Council to Review 2007 Annual Conference Decisions

Church of the Brethren Newsline
September 22, 2007

The Annual Conference Council of the Church of the Brethren held its summer meeting on Aug. 23-24 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The council chose Belita Mitchell, immediate past Annual Conference moderator, to be the council chair until Aug. 2008. She succeeds Ron Beachley, who held the post for the past year. The council reviewed the decisions of the 2007 Annual Conference, defined the role of the process committee called for by the “Doing Church Business” paper, took action to complete work on revising a paper on controversial issues, set an agenda for a council retreat in November, and modified the appeals process for concerns related to Annual Conference policies.

The council spent a large block of time reviewing the decisions of the 2007 Annual Conference and the recommendations and assignments of each business item. A communication will be sent to those agencies, groups, and congregations named in the Conference actions to implement the actions, as a reminder from the council. Relative to the “Doing Church Business” item, the council received a concern from the Annual Conference officers who recognized the potential for some confusion in regard to the formation of a Process Committee, and the action of the Conference that called for the paper to be available for use to the Conference officers in planning future conferences. The council formed the following refinement to the action:

“The Council was asked by the Annual Conference officers to assist with determining the role of the Process Committee in light of the action of Annual Conference to make the recommendations of the report resources and study information available for use in planning future Annual Conferences. In consultation with the Council, the officers deemed it appropriate that a committee of three be called by the Nominating Committee to be the Process Committee. The Process Committee is to work with the officers and with the Program and Arrangements Committee to help define and prioritize options to pursue the intent of the paper. The Committees will be affirmed by the 2008 Annual Conference and will serve for one year. The officers will convey this action to the Standing Committee. For several years into the future, the officers and Program and Arrangements Committees will be given this prioritized report. Each year the officers will report to Standing Committee any implementation of the prioritized options.”

The council also considered an inconsistency in the Intercultural Committee’s report adopted by the 2007 Conference titled, “Becoming a Multi-Ethnic Church,” which calls for licensed ministers to earn continuing education credits in relation to intercultural content. In the current ministry training requirements licensed ministers are not required to have certified continuing education units. The council recognized that the intent of the paper is for licensed ministers to have intercultural training, which can be included in the training track for licensed ministers without involving continuing education units. The council referred this matter to the Ministry Office of the General Board for implementation. The council also recognized that the section of the Intercultural Study Committee’s report relating to ministry training relates more to the purview of the denomination’s Ministry Office than to the districts.

Among other communications related to 2007 Conference decisions, the council will send e-mails to the districts and to the Annual Conference agencies urging the implementation of the recommendations related to the “Reverse Membership Trend” query.

The council considered the policy by which it is designated to receive appeals related to Conference policies and decisions made by the Program and Arrangements Committee. Concern has been raised about the propriety of half of the elected members of the council also being members of the Program and Arrangements Committee. The council decided to refer the matter to Standing Committee, offering two possible solutions: that the Program and Arrangements Committee members recuse themselves from the discussion and decision of an appeal, or that another group be named to receive such appeals.

It is also clear from denominational polity that Standing Committee is the ultimate judicial group, and any member of the church can bring a complaint to Standing Committee. Standing Committee, however, confines its deliberation to whether the process used to make a decision that is being appealed was fair and proper, not the decision itself. Standing Committee’s appeals process can be found on the Annual Conference website.

In other actions, the council gave approval to complete work on an update of the 1998 Annual Conference paper, “A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues.” The Conference called for this revision by approving a recommendation from the Denominational Name Study Committee in 2004, that the process used by that committee for dialogue throughout the denomination be considered as a replacement for the paper’s current process. An initial committee was appointed by the council and did extensive work on the revision, but was not in agreement that the work was completed. The council suspended completion until the 2007 items related to conducting Conference business were answered. Council members Joan Daggett and Fred Swartz are to have a proposed revision to the paper to the council members in November. Any revision to the 1998 paper will need to be processed as new business to Annual Conference.

The council meets next in November, with an extra day set aside as a retreat to deal with two major items: format and financing of future Annual Conferences, and developing broad strokes for denominational envisioning. Both of these items are a part of the Annual Conference Council’s functions, as defined by the 2001 Annual Conference. Don Kraybill of Elizabethtown, Pa., will assist the council in facilitating its retreat.

–Fred Swartz is the secretary of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

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The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail go to http://listserver.emountain.net/mailman/listinfo/newsline. Submit news to the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.