GCB elects new General Church leader; vote on confirmation to come

On behalf of the General Conference Board (GCB), chairperson Bill Strausbaugh is pleased to announce the unanimous election of Dr. Alan Robinson as the next General Church leader of the Brethren in Christ Church in the U.S.

Alan Robinson, General Church leader elect

After several months of work and careful deliberation, the General Church leader search committee brought the nomination of Alan Robinson to the GCB on January 19. The GCB took action that same day to elect Alan as the next General Church leader. (For more on the General Church leader search committee and process, click here.) The GCB also determined to identify the General Church leader position as national director, a role that combines the responsibilities of the former general secretary and moderator positions.

“Both the search committee and the GCB believe that Alan brings the right blend of theological depth, awareness of broader Church/societal dynamics, and leadership attributes—consensus decision-making, training, understanding of organizational structures, communication skills—to serve effectively in this time of both challenge and immense opportunity,” observes Bill.

In response to news of his election, Alan shares, “I am truly honored and humbled that my brothers and sisters consider me to be a person who can be helpful to the Church at this very important time. It is my prayer that our entire denominational family in the United States might continue to move forward in honoring and serving our Lord and Savior, and in accomplishing the task He has for us.”

About the national director position
In July, the 2012 General Conference in Ontario, Calif., approved structural adjustments that provided for a General Church leader, who would cover the core responsibilities of the general secretary and moderator positions. After research and discussion, GCB discerned that a new title—national director—was appropriate for this newly constructed General Church leader role.

The national director will be the most visible leader of BIC U.S., serving as liaison with affiliate groups and guiding the Church’s seven denominational ministries. The national director will also have direct supervisory responsibility for six Regional Conference bishops and two executive directors of denominational ministry units.

About the GCL-elect
Born in Northern Ireland, Alan Robinson came to faith at a young age in the Independent Methodist Church. Having earned a diploma in pastoral theology from Bethel Bible College (Northern Ireland) in 1982, he was active in church planting and pastoral ministry in locations across the United Kingdom. While a pastor with the Church of the Nazarene in Scotland, he received a bachelor of arts degree from Manchester University in 1993 and a master’s in applied theology from Oxford University in 1997. The next year, Alan and his wife, Sharon, moved with their two daughters to the U.S., while he pursued his doctor of ministry degree in leadership and preaching at Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Ky.).

In 1999, Alan accepted the role of senior pastor of Carlisle Brethren in Christ Church, and their family moved to Pennsylvania. Although he was unfamiliar with the Brethren in Christ denomination when he began his work, Alan says that the fit has proven to be a good one: “Like most people in the Brethren in Christ Church today, I didn’t grow up in the BIC Church. However, my affinity with this Church family is strong; the more I’ve learned of the Brethren in Christ story, the more I am inspired by it and eager to take part in it.”

Alan’s relationship with the congregation in Carlisle has also flourished. Under Alan’s leadership, the congregation has experienced significant growth in attendance and advancement, including the articulation of a vital mission and vision, the development of a 20-year facility expansion plan, the completion of a successful capital campaign, and the completion of a construction project. Another hallmark of Alan’s leadership has been in fostering the congregation’s commitment to prayer, discipleship, and spiritual formation. For example, he and the 11 Carlisle BIC staff members spend several hours each week praying together for needs in the congregation.

“The Carlisle congregation is a truly wonderful church family,” Alan notes. “Sharon and I have been blessed for the last 14 years to lead this community.”

He notes that the decision to leave his post at Carlisle and accept the election from the GCB was not a simple one: “Sharon and I discussed and prayerfully reflected on the nomination. There is no reason why we would not want to continue in this role at Carlisle BIC; however, it is our sense that this is an appropriate step for me to take at this time, and I am excited about the possibilities of this new role.”

Within the broader Church, Alan has served as the chair of the Commission on Ministry and Doctrine, chair of the Equipping for Ministry team, director of leadership development for the BIC Church in North America, faculty member of Equipping for Ministry, assistant moderator for the Susquehanna Regional Conference, and BIC U.S. representative to the National Association of Evangelicals. 

Alan also holds a Ph.D. in administration and leadership from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and has served as adjunct faculty at Messiah College (Grantham, Pa.), Evangelical Seminary (Myerstown, Pa.), and International Christian College (Glasgow, Scotland).

Voting delegates of GC 2012 to vote on confirmation
The Brethren in Christ Manual of Doctrine and Government provides that a General Church leader is “nominated by a Search Committee [. . .], elected by the General Conference Board, and confirmed by General Conference.”

The delegates to the 2012 General Conference in Ontario, Calif., took the following action: “The candidate to be the next General Church leader will be recommended by General Conference Board to the voting delegates of the 2012 General Conference for confirmation by electronic ballot in 2013 so that the new general church leader can begin service on August 1, 2013.”

Therefore, on February 18, the delegates to the 2012 General Conference will be emailed an electronic ballot for the vote. All email ballots must be electronically submitted by 12:00 noon Eastern Standard Time on February 25. If a majority of the delegates who vote approve, Alan Robinson will be confirmed as the next general church leader for a five-year term (adjusted from the normal six years to keep the term concurrent with General Conference years, the pattern for General Church leaders). An announcement of the outcome of the email ballot vote is tentatively planned for February 26.

If the delegates confirm the Board’s recommendation, the GCB will work closely with Alan, the Carlisle BIC church board, and Warren Hoffman, the current general church leader, to ensure as smooth and helpful a transition as possible. It is anticipated that, if confirmed, Alan would begin his five-year term on August 1, 2013.