The logo for the 2012 Annual Conference offers a new take on an old theme for the Church of the Brethren: “Continuing the Work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.” The logo was designed by Paul Stocksdale of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren working closely with Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden.
At a recent meeting, the Program and Arrangements Committee of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference made a number of decisions including approval of all applications for booth space in the exhibit hall at the 2012 Conference. Among applicants was the Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Interests (BMC).
Other decisions announced by Conference moderator Tim Harvey include a new set up for business sessions that will seat delegates at round tables, a “Continuing the Work of Jesus Wall” to stand in the business and worship hall, a service project to benefit the city of St. Louis, and the naming of Robert Neff as leader of an all-Conference Sunday school session prior to Sunday morning worship. Also, a new logo illustrating the theme, “Continuing the Work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together,” has been unveiled (see image at right).
The Program and Arrangements Committee, which includes the three Annual Conference officers, three elected members, and the Conference director as an ex-officio member, made its decision to grant BMC booth space as part of an evaluation of the 30-plus applications from church-related groups requesting space in the exhibit hall, Harvey said in a telephone interview.
The decision on BMC’s application “was based on the decision of the 2011 Annual Conference,” he said, referring to the 2011 delegate body’s action that “reaffirmed the entire 1983 Statement on Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective, and voted to continue deeper conversations concerning human sexuality outside of the query process.” Harvey specifically cited the delegates’ reaffirmation of the entire 1983 paper, which includes instruction to the church to challenge fear, hatred, and harassment of homosexual persons, and decision to continue conversation in venues outside the query process that brings items of business to the Conference. “It is the belief of Program and Arrangements Committee that conversation and understanding of the ministries represented in the exhibit hall does take place and is affirmed as a value of the exhibit hall,” Harvey said.
Instruction for the Program and Arrangements Committee to make an evaluation of all the applications it received for exhibit space at the 2012 Conference came from the Standing Committee of district delegates, Harvey said. None of the applications were rejected, he said.
There has been lobbying in the church about the granting of a booth to BMC, Harvey acknowledged. “We received some correspondence both for and against,” he said. He stated firmly, however, that none of that correspondence was discussed at the Program and Arrangements Committee meeting. “We were deliberately trying to get out of the political realm…which is why we went back to what the Annual Conference said.”
He added that as moderator, he hopes to help the church figure out “a better way to talk with each other.” The decision to seat delegates at round tables is another step in that direction. “I’m pretty excited about it,” Harvey said. “It’s an idea that has been around for awhile.”
The concept dates back to a 2007 Conference item on “Doing Church Business” that was received by the delegates and referred to the Annual Conference Officers for implementation. Several recommendations in the document have found life over the years, Harvey noted. He hopes for some business items in 2012 to include time for small group discussion around the tables, including the reports from the Annual Conference-related agencies of the church. He also hopes delegates will sit with people they do not know, and the officers will create opportunities for delegates to find out about each other’s congregations and what is going on in churches beyond their own areas. The round tables will “really build these community groups around the hall,” he said.
Cost for the table set up is “budget neutral” he said. However, since extra cost would be incurred to change seating arrangements mid-Conference, the round tables also will be in place for worship services held in the same hall as business sessions. Due to space limitations, the tables will be provided only for delegate seating (during the business sessions), with non-delegates seated in rows of chairs.
In the business and worship hall will be the new “Continuing the Work of Jesus Wall.” The wall will be a bulletin board for participants to post affirmations in the following three categories: things they are thankful for in their own congregations, “shout outs” to Brethren ministries they are impressed with, and the names of people who should be called to ministry. Program and Arrangements Committee also hopes to set up some electronic means for people to submit affirmations and potential leadership.
The Sunday school session in advance of worship on July 12 will be led by Neff, an Old Testament scholar who is a former general secretary of the denomination, a frequent contributor to Brethren Press, and in recent years a popular speaker at National Older Adult Conference. Harvey said he hopes Neff will be able to take advantage of table groups to foster discussion and make the Bible study an interactive experience for the whole Conference.
Information about the witness to the city of St. Louis will be shared as it is available, Harvey said. The project will be in keeping with the 2008 Annual Conference query ‘Conference Witness to the Host City.” The 2012 Annual Conference takes place in St. Louis, Mo., on July 7-11 next year. For more about the Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac .