A bold but conciliatory statement agreeing that members of the Church of the Brethren can and do hold diverse understandings of the Bible was adopted at the church's annual conference here.
The statement climaxed two years of study by a five-member committee representing differing views on Bible authority and inspiration, and by implication, biblical inerrancy.
The question of biblical inerrancy has been a controversial one, especially in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and, most recently, the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Church of the Brethren committee statement, adopted after a two-hour debate, was an agreement to disagree but in a reasoned manner while accepting the church's diversity.
"In our diversity," the statement said, "we are not fully agreed on all that it means for Brethren to respond faithfully to the message of the Bible in our day. We are agreed, however, on the need for a continuing dialogue with and about Scripture that we might experience biblical renewal in our midst."
A measure of the diversity in the Church of the Brethren and the need for continuing dialogue was suggested by a study committee's list of Brethren positions on blblical inspiration and authority.
At one extreme was the view that the Bible was the divinely inspired word of God. This view held that the King James Version is completely without error.
At the other extreme was the view that the Bible has great value when understood as a "human concept of God," open to error. It was inspired, but so were other writings.
Recommendations included a proposal that the general board of the church make biblical awareness of a priority goal for the next five years, with serious Bible study as "a basic ingredient in our pursuit of the goals for the 1980s."
Also proposed were Bible study events that would allow "in-depth sharing of diverse approaches to biblical texts and renewed individual commitment to searching the scriptures, with sensitivity to the message of both the Old and New Testaments, opening ourselves to the new light which may yet break from God's word."