Conference business ranges from changes in delegate representation, to a new vision for mission, to creation care, and more

Church of the Brethren Newsline
May 25, 2018

Delegates to this year’s Annual Conference will address 11 new and unfinished items of business.

New business includes “Change in Delegate Representation at Annual Conference,” “Vision for a Global Church of the Brethren,” “Brethren Values Investing,” “Polity for Electing Brethren Benefit Trust Board Directors,” “Polity for Electing the District Representative to the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee.”

Unfinished business includes “Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century,” “Vitality and Viability,” “Creation Care,” “Compelling Vision,” “Denominational Leadership Gathering,” and various amendments to the denomination’s bylaws.

New business:

Change in Delegate Representation at Annual Conference

Recommended by the denomination’s Leadership Team (Conference officers, general secretary, and a representative of the Council of District Executives), these changes would increase the ratio of Annual Conference delegates to membership of congregations and districts. The ratio for congregations would increase from 1 delegate per 200 members to 1 per 100 members, and for districts from 1 per 5,000 members to 1 per 4,000 members. This would add five people to the Standing Committee of district delegates. The document explains, “Conversations around decreasing membership often lead us to hold at arm’s length its realities and simply hope for ‘better times.’ The Leadership Team would rather actively walk with this current reality and seek ways to increase the vitality and effectiveness of Annual Conference.” Go to

Vision for a Global Church of the Brethren

Adopted by the Mission and Ministry Board at the initiative of staff of Global Mission and Service, the document has been in process for some time. Those involved in its development include the Mission Advisory Committee and church leaders from several countries. Impetus came from a disconnect between polity and practice. An Annual Conference mandate for a global church is present in previous statements, but those call for international districts rather than the independent denominations that have developed. The new vision is for a global Church of the Brethren “as a union of autonomous bodies, a spiritual community bound together by a common passion to be followers of Christ, a common New Testament theology of peace and service, and a common commitment to be in relationship with one another.” Go to

Brethren Values Investing

This change to the Articles of Organization of Brethren Benefit Trust proposes the term “Brethren Values Investing” in place of “Socially Responsible Investing.” Go to

Polity for Electing Brethren Benefit Trust Board Directors

This change to BBT Articles of Organization would require no more than two nominees for election of a director to the BBT board, replacing the current requirement for four nominees. Go to

Polity for Electing the District Representative to the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee

To align polity with practice, the Leadership Team recommends changes regarding where the committee makes its recommendation about pastoral salaries and how the district executive member of the committee is chosen. Go to

Unfinished business:

Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century

This proposed new statement guides the denomination’s ecumenical witness in a time of increased religious diversity. It comes from a committee established as part of a recommendation in 2012 from an Interchurch Relations Study Committee. It states, in part: “We will continue to build and nurture positive relationships with other faith communities. In doing so, we strengthen a history of service and missions, disaster response and relief ministries, and peace witness—nationally and globally. These relationships further our understanding of opportunities for mission and ministry, and they instill a cooperative readiness to act upon needs and areas of common concern when they arise.” Go to

Vitality and Viability

This report originated with a query from Mid- Atlantic District on “Future DistrictStructure.” The 2015 Conference returned the query but called a committee to study its concerns related to vitality and viability. The report takes into account the work of the Mission and Ministry Board and the 2017 Review and Evaluation Committee. The report aims to articulate “matters of the heart,” and calls the church to “a time of renewal of relationships with our Lord and Savior and with each other,” outlining structure for a “Year of Sabbath Rest and Renewal.” The document identifies differences regarding human sexuality and approaches to scripture. It makes some specific recommendations for dealing with differing perspectives in the church and recommends a process “to ensure that congregations who may leave do so in an accountable, amicable, and gracious process…avoiding litigation.” It concludes with a series of five Bible studies. Go to

Creation Care

This report comes from a study committee elected in 2016 to respond to a query from Illinois and Wisconsin District. The report focuses “on the charge given to us by Annual Conference by examining the impact of the use of fossil fuels and contributions to climate change on our brothers and sisters around the world, and how Brethren can take action to reduce that impact.” Outcomes of the committee’s work include a website offering a series of resources related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, financial matters, faith and liturgical resources, and community action; and a commitment by the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy to coordinate a Brethren Creation Care Network. Detailed recommendations encourage Brethren “to integrate an understanding about the real cost of fossil fuels and climate change into every part of your life, as an individual, as a member of a congregation, and as a member of the denomination.” Go to

Compelling Vision

A report from the Leadership Team reviews ongoing work toward a “compelling vision” to guide the Church of the Brethren. The process begins at this year’s Conference, where a full business session and a portion of a second will be dedicated to engaging attendees, followed by further opportunities in districts throughout this year. The recommendation is “that all new business for the 2019 Annual Conference be set aside so that the delegate body and other Annual Conference participants can focus their attention on the essential conversations that will lead to discerning the compelling vision that Christ intends for the Church of the Brethren.” Go to

Amendments to the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren Inc.

The Mission and Ministry Board recommends bylaws changes in response to the 2017 Review and Evaluation Committee. The changes would affect the coordination of denominational envisioning; oversight of the Annual Conference office, director, and budget; membership of the Leadership Team; and some terminology. One amendment would update the name of Southern Ohio District to “Southern Ohio-Kentucky District.” Go to

Denominational Leadership Gathering

Last year’s Review and Evaluation Committee recommended a gathering of denominational leadership every three to five years, and action was delayed for a year to do a feasibility study. The Program Feasibility Committee determined that current structures provide enough collaboration and that the cost is too high. The original recommendation returns to the floor this year for action. Go to

Find the listing of business items at

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