Newsline Special: A review of business decisions made by Annual Conference 2017




Annual Conference moderator Carol A. Scheppard preaching the opening sermon of the Conference, on the theme
Photo by Glenn Riegel

Annual Conference moderator Carol A. Scheppard preaching the opening sermon of the Conference, on the theme "Risk Hope."

“But I will hope continually...” (Psalm 71:14a).

A REVIEW OF BUSINESS DECISIONS MADE BY ANNUAL CONFERENCE 2017
1) On Earth Peace retains agency status, as delegates make decisions on the Review and Evaluation Committee report
2) Delegates adopt report from Leadership Team and CODE, approve new vision effort
3) On Earth Peace call for new polity for agencies is acted on by the Conference
4) Delegate body receives insights from ‘Patient Hope in Matters of Conscience’
5) Donita J. Keister to serve as moderator-elect, among election results

6) Annual Conference by the numbers

The Annual Conference officers for 2017: (from left) Conference secretary James Beckwith, moderator Carol Scheppard, and moderator-elect Samuel Sarpiya.
Photo by Regina Holmes

The Annual Conference officers for 2017: (from left) Conference secretary James Beckwith, moderator Carol Scheppard, and moderator-elect Samuel Sarpiya.

Quotes of the week

“Worship God alone. Take care of each other.”
-- Carol A. Scheppard, moderator of the 2017 Annual Conference, speaking about the key understandings in the 10 commandments. She preached for the opening worship service on a text from Jeremiah 32:1-15, the story of the prophet purchasing land at a moment when an invading army was poised to destroy what was left of Jerusalem. She characterized Jeremiah’s prophetic, hopeful act as “one of the most audacious and outrageous stories in all of scripture,” and called the church to follow his example, asking, “Can we let go of all that stands between us and the unbridled love of God?”

“This business has been weighty. Give us wisdom, give us direction...to be the people you would have us be.”
-- A prayer spoken by Annual Conference moderator Carol A. Scheppard before the vote was taken on Recommendation #6 in the Review and Evaluation Committee report. The recommendation would have ended the status of On Earth Peace as an agency of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. The recommendation was not adopted when it failed to get the two-thirds majority vote required, and On Earth Peace retained its agency status (see the full story below).

“Living Parables”
-- The theme for Annual Conference 2018, announced by Samuel Sarpiya on the final morning of this year’s Annual Conference. The scripture theme will be Matthew 9:35-38. Sarpiya served this year as moderator-elect, and will serve as moderator for the next year. He will preside over the Annual Conference to be held in Cincinnati, Ohio, on July 4-8, 2018.

“Well, you know there were these special effects in the Temple.”
-- Donna Ritchey Martin, persisting in giving the Saturday evening sermon through a false alarm that sounded for several minutes, complete with sirens and flashing lights around the ballroom where worship was being held. It turned out that the fire alarm had been set off accidentally. A tweet in the #cobac17 Twitter stream complimented her for “the most well-timed sermon illustrations ever used at an Annual Conference.”

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A note to readers: This Newsline Special reviews the major business decisions made at Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, June 28-July 2. More reviews of other Annual Conference events will appear in upcoming issues of Newsline.

The editor is grateful to the volunteer news team who made the Annual Conference coverage possible: Frank Ramirez, “Conference Journal” editor; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown, Allie Dulabaum; writers Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Gene Hollenberg. Denominational staff who contributed to the Conference coverage include web staff Jan Fischer Bachman and Russ Otto, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services. Wendy McFadden, publisher.

Find links to the 2017 Annual Conference coverage at www.brethren.org/ac/2017/coverage .

Purchase the Annual Conference Wrap Up DVD for $29.95 and the Annual Conference Sermons DVD for $24.95 from Brethren Press. Call 800-441-3712 or order online at www.brethrenpress.com .

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1) On Earth Peace retains agency status, as delegates make decisions on the Review and Evaluation Committee report

Tim Harvey, chair of the Review and Evaluation Committee, at the podium during the 2017 Annual Conference.
Photo by Regina Holmes

Tim Harvey, chair of the Review and Evaluation Committee, at the podium during the 2017 Annual Conference.

by Frances Townsend and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The Annual Conference on Saturday, July 1, did not adopt a Recommendation #6 from the Review and Evaluation Committee “that On Earth Peace no longer remain an agency of the Church of the Brethren.”

