The 1977 Annual Conference met in Richmond VA with Charles Bieber as Moderator. The theme was "To Serve in a Changing World." Some of us may remember, or still have, the small lapel pins with that theme.
S. Loren Bowman who had been elected to the General Board 25 years earlier in Richmond Va was recognized for his upcoming retirement after 6 years service on the General Board and 19 years as an administrator including his current service as general secretary. He was one of the speakers in 1977 along with Moderator Bieber, Ruby Rhoades, Duane Ramsey, and Andrew Young the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
The delegate body in 1977 numbered 1,023, the first time in history that the delegates numbered more than 1,ooo. Sunday morning attendance exceeded 7,000.
A business agenda of 28 items carried the delegate body into an extra session on Saturday evening following worship. A study committee chaired by Jeff Copp brought its answer in response to a query that had originated from the Columbia City congregation (N IN) at the urging of Brother Jeff on Ethical Teachings of Jesus in Public Schools.
In other business, the conference approved a paper on Marriage and Divorce, a report on Equality for Women in the Church of the Brethren, Christian Ethics and Law and Order, and Justice and Nonviolence. A major polity statement on the contained several new actions. One was the creation of the office of Lay Speaker. Another made very specific that Licensed and Ordained Ministry"every candidate for ordination shall give evidence of a thorough knowledge of, and commitment to, the history, belief, practices, and polity of the Church of the Brethren." A query asking that the office of Elder be re-established was rejected.
Finally, a resolution from Brethren Revival Fellowship to the Standing Committee led to the establishment of a committee of five to prepare a paper on the historical Pietist-Anabaptist and Brethren understandings of the Bible's inspiration and authority. In an unusual move, the committee was to be named jointly by the General Board, Brethren Revival Fellowship, and Bethany Seminary. [The committee would bring its final report, which was adopted, to the 1979 Annual Conference.]
Source: 1977 Annual Conference Minutes