Special events at this year’s Annual Conference, and work on ecumenical relationships with other denominations, topped the agenda at the spring meeting of the Committee on Interchurch Relations. The group, which is a joint committee of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and the General Board, met by conference call on April 4.
Ecumenical activities at Annual Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, in July will include the annual Ecumenical Luncheon and awarding of an Ecumenical Citation, as well as two insight sessions. Deborah DeWinter, program executive of the US Conference of the World Council of Churches (WCC), will speak at the luncheon on the topic, “Where Have All the Christians Gone: The Changing Face of the World’s Churches,” addressing the shift of church population from the northern to the southern hemisphere. DeWinter also will lead an insight session about the WCC with Jeff Carter, Church of the Brethren delegate to the WCC. The luncheon will include a multimedia show of images from the WCC’s 9th assembly that took place in February in Brazil.
The second ecumenical insight session will focus on the National Council of Churches in the US (NCC), with leadership from the Church of the Brethren representatives to the NCC.
In its work on relationships with other denominations, the committee accepted an invitation to send a representative to the Triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which is meeting June 13-21 in Columbus, Ohio. The invitation came through the office of the general secretary of the General Board, who was invited to participate in the primary Convention Eucharist celebration on Sunday, June 18, and to be presented to the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies as an ecumenical visitor on Monday, June 19. “Your presence will give witness to our oneness in Christ and to our mutual commitment to ecumenical relations,” said the invitation letter from Episcopal presiding bishop Frank T. Griswold. Michael Hostetter, a member of the committee, was chosen to represent the Church of the Brethren.
A special relationship with the American Baptist Churches USA is continuing, with a committee member invited to attend the next meeting of the ecumenical committee of the American Baptists, and a member of the General Board staff also planning to attend another upcoming American Baptist. An American Baptist representative, Rothang Chhangte, takes part in the meetings of the Committee on Interchurch Relations as an ex-officio member.
The committee plans to send Church of the Brethren “fraternal visitors” to the annual meetings of several other Brethren denominations this year, including the Brethren Church, Conservative Grace Brethren, Dunkard Brethren, Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, and Old German Baptist Brethren.
Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the General Board, gave a report to the committee as “the point person for a lot of our ecumenical contacts,” said committee member James Eikenberry, who provided this report of the meeting. Noffsinger shared information from the WCC 9th Assembly and thanked delegate Jeff Carter “for his outstanding leadership on behalf of the Church of the Brethren,” Eikenberry said. Noffsinger also shared plans for the third in a series of Historic Peace Church consultations related to the Decade to Overcome Violence. The consultation takes place in Asia in 2007 on the theme, “Living Together in Interfaith Conflict as Historic Peace Churches.” The General Board is giving a support grant to help make the consultation possible.
Members of the Committee on Interchurch Relations are chair Steve Brady, Ilexene Alphonse, James Eikenberry, Brandy Fix, Michael Hostetter, and Robert Johansen. Chhangte and Noffsinger serve ex-officio. The committee will meet next at Annual Conference in July, and then on Sept. 22-24 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.