The 2017 Annual Conference set the church to the task of framing a “compelling vision” for how the entire denomination will continue the work of Jesus together, by adopting a recommendation from the Leadership Team and the Council of District Executives.
Since then, a Compelling Vision Working Group was formed, and then a Compelling Vision Process Team was named to plan and implement the process the denomination will go through in order to discern a compelling vision. (See the Newsline reports at www.brethren.org/news/2018/compelling-vision-process-team.html and www.brethren.org/news/2018/compelling-vision-team-lays-out-road-map.html .)
The visioning process the group has designed started at this year’s Annual Conference, involving both the delegates and the non-delegates who were present during two sections of the business sessions this week. The process will continue denomination-wide through the 2019 Annual Conference, with events in districts, input from boards and staff of agencies, and conversation with youth at National Youth Conference, among others.
The recommendation to move forward with the described process was adopted by the delegate body this week, including a recommendation to set aside new business items at the 2019 Annual Conference. The recommendation is that new business be set aside so that next year’s Conference may devote most of its time to the Compelling Vision Process. This required a two-thirds majority vote as a major departure from practice, and the “yes” votes came to more than 80 percent.
As the report states, the Compelling Vision Process “is intended to move us beyond our conversations, debates, and official statements into the experience of vision and purpose as we proclaim and serve Christ together.” The report also states, “While we cannot anticipate how God will work through a body of believers seeking God’s vision, we can answer that such a vision can only be anchored in Jesus Christ.” A guiding statement for the process invites, “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!”
The process as experienced at this Annual Conference involves small groups in deep conversation and sharing. Ground rules for discussion were posted on cards at each table, called “Guidelines for Sacred Sharing.” The guidelines encouraged transparency, not naming names, not attempting to convince others, listening and pausing during conversation, not attempting to “fix” or “rescue” others, using “I” statements, and more.
Table talk questions were designed to help people bring to mind how their faith has shaped their lives and may shape their future choices. In addition, each person received a paper to write down their own responses to the questions, and those were collected by the committee for compilation and analysis. Other information sought on paper was demographic--gender, ethnicity, age, and district.
The first question the table groups were asked to discuss was, “What compels you to follow Jesus?” Other follow-up questions included “What are one or two values that you think we who are participating in this process share?” “What are the themes you see emerging?” “Why is it important for God’s people to have a vision?” “What can make a vision for the Church of the Brethren compelling?” “What about developing a compelling vision gives you hope?” And finally, “What question do you hope someone asks you during the Compelling Vision process?”
For more information about the Compelling Vision Process, a FAQ sheet on the process, and contact information for the process team, go to www.brethren.org/ac/compelling-vision.html .
-- Frances Townsend contributed this report.
For more onsite coverage of Annual Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac/2018/coverage .
The news coverage of Annual Conference 2018 is made possible through the work of communications staff and a volunteer news team: Frank Ramirez, Conference Journal editor; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown; writers Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Alyssa Parker; youth team member Allie Dulabaum; web staff Jan Fischer Bachman, Russ Otto; Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services; Wendy McFadden, publisher. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.