Conference observes time of confession, approves updated Eder document, hears reports

By Wendy McFadden

Delegates observe silence for confession and repentance

Following a decision last year by Standing Committee, delegates on Friday observed a time of silence for “confession and repentance concerning our mistreatment of one another in our discussion of human sexuality.”

The time began with a reading of the statement approved last year by Standing Committee:

“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. We must redouble our efforts to live out these differences, as individuals and through our systems of governance, in ways that preserve the humanity, dignity, and deeply held spiritual convictions of all. Harsh, dismissive, unloving, and unforgiving behaviors toward one another cannot have a home among us. We recommend that a first step toward healing be taken through Standing Committee leading a significant intentional time of confession and repentance as part of Annual Conference 2023 around this specific point of failure in our relationships with one another. As is so well stated in 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.’”

After several minutes of silence, the service concluded with these words: “We know our God hears us and will help us move forward together, and that fruit will be born out of this time of confession, for the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”

Eder Financial articles of organization approved

Delegates approved restated and amended articles of organization for Eder Financial, a document brought to Annual Conference by the Eder Financial board.

Previously known as Brethren Benefit Trust, the organization changed its legal name to Eder Financial Inc. in May 2022. In July 2022, Annual Conference changed its polity regarding agencies, saying that agencies need to have an agreement with Standing Committee to articulate what official agency status means.

The updated document (new business item 4) was approved Friday by the two-thirds vote required for a change in polity.

Study committees present interim reports

Delegates received progress reports on Friday from two Annual Conference study committees—Standing with People of Color (unfinished business item 1) and Breaking Down Barriers: Increasing Access to Denominational Events (unfinished business item 2).

Members of the group working on the Standing with People of Color assignment said the objectives for the process are connection, education, and action. In addition to receiving the report, delegates approved the committee’s request to extend the term of the assignment by one year, to 2025.

The Breaking Down Barriers committee reported that it is examining how the denomination might enlarge the tent of participation for people who previously have found barriers to inclusion. The committee expects to bring a set of recommendations when it brings its final report next year.

Interim reports were also brought by two Standing Committee subcommittees working on the implementation of last year’s polity changes related to agencies.

Group of people in outfits with special fabric with photos of Stover Kulp and Albert Helser.
Joel Billi, President of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), speaks during the celebration of EYN’s 100 years. Photo by Glenn Riegel.

The 100th anniversary of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and the 75th year of Brethren Volunteer Service were celebrated as part of the Thursday report of the Church of the Brethren.

Representatives from EYN stood on stage while President Joel Billi addressed the delegates. The centennial was also highlighted at the Global Mission Dinner and at equipping sessions. BVS director Chelsea Goss Skillen carried a wooden crate onstage to evoke the Annual Conference when Ted Chambers stood on a crate to make the motion that resulted in the creation of BVS.

Other reports

Liz Bidgood Enders, the Church of the Brethren delegate to the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly, brought a report Thursday on the event held last fall in Germany. At the assembly, she served on the writing team for a paper on war in Ukraine and helped present it to the WCC delegate body. Other Brethren attending the assembly were four from the Church of the Brethren in the US and three from EYN.

Annual Conference delegates heard updates on two other ecumenical bodies, Christian Churches Together and the National Council of Churches.

The delegate body received reports from agencies Bethany Theological Seminary, Eder Financial, and On Earth Peace, as well as the Church of the Brethren Leadership Team and the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee.

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