Delegates Pass Revision of Paper to Deal with Strongly Controversial Issues

223rd Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren
San Diego, California — June 27, 2009

By an overwhelming vote, the delegate body affirmed the motion of Standing Committee to adopt the revision of the paper, “A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues.” The document represents an update and revision of a paper of the same name passed in 1988, but never utilized.

Jeff Carter, on behalf of Standing Committee, presented the motion to adopt. He described how the document was rediscovered by a study committee dealing with a controversial issue, and that the need for a more workable, condensed, and revised version was apparent.

Some speakers at the microphones were concerned that more process is not needed but that more attention should be paid to scripture and God’s guidance. Others wondered about the process outlined in the paper and whether it allowed for enough diversity in the committee that would be formed to provide resources on the issue at hand, and whether it allowed for enough time for speakers’ comments when such an issue finally comes to the Annual Conference floor.

One amendment was passed, which changed the time speakers would have during floor discussion of topics using this process to one minute, instead of 1 1/2 minutes. This was to give more people a chance to speak and be heard.

Many speakers supported the paper, welcoming the process it outlines and applauding the writers for a well-thought-out document.

The 1988 paper called for a committee to provide resources on an issue and facilitate denomination-wide conversation, but it did not specify doing anything with the information gathered. This revision outlines a fuller process, giving Standing Committee the responsibility of holding hearings, and bringing the issue back to Annual Conference.

In the 1988 paper, the process is given two years to work through. But that was felt to be too short, giving only a few months for all the conversation around the denomination to take place. This revision makes it a three year process.

Moderator David Shumate commented that having a good process for controversial issues would provide a “surge protector” effect for the church, and added that the church needs special time to work with issues that try us as a body.

— Frances Townsend is a member of the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren, and pastor of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren.

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The News Team for the 2009 Annual Conference includes photographers Glenn Riegel, Ken Wenger, Justin Hollenberg, Keith Hollenberg, Kay Guyer; writers Karen Garrett, Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Melissa Troyer, Rich Troyer; staff Becky Ullom and Amy Heckert. Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, editor. Contact
cobnews@brethren.org.