The vote came as the delegate body addressed 10 recommendations in the Review and Evaluation Committee report. As has happened every 10 years in recent decades, in 2015 a committee to review and evaluate the organization and structure of the Church of the Brethren was charged with carrying out a study and bringing recommendations to this year’s Conference (find the Review and Evaluation Committee report at www.brethren.org/ac/2017/business/UB-2-Review-and-Evaluation.pdf ).

In 2016, Annual Conference also referred two queries about On Earth Peace to the Review and Evaluation Committee--despite its public objection to taking on the task of answering those queries. The two queries, received from West Marva District and Southeastern District, had to do with whether On Earth Peace should remain an agency of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

“The vote means that On Earth Peace remains an agency of the Church of the Brethren,” announced Annual Conference moderator Carol A. Scheppard.

Recommendation #6 did not attain the two-thirds majority vote required, with 56.9 percent (370 votes were made for the recommendation, 280 votes were made against it). The number of registered delegates was 672.

Recommendations to the Mission and Ministry Board

The first five recommendations from the Review and Evaluation Committee were directed to the Mission and Ministry Board, with Recommendations #1 through #4 involving changes to the bylaws of the Church of the Brethren, Inc. By adopting the recommendations, Annual Conference directs the Mission and Ministry Board to consider the changes and report back to Annual Conference. Final passage of any bylaws changes will be done by a future Conference.

Recommendation #1 would change the bylaws to add to the duties of the denomination’s Leadership Team (the Annual Conference officers, the general secretary, and a representative of the Council of District Executives) to include coordinating a gathering of denominational leaders every three-to-five years for coordination of efforts in program planning and shared vision. The delegates adopted the recommendation of the Standing Committee of district delegates for a feasibility study to determine costs. The Program Feasibility Study Committee will bring a report to next year’s Annual Conference. The Program Feasibility Study Committee includes Nevin Dulabaum, president of Brethren Benefit Trust; Jeff Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary; Brian Bultman, CFO and treasurer of the Church of the Brethren; Bill Scheurer, executive director of On Earth Peace; and Standing Committee members Belita Mitchell and Larry Dentler.

Recommendations #2 through #5 were voted on together, and were adopted by the delegate body for referral to the Mission and Ministry Board.

Recommendation #2 would amend the bylaws of the Church of the Brethren, Inc., to give the Leadership Team further responsibility for implementation of denominational vision, with consideration of emphasizing a unified vision among denomination, districts, and congregations.   Review and Evaluation Committee chair Tim Harvey noted that the vision statement developed in 2012 failed to take hold, and a more concerted effort to implement such statements is needed.

Recommendation #3 would amend the bylaws regarding who employs and supervises the Conference director and who has authority over the Annual Conference budget. Currently, the staff of the Conference Office are hired by the general secretary, and the Annual Conference budget is approved by the Mission and Ministry Board. The recommendation is for a bylaws change giving the Leadership Team the function of general oversight of Annual Conference, its staff, and its budget, in consultation with relevant persons including the corporation’s treasurer.

Recommendation #4 would amend the bylaws to add a district executive as a full, voting member on the Leadership Team, serving alongside the Annual Conference officers and the general secretary. The committee’s suggestion is that this be the same district executive who serves ex-officio on the Mission and Ministry Board.

Recommendation #5 directs the Mission and Ministry Board to appoint a study committee to assess prudent stewardship of the building and land at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

Recommendations responding to queries concerning On Earth Peace

Recommendations #6 through #10 had to do with the two queries concerning On Earth Peace. Each of these recommendations was handled individually; they were not voted on together.

Recommendation #6, “that On Earth Peace no longer remain an agency of the Church of the Brethren,” failed to gain the two-thirds majority vote required.

Recommendation #7 also failed, by a simple majority vote. It would have recommended “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.”

Recommendation #8 was ruled to have been answered when Recommendation #6 failed. Recommendation #6 was characterized as an answer to the query from West Marva District, and Recommendation #8 was an answer to the query from Southeastern District. The Review and Evaluation Committee recommendation was to return the query to Southeastern District.

