I think it is fair to say that the most exciting and life-changing event in my life this year has been becoming a grandparent. Yes, I know it’s wrong for pastors to brag and boast and talk too much about their family, their children, and their grandchildren (yes, grandchildren—plural—#2 is on his way at the end of May!). And I know that few, if any, of you are really interested in how cute and adorable and advanced and intelligent and wonderful my granddaughter is (and grandson will be). But, this is what grandparents are supposed to do, right? And I do what I am supposed to do. Always.
This new phase of life for me and Sharon is not only exciting, but also a reminder of that ever-ticking life clock. To become a “Granda” (using the designation most common in my country of birth) less than a year after the death of my mother and less than two years after the death of my father reminds me that life is always moving on, and that families grow and move and change and develop. My grandchildren will grow up in a world very different than mine, and even more distant from that of my parents. And this is good. But it is also difficult.
Church family life is not dissimilar from biological family life. Church families grow and move and change and develop. These developments are often in response to the changes in the ever-changing world in which they exist—a world that is certainly not the same yesterday, today, and forever as Jesus is. There is a lot of tension in living where a never-changing God and an ever-changing world meet. But this is where we live, and relocation is not (yet) an option.
The Brethren in Christ family has experienced the same dynamics as any other family. Our geography, language, customs, cultures, traditions, understandings, structures, gatherings, systems, congregations, names, appearance (and more) have changed considerably since the first Brethren gathered by the river. These changes have not always been easy or pleasant, nor have they always been intentional and planned. But in diverse and dispersed families that want to remain connected, it is important to have regular times for gathering and conversing. It is necessary to have shared understandings and agreements of how family decisions are made, such as who decides what?
In church life, these “shared understandings and agreements” are called bylaws. They are part of the family system necessary when the church becomes a legal entity recognized by the state. The bylaws enable the church to function in appropriate ways with clear understanding of who has authority for what.
At General Conference this year (link), we are planning to have discussion and make decisions about amending some of our bylaws. These amendments are intended to reflect the way in which the church has changed and is currently functioning, as well as how we would like to function in the future. The governance committee of General Conference Board (GCB) has been working on a draft of the revised bylaws and would like feedback and input from across the church.
A copy of the draft can be found here and a response form is included at the bottom of the PDF. Also, for reference, the current Manual of Doctrine and Government (MDG) can be found here. We are asking that conversation occurs across every region, whether at the regional conferences’ annual meetings or during another suitable opportunity. We also hope that other interested individuals will give us feedback on these proposed updates.
Passing our faith on to the next generation is important. We are blessed by those who have gone before and who labored long and hard in the work of the kingdom. May we be good stewards of what we’ve been given in this time and that those who come after us may find us faithful.