The Mission and Ministry Board has turned down a proposal to change delegate representation at Annual Conference, which had potential to increase the number of delegates that some larger congregations could send to Annual Conference and the number of delegates that some larger districts could appoint to Standing Committee (see story below). The decision came during the board’s spring meeting March 8-11 held at the Church of the Brethren General Offices, Elgin, Ill.
Connie Burk Davis chaired the meeting, assisted by chair-elect Patrick Starkey and general secretary David Steele. A consensus model was used for decision-making, as has been board practice for some years. Board members raised cards in three colors to indicate their responses to agenda items: green for agreement, red for disagreement, and yellow to indicate concerns or questions. If red and yellow cards predominate, a proposal is considered to have failed.
As at every meeting, the board spent time in prayer and worship, participating in a Sunday morning service led by students from Bethany Seminary and a closing worship service led by Annual Conference moderator-elect Paul Mundey.
In other business:
— The board approved an executive committee recommendation for a realtor to begin exploring sale of approximately 12 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the General Offices. As more details emerge more will be reported in future issues of Newsline.
— The board approved a heating system update at the General Offices.
— A request brought by the Living Together Working Group that the group be disbanded was approved. The decision included an understanding that the board will consider how to return at a later time to its mandate from the 2016 Annual Conference to respond to the query “Living Together as Christ Calls.” The working group reported an inability to get “traction” for building a framework for the task, and a desire to wait for the outcome of compelling vision conversations.
— Steven Longenecker was appointed to the Brethren Historical Committee.
— Annual Conference moderator Donita Keister led the board in considering feedback from Compelling Vision conversations held in January with the district executives, which focused on “a denominational culture of mistrust.”
— Stan Dueck, co-coordinator of Discipleship Ministries, led training for strategic planning.
— Also on the agenda were several reports from ministry areas and a financial year-end review for 2018.
Find a photo album at www.bluemelon.com/churchofthebrethren/springmissionandministryboard-march2019 .
Board turns down proposal for change in delegate representation at Annual Conference
The Mission and Ministry Board has turned down a proposal to change delegate representation at Annual Conference. The proposal brought by the Leadership Team of the denomination had potential to increase the number of delegates that some larger congregations could send to Annual Conference and the number of delegates that some larger districts could appoint to Standing Committee
The Leadership Team includes the Annual Conference officers, general secretary, and a representative of Council of District Executives.
The board dealt with the two parts of the recommendation separately, first discussing the proposed change for Standing Committee representation, and then the change in congregational delegate representation at Conference. Both parts of the recommendation failed to gain approval.
The recommendation would have changed denominational bylaws for district delegations to Standing Committee from a current ratio of 1 delegate for every 5,000 members of a district to 1 delegate for every 4,000 members of a district; and for delegate representation at Annual Conference from a current ratio of 1 delegate for every 200 members of a congregation to 1 delegate for every 100 members of a congregation.
The recommendation originated in the Leadership Team in early 2018 and was brought to Annual Conference that year. However, it was withdrawn from Conference consideration because proposals to amend the bylaws of the denomination must come through a query process or as a recommendation from the Mission and Ministry Board.
The board received the recommendation last fall but postponed a decision in order to seek more information about practical outcomes. At this meeting the board reviewed charts showing scenarios for Standing Committee and the delegate body based on total eligibility of congregations and on actual delegate attendance in 2018. The charts showed potential delegate numbers and percentage shares of representation grouped by district and by the five areas of the denomination: the northeastern area, the southeastern area with Puerto Rico, the midwest, the plains states, and the western area.
Moderator Keister spoke about the Leadership Team’s intent in bringing the recommendation to increase participation at Annual Conference and increase vitality of the Conference by encouraging more people to attend. It was noted that the proposal would be a way of increasing numbers at Annual Conference even as the average size of congregations is decreasing. If each congregation actually sent its allotted number of delegates, the overall effect of the proposal would have been to increase the delegate body by about 50 percent.
After viewing charts showing potential outcomes would increase the percentage share of representation by the larger districts and Area 1 at the expense of the other areas and the smaller districts, board discussion centered on concerns about detrimental effects for small congregations and Brethren living in the west. One board member asked why consideration was being given to a proposal that would mean most of the denomination would lose out in terms of its percentage of representation.
Other points of discussion included the ideal size for the Standing Committee, whether membership or worship attendance should be the criteria for delegate representation, and whether now is the right time to make this kind of change in the life of the church. The discussion identified cost as a key factor for many small congregations that currently do not send delegates to Annual Conference, and as a potential burden for districts that would have been required to add members to their Standing Committee delegations.