Annual Conference on July 7 adopted the paper, “Vision for a Global Church of the Brethren.” This document was brought by the Mission and Ministry Board at the initiative of staff of Global Mission and Service, and has been in process for some time. Those involved in its development include the Mission Advisory Committee and church leaders from several countries.
Impetus came from a disconnect between polity and practice said Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service, presenting the paper to the delegates. A mandate for a global church is present in previous Annual Conference statements, but those call for international districts rather than the independent Church of the Brethren denominations that have developed over recent decades.
Currently, Church of the Brethren denominations are established--or are in process of forming--in the US, India, Nigeria, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Spain, the Great Lakes region of Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi), and Venezuela.
The new vision is for a global Church of the Brethren that brings together these denominations “as a union of autonomous bodies, a spiritual community bound together by a common passion to be followers of Christ, a common New Testament theology of peace and service, and a common commitment to be in relationship with one another.”
Adoption of the document by Annual Conference does not create a global Church of the Brethren as a separate, formal entity, Wittmeyer explained in response to questions. What it does is open the possibility for invitations to all Church of the Brethren denominations to come together to consider participating in an informal global church structure, and each denomination will have to make its own decision to join in, he said. The way denominations relate to each other in such a structure will have to be “teased out,” he told the delegates.
Although Conference approval is just a first step toward an informal structure for a global Church of the Brethren, it has potential to significantly change the relationship of the US church to the other Church of the Brethren denominations around the world. If a global Church of the Brethren does result, it may prompt American Brethren to reconsider the place of their own denomination in the world.
Find the full document at www.brethren.org/ac/2018/business/NB/NB-3-Vision-for-a-Global-Church-of-the-Brethren.pdf .
-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford contributed this report.
For more coverage of Annual Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac/2018/coverage .
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