The structure of the Church of the Brethren grows out of a belief that the individuals and congregations within the church are uniquely led by God but at the same time are dependent upon the gathered community to discern God’s leading more fully.
There are three levels of decision making:
- the congregation
- the district
- the Annual Conference
Congregations meet on a regular basis in a congregational business meeting or church council. Each congregation chooses its own pastor and moderator and selects its own board or leadership team, ministry groups, and commissions. It also elects delegates to Annual Conference and district conference. Any congregation may send an item of business to district conference, which may in turn forward that business to Annual Conference.
The Church of the Brethren believes in the priesthood of all believers, meaning that we understand all members to be in ministry. However, we call out certain people for licensing or ordination to the set-apart ministry. The Office of Ministry supports the calling, training, credentialing and sustaining of clergy.
The 24 districts gather their members once a year to elect a moderator and conduct district business. These meetings also process any business moving from congregations to Annual Conference.
The Annual Conference is the foundation. Every congregation has the opportunity to send at least one delegate, and any person–whether a delegate or not–is free to speak and offer motions. Delegates from the 24 districts make up Standing Committee, which recommends action on new business and presents a ballot for delegate vote. Annual Conference establishes major policies and elects the Mission and Ministry Board and other officers, including the moderator. The moderator presides over Standing Committee and Annual Conference, acts as official representative of the church, contacts district conferences, serves on Leadership Team and on Mission and Ministry Board Executive Committee, and chairs the Program and Arrangements Committee and the Officers meetings, after working for a year alongside the previous moderator.
Church of the Brethren staff
Church of the Brethren employees under the leadership of the General Secretary carry out Conference decisions and develop programs based on the guidelines Conference provides. The Mission and Ministry Board provides oversight.