“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008″
(Sept. 29, 2008) — The Church of the Brethren’s Committee on Interchurch Relations (CIR) met in Elgin, Ill., on Sept. 4-6. Increased emphasis on interfaith understanding and relations was a frequent topic of discussion throughout the meetings.
In addition to a list of ongoing priorities, three areas were lifted up as current CIR priorities. One of these is to encourage the Church of the Brethren to think about and act on Christ’s call for in a time when people of various world religions are increasingly in contact and experiencing conflict or opportunities for friendship and community. Other priorities are to promote and celebrate participation in the Decade to Overcome Violence through 2011, and to confer with the Church of the Brethren delegates to the National Council of Churches (NCC) and World Council of Churches (WCC) for mutual support and to help promote implementation of larger church initiatives as appropriate in congregations.
The committee reviewed its new roles in the new denominational structure that began Sept. 1. Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of Church of the Brethren, shared that the CIR functions as a vision casting body for his ecumenical responsibilities. The CIR’s mission statement was reviewed and affirmed as follows: “The CIR will help the Church of the Brethren pursue, promote, and celebrate respectful conversations, loving relationships, and shared ministries with other communities of faith to create an ever-widening circle of the Gospel of Peace.”
Other items of business included reviewing the committee’s practice of sending Church of the Brethren representatives to the annual meetings of the six other Brethren bodies who share common roots, and fostering new and existing relationships with other denominations who have expressed interest. The group also reviewed 2008 Annual Conference activities and planning for the 2009 Annual Conference.
Ex-officio member Jerry Cain, president of Judson University in Elgin, hosted the committee for dinner, where conversation continued on ways to promote involvement of the Church of the Brethren with the American Baptist Churches USA. Dialogue between the two denominations to “discuss matters of mutual information and understanding” dates back to a Church of the Brethren General Council request in 1960.
Noffsinger reported on his past and upcoming ecumenical activities, which include the work of Christian Churches Together, the NCC, the WCC, and a 2009 conference of the Historic Peace Churches. He shared how the efforts of the Historic Peace Churches in the US have made a positive influence throughout the world in helping others to solidify their identity as peace churches.
Members of the committee are Melissa Bennett of Northern Indiana District, Jim Eikenberry of Pacific Southwest District, Rene Quintanilla of Pacific Southwest District, Paul Roth of Shenandoah District, Carolyn Schrock (chair) of Missouri and Arkansas District, and Melissa Troyer of Northern Indiana District. Visit www.brethren.org/genbd/CIR/index.htm for more information.
–Melissa Troyer is a member of the Committee on Interchurch Relations from Middlebury, Ind.
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