Recommendation #9 was adopted by the delegate body. It recommends that all congregations “examine their financial contributions to both district and denominational ministries, and bring their giving into compliance with the Congregational Ethics Polity.” It instructs congregations that feel they cannot comply to be in conversation with their districts, in accordance with a 2004 statement on “Congregational Disagreements with Annual Conference Decisions.”

Recommendation #10, that Standing Committee rescind a statement it made in 2014 rejecting On Earth Peace’s Statement of Inclusion, failed by a slim margin in a simple majority vote. Discussion of the recommendation included many requests for clarification of the meaning of the recommendation from delegates. Questions also were asked about the relationship of the recommendation to a response made by the 2017 Standing Committee, which was presented to the delegate body before the vote. 

The response from the 2017 Standing Committee read: “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.’ The church welcomes all persons to participate in its life. Standing Committee’s comments were meant to be more narrowly focused on the implications of the On Earth Peace statement that were inconsistent with Annual Conference decisions.” The officers explained that a vote against Recommendation #10 would mean this Standing Committee response would suffice as an answer to the Review and Evaluation Committee's concern, and a vote for Recommendation #10 would mean that next year's Standing Committee would work on the matter further.

Recommendation #10 did not get the simple majority vote required, with 305 votes for it and 311 votes against it. The recommendation failed despite a Review and Evaluation Committee finding that the Standing Committee statement of 2014 "is out of compliance with Annual Conference polity.” The Review and Evaluation Committee's report cited the following relevant portions of the Statement of Inclusion and the Standing Committee's 2014 statement:

     -- From the 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.”

     -- From the 2014 Standing Committee statement: “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.”

“...In rejecting the Statement of Inclusion, Standing Committee would seem to be approving the exclusion of persons based on ‘gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity,’” the report from the Review and Evaluation Committee said. “Yet Annual Conference has long granted women and persons of differing ethnicities full participation in the life of the church, has called for welcoming all inquirers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior into the fellowship of the church and for engaging in open, forthright conversations with homosexuals, while stating that covenantal relationships between homosexual persons is an alternative that is not acceptable, and only places restrictions around the licensing and ordination of homosexual persons.”

Find the full text of the Review and Evaluation Committee report at www.brethren.org/ac/2017/business/UB-2-Review-and-Evaluation.pdf .

Other business items are postponed

Consideration of the Review and Evaluation Committee report was completed at about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, at the end of the time scheduled for business--yet three items still remained on the 2017 docket.

The moderator called for a vote referring those items to the 2018 Annual Conference: “Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century,” an item of unfinished business, and two items of new business from Brethren Benefit Trust titled “Brethren Values Investing” and “Polity for Electing Brethren Benefit Trust Board Directors.”

Two committees requested another year to complete their work: the Creation Care Study Committee, and the Vitality and Viability Study Committee.





2) Delegates adopt report from Leadership Team and CODE, approve new vision effort

General secretary David Steele presents the
Photo by Glenn Riegel

General secretary David Steele presents the "Authority" report to the delegate body.

by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Annual Conference on Thursday, June 29, adopted a recommendation from the denomination’s Leadership Team and Council of District Executives (CODE) during consideration of the report, “The Authority of Annual Conference and Districts regarding the Accountability of Ministers, Congregations, and Districts.” The action receives the report as a response to the concerns of “Query: Same Sex Weddings” and sets in motion a new vision effort in the church.

The recommendation read: “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.” The recommendation was presented on the floor, and does not appear in the report (see www.brethren.org/ac/2017/business/UB-4-Authority-and-Accountability-final.pdf ; find a FAQ sheet about the report at www.brethren.org/ac/2017/business/qa-regarding-ub4.pdf ).

Presenting the report and recommendation were general secretary David Steele, who serves on the Leadership Team with the Annual Conference officers and a representative of CODE, and CODE chair Colleen Michael along with several other district executives. They presented the report to the business session, at two hearings, and also to the Standing Committee of district delegates.

Saying that the district executives represent the breadth of the denomination yet are able to work together congenially with a good connection to people in the pews, Steele and Michael focused their presentations on CODE’s qualifications for emphasizing a commitment to community. They acknowledged, however, that the report has generated some disagreement.

