Districts Begin Hearings on Issues of Sexuality

Church of the Brethren Newsline
Aug. 27, 2010

One of the hearings on the Special Response process held at Annual Conference was standing room only–until a larger venue was found for the crowd. The two hearings were sponsored by the Standing Committee of district delegates. Photo by Glenn Riegel

Some Church of the Brethren districts have begun to hold hearings on issues of sexuality at their district conferences, and others are beginning to plan for such hearings this fall and winter, led by district delegates to the Standing Committee of the Church of the Brethren’s Annual Conference.

The hearings are a central part of the “Special Response” process leading up to a decision by the 2011 Conference on two items of business: “A Statement of Confession and Commitment” from the 2008 Standing Committee ( www.cobannualconference.org/pittsburgh/
 ), and “Query: Language on Same Sex Covenantal Relationships” from Northern Indiana District ( www.cobannualconference.org/pittsburgh/NB_2_Query-Language_on_Same_Sex_Covenental_Relationships.pdf). Hearings in each of the denomination’s 23 districts will provide feedback to Standing Committee as it meets prior to the Conference next July in Grand Rapids, Mich., to frame a recommendation on the two business items.

In Southern Pennsylvania District, the District Conference on Sept. 17-18 will include two insight sessions on the Special Response process led by Standing Committee members. Also, the district plans to offer “Zone Hearings” on the two items of business coming to the Conference.

At least one district is providing training for church leaders to hold Bible studies in congregations, which also is a recommended part of the Special Response process (the Bible study resource may be downloaded from www.cobannualconference.org/pdfs/special_response_resource.pdf ).

Shenandoah District will offer opportunities for pastors and church leaders to receive training and resources for congregational Bible studies. On Aug. 28, Shenandoah pastors and church leaders are invited to Linville Creek Church of the Brethren in Broadway, Va., for an evening training. On Sept. 9, 30 and Oct. 14 Minister’s Bookshelf events will review resource documents and books that will assist with facilitating conversations.

Illinois and Wisconsin District has announced regional listening sessions in the northeast, northwest, south, and central parts of the state of Illinois. District churches also are encouraged to engage in the Bible study to provide a foundation for the listening sessions.

The Middle Pennsylvania District newsletter has announced three hearing sessions, with a memo reviewing the Special Response process and noting, “This attempt to discern the mind of Christ through the members of the Church now comes even closer to home.” Middle Pennsylvania hearings will be Sept. 23 from 7-9 p.m. at Pine Glen Church of the Brethren in Lewistown, Pa.; Oct. 26 from 7-9 p.m. at Hollidaysburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; and Nov. 7 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. at Snake Spring Valley Church of the Brethren in Everett, Pa. The district also is encouraging members to prepare for hearings using the Special Response Bible study.

Northern Plains District hopes to have five hearings around the district some time during October and November, with members welcome to attend whichever hearing bests suits their schedules. “It is hoped that these hearings will provide a wide range of persons for the listening and input to Standing Committee,” the district newsletter noted. “Most of all, these events will let us as Brethren grow with respect and grace through our tensions and differences.”

For more about the Special Response process see www.cobannualconference.org/special_response_resource.html . The Newsline editor welcomes reports from districts about their plans related to the Special Response process, please send to cobnews@brethren.org.

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