Delegates to Annual Conference on June 29-July 3 in Charlotte, N.C., will consider several key documents for the Church of the Brethren, among nine items of business coming to the meeting. As at last year’s Conference, delegates will again be seated together at round tables.
Unfinished business items including revisions to polity on ministerial leadership, and responses to queries on climate change and congregational ethics, among others. New business includes a resolution against drone warfare and a query on biblical authority, as well as recognition for the Church of the Brethren in Spain.
Find the full text of business documents, the ballot, and a video briefing for delegates at www.brethren.org/ac/2013-conference-business-1.html
Revision to Ministerial Leadership Polity
A revised Ministerial Leadership Polity document has been in the works for some years, led by staff of the Office of Ministry along with a number of other leadership groups in the denomination including the Mission and Ministry Board and the Council of District Executives. The revised paper is now coming to the Annual Conference for action. The paper is in several sections with major space given to the concept of Circles of Ministry (Calling Circle, Ministry Circle, and Covenant Circle). Key sections address the Calling Circle and steps in the calling process for ministers, and the two types of Ministry Circles including the Commissioned Minister Circle and the Ordained Minister Circle, as well as a detail of the credentialing process for ministers. Other sections give background information, the history of ministerial leadership and ordination in the Church of the Brethren, theological perspective, and guidance for related issues such as accountability of ministers, reinstatement of ordination, receiving ministers from other denominations, and ministers serving congregations with dual affiliation.
Query: Guidelines for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Paper
A query on congregational ethics from Western Pennsylvania District came to the 2010 Conference and was referred to a committee including Congregational Life staff and three people appointed by the Conference officers. In 2011 Annual Conference approved a recommendation from that committee that the 1996 Ethics for Congregations paper be reviewed, revised, and updated in collaboration with Congregational Life Ministries, Council of District Executives, and Office of Ministry. The 2012 Conference granted two more years for study. The current report coming in 2013 includes a revision to the 1996 paper, and several recommendations including that the revised paper be reviewed by each congregation, that each congregation engage in a regular process of self assessment every five years in conjunction with the five-year ordination review for ministers, that district leadership be involved in the process, and that materials and resources to support congregations be developed.
Query: Guidance for Responding to the Changing of Earth’s Climate
This query from Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren in Peoria, Ariz., and Pacific Southwest District first came to Conference in 2011. It was referred to the denomination’s advocacy office. A small working group led by then-director of advocacy and peace witness, Jordan Blevins, brought a progress report in 2012. This year the Office of Public Witness is bringing a report on actions taken since, including the writing of a study guide for use by congregations, and requests another year to accept further comments and revise the study resource in preparation for a statement to come to the 2014 Annual Conference.
Query: More Equitable Representation on the Mission and Ministry Board
This query came to Annual Conference from Southern Pennsylvania District, and was referred to the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board. The following bylaw changes are being recommended: increasing from 10 to 11 the number of board members elected by Annual Conference; decreasing from 5 to 4 the at-large members elected by the board and affirmed by the Conference; changing from 2 to 3 the number of members elected by Conference from each of the three most populous areas of the denomination (Areas 1, 2, 3); decreasing from 2 to 1 the number of members elected by Conference who come from each of the two least populous areas (Areas 4 and 5); charging the nominating committee of Standing Committee with ensuring fair and equitable rotation of board members from among districts.
Church of the Brethren Ecumenical Witness
A study committee on the Committee on Interchurch Relations (CIR) recommended that the CIR be discontinued and that the church’s ecumenical witness be expressed through other means, and that a committee be appointed by the Mission and Ministry Board and Leadership Team to write a “Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century.” The general secretary reports to the 2013 Conference that such a committee has been formed, and will bring a vision paper back to Annual Conference upon its completion.
Resolution Against Drone Warfare
The resolution comes from the Mission and Ministry Board, and was proposed by the Office of Public Witness. It addresses the use of drones in warfare in the context of a reaffirmation of the Church of the Brethren’s longstanding assertion that “war is sin.” Citing scripture and relevant Conference statements, it states in part, “We are troubled by the quickly expanding use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. These drones are being used for surveillance and remote killing of people. In our opposition to all types of war, the Church of the Brethren has spoken out specifically against covert warfare…. Drone warfare embodies the fundamental problems that covert warfare entails.” The resolution includes a section of calls for action directed to the church and its members, and to the President and Congress.
Recognition of the Church of the Brethren in Spain
The recommendation to officially recognize the Church of the Brethren in Spain comes to the Annual Conference from the Mission and Ministry Board, after that body received the recommendation from the Mission and Ministries Planning Council. Nuevo Amanecer Church of the Brethren and Atlantic Northeast District made the initial proposal, following the establishment of congregations in Spain by Brethren immigrants from the Dominican Republic. Nuevo Amanecer pastor Fausto Carrasco has been a key leader in the development. The board recommends that the congregations in Spain be recognized as “being part of the global Church of the Brethren community” and that Global Mission and Service staff be encouraged to nurture the relationship, seeking to encourage efforts toward independence and self-governance.
Query: Biblical Authority
This brief query from Hopewell Church of the Brethren and Virlina District asks if the 1979 Annual Conference statement on “Biblical Inspiration and Authority” (available online at www.cobannualconference.org/ac_statements/79BiblicalInspiration%26Authority.htm ) is still relevant and represents the denomination today, given what “appears to be a great diversity in approach to the primacy of scripture in general and the New Testament in particular within the Church of the Brethren.”
Membership on the Executive Committee of the Mission and Ministry Board
The Mission and Ministry Board is requesting an amendment to the denominational bylaws in order to increase the number of members on its executive committee.
For more information about the Annual Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac .