The First Church of the Brethren Annual Conference on the WEB
A cooperative effort of COB-NET and the News Service of the General Board
The 210th Annual Conference (July 3-7, 1996) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the (then named) Albert B. Sabin Convention Center, 525 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. When the convention center opened in 1968, it was named after Dr. Albert Sabin who developed the polio vaccine. Over the years it has been renovated several times and experienced three grand openings, the last being in 2006 as the Duke Energy Convention Center. There is over 750,000 square feet of exhibit hall, meeting hall, and entertainment space. Duke Energy, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a Fortune 500 company supplying 35,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity in the Carolinas and the Midwest, and natural gas distribution services in Ohio and Kentucky. Brethren will be happy to know that Duke Energy is a green company that is focusing on renewable sources of energy.
Annual Conference has been held in the State of Ohio seventeen times and twice before in Cincinnati: 1987 with Moderator Guy E. Wampler, and 1972 with Moderator Dale W. Brown. In 1790, the city (more of a settlement) was named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, the retired Roman consul who was entreated from his farm to save the Republic by Senators who promised him unchecked authority. He saved the city of Rome from plunder by the Sabines from one direction and the Aequi from another. He humiliated both foes with incredible wisdom and iron-fisted resolve. Rome welcomed their hero with a gigantic celebration, but after enjoying the unquestioned power of a dictator for only sixteen days, he relinquished that power and returned to his farm and family. Cincinnatus is regarded as the virtuous politician who truly serves the people by completing his term and then leaving office to go back home, instead of the modern career politician who feathers his/her nest with exemptions, privileges, favors, pensions, and most of all - tenure. What an inspiration for the delegates this year as they tackle a mountain of business.
1996 was the first year that Annual Conference enjoyed a cyber home ON THE WEB, a technological milestone for the Church of the Brethren. The COB News Service of the General Board worked directly with Church of the Brethren Network, by providing special communication about news, daily journals, and sermons to be uploaded each day of the week. Non-conference going Brethren were able to keep updated on Conference business and worship as the News Service of the General Board sent information directly to COB-NET for posting. In the middle 1990s this achievement was of little notice to many Brethren, for only a three churches, two colleges, and one camp had a web site. Nonetheless, this is history.
1996 was also the first year that Habitat For Humanity enjoyed a simultaneous presence with Conference attendees. In what has been described as a blitz-build, hundreds of volunteers labored to construct and completely finish, Three Houses in Ten Days. This was also the tenth anniversary for Habitat for Humanity in the city of Cincinnati. Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity was present at a Friday luncheon to personally congratulate the workers and encourage all Brethren to: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
2011 Conference Officers were Moderator H. Fred Bernhard, then pastor of Oakland Church of the Brethren, Gettysburg, Ohio; Moderator-elect David Wine of Abilene,
Kansas and then president of Mutual Aid Association; and Secretary Anne Myers.
- Ministerial Leadership final report from the committee will be presented to delegates. As it waited for a final report, last year's Conference called for a five year emphasis on ministerial leadership to begin immediately in preparation for the final report on the denomination's ministerial structure.
- The Simple Life Study Committee will present its paper to Conference delegates. The committee, which was named at the 1994 Annual Conference, was chosen to study ways to re-emphasize the Brethren tradition of the simple life and to discern its full meaning in our time.
- Congregational Ethics final draft from the Study Committee will be presented to delegates. The paper, which grew out of the 1992 Ethics in Ministry Relations statement, reviews the ethical guidelines of congregations in such areas as church responsibilities to its pastors and the denomination at large.
- Nonviolence and Humanitarian Intervention from the General Board will be presented for final approval. The paper, which was a congregational study document during the past year, questions the use of armed forces to deliver humanitarian aid. According to Tim McElwee, director of the Washington Office, this business item is an example of a paper that had its origin from congregational inquiries.
- End of Life Decision-Making final draft will be submitted to Conference delegates by the General Board. The paper includes last year's query on Assisted Suicide. Although this statement began as a rewrite of the 1975 Annual Conference Life Stewardship paper, the committee instead chose to present a brief faith statement because so much has happened with 'end-of-life' issues since 1975. Thus, a rewrite of an existing paper seemed insufficient, the committee said.
- Office of Deacon statement will be given by the drafting committee as it aims to bring recommendations to the 1997 Conference. The committee's work centers on reviewing and updating the 1983 statement on the Office of Deacon.
- Human Genetic Engineering and Fetal Tissue Use study committee on will give a report of its review of the 1987 statement as its prepares for its final report in 1997.
- The Review and Evaluation Committee will give its interim report, and will return to the 1997 Annual Conference with its final evaluation. The five-member committee has spent its first year reviewing the General Board and its programs.
