An Open Letter In Response To The Leadership Team “response to activities of the Covenant Brethren Church” Posted on September 14, 2020 In Newsline…
By Pastor Larry M. Dentler, September 15, 2020
The “response” from the Leadership Team of the Church of the Brethren yesterday hit the air and immediately “lit up” social media & emails. It took many people off guard. It was received by many as angry and punitive, and strangely hypocritical since so many polity and policy violations around the church have gone unaddressed by the Leadership Team.
It was a bit like the Cavalry riding into town with guns blazing. “We’re going to save the church from these bad guys!” The letter and other things that have been circulating came with many inaccuracies. Let me first try to help with some clarity.
Covenant Brethren Church began with an informal gathering of Brethren from many districts in July 2019. Several District Executives, several Annual Conference Standing Committee members, pastors, and district leaders from many districts were in attendance. The concern was about conservative churches that were making the decision to separate from CoB. (To date over 6000 members from over 30 congregations have voted to leave CoB) Many of these congregations become functionally independent. The main question of that first meeting was, “Should there be a new Brethren body for those congregations that feel they must leave CoB?” And the nearly unanimous answer was “Yes!”
CBC has been accused of being secretive. This is not true. Within days of that first meeting communication with the Leadership Team shared all details of the meeting and the outcome. CBC has kept the Leadership Team well abreast of all the progress of the movement. We have had several very friendly face-to-face meetings with Leadership Team members. No secrets here. CBC developed a website and Facebook page where all information is readily available.
CBC has been accused of being divisive. This is not true. In our meetings with Leadership Team members we have repeatedly expressed our desire for a peaceful separation and desire for perhaps some areas where the bodies might continue to work together. We have cautioned CBC affiliated persons from making slanderous comments about CoB, nor to lash out when angry comments are made towards them. We have encouraged congregations considering leaving CoB to work closely with their districts in a cordial, peaceful manner and to follow their district’s procedures.
CBC has been accused or recruiting and proselytizing. This is not true. The intention of the Temporary Executive Committee has always been to only speak to churches or individuals about CBC if asked. To our first open meeting we did use a mailing list from the “Brethren Prayer & Worship Summit” to invite folks. This was seen by some as recruiting. We have apologized for that if persons were offended by receiving the invitation. The truth is our large group meetings have been attended by a number of persons from the more progressive side of the church and they have been welcomed.
CBC has been accused of being an offshoot of the Brethren Revival Fellowship. This is not true. While several BRF affiliated persons are on the Temporary Executive Committee, there are others on the Executive Committee and our various Ministry Teams who are not part of BRF. We share a lot of common ground with BRF and make no apologies for that.
CBC has been accused of being a “single issue” movement. This is not true. While homosexuality has certainly been the hot button issue within the church for several decades, CBC considers this issue to be essentially settled. Annual Conference has clear decisions on the matter that have been repeatedly upheld in our historic Acts 15 ‘decisions by the body’ structure. But in fact, the very fact that those “settled decisions” are ignored and that there is no accountability, this is at the heart of the concern. The absolute authority of God’s Word AND an accountable church, these are keys to understanding CBC.
CBC has been accused of being against women. This is not true. In fact in the ‘soft launch’ of CBC congregations in recent days, some of the very first ministers ordained into CBC were women! The issue of women in ministry will be a congregational decision. And those decisions will be embraced and honored by the church.
The “response” letter talked in length about not allowing “dual affiliation for congregations” and “dual ordination” for ministers. CBC wrote this into our polity knowing well that these are huge decisions that must not be entered into lightly, and that, at least at first, some may want this interim step to ease transition. When the CBC Executive Committee met with Leadership Team members in February of 2020 we asked General Secretary very specifically about this concept of dual affiliation. His response, “Of course it is in our polity.” Now the “response” letter seems to be reversing course on that, which can only serve to deepen brokenness and mistrust.
As we all know, the Brethren movement began on that August morning in 1708 when 5 men and 3 women entered the waters of the Eder River in Germany for the first baptisms. To date there are 7 Brethren bodies as part of that movement: 2 among the old orders, 2 among the Charis (Grace Brethren), Brethren Church, Dunkard Brethren, CoB … and now #8 CBC. All part of one family dating back to 1708! I have loved when we have been able to act like family and even do some things together like the Brethren Encyclopedia and the 300th year Devotional. Can we not find a way forward to labor side by side in the Kingdom? Areas like Brethren Disaster Ministries, world mission, and Brethren Volunteer Service … can we not find a way to treat each other with love, grace and respect as we would labor together?
So from this old guy who has served in ministry in the CoB for 48 years … these challenges:
To the CoB Leadership Team – Put those guns down! In fact put them away! Your tone in this response was hurtful. Acknowledge that please, and move forward with the more amicable relationship we have sought from the beginning. Be the leadership the CoB needs right now, and help us to be a witness to the watching world that this doesn’t need to be a bloody fight!
To the CBC Executive Committee and members/friends – Put those guns down! In fact put them away! Desist from degrading social media posts and angry emails. If you are considering leaving the CoB work with respect with your district and follow your district’s policies & procedures for departure. Be the leadership the CBC needs right now, and help us to be a witness to the watching world that this doesn’t need to be a bloody fight!
“…as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 NIV
We can do better!
Your brother & servant,
Larry M. Dentler