Two Items Removed from National Church Covenant

The US National Conference approved two changes to the National Church Covenant, which United Brethren churches must sign every two years (2007 was the first year for that). The covenant consists of eight points. By action of the 2007 US National Conference, points 5 and 8 have been removed.

Point 5 says, “They are intererested in partnering with other like-minded churches.” It was explained that this point is vague and nobody is sure exactly what it means (nor how to force churches to comply with this).

Point 8 says, “They support the work of the camps, university, and other ministries of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA.” This line was added from the floor of the 2005 National Conference. Pat Jones, Director of Healthy Church Ministries, explained that this is the only part of the covenant which is programmatic in nature, in that it requires supporting two “programs” of the church–the camps and university.

He pointed out that most of the camps are now separate entities from the denomination, organized with their own board of directors; so that part was already obsolete. He stressed that there is no intention of weakening the relationship with Huntington University.

This issue received a good deal of discussion at the spring 2007 Executive Leadership Team, and the ELT passed on the recommendation that item 8 be removed. The original desire with the covenant was to keep program issues out and stick mainly to matters of philosophy and relationship. If we include the camps and college, why not also specifically name Global Ministries and church multiplication, which are arguably more central to the work of local churches? Other potential additions might include Women’s Ministries, Bible quizzing, and the Youthworkers Summit.

There was some discussion, but not much. Both points 5 and 8 were removed. So when local churches are asked to once again sign the covenant in early 2009, it will look like the following, but without the two points in bold:

Every congregation shall…reaffirm their support of and membership in the US National Conference by signing a covenant which includes affirmation of these points:

  1. They are committed to the Confession of Faith.
  2. They agree with the core values of the United Brethren in Christ, International.
  3. They agree to abide by the Constitution and Discipline of the US National Conference.
  4. They are passionate about fulfilling the Great Commission through their local church.
  5. They are interested in partnering with other like-minded churches.
  6. They support the ministry and mission of the United Brethren Church, USA, through the annual partnership fee.
  7. They will participate in a cluster.
  8. They support the work of the camps, university, and other ministries of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA.
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