A release from the Leadership Team of the Church of the Brethren
Through recent Annual Conference decisions* the delegate body has called the Leadership Team along with the Council of District Executives to develop a process through which the church will engage in conversations that will lead us to a “compelling vision” for our life together.
The Council of District Executives has joined hands with the Leadership Team to form a Compelling Vision Working Group (CVWG), comprising general secretary David Steele, 2018 Annual Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya, 2019 Annual Conference moderator Donita Keister, Annual Conference director Chris Douglas, and two district executives chosen by CODE, Colleen Michael and John Janzi. The 2020 Annual Conference moderator will join this group following the 2018 Annual Conference.
In recent months, this group has set in place a process by which the church will be led through a time of visioning beginning with Annual Conference 2018 and continuing through Annual Conference 2019. It is our hope that this process will result in a distinctive new beginning for our life together as the Church of the Brethren. The process is intended to move us beyond our conversations, debates, and official statements to living out the steps that will move us forward with vision and purpose as we proclaim and serve Christ together.
One might inquire as to what kind of vision would be so attention-grabbing, convincing, powerful, and irresistible that it would merit a description of “compelling”? While we cannot anticipate how God will work through a body of believers seeking his vision, we can answer that such a vision can only be anchored in Jesus Christ. As leadership of this visioning process, the Compelling Vision Working Group has embraced the following guiding statement as foundational to the visioning framework and process:
“Confessing Jesus Christ as Teacher, Redeemer, and Lord, we desire to serve Him by proclaiming, professing, and walking in His way together bringing His peace to our broken world. Join us in reclaiming a new passion for Christ and helping set a course for our future as the Church of the Brethren serving Him in our communities and in the world!”
It is our intention that conversations about this vision will start with Jesus Christ as the center of our existence as a denomination. The CVWG is in the process of calling out seven individuals from across the denomination who will work during Annual Conference 2018 and 2019 and also alongside district gatherings to engage the church in conversations that will generate themes which lead us to a compelling vision with a distinctive direction for the Church of the Brethren. These seven individuals along with the 2018 moderator Samual Sarpiya, 2019 moderator Donita Keister, and Annual Conference director Chris Douglas will form the Compelling Vision Process Team. Both the CVWG and the Compelling Vision Process Team will remain constant in their membership until the process reaches its conclusion.
During Annual Conference 2018, one full business session and a portion of a second will be structured to begin the visioning process. Following the 2018 Annual Conference, it is hoped that each district will have at least one district gathering in order to provide input to the development of a denominational vison statement. At Annual Conference 2019 the Conference will be primarily dedicated, including most of the business sessions, to the development of a compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren. The Compelling Vision Process Team will plan these Annual Conference sessions, compile the data generated during sessions, synthesize themes that emerge, and report those themes back to the Annual Conference for affirmation. Following Annual Conference 2019 the CVWG, in consultation with the Compelling Vision Process Team, will oversee the articulation of the final Compelling Vision product that will inform our life together going forward.
The Leadership Team and Council of District Executives are aware that this process will be greeted in a variety of ways across the denomination. For some it may be difficult to imagine a denomination divided around issues of biblical interpretation and authority can ever find a common vision together. For others, cynicism and mistrust of leadership may cause disinterest in the process. Whatever our challenges, it is our hope and prayer that the longing to be the church Christ has called us to be, and the desire to see God’s Holy Spirit work a miracle in and among us will compel us forward to see God’s vision revealed as we gather and seek him together. We ask for your prayers as these groups work to plan and carry out this process. We encourage all congregations to be present in these conversations bringing your unique contributions and sharing in the hard work of discovering God’s plan for how we will continue to be the body of Christ in this broken world.
"Jesus looked at them and said, 'For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible'” (Mark 10:27).
*231st Recorded Annual Conference, Minutes June 28-July 2, 2017, p. 281