The 224th Annual Conference (June 26-30, 2009) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Town & Country Resort & Convention Center located at 500 Hotel Circle North, in the Mission Valley district or the heart of San Diego. Extending over 32 acres, guests are accommodated in 996 rooms in either of Two Main Towers or many ranch style Garden Bungalows. Unlike most Conference venues with a large city auditorium in the midst of several downtown hotels that requires walking on unfamiliar streets at night, this location is better described as a walled Campus that offered attendees meeting space, accommodations, eateries, and shopping, immediately surrounded by a treasure of beautiful scenery, all in one place without the incursion of walking at night on city streets. There were several very good campus Restaurants, a few providing Alfresco Dining.
Personal security afforded by this type of location was overheard in not just a few conversations. Additional delights of the Town & Country Resort were spacious Brick Walkways surrounded by Flowers. There were Tiny Pools,
Large Pools, and Ornate Pools. There were Short Trees, Tall Trees, and Banana Trees. Conference is a time for chatting and there was
Lady Chatting, Group Chatting,
Dinner Chatting, and Puzzle Chatting. Security was a blessing for young as well as old. Frequently one would see Children & Youth going about their activities in Complete Safety of the campus confinement. Tuesday evening remained the traditional time for the Children's Choir. Saturday evening, worship leader Jonathan Shively told a Children's Story on the main floor.
Across the San Diego River was a huge Shopping Mall complete with many familiar stores and great restaurants. The Metropolitan Transit System, referred to by locals as The Trolley, completely encircles the city of San Diego with its pleasing mixture of Old & New. Any visit to this region begs to also include a side trip to the world famous San Diego Zoo. Confusing for at least a few Brethren was the fact that the city of San Diego has its own Convention Center adjacent to the harbor. Presuming this venue to be the correct location for Conference, they had reserved rooms in one of the nearby Towering Hotels without going through the Annual Conference office. Landing at the San Diego airport from the east includes one of the steepest descents in the nation. Airplanes must clear the ridge of Balboa park and then drop over 250 feet to the runway in less than one mile, further complicated by a parking garage immediately under the flight path. Ex-military pilots now in commercial aviation enjoy the extra challenge and passengers facing west get a spectacular view of the Downtown Area.
The Main Entrance to the Conference Center from the city was seen by fewer Brethren as most entered from the opposite Campus Side of the building. Registration took place in the lobby inside from the the city entrance. First greeting inside the campus doors was the host Pacific-Southwest District's Hospitality Room. Technology has not replaced the old fashioned Bulletin Board which is always a mixture of personal contact requests and mini-announcements.
High ceilings of previous years gave way to low ceilings and multiple rooms for exhibits. The regulars such as SERRV, Brethren Colleges,
Outdoor Ministries, and Brethren Press, to name a few, were well represented. New themes were witnessed in Cross-Cultural Ministries emphasis or life-style changes from Brethren Volunteer Service. Exhibit booths came in all dimensions from the elaborate of Stewardship to the plain message of Global Missions, to the exotic of the Brethren Service Center. A variety of WiFi Games (bowling here) were available and enjoyed by all ages.
2009 Conference Officers were Moderator David Shumate, District Executive of the Virlina District; Moderator-elect Shawn Flory Replogle, pastor of McPherson COB, McPherson, Kansas; and Secretary Fred Swartz.
- There was none for this Conference but delegates still received a full schedule of business, discussion, and reports.
- A Structural Framework For Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues was adopted that would upgrade the 1988 Paper (same name) to a more complete process for denomination-wide conversation on special issues, because the 1988 Paper only called for resources to be provided for such wide Area conversations and lacked direction over how to process the responsive information that would be gathered from such discussions.
- Statement of Confession and Commitment from the AC 2008 Standing Committee expressed concern over the continuing division and tension within the denomination over the issue of homosexuality. They affirmed that the 1983 Human Sexuality paper has honest tension wherein the paper calls for open conversations with homosexuals but also views covenantal relationships between them as unacceptable. We own this tension. We acknowledge that in our fallenness we may not reach uniformity on this issue. But may we strive for unity in love, mission, ministry and witness in Christ. We also confess and ask forgiveness. For over 20 years we have allowed the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee to be a lightning rod for controversy on this issue. There have been many mean-spirited, unkind attacks leveled against these faithful servants. This unchristian behaviour must stop. (Annual Conference booklet, p. 206.)
