Wednesday, November 01, 2023


The Church of the Brethren Illinois/Wisconsin District met for its district conference Nov. 3-4 at Lanark (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, with about 125 people attending, including 57 delegates. Phyllis Batterton of the Woodland congregation (Astoria, Ill.) served as moderator, with the theme “Encourage One Another.”

Former Annual Conference director Chris Douglas led a Friday pre-conference workshop on “Deepening Our Intimacy with God” for about 20 participants. Douglas, who is also a trained spiritual director, introduced the group to a variety of forms of contemplative prayer. Friday evening worship featured 2024 Annual Conference moderator Madalyn Metzger—who grew up in the Springfield First congregation—sharing some of her personal journey in the context of this year's Annual Conference theme, “Welcome and Worthy.” Dixon pastor Michael Cole and accompanist Joyce Person led an energetic hymn sing.

In business on Saturday, the delegate body overwhelmingly voted to send on to Annual Conference a query titled “Regarding Greater Congregational Latitude on Matters of Sexuality.” The query, which originated in the York Center congregation with support from Highland Avenue, asks whether decisions related to sexuality should be made at the congregational level rather than by the denomination or district given the personal nature of these matters, the wide range of viewpoints and ongoing disagreements, and the inconsistent enforcement of policy from one part of the church to another. Forty-eight voted in favor, with eight opposed and one abstention.

Delegates also approved the disorganization of the Franklin Grove (Ill.) and Stanley (Wis.) congregations, after each had become quite small in recent years and decided to discontinue worship. Each of the buildings has been sold to other groups, although a Brethren cemetery near each location will continue to be maintained. Delegates celebrated the century-plus ministries of each congregation. A closing service for the Franklin Grove church was held last March. The official end of the Pinecrest Community's relationship to the Church of the Brethren was also recognized, after the retirement facility in Mount Morris, Ill., was sold to a for-profit organization late last year following years of financial challenges.

Other items included approval of the 2024 district budget and the slate of those serving in district offices, updates from Camp Emmanuel and Camp Emmaus, reports from Girard Area Homes and other district and denominational programs, and the recognition of anniversary milestones for ordained ministers (led by Chris Douglas’ 45 years of service).

Midday equipping sessions were offered by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the denomination, on the centennial of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, and by Ryan Braught, a circuit rider in the Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church program, on “Exegeting Your Community.” An auction, which included both silent and live portions, raised more than $2,000 for district ministries.

Next year's conference will take place Nov. 1-2, 2024, at York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., where musician Ken Medema will be a featured presenter/performer. Christy Waltersdorff (York Center) will serve as moderator for the coming year, with Bill Williams (Yellow Creek) as moderator-elect.