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Without Exception

BMC/SCN statement of response to the creation of the Covenant Brethren Church

On November 16, 2019, a group of discontented Brethren gathered in Virginia to organize a new denomination called Covenant Brethren Church. This split represents a frustration that several decades of attempts to mold the Church of the Brethren into a more fundamentalist and lgbtq exclusive denomination have not been more successful.

At this time, the number of congregations that will elect to leave the Church of the Brethren in order to affiliate with this new denomination is unknown. The COB Leadership Team and District Executives will work to facilitate the departure.

Not surprisingly, a foundational tenet of this new church is a clear rejection of lgbtq people. As pastors and members of congregations that have been blessed by the full participation and gifts of lgbtq members, we lament the harm that is inflicted by policies and practices of exclusion and condemnation. As these congregations depart, we will continue to bear witness to the goodness and resiliency of lgbtq people and embrace with open arms those who are excluded or spiritually harmed. BMC will provide resources and support for lgbtq people and their families regardless of their denominational affiliation.

In her newest book, The Lost Art of Scripture, author Karen Armstrong reminds us that religion is an art form that pulls us to ponder the mysteries and possibilities of life and the divine. At its best, religion calls us into the world with a compassion that “treats everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equality and respect.”

In Jesus, we witness a way of life that affirms the sacred worth of each individual and moves us towards acts of peacemaking, service, compassion and justice. In rejecting the temptations of a self-assured legalism, the Jesus of the gospels invites us into a deeper understanding of the richness of the complexities and ambiguities of life. By embracing Jesus’ call to inclusion, our communities are strengthened and blessed.

We are grateful for the many ways that our Brethren tradition has guided us in this way of Jesus. The best of our Brethren heritage, belief and practice holds respect for conscience, recognizes the blessing of all of God’s children, embraces the love of Christ, and calls us to be open to the Spirit. It has led us to the margins, where we greet the living Christ in the messiness and joys of human life. In the words of Christian author Sarah Bessey, “The margins are our center.”

We wish our siblings in the Covenant Brethren Church peace in their journey. In these uncertain times as a denomination, we as SCN congregations will continue to affirm the dynamic and expansive love of God for all people, and move with hope and anticipation into an abundant future.

Supportive Congregations Network Steering Committee:

Kurt Borgmann, North Manchester COB

Susan Boyer, La Verne COB

Enten Eller, Ambler COB, Living Stream COB

Brian Flory, Beacon Heights COB

Sarah Kinsel, Portland Peace COB

Bonnie Kline Smeltzer, State College University Baptist and Brethren Church

Zandra Wagoner, University of La Verne

Joanna Willoughby, Common Spirit Grand Rapids COB

Carol Wise, Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBTQ Interests

Chris Zepp, Bridgewater COB

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