The Church of the Brethren structure relies on voluntary covenantal relationships, Steele said, yet Brethren over the years have made decisions of conscience contrary to Annual Conference decisions. He cited examples such as joining secret societies like the Masons, and even carrying concealed weapons--which he said is being done by some pastors.

Michael emphasized the districts’ authority over ministerial credentials, and the autonomy of districts to respect each other’s credentialing decisions but also their ability to respect the minister’s individual conscience.

Presenters expressed hope that with guidance from the Leadership Team and CODE, and through focused work over the next few years, the denomination may be able to formulate a “compelling vision” for how to move beyond its disagreements. As a vision is formulated, the Leadership Team will explore how to develop a process for departure from the denomination for congregations that cannot accept the vision.

Changes made to the report

Steele introduced changes that the Leadership Team and CODE made to a section of the report titled “Accountability of Ministers,” and to the endnotes.

The word “expel” was replaced with the word “disorganize” in a sentence that originally read: “We will not take lightly decisions that will terminate an individual’s ministerial credentials or expel a congregation from the body.” In addition, the phrase “from the body” was deleted from the end of that sentence.

An endnote 16 reading, “Some districts have begun to speak out about expelling member congregations but current polity and standard practice provide only for the disorganizing of congregations,” was added at the conclusion of the sentence referred to above.

An endnote 17 reading, “This is a standard practice established by the Council of District Executives,” was added in the next paragraph. It was placed at the end of a sentence that reads, “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.”

Questions focus on ‘Accountability of Ministers’ section

The Leadership Team and CODE fielded numerous questions, from the delegate body and at hearings. Many had to do with the section “Accountability of Ministers.”

Asked about the implication and intent of using the word “disorganize” with regard to congregations, at the Wednesday hearing, Steele shared his understanding of what disorganizing a congregation means and how it occurs. The disorganization of a congregation is carried out by a district when the congregation is no longer viable, he said, and usually at the congregation’s own request. One other reason for disorganization is if there are legal issues with the congregation, he said. Disorganization is not a tool to dismiss a congregation from the district or denomination, he told the hearing.

He said the report was changed to use the word “disorganize” because the Leadership Team and CODE have seen a movement toward punishment, and districts wanting to take punitive action against congregations. They sought out wording that exists in polity, and found that “expel” was not correct.

Some asked for clarification of the difference between “conduct” and “misconduct” in the “Accountability of Ministers” section, saying there should be disclosure of what types of ministerial conduct are referenced. Although responses given by the presenters differed somewhat, the FAQ sheet for the report says, “Reports of ministerial misconduct must be processed by the district ethics committee, whereas reports of ministerial conduct are to be processed through the district’s credentialing body.”

When asked how and when district executives established a practice of sharing information about ministers who perform same-sex marriages, Michael corrected a statement she had made at the Wednesday hearing. She told the delegates that the practice was first discussed about a year and a half ago, in the fall of 2015. It is simply an agreement among the district executives and not found in any denominational polity.

The last sentence of the “Accountability of Ministers” section, stating that districts respect the ministry credentialing decisions of other districts, also was discussed. Questioners wanted to know if all credentials given by one district will be respected by every other district, and whether the word “respect” implies acceptance of all the decisions of other districts. Michael told the delegate body, “We’ll respect the decision but we’re not obligated to follow.”

Developing a process for congregations to leave the denomination raised concerns for at least one questioner at the Wednesday hearing, who pointed out some individual members in those congregations may not want to leave the denomination. Any process would need to care for those members who are in the minority, she said.

During the Wednesday hearing, Steele characterized the compelling vision that will be sought as something that is needed to move the denomination forward, but also as something that may result in a split. “How do we move beyond the conversation about same-gender marriage?” he asked. He answered the question by saying that the church needs to find something to gather around. He quoted one of the district executives as saying that if the church is going to split, it would be better to split over beliefs and values and vision.




