2001 Review of Calling Process

Review of the Process of Calling Denominational Leadership

2001 Annual Conference Report

Background: During the Nominating Committee meeting in January of 1998, a concern was discussed that had arisen during several recent Nominating Committee meetings. Both the 1996 and the 1997 Nominating Committee reports listed concerns about our election process. From the 1996 report: “Does our system, democratic as it may be, produce the best people? Is the win/lose system meant to be the same as calling our leadership today?” From the 1997 reports: “We suggest that once the current organizational changes take shape that the Standing Committee recommend to the Annual Conference that a denominational study of our leadership calling process be instituted.”

These questions were discussed by the 1998 Standing Committee. In addition, comments from the Standing Committee broadened the scope of the concerns to include the way the Church of the Brethren calls its leadership.

The Standing Committee then took the following action:

Recommendation: The 1998 Standing Committee requests that Annual Conference elect a study committee to review its process of calling persons to denominational leadership including an evaluation of election and appointment methods.

Officers of the 1998 Standing Committee
Elaine Sollenberger, Moderator
Lowell Flory Moderator-elect
Cathy Huffman, Secretary

Action of the 1998 Annual Conference: Mark Flory- Steury Standing Committee member and chair of the 1998 Nominating Committee, presented the recommendation from Standing Committee that this item be adopted. The delegate body adopted the recommendation, and subsequently elected Janine Katonah, Shawn Replogle, and David Shetler to the Study Committee which will report back to the 1999 Annual Conference.

1999 Progress Report

In Standing Committee Nominating Meetings in 1996, 1997, and 1998 concerns were raised about the Standing Committee election process. These concerns touched on such issues as: “winners” vs. “losers”, democratic elections vs. receiving a call, and choosing the most qualified persons. In addition, the 1998 Standing Committee expanded the discussion to include the way the Church of the Brethren chooses its leadership. Therefore, 1998 Standing Committee brought the following recommendation to the delegate body:  “Recommendation:  The 1998 Standing Committee requests that Annual Conference elect a study committee to review its process of calling persons to denominational leadership, including an evaluation of election and appointment methods.”

The delegates in Orlando adopted this recommendation and elected Janine Katonah, Shawn Replogle, and David Shetler to serve as the study committee.

Our first meeting took place at the General Offices in Elgin, Illinois on November 8 and 9, 1998. We committed ourselves to the task to which we had been called and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our midst. By consensus, Janine Katonah became the chair, and Shawn Flory Replogle became the Secretary.

We were led to identify seven areas of focus as well as to name people and other resources that would help us give substance to these seven foci. In addition, we recognized the impossibility of completing our assignment in time to report to the 1999 Annual Conference. The Study Committee has, however, requested an Insight Session at the Milwaukee Annual Conference where we hope to engage Brethren throughout the denomination in a storytelling process about what’s currently happening in the Church of the Brethren regarding the election process and its issues.

Our task will surely grow and change in the process of taking its final form, but we anticipate reporting to the 2000 Annual Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

Janine Katonah, Chair
Shawn Flory Replogle, Secretary
David Shetler

Action of the 1999 Annual Conference: The progress report was presented by Janine Katonah, chair of the committee. The delegate body voted to receive the progress report.

Report of the Committee

  1. Introduction

    Throughout its history the Christian church has relied on a variety of methods for selecting leadership. In the New Testament, Jesus called out disciples from various backgrounds to follow him.1 Following Jesus’ ascension the disciples prayed fervently to God to show them who was to replace Judas; by lot, Matthias was chosen.2 Following the first Christian Pentecost, the Spirit took an active role in the leadership selection process as exemplified by the calling of seven to service3 and the calling of Said on the Damascus Road.4 The Spirit moved freely to help call out from amongst the church, faithful leaders who would continue the work of Jesus.

    While the early Brethren also used many forms of leadership selection, there was a common thread among them all: the seeking of the Spirit. The Schwarzenau Eight Sought the moving of the Spirit as their first baptizer was selected by lot. Upon baptism and receiving of the Spirit, each new member was symbolically called to the priesthood of all believers” within the faith community. Over time, persons with recognized Spirit-given gifts were called from among this “priesthood” to serve as leaders of the community. This calling occurred in many different forms, from slips of paper in Bibles to each member naming who they prayerfully thought to be called. In each selection process, the movement of the Spirit was integral to the success of the brother’s or sister’s call.

