Thursday, July 30, 2009

Brethren send two shipments of food for children in Haiti.

Two containers of food and supplies have been shipped to help children in Haiti this summer, through the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

The container shipments are part of an ongoing disaster relief and rebuilding project of Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Church of the Brethren mission in Haiti. The shipments support the work of several organizations serving children in Haiti, including the Church of the Brethren mission; SELEEG, an organization of pastors in the city of Gonaives; the Eben-Ezer Mission in Gonaives; and the organization Feed My Starving Children, which supplied the food for the first shipment.

The first shipment arrived in Haiti in April and cleared customs in May. It included nutritionally balanced food packets to use in schools and church programs for children, reported Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries. "Feed My Starving Children donated the food, we provided shipping from Illinois to Gonaives. This was a direct request from the pastors group in Gonaives--SELEEG.... This food is designed to be served as hot meals for the children while at school. That way we know they are getting the food."

A second shipment in June included medical supplies for the hospital and clinic in Gonaives and canned chicken provided by the Meat Canning Committee of the Church of the Brethren’s Southern Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic Districts. The canned meat from the districts was shipped by Brethren Disaster Ministries, and is intended for distribution by the Church of the Brethren mission in Haiti. The distribution will be coordinated by mission coordinator Ludovic St. Fleur.

Michel Morisset, pastor of the Eben-Ezer Mission, responded to the shipment of food with a thank you letter by e-mail. "In the name of SELEEG and Eben-Ezer Mission, we wish to thank you for the food donation," he wrote. He reported that SELEEG's board held a meeting to plan for the distribution of the food among its members (churches, church organizations, orphans, schools, etc.), and that the distribution began on June 23.

"Many people are happy," his e-mail concluded.

The Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) recently gave a major grant of $65,000 to continue support for the work in Haiti. Previous grants to this project total $305,000.

In another recent grant, the EDF issued $20,000 to help Brethren Disaster Ministries open a new rebuilding project in northwest Indiana. The project continues Brethren work in the state following heavy rains and flooding last September. The grant will support volunteer housing at the new project site, as well as food, tools, equipment, and other on-site expenses. Go to and click on the link for "Serve" and then "Brethren Disaster Ministries" for more information about disaster relief.

Source: 7/30/2009 Newsline
Brethren Digital Archives project adopts a mission statement.

At a meeting on June 3, the Brethren Digital Archives (BDA) project adopted the following mission statement: "To digitize with maximum searchability Brethren periodicals produced from the beginning of publication to the year 2000."

The word "Brethren" in the statement refers to bodies that trace their origin to the baptism near Schwarzenau, Germany, in 1708. The group heading up the project plans to produce a digital archives according to nationally recognized standards that can be made available to researchers through the various participating Brethren bodies.

Brethren periodicals provide a great deal of historical data and theological information about the Brethren. Some Brethren periodicals have been transferred to microfilm for preservation, but microfilm is not searchable on a computer. Included in their pages are Bible study articles, theological debate, accounts of missionaries, reports on annual meetings, family history information, and some photographs.

The ultimate goal of the Brethren Digital Archives project is to digitize Brethren periodicals starting with "The Monthly Gospel-Visiter" begun by Henry Kurtz in 1851, and concluding with all Brethren periodicals being published at the end of the 20th century. The first phase of the project would include periodicals published before the divisions that took place between Brethren groups in the early 1880s.

The June 3 meeting was hosted by the Brethren Historical Library and Archives in Elgin, Ill. Three earlier meetings were hosted by the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookville, Ohio. The next meeting is scheduled at the Young Center at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. The meetings are historic in that for the first time they include archivists, librarians, and historians from many Brethren bodies.

-- Jeanine Wine and Ken Shaffer contributed this report.

Source: 7/30/2009 Newsline
McPherson College receives generous gift for Christian service.

McPherson College has received a generous $2.7 million gift from the estate of Donna Rose McChesney Allen of DuBois, Pa. The gift establishes the Elsie Whitmer McChesney of Zenda, Kansas, Endowment Fund to educate students in Christian service and to prepare them for a life of Christian ministry and service. McPherson College is a Church of the Brethren school located in McPherson, Kan.

In preparation for this gift, which is named for Allen’s mother, the Philosophy and Religion Department has recently conducted a program review. In addition, McPherson College has gathered a team including faculty, church leadership, the campus pastor, the college president, and other staff to create a strategy for the best utilization of this gift.

"It is very exciting and almost unreal that in light of the current US economic crisis, we are now presented with such an extraordinary gift," said department chair of Philosophy and Religion, Herb Smith.

