The Annual Conference received the Revision to Ministerial Leadership Polity with appreciation for the work that has been done on the document, but returned it to the Mission and Ministry Board “for revision in accordance with Standing Committee concerns, to be brought back to the 2014 Annual Conference.”
Although information about this revision to the Church of the Brethren’s ministerial polity paper had been shared with previous Annual Conferences, the officers decided that it needed to be treated as new business since it had not yet been processed through the Standing Committee of district delegates.
The revision has been in the works for several years, led by staff of the Office of Ministry and the Ministry Advisory Council along with other groups including the Mission and Ministry Board and the Council of District Executives.
The paper presents the new concept of Circles of Ministry (Calling Circle, Ministry Circle, and Covenant Circle), revised steps for the calling process for ministers, and the new commissioned minister alongside the established ministry credentials of licensed minister and ordained minister. It also details the credentialing process, gives history on ministerial leadership in the church, theological perspective, and guidance for related issues such as accountability of ministers, reinstatement of ordination, and receiving ministers from other denominations.
The Standing Committee had spent much time in pre-Conference meetings discussing the revision, with several statements of support for the paper in general as well as several concerns being raised. The committee listed concerns about the paper and suggestions for ways the concerns may be handled, and shared that information with the Conference business session.
Standing Committee concerns centered in four general areas: a lack of mention of the plural non-salaried ministry (free ministry), the mandatory makeup of the cohort for each minister, transition of commissioned minister to ordained minister, and what happens if there is a change of call for a commissioned minister.
The following five suggestions were shared by Standing Committee and communicated to the Ministerial Advisory Council:
— Integrate the 1998 paper on Plural Non-Salaried Ministry into the Ministerial Leadership Paper.
— Change cohort make-up from polity to guidelines.
— Find a way for persons to move from commissioned minister to ordained minister without needing to reenter the licensing process.
— Allow for a change of call for commissioned ministers with district permission.
— Seek intentional conversation with leadership from ethnic congregations, specifically Hispanic and Haitian, regarding how the Ministerial Leadership Paper will affect ministers in their contexts.
Find the document that was presented to the 2013 Annual Conference at www.brethren.org/ac/documents/2013-ub4-ministerial-leadership-polity.pdf . A packet of related study materials also is available.