    As the Church of the Brethren grew in membership and geography, larger structures of organization developed. In response to issues of faith, practice and church discipline, what we now know as Annual Conference developed. Along with a larger meeting came rules, delegates, and officers to run the business parts of the meetings. Obviously, a method of selecting denominational officers needed to be developed. As the Church of the Brethren has changed over time, the way in which it has selected its denominational leadership has also changed.5

    At the 1998 Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, Standing Committee recommended that the delegate body elect a study committee “to review the process of calling persons to denominational leadership, including an evaluation of election and appointment methods.” In previous years the Nominating Committee of Standing Committee had expressed concerns about our denominational election process. Specifically, “Does our system … produce the best people? Is the win/lose system meant to be the same as calling our leadership today?”

    In addressing these concerns and questions through research and listening, we made a number of observations. First, in selecting denominational leadership there is an inherent sense of trust: in the Spirit, in ourselves as communicators of that Spirit, and in one other. Do we trust the Spirit to move in our selection processes? Do we trust the Spirit to move in those who are charged with the selecting? Do we trust the ways in which the Spirit moves in each of us? While we all strive to be more trusting of the Spirit’s moving, the size of Annual Conference makes developing trust with all of our gathered brothers and sisters difficult. Trust is a fundamental issue within any community of faith.

    Second, on the district and congregational levels there are more opportunities to be face-to-face and work on the hard issues of being a faith community. People get to know each other as people, and, out of this relationship and striving together oil hard issues, trust develops. At Annual Conference we gather from the far reaches of the nation. In essence we are many different communities of faith gathered together under the same banner of the Church of the Brethren. Often we know little about the brother or sister passing by us in the hallway or sitting in front of us in [he delegate section, How can we ask one another to be a part of a leadership selection process in which we may nor know the persons to be selected? Do we bring with us principles of calling out leadership that work in local communities of faith where people know each other? Can these principles be adequately applied to a setting as large as Annual Conference, where familiarity between delegates and candidates cannot be taken for granted?

    Third, what does it mean to have a process tied to something essentially political6 (Robert’s Rules of Order) rather than spiritual? How do we include and seek the direction of the Spirit in our leadership selection process? Regardless of the way we choose to select our denominational leadership in the future, consciously including tools of discernment of God’s Spirit moving among us should be of the utmost importance.

    The first charge to this Study Committee was to review the current process of calling denominational leadership. That review can be found in section II of this paper. The Study Committee was also charged with the task of evaluating other election and appointment processes. That evaluation can be found in section III of this paper. Our committee does not see our goal to be proposing the “answer” to the questions that we and others have encountered. Rather, we have tried to suggest changes to the current process and evaluate other processes so that the Annual Conference might make an informed decision about the way it will include the moving of the Spirit in the method it uses to call denominational leadership.

  2. Review of the Current Selection Process for Denominational Leadership

    1. Current Selection Process Timeline7

      1. July 2000 Annual Conference secretary distributes information about the ballot process, including the offices to be filled in 2001. The secretary invites every church member to participate by submitting names for consideration as candidates.

      2. Sept. 2000 The election procedure is publicized in the Agenda newsletter. Openings are listed, and readers are invited to submit names.

      3. Oct. 2000 The election procedure gets further publicity in the Messenger news section. Again, openings are listed, and readers are invited to submit names.

      4. Jan. 2001 Nominating Committee (of Standing Committee) meets at the Annual Conference Office. This Committee studies the suggested names and supporting information about qualifications, skills, interests; considers such things as geographic spread, male/female balance, ethnic representation; and puts together the initial ballot of four names for each office.

      5. Feb. 2001 The initial ballot is distributed to congregations, General Board and Standing Committee members, General Board staff District Executives, and others.

      6. May 2001 The initial ballot appears in Messenger‘s Annual Conference preview

      7. June/July 2001 Standing Committee, meeting prior to Annual Conference, votes and reduces the initial ballot to its tentative final form of two candidates for each office.

      8. AC 2001 The AC Secretary presents the tentative final ballot to Conference delegates, and the moderator calls for nominations from the floor. Any conferencegoer may make a nomination at this time. The final ballot is then printed. Delegates mark the final ballot, votes are counted, and the results announced.

