By Liz Bidgood Enders and Nancy Miner
The Annual Conference study committee on an Ecumenical Vision for the 21st Century met Aug. 27-28 in Seattle, Wash. With gorgeous weather and a stunning view of Mt. Rainier, the group was blessed to receive the hospitality of Columbia-Lakewood Community Church in Seattle, which is jointly affiliated with the Church of the Brethren and the United Church of Christ.
The committee was tasked by the 2012 Annual Conference to “write a ‘Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century’ that builds upon our history while calling us into the future of the church of Christ as part of a community of communions.” The Seattle meeting was the second face-to-face gathering of this group. Last year, committee members met in New Windsor, Md., to set direction for the paper and outline a process by which to gather information and create a shared vision.
At the Seattle meeting, members shared preliminary findings from an online survey and two insight sessions held at Annual Conference 2014. Sections of the paper will include scriptural connections, a history of ecumenical involvement, current realities in local, national, and world ecumenical partnerships, and a vision for the future that honors a Brethren value of relationship-building.
As the committee met, it felt important to include voices from the wider church, and the group will solicit input from ecumenical partners and from the leadership of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Plans are to present the paper at the 2016 Annual Conference.
In reference to the hope and goal of our work together, Tim Speicher who is convener of the committee, wrote, “We are looking to empower individuals, congregations, and the denomination to serve in the work and voice of Christ as we cooperate in common concerns with ecumenical and interfaith partners.”
In addition to outlining sections of the paper, the committee developed preliminary plans for insight sessions at Annual Conference 2015 that will go beyond offering information to include resources for communities and a challenge to embrace partnerships n the wider body of Christ.
Members of the study committee are Tim Speicher of Wyomissing, Pa., convener; Liz Bidgood Enders of Harrisburg, Pa.; Wanda Haynes of Seattle, Wash.; Jennifer Hosler of Washington, D.C.; and David Shumate of Roanoke, Va. Larry Ulrich of Lombard, Ill., also had been a member of the committee until his death in Dec. 2013. Staff support is given by Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, and Nancy Miner, manager of the Office of the General Secretary.
— Liz Bidgood Enders and Nancy Miner contributed this report.