Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Program and Arrangements requests review of sexuality statement.

The Program and Arrangements Committee of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference will ask the Standing Committee for help in moving the church toward a clarification of its position on homosexuality. The Program and Arrangements Committee of three at-large members and the Annual Conference officers holds responsibility for organizing and planning events at the Conference. The Standing Committee is made up of delegates from the 23 districts of the Church of the Brethren with leadership from the Conference officers.

In its annual fall meeting held in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 16-17, the Program and Arrangements Committee drafted a query that it will take to this year’s Standing Committee asking, "Is it possible for the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren to review the section of the 1983 Statement on Human Sexuality that deals with ‘homosexual persons and sexuality’ and engage the denomination in a study and dialogue in order to clarify the church’s response to homosexual persons?"

The Program and Arrangements Committee has perennially received an application for an Annual Conference exhibit from the Brethren and Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Interests (BMC), an application which has been consistently denied by the committee for a variety of reasons, including the 1983 Annual Conference statement that covenantal relationships between homosexual persons is "unacceptable."

The query that is being sent to Standing Committee also notes that "many in the church believe it is an issue of justice that the ministries of BMC be granted exhibit space alongside their sisters and brothers in the church, while many others believe it contradicts scriptural teaching to grant that space." It also states that the Program and Arrangements Committee "believes it is inappropriate and irresponsible for P&AC to make a decision that should be made by the church as a whole."

In its response to BMC regarding its decision about this year’s exhibit application, the Program and Arrangements Committee said, "We appreciate your efforts to plan an exhibit that honors the 1983 Annual Conference Statement on Human Sexuality. The concerns you wish to help the church address regarding treating lgbt (lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender) people with respect and protecting them from violence are extremely important. At the same time, we are deeply concerned, as we have said in previous communications, that the exhibit hall is not the venue that can help our denomination enter into conversation about the issues of homosexuality, an issue which causes such passionate divisiveness in our denomination.

"We wish to move forward in seeking to bring before the denomination the need for dialogue about the church’s response to homosexual persons," the response continued. "We strongly believe that the church as a whole must work on these issues and that it is inappropriate and irresponsible for our committee to make a decision which will be interpreted by each side in this debate as either favoring or opposing its partisan interests. Therefore, we have decided to put BMC’s application for exhibit space on hold, while we ask Standing Committee to consider the...query."

Also on the agenda of the Program and Arrangements Committee’s meeting was a tour of the facilities for the 300th Anniversary Annual Conference, July 12-16, 2008, in Richmond’s Coliseum and Convention Center. The site provides ample space for both the Brethren Church and the Church of the Brethren to have both separate and joint sessions. The committee received a report from the Joint Anniversary Committee (JAC) that met earlier in the same week at Richmond. The JAC is arranging for a major service project within the city of Richmond for Monday, July 14, as a way of honoring Brethren commitment to service in the local community. It is anticipated that 1,000 conference attendees from both denominations may take part. The committee also encourages conferencegoers to bring canned goods to the Conference, which will be collected for a local food bank.

The Program and Arrangements Committee and the Joint Anniversary Committee have agreed that the combined denominational worship services on Sunday and Wednesday, July 13 and 16, will begin at 9:30 a.m. Sunday afternoon there will be an educational opportunity for all attendees, including 30 heritage sessions. The John Kline Riders, with their equine friends, will also make an appearance on Sunday. Sunday’s events will climax with an evening event focusing on mission efforts of the two denominations.

In other actions, the Program and Arrangements Committee updated position description for the Conference coordinators of children’s and youth activities; updated guidelines for meals and other special events to allow musical and other groups to sell products at the events, with the permission of the committee; decided to restrict the delegate packet at Conference to items only relating to the business agenda; decided to revise the next bound Conference minute book to include only four years of minutes instead of five; considered ideas for marketing future Conferences; decided that it is not feasible to have a love feast that would include every conferencegoer; and heard a positive report from the Association of Brethren Caregivers indicating that the spiritual growth tract of the Passport to Wellness will be expanded for the 2008 Conference.

--Fred Swartz is the secretary of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

Source: 11/21/2007 Newsline

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