The business agenda for the Church of the Brethren’s 2014 Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio, on July 2-6 includes proposed revisions to the Ministerial Leadership Polity, along with other returning business items that deal with guidelines for implementing the Congregational Ethics Paper, guidance for responding to the changing of Earth’s climate, a Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st century, and more equitable representation on the Mission and Ministry Board.
New business items on the docket include a proposed revision to the Special Response Process “A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues,” as well as amendments to the bylaws of the Church of the Brethren Inc. and the Brethren Benefit Trust Articles of Organization. The delegate body also will hold elections and receive reports from the Conference agencies and representatives to ecumenical bodies.
Revision to Ministerial Leadership Polity
This document will return to the delegate body this year with further revisions, after the 2013 Conference returned it to the Mission and Ministry Board “for revision in accordance with Standing Committee concerns, to be brought back to the 2014 Annual Conference.” The revised polity has been in the works for several years, led by staff of the Office of Ministry and the Ministry Advisory Council along with other groups including the Mission and Ministry Board and the Council of District Executives. Find the full document coming to the 2014 Annual Conference at www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/business-items/2014-ub1-revision-to-ministerial-leadership-polity.pdf .
Query: Guidelines for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Paper
A first hearing of the Congregational Ethics Revisions was presented to the 2013 Annual Conference by Joshua Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship in the Congregational Life Ministries staff. The final draft is being presented to the 2014 Conference for approval. The document is a revision and replacement of the 1996 Ethics for Congregations polity. Find the full document coming to the 2014 Conference at www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/business-items/2014-ub2-congregational-ethics-paper.pdf .
Query: Guidance for Responding to the Changing of Earth’s Climate
This query was first adopted by Annual Conference in 2011 and referred to the then titled Washington Advocacy Office of the Global Mission Partnerships (now the Office of Public Witness). Progress reports were brought back to the 2012 and 2013 Conferences. A document titled “Responding to the Changing of Earth’s Climate” is being brought to the 2014 Conference for approval. Referring to biblical texts including Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,” and Genesis 2:15, the paper affirms the Church of the Brethren 1991 Annual Conference Statement “Creation: Called to Care” and calls on members of the church “to build on this foundational understanding of creation care by addressing the earth’s changing climate.” The paper includes sections on “Biblical and Brethren Foundations” and “Living in Hope.” Go to www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/business-items/2014-ub3-changing-of-earth-climate.pdf .
A Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century
This document originated with a new business item brought to the 2012 Conference from the Committee on Interchurch Relations Study Committee with recommendations to discontinue the Committee on Interchurch Relations and to have the Mission and Ministry Board and denominational Leadership Team appoint a committee to write a “Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century.” The committee has been appointed and has begun its work. It is bringing a progress report to this year’s Conference, and intends to present a statement at the 2015 Annual Conference. See www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/business-items/2104-ub4-a-vision-of-ecumenism.pdf .
Query: More Equitable Representation on the Mission and Ministry Board
This query was formulated by the Southern Pennsylvania District Board and adopted by the 2012 Annual Conference. The concerns of the query were the Mission and Ministry Board, which brought a proposal to last year’s Conference. However, the motion brought by the board to the 2013 Conference to make proposed amendments to the bylaws of the Church of the Brethren Inc. did not receive the required two-thirds majority vote. This year, the Mission and Ministry Board is bringing a recommendation that the current structure of the Mission and Ministry Board be maintained. The document is at www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/business-items/2014-ub5-equitable-representation-mmb.pdf .
Revision to the Special Response Process “A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues”
The denomination-wide dialogue process known as “Special Response” was initiated by the 2002 Annual Conference. It is intended for use when needed to address strongly controversial issues in the life of the church. The process was adopted by the 2009 Annual Conference and first used by the 2011 Conference to address two queries related to human sexuality. After receiving evaluations, the 2012 Standing Committee of district delegates appointed a task committee to review the process and propose changes to strengthen it. The revised document is being brought to the 2014 Annual Conference for approval. Find the document with proposed changes indicated at www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/business-items/2014-nb3-revision-to-special-response-process.pdf .
Amendments to the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren, Inc.
Amendments to the bylaws of the Church of the Brethren, Inc. are proposed by the Mission and Ministry Board in order to clarify “that the term of service for a director who is chosen to serve as chair elect becomes a new four-year term rather than the regular five-year term of service for other directors,” to clarify “that the full five-year term allowed for a director who serves less than half of an unexpired term is subsequent to that unexpired term, not in place of it,” and to update the bylaws to reflect the change of Oregon-Washington District’s name to Pacific Northwest District. Find the full proposal at www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/business-items/2014-nb1-amendments-to-bylaws.pdf .
Amendments to Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Articles of Organization
A number of amendments to the BBT Articles of Organization are proposed, ranging from style changes, to adding a clause related to BBT’s socially responsible investing in a manner of conforming to Church of the Brethren values, to governance and reportability matters that clarify that a financial report and annual report will be submitted, to eligibility and implementation matters for members of the board, among others. Find the full listing at www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/business-items/2014-nb2-amendments-to-bbt-aticles-of-incorporation.pdf .
For details about the Annual Conference business and schedule, and to register to attend, go to www.brethren.org/ac .