The business items for the Church of the Brethren’s Annual Conference on July 10-14 in Omaha, Neb., are now posted online. The Conference is returning to a full business agenda complete with queries and other new business after several years in which the compelling vision took precedence.
The Conference will address one item of unfinished business, “Update to Polity Regarding Annual Conference Agencies,” and seven items of new business.
New business includes queries on “Standing with People of Color” and “Breaking Down Barriers–Increasing Access to Denominational Events”; three items related to pay and benefits for pastors: a new Integrated Annual Ministry Agreement and Revised Guidelines for Pastors’ Salaries and Benefits, a Revised Minimum Cash Salary Table for Pastors, and the annual cost-of-living adjustment to the Minimum Cash Salary Table for Pastors (the latter recommendation to come in June); amendments to the appeal section of the Ethics in Ministry Relations polity document; and revisions to the denomination’s bylaws.
The delegate body also will vote on a ballot and will receive numerous reports including from the denomination’s Leadership Team, the work of the Church of the Brethren’s board and staff, the Annual Conference agencies (Bethany Seminary, Brethren Benefit Trust, and On Earth Peace), Conference committees including the Program and Arrangements Committee and the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee, and representatives to ecumenical organizations.
To watch the business online you must register as a virtual nondelegate. Business sessions will no longer be live-streamed free of charge. Go to www.brethren.org/ac2022/registration.
Update to Polity Regarding Annual Conference Agencies
This item originated at the 2017 Annual Conference when, in response to a recommendation from On Earth Peace, the denomination’s Leadership Team was tasked to update current polity for the Annual Conference agencies. This year the Leadership Team brings its proposal back to the Conference.
“Each aspect of the assignment has been addressed,” said the team in its proposal. “This proposed update to polity provides the definition of an Annual Conference Agency; it specifies the process to become an Annual Conference Agency; it identifies the process for resolving issues of conflict or dispute between the policies and/or practices of an Annual Conference Agency and the polity, policies, and positions of Annual Conference; it identifies the process for reviewing Agency status if conflicts cannot be resolved; and the Leadership Team consulted with each Annual Conference Agency in making this update. The Leadership Team believes this polity update for Annual Conference Agencies will help navigate the reality that each organization is a separately incorporated but genuinely engaged partner in providing a ministry on behalf of the Church of the Brethren that Annual Conference cannot or does not chose to provide or accomplish itself.”
Query: Standing with People of Color
From the board of Southern Ohio and Kentucky District, adopted by the district conference last October, this query asks, “How can the Church of the Brethren stand with People of Color to offer sanctuary from violence and dismantle systems of oppression and racial inequity in our congregations, neighborhoods, and throughout the nation?”
Query: Breaking Down Barriers–Increasing Access to Denominational Events
From Living Stream Church of the Brethren, the denomination’s only fully online congregation, and approved by the Pacific Northwest District Conference in September 2020, this query asks, “Should the Brethren explore the possibilities of how we can faithfully, in good order and with proper representation, use technology to remove barriers and facilitate the full participation of delegates and those desiring to be present for Annual Conference and other events, who might be better served–and could better serve the body–from a distance?”
Integrated Annual Ministry Agreement and Revised Guidelines for Pastors’ Salaries and Benefits
Brought by the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee, the proposed Integrated Annual Ministry Agreement would replace the present Start-Up and Renewal Agreements for pastors and congregations to complete each year. The Revised Guidelines for Pastors’ Salaries and Benefits provides detailed explanations regarding recommended benefits for pastors.
Wrote the committee in the proposal: “We came to this review knowing that 77% of our pastors are serving in less than full time or less than fully compensated roles; that our churches are growing smaller, not larger; and that our overall membership is shrinking, not growing. Other considerations included the frustrations we have heard from pastors and congregations alike about trying to meet the dollar amounts in the Minimum Cash Salary Table published by our Committee every year; the pressure to perform full-time ministry on part-time pay; and the lack of a framework that would assist our congregations to participate in ministry with our pastors. Knowing all this, the Committee decided to re-imagine the compensation and working relationships between pastors and congregations.”
The Integrated Annual Ministry Agreement includes several fillable or worksheet-like forms for use by pastors and congregations: the Annual Compensation Agreement, an Annual Compensation Table, and an Annual Shared Ministry Priorities Agreement.
Also included are a glossary and explanations of terms such as pastoral housing and designated housing exclusion, along with information about pastoral taxation and how a congregation should fill out the IRS Form W-2 for a pastor.
Revised Minimum Cash Salary Table for Pastors
The Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee recommends a revision that would include a number of changes, such as in the percentage increase between a pastor’s years of experience and the range between education columns, narrowing the increase for each year of experience, as well as a progressive narrowing of the range between education levels as a pastor gains more experience, and raising the starting salary for pastors to become more competitive with vocations that have similar education requirements and responsibilities.
Amendments to the appeal section of the “Ethics in Ministry Relations” polity document
The Standing Committee of district delegates to Annual Conference recommends amendments to the Ethics in Ministry Relations polity for appeals that involve the termination of a ministerial license by a district ministry commission or the termination of an ordination by a district board.
The amendments would make changes recognizing Standing Committee’s need for more time to prepare to receive appeals; providing leeway when two or more appeals are received within a stated time period, that instead of “will” be heard an appeal “could” or “may” be heard; and clarifying in polity the current Standing Committee Appeal Process requiring that “the dissatisfied party shall have exhausted every means of resolution or reconsideration” at the district level before asking that an appeal be heard by Standing Committee.
Revisions to the bylaws of the Church of the Brethren
Brought by the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board, the revisions include a variety of nonsubstantial changes to the bylaws. The changes would correct inconsistencies and grammatical errors, ensure greater clarity, and align polity with current practice.
Find the full background documents for the business agenda linked at www.brethren.org/ac2022/business.
For more information about the 2022 Annual Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac2022.
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