By Karen Garrett
Friday at noon Bethany Seminary alumni, faculty, students, and friends gathered for fellowship, to hear remarks from Bethany president Jeff Carter, and to be challenged by words from a panel of presenters.
Also announced at the luncheon sponsored by the Church of the Brethren seminary in Richmond, Ind.: Nigerian Brethren leader Musa Mambula is now residing in Richmond as International Scholar in Residence for two years. In addition to doing his own research and writing, Mambula will be working with the seminary to establish a working academic relationship between Bethany and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
Carter shared a few personnel changes: Jim Grossnickle Batterton is completing his service as interim admissions counselor, Amy Beery began her position as admissions counselor during Conference week, and Amy Gall Ritchie is serving as interim director of admissions while the seminary continues its search for an executive director of admissions.
Carter also announced that the seminary is moving through a strategic planning process and invited alumni who are interested in participating in that process to contact him.
The program following the luncheon was a panel discussion on “Being Salt and Light Around the Table,” addressing various aspects of ministry in times of conflict. Panelists included Ed Poling, Christy Dowdy, Shawn Flory Replogle, Audrey and Tim Hollenberg-Duffey.
Poling spoke about spiritual preparation, reminding the group that we all, early in life, develop an understanding of right and wrong. This is important unless it becomes a rigid need to be “right” and leads to a game of “I am right, you are wrong.” He suggested that the way to overcome this tendency is to spend time in contemplative prayer and silence, which can take us outside of ourselves.
Congregational conflict was the topic for Dowdy, who spoke out of her experience in congregational settings. She assured that conflict will occur in congregations and that a helpful way to work through conflict centers on patience and listening, specifically listening to many people and asking, “Where is God in all this?” Most importantly, she emphasized, attend to your own spiritual life.
Flory Replogle shared about current denominational conflict, stating that we in the Church of the Brethren are “blessed and cursed” by giving ourselves a slow process. Making decisions slowly can allow for time to process and think, but it can also feel like we are getting nowhere. From his work with the Special Response process, Flory Replogle learned that timelines can help us know the direction of the work that lies ahead, which can allow for tough discussions. Such timelines need to provide time to develop commitment to reconciliation and mutual understanding, sufficient time for discussion, and space where people feel a part of the church body and thus are more likely to stay energized and stay with the body.
The Hollenberg-Duffeys were given the topic, “Conflict and a New Way Forward for the Church,” focusing on what old patterns of conflict mean to a new generation. Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey began by stating that she looks for balance and intentionality. Tim Hollenberg-Duffey shared that the “grandparents” generation remembers the church as a place of quantity, public influence, and business success. However, people moved away, and influence dwindled. Audrey stated that the difference in how younger and older people respond is less about their generation, and more about corporate memory–new participants in the church dream and seek to move beyond traditions because they do not know the traditions. Older people are often exhausted by change, while younger people embrace it.
In a final word of advice, Tim Hollenberg-Duffey reminded the group that we all have places where we draw lines, but we need to allow people to be complex.
The 2016 Annual Conference News Team includes: writers Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Tyler Roebuck, Monica McFadden; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown; Conference Journal editor Eddie Edmonds; web manager Jan Fischer Bachman; web staff Russ Otto; editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.