224th Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — July 2, 2010
Above: Annual Conference moderator Shawn Flory Replogle sits at the center of the head table for Standing Committee meetings. At right is moderator-elect Robert Alley, and at left is Conference secretary Fred Swartz.
Below: Andy Hamilton, a member of the Mission and Ministry Board, presented the Resolution Against Torture to the Standing Committee. The resolution was recommende for adoption by Annual Conference. Photos by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The Standing Committee of district delegates has recommended adoption of several new items of business coming to the Annual Conference, including a Resolution Against Torture. The group also held elections including the naming of a Brethren representative to the World Council of Churches (see results below).
In other business, Standing Committee received reports including one from the denomination’s Leadership Team, held a consultation with the church agencies and district executives, , and received training to lead Special Response hearings in their districts. The meetings are led by Annual Conference moderator Shawn Flory Replogle of McPherson, Kan.
Church of the Brethren Resolution Against Torture
The Resolution was passed to Annual Conference by the church’s Mission and Ministry Board. The brief document includes four sections: an introduction from the Brethren experience of persecution and violence, a biblical basis represented as “foundational for our conviction regarding the sanctity of life,” a section headed “Torture Is a Violation of Word and Life” stating the church’s awareness of growing occurrences of torture throughout the world and attempts to legitimize it, and a section calling the church to confession and action in response. An additional page of references accompanies the resolution.
“The Spirit of God seemed to convict us in the heart,” said board member Andy Hamilton who presented the resolution to Standing Committee, explaining that the resolution was initially drafted after the board discovered that the Church of the Brethren did not yet have a statement directed specifically at the issue of torture. “Instead of just drafting a statement we came to the point of confession and repentance,” he said.
Standing Committee recommended approval of the resolution, and then stood to read the document’s confessional statement together as an affirmation of their decision.
Query: The Structure of Annual Conference
This query from Southern Ohio District was presented to Standing Committee by a group of three pastors who had been among those bringing the concern to the district: Vickey Ullery, Ken Oren, and Burt Wolf.
Referring to earlier models of Annual Conference that used to meet over Pentecost “to heighten the symbolism and reminder of being led by the Spirit” and the model found in Acts 15:1-35, the query states that “Annual Conference has the potential of being a visionary and motivational gathering of the spiritual community.” It asks, “What ways are there to structure Annual Conference that might more effectively fulfill the mission…to unite, strengthen, and equip the Church of the Brethren to follow Jesus?”
“We are concerned that people do not attend because they think it will be an event of conflict, and people come away without inspiration,” Ullery told Standing Committee.
After some discussion, Standing Committee recommended that the query be adopted by Annual Conference, “and that the concerns of the query be referred to the Annual Conference Revitalization Task Force.” The Conference officers recently named this new task force with the responsibility to envision the future of Annual Conference, look at ideas and options for bringing new vitality and life to the annual meeting, and help deal with budget deficits.
The task force includes Becky Ball-Miller, an ordained minister from Goshen, Ind.; Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, an ordained minister from Minneapolis, Minn.; Kevin Kessler, district executive for Illinois and Wisconsin District; Wally Landes, pastor of Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; Conference director Chris Douglas; and convened by Annual Conference moderator Shawn Flory Replogle.
Query: Guidelines for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Paper
This query brought by Western Pennsylvania District originated in the district’s Pastor and Parish Ministry Team. Referring to the process for dealing with complaints of ministerial misconduct in the denomination’s “Ethics in Ministry Relations” paper, it notes the lack of such a process in the “Ethics for Congregations” paper. The query asks if it would be helpful to develop “a uniform denominational process by which districts might deal with a congregational that engages in questionable ethical activity.”
Standing Committee responded by recommending “that the query be adopted and that it be referred to a committee consisting of appropriate Congregational Life Ministries staff and three persons appointed by the Annual Conference officers and confirmed by Standing Committee.”
Appeal of Program and Arrangements Committee Decisions
This proposal to change church polity to direct appeals of Program and Arrangements Committee decisions to Standing Committee originates with the denominational Leadership Team.
The Leadership Team has inherited some functions of the former Annual Conference Council, one of which is to receive appeals of decisions made by the committee responsible for the program and arrangement of the denomination’s annual meeting. However, three of the four Leadership Team members–the Annual Conference moderator, moderator-elect, and secretary–also serve on the Program and Arrangements Committee, and thus face what might be considered a conflict of interest in addressing appeals.
Standing Committee already by church polity is the judicatory body for the denomination, and receives appeals such as arise from conflicts between districts and congregations. However, up to this time that responsibility has not extended to appeals about decisions of committees of Annual Conference.
After much deliberation, the Standing Committee recommended to Annual Conference “that the resolution from the Leadership Team be adopted as new polity, with the understanding that Standing Committee will subsequently develop a policy of how to address appeals of Program and Arrangements Committee decisions that is different from the process Standing Committee follows in making judicatory decisions.”
Church of the Brethren Bylaws
Standing Committee acted on revised bylaws for the Church of the Brethren Inc., which has come in previous years as information only. This revision of bylaws follows on a decision of 2008 to unite the former Association of Brethren Caregivers with the former General Board in a new entity called the Church of the Brethren. The revision shortens down to 17 pages a document first presented at 45 pages. The Standing Committee recommended adopting the bylaws as revised.
Michael L. Hostetter, pastor of Salem Church of the Brethren in Englewood, Ohio, was elected as World Council of Churches representative for the Church of the Brethren. R. Jan Thompson of Bridgewater, Va., was chosen as alternate.
Elected to the Nominating Committee of Standing Committee are Leah Hileman from Atlantic Southeast District, Ed Garrison from Illinois and Wisconsin District, Cathy S. Huffman from Virlina District, and Steve Sauder from West Marva District.
Elected to the Appeals Committee of Standing Committee are Jeff Carter from Mid-Atlantic District, Eileen Wilson from Oregon and Washington District, Jim Hoffman from Southeastern District, with alternates Frank Polzin of Michigan District and Shirley Wampler of Virlina District.
Elected to the Annual Conference Program Feasibility Study Committee was David Crumrine of Middle Pennsylvania District.
Standing Committee meetings conclude tomorrow morning, July 3, with an opportunity for counsel with the moderator prior to the start of business sessions with the full delegate body which begin Sunday afternoon, July 4.
–Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.
The News Team for the 2010 Annual Conference includes writers Karen Garrett, Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend; photographers Kay Guyer, Justin Hollenberg, Keith Hollenberg, Glenn Riegel; website staff Amy Heckert and Jan Fischer Bachman; and news director and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Go to www.brethren.org/Newsline to subscribe to the Church of the Brethren Newsline free e-mail news service and receive church news every other week.