Newsline Special: Annual Conference Ballot, Special Response Process


Logo and theme of the 2011 Annual Conference. Below: A night-time view of Grand Rapids (photo by Gary Syrba courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids).

General registration has opened for the 2011 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, go to www.brethren.org/ac . The Conference takes place in Grand Rapids, Mich., on July 2-6. Also, hotel and university housing reservations now may be made online. Those who have registered for the Conference will receive a link to the housing reservation site. Information about housing options is at www.brethren.org/ac . A listing of events during the Conference is at www.cobannualconference.org/grand_rapids/
infopacket.html
. Go to www.cobannualconference.org/grand_rapids/
other_events.html
to find out about events sponsored by departments of the Church of the Brethren, and other Brethren agencies including Bethany Theological Seminary, On Earth Peace, and Brethren Benefit Trust. Special offerings in Grand Rapids this summer include the Minister’s Association pre-Conference meeting, Deacon Workshops prior to the Conference, the annual Fitness Challenge, the Conference Quilting Bee, and a variety of meal events and insight sessions among others.

“They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16, one of the theme scriptures for the 2011 Annual Conference).

Newsline Special: Annual Conference 2011

1) Annual Conference ballot for 2011 is released.
2) From the Moderator: An outline of the Special Response process.
3) Districts close out hearings providing input to Special Response process.
4) New Annual Conference event from Congregational Life Ministries.

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1) Annual Conference ballot for 2011 is released.

The ballot has been announced for the 2011 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, to take place in Grand Rapids, Mich., on July 2-6. The Nominating Committee of the Standing Committee of district delegates developed a slate of candidates, and Standing Committee then voted to create the ballot that will be presented. Nominees are listed by position:

Annual Conference Moderator-Elect: Mary Cline Detrick of Harrisonburg, Va.; Carol Spicher Waggy of Goshen, Ind.

Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee: Thomas Dowdy of Long Beach, Calif.; Cindy Laprade Lattimer of Dansville, N.Y.

Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee: Herb High of Lancaster, Pa.; John R. Lahman of Peoria, Ariz.

Committee on Interchurch Relations: Torin Eikler of Morgantown, W.Va.; Wendy Matheny of Arlington, Va.

Mission and Ministry Board: Area 3 — Karen Cassell of Roanoke, Va.; Becky Rhodes of Roanoke, Va. Area 4 — Genelle Wine Bunte of Minneapolis, Minn.; Jerry Crouse of Warrensburg, Mo. Area 5 — W. Keith Goering of Wilson, Idaho; Dylan Haro of Richmond, Ind.

Bethany Theological Seminary Trustee: Representing the laity — D. Miller Davis of Westminster, Md.; Rex Miller of Milford, Ind. Representing the colleges — Christina Bucher of Elizabethtown, Pa.; Jonathan Frye of McPherson, Kan.

Brethren Benefit Trust Board: Robert Jacobs of Spring Grove, Pa.; John Waggoner of Herndon, Va.

On Earth Peace Board: Melisa Grandison of McPherson, Kan.; Patricia Ronk of Roanoke, Va.

2) From the Moderator: An outline of the Special Response process.

The following column from Annual Conference moderator Robert Alley provides an outline of the Church of the Brethren’s Special Response process. This process was entered into when two business items related to human sexuality came to the 2009 Conference: “A Statement of Confession and Commitment” and “Query: Language on Same Sex Covenantal Relationships.” The two business items have put into motion a denominational process used specifically for addressing strongly controversial issues.

A Special Response Process 2009-2011:

Individuals and congregations have asked various questions regarding our current Special Response process. The officers of Annual Conference, in consultation with the Council of District Executives, have prepared the following outline to respond to those questions. Everyone should be attentive that while some parts of the process have been completed, some are still in process, and some will not be completed until the Standing Committee (of district representatives) and Annual Conference meet in Grand Rapids, Mich., June 29-July 6.

What will be completed before March 1, 2011?

— In 2009, the delegates of Annual Conference adopted “A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues” (see 2009 Annual Conference Minutes, pp. 231-240).

— In 2009, the delegates of Annual Conference referred two items of business to this framework: “Query: Language on Same Sex Covenantal Relationships” (see 2009 minutes p. 241) and “A Statement of Confession and Commitment” (see 2009 minutes pp. 244-5).

— A Resource Committee, called by the 2009 Standing Committee, prepared eight Bible Studies and a list of recommended resources for congregations and individuals to study related to the two business items.

— The 2010 Annual Conference provided two hearings and one Insight Session related to the two business items.

— The 2010 Standing Committee engaged in a day-long training to lead hearings on the business items in the districts of the denomination.

— Standing Committee has held approximately 115 hearings in the districts since the 2010 Annual Conference, to receive input from individuals regarding the two items of business.

— A Forms Reception Committee, composed of three Standing Committee members, is receiving “Facilitator Report Forms” from each of the district hearings.

— Individuals unable to attend a district hearing may provide input to the Forms Reception Committee through a special e-mail option on the Annual Conference website.

What will happen after March 1 and before Annual Conference?

— The Forms Reception Committee will read and study the Facilitator Report Forms submitted by Standing Committee members from the district hearings, and the e-mail responses submitted by those unable to attend a hearing. Please note that since the purpose of the Special Response Process is to facilitate conversation, the Facilitator Report Forms from district hearings are weighted more heavily than individual correspondence received via postal mail, e-mail, or the Annual Conference sponsored e-mail link. Also, all input to the Forms Reception Committee is confidential information and will not be shared publicly.

— After reading and studying all the input from district hearings, letters, and individual e-mail responses, the Forms Reception Committee will prepare for Standing Committee a quantitative and qualitative report summarizing the input and noting common themes. They (the Forms Reception Committee) will not provide specific recommendations to Standing Committee.