Smith added, "Donna Allen took almost all of the courses offered by McPherson College in philosophy and religion in her retirement years. As her professor, I found her to be incredibly pleasant, upbeat and appreciative. It was a treat to have her in class, and the students really respected her. The college will greatly benefit from her generosity."

"Donna was very focused on the Church of the Brethren and her family was tied to Kansas. She also thought highly of Herb and his wife, Jeanne Smith, and their work at the college," said Mary Workman, a close friend and 1945 McPherson graduate. Workman remembers Allen as a kind, giving person, with an interest in her family, her ancestry, and service to her church. She also was very proud of her husband, James B. Allen, who was a pilot and often flew President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Roselyn, during his presidency.

The Church of the Brethren philosophy "Peacefully, Simply, Together," was a value Allen practiced in her daily life. "Donna had the simplest way of living you could imagine. You’d never know she had a dime," said Workman.

Education also was very important to Allen, who received a degree from St. Francis Hospital School of Medical Technology in Wichita, Kan., in 1943. She later earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and worked as a clinical laboratory technologist for several hospitals in Pennsylvania. Later in life, she took religion courses at McPherson College. Eventually, she moved back to Pennsylvania where she completed the Training in Ministry (TRIM) program through the Church of the Brethren and was actively pursuing a master of divinity degree at the time of her death.

Service is a strong component of the Church of the Brethren faith--members of the church seek to serve their neighbors in many different capacities. Through its affiliation with the church, McPherson College students, staff, and faculty also have a long history of service. In this past year, the college has logged more than 7,000 hours of service through mission projects, community service, freshman and sophomore seminar courses, class projects, and individual efforts in McPherson, throughout the state, and overseas.

"With this gift, Donna Allen has underscored the commitment to lifelong learning and service that she demonstrated throughout her life," said Michael Schneider, president of the college. "Now, thanks to Donna’s foresight and generosity, McPherson College will have an opportunity to expand our commitment to those same principles in ways we could not have previously imagined."

-- This report is from a McPherson College press release.

Source: 7/30/2009 Newsline
Dana Weaver resigns as Conference assistant.

Dana Weaver is resigning as conference assistant for the Church of the Brethren, as of July 31. She began work with the Annual Conference Office on June 5, 2006, working at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

During her three years with the Annual Conference Office, Weaver aided executive director Lerry Fogle in preparation and organization of logistics for the annual meeting of the Church of the Brethren. She brought to the position a background in office management, administration, and information technology in her 20 years with Maryland Public Television and Cranberry Graphics. She and her family live in Westminster, Md.

Fogle also retires from the Conference Office this year. He will work with incoming director Chris Douglas for several months to help provide orientation, through his retirement in December.

The Conference Office is being relocated to the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. As of Sept. 28, Conference Office staff may be contacted at the Church of the Brethren General Offices, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 847-742-5100 or 800-323-8039.

Source: 7/30/2009 Newsline
Steve Crain resigns as campus pastor at Manchester College.

Campus pastor Steve Crain has decided to leave Manchester College to develop programs and educational opportunities for young married couples and singles at Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., according to an announcement from the college. Manchester College is a Church of the Brethren school located in North Manchester, Ind.

"Steve joined the college in July 2007, bringing an interfaith focus to our campus that is diverse with students from at least 30 religious affiliations," said Manchester president Jo Young Switzer. "He made sure that campus ministry supported our mission to value the infinite worth of each person." Crain will continue to teach as an adjunct at the college, with a section in Christian Traditions this fall.

The college begins a search for a new campus pastor in the fall, coordinated by Beth Sweitzer-Riley, vice president for student development. Planning for interim leadership of campus ministries is under way.

Source: 7/30/2009 Newsline
John Moyers to serve as interim executive for West Marva District.

John R. Moyers has been called to serve as interim district executive for West Marva District, in a part-time position that begins immediately. He is an ordained minister serving as part-time pastor of two congregations: Harman (W.Va.) Church of the Brethren and Red Creek, Bethel Church of the Brethren in Dryfork, W.Va.

Moyers has served as pastor of several other congregations in the West Marva District including Maple Grove, Locust Grove, Old Furnace, and Jordan Run. He also is a physical education teacher and has recently served on the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board.

Contact information for the district office will continue to be: West Marva District, 384 Dennett Rd., Oakland, MD 21550; 301-334-9270; The district has issued the following additional contact information for Moyers: or 304-749-7307.

Source: 7/30/2009 Newsline
Registration opens for Religion Communication Congress.

