Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Annual Conference 2008 theme reflects 300th anniversary theme.

The following theme statement has been adopted for the 2008 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Brethren movement. The statement--taken from the 300th anniversary theme--was adopted by both the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church. The two denominations are participating together in the joint annual meeting on July 12-16, 2008, in Richmond, Va.

"Surrendered to God--Transformed in Christ--Empowered by the Spirit:

"‘Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me’ (John 12:24-26a).

"Our Scripture Focus: John 12:24-26a catches up the different aspects of the 300th Anniversary theme. As the grain of wheat falls into earth, so we surrender to God, in order to be made fully alive as we are transformed in Christ. As we are empowered by the Spirit, God can bear fruit in our lives and in the church. The Brethren began as people who were willing to surrender their lives to God in order to receive the life that God gives. They became servants of Christ Jesus by following him and bearing fruit through the Spirit’s power. The 300th Anniversary is a time to celebrate what God has done in our midst in the past, and to seek prayerfully new surrender to God, new transformation through Christ, and new empowerment by the Holy Spirit in faithful witness to God for the future.

"Surrendered to God: Surrendered to God points to the attitude of the early Brethren as they decided to form a body of believers in the bond of faith and baptism. Surrender to God is also the starting point for any one entering the Christian faith. Surrender to God is not passive, but a total yielding of self for God’s will to become active in our lives individually and as a church. This phrase catches some of the Pietist emphasis on letting go of self in order to enter fully into faith and active discipleship. Our celebration of the 300th anniversary of the beginning of the Brethren holds up the total surrender of the early Brethren to God, and our hope that Brethren can move faithfully into the future with full surrender of our lives to God.

"Transformed in Christ: The surrender to God acknowledges that we need to be transformed in Christ, forgiven of sin by God’s gracious redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Transformation forgives and begins to form believers for Christ-like living, trusting in God’s grace in order to live as disciples. The early Brethren saw themselves being transformed in Christ as believers and as a body, seeking to live in obedience born of faith in and love for Christ. This catches some of the Anabaptist emphasis on transformation for discipleship, taking up the cross, risking everything for faithfulness, and sharing faith joyfully with others. As Brethren celebrate the 300th anniversary by seeking the fullness of transformation in Christ, the church can experience anew God’s gift of forgiveness and fresh vitality in our desire to be formed into the likeness of Christ.

"Empowered by the Spirit: Disciples who are surrendered to God and transformed by Christ engage in ministry empowered by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives power for believers to live and minister faithfully together in the variety of spiritual gifts and fruit born by the Spirit. Brethren have had a long history of active ministry sharing material aid, comfort, and the good news of Jesus Christ near and far. We celebrate this extension of ministry outward through the power of the Holy Spirit during the last 300 years. We look forward to new ministries empowered by the Holy Spirit as we follow the Spirit’s leading into the future.

"The phrase ‘Surrendered to God, transformed in Christ, empowered by the Spirit’ names our trinitarian faith in God. It acknowledges God’s redemptive gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, both vital components of the biblical faith of the Brethren. The theme celebrates our past journey, embraces confessional faith and practice in the present, and seeks renewed faithfulness in moving toward the future God has for us."

Source: 9/12/2007 Newsline Extra

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