      9. In addition, study committees necessitated by delegate action at Annual Conference are selected by slate at Annual Conference. Nominations, including willingness to serve, are secured at AC. The Nominating Committee of Standing Committee prepares this slate. The slate should include at least twice as many names as are to be elected, with nominations being allowed from the Conference floor.8

    2. Through study, interviews, Annual Conference Listening Post feedback as well as personal contacts, the following observations, questions and concerns about the current election process have been identified.

      1. Observations

        1. Ballot process empowers the delegates; requires their voice; encourages their participation; and provides choice

        2. Length of tenure of the current process speaks to its effectiveness

        3. Biographical data containing a priority statement and a vision statement is helpful to delegates

        4. Confidence is expressed for the delegate/member decision-making process

        5. No shortage of qualified candidates for the ballot process is evident

        6. Members affirm that current distribution of information announcing positions open on the ballot is helpful

      2. Questions

        1. Should district representatives to the General Board be elected by their sending districts?

        2. Why does Standing Committee wait until June/July to reduce the ballot from four candidates to two?

        3. How are qualifications measured as a component of the election process?

        4. What sort of checks and balances are there or should there be, if any?

        5. Which is really more Brethren, voting or consensus?

      3. Concerns

        1. Name recognition is perceived as too great an influence in the ballot process (including geographical area, district size, prior nomination or experience, family/Brethren roots)

        2. Candidates feel the need for more freedom in choosing and editing biographical content

        3. Candidates are constrained by the length of time between the initial and tentative final ballot

        4. The current ballot process offers little support for candidates during ballot selection period; there is only one contact during the nominating process; some candidates profess a lack of understanding of the nominating process

        5. Issues of inherent trust include the perception that a small group of people make die choices for denomination; larger church constituency can feel that they have little control of the election process

        6. The prospect of being a “winner” or a “loser” in the election process can have an emotional and/or psychological impact on the candidates

        7. The candidates can view the election process in a variety of ways

          1. “I wasn’t chosen; it wasn’t my time to serve”

          2. “I endure the process in order to be called to serve”

          3. “I was rejected by a process over which I have little control”

        8. Any selection process should include spiritual discernment

        9. A more well-prepared delegate body would result from a brief synopsis of each office on the ballot

  3. Evaluation of Other Leadership Selection Methods

    1. Modified Current Process

      This is essentially the same time line as is used in the current process, with the following modifications

      1. District representatives to the General Board would be chosen by the district by whatever process the district chooses and affirmed by the Annual Conference

        1. takes the win/lose component out of the General Board district representatives selection process at the Annual Conference level

        2. empowers districts in the selection process of their representation to General Board

      2. At-large General Board members would be chosen by the General Board and affirmed by Annual Conference delegates

        1. takes the win/lose component out of the General Board at-large member selection process at the Annual Conference level

        2. enables General Board to name persons with specific qualifications for service

        3. this modification maintains a selection process consistent with other agencies reportable to Annual Conference

      3. On the nomination form, instead of listing offices held at the local, district, denominational, ecumenical and community levels, ask candidates to provide information about how the positions they have held provide them with the skills and experience related to the position for which they are being nominated. This information would be included with basic biographical data, a one sentence Vision Statement, and a one sentence Priority Statement in a half-page entry on the Annual Conference ballot. Each candidate would be able to review/edit final ballot copy prior to publication.

        1. The candidates would have an opportunity to express their own personal statements of qualification.

        2. The delegates would have access to candidates’ information more closely related to the actual position for which they have been nominated.

        3. The candidates would take responsibility for the final wording of their ballot information.

      4. Nominating Committee would meet in January to prepare an initial ballot, as is the current practice. That ballot would be distributed to only Standing Committee who would vote and reduce the initial ballot to its tentative final form. The Annual Conference officers would tabulate the final ballot choices from Standing Committee members. This tentative final ballot would be distributed to the denomination at large in February.

        1. This modification would reduce by fifty percent the number of candidates exposed in the public arena to elimination from the selection process.

        2. Such a change would eliminate the current five month waiting period for candidates to ascertain their position on the final ballot.

      5. During their January meeting, Nominating Committee of Standing Committee is encouraged to contact potential candidates for additional information and insights into their qualifications to assist in the selection process.

