Reflections on the 2017 Annual Conference

This page does not attempt to report on everything that happened at the 2017 Annual Conference held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is a reflection on things which likely are of the most interest to readers of the BRF WITNESS. There was good preaching, lots of well planned activities, and plenty of opportunities for sharing and fellowship. This was the 231st recorded Annual Conference, so the Brethren have had many years to learn how to do a big conference like this. The attention that is given to details helps things run smoothly.

1. Once again, the homosexual issue dominated business at Annual Conference. The Leadership Team’s answer was in response to queries last year that raised the matter of how Districts shall respond to ministers who perform same-sex unions. Their answer clearly stated that Annual Conference has not authorized the performing of such unions and outlined a framework for Districts to deal with it, but failed to suggest a strong prohibition against such ceremonies. Fortunately, the long standing position against accepting the practice of homosexuality into the church remains intact.

2. The Review and Evaluation Committee gave its final report including ten recommendations. The one getting the most attention was #6 which raised the question if On Earth Peace (OEP) should remain an agency of the Annual Conference because their statement of inclusion is not in compliance with the position of the church. This action would have required a 2/3 majority vote to pass. OEP survived as an agency but only with a 44% approval in the final vote. This vote makes it obvious that On Earth Peace no longer has a support of the majority of the church.

3. Pro-homosexual voices have become very loud and aggressive at Annual Conference. For Bible believers, listening to all of their appeals year after year becomes a distraction and is disheartening. Annual Conference has become a place where virtual filibusters take place not dissimilar to what goes on in the United States Congress. It is not uncommon to hear people say, “I don’t have to listen to this and I’m not coming back.” You would never know we have a clear position stating that homosexuality is unacceptable in the church by what we have to listen to on the Annual Conference floor.

4. The most offensive thing that happened this year was the introduction of a new fellowship from the Pacific Northwest District. The pastoral couple for the group was introduced as Elizabeth and her spouse, Lucy. Very weak applause followed their introduction but the boldness to do something like this needs to be dealt with without apology or excuse.

5. The tension and disunity that has been evident at the last several Annual Conferences has left more congregations and individuals dangling with a very brittle thread in their connection to the denomination. It is known that some gatherings are being called together in order to discuss how long some Brethren can remain in a church that has made so many departures from standard biblical truth. There is real heartache in the Brethren hinterland.

6. One of the perplexing things about Annual Conference is that some of the loudest criticism against the denomination is heard from congregations that do not send delegates and therefore lose their votes and their voice to affect change. Many times decisions are made with a very slim margin, and only a few more congregations sending their delegates might have made a major difference in the outcome of the decision.

7. One of the hopeful things announced as a part of the motion to accept the Leadership Team’s answer to the accountability of ministers, congregations, and districts  was that the church turn its attention to the framing of a compelling vision for how we will continue the work of Jesus together. Along with this they will develop a process for departure for congregations that cannot accept the vision. Many brethren are anxious to see what all this will look like.

8. Donita Keister was called to the position of Moderator-Elect. She is a daughter of John and Ruby Shenk who directed BRF’s BVS Orientation for many years. Donita herself was a volunteer with BVS/BRF and spent a year at Voice of Calvary in Mississippi. Her dad also served on the BRF Committee before his death. We believe Donita will bring a strong evangelical presence to the Leadership Team.

9. Each year BRF is faced with making a decision about how many seats we should reserve for our meal events. With an overall declining attendance at Annual Conference, we have considered reducing our numbers also. But this year at the last minute we ordered more tickets than ever before and nearly every seat was filled. The fellowship and blessing around the BRF tables continues to be inviting.

10. I have never had the unfortunate experience of going down with a sinking ship. But I understand that the ship will slowly go lower and lower and its position will lurch a bit back and forth. And finally it will reach a tipping point, when with a final plunge it will sink below the surface. I don’t like to be a prophet of doom. But I am sensing a groundswell of deep disappointment from Brethren over a wide area who are feeling like the Church of the Brethren is at a tipping point! Unless the denomination soon finds a way to get us back on a solid Biblical foundation, and quell the loud offenses of those with a pro homosexual agenda, we may be seeing the last chapters of its current existence being written.

–James F. Myer
September/October 2017
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Captivity… Dreams… Rulers… Fire… Lions… Prayers… Kingdoms. From a dedicated youth to a faithful sage, Daniel’s life stands as an example to follow.  Yet beyond his personal life, God gifted Daniel with a message of future events.  Though difficult to grasp, these events would shape the world for the coming Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ as King.


