by Frank Ramirez
The Review and Evaluation Committee is organized anew every 10 years to review and evaluate the organization and structures of the Church of the Brethren denomination. The first five recommendations in the report the committee is bringing to the 2017 Annual Conference relate directly to that mandate. (The report is at www.brethren.org/ac/2017/business/UB-2-Review-and-Evaluation.pdf .)
Chair Tim Harvey, speaking at a hearing the evening of Wednesday, June 28, made it clear that from the beginning the committee--including recorder Leah Hileman, Bob Kettering, David Shumate, and Ben Barlow--expressed strongly at the 2016 Annual Conference that matters relating to controversies surrounding On Earth Peace were not within the purview of their work. Furthermore it was the opinion of the committee members, according to Harvey, that the work of the Vitality and Viability Committee was far more important to the life of the church.
The 2016 Conference, however, referred two queries concerning On Earth Peace to the committee. Having been given the task, they decided to address it by not adjudicating the controversies but determining if On Earth Peace fulfills the legal functions of an agency of the Church of the Brethren. Barlow, an attorney, defined the legal requirements for the way an agency functions under the legal body it serves as an agent. The committee formulated five recommendations based on that understanding of On Earth Peace’s function as an agent, or agency, of the Annual Conference.
The committee’s Recommendation #6 is “that On Earth Peace no longer remain an agency of the Church of the Brethren” Hileman, referring to “the elephant in the room,” emphasized that the decision to make that recommendation was not punitive, but structural. It was the committee’s determination that On Earth Peace ought to operate independently, not as an agency of Annual Conference.
Indeed, the next Recommendation #7 encourages “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.” As an example of such an organization already active in the Church of the Brethren, committee members pointed to the New Community Project with its strong Brethren roots and ties to Brethren groups and congregations, successfully operating independently of the church structure.
Kettering commented on another recommendation in the report, Recommendation #9, which calls congregations to accountability, especially when they withhold funding to the district or denomination on the basis of one issue.
The report also recommends that the 2017 Annual Conference return the Southeastern District query (Recommendation #8).
In its final Recommendation #10, the committee addresses actions by Standing Committee regarding On Earth Peace, and cites the response Standing Committee made in 2014 to On Earth Peace’s “Statement of Inclusion.” Standing Committee is the body of district delegates to Annual Conference. Recalling failed attempts between Standing Committee and On Earth Peace to be reconciled, the recommendation is “that Standing Committee rescind the 2014 rejection of On Earth Peace’s Statement on Inclusion.”
According to Harvey, that 2014 rejection--which the Review and Evaluation Committee finds in its report to be “out of compliance with Annual Conference polity”--was made at a time when the body of district delegates was “frustrated and tired.”
For more onsite coverage of Annual Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac/2017/coverage .
The news coverage of Annual Conference 2017 is made possible through the work of the volunteer news team: 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; with web staff Jan Fischer Bachman and Russ Otto, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services. Wendy McFadden, publisher. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.