Daily News: May 5, 2008

“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008″

(May 5, 2008) — “How to relate and work together to move the denomination forward toward fulfilling its identity and mission,” might well summarize the spirit and discussion during the meeting of the Church of the Brethren Inter-Agency Forum, on April 23-24 in Elgin, Ill.

The Inter-Agency Forum consists of the Annual Conference executive and officers, a representative from the Council of District Executives, and the executives and board chairs of the five Annual Conference agencies. The immediate past Annual Conference moderator is the chair.

Present for the annual meeting were chair Belita Mitchell, moderator of the 2007 Annual Conference; Conference officers moderator Jim Beckwith, moderator-elect David Shumate, secretary Fred Swartz; Lerry Fogle, executive director of Annual Conference; Allen Kahler, representing the district executives; Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the General Board; Tim Harvey, chair of the General Board; Kathy Reid, executive director of the Association of Brethren Caregivers; Eddie Edmonds, ABC board chair; Ruthann Knechel Johansen, president of Bethany Theological Seminary; Ted Flory, Bethany board chair; Wil Nolen, president of Brethren Benefit Trust; Harry Rhodes, BBT board chair; Bob Gross, executive director of On Earth Peace; and Verdena Lee, board chair of On Earth Peace.

The Inter-Agency Forum was begun 10 years ago to provide a setting in which the denominational agencies could work at common goals, avoid duplication of services, and facilitate cooperation in presenting denominational mission. The validity of that purpose was authenticated in the conversation at this year’s meeting. Topics included the stewardship of time at Annual Conference, the work of several agencies to create strategic plans founded on the needs of congregations and that have relevance to the issues of the time, the opportunity for working at a more unified program through the proposed Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board, and how districts and agencies can establish closer lines of communication and relationship to enhance the interpretation of denominational program.

Other items on the agenda were an evaluation of the 2007 Annual Conference and a preview of this year’s Conference and 300th Anniversary. Each agency gave a brief report of significant achievements and current activities. The forum noted that the proposed denominational Leadership Team will assume the functions of the Annual Conference Council, under whose auspices the forum was assigned by the 2001 Annual Conference. The members of the forum will send to the Leadership Team affirmations of the value of the forum and recommend that it continue to function.

–Fred Swartz is the secretary of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

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