16 Jul NC2023 Business Meeting Report
The US National Conference meets every two years, and is the highest governing body for United Brethren churches in the United States. One day is always devoted to business. This year, that day was Wednesday, July 12, 2023.
There were 255 voting members–140 clergy, 114 laypersons. The voting members represented 104 different United Brethren churches in the United States. In addition, there were 10 clergy with advisory status.
The delegates enjoyed breakfast together, and by 8:30 were seated and ready to get started. The business session began with a time of worship led by Nathan Hann and his team, and a recitation of the United Brethren Confession of Faith.
Executive Leadership Team
The first order of business was electing members of the Executive Leadership Team. Rev. Dalton Jenkins presented the report of the Nominating Committee and the eight persons on the ballot for the ELT.
The ELT meets twice a year to handle business between sessions of the National Conference. There are 12 members–the bishop, six laypersons, and six clergy. Each National Conference elects two clergy and two laypersons to four-year terms. They join the four members who are in the middle of their four-year terms, and together, they appoint another four persons to two-year terms. It all comes out to three persons from each region (East, Central, North, and West), with an even split between laity and clergy.
Those elected this year to four-year terms were:
- Central District, clergy: Tim Sherman, senior pastor of Bethel UB church (Elmore, Ohio).
- North District, clergy: Josh Good, senior pastor of Hillsdale UB church (Hillsdale, Mich.).
- East District, laity: Maria Alonso-Tomlinson (International UB church, Allentown, Pa.).
- West District, laity: Michelle Harris (Anchor Community Church, Fort Wayne, Ind.).
Newly-elected members of the Executive Leadership Team. L-r: Tim Sherman, Josh Good, Maria Alonso-Tomlinson, Michelle Harris.
Human Reproduction Task Force
Next came the report of the Human Reproduction Task Force, which was appointed in 2022. The chairperson was Joni Michaud, who also served on the 2017 Task Force on Human Sexuality. Joni is a lifelong UB from Lake Odessa, Mich., a Huntington University graduate, and a practicing lawyer.
Joni presented seven statements which the HRTF was proposing to include in the United Brethren Discipline. All seven were adopted as presented. Six of the statements raised no discussion. The “Abortion” statement took more time, with four proposed amendments and a number of people speaking. However, each amendment in turn was voted down by a clear voice vote. There seemed to be no appetite for changing what the task force had written.
So, we now have new statements on:
• The Beginning of Life
• Family Planning
• Adoption and Foster Care
• Assisted Reproduction
• Human Reproduction and the Responsibility of the Church
You can read the seven HRTF proposals here.
Other Discipline Revision Proposals
In addition, the delegates considered 22 other proposed revisions to the Discipline. Most were minor or editorial–little more than housecleaning, bringing the Discipline into line with actual practice, or correcting inaccuracies.
The delegates moved through them quickly, passing 21 of the revisions without discussion. They deleted proposal 34-4c, which would have revised the liturgy format used for receiving new members into the church. But that was the only change.
The Bishop and directors gave reports–UB Global, Higher Education, Communications, National Ministries, Finance, and Ministerial Licensing & Ordination. Steve Dennie went last, giving his final report as Director of Communications; he will retire at the end of August after 45 years at the UB National Office. Bishop Fetters used the occasion to make some remarks about Steve and presented a couple gifts–two caps bearing the UB logo, and a hoodie with “Dennie 45” on the back.
Huntington University and Evangelical Seminary also made presentations.
Winsome and Wise
In the afternoon, incoming Communications director Brian Biedenbach did a conversational interview with Dr. Walter Kim, the conference’s keynote speaker.
Dr. Kim, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, addressed the NAE’s “winsome and wise” approach to public engagement, among other things. It was quite illuminating. As of 2023, the United Brethren Church has been a denominational member of NAE for 70 years.
Overall, things moved along faster than expected, and the meeting adjourned around 3:00 in the afternoon, an hour earlier than scheduled. Nobody minded that.