In pre-Annual Conference meetings, Standing Committee made recommendations on two items of new business coming to the Conference from On Earth Peace. One of the functions of the Standing Committee of district delegates is to recommend action on new business items to the full delegate body.
In its deliberations this year, the committee used a new process recommended by the Conference officers and described by moderator Carol A. Scheppard as “in the spirit of consensus building.” The process--in effect just for this year’s meetings--included requiring a two-thirds vote within Standing Committee for each recommendation made to the delegate body.
The district delegates spent much of two days of meetings discussing the recommendations received from On Earth Peace: “Polity for Agencies” (www.brethren.org/ac/2017/business/NB-1-Polity-for-Agencies.pdf) and “Patient Hope in Matters of Conscience” (www.brethren.org/ac/2017/business/NB-2-Patient-Hope-in-Matters-of-Conscience.pdf).
The discussions revolved, in great part, around the relationships between the two recommendations and the report of the Review and Evaluation Committee, which includes five recommendations that have to do with On Earth Peace and its status as an agency of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. The report’s Recommendations #6 through #10, all having to do with On Earth Peace, offer answers to two queries referred to the Review and Evaluation Committee by last year’s Annual Conference.
Recommendation on ‘Polity for Agencies’
In “Polity for Agencies,” On Earth Peace recommends “that the Annual Conference develop polity which would provide a process for resolving concerns with respect to agencies before considering any recommendations which would otherwise be made arbitrarily in the absence of such polity.”
The Standing Committee is recommending that Annual Conference return the On Earth Peace recommendation but accept the concern of the recommendation, and task the Leadership Team with updating current polity regarding Annual Conference agencies.
The Standing Committee action follows in full:
“Standing Committee recommends that the recommendation from On Earth Peace entitled ‘Polity for Agencies’ be returned with appreciation and respect, but that the concern of the recommendation regarding lack of applicable polity be accepted.
“Standing Committee recommends to the 2017 Annual Conference that the Leadership Team be tasked to update current polity. The update shall include:
-- The definition of an Annual Conference agency
-- The process to become an Annual Conference agency
-- The process by which issues of conflict or dispute between the policies and/or practices of the Annual Conference agencies and the polity, policies, and positions of Annual Conference can be resolved
-- The process to review agency status if conflicts cannot be resolved.
“The Leadership Team shall consult with each Annual Conference agency in making this update.”
Recommendation on ‘Patient Hope in Matters of Conscience’
The second recommendation sent to the Conference by On Earth Peace calls for a hold on what the document refers to as “four separate yet related queries reflecting matters for which there are deep differences of conscience among Brethren.”
The four queries were brought to the 2016 Annual Conference: Same Sex Weddings; On Earth Peace Reportability/Accountability to Annual Conference; Viability of On Earth Peace as an Agency of the Church of the Brethren; and Living Together as Christ Calls.
On Earth Peace is recommending “that Annual Conference place further action on these pending items on hold until guidelines are developed that would ensure consistency throughout the church in the practice of patiently living with differences in matters of conscience, so that Brethren can give a witness in this conflict weary world to the hope and joy of following Jesus, peacefully, simply, together.”
In response, the Standing Committee is recommending no delay in handling business items that respond to the queries, while at the same time recommending a confessional statement of “inconsistent practice” of patient forbearance in the church, and recommending the insights of the On Earth Peace recommendation to the church for serious and prayerful consideration.
In addition, the district delegates recommend that Annual Conference ask the Mission and Ministry Board to consult with On Earth Peace and other experts to provide resources to implement more consistently the 2008 Annual Conference resolution “Urging Forbearance.”
The full text of the Standing Committee recommendation follows:
“Standing Committee receives New Business Item 2, ‘Patient Hope in Matters of Conscience’ from On Earth Peace 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.
“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 living patiently with differences in matters of conscience’ has led to injustice.
“Standing Committee recommends 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.
“Standing Committee recommends to the 2017 Annual Conference that Unfinished Business Item 2 ‘Review and Evaluation’ and Unfinished Business Item 4 ‘The Authority of Annual Conference and Districts Regarding the Accountability of Ministers, Congregations, and Districts’ not be delayed for the purpose of developing guidelines as stated in this recommendation.”
Response to Review and Evaluation Committee Recommendation #10
The Standing Committee also spent considerable time discussing the report of the Review and Evaluation Committee, although as an item of unfinished business the committee did not make recommendations for action to the delegate body.
The Standing Committee received a verbal report from the Review and Evaluation Committee and had time for questions and answers with the committee members. In addition, in a move described as “out-of-the-ordinary,” it made a response to one of the committee’s recommendations.
In its Recommendation #10, the Review and Evaluation Committee recommended “that Standing Committee rescind the 2014 rejection of On Earth Peace’s statement of Inclusion.” After almost a whole morning of discussion on Wednesday, June 28, the Standing Committee adopted the following response:
“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.”
This response was adopted by a simple majority vote, because it is not a recommendation that Standing Committee is making to the delegate body.
Find the full Review and Evaluation report at www.brethren.org/ac/2017/business/UB-2-Review-and-Evaluation.pdf .
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