Southeastern District’s 2015 conference has given support to consideration of a query focused on On Earth Peace, which has the potential to come to the 2016 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren. The district conference also adopted a resolution on same-sex marriage, according to a review of the district conference written by district moderator Gary Benesh and distributed by the district office.
In addition to these two items of business, the Southeastern District Conference also enjoyed dynamic worship, carried out a service project collecting 148 Clean Up Buckets for disaster relief at a total estimated value of $7,400, received a report from Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger on the international mission work and other ministries of the denomination, and lifted up reports from the district’s leadership and its two camps–Camp Placid and Camp Carmel–and the John M. Reid Nursing Home, among other business.
Representatives of 31 churches, 1 fellowship, 2 camps, and 1 nursing home attended, with 197 people registered including 105 delegates, 68 non-delegates including adults and children, and 24 youth and youth workers.
Business items express concern about sexual orientation, same-sex marriage
The Southeastern District Conference resolution on same-sex marriage was adopted as part of a revision of the district’s constitution and by-laws. It was developed after two years of discussion, prayer, and study, report the district executive ministers.
In part, the resolution states that the district “will not accept” the following: performance of same-sex covenants or marriages by its licensed or ordained ministers, performance of those ceremonies on any property that is part of the district, and “any materials or anyone promoting the acceptance of the practice of homosexuality as a lifestyle that is approved by God.” (The full text of the resolution appears below.)
The district conference support for consideration of a query focused on On Earth Peace, received from Hawthorne Church of the Brethren in Johnson City, Tenn., sets in motion a process within the district that has the potential to bring the query to the 2016 Annual Conference.
The process will include: processing of the query by the district board in September, followed by an opportunity for churches to review and discuss the query and give input to the district, and a specially called District Conference in time to meet the deadline for putting the query on the 2016 Annual Conference agenda.
The district moderator also announced that he will write to the denominational Review and Evaluation Committee requesting examination of such issues, and is available to lead meetings about related issues in congregations in the district, including discussions of the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.
The district’s concerns about On Earth Peace include that “the group has issued a statement of inclusion for full participation in the church by all regardless of sexual orientation and practice which is in conflict with Annual Conference statements,” Benesh wrote, in addition to other concerns centered on wording and imagery in the agency’s printed annual report for 2015.
The Southeastern District “Resolution on Same-Sex Marriage” follows in full:
We affirm that for the church scriptures provide the final authority for defining practices for followers of Christ and for His church. Timothy 3:16 states that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Therefore, it is our attempt as a body of Christian believers to follow the teachings and commandments in this holy book.
In regards to marriage Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” And he went on to say in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Marriage is set forth as the bond between a man and a woman. Jesus re-affirms this scripture in Mark 10:6-8.
In the Old Testament in Leviticus 18:22 says “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. The New Testament in Romans 1 likewise speaks against such practices as does I Corinthians 6:9-11)
In addition, Annual Conference in 1983 stated that same sex covenants are not acceptable to the Church of the Brethren.
We therefore affirm that
1. All are invited and welcomed to come and worship the Lord.
2. Marriage is a God ordained covenant that should be entered into by one man and one woman.
3. The Southeastern District will not accept performance of same-sex covenants or marriages by its licensed or ordained ministers.
4. The Southeastern District will not accept the performance of those ceremonies on any property that is a part of the Southeastern District.
5. In addition we will not support any materials or anyone promoting the acceptance of the practice of homosexuality as a lifestyle that is approved by God.