Rethinking Church Membership: Reflections on the 2014 Sider Institute Study Conference

Participants in the 2014 Sider Institute study conference listen to Dr. J. E. McDermond's talk on conversion and church membership.

Participants in the 2014 Sider Institute study conference listen to Dr. J. E. McDermond’s talk on conversion and church membership.

The 2014 Brethren in Christ Study Conference is a wrap! Held October 9-10, 2014, the conference was a first in many ways:

  • It was the first study conference to be co-sponsored by both the Sider Institute at Messiah College and the Fresno Pacific University Biblical Seminary.
  • It was the first study conference to be held at the Carlisle Brethren in Christ Church.
  • It was the first study conference to be live streamed across the country, allowing us to include participants from outside the central Pennsylvania area.

This year’s conference also drew a substantial crowd of over 70, with participants from Brethren in Christ, Mennonite, Church of the Brethren, and United Zion fellowships.

The main presentations included:

“Does Church Membership Still Matter?: Reflections on ‘Belonging’ in 21st Century Christianity” by Kurt Willems

“Conversion and Life Between the Resurrections: Belief, Belonging, and Behavior” by J. E. McDermond

“A Missiological Approach to Church Membership by Daryl Climenhaga

Accountability and Church Membership in the 21st Century” (panel discussion) featuring Hank Johnson (moderator), John R. Yeatts, Keith Miller, and Josh Crain

“Where Do Our Loyalties Lie?: Belonging Beyond the Local Congregation by Valerie Rempel

Check out the Sider Institute Facebook page for images of the conference.

All of the main presentations were filmed, and will be posted on the Sider Institute website in the near future. These presentations will also be featured in a forthcoming issue of Brethren in Christ History and Life, the journal of the Brethren in Christ Historical Society.

In my role as director of the Sider Institute, I’ve received some positive feedback from attendees — as well as suggestions on how to improve for next year’s gathering.

Readers: If you attended the study conference, please leave some reflections on your experience — favorite presentations, most profound insight, suggestions for improvement — in the Comments section below!

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About Devin Manzullo-Thomas

Father to Lucas. Husband to Katie. Prof and administrator at Messiah College. PhD student at Temple University. Member of Grantham BIC.
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