Luke presents a warmly personal and historically accurate account of Jesus as “the Son of Man.” This course will survey the Third Gospel, with emphasis on the unique events, miracles, and parables of Jesus found in it.


This class will provide a broad overview of general church history. We will then focus on the Anabaptist and Pietist movements, especially as they relate to the formation and development of the Brethren groups. This is a two-part class. Plan to take both parts.


This course is intended to lay down a measure in a world where truth is slippery and often subject to interpretation. Where “Christian Values” become a political slogan, and “good people” are our allies despite their faulty core beliefs. Where Facebook “friends” post memes about the power of God, despite a lifestyle that is anything but Godly. In the process we often fight among ourselves, doing Satan’s work for him. The purpose of this course is to lay the measure of Jesus Christ against the cults, religions, and worship in our contemporary world.


While Protestant translations of the Bible contain 66 books, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches recognize additional canonical books as well.  Where did these books, collectively known as the Apocrypha, come from and why aren’t they part of our Bible?  How reliable are they, and what value is there in studying them?


The goal of this class is to acquire a firm grasp of the teachings and themes of these two general epistles. Peter covers topics from salvation and suffering to spiritual deception and the return of Christ. These letters are packed with warnings and encouragements for Christian living.


A detailed study of Jesus Christ and His relationship to the “I Am” metaphors in John’s gospel. Why did Jesus describe himself in these terms? How do they relate to each other? We will look at spiritual and practical applications to further our Christian growth.


Have you ever been visited by someone who said they wanted to study the Bible with you so that you might discover the truth together?  Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to have much in common with evangelical Christians, and they seem to be well versed in the scriptures.  But what do they really believe and how can we effectively witness to those who have been ensnared by this false religion?


While we may consider Hosea as one of the minor prophets, his message vividly illustrates the major doctrine in all Scriptures.  The theme of God’s unconditional love is magnified and extended beyond those deserving it.  God expresses tender words towards His erring people inviting them to turn from sin to reconciliation with Him.


This course will look at basic principles and polity of leading the local church. We will examine the balance between upholding a spiritually focused organism of ministry and cultivating proper order for effective organization. Practical applications will be emphasized. This is a two-part class. Plan to take both parts.


The Brethren Bible Institute believes in the discipline of the whole person (spirit, soul, and body). We will aim to train students not only about how to study the Bible in a systematic way (2 Timothy 2:15), but also how to live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2:12). God calls Christians to the highest of character when He commands us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15), and holiness requires discipline.

Indulgence in the use of tobacco, alcoholic beverages, drugs, profanity, and gambling are forbidden at BBI. Objectionable literature will be prohibited. Students are asked not to use the college pool during the Institute. Each student must be thoughtful, and respect the rights of others at all times, especially during study and rest periods.

A friendly social group intermingling of students between class periods, and at general school activities is encouraged. Each student should enjoy the friendship of the entire group. At all times, highest standards of social conduct between men and women must be maintained. This means that all forms of unbecoming behavior and unseemly familiarities will be forbidden.

Personal appearance and grooming tell much about one's character. Students are expected to be dressed in good taste. In an attempt to maintain Scriptural expressions of simplicity, modesty, and nonconformity, the following regulations shall be observed while attending BBI.

MEN should be neatly attired and groomed at all times. Fashion extremes and the wearing of jewelry should be avoided on campus. The hair should not fall over the shirt-collar when standing, nor should it cover the ears.

WOMEN should wear skirts cut full enough and of sufficient length to at least come to the knees when standing and sitting. Form-fitting, transparent, low-neckline, or sleeveless clothing will not be acceptable. Slacks and culottes are permitted only for recreation and then only when worn under a skirt of sufficient length. Wearing jewelry should be avoided on campus. Long hair for women is encouraged and all Church of the Brethren girls (and others with like convictions) shall be veiled on campus.

The Institute reserves the right to dismiss any student whose attitude and behavior is not in harmony with the ideals of the School, or whose presence undermines the general welfare of the School, even if there is no specific breach of conduct.

The Brethren Bible Institute is intended to provide sound Bible teaching and wholesome Christian fellowship for all who desire it. The Bible School Committee worked hard and long at the task of arriving at standards, which will be pleasing to the Lord. It is not always easy to know just where the line should be drawn and we do not claim perfection. No doubt certain standards seem too strict for some and too loose for others. If you are one who does not share all these convictions, we hope you will agree to adjust to them for the School period, for the sake of those who do. We are confident that the blessings received will far outweigh any sacrifice you may have to make. If you have a special problem or question, please write to us about it. To be accepted as a student at BBI, you will need to sign a statement indicating that you will cooperate with the standards of the School.