Outcomes of an international survey asking what characteristics are essential for a church to be Church of the Brethren have been released. A committee of the Global Church of the Brethren Communion developed the survey. The committee had asked all interested Church of the Brethren members around the world to respond, and provided the survey in English, Spanish, Haitian Kreyol, and Portuguese.
The Global Church of the Brethren Communion is an organization of the 11 registered Church of the Brethren denominations in the United States, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Spain, Venezuela, and the Great Lakes region of Africa–the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda.
There were 356 “valid participations” in the survey, three-quarters from the United States. The percentage of participation by country was 76 percent US, 11 percent Dominican Republic, 4 percent Brazil, 3 percent Spain, 2 percent Uganda, with smaller percentages from Rwanda, Nigeria, Haiti, the DRC, and unspecified countries. The PowerPoint that presented the outcomes noted a 1 percent participation by “Hispanic in the US.” The age of participants ranged from under 20 to over 80. The PowerPoint included slides separating out responses received from the US from responses received from other countries.
Respondents strongly affirmed all of the characteristics that the survey named as identified with the Church of the Brethren. The majority response for all was “essential,” followed by “important” in second place. Other possible responses such as “I’m not sure,” “optional,” and “not answered” received much less support from respondents.
The intent of the survey was to receive feedback as to which characteristics are considered essential, important, or irrelevant. The named characteristics were:
Being a church that identifies with the Radical Reformation
Being a non-credal New Testament church
Being a church that practices the universal priesthood of all believers
Being a church that practices community interpretation of the Bible
Being a church that teaches and exercises freedom of thought
Being a church that practices voluntary association as an exercise of individual freedom
Being a church that teaches and lives the separation of Church and State
Being a pacifist church
Being a church that teaches and exercises conscientious objection
Being an agape church
Being a church that practices baptism by triple/trine immersion
Being a non-sacramental church
Being a church that promotes a simple lifestyle
Being a church that practices loving service to the needy neighbor
Being a church where fellowship supersedes the institution
Being an inclusive church, welcoming the different
To be an ecumenical church
To be a church that works for the preservation of Creation
The committee hopes the survey will help lay a foundation for ongoing dialogue among the worldwide Church of the Brethren bodies and will help develop criteria for new churches to join the communion.
The people who developed the survey included two leading Brazilian Brethren, country director Marcos R. Inhauser and Alexander Gonçalves; a Brethren leader and lawyer from Venezuela, Jorge Martinez; and former Global Mission interim directors from the United States, Norman and Carol Spicher Waggy.
“To define the elements to be present in the survey we used many bibliographical supports,” reported Inhauser. “We had some guidelines doing this: a.) Must be elements that in the history and in the present Church of the Brethren are present; b.) Elements that have biblical support; c.) Elements that are related to the traditional peace tradition of the Church of the Brethren; d.) The way to formulate the question was a phrase and an explanation of what the question was trying to address.
“The text of all the questions was sent to some people to give us feedback. After this process, we published it. After the determined time to get answers, it was tabulated, the data and the results were published in a PowerPoint presentation. It was shared with the people in the Global Church virtual meeting.”
Download a pdf formatted copy of the PowerPoint of survey outcomes by clicking on the link at the top of the Global Mission webpage at www.brethren.org/global.
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