Reflections on the 2009 Annual Conference

1. The 223rd recorded Annual Conference was held in San Diego, California, on June 26-30, 2009, with attendance at an unusual low of just slightly under 2,100 in attendance.

2. The theme was, “The Old Has Gone, The New Has Come, All This Is From God.” It was based on 2 Corinthians 5, on becoming new creatures in Christ.

3. While the theme emphasized the new things in Christ, the Conference spent most of its time dealing with what is becoming an increasingly old issue at Annual Conference–namely homosexuality.

4. Last year’s Standing Committee had formed a statement of Confession and Commitment in response to the repeated requests that came to the Program and Arrangements Committee from BMC (Brethren Mennonite Council­a pro gay organization) to have a display area among the exhibits. This request has consistently been denied.

5. The Standing Committee Statement essentially affirmed the 1983 decision on human sexuality and acknowledged the tension that exists in the denomination over this issue. The statement cautioned against the meanness that has been expressed at some levels and said this kind of activity must stop.

6. This year a new item of business was received from the Northern Indiana District that raised the question, “Whether it is the will of the church that this language on same-sex covenantal relationships [in the 1983 Annual Conference decision] will continue to guide our journey together?”

7. The 2009 Annual Conference also approved an updated process to deal with strongly controversial issues that surface in the church. This involves a two to three year process of study and conversation before coming to some conclusion.

8. The action of this year’s Conference was to receive the statement from last year’s Standing Committee, apply the concerns of the new query, and use the process of the “Strongly Controversial Issues” Paper.

9. A Resource Committee of five persons representing the wide diversity in the church will suggest study materials, and the Standing Committee will oversee the process. This means that another two or three year period will be given to consider the homosexual issue­–an immoral practice which the Bible clearly condemns. There seems to be growing evidence that a kind of denominational fatigue is resulting from this continued debate.

10. An amendment failed which proposed that [during the special response process] the Annual Conference exhibit hall guidelines should “be applied consistently to all the requests for exhibit space from groups in the church who are led to disagree with certain denominational policies.” If this would have passed, likely the BMC would been allowed to have exhibit space.

11. A query entitled “Secret Oath Bound Societies” was returned and the Conference reaffirmed the statement by the 1954 Annual Conference which essentially cautions against membership in such groups. A resource group is to prepare materials on the topic of Secret Societies.

12. Lerry Fogle, the Annual Conference Executive Director for the past seven years is leaving his position. He has done an excellent job and conducted himself very professionally during this time. A reception was held in his honor.

13. Despite the sharply lower attendance overall, the BRF events were still well attended. BRF continues to enjoy strong support and interest. We continue to work, hope, and pray for revival in our church­ but the future is looking a bit more ominous!

–James F. Myer