The articles in this issue of Direction are the papers presented at the Study Conference sponsored by the Mennonite Brethren Board of Reference and Counsel in Fresno, California, October 15-17, 1986. The Board of Reference and Counsel is the body responsible for faith and life questions within the Mennonite Brethren Church. As such it has called periodic study conferences for the purpose of engaging the leadership of the church in the discussion of issues important to the life of the denomination. The 1986 Study Conference was the eleventh such conference since 1956.
Study Conferences are process events rather than decision-making conventions. Various individuals are asked to present papers that address issues facing the church. These papers are then discussed in small groups and plenary sessions. A Findings Committee summarizes the main issues discussed as well as the areas requiring further study and conversation.
The first context for the 1986 Study Conference then is a history of such gatherings called for the purpose of study and discussion. The second context for this Study Conference was a Pastoral letter issued by the Board of Reference and Counsel. The board used this letter to state some concerns about life in the Mennonite Brethren Church and to articulate an agenda for the Study Conference. That Letter is printed together with the papers in order to provide the immediate background for the Study Conference.
The results of the Study Conference have been and will be discussed further by the Board of Reference and Counsel. On the basis of the Board’s reflections about the issues discussed at the Conference it will bring a series of resolutions to the 1987 General Conference, the triennial gathering of the denomination, or it will issue statements of counsel to the churches.