The 213th Annual Conference (June 29-July 4, 1999) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Milwaukee Arena which is now the U.S Cellular Arena, 400 W. Kilbourn Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203. The Midwest Express Center exhibition center opened in 1998 with 188,695 square feet of contiguous exhibit space along with a 37,506 square foot ballroom. It has since been renamed several times: Midwest Airlines Center, Midwest Express Center, Frontier Airlines Center, and presently Delta Center. The arena seats 12,700 people and offers 41,000 feet of floor space. Extensive activity has recently surrounded this convention center with renovation and new construction, as the city is erecting a new exhibition hall that will cover four city blocks at a projected cost of $172 million. According to legend, Milwaukee gets its name from Algonkian Indians who called this area Millioki: gathering place by the waters (Lake Michigan and three converging rivers). It's a culturally diverse city with restaurants serving a broad taste of ethic groups: French, Irish, German, Norwegians, Poles, Czechs, Russians, Yugoslavs, Italians, and Greeks. Preferences also differ from Lake Michigan fresh seafood, cuisine-focused bistros to cheap bohemian college cafes.
Annual Conference was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, once before in 1990 with Moderator Curtis W. Dubble presiding. It may have seemed unusual to some Brethren that the Program & Arrangements Committee would have picked Milwaukee as location for Annual Conference, since Milwaukee has enjoyed and even touted its city acclaim of being: The Beer Capital of the World. Some of the most famous breweries, Pabst, Schlitz, and Miller have contributed to its fame. Actually it was the other way around. Lack of 4th of July holiday business drove the Milwaukee convention association to invite the Brethren to come back at very reasonable rates, explained Duane Steiner, Annual Conference Director. He further addressed questions from delegates as to why Annual Conference is held over this holiday since traffic accidents pose an increased risk. Steiner explained that Annual Conference receives extremely good rates on convention space and hotel accommodations nation wide because most other groups rarely meet over this holiday; an important consideration for the Annual Conference Office that struggles to make financial ends meet. On Friday evening, National Youth Conference Speech Contest Winners presented their messages. Linetta Alley, a student at Bridgewater College, spoke to the title: Living in Community. Cindy Laprade, a high school student from Franklin County, Virginia, addressed evening worshipers with the title: Staying Reconciled.
Friday evening is the treasured night to hear the Children's Choir. The groups consists of about 140 children under the direction of Peg Lehman from Elgin, IL. Next to the Conference Arena is the Midwest Express Center (now Delta Center) which hosted all the agency and special interest exhibits. But what seemed to attract the most attention for Conference-goers and vacationers was the incredibly lifelike house Security Guard who stood right inside the 4th Street tower entrance. Many people stood for several minutes to admire the intricate attention to detail of this plastic and wax creation. Detail of perhaps a sixty year old man that showed freckles, skin deformities, protruding veins, fuss arm hair, naturally looking hands, and the most lifelike facial features.
1999 Conference Officers were Moderator Lowell Flory, chairman for business and economics at McPherson College; Moderator-elect Emily Mumma from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania; and Secretary Cathy Huffman.
- Congregational Structure requested delegates to evaluate and study our current congregational structures, and propose other congregational structure options that also maintain the integrity and biblical precedences of our Brethren heritage. The study committee was granted another year to complete its work.
- Standing Committee Tenure query to extend the length of service from three to five years was rejected.
- Unfunded Mandates was adopted per Standing Committee recommendation that offered a new process for considering the financial impact of unfunded mandates. The recommendation calls for a review committee to assess the magnitude of future mandates.
- Caring for the Poor study committee was granted another year to complete their work and develop a recommendation.
- Ministerial Leadership Statement was adopted with several amendments that calls for historic changes in polity regarding the licensed and ordained ministry, defines consistent guidelines for advancement within the ministry, and outlines clear expectations and requirements for ministerial training. More than nine years in development, this paper sought to achieve consistency among the districts which had dissimilar methods of training, licensing, and ordination. Additionally, pastors from other denominations were received into Brethren ministry in different ways. The paper is the result of years of studies and conversations with ministry commissions from all twenty-three districts, that involves polity and procedural changes. Following the vote Moderator Lowell Flory said: This statement establishes a far clearer set of guidelines and moves us toward consistency from district to district.
- Children and Violence was a General Board approved statement drafted this week that requests congregations to: actively work to change the current culture of violence in communities and schools and to reaffirm the 1978 Annual Conference Statement Violence and the Use of Firearms in its call to eliminate all weapons used for human destruction.
- Non-Violence resolution drafted by General Board was approved that would encourage congregations, districts, and individuals to recommit themselves to stressing our heritage of peace in the wake of school killings. Many people rel ted how gun violence had touched them or their families in a very personal way.
- Litigation query from the Haxtun COB (Colorado) asked for clarification regarding litigation and appropriate Christian response. Brethren have historically endeavored to settle personal disputes by avoiding legal entanglements (1 Corinthians 6:6-7), but our modern litigious society presents complications for Brethren when they are sued by parties outside of the faith walk. The delegate body elected a study committee to present a draft position paper to AC 2001 that would include such guidance.
- Delegates were given a preview of the new conference schedule change that will begin on Saturday and end on Wednesday morning, instead of the current Tuesday to Sunday morning format. The Program and Arrangements Committee explained that the intent is to save one whole day of Conference, and thus permit delegates to take off one less day of work.
- Total registered attendance was 3,528 comprised of 868 Delegates and 2,660 Non-Delegates.
- Phil Carlos Archbold of Brooklyn First COB was elected as Moderator-elect who will will serve as Moderator of the 2001 Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland.
- Blood Drive participants were successful in donating exactly 302 units of blood for the American Red Cross.
- Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised a total of $11,925 to alleviate the suffering from world hunger.
- On Earth Peace Assembly celebrates its 25th birthday in October, 1999.
- Ice cream reigns with the Brethren who consumed about 80 gallons at the Hilton Hotel from Tuesday to Friday. Not to be outdone, Brethren at the Hyatt Hotel vanished 50 gallons per night. Someone calculated that would total about 2,500 cones and about 1,000 sundaes.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that CHARLESTON, West Virginia, will be the location for AC 2004.
- Tuesday Evening, June 29 :
Lowell Flory, WHO, ME?, 1999 Annual Conference Moderator, Professor at McPherson College
- Wednesday Evening, June 30 :
Nancy Faus, THE TIMELINESS OF AN ANCIENT MESSAGE, Retired professor of Bethany, Theological Seminary,Richmond, Indiana
- Thursday Evening, July 1 :
Patrick Mellerson, THE GREAT SERVANT, Pastor of Butler Chapel, Orangeburg, South Carolina
- Friday Evening, July 2 :
Linetta Alley, LIVING IN COMMUNITY, Student at Bridgewater College
Cindy Laprade, STAYING RECONCILED, Student at Franklin County High School, Virginia
- Saturday Evening, July 3 :
Kurt Snyder, WHAT'S THAT SMELL?, Pastor of Roann Church of the Brethren, Roann, Indiana
- Sunday Morning, July 4 :
Paul Mundey, SOARING SERVANTS, Pastor of Frederick Church of the Brethren, Frederick Maryland
They determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain other of them,
should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders (about this question).