Relative brevity does not assume relative unimportance. That was the case at the 139th BFC Conference, condensed from the normal three days to two and executed at a lively pace on April 26-27, 2022. Wait – hadn’t we just met six months earlier? Yes, truly. The 138th BFC Conference had been held just six months before – in October, 2021 – thanks, at least in part, to COVID-19. But since the “normal” schedule calls for Bible Fellowship Church pastors and delegates to assemble each April … well, it was time to return to Pinebrook Bible Conference after just a six-month hiatus.
BFC Conference normally begins on a Monday evening and continues until the conclusion of that year’s agenda – usually sometime on Wednesday afternoon. This year, however, with no new particular churches being added (Church Extension Ministries reports that it hopes to present two mission churches for graduation in 2023) and no extensive ordination service on the docket, the decision was made to tighten the schedule from three days to two. All of which made for a brisk pace, though the business of Conference was combined with times of spiritual refreshment (see the attached article for a review of this year’s Conference messages) and fellowship among pastors and delegates.
Timothy J. Schmoyer, pastor at Whitehall BFC, Whitehall, PA, served as Moderator for a third consecutive Conference. His patience and general good humor allowed Conference not to get bogged down when discussion turned to matters of doctrine and church policy.
Musical worship was led by Jeremy L. Harkins, worship pastor at Ebenezer BFC, Bethlehem, PA. Four of our newer pastors presented short messages from 1 John as part of Conference’s “Reflections” theme. BFC Conference, whether it be two or three days in duration, is something of an endurance test that requires the concentration of its voting members for hours on end. Conference voted on several matters of considerable importance, especially in regard to contemporary issues of concern to our people and our churches. A study committee to examine our Biblical Principles for Living (BPL) in light of current sexual Identity issues in our society presented legislation that was considered – and adopted – at First Reading. This vote is the initial step toward said material being added to the BFC’s Faith & Order.
Attorney James M. Smith of Smith Bukowski, LLC of Oley, PA, provided a presentation in conjunction with the sexual identity study committee’s report and proposed several carefully nuanced alterations. Having considered Smith’s suggestions, the BFC Executive Board put forth the following addition to Article 8-1 (Man) of the BFC Articles of Faith: “In creating man in His image, God created them male and female. Males and females each have unique and complementary physical attributes designed to support their God-given gender and God’s plan for their lives.” This legislation was approved by First Reading vote by the pastors and delegates; individual churches’ boards of elders now have 24 months to vote upon it before it returns to BFC Conference for a Second Reading vote. If these two remaining steps are agreed upon, it will become part of our Articles of Faith.
Conference gave final approval to Second Reading legislation proposed by the Study Committee on Child Sexual Abuse. This material is intended to protect our young ones from predators. The formation of a Board of Church Health, proposed by the Executive Board, was introduced by Executive Director David T. Allen as a means of strengthening assistance to churches that are currently experiencing decline. “Help we can, and help we should,” Allen stressed before proposed legislation was adopted at First Reading and is now scheduled to be considered as Second Reading legislation in 2023.
In addition, two new study committees were formed at Conference’s approval based on petitions and requests from individual congregations and boards of elders. One concerns strengthening our position against abortion while the other will deal with examining the biblical material on eternal conscious torment for those who die having refused Christ’s offer of salvation.
Ordination vows were administered to Scott A. Allison by the Ministerial Credentials Committee. Allison’s ordination had been approved at the 138th BFC Conference but he had been unable to attend that service. Allen was approved to another three-year term as Executive Director while Ralph M. Soper will serve another three-year term as Conference Pastor. Conference approved a 2023 Executive Board budget as well as a revised budget for 2022. Officers for the 140th BFC Conference in April 2023, were elected: Randall A. Grossman will serve as Moderator, Daniel L. Williams as Vice-Moderator, and Ronald L. Kohl as Secretary.
A huge thank you to Abi Hart from https://abihartephotography.com/ for the photos!
Ron Kohl is senior pastor of Grace Bible Fellowship Church in Quakertown, PA. He has served as Conference Secretary for many years and skillfully communicates the happenings of conference.