        1. This modification would provide opportunity for personal contact between Nominating Committee members and potential candidates.

        2. This modification would provide opportunity for candidates to ask questions regarding the nominating process.

      6. Faith statement presentations by candidates would occur at Annual Conference (live or via videotape).

        1. This modification would give the delegates an opportunity to learn to know the candidates in a way that they have not been previously afforded.

        2. This modification would provide an opportunity for candidates to present themselves to the delegates.

      7. Nominating Committee of Standing Committee is encouraged to use a Worshipful Work model in their discernment process.9

        This modification would raise the awareness of God’s Spirit in the process of calling denominational leadership.

      8. It is recommended that the document, “Election Procedures for Annual Conference,” be included in all delegate packets and in the Annual Conference booklet in the section following the Conference Rules.

        This modification would provide information to assist delegates in their discernment of the gifts needed for positions open on the Annual Conference ballot. It is hoped that this document, along with the information ballot also found in the Annual Conference delegates packet, will provide a context in which delegates can prayerfully consider the call for leadership for the denomination.

      9. If study committees are required by Annual Conference action, it is recommended that biographical ballots be expanded to include more in depth narrative of the candidates’ qualifications for and interest in the focus of the particular study committee to which they wish to be called. This candidate information would be included with basic biographical data on a one third page entry as part of the Annual Conference Study Committee ballot.

        For delegates to have adequate information to be able to discern the candidates’ gifts, delegates need at least a minimum of information about the candidates’ qualifications for the study committee to which candidates are being called.

    2. Slate Process

      1. Definition: A slate is a presentation of candidates in which there is only one candidate for each position open. Voters then have the opportunity to affirm or dismiss each candidate.

        1. Definition: Discernment calling is a process whereby a calling committee is charged with naming the gifts, interests and abilities of members of the church body, identifying the leadership needs of the church body; and then, through prayer and discernment, issuing a call to individuals to fill these leadership needs.

        2. How might this look at Annual Conference?

          1. Several congregations and districts have undertaken the task of implementing a discernment calling process. Their experiences have provided valuable insights into the whole process for calling denominational leadership. A number of these insights have been integrated into the body of this paper.

          2. Discernment calling, in and of itself, would be difficult to implement on a large scale such as Annual Conference.

      2. How might this look at Annual Conference?

        1. Nominations would still be solicited from the denomination at large and would be received by Standing Committee. Due to the nature of the slating process the entire Standing Committee would serve as the slating body instead of the current process of using a nominating committee.

          1. The slating process requires an extensive period of spiritual discernment in which knowledge of the qualifications of the candidates is examined.

          2. By utilizing the entire Standing Committee, a broader base of representation and experience is made available to the process. The Standing Committee is encouraged to use a Worshipful Work model similar to the one outlined in die appendix of this paper.

        2. Each candidate on the slate would need to be affirmed by at least a two-thirds majority of the delegate body. Any candidate not receiving a two-thirds majority would be dismissed. Standing Committee would present another name to the delegate body for affirmation. It is recommended that any new candidate’s name be taken from the pool of nominations already received by Standing Committee.

        3. To call Annual Conference study committee’s by a slating process, nominations would be received by Standing Committee and a biographical ballot would be prepared. Each candidate on the slate would need to be affirmed by at least a two-thirds majority of the delegate body. Any candidate not receiving a two-thirds majority would be dismissed. Standing Committee would present another name to the delegate body for affirmation. It is recommended that any new candidate’s name be taken from the pool of nominations already received by Standing Committee.

        4. The implications of a slating process are:

          1. the elimination of a contest in which there are inherently winners and losers;

          2. the possibility that the delegates might sense a loss of control in the selection process;

          3. the potential for the delegates to develop apathy regarding the importance of the voting process;

          4. the simplification of the process of calling denominational leadership;

          5. the necessity of an additional meeting of the full Standing Committee and its related expenses;

          6. the possibility of creating a self-perpetuating leadership structure whose goals and purposes become increasingly removed from the life of Annual Conference.

      3. Open Ballot

        1. Definition: An open ballot is one in which the voting body names persons to fill available positions. No prepared ballot is presented to the voting body nor do candidates complete any nomination materials prior to the election. The candidates are elected by simple majority. Voting occurs separately for each position. If no one candidate for any position receives a clear majority, there is an election between die two persons receiving the most votes.