- Language on Same Sex Covenantal Relationships questioned if the language of the 1983 Human Sexuality paper should continue to guide the church. Delegates spent many hours on two afternoons speaking to both this query of business and the overall issue of homosexuality. Opinions were sharply divided between maintaining status quo and full acceptance. There were several persons who expressed weariness over the entire matter. A few even wanted to reopen the 1983 Statement for revision. Some expressed that there never can be unity from two such vastly diverse points of view. Some recommended a denomination wide conversation, while others pointed out that the denomination has already been in conversation for more than twenty years. A few cited that at the heart of the real issue is a lack of biblical authority in the life of the believer.
Conference finally accepted both documents jointly as Special Response items that would call for a Two Year denomination wide conversation of these issues. In order to fully implement the Structural Framework paper, Standing Committee appointed a Special Response Resource Committee that would gather information for denominational use in the conversation process.
- Secret Oath-Bound Societies was returned to the District with a reaffirmation of the 1954 Membership in Secret Societies decision. A special three member resource team was appointed by the Conference Officers to gather resources that would better inform Brethren on this issue.
- A new eight member VISION COMMITTEE was created by Standing Committee to formulate and establish long-range goals for the Brethren in each upcoming decade. Each Vision Committee will be appointed by Standing Committee in the fifth year of a decade and charged to report their progress to Annual Conference in the eighth year of that same decade. Four members will be selected, one from Mission and Ministry Board or Staff, one each from Bethany Theological Seminary, Brethren Benefit Trust, On Earth Peace, and four at-large members from the denomination.
- Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren, Inc. from AC 2008 was submitted for informational purposes with action expected at AC 2010. Following the 2008 merger of the General Board and the Association of Brethren Caregivers plus the absorption of the Annual Conference Council into the newly incorporated Church of the Brethren, Inc., it became necessary to revise the bylaws that would govern the new corporation. However, the bylaws revision that was adopted in 2008 and now in operation was deemed so lengthy and complex that corporate attorneys urged simplification.
- Report called for by Child Abuse Prevention from AC 2007 recommended three goals: (1) districts, camps, agencies, congregations, and related ministry programs adopt and implement child abuse prevention policies, (2) the Church of the Brethren gather information that would assist these entities to develop such policies, (3) the Church offer to strengthen families with knowledge and skills for protecting children.
- Report of Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee was accepted that recommended a zero cost of living adjustment, based on the fact that the Consumer Price Index actually decreased this year.
- Total registered attendance was 2,077 comprised of 670 Delegates and 1,407 Non-Delegates.
- Lerry Fogle is retiring as Annual Conference executive director. He assumed office at AC 2003 in Boise, Idaho.
- Robert E. Alley, pastor of Bridgewater COB (Virginia), was elected as Moderator-elect and will serve as Moderator in 2011 at Grand Rapids.
- Erin Matteson of Modesto COB (California) led and coordinated the music during worship each evening.
- Blood Drive participants were successful in donating 121 units of blood for the American Red Cross.
- Association for the Arts Quilt Auction raised a total of $6,275 from seven Wall Hangings to benefit the Global Food Crisis Fund. There were no large quilts this year.
- Program & Arrangements Committee announced that COLUMBUS, Ohio, will be the location for AC 2014.
- Friday Evening, June 26 :
David Shumate, FROM NOW ON, Moderator and District Executive of the Virlina District
- Saturday Evening, June 27 :
Richard Shreckhise, THE RISK OF HOLY GROUND, Pastoral team member of Lancaster COB, Lancaster, PA
- Sunday Morning, June 28 :
Eric H.F. Law, LOOKING BEYOND FEAR-FINDING INTIMACY WITH OTHERS AND GOD, Episcopal Priest & Author
- Tuesday Evening, June 29 :
Nancy Heishman, HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE, Church of the Brethren mission coordinator for the Dominican Republic
- Wednesday Morning, JUNE 30 :
Jaime Diaz, TOGETHER IN UNITY THOUGH UNIQUELY DIVERSE, Pastor of Iglesia de los Hermanos, Casta, Puerto Rico