Today in Omaha – July 10, 2022

Reporting from the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference

Annual Conference mugs in the Brethren Press bookstore. Photo by Keith Hollenberg

“Zacchaeus…said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house’” (Luke 19:8-9a, NRSVue).

1) Standing Committee makes recommendations on new business, approves recommendations from Nominating Committee and task team that has held conversations with On Earth Peace

2) Annual Conference bits and pieces

Quotes of the day:

“Welcome to the 235th recorded Annual Conference!”

— Conference director Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, welcoming Conferencegoers to the opening worship service. This is her first Conference as director, but she told the congregation that it is by no means her first Conference: “My parents brought me to Annual Conference the year I was born, and I’ve never missed one.”

Annual Conference director Rhonda Pittman Gingrich speaks at the opening of the 2022 Conference. Photo by Glenn Riegel
Annual Conference moderator David Sollenberger bringing the message for the opening worship service of the 2022 Conference. Photo by Glenn Riegel

“If Jesus could embrace Zacchaeus, could he do the same for us?”

— Annual Conference moderator David Sollenberger preaching on Luke 19:1-10 for the opening worship service of the Conference. He went on to say, later in his sermon: “Our core understanding does not include exclusion…. Maybe it comes down to Jesus’ command to love one another…. What kind of church would we have…if we paid more attention to the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ? … To look like and imitate Jesus!”

“The Good Samaritan story teaches us that the measure of our faithfulness is not correct precept or behavior but loving action. It is not whether others behave or think in ways that are right in our eyes which makes them acceptable as our neighbors, but whether we prove to be neighbors to them. In the ministry of reconciliation we are called to love and care for each other before we are called to correct one another. Before we are conservative, liberal, evangelical, progressive, or any one of the many labels we put on one another, we are children of God and brothers and sisters in the church. We are people who love and follow Jesus. We seek to continue his work peacefully, simply, and together. This is what we have to offer to one another and to the world. This is our gift as Brethren.”

— A paragraph from the “Urging Forbearance” resolution of the 2008 Annual Conference, quoted by moderator David Sollenberger in his opening message to the church. Find the full paper at

“It has been a season of loss, of separation, and of conflict. Yet we confess a God who makes all things new.”

— Program and Arrangements Committee member Carol Hipps Elmore giving part of an opening statement from the committee that has responsibility for planning the Annual Conference, acknowledging the effects of the pandemic on the church. The committee also acknowledged meeting on the traditional land of the Omaha people, whose name translates as “upriver people” or those who swim against the current. “Isn’t that the heart of our commitment of nonconformity as Brethren?” said committee member Beth Jarrett. “This is holy ground for us.” The third elected member of the committee, Nathan Hollenberg, shared the history of the Omaha area’s experience of mob violence against the Black community, saying that “we mourn the violence” against the Black community across the nation and commit ourselves to a more just future.

Find photo albums from Omaha at Expect more photos each day of the Conference to appear at this same link.

Look for daily issues of Newsline reporting on the Annual Conference through Thursday, July 14.

1) Standing Committee makes recommendations on new business, approves recommendations from Nominating Committee and task team that has held conversations with On Earth Peace

The Standing Committee of delegates from the 24 Church of the Brethren districts began meeting in Omaha, Neb., on the evening of July 7, through this morning. It was presided over by Conference moderator David Sollenberger, moderator-elect Tim McElwee, and secretary James M. Beckwith. One of its primary functions is to make recommendations on the new business items and queries coming to Annual Conference.

In addition, Standing Committee approved two recommendations from the Nominating Committee regarding nominations from the floor of Annual Conference and the calling of denominational leadership.

The Standing Committee task team for conversations with On Earth Peace consults with the Conference officers. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Four recommendations from a task team that has been holding conversations with On Earth Peace also were approved. The wide-ranging recommendations call for various actions to address expectations and processes regarding Annual Conference agencies, how Conference decisions and statements should be received and implemented, a review of the organizational structure of the Church of the Brethren to address “deep dysfunction,” and creating a time for intentional confession and repentance of how “theological differences around human sexuality have too often been manifested in bullying, violence, and a general sense of dismissal toward one another and specifically toward our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters,” citing James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”

Standing Committee discussed and offered feedback on the one item of unfinished business on the Conference agenda, an update to polity regarding Annual Conference agencies, brought by the denomination’s Leadership Team. It received information about an additional report coming to the Conference, also via the Leadership Team, titled “Doing Annual Conference Differently.”

Other business included naming new members to subcommittees, conversations with district executives and leaders of the denomination’s board and Conference agencies, and additional reports.


2) Annual Conference bits and pieces

By the numbers:

— Registration as of 10 p.m. today totaled 1,307 including 425 delegates, 743 nondelegates, plus 139 nondelegates attending virtually.

— A total offering of $6,018.55 was received for the ministry of Annual Conference, during this evening’s opening worship service.

Nancy Faus Mullen, emerita faculty at Bethany Seminary, leads a hymn during the opening worship service, as a guest music leader. Photo by Glenn Riegel
Tod Bolsinger presents for the Ministers Association pre-Conference meeting. Photo by Keith Hollenberg

SRO: An evening hearing on the Update to Polity Regarding Annual Conference Agencies (unfinished business item 1) with members of the denominational Leadership Team was standing room only. General secretary David Steele and Torin Eikler, who represents the Council of District Executives on the Leadership Team, gave an overview of the business item and fielded numerous questions and comments from the crowded room.

Testing: Two Conferencegoers have tested positive for COVID-19 since arrival in Omaha, announced Conference director Rhonda Pittman Gringrich during the announcements before worship. She encouraged all to keep track of how they are feeling and take advantage of the free testing available through the first aid office, and asked all to keep wearing their masks “as an expression of care and concern for those around you…. Brothers and sisters, please, please take this seriously.”

Saving Grace: Pittman Gingrich also announced that unserved meals, that are left over after meal events during the Conference, will be received and distributed by an organization here in Omaha called Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue.

Photo by Keith Hollenberg

The Annual Conference press team includes photographers Glenn Riegel, Donna Parcell, Keith Hollenberg; writers Frances Townsend, Frank Ramirez; website staff Jan Fischer Bachman, Russ Otto; and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren. All submissions are subject to editing. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Please send news tips and submissions to . Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters and make subscription changes at . Unsubscribe by using the link at the top of any Newsline email.

Find more Church of the Brethren news:

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]