The Annual Conference Council held its summer meeting Aug. 23-24 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The council chose Belita Mitchell, immediate past Annual Conference moderator, to be chair until August 2008, succeeding Ron Beachley. The council reviewed the decisions of the 2007 Annual Conference, defined the role of the process committee called for by the “Doing Church Business” paper, took action to complete work on revising a paper on controversial issues, set an agenda for a retreat in November, and modified the appeals process for concerns related to Annual Conference policies.
The council spent a large block of time reviewing the decisions of the 2007 Conference and the recommendations and assignments of each business item. A communication will be sent to those agencies, groups, and congregations named in the actions to implement them. Among other communications related to 2007 Conference decisions, the council will send e-mails to the districts and to the Annual Conference agencies urging the implementation of the recommendations related to the “Reverse Membership Trend” query.
Relative to the “Doing Church Business” item, the council received a concern from the Conference officers who recognized the potential for confusion in regard to a Process Committee, and the action that called for the paper to be available for use to the officers in planning future conferences. The council formed the following refinement to the action:
“The council was asked by the Annual Conference officers to assist with determining the role of the Process Committee in light of the action of Annual Conference to make the recommendations of the report, resources, and study information available for use in planning future Annual Conferences. In consultation with the council, the officers deemed it appropriate that a committee of three be called by the Nominating Committee to be the Process Committee. The Process Committee is to work with the officers and with the Program and Arrangements Committee to help define and prioritize options to pursue the intent of the paper. The committees will be affirmed by the 2008 Annual Conference and will serve for one year. The officers will convey this action to the Standing Committee. For several years into the future, the officers and Program and Arrangements Committees will be given this prioritized report. Each year the officers will report to Standing Committee any implementation of the prioritized options.”An inconsistency in the Intercultural Committee’s report adopted by the 2007 Conference, which calls for licensed ministers to earn continuing education credits in intercultural content, was also considered. Currently, licensed ministers are not required to have certified continuing education. The council recognized the intent is for intercultural training, which can be included in the training track without involving continuing education units. The council referred this matter to the Ministry Office of the General Board for implementation.
The policy by which the council is designated to receive appeals related to decisions made by the Program and Arrangements Committee was addressed as well. Concern has been raised about the propriety of half of the elected members of the council also being members of that committee. The council decided to refer the matter to Standing Committee, offering two possible solutions: that the Program and Arrangements Committee members recuse themselves from the discussion and decision of an appeal, or that another group be named to receive such appeals. It is also clear from denominational polity that Standing Committee is the ultimate judicial group, and any member of the church can bring a complaint to Standing Committee. Standing Committee, however, confines its deliberation to whether the process used to make a decision that is being appealed was fair and proper, not the decision itself. Standing Committee’s appeals process can be found on the Annual Conference website.
In other actions, the council gave approval to complete work on an update of the 1998 paper, “A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues.” The council had suspended completion until the 2007 items related to conducting Conference business were answered. Council members Joan Daggett and Fred Swartz will bring a proposed revision to the paper in November. Any revision will need to be processed as new business to Annual Conference.
The council meets next in November, with a day of retreat to deal with two major items: format and financing of future Annual Conferences, and developing broad strokes for denominational envisioning. Both of these items are a part of the council’s functions, as defined by the 2001 Annual Conference. Don Kraybill of Elizabethtown, Pa., will be a facilitator for the retreat.
--Fred Swartz is the secretary of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.
Source: 9/26/2007 Newsline