Wednesday, March 12, 2008

General Board approves ethics document, celebrates anniversary of women's ordination.

After participating in a joint meeting March 8 on a plan of merger with the Association of Brethren Caregivers (see the Newsline Extra for today, March 12), the General Board continued its meetings at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on March 9-10.

Major items of business included a revision of the denomination's Ethics in Ministry document, a resolution celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women to ministry, and a capital proposal for replacement of failed air conditioning equipment.

The board approved a revision of the denomination's Ethics in Ministry paper, using a consensus model of decision making for this business item. The document will go to the 2008 Annual Conference for approval. The revision has been in process for some time, led by the staff of the board's Ministry Office. In previous meetings, the board had considered earlier versions of the document. The paper also has been reviewed by the Council of District Executives and by the board's legal counsel, as it includes sections on processes for dealing with complaints of ministerial misconduct. The board changed the wording of the document in only a couple of places, for greater clarity. Issues and wording that received most attention and discussion came in the Code of Ethics for Ministerial Leaders, in sections outlining how ministers will relate to other clergy colleagues, how pastors will relate to former parishes and what is inappropriate behavior for former pastors, and the appropriate congregational involvement of ministerial leaders other than pastors.

The board approved a "Resolution on 50 Years of Women's Ordination in the Church of the Brethren." The resolution marks 2008 as the 50th anniversary of the 1958 Annual Conference decision "that women be granted full and unrestricted rights to ordination." The one-page resolution also notes that, "Women have a long history of serving the denomination in ministry, and conversations about official recognition of their gifts extend back to the beginnings of the church." The resolution gives thanks "for the nearly 400 women who have served the church as ordained ministers over the last 50 years" and "for the openness of the church to the Holy Spirit, for the processes of discernment and discussion, for the slow and deliberate practices of listening to one another that lead, in time, to transformation." (Find the full resolution at

The board approved an initial capital expenditure of $390,000 for a thermal ice storage air conditioning system at the General Offices, and directed staff to "boldly seek energy source solutions that reduce our dependence on commercial electricity and fossil fuels. Solar, geo-thermal, and similar energy sources should be given high priority in the General Board property master planning." The expenditure was made necessary when one of the facility's two "chillers" failed--the equipment is original to the building, and now about 50 years old. The capital proposal from staff offered options for replacing the whole heating, air conditioning, and ventilation system of the building with more energy efficient and "green" technologies.

In other business, the Annual Report of the General Board was approved, Barbra Davis was appointed the board's representative to the Brethren Support Staff Association, and numerous reports were received including financial reports (see story below), a report from the annual assembly of the church in the Dominican Republic, a report on the upcoming National Peace Conference of the Historic Peace Churches to take place in Philadelphia next January, and an update on sales of the Gather 'Round curriculum.

A report on the Sudan mission initiative prompted much discussion, following the announcement that lead mission workers Jim and Pam Hardenbrook have resigned. Director Brad Bohrer told the board he grieves their loss to the program. He announced that the board will be opening recruiting again for the lead team position. The goal of doing mission in Sudan "is not lost," he said, as he explained some of the complexities of setting up a new mission for the church. Some board members, however, characterized the loss as devastating, and expressed a need to revisit the total direction of the mission in Sudan. General secretary Stan Noffsinger said the executive committee of the board has already begun work with mission and funding staff on issues related to the Sudan initiative. The discussion closed with moments of silent and spoken prayer for Sudan and all the people involved with the mission.

An offering received during the meetings will support a new capital campaign for repairs, special facilities needs, and the "greening" of the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.--such as the replacement of the air conditioning system at the General Offices. The campaign's goal is to raise $3 million.

Source: 3/12/2008 Newsline

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