On October 23, 2020, 175 people met from all over the country at the Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock, Virginia, for the purpose of deciding whether or not to bring the Covenant Brethren Church into existence as an official denomination. Because of the global pandemic and the need for social distancing, many who would have liked to attend had to watch online, but for those there it was an exciting, mountaintop experience. One person in attendance stated, with exuberant joy, how wonderful it was to attend a conference where the believers were in one accord.
Friday evening speakers included Larry Dentler and Bill Winger who challenged the group to both remember our Brethren heritage and how to move forward as a church in the 21st Century, standing on the authority of scripture while keeping Jesus Christ as our main focus.
Both the Friday night and the Saturday meeting were interlaced with wonderful singing and powerful testimonies. The Spirit of the Lord was truly present in that place.
Saturday brought a mix of business and inspired worship but an observation was made by Fred Roy, a dear brother whom has since been called home to heaven as a result of the Coronavirus. He will be sorely missed. He moved all present with his prayer and observation that the morning started out with a rainbow over the church, which is a sign of God’s “covenant” with man.
Craig Alan Myers reminded us of our roots and how CBC began with a small group meeting on July 27, 2019, in a restaurant in Chambersburg, Pa. No one present at that meeting could have known what would follow but there were questions that needed answers and a process was put in place that day to seek the answers. Three concerns motivated those in attendance that day: 1) The need to provide a landing place for churches that were choosing to leave the COB but desired to maintain their connection to their Brethren heritage. 2) The failure of the COB to stand strong on the authority of scripture. And finally, the failure of the recent Compelling Vision Statement to address the homosexual issue that continues to be a major point of division within the Church of the Brethren denomination. A temporary group of leaders was elected to seek the answers needed for either a denominational healing to begin or a respectful separation to occur. This was followed by many more meetings that eventually brought us to this first annual meeting and the establishment of the Covenant Brethren Church denomination.
Rodger Myers presented the Statement of Faith that not only addressed the belief structure of CBC but also laid out the requirements for membership within the denomination. A copy of that document can be found on our website.
Each committee gave reports and covered everything from bylaws, governing structure, tax-exempt status to methods of accountability. We also recognized our first region. Similar in function to the “district” within the Church of the Brethren, our first region is called the Southern region. These regions allow churches that are within a certain geographic proximity, the opportunity to work together in training, fellowship, local church support, church planting, and missions. They are recognized to be a vital part of our future structure where possible.
We then reviewed the process of becoming a member within the Covenant Brethren Church for churches, ministers and individuals. This was followed by a question-and-answer time where concerns and uncertainties were addressed that included topics ranging from camps and resources to relationship building and women within the CBC. Throughout all of the questions and concerns there was a spirit of peace and a genuine interest in finding answers and not making accusations.
An election of officers was held and our first official nine-member Executive Board was selected. These officers were tasked with establishing the subcommittees necessary to move the denomination forward as well as securing a location for our future headquarters and hiring staff as necessary. Already funds have been coming in as God is blessing to cover the needs of this fledgling denomination. It is the responsibility of this board to make sure the CBC remains good stewards of the resources God makes available and keeps the denomination informed of their use at our annual meeting and other appropriate reporting opportunities.
Saturday afternoon found us listening to presentations about plans relating to minister training programs and how Brethren Benefit Trust will continue to work with Covenant Brethren Churches. This was very important to many churches and pastors who have investments and retirements through BBT and it is hoped by the leadership of BBT that many churches who don’t understand what BBT has to offer will investigate the services they offer.
As the day neared an end Scott Kennick introduced the 12 new congregations that had been brought into the CBC fold. He also noted that there are many other churches preparing to take a vote to join CBC as well as a number of pastors that are seeking to be ordained by CBC. This brought a new level of excitement to the room as everyone present recognized this new denomination was being birthed right before their eyes. To that end, Jim Myer asked for a motion to name that day, October 24th, 2020, as the official launch date for the Covenant Brethren Church. Craig Alan Myers made the motion and Grove Duling seconded it. The motion was passed by an overwhelming margin and the Covenant Brethren Church denomination was birthed. It was an exciting and joyous event as those who felt they had been struggling in conflict for so long felt a sense of freedom and hope that they had begun to wonder if they would ever feel.
Larry Dentler led the meeting in reading Acts 14:23 then prayer. Grover Duling, the man who had become the spark that ignited the CBC fire, was presented with the first individual membership and the first Covenant Brethren Church annual meeting was closed by singing the Doxology. Smiles and excitement marked the faces of those present as they departed and we all look forward to our next annual meeting to take place this fall in Fairmont, W.Va . There is little doubt that this meeting will also be the center of much excitement as wonderful things have been happening in the CBC since our last meeting and those of us involved can’t wait to tell you about it. Until then may God find you faithful.