- Congregational Structure from the Atlantic Northeast District after an appointed task committee concluded that all congregations cannot fit into the present denominational structure system. According to District Executive Allen Hansell, the committee found that the current structure is not flexible enough with a board and three commissions, and ministry issues should mold ministry teams, not vice versa, as is done in the current structure. Hansell added that Annual Conference has not addressed the issue of congregational structure in more than 30 years.
- How Christian Faith Should be Expressed in the Political Process, from Northern Indiana District. This query originated in a Crest Manor Church of the Brethren, South Bend, Indiana, Sunday school class. The class determined that the church's involvement in politics is an issue for denominational study. According to District Executive Herman Kauffman, the concern is over various groups taking a political stance in the name of the church.
- The New Testament as our Rule of Faith and Practice, from the Middle Pennsylvania District Board which questions the recurring issues that have come to Conference in recent years concerning this basic denominational tenet, said District Executive Randall Yoder. The query asks Annual Conference for a statement of interpretation on our understanding of the New Testament.
- The Ethics in Ministry Relations statement revision was initiated by Standing Committee after Conference adopted the paper in 1992. The paper has been revised and expanded, especially in the area dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct. The final report will be brought to Standing Committee, and, if approved, to Annual Conference delegates.
- Statement on Child Exploitation, originating from the 1995 Christian Citizenship Seminar. It received General Board approval in March and is being sent to Annual Conference with the recommendation that it become a study paper for one year, returning in 1997 for final approval. The paper deals with ethical behavior of multinational corporations, and consumers who buy goods made by children in developing countries.
- Guidelines for Developing and Recommending Curriculum in the Church of the Brethren, from the General Board. If approved by Conference, the guidelines will be available for use throughout the denomination. The last set of guidelines were approved by the 1986 Annual Conference.
- Church of the Brethren's Pastors' Insurance Package. A proposed change will be brought by the Annual Conference Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee. The committee recommends that the maximum Life and Accidental Death and Dismemberment benefit be increased from $40,000 to $50,000.
- World Mission Philosophy and Global Structure, from Virlina District asking that Annual Conference determine district responsibilities with congregations outside the US, define set-apart ministry and calling in other countries, and develop a better system to include these congregations in the actions of Annual Conference.
- Denominational Polity: Property and Stewardship Issues was repackaged into a substitute motion: a committee be appointed to review and recommend revision on polity to allow districts and the General Board to assume ownership of real property in cases of default and report their recommendations to the 1997 Annual Conference.. Originally, Standing Committee had recommended that each district take responsibility for legal agreements and loans to congregations.
- Total registered attendance was 4,935 comprised of 918 Delegates and 4,017 Non-Delegates.
- Andrew Wright served as the Music Coordinator, and introduced contemporary music, along with a group of talented musicians from Ohio Southern District.
- Jimmy Ross of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, was elected as Moderator-elect to serve in 2000 at Kansas City, Missouri.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that Baltimore, Maryland, will be the location for AC 2001.
- Tuesday Evening
Worship Leader ~ David Wine - Moderator-elect and president of Mutual Aid Association
Evening Speaker ~ Fred Bernhard - O GIVE ME A HOME - Annual Conference moderator and pastor of Oakland Church of the Brethren, Gettysburg, Ohio
- Wednesday Evening
Worship Leader ~ Bob Kurtz - Pastor of Potsdam, Ohio COB
Evening Speaker ~ Robin Wentworth Mayer - COME AS YOU ARE - Pastor of Kokomo, Indiana, Church of the Brethren
- Thursday Evening
Worship Leaders ~ Mary Jane and Tim Button-Harrison, team pastors of Ankeny (Iowa) COB
Evening Speaker ~ Pete Kaltenbaugh - WHO IS WELCOME AT THE TABLE? - Pastor of Hartville, Ohio, Church of the Brethren
- Friday Evening
Worship Leader ~ Jim Chinworth, pastor of Mountville COB
Evening Speaker ~ Joyce Stoltzfus - AN HONEST WELCOME - Pastor of Glade Valley Church of the Brethren, Walkersville, Maryland
- Saturday Evening
Worship Leader ~ Elizabeth Kee, interim pastor of Covington (Ohio) COB
Evening Speaker ~ Richard Schreckhise - SOMEONE'S KNOCKIN' AT THE DOOR - Pastor of Annville Church of the Brethren, Annville, Pennsylvania
- Sunday Morning
Worship Leader ~ Keith Funk, pastor of East Chippewa COB
Morning Speaker ~ Stafford Frederick - LIVING OR DYING, GLORIFY GOD - Pastor of Olathe Church of the Brethren, Olathe, Kansas and General Board member