3) On Earth Peace call for new polity for agencies is acted on by the Conference

The delegate body votes, during the Friday business session of the 2017 Conference
Photo by Regina Holmes

The delegate body votes, during the Friday business session of the 2017 Conference

by Frances Townsend

The 2016 Annual Conference has processed a recommendation from On Earth Peace titled “Polity for Agencies,” by adopting a Standing Committee recommendation to return the query with appreciation and respect, but to accept the concern of the recommendation about a lack of polity with regard to agencies of the Conference.

Last year, Annual Conference referred to the Review and Evaluation Committee two queries concerning On Earth Peace, with the question whether On Earth Peace should remain under the Annual Conference umbrella.

On Earth Peace created the recommendation to bring to the notice of the church the lack of polity clarifying the relationship of agencies to the Conference, and lack of a framework to resolve conflicts with agencies should they arise.

The Standing Committee recommendation tasks the Leadership Team of the denomination (the Annual Conference officers, the general secretary, and a representative from the Council of District Executives) with updating current polity. The update will include the definition of an Annual Conference agency, the process to become a Conference agency, the process for dealing with conflicts with agencies, and the process for reviewing agency status if conflicts cannot be resolved.

Not stated in this recommendation is the assumption that the Leadership Team’s polity proposal will come to a future Annual Conference for approval, as all polity statements do. The moderator assured the delegates that the Leadership Team’s polity proposal will be brought back to Annual Conference for its consideration.

Much discussion time was used for questions of clarification. One person asked a question that may have been on the minds of many delegates, “What is the definition of ‘polity,’ and the difference between polity and policy?” Conference secretary James Beckwith described polity as the governing structure of the church, and policy as the interpretation or the philosophy. Policy is how the polity is carried out, he said.

Another concern was that the moderator, as a member of the Leadership Team, would help draft a document that would later come as an item of business to the Conference, creating a potential conflict of interest. An amendment to give the work to a study committee instead of the Leadership Team failed. Also failing was an amendment to separate the two parts of the recommendation, to vote on the motion to return the query separately from the motion to task the Leadership Team with updating polity.





4) Delegate body receives insights from ‘Patient Hope in Matters of Conscience’

Long lines waited for a chance to speak at the microphones on Saturday, as the delegate body debated weighty and complicated matters of business including a recommendation from On Earth Peace titled
Photo by Regina Holmes

Long lines waited for a chance to speak at the microphones on Saturday, as the delegate body debated weighty and complicated matters of business including a recommendation from On Earth Peace titled "Patient Hope in Matters of Conscience" and a significant report from the Review and Evaluation Committee.

by Frances Townsend and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The document “Patient Hope in Matters of Conscience” was brought by On Earth Peace for consideration by Annual Conference. The delegates adopted a recommendation from the Standing Committee of district delegates to not delay other items of business, as called for in the document, but to receive the insights of the document and ask the Mission and Ministry Board in consultation with On Earth Peace and other experts to provide resources to better implement the 2008 Annual Conference resolution “Urging Forbearance” in the life of the church.

“Patient Hope in Matters of Conscience” addressed how the Church of the Brethren handles divisive issues, and called for more guidance regarding how to live together faithfully despite differences in deeply held convictions. Inconsistency in the willingness to grant forbearance to those who dissent from various Annual Conference positions was noted. The document called for guidelines to ensure consistency throughout the church in the practice of patiently living with differences in matters of conscience. On Earth Peace also recommended that the Conference place a hold on other business items related to the agency until such guidelines are developed--a recommendation that was turned down by the delegate body.

Because this was an item of new business, the Standing Committee brought a recommendation about how to handle it. Standing Committee’s recommendation contained two parts, one recommending no delay to other items of business, and the other recommending “the insights of New Business item 2 ‘Patient Hope in Matters of Conscience’ to the entire church for serious, prayerful consideration. As a continuation of the work already done on the ‘Living Together as Christ Calls’ query, we further ask the Mission and Ministry Board, in consultation with On Earth Peace and others with expertise in this area, to provide resources and insight as to how to implement more consistently and fully the 2008 Annual Conference resolution ‘Urging Forbearance’ into the life of the church.”

Two paragraphs of commentary preceded the Standing Committee recommendations, encouraging the church to receive the On Earth Peace recommendation “as another thoughtful reminder of our calling to, and history of, practicing forbearance with one another in the church when in faithful conscience we disagree.”

