Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Annual Conference to address five new business items, ends online registration May 8.

The Church of the Brethren Annual Conference will address five items of new business when it meets in San Diego, Calif., on June 26-30: "A Statement of Confession and Commitment" from the Standing Committee of district delegates, a revision of "A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues," revised bylaws for the Church of the Brethren, "Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships," and "Query: Secret Oath-Bound Societies." Online registration for the Conference ends May 8, go to to register.

The Conference will meet on the theme, "The old has gone! The new has come! All this is from God!" from 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, with leadership by moderator David Shumate, district executive for Virlina District. No items of unfinished business are scheduled. Also on the agenda will be elections for denominational offices, reports from agencies of the church and committees of the Conference, as well as other items of information.

"A Statement of Confession and Commitment" was adopted by Standing Committee at last year’s Conference. The one-page document addresses the issue of homosexuality as one that "continues to bring tension and division within our Body" and confesses that, "We are not of one mind on this matter." The statement declares that the church’s 1983 paper on Human Sexuality "remains our official position," but also acknowledges tension between different parts of the 1983 paper. The statement confesses "meanness and fighting" over the issue, and calls the church to stop unchristian behavior.

The revision of the document for dealing with strongly controversial issues follows up on a decision of the 2002 Conference, which referred an update of the original 1988 document to the former Annual Conference Council. The council in turn appointed a committee to update the paper and present a revision. The revision gives guidelines for how Standing Committee and Annual Conference will identify and deal with queries that may generate adversarial stances. The proposed three-year process includes appointment of a "Resource Committee" representing diverse perspectives on the issue to develop study materials; facilitated hearings at Annual Conference and in districts; and a special procedure for presenting such queries to the Conference.

Revised bylaws for the Church of the Brethren follow on the decision of last year’s Annual Conference approving merger of the former Association of Brethren Caregivers with the former General Board to form a new entity called the Church of the Brethren.

"Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships" was initiated by Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., and approved by Northern Indiana District. Stating in part that the denomination "has a history and practice of seeking reconciliation" and that it "has experienced deep division and brokenness related to the language from the 1983 Human Sexuality Paper that same-sex covenantal relationships are not acceptable," the query petitions Conference "to consider whether it is the will of the church that this language on same-sex covenantal relationships will continue to guide our journey together."

"Query: Secret Oath-Bound Societies" was initiated by Dry Run (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and approved by Southern Pennyslvania District. Citing a number of scriptures, among others 2 Timothy 3:16-17, John 8:31-32, Matthew 5:33-34, 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, and Ephesians 5:7-17, the query states in part that "it is clear that membership in these societies constitutes a dual allegiance" and that there is confusion among Brethren about secret oath-bound societies. The query requests Conference to take action to give clarity to the issue.

Online registration for the Conference ends May 8, go to to register. Registrations also may be mailed to the Annual Conference Office using the form in the Annual Conference Information Packet that has been mailed to all Church of the Brethren congregations. After May 8, participants will register for the Conference as they arrive onsite in San Diego. On-site registrations will be charged an additional fee.

The Annual Conference schedule also has been posted online, go to to download it as a pdf document. The schedule provides detailed information about worship services, meal events, insight sessions, age group activities, and more.

In another note on the Conference schedule, the Mission and Ministry Board meeting on June 26 from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. is incorrectly listed as "by invitation only." That meeting is open to the public.

For more information about Annual Conference in San Diego, call the Conference office at 800-688-5186 or 410-635-8740.

Source: 4/22/2009 Newsline Special

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