General Conference 2020 | The Brethren Church

General Conference 2020



July 25, 2020


Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and related restrictions, The Brethren Church will cancel its in-person gathering for the 2020 General Conference in Ashland, OH.
The conference was initially scheduled for July 20-24, 2020, at Ashland University.
Also, the Brethren Youth Conference (Engage Conference) and Brethren Academy 2020 will cancel gatherings set for Ashland.
The Brethren Church has made a plan "B", however.  A digital conference will be held on Saturday, July 25. The digital gathering will include business, live speakers, and updates. Further details on that process and a full schedule will be shared shortly.

Beloved Brethren,

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Executive Board of the Brethren Church has determined that a face to face meeting of General Conference for 2020 is not possible. In light of the pandemic, the wisest course of action is to host General Conference 2020 online. We believe protecting the health of delegates and attendees, and respectfully submitting to civil authorities are both paramount.

This shift will mean several changes for how we conduct business, including:

  • The online meeting of General Conference will be reduced to a single day and moved to Saturday, July 25th, 2020
  • Delegate fees will be reduced to only cover the technical costs of the meeting online. 
  • All delegate registrations and fees must be sent to the National Office by June 1st. If this is an issue for your church, please contact the National Office as soon as possible. Delegates whose registration and fees are not received will not be eligible to vote. Any delegate fees overpaid will be refunded.
  • Delegates will be automatically seated, pending no challenges, based on the churches' lists sent and approved. A full delegate list will be sent to all delegates at least a month before the online meeting of General Conference.
  • All written reports and information will be physically mailed, as well as a sample ballot, to all delegates at least a month before the online meeting of General Conference.
  • We will vote through an online application. All delegates will be asked to verify their capacity to vote digitally. Before the meeting date, the National Office staff will conduct video training sessions for those who need help learning and understanding the voting format. Any delegate who does not believe they can vote using the online system should contact the National Office to discuss alternatives no later than two weeks before the meeting date.
  • We request new business wait till next year. This is a new format for us, and more complicated and nuanced communication is always better to have in-person within familiar patterns. Of course, any crisis issues will be addressed, but as your Executive Board, we are asking that we be both wise and a little conservative in discussing any possible changes to our organizational structures or operations when we can't be in the same room to talk through the decision in reaching consensus.
  • The Executive Board will be moving that we table the discussion of a financial giving requirement for serving on the Executive Board for one more year. We can report that each member of the Executive Board last year was a direct financial giver to denominational projects or operations. We know that some people feel strongly about this issue, on both sides, and it is because of that heightened importance that we think this is an issue best decided when we can be together in person.

We pray that you thrive as you excel in love, that you are blessed as you hold faithfully to the promises of the Father, and that you are unleashed in freedom as you engage the needs of the world around you.


The Executive Board of the Brethren Church

Joshua Coffee (Moderator)
Steven Cole (Executive Director)
Gail Heiston
John Swope
Jeff Estep
Mallorie Ndlovu
Roger Stogsdill
Tracy McPherson

Frequently Asked Questions:

I already registered; will my registration be refunded?

Yes. All registrations will be fully refunded shortly. We will notify you when your refund has been initiated, and it may take 7-10 days to post to your account. 

Is there a registration cost for the digital conference on July 25?

No, there is no registration cost. There is a reduced delegate fee, however. See next question

What is the new delegate fee, and why are you still charging a delegate fee?

According to our Manual of Procedure, delegate fees are to be charged to cover the cost of the conference. While our costs have significantly been reduced, there is still a cost to producing the conference. Technology costs, speaker honorariums, printing and mailing conference packets, and more. 

Any delegate fees that are left after paying the costs of the conference will be donated to the 2020 General Conference offering, which will provide relief for Brethren Churches in the wake of COVID-19. 

How Will We Attend & Vote?

The digital conference on July 25 will include two elements: the live video stream, which will include inspirational content, as well as broadcast of the conference moderator and executive director. Attendees will be able to "tune-in" via any web-connected device. 

There will also be a mechanism for asking questions, raising discussion, etc. though we anticipate this being as minimal as permissible, given the format. 

Detailed instructions will be mailed directly to each delegate's home address once the mechanism and platform is finalized.

Will We Have Time to Review Business Items, Budget, etc. Ahead of Time?

Yes. After your church has submitted its delegate list, each delegate will be mailed a conference packet. The packet will include instructions on how to participate, as well as a full agenda, reports from all the usual organizations, committees, and task forces, and a copy of the proposed national budget. 

What If I Have Questions About the Budget or Other Business Items?

The Brethren Church National Office will host internet-broadcasted live streams of "town hall" style events throughout late May, June, and early July. This will be a time where viewers can submit questions and interact with Executive Director Steven Cole and Finance Director Jim Thomas and have any questions answered. These videos will be made available online after broadcast as well. 

What About Engage Conference? Will There Be a Digital Version?

We're disappointed about Engage Conference being canceled, and unfortunately, there are no plans to hold an online gathering. We encourage regions to organize youth gatherings as state and local regulations allow, once it is safe to do so. 

What's the Plan for Brethren Academy?

Brethren Academy is deeply based on in-person, relational ministry. As such, holding a digital version of Brethren Academy is untenable. 

However, Brethren Academy will be launching an online cohort for students that will convene throughout the year. More information can be found at

What About All That Money We Raised for Brethren Academy at Conference 2019?

Great question! The money that was raised through the General Conference offering in 2019 is still being used to fund Brethren Academy, just at a much slower rate! Your dollars will continue to support this important ministry, and will go even longer now!