The 234th recorded Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren was held—for the first time in a virtual format—from June 30–July 4.
Members of the Church of the Brethren from throughout the United States and beyond gathered together through an online platform around a conference theme of “God’s Adventurous Future.” According to conference officers, more than 1,100 people registered for the programming, which included business sessions, networking groups, equipping sessions, Bible studies, worship and music.
Our congregation’s own Jim Beckworth played a significant role in the conference, serving as the Annual Conference Secretary. In addition, Etown CoB’s Pastor Josh Tindall and Keyboardist Elizabeth Tindall served as Music Coordinator and Conference Pianist, respectively. Etown CoB members Paul and Sandy Brubaker were presenters during an insight session titled “Haiti: One Congregation to 26.” Another Etown CoB member, Mark Clapper, was the Elizabethtown College representative to a networking session entitled “Elizabethtown College alumni and friends.” Other Etown CoB members contributed to music, including Joe, Nonie and Ben Detrick, Nate DeGoede, Gavin Horning, Alex Mora, Ron Bellamy and recorded footage of Seth Nornhold.
A variety of organizations, such as the Brethren Colleges, Women's Caucus, Brethren Revival Fellowship, On Earth Peace, Bethany Seminary, Brethren Disaster Response and others, led sessions on their programs. The Global Food Initiative presented how their teaching sustainable agricultural practices has improved the lives of church members and the community in the Great Lakes Africa Region. Sessions on anti-racism and/or Creation Care were offered by The Intercultural Ministries program, the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy and the Brethren Creation Care Network. The Global Missions office led sessions on Haiti, South Sudan and Nigeria, and New Community Project led networking groups on "Climate Change changes everything", and "Give a Girl a Chance" about educating girls and empowering women in impoverished communities.
One of the major business items was a vote on a “new, unifying and compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren.” The process for developing the vision statement included feedback and discussion from more than 3,000 individuals including discernment during conversations at the Annual Conferences in 2018 and 2019, in districts, and with various constituency groups.
For the 2021 Annual Conference, of the 519 registered delegates, 450 participants voted on this business item, with 82% voting to affirm this vision:
The conference closed on Sunday, July 4 with a morning worship led by Patrick Starkey, of Cloverdale, Virginia, preaching on God’s promise to make all things new (Revelation 21:1–6 (NRSV).
On Saturday evening, July 3, the Brethren Mennonite Council sponsored a worship service for those who were interested. During worship, our congregation was one of four welcomed to the Supportive Communities Network.
The 2022 Annual Conference will be held in person in Omaha, Nebraska from Sunday, July 10–Thursday, July 14.
David Sollenberger (kneeling at left) consecrated as moderator of the 2022 Annual Conference, and Tim McElwee (kneeling at right) consecrated as moderator-elect. The theme for 2022: “Embracing One Another as Christ Embraces Us.”
Submitted by Annual Conference Delegates Pastor Pam Reist, Damon Fields, Paula Knudsen Burke