RCCongress 2010, a Religion Communication Congress held once every 10 years, is scheduled for April 7-10 next year in Chicago, Ill. "Embracing change, communicating faith in today’s world" is the theme for the congress. The Church of the Brethren is one of the participating denominations in this inter-faith event, which is expected to bring together more than 1,200 religious communication professionals.

The congress will include plenary speakers, numerous workshops, roundtable discussions in interest groups, an exhibit hall, and other resources to help communicators explore topics such as "Social change invites us to new ministries," "Religious change invites us to new dialogue," and "Technological change entices us to new modes of reaching out."

Featured presenters include speakers Otis Moss III and Martin Marty, musicians Ken Medema and Earl Talbot, a "multi-faith comedy team" of Rabbi Bob Alper, Baptist minister Susan Sparks, and Chicago-born Muslim comedian Azhar Usman, and many others.

Former Church of the Brethren denominational staff Stewart M. Hoover has been announced as one of the presenters. He is professor of Media Studies in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the journal "Media and Religion" as well as founding co-chair of the Religion, Culture, and Communication Program Unit at the American Academy of Religion. He will co-lead a seminar on "Global Media, Global Religion: Research on Popular Media and the Remaking of Religions."

Early bird registration is open through Jan. 15, 2010, for $25 off the individual registration fee of $400 ($225 for full-time students and retirees). Participants make their own arrangements for accommodations. Exhibitors are requested to register by Sept. 1. Go to for more information and online registration. Registration booklets are available, contact registrar Melissa Dixon, Religion Communication Congress 2010, 475 Riverside Dr., Suite 800, New York, NY 10115; 212-870-2574.

Source: 7/30/2009 Newsline
Brethren Advocacy Days on climate justice to be held in September.

Brethren Advocacy Days is being planned for Sept. 20-21 in Washington, D.C., for Church of the Brethren members and others interested in learning more about advocacy efforts. The theme for the workshop is "Called to Action: Climate Justice."

Organizers of the event are Church of the Brethren members Jordan Blevins and Wendy Matheny. Blevins works for the National Council of Churches as assistant director of Eco-Justice. The event is being held in conjunction with the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Parnterships.

The workshop will start at the NCC’s Washington office at 110 Maryland Ave. NE, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 20. It will continue through 9 p.m. on Sept. 20 and resume on Monday, Sept. 21, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

The registration fee will be $25. Online registration will be available beginning next week at There will be a variety of options for housing, but participants will make their own arrangements for accommodations.

Go to for more information, or contact

Source: 7/30/2009 Newsline
Brethren bits
  • Correction: The Northern Ohio District Conference was left out of a list in the Newsline of July 16 of upcoming district conferences. Northern Ohio gathered on July 24-26 in Ashland, Ohio, with Wes Richard as moderator. The conference theme was "Partners in a Heavenly Calling" (Hebrews 3:1).

  • Remembrance: Philip N. Zinn, 89, passed away on July 25 at the Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community. He had served as director of the Church World Service/Brethren Service Center in Houston, Texas, for seven years, according to a remembrance from Shenandoah District. In other work for the church, he served as an ordained minister in for 61 years, at churches in California, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida; and was chaplain for John Knox Retirement Village in Tampa, Fla., for 12 years. He was married to Margaret Ruth Seller, who preceded him in death in August 2007. He is survived by five of their six children: Rebecca and husband Wayne Liskey, of Harrisonburg, Va.; Marty and husband Pete Hill, of Athens, Ohio; Dan and wife Anneliese, of Colrain, Mass.; John and wife Sandy, of Fountain Hills, Ariz.; and Tim and wife Sara, of Houston, Texas.; 11 grandchildren; and 9 great-grandchildren. A memorial service is tentatively planned for Sept. 19 at the Bridgewater Retirement Village. Memorial donations are received Bridgewater Healthcare Foundation. Condolences may be sent at

  • Personnel notes:

    • Stephen Breck Reid has been appointed by the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board to the denomination’s Committee on Interchurch Relations. Reid is a former academic dean at Bethany Theological Seminary, and currently is professor of Hebrew Bible at George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas.

    • Gabriel Welsch, assistant vice president of marketing at Juniata College since 2007, has been promoted to vice president for advancement and marketing. Juniata College is a Church of the Brethren school in Huntingdon, Pa. Welsch will continue to oversee Juniata's marketing efforts, supervise the alumni relations office and development department, and the office of corporate and foundation support. He came to Juniata from Penn State's College of Liberal Arts, where he had worked in several positions including assistant to the dean for advancement, manager of publications and public relations, associate director of the Master of Fine Arts Program in the Department of English, and assistant director of communications. He also is a poet and novelist, and has received Kent State University's Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Award.

