Presentation from Congregational Information Meetings – The Current State of the Church of the Brethren Denomination

ECOB Church Family,

The following information was shared in a PowerPoint presentation format at each of the congregational information meetings on January 28 & 29, 2018.  The purpose of the presentation was to share a history of actions by the COB denominational leadership.

The first paragraph is an excerpt of the 1983 paper on Human Sexuality from a Christian perspective.  This paper was prepared for the 1983 conference and voted upon by the delegates.  The delegates overwhelmingly approved to affirm this as their biblical understanding of human sexuality. 

Statement, 1983 Annual Conference: Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective

“The Church of the Brethren upholds the biblical declaration that heterosexuality is the intention of God for creation. Nature, in the very functional compatibility of male and female genitalia, confirms this biblical revelation that males and females are meant for each other. This intimate genital contact between two persons of opposite sexes is not just a physical union; it also embodies the interlocking of persons. This intimate companionship is heterosexuality at its fullest. It is the context for the formation of family. . . . Covenental relationships between homosexual persons is an additional lifestyle option but, in the church’s search for a Christian understanding of human sexuality, this alternative is not acceptable.”

The following is an excerpt from the reaffirmation recommendation at the 2011 Annual Conference.  

The 1983 paper was reaffirmed by Annual Conference, meeting in Grand Rapids, MI.
 2011 Annual Conference meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, following the recommendation of Standing Committee:
“ It is . . . Recommended that the 2011 Annual Conference reaffirm the entire 1983 ‘Statement on Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective’ and that we continue deeper conversations concerning human sexuality outside of the query process.”

The following is a statement from “On Earth Peace” (an agency of the Church of the Brethren).  

On Earth Peace
During their September, 2011 meeting, the On Earth Peace board of directors expressed their displeasure with the results of Annual Conference 2011 and issued a paper titled “Statement of Inclusion”: ‘We are troubled by attitudes and actions in the church which exclude persons on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any other aspect of human identity. We believe God calls the church to welcome all persons into full participation in the life of the faith community.’”

The following is a publication distributed  by “On Earth Peace” (an agency of the Church of the Brethren).

On Earth Peace Publication
 In 2016, Irvin Heishman, pastor, West Charleston Church of the Brethren, wrote a pamphlet, which was distributed at the 2016 Annual Conference, (and then to the entire denomination) entitled: “A Biblical Basis for Inclusion: A Pastor’s Journey”

“A most compelling biblical basis for inclusion is therefore grounded in the Spirit’s initiative to advance Christ’s mission of reconciliation.” (page 3) “Some have been concerned that those calling for inclusion of LGBTQ persons are stepping outside the parameters of biblical teaching. The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) shows us that the Spirit’s passion to include all who have chosen to follow Jesus has been at the heart of the church movement from the very beginning. .  .  . The New Testament gives witness than to the value of Spirit-led change which invigorates, renews, and expands the outreach of the church by adapting the faith so that all might be welcomed to follow Jesus.” (page 9)

The following is a picture from Annual Conference, 2017, Grand Rapids Michigan during the announcement of newly recognized congregations within the COB.  Pastor Elizabeth Swenson and her spouse, Lucy of Wildwood Church of the Brethren were introduced. 

Wildwood COB Pastor Picture

The following is an excerpt from an article posted on the Wildwood Church of the Brethren website.

“We have a pretty awesome pastor/creator, Liz is queer and this is the first church she’s ever created, so we’re learning together…We believe that life is better in community, especially when it is diverse and inclusive and so we celebrate diversity; queer, straight, gay, bi, trans, gender-queer, black and brown lives, toddlers and grandparents, doubting and believing. Together we reflect the brilliant image of God who created us. Others, like WildWood, move up to level 2 [speaking to level of recognition as a congregation]. Here is where things get more serious, we get to form a team of folks who help with leadership, a “board” of sorts, we also get the opportunity to have a vote on the denominate nitty-gritty stuff, we have the opportunity to do more stewardship and fundraising so that we can hire more staff to do things like music and hang out with kids if we want, we have many of the rights and privileges of being an institutional congregation but it is an in-between time to continue to grow with help, support and guidance from the denomination.”

The following is an ad from the “Progressive Guide to Annual Conference” announcing various extracurricular events/seminars/discussions made available at the 2017 Annual Conference.  This particular offering was sponsored by the Brethren Mennonite Counsel.

BMC [Brethren Mennonite Counsel] Worship Service Friday, June 30th, 2017, 4-5:30 p.m.,   — Pasta, Pirates and People Sheep

“Each year, the BMC worship offers a space for the lgbtq and allied community to come together to celebrate, uplift and strengthen one another in the context of worship. We welcome Chris Zepp, Associate Pastor at Bridgewater COB, as our preacher. Chris lost his ordination in the Shenandoah District after officiating at a same sex wedding. He will share what this experience has meant to his faith and practice in his sermon.”

After the above presentation by Pastor Dan, Dick Mitchell (elder at ECOB) shared the concerns by our leadership regarding the actions of the Church of the Brethren denomination.

ECOB’s Concerns Regarding the Current State of the Denomination

1. An issue of Biblical Authority, not simply human sexuality.

2. Leadership of churches being forced by the denomination to accept this lifestyle as God’s will.

3.  ECOB leadership has lost the trust of the Church of the Brethren denominational leadership through a series of actions by the denomination that have disregarded the 1983 paper on Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective.  These actions by denominational leadership have moved from a stance of allowing, to promoting, and now celebrating this as an acceptable lifestyle among leadership of the church.

Dick shared ECOB’s official statement on Human Sexuality that was adopted into our Code of Regulations in 2010.  For copies of this statement, please contact the church office.

It was also shared that ECOB is in conversation with four other congregations within our district that share our concerns and are like-minded.

Each meeting concluded with a series of questions, input, and clarifications regarding our concerns and next steps.  We also encouraged anyone to contact an elder or Pastor Dan for further questions and clarifications.

One additional note from the Southern Ohio District COB Newsletter

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