— The officers of Annual Conference will provide copies of the report from the Forms Reception Committee to Standing Committee along with other information in preparation for their meeting in Grand Rapids prior to Annual Conference.

What will happen at Annual Conference?

— In Grand Rapids, Standing Committee will discuss the report from Forms Reception Committee and then prepare recommendations to answer the two business items “Query: Language on Same Sex Covenantal Relationships” and “A Statement of Confession and Commitment.” Please note that these are the two business items directly addressed by the Special Response process (see 2009 minutes, pp. 241 and 244-5).

— The 2011 Annual Conference delegates will receive the recommendations from Standing Committee and process them according to the outline in the 2009 Annual Conference Minutes: “A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues” (see 2009 minutes, pp. 234-6 for details of the outline).

Robert E. Alley is moderator of the 2011 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren. For more information about the denomination’s Special Response process, and for background documents, go to www.cobannualconference.org and follow the link to “Special Response.”

3) Districts close out hearings providing input to Special Response process.

This month the Church of the Brethren’s 23 districts are closing out a series of hearings that have invited church members to provide input to the denomination’s Special Response process. This process for strongly controversial issues was entered into when two business items related to human sexuality came to the 2009 Annual Conference (see story above for an outline of the process).

A total of 115 hearings were scheduled across the denomination, according to a listing held by the Conference Office. In a recent telephone interview, Annual Conference moderator Robert Alley expressed gratitude for all those who helped to make the hearings possible.

Alley characterized the hearing format as including a significant question, What would you like to say to the Standing Committee about the two items of business? “Of primary importance to keep people centered is that we are dealing with the query and Statement of Confession and Commitment,” he said, “not the whole gamut of human sexuality.”

Hearings have been organized and/or led by members of Standing Committee, the committee of district representatives to the Conference. In many districts a number of additional facilitators and note takers were recruited to help lead hearings.

Although each hearing was to conform to a recommended format, the number of hearings and the scheduling of hearings have varied widely in different districts. Districts began holding the hearings last August, with most now having concluded their hearing schedule. In just a few districts, however, hearings are continuing through February. Atlantic Southeast District concludes its hearings this week, and Western Plains and Missouri/Arkansas are scheduled to hold their final hearings on Feb. 27.

Some hearings have gathered large numbers of people, while others have been held for small groups. Western Plains reported in a recent district newsletter, for example, that a hearing in Haxtun, Colo., “involved just 14 people with an age range of 13 to 88.” According to the listing in the Conference Office, Idaho and Western Montana District held only one hearing at a district board meeting on Nov. 1. Another much larger district, Shenandoah, reported in December–at a time when all but one of its five hearings had been completed–that “a total of 638 persons representing 43 congregations have participated thus far.”

The groupings of people in the hearings also have varied. A number of districts held regional hearings.In Northern Ohio District, a total of 13 hearings were held, with six identified specifically for pastors. In Western Plains District, an open invitation in the district newsletter encouraged each interested congregation or group to schedule its own hearing or to coordinate one with another group.

The report forms from each hearing are being collected by the Forms Reception Committee of Standing Committee, which will collate the information into a report to the full Standing Committee. The Forms Reception Committee is made up of three members of Standing Committee: convenor Jeff Carter, Shirley Wampler, and Ken Frantz.

Moderator Alley noted that the members of the Forms Reception Committee have been asked not to talk about their work. In addition, the original materials coming out of the hearings will not be made public, he said.

The Forms Reception Committee has until the end of May to complete its report to the full Standing Committee. The decision about whether or when to make that report public will be made by Standing Committee when it meets prior to Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., on June 28-July 2, Alley said.

“We want to be careful that we don’t create expectations we can’t fulfill,” the moderator said. “But also it’s not intended to be a secretive process,” he added. “The scheduling is meant to be helpful to the process, not to keep people out.”

For more information about the denomination’s Special Response process, and for background documents, go to www.cobannualconference.org and follow the link to “Special Response.”

4) New Annual Conference event from Congregational Life Ministries.

Participants in this year’s Annual Conference are invited to a new event offered by the Church of the Brethren’s Congregational Life Ministries: a first-ever “Ministry Fair” on Monday, July 4, from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

“It’s not a traditional meal event, although there will be ample food,” said staff from Congregational Life Ministries. “It’s not an insight session, although there will be facilitators and plenty of discussion. It is an opportunity for you to connect with people in other congregations with the same passions you have for ministry in your home church: working with children and youth, deacon ministry, evangelism, intercultural ministries, stewardship, using the arts in worship planning…to name just a few.”

Each of 15 ministry-based tables at the fair will have a facilitator well-versed in that ministry, and lots of room and tools for creative discussion and sharing of ideas. Since many people are involved in more than one ministry in their home churches, three separate 20-minute sessions will allow participants to visit multiple tables during the two-hour fair.

After Annual Conference, the staff of Congregational Life Ministries will provide a way for participants to easily share contact information and new ideas with others who attended the fair.

The fair is listed as a meal event in the Annual Conference registration process, cost is $15. A flier with more details and a full listing of topics can be found at www.brethren.org/site/PageServer?pagename=grow_congregational_life_ministries . For questions contact Donna Kline, director of Deacon Ministry, at dkline@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 304.

A full listing of events during the 2011 Annual Conference is at www.cobannualconference.org/grand_rapids/infopacket.html . Go to www.cobannualconference.org/grand_rapids/other_events.html to find out about events sponsored by other departments of the Church of the Brethren, and other Brethren agencies and organizations.

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, cobnews@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Chris Douglas and Donna Kline contributed to this issue. Newsline appears every other week, with special issues as needed. The next regular issue is scheduled for Feb. 24. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences go to www.brethren.org/newsline .