The biannual business meeting of Brethren in Christ churches in the US (referred to as General Assembly) took place July 13th-16th at Messiah College. The theme of the Assembly was to “Know, Love and Follow Jesus.” Our delegates were Jerry Bishopp, Ed Harmony and Jeff Smith. Each of us will share a few take aways from General Assembly.
Jeff Smith: The first one is the facilities. In years past, we were in the gym and this building wasn’t even built. It looked like an opera house complete with a pipe organ which I haven’t seen the likes of. The sound in the room was outstanding and the seating was very comfortable. The food was delicious too and even that building had upgrades.
The discussion on open theism went well both presenters were knowledgeable and spoke well. I was impressed with Pastor Rob Douglas from the Dillsburg Church who was the second speaker who said up front that he wasn’t an open theist. However, when it was time for questions it seemed to me some of the folks were attacking his views even though there isn’t any doubt in my mind, he isn’t an open theist. He handled those situations with love and diplomacy that I haven’t witnessed in sometime. Another issue was doing away with the Constitution of the BIC Church. Some of the delegates requested some verbiage be added to the Manual of Doctrine because they felt it define who we are. The request was accepted and it will come before the General Assembly in 2020 in Kansas.
The intermingling of the generations struck me because it seemed to me in the past the older pastors talked with each other, the same with the younger. It appeared that both groups were listening to one another to hear what was being said instead of how they were going to reply to one another.
Finally, I think the denomination is good hands with Alan Robinson, the national director at the helm.
Jerry Bishopp: I was impressed as usual with the facilities, organization and the speakers that I did get to hear. A couple of the missionary reports may have been too long but all in all it was a smooth conference with little or no confusion. The big controversial topic dealing with open theism was handled very well and never got out of control. Both speakers kept to their “side” whether they agreed with the information or not without interjecting their own thoughts or beliefs. I have always enjoyed the conferences and like to know what is going on in the denomination.
Ed Harmony: I thought it was a great time of fellowship and meeting new people from other congregations. I learned about the workings of the Brethren in Christ Church and found the question and answer periods were quite informative.
Pastor Lawton: I appreciated the way business was handled. There was a time for good constructive debate, but at the end of the day we were able to accomplish the tasks at hand. Several of the recommendations centered on changes to the Manual of Doctrine and Government. It is being reorganized at the recommendation of the denomination’s counsel.
It was exciting to hear stories of God at work in different conferences in the United States, but also around the world. One of my favorite was how a congregation in California opened their doors to a congregation mostly made up of another nationality. The congregation felt accepted and eventually became Brethren in Christ.
Overall, it was a good time of fellowship, doing business and learning. I believe there was a great effort put forth to look past our differences and focus on what we have in common in order to know, love and follow Jesus.