees of spiritual insight. We will show deference in disputable matters while practicing prayerful study and conversation in core beliefs." (2005-2008 Annual Conference Minutes, p. 1239)

Standing Committee urges the Church of the Brethren to continue to wrestle with our tension, to truly listen to one another, to disagree in love, to avoid unkindness toward those with whom we differ, and to continue to seek the mind of Christ together. 

Recommendation

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.

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