The Standing Committee of district delegates ended its pre-Annual Conference meetings today in Grand Rapids, Mich. The committee has accepted a vision statement for the Church of the Brethren for the decade, and recommended it to the 2012 Annual Conference for adoption.
Standing Committee also recommended a resolution on the war in Afghanistan to the Conference for adoption. The resolution was received from the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board. Recommendations were made on queries on climate change and proper decorum. In elections, the body named a new group of church representatives to the National Council of Churches (NCC). An appeal was dealt with in closed session.
Closed sessions also were held for discussion of two Special Response business items related to issues of sexuality–“A Statement of Confession and Commitment” and “Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships.” Standing Committee spent some hours each day on the two items that have been the subject of the two-year Special Response Process across the denomination. The committee’s recommendation on the two business items will be released by the Conference officers tomorrow afternoon.
A denominational vision statement for the decade was brought to Standing Committee by a task team that has been working on its formulation, and was presented by several members of the group: Jim Hardenbrook, Bekah Houff, David Sollenberger, and Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries.
The statement, which was accepted by Standing Committee, reads: “Through Scripture, Jesus calls us to live as courageous disciples by word and action: To surrender ourselves to God, to embrace one another, to express God’s love for all creation.” This statement will come to the 2012 Annual Conference for adoption.
The vision statement was presented in a booklet that included related resources, a study guide suitable for use by congregations, and ideas for how to implement the statement. Two Standing Committee members, Ron Nicodemus and James R. Sampson, were appointed to the task team to help prepare for presentation of the statement in 2012. The vision statement also will be sent to the church agencies for their planning prior to the 2012 Conference.
Recommendations on Resolution on War in Afghanistan
A main function of Standing Committee is to make recommendations on new business items coming to Annual Conference.
The Standing Committee recommended adoption of a resolution on the war in Afghanistan. The resolution was brought by the Mission and Ministry Board from its morning meeting today, emerging from the fact that there has been no Church of the Brethren statement on Afghanistan since a General Board resolution made in 2001 that responded to the events of Sept. 11.
It also follows up on recent ecumenical statements including the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation held in May by the World Council of Churches, and a 2010 statement from the NCC calling on the US President to negotiate a withdrawal of US and NATO troops.
A list of numbered resolution points include a call on the President and members of Congress “to begin an immediate withdrawal of all combat troops from Afghanistan” and to invest resources instead into development; for the denomination to support the ministry of Church World Service in Afghanistan and to explore Brethren Volunteer Service placements there; to Brethren to support the work of groups like Christian Peacemaker Teams providing an alternative to violence; to the church to actively minister to those affected by the war; to churches and individuals “to pray for and pursue a world of just peace,” among others.
Query: Guidance for Response to the Changing of the Earth’s Climate
The committee recommended that Conference accept this query, which was brought from Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren in Peoria, Ariz., and Pacific Southwest District. In addition, the recommendation is that the query be referred to the Washington advocacy office of Global Mission Partnerships. The query asks, “What is the position of Annual Conference on climate change, and how can we as individuals, congregations, and as a denomination take concrete action to live more responsibly and offer leadership in our communities and our nation?”
Query: Proper Decorum
This query from Mountain Grove Church of the Brethren in Fulks Run, Va., and Shenandoah District was recommended for return, with thanks, referring the district to a section of the 2011 Annual Conference booklet titled “Accountability to One Another” (found on pages 74-75). The query asks the Conference to consider rules of proper decorum related to people’s positions on issues before the Conference.
In other action items, Standing Committee adopted a process for appeals of decisions by the Program and Arrangements Committee, and approved a recommendation from the Mission and Ministry Board for a review and evaluation of the mission and purpose of the Committee on Interchurch Relations (CIR). The following group has been named to carry out the review of CIR: general secretary Stan Noffsinger, CIR chair Paul Roth, Pam Reist representing the Mission and Ministry Board, and Nelda Rhoades Clark representing Standing Committee.
Ron Beachley, Audrey deCoursey, and Phil Jones were elected Church of the Brethren representatives to the NCC. Also, new members were named to committees of the Standing Committee: George Bowers, Mark Bowman, Charles Eldredge, and Bob Kettering were named to the Nominating Committee; David Crumrine, Melody Keller, and Victoria Ullery were named to the Appeals Committee.