To our sisters and brothers in the Church of the Brethren:
The items of business at Annual Conference earlier this year addressed significant matters of life and faith, and our passionate discussions showed that we take those matters seriously.
Vigorous debate is not necessarily cause for concern, but within our discussions there were clearly times when our tone and attitudes toward one another crossed a line. In those moments, it was painful to see that our debate sounded no different from the way society in general debates controversial matters--sides are taken, accusations are made, threats are received. One church member received a death threat. Another member was told, “I wish you would go to hell.” And many individuals spent their time identifying with their particular sub-group rather than with the church as a whole.
As officers of Annual Conference, we long for our discussions in the Church of the Brethren to be markedly different from that of the world. If those who are not disciples of Jesus were to observe us at our most difficult moments, would they be able to see--through our words, our tone, and our actions--how much we love and respect one another?
And so we offer a challenge. We urge each of us to take a step back from our current disagreements and examine whether our own attitudes and actions reflect the transformation we have come to know through the Holy Spirit. Specifically, we encourage members to consider taking the following actions before the 2012 Annual Conference in St. Louis:
- If we have spoken ill of anyone or in any way failed to build up the church through our spoken words, our social media, or even by our thoughts, that we make an effort to be reconciled again in Christ Jesus our Lord, in the spirit of Matthew 18:15-20.
- That we devote ourselves to study and prayer around the 2012 Annual Conference theme, “Continuing the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together,” and theme verses Matthew 28:19-20.
Grace and peace to you,
Tim Harvey, 2012 Annual Conference Moderator
Bob Krouse, Moderator-elect and Fred Swartz, Annual Conference Secretary