Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Annual Conference agenda includes five major items of business.

The Church of the Brethren Annual Conference will address five major items of business in Pittsburgh, Pa., on July 3-7: "Query: The Mission of Annual Conference" from Southern Ohio District; "Query: Guidelines for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Paper," from Western Pennsylvania District; a "Resolution Against Torture"; revised bylaws for the Church of the Brethren Inc., which has come in previous years as information only; and a change in polity for appeals of decisions of the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee.

An interim report from Standing Committee on the special response process will be brought, but not as a decision item, following up on an action of the 2009 Conference (see story below).

Business sessions will be led by moderator Shawn Flory Replogle, pastor of McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren. Also on the agenda will be elections for denominational offices (see ballot below), reports from agencies of the church and committees of the Conference, as well as other items of information.

"Query: The Mission of Annual Conference" originated with a group of pastors in Southern Ohio District. Referring to earlier models of Annual Conference that used to meet over Pentecost "to heighten the symbolism and reminder of being led by the Spirit" and the model found in Acts 15:1-35, the query states that "Annual Conference has the potential of being a visionary and motivational gathering of the spiritual community." It asks, "What ways are there to structure Annual Conference that might more effectively fulfill the mission...to unite, strengthen, and equip the Church of the Brethren to follow Jesus?"

"Query: Guidelines for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Paper" originated in Western Pennsylvania’s Pastor and Parish Ministry Team. Referring to the process for dealing with complaints of ministerial misconduct in the denomination’s "Ethics in Ministry Relations" paper, it notes the lack of such a process in the "Ethics for Congregations" paper. The query asks if it would be helpful to develop "a uniform denominational process by which districts might deal with a congregational that engages in questionable ethical activity."

The "Resolution Against Torture" was adopted by the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board in October last year. The brief document includes four sections: an introduction from the Church of the Brethren’s experience of persecution and violence at times in its 300-year history, a biblical basis represented as "foundational for our conviction regarding the sanctity of life," a section headed "Torture Is a Violation of Word and Life" stating the church’s awareness of growing occurrences of torture throughout the world and attempts to legitimize it, and a section calling the church to confession and action in response. An additional page of references accompanies the resolution. (Go to www.brethren.org/site/DocServer/statement_against_torture_approved.pdf?docID=5321 for the resolution as passed by the board.)

The question of appeals of Program and Arrangements Committee decisions originates with the Church of the Brethren’s Leadership Team, which will bring a proposal to change church polity to direct all such appeals to the Standing Committee of district delegates. The Leadership Team has inherited some functions of the former Annual Conference Council, one of which is to receive such appeals. However, three of the Leadership Team also serve on the Program and Arrangements Committee. The Leadership Team only includes four members: the Annual Conference moderator, moderator-elect, and secretary, along with the general secretary of the Church of the Brethren.

Online registration for the Conference and an Annual Conference Packet with more details about schedule, cost, age group activities, meal events, and other information are available at www.brethren.org/ac.

Source: 3/2/2010 Newsline Special

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