2012 Annual Conference Reflections

1. Annual Conference was held at St. Louis, Missouri, July 7-11, 2012. On the Sunday of that week, St. Louis was recorded as the hottest spot in the eastern half of the United States as the temperatures registered somewhere between 107 and 109 degrees.

2. Most of us left Annual Conference last year thinking that the homosexual issue was at least somewhat laid to rest as the delegates overwhelmingly reaffirmed the 1983 Position Paper and removed future considerations from the query process.

3. But shock waves were soon heard across the denomination as some top leaders took bold steps that defied the decision of the delegates. More specifically, the Program and Arrangements Committee granted booth space to the Brethren Mennonite Council (BMC). This came as a surprise after about twenty years of having denied their request. This decision clearly flew in the face of the intent of last year’s decision.

4. In addition, the Misson and Ministry Board approved BMC for a BVS site which was later rescinded. Also, On Earth Peace (OEP) issued a statement recommending a “full participation” of homosexual people into the life of the denomination without any stated concern or restraint related to conduct.

5. These three issues brought an unprecedented outcry from individuals, congregations, and some districts across the denomination. The Standing Committee spent a good bit of time in its judicial role responding to this outcry and confronting those who had made these decisions.

6. As a result, a statement entities A Way Forward came out of these deliberations and called for a close monitoring of the booth’s literature and activities to ensure they are in keeping with Annual Conference decisions. The BVS site is not to be reinstated, and On Earth Peace is being urged to change their statement.

7. The Church of the Brethren more and more resembles the time of the Judges when all do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).

8. A major study was done on how to revitalize Annual Conference. Attendance continues to dwindle and it is harder and harder to make ends meet financially. One thing that could have been in the report, and was not, is to be sure that the agencies carefully follow the Annual Conference decisions. If this does not happen, Annual Conference becomes more and more irrelevant and there will be a greater reluctance to attend.

9. One of the items of New Business was questioning our election procedures, especially allowing nominations from the floor. This likely came as a result of the nomination from the floor last year, when Bob Krouse was nominated from the floor and was elected on the first ballot. The query questioning election procedures was returned.

10. A first reading was given to the revision of the Ministry Leadership Policy Paper. Quite a number of concerns were raised about the suggestions in the Paper, and likely quite a number of revisions to the revision will be made before it is agreed upon next year.

11. Sitting at round tables by the delegates was a new experiment. Time was given for table talk after most items of business were introduced, and that encouraged interaction at each table. This format seemed to gain a favorable response.

12. For some of us, the preaching was rather cheerless. But Daniel Deoleo sent everybody home on Wednesday morning with a rousing sermon on the need for church planting. It was a fitting conclusion to a conference theme that was based on the Great Commission.

13. BRF reserved 350 seats for our dinner meeting on Tuesday evening and nearly every seat was filled. This is by far the largest meal event at Annual Conference. We appreciate the growing interest at these events and our speaker, Bob Kettering, did not disappoint the listeners.

14. A tremendous amount of planning and energy goes into the production of an Annual Conference. While it is not all it could be, it does seem that regular attendance at Annual Conference is one factor that helps to hold the Brethren together. Get ready for Charlotte, North Carolina next year.    

—James F. Myer,
September/October 2012