Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Summit for progressive Brethren meets in Indianapolis.

Gathering under the theme “Faithful and Just: Progressive Brethren Speak,” nearly 200 people gathered at Northview Church of the Brethren in Indianapolis, Ind., on Nov. 7-9. The meeting was billed as a “summit” for progressive Brethren exploring the reality and possibilities for the role of progressives in the Church of the Brethren today.

In Friday evening’s worship planned by Nancy Faus-Mullen of Richmond, Ind., preachers Audrey DeCoursey representing the Womaen’s Caucus, and Ken Kline Smeltzer representing Voices for an Open Spirit addressed the theme, “The Challenged Church.” The two speakers explored difficulties progressive Christians face and challenges for the church.

On Saturday morning Robert Miller, chair of Christian and Religious Studies at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., led an educational plenary under the theme, “The Grounded Church.” His lecture provoked wide-ranging queries from the audience, including questions such as, “Who is the historical Jesus?” and “How should we be grounded in the Kingdom of God?”

The afternoon was dedicated to numerous workshops including “Joy-Filled Biblical Spirituality,” “Processing the 2008 Elections,” “Hospitality for the Coming Age,” “Sharing Amidst Scarcity,” “Motivating Greater LGBT Rights and Advocacy,” “Storytelling as a Tool of Resistance,” “Progressive Evangelism,” “Greening the Church,” and others.

Saturday evening worship was led by Kimberly Koczan-Flory of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind. Susan Stern Boyer, pastor of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, challenged worshipers to consider what it means to be “A Welcoming Church,” with a call to travel along a “wide road.” The evening culminated with music by David Hupp, James Towns, and Paul Fry-Miller, followed by the band Mutual Kumquat with musicians Chris Good, Drue Gray, and Seth Hendricks. Good performed a song written especially for the progressive Brethren who were at the summit.

Prior to Sunday morning worship, a general strategy session was held in which participants shared hopes and visions for how progressive Brethren might pursue their faith and practice in congregations, the denomination, and their own lives.

Closing worship brought together conference-goers and the Northview congregation in a service designed by Elizabeth Keller of Bethany Theological Seminary. Kurt Borgmann, pastor of Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., preached about “A Courageous Church”--a church moving into the future faithfully as it faces conflict and pain.

The summit was hosted, planned, and sponsored by Voices for an Open Spirit, the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests, the Womaen’s Caucus of the Church of the Brethren, Christian Community, and the Northview congregation. A similar event is being planned for 2009, to take place in another region of the country.

--Phil Jones is director of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office.

Source: 11/19/2008 Newsline

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