A meeting between the Program and Arrangement Committee of Annual Conference and representatives of the Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Interests (BMC) took place Jan. 21 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The meeting, held at the invitation of the Program and Arrangements Committee, followed the issuing of revised guidelines for exhibits and literature distribution at Annual Conference.
The committee “felt it was important to have a face-to-face meeting with members of the Brethren Mennonite Council after denying a request for exhibit space at Annual Conference for 2006,” reported Annual Conference moderator Ronald Beachley. BMC, founded in 1976, has requested exhibit space for more than 20 years, according to BMC director Carol Wise. Those requests have been denied.
At the meeting, time was spent talking about the history of BMC, its relationship with the General Board Liaison program, and its relationship with the Program and Arrangements Committee, Beachley said. Those at the meeting watched the video “Body of Dissent,” produced by BMC. The committee’s representatives shared reasons why BMC was not granted exhibit space for the 2006 Annual Conference, and the group talked about how to encourage and foster dialogue. The meeting was “a mutual style conversation, with all of us exploring various ways to foster dialogue and move the church forward,” Wise said.
Beachley reported that “the representatives of the Program and Arrangements Committee felt the major reasons exhibit hall space was not given to BMC had to do with the church’s stance on covenantal homosexual relationships and a concern for those in the denomination who view scripture differently.” The conversation did not produce any major breakthroughs and no decisions were made, he said, “but being at the same table talking was a first step.”
Find the recently revised guidelines for Annual Conference exhibits and literature distribution at www.brethren.org/ac/ click on “Polity, Policies, and Guidelines.”