The Church of the Brethren is planning a “time of silent personal reflection and confession” at its July 4-8 Annual Conference in Cincinnati based on a recommendation adopted last year to hold a service of confession and repentance regarding relationships with one another and exclusion of LGBTQ people.
Church of the Brethren Newsline reported 19 of 28 members of the denomination’s Standing Committee voted March 7 to read the recommendation at the Annual Conference and have quiet reflection.
The committee chose not to approve two other options to either proceed with the confession and repentance proposal or to admit that the denomination is not ready for such a service.
A motion to start a multiyear process of confession and repentance was voted down.
Discussion of the recommendation, adopted by the Standing Committee last July, has revealed sharp differences among district delegates.
The recommendation states, in part: “Theological differences around human sexuality have too often been manifested in bullying, violence and a general sense of dismissal toward one another and specifically toward our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. We must redouble our efforts to live out these differences, as individuals and through our systems of governance, in ways that preserve the humanity, dignity and deeply held spiritual convictions of all. Harsh, dismissive, unloving and unforgiving behaviors toward one another cannot have a home among us.”
The March 7 online meeting was an unprecedented fourth meeting between Annual Conference gatherings. Annual Conference moderator Tim McElwee led the meeting and expressed gratitude for the work of the committee members, noting it is unusual for the committee to meet once between conferences, much less four times.
One of the committee’s primary functions is to make recommendations on new business items and queries coming to Annual Conference.
A task force holding conversations with the denominational agency On Earth Peace presented four recommendations to the Standing Committee during last July’s Annual Conference in Omaha, Neb.
In addition to the request for a time of confession and repentance, the wide-ranging recommendations called for a review of Church of the Brethren’s organizational structure to address “deep dysfunction.”
The committee engaged in conversation about the state of the church at that meeting with general secretary David Steele and district executive representative Torin Eikler. Newsline reported questions “focused on the scope of the loss of congregations and the effect on the denomination, both emotionally and practically.
“Steele commented on the ‘loss and pain’ he has seen in visits with congregations and districts, the problem of misinformation being spread around the denomination and the unprecedented problem of having another denomination actively coming in and meeting with Church of the Brethren congregations.”
The other denomination is Covenant Brethren Church, formed in 2020 by district executives, Standing Committee members and pastors who identified “failure of the denomination to stand strong on biblical authority” among their concerns.