  • Job openings:

    • Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) seeks a manager of Publications to fill a full-time salaried position based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The manager of Publications provides oversight of BBT’s publications--newsletters, press releases, website, and other special projects--and serves as a senior writer and copy editor; will report on news and information related to BBT’s ministry areas of pension, insurance, Foundation, and Credit Union, with some writing serving the wellness component of BBT’s mission, both financially and in body/spirit; report on how BBT promotes Brethren values with socially responsible investing initiatives through its management of $331 million in Pension and Foundation monies; manage schedule and coordinate content for various publications, determine writing and photo assignments; work with production coordinator and contracted designers; provide oversight for the redesign and maintenance of the BBT website; and travel to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, BBT Board meetings, and other denominational events as assigned. BBT is seeking a candidate with an undergraduate degree in communications, English, business, or a related field, with experience and expertise in writing, copyediting, and/or project management. Knowledge in the areas of personal investments and website design is helpful. Active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; active membership in a faith community is required. Salary is competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. To apply send a letter of interest, a resume, three references (one supervisor, one colleague, one friend), and salary-range expectations to Donna March, Brethren Benefit Trust, 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin IL 60120; . For questions or clarification about the position, call 847-622-3371. For more information about Brethren Benefit Trust, visit . Interviews will begin as soon as possible.

    • The Church of the Brethren seeks a program coordinator in its Global Mission Partnerships department. The position supports and extends the ministry of Global Mission Partnerships by providing administrative and communicative functions for the international mission operations of the denomination. Responsibilities include unit-wide organizational support for the offices of the executive director for Global Mission Partnerships, Brethren Volunteer Service, and the Global Food Crisis Fund, such as facilitation of financial processes, coordination of travel requirements for individuals and groups, and facilitation of personnel processes. Responsibilities also require generating text and multi-media for website publishing. Required skills and knowledge include excellent communication skills in English, both verbal and written, (bi-lingualism preferred); knowledge of international mission programs and/or community development programs; and skills in computer applications, particularly Excel and Outlook with the capability and willingness to learn new software applications; ability to communicate the program's activities and needs through oral communication, written text, and multi-media; ability to problem solve and function independently; good judgment in prioritizing tasks; knowledge of basic financial processes; organizational skills and ability to work with details and simultaneous tasks; and three-to-five years of administrative or community development experience, with some college education preferred. The application deadline is Aug. 10. Request a copy of the position description and application form from the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 258;

    • The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) seeks a director of Donor Relations. The NCC is the leading ecumenical organization among Christians in the United States. It encompasses 35 member communions including Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox communions; African-American denominations; and historic peace churches. The director of Donor Relations identifies, cultivates, and solicits major and planned gift prospects; manages a portfolio of major gift prospects and donors around the country; and consults and advises council officers and staff on major gift programs and resource development issues. Travel is required. This position is non-exempt and non-bargaining unit. Qualifications include a college degree and demonstrated human relations and effective communications skills. Fundraising experience that demonstrates the ability to successfully establish long-term relationships with contributors also is required. Knowledge of the ecumenical movement, the council, and its member communions is preferred. It is preferred that a candidate be a member in good standing of one of the NCC member communions. Location is the NCC’s New York office. The NCC does not reimburse relocation expenses. Salary is commensurate with experience. Application deadline is the close of business on Aug. 7. Send a cover letter, a resume, and a writing sample to: Director of Donor Relations Search, Attn: Joan Gardner, National Council of Churches, 475 Riverside Dr., Suite 800, New York, NY 10115; . Electronic applications are preferred. No calls please. The NCC is an equal opportunity employer. Go to for more information.

  • Jabani Adzibiya, a pastor from Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) who is currently enrolled at Bethany Theological Seminary, is available to speak in congregations over the summer, and over the Christmas break this winter. He arrived at Bethany in January this year, having served as pastor of three churches in Nigeria and most recently as a district church council secretary for EYN, overseeing 14 congregations and nearly 9,000 members. The seminary and the Church of the Brethren are working together to make Adzibiya's study possible, including substantial financial support from both agencies. Contact Amy Ritchie, Bethany’s director of Student Development, at or 765-983-1806.

  • Bethany Theological Seminary's "Educational Opportunities Brochure" has a new look for the 2009-10 academic year. Instead of a paper brochure as in previous years, the information is now available online at . The listing includes the types of classes and courses offered by the seminary, including courses that meet the ministry credentialing requirements of several districts. For more information contact Elizabeth Keller, director of Admissions at or 765-983-1832; or Amy Gall Ritchie, director of Student Development, at or 765-983-1806.

  • Donations of Church World Service (CWS) Hygiene Kits and School Kits