A paragraph of confession read: “We confess that in our current struggle, in which we are deeply divided on same gender issues, we, from all perspectives on the issues, have often not practiced forbearance well. We also confess that our inconsistent ‘practice of patiently living with differences in matters of conscience’ has led to injustice.”





5) Donita J. Keister to serve as moderator-elect, among election results

Donita Keister

Donita Keister

In election results, the Annual Conference chose Donita J. Keister of Mifflinburg, Pa., as moderator-elect. She will serve as moderator-elect for one year, and in 2019 will serve as moderator of the Annual Conference in San Diego, Calif.

Keister is an associate pastor at Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren in Southern Pennsylvania District. During this Annual Conference she concluded a term of service on the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board, where she also served on the executive committee. She has been a teacher, choir director, women’s ministry leader, children’s ministry leader, retreat leader, deacon, and ministry team leader. In her district, she has served on the Program and Arrangements Committee for the district conference, has been on the ethics assessment team, and has been a Training in Ministry (TRIM) coordinator. Her professional career has included owning a baking business.

Following are more election results:

Annual Conference Secretary: James M. Beckwith of Lebanon, Pa., Annville Church of the Brethren, Atlantic Northeast District.

Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee: Jan Glass King of Martinsburg, Pa., Bedford Church of the Brethren, Middle Pennsylvania District

Mission and Ministry Board, Area 1: Colin W. Scott of Harrisburg, Pa., Mechanicsburg Church of the Brethren, Southern Pennsylvania District

Mission and Ministry Board, Area 2: Christina Singh of Freeport, Ill., Freeport Church of the Brethren, Illinois and Wisconsin District

Bethany Theological Seminary Trustee, Colleges: Celia Cook-Huffman of Huntingdon, Pa., Stone Church of the Brethren, Middle Pennsylvania District

Bethany Theological Seminary Trust, Clergy: Paul Brubaker of Ephrata, Pa., Middle Creek Church of the Brethren, Atlantic Northeast District

Brethren Benefit Trust Board: Sara Huston Brenneman of Hershey, Pa., Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren, Atlantic Northeast District

On Earth Peace Board: Cheryl Thomas of Angola, Ind., Pleasant Chapel Church of the Brethren, Northern Indiana District

Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee: Daniel L. Rudy of Roanoke, Va., Ninth Street Church of the Brethren, Virlina District

In separate elections, the Standing Committee chose delegates to represent the Church of the Brethren at the World Council of Churches: Liz Bidgood Enders, delegate; Glenn Bollinger, alternate.

Board-elected and consistuency-elected directors and trustees

Mission and Ministry Board: Lois Grove of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Peace Church of the Brethren, Northern Plains District; and Dava C. Hensley of Roanoke, Va., Roanoke First Church of the Brethren, Virlina District

Bethany Seminary Board of Trustees: Christina Bucher of Elizabethtown, Pa., Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren, Atlantic Northeast District; and Michele Firebaugh of Winnebago, Ill., Freeport Church of the Brethren, Illinois and Wisconsin District

On Earth Peace Board: Melisa Grandison of Northampton, Mass., McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren, Western Plains District; Erin Gratz of Pomona, Calif., La Verne Church of the Brethren, Pacific Southwest District; and Cynthia L. Weber-Han of Chicago, Ill., York Center Church of the Brethren, Illinois and Wisconsin District

Brethren Benefit Trust Board: Ron Gebhardtsbauer of State College, Pa., University Baptist and Brethren Church, Middle Pennsylvania District; and Kevin Kessler of Canton, Ill., Canton Church of the Brethren, Illinois and Wisconsin District





6) Annual Conference by the numbers

Tara Hornbacker displays the gift for the moderator
Photo by Glenn Riegel

Tara Hornbacker displays the gift for the moderator

2,329: final registration number for the 2017 Annual Conference, including 672 delegates and 1,657 nondelegates

6,822: “views” of the Annual Conference webcasts as of 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 1, including 2,454 views of worship and 4,368 views of business sessions

