A Resolution on Christian Minority Communities brought by the Mission and Ministry Board was adopted by the Annual Conference. In other business, the Conference dealt with a number of business items deferred from the 2014 annual meeting of the Church of the Brethren including changes to bylaws of the Church of the Brethren Inc. and a polity change related to Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT).
Resolution on Christian Minority Communities
The resolution focuses on “the destruction of Christian communities in regions where Christians are targeted as religious minorities,” citing Romans 12:5 and Galatians 6:10, “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”
“While we are deeply concerned about the persecution of religious minorities regardless of religion or tradition, we feel a distinct call to speak out on behalf of those who are brothers and sisters in the body of Christ,” the resolution says, in part.
Areas where Christian communities are suffering severe persecution, are rapidly diminishing, or are in danger of disappearing altogether include northeast Nigeria, other areas of north Africa, and the Middle East particularly Palestine and Israel, Iraq, and Syria.
“Additionally, in this year commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide,” the document states, “we reaffirm our commitment to stand with targeted minority groups across the world and call not only for increased awareness of their persecution, but for renewed efforts by the church and the international community to build solidarity and protect minority religious groups who are under threat.”
The resolution identifies seven steps for Brethren to take in response:
— praying for sisters and brothers in Christ across the globe;
— learning about the experience of Christians in places of persecution and conflict;
— extending expressions of love and support to those communities;
— committing to participate in interfaith dialogue and peace initiatives;
— supporting advocacy efforts of the church in places where it is in danger of disappearing;
— developing relationships with Muslim and other religious communities in the US in an effort for mutual understanding; and
— reaching out “with hospitality and welcome to those in our own communities who have entered the United States in search of refuge from persecution, violence, and threats to their lives and their faith.”
Business deferred from 2014
Three business items that originally came to the 2014 Annual Conference were deferred to the 2015 Conference. Two of the three came to the floor with no changes from 2014: “Amendments to the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren Inc.” and “Interpretation of Polity Regarding Agency Financial Reports.”
The third was divided into two new business items by the Annual Conference officers: “Polity Change Proposal from Brethren Benefit Trust” and “Amendments to the Brethren Benefit Trust Articles of Organization.”
The Conference approved the proposed changes in the bylaws of the Church of the Brethren that clarify the term of service for a member of the board who is chosen chair-elect, and clarify “that the full five-year term allowed for a director [board member] who serves less than half of an unexpired term is subsequent to that unexpired term, not in place of it,” and also recognize the change of name of Pacific Northwest District and the newly formed Puerto Rico District.
The Conference approved the recommendation on agency financial reports which will allow the Conference agencies to post electronic copies of their annual financial reports and make copies available at booths in the exhibit hall, saving money and paper by not having to print copies for the delegate packets.
The Conference approved a polity change proposal from the BBT board that would allow an incumbent member of the BBT board who is eligible for a second term to automatically become one of two nominees that Standing Committee recommends for Annual Conference election, with a recommendation from the BBT board.
The delegates approved the amendments to the BBT Articles of Organization, which are of a variety of types including minor changes to conform to style, and grammatical corrections, but also more significant changes that among other things solidify a legal understanding of BBT as an independent organization in relationship to Annual Conference. The more significant amendments include language that the Annual Conference simply “receive” but not approve BBT’s annual report and new board-appointed members.
In other business
The delegates approved a 1 percent cost of living increase in the recommended minimum cash salary table for pastors.