Leadership Team proposal to update polity for Annual Conference agencies is adopted

The one unfinished business item coming to the 2022 Annual Conference was adopted on Wednesday, July 13. The item, “Update to Polity Regarding Annual Conference Agencies” (unfinished business 1) was brought by the denomination’s Leadership Team, which includes the Conference officers, the general secretary, a representative of the Council of District Executives, and the Conference director as ex-officio staff.

This item originated at the 2017 Annual Conference when, in response to a recommendation from On Earth Peace–one of the three Annual Conference agencies along with Bethany Theological Seminary and Eder Financial (formerly Brethren Benefit Trust)–the Leadership Team was tasked to update current polity for the Annual Conference agencies.

A lengthy discussion on the floor brought up a variety of concerns, such as the make up of the boards of the agencies and what percentage of Brethren should be required on those boards, how the agencies will maintain their Brethren identity and connections, whether the proposal leads to more separation in the church, whether the proposal is supportive of reconciliation efforts or punitive–in particular with regard to On Earth Peace, how the proposal meets the needs of three agencies that are very different from each other, and the length of time it is taking to complete this task–which first assigned five years ago, among others. A few who came to the microphones said the lack of resolution of the conflict about On Earth Peace has led to more churches leaving the denomination.

Answering some of the concern about taking more time, the Leadership Team clarified that the new polity will take effect at the end of the 2024 Annual Conference. It added another clarification as a footnote to the document, that agencies of Annual Conference are not expected to serve the Church of the Brethren exclusively but also are expected not to seek agency status with other groups.

Irvin Heishman, co-chair of the board of On Earth Peace, was one of those speaking from the floor on the proposed polity for Annual Conference agencies. Photo by Keith Hollenberg

Various amendments and a motion to refer the item to Standing Committee for further work were attempted but failed. The document was adopted with more than a two-thirds majority vote, as required for polity. After a request for a count of the final vote, it was announced that the total of 369 votes included 299 for and 70 against.

Find the full text of “Update to Polity Regarding Annual Conference Agencies” (unfinished business 1) linked at www.brethren.org/ac2022/business.


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