Friday, May 01, 2020

Annual Conference Update

In March, we shared through Newsline that our planning is continuing for the 2020 Annual Conference. Since then the Annual Conference Office has received a number of emails from members who ask either: 1) Are you going to cancel Annual Conference? Or 2) Why haven’t you cancelled Annual Conference yet?

We want to assure you that we are thinking carefully and praying about how to proceed. We also want to assure you that the health and safety of all those related to Annual Conference is our first priority.

From the outside, it can appear like this is a simple decision in light of the headlines related to COVID-19. However, it is quite involved, with many steps, given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 crisis and our commitment to work mutually with our partners in Grand Rapids.

To that end, we are in close conversations with the Devos Place Convention Center and three hotels in Grand Rapids with whom we have contracts. Our reality is that because we signed legal contracts five years ago, the Annual Conference Office and Church of the Brethren would owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in cancellation penalties if we unilaterally cancel our conference. But if there is a mutual decision with our partners in Grand Rapids to not have Annual Conference this year, they may opt not to charge cancellation penalties.

Thus, we have chosen to take the slower path of working together with our partners in Grand Rapids, staying in conversation, discussing options, and negotiating next steps.

For your information, the convention center and two of the three hotels are currently completely closed. They do not know when they will open again. So that is yet another unknown as of today. Our partners in Grand Rapids are well aware of the serious challenge of COVID-19 because they are also living in the middle of it.

Overall, we want to make a decision that, most importantly, protects both the health and well-being of everyone involved with the Annual Conference and secondarily protects the church against major financial losses.

We realize this is a longer, slower process than many might wish for, but be assured we are moving forward prayerfully. Please know that it is still a possibility for Annual Conference to be cancelled, but we hope that will not be the case, even though we recognize attendance might be smaller. For now, the Annual Conference staff persons (Debbie Noffsinger, Jon Kobel and Chris Douglas) are working from their homes to continue the many details of putting together a conference. We understand the tremendous spiritual importance of the Annual Conference gathering, if it is possible to do so safely by July.

We do want to remind you that if you are already registered, or if you are considering registering, Annual Conference has a very generous cancellation/refund policy that protects you. Up until a week before Annual Conference begins, you can receive a full refund.

In closing, please know that any decision about Annual Conference will be made in a timely manner, prayerfully and carefully, prioritizing the health and safety of those who would attend. Please join us in prayer that God will give us the wisdom, patience, and courage to make the best possible decisions.

Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee:
Paul Mundey, Moderator
David Sollenberger, Moderator-Elect
James M. Beckwith, Annual Conference Secretary
Jan Glass King
Emily Shonk Edwards
Carol Hipps Elmore
Chris Douglas, Annual Conference Director (ex officio)

Annual Conference exists to unite, strengthen and equip the Church of the Brethren to follow Jesus.

Go to for more information about Annual Conference 2020!