$55,280-plus: the total of the offerings received during the Annual Conference worship services, on the 5 days of the Conference
     $7,276.76 received in worship on Wednesday, to provide copies of “Shine On Story Bible” to congregations that do not use the Shine Sunday school curriculum jointly produced by Brethren Press and MennoMedia
     $13,376.74 received during worship on Thursday for the Nigeria Crisis Response, a cooperative effort of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)
     $11,653.54 received in worship Friday, for the church’s ministries in Haiti
     $15,534.58 received in worship Saturday, given to support the Core Ministries of the Church of the Brethren denomination
     $7,441.93 received on Sunday, to go into the Core Ministries Fund to support a new initiative of Congregational Life Ministries called “Renaissance 2017-2020.” The initiative focuses on growing vital churches and equipping church planters through resources, training events, networking, and coaching. It will “enable congregations, established and new, to offer compelling ministries that reach more people, more young people and more diverse people in our communities,” said a statement from Congregational Life Ministries staff. The staff are “committed to empowering people to articulate and embody their faith in significant ways that reach out with genuine hospitality to people wherever they are, inviting and welcoming them as together we seek to renew existing congregations, start new faith communities, and inspire faithful disciples.”

1 percent: the increase approved for the Minimum Cash Salary Table for pastors, at the recommendation of the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee. In addition to recommending this increase in pastors’ salaries, the committee also encouraged congregations to monitor their pastors’ health insurance premium increases, reporting that many pastors are struggling to pay higher premium costs.

190: the total number of pints of blood collected during the 2-day Conference Blood Drive, well exceeding the goal of 160 pints. On Thursday, 84 pints were collected. On Friday, 106 pints were collected.

$11,250: total proceeds of the annual Quilt Auction sponsored by the Association for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren

4: the number of local ministries in Grand Rapids that received support from Conferencegoers as part of the Witness to the Host City. The four local ministries were the Refugee Education Center, Bethany Christian Services, the Well House, and Mel Trotter Ministries.

$1,140: the total donations received by cash and check for the Refugee Education Center, one of the local ministries in Grand Rapids that was a beneficiary of the Annual Conference Witness to the Host City. Backpacks and other material goods were donated as well, and there were enough donations of backpacks for every child who attends summer camp at the Refugee Education Center, as well as enough snacks to service the summer camp and the tutoring program for the rest of the year. 

$1,280.08: the total donations received by cash and check to Bethany Christian Services, another of the local Grand Rapids ministries to receive support through the Witness to the Host City. One pallet “stacked up with office supplies” was donated, in addition, to help serve refugees who are resettled through Bethany Christian Services, as well as enough bed sheets and comforters to fill three pallets. “Bethany Christian Services staff members were amazed at how much their box truck was filled with donations,” reported site co-coordinator Joanna Willoughby.

17:10.4: the time of Galen Fitzkee, first male runner in a photo finish in the BBT 5K Fitness Challenge sponsored by Brethren Benefit Trust. Rieth Ritchey Moore was the first female runner with a time of 19:39.8. Bev Anspaugh was the first female walker with a time of 35:41.5. The first male walker was Stafford Frederick, with a time of 38:31.9.

1: new location for upcoming Annual Conferences, announced by the Program and Arrangements Committee. The 2021 Conference will return to Greensboro, N.C., which was the location for the 2016 Conference. The 2021 Conference will be held from June 30-July 4. This decision is in addition to previous years’ announcements of upcoming Conference locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, for the 2018 Conference to be held July 4-8; San Diego, Calif., for the 2019 Conference to be held July 3-7; and Grand Rapids, Mich., for the 2020 Conference to be held July 1-5. All of these Conferences will take place on a Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule.

Samuel Sarpiya is consecrated moderator of Annual Conference; Donita Keister is consecrated moderator-elect; and James Beckwith is consecrated for a second term as Conference secretary. Sarpiya will preside over the 2018 Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Keister will preside over the 2019 Conference in San Diego, Calif.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

Samuel Sarpiya is consecrated moderator of Annual Conference; Donita Keister is consecrated moderator-elect; and James Beckwith is consecrated for a second term as Conference secretary. Sarpiya will preside over the 2018 Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Keister will preside over the 2019 Conference in San Diego, Calif.



Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren, and serves as editor of Newsline. Contact cobnews@brethren.org . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.

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