Two nights ago, General Conference 2008 wrapped up. And despite all the work the Conference has been–those of us on church staff were pulling 12-16-hour days, and I can’t imagine delegates themselves were any less busy–it was bittersweet to see it all end.
Due to lethargy brought on by sleep deprivation over the previous days, I wasn’t able to write about the final evening service on Monday night, but this blog would simply not be complete without it, so here goes!
Opening the night was a consecration service, held for Nate Yoder, the new bishop of the Atlantic Conference; Rebekah Basinger, the executive director of congregational relations; Chris Sharp, the executive director of BICWM; and Gene Blessing, the chief financial officer (CFO) of the General BIC Church of North America. As the group prepared to pledge their commitment to their work and the Lord, Warren Hoffman offered these words: “The Brethren in Christ Church has expressed confidence in you–in your character, your devotion to Christ and His cause, and your ability to direct and promote the ministries and interests of the entire church.”
We also got a broader picture of what is happening in the BIC Church worldwide as Bijoy Roul (South Asia Coordinator), Danisa Ndlovu (bishop of the BIC Church in Zimbabwe), Felix Curbelo (treasurer of the BICChurch in Cuba) came to share about the International Brethren in Christ Association (IBICA), an emerging group of international BIC leaders from nations across the globe. Though Thuma Hamukang’andu, bishop of the BIC Church of Zambia and president of the IBICA executive committee, was not able to be there in person, he sent his greetings and support through a letter. A video of international leaders speaking about the importance of IBICA was shown to introduce Conference attendees to the newly-formed organization.
“We are at a unique juncture in our church’s history,” stated Warren Hoffman as he explained how BIC denominations begun by BIC missionaries in different regions of the world are now so mature that they have organized themselves under national leaders from their own countries. “These BIC churches overseas are peer churches. We need to learn how to connect with them because we’re across the world from them.”
An offering was then taken for IBICA, which will be funded by having each denomination provide 1% of its budget to the organization. This offering brought the total of all three night’s offerings up to over $26,000! A round of applause broke out as Warren announced this astounding total.
As the applause died down, the stage at the front of the room cleared until only Jeff Hardin, one of our worship leaders for the week, remained, softly singing Mercy Me’s “I can only imagine.” Slowly, thoughtfully, the members of the Leadership Counsel came onto the stage, bringing a table, candles, a basket of fruit, a bright bouquet of flowers, plates, napkins, goblets, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of grape juice to the front. Before I knew it, they had set a beautiful spread–a communion table. Brian Bell, bishop of the Canadian Conference, then shared about the joy of taking communion as a community of believers whose faith “paints our passion and compassion” for this hurting world. After taking the sacraments together, we watched as members of the Leadership Council washed the feet of our international BIC church leaders and missionaries. It was a beautiful time of humility, service, truth, and fellowship.
Finally, Charles Price , senior pastor of The People’s Church in Toronto, shed new light on the oft-mentioned Acts 1:8 verse. Over an almost-silent crowd, Charles reminded us about the the dynamic power Christ bestowed upon his disciples following His resurrection and encouraged us to take the baton of our faith in order to pass it to those in our neighborhoods and world. He acknowledged that we are a broken people, imperfect and full of failings, but that we are ministering to those who are faulted along with us, a commonality which provides us with an instant bond. He also pointed out that it was a broken–though perfect–Savior who died and rose for us. With this power, we have the call and ability to move outside of ourselves and into the world around us. With this power, we can see Jesus worshipped in our homes, neighborhoods, communities, and nations.