About Highland Avenue
The Highland Avenue congregation is a part of the Church of the Brethren, a denomination with Anabaptist and Pietist roots.
As a congregation, we seek together to follow in the footsteps of Jesus – living simply and serving faithfully, committed to peacemaking and reconciliation as a part of God’s good news for the world.
We celebrate both our diversity and unity in Jesus Christ.
Explore the details of our Mission and Goals, as well as our 2005 Statement of Inclusion Regarding Sexual Orientation:
Statement of Mission and Goals
The Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren is a place to deepen faith, proclaim peace, embrace community, welcome others, and serve our neighbor, in the compassionate spirit of Jesus.
As a Christian community, we are called to:
Deepen our faith…
- by helping people explore different dimensions of spirituality, grounding it in scripture and prayer
- by providing a variety of education and worship opportunities to nurture our Christian faith
- by witnessing to our peace position in the community and beyond
- by broadening our racial and cross-cultural exchanges
- by developing and strengthening relationships
- by reaching out to each other and supporting each other in times of need
- by expanding the ways we invite and include people in our church family
Serve our neighbor…
- by participating in group service projects
- by engaging in programs for the community and for neighborhood children
- by continuing our support for denomination and global programs
In faithfully pursuing these goals, we will seek to identify our gifts and resources, we will work to discern our needs for facilities and personnel, and we will challenge one another to embrace the responsibilities and opportunities of Christian stewardship.
Statement of Inclusion Regarding Sexual Orientation
Approved September 25, 2005 in Congregational Business Meeting
We are a congregation of believers called to live in loving relationships. We affirm our connection to one another, to the Church of the Brethren, to the larger church of Christ, and to all humanity.
We seek to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. We believe that every human being is a beloved child of God. We treasure the presence and gifts of each person regardless of age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. As we welcome persons with homosexual orientation, we know this will be difficult to accept for some in our congregation and in the larger church.
Further we believe that persons with homosexual orientation have been blessed with gifts for ministry and leadership. Recognizing the guidance of God's Spirit in Acts 15, where the universality of the Gospel is affirmed, we embrace what God has blessed.
Together we seek to break down the barriers that divide people and share our love of God and neighbor with the world. We believe the matter of sexual orientation deeply divides Christians. We wish to bridge this gap. We invite Christians everywhere to engage in further study and discernment.
Celebration of Marriage at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren
In September 2005, the Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren approved a “Statement of Inclusion Regarding Sexual Orientation,” a statement that welcomes gays and lesbians unconditionally into the life and ministries of our congregation. In accord with this statement, we affirm that the celebration of marriage in our congregation shall be open to couples desiring marriage without regard to their sexual orientation. We further affirm our support for pastoral staff as they embody this inclusive practice in the marriage ceremonies they conduct, or in which they participate.
We acknowledge that this action stands in tension with a part of the 1983 Annual Conference Statement on Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective. We believe, however, that it is faithful to biblical and Brethren values that inform both that statement and other statements of the church, including the value of reflecting the inclusive love of God and the compassionate spirit of Jesus in all our relationships.
We acknowledge that some members of our congregation, for reasons of personal conviction and/or denominational accountability, may feel called to dissent or stand apart from this action. We respect their voices, honor their consciences, and reaffirm the bonds of love that unite us and draw us together in one body, even in the midst of disagreements.
Finally, just as we as a diverse congregation have committed to find ways to remain in fellowship with each other, we affirm our desire to stay in fellowship with other churches in the Illinois and Wisconsin District and the Church of the Brethren denominationally. With the differing views we hold on human sexuality, the action we are taking could strain that fellowship. We commit ourselves, therefore, to open and ongoing conversation with others in our district and denomination, in the hope that we may learn and grow mutually through this process, and so strengthen our relationships with one another.
Approved by the Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren, June 15, 2014
Church’s Communications Regarding Human Sexuality
When the congregation passed the action (posted above), “Celebration of Marriage at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren,” members were aware that the action would put them in conflict with the official position of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, which is the final authority on polity and practice.
This Annual Conference position can be found in the 1983 paper called “Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective”.
Wording was included in the congregation’s action that acknowledges this conflict and states “We affirm our desire to stay in fellowship with other churches in the Illinois and Wisconsin District and the Church of the Brethren denominationally. With the differing views we hold on human sexuality, the action we are taking could strain that fellowship. We commit ourselves, therefore, to open and ongoing conversation with others in our district and denomination, in the hope that we may learn and grow mutually through this process, and so strengthen our relationships with one another.”
The congregation has been following the guidance found in another Annual Conference paper (2004) entitled “Congregational Disagreement with Annual Conference Decisions”.
First, on June 25, 2014 the congregation sent a letter to the officers of Annual Conference explaining its reasons for taking its action and committing itself to remaining in good fellowship with all.
Second, on July 30, 2014, it sent a letter to the Leadership Team of the District of Illinois and Wisconsin (PDF) following the guidelines for accountability to the district found in the 2004 paper on disagreeing with Annual Conference.
Third, on September 25, 2014 the congregation sent a letter to each of its sister churches in the District of Illinois and Wisconsin (PDF) explaining its action, asking not for agreement but for understanding and respect, and pledging its commitment to the district and its congregations.