By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
Combined, the three Southern New England conferences have more than 600 years of Annual Meetings in their histories. And through the years at those meetings, delegates have taken important stands on the justice issues of their day.
The leaders of the soon-to-be Southern New England Conference are asking delegates to the 2019 Annual Meeting to stand on that history, and begin as a new Conference by putting foundational justice commitments in place.
"Part of what we wanted to do with the new conference is to think about the historic commitments that our three state denominational bodies have made through the years and carry this forward as part of the DNA of our new conference," said Corey Sanderson, president of the new conference. "We have an opportunity to set the culture of our new conference, and we want to make sure that we’re carrying forward the pieces that have been so important to our work in our local churches throughout the years."
With that goal in mind, the four boards - the three historic conference boards and the new conference board - are asking delegates at their joint meeting on Nov. 1 - 2, to approve the following statement:
We believe that it is our call to “live the love and justice of Jesus.” Based on both the established commitments of our three historic Conferences and our aspirational priorities as a new Conference, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ, at its first Annual Meeting on November 2, 2019, pledges in covenant:
We recognize that these are expressions of both identity and intention, and we commit to align our resources and our efforts with these priorities. We encourage our local churches and other covenant partners to do the same.
- To be an Open and Affirming Conference;
- To be a Just Peace Conference;
- To be an Accessible to All Conference;
- To promote environmental consciousness and climate justice;
- To advocate for economic and restorative justice;
- To eradicate racism in all of its forms, both within the church and in the structures of our society and world;
- To advance immigrant justice and human rights for all people.
A process for bringing resolutions to Annual Meetings of the new conference has not yet been developed. The processes in the three conferences have not been identical, so the new board plans to take some time to think creatively about how God might be calling the new conference to engage with justice issues, informed but not limited by the practices of the past. The Board plans to consider this question during 2020, engaging others in the new conference in the conversation, in hopes of bringing a proposal for the June 2020 Annual Meeting.