        2. How might this look at Annual Conference?

          While having merit in a local congregation or district setting, at the Annual Conference level an open ballot process would be extremely difficult to implement.

      4. Discernment Calling Process

    3. Forms of Calling

      1. Drawing/Casting of Lots

        1. Definition: The biblical story in Acts I describes the replacement of Judas by Matthias as one of the twelve apostles through a process of casting lots. Similarly, the church has used this method at various points in its history to call out leaders, especially ministerial leadership. For example, ministers have been called by choosing from an identical group of Bibles, in which one Bible contained an indication of “the Call.” There was always one extra Bible. If no one received “the call” it was considered also to be an indication of God’s direction for the body.

        2. How might this look at Annual Conference?

          Clearly, this method of calling leadership contains aspects of discernment. However, the practicality of using this method in a large deliberative body such as Annual Conference is questionable.

      2. “Meeting room” Call

        1. Definition: First used as a process for calling ministers in the church, the “Meeting Room” call was also extended to the call of deacons. In this process members of the congregation came individually before leaders of the congregation (elders, moderator, deacons) and gave a name of the person they felt should be called. The persons whose name(s) were given most frequently were approached regarding the call of the congregation.

        2. How might this look at Annual Conference?

          Although this method of call is still in use in some congregations, it is best used in that setting as opposed to Annual Conference where the mechanics of the process would be prohibitive.

  • Conclusion

    The issue of how to select leadership for congregations, districts and the denomination, has brought a variety of interest and opinions from many parts of the denomination. In the specific task assigned to this Study Committee by the 1998 Annual Conference, ” to review the process of calling persons to denominational leadership, including an evaluation of election and appointment methods,” delegates desired to Utilize a system that calls the best persons for leadership positions while being sensitive to me leading of the Holy Spirit. In addition, in keeping with our community-based heritage, others asked how might we maintain a significant level of participation by individual members of the church, including Annual Conference delegates. This committee determined that its responsibility and charge was to provide the requested information so that delegates could choose the most appropriate means for the church to call denominational leadership.

    Whichever selection process emerges, the Study Committee has several recommendations. First, it is recommended that the delegates reaffirm age/gender/ethnic representation as defined by the “Call to Accountability for Equality of Representation on Annual Conference Ballots,” most recently evaluated at the 1999 Annual Conference.

    Second, it is recommended that the principles of the 1996 “Ethics in Ministry Relations” paper also be applied to those who would be called to denominational leadership. Whether or not these persons have ministerial standing, it is felt that the standards of ethical behavior as described in this paper should apply to all denominational leadership.

    Third, it is recommended that candidates for denominational offices not look at themselves as victims if they are not chosen. Instead, candidates and all members of the church at large need to be open to the way in which God leads the community. As difficult as it may be at times, it is better that egos be set aside for the good of the community of faith. There are times when what appears to be best for the individual may not be best for the community.

    Fourth, it is recommended that congregations, districts, and Congregational Life Team members (serving as resource persons) redouble efforts to do quality leadership development. Persons need to be called out and prepared prior to being chosen for denominational leadership. Leadership experience in a community of faith and sensitivity to the guidance of the Spirit is extremely valuable to those called. Persons with such background can serve the church well.

    Fifth, if delegates choose a process other than the current process or the modified process, then it is recommended that the Annual Conference officers in consultation with the Annual Conference Executive Director determine the timeline necessary for Annual Conference action.

    When the process of calling denominational leadership is chosen by the delegates to Annual Conference, it is vital that the church continues to seek the guidance and direction of the Spirit in selecting those persons with gifts and abilities to lead. Members of the church must trust the Spirit, each other and the process selected as denominational leadership is called to serve God and the community of faith.


    1Matthew 4:18-22
    2Acts 1:21-26
    3Acts 6:1-7
    4Acts 9:1-9
    5A fuller historical perspective can be found in Appendix A.
    6A fuller history of Robert’s Rules of Order can be found in Appendix B.
    7Thomason, Kermon, “Who Builds the Ballot?” Messenger. October 1991; P. 10.
    8The language of this paragraph is borrowed from Minutes 1965-1969, p. 348. However, the use of “slate” should not be confused. The paragraph refers to a process that is much more ballot-like than slate-like, as defined in section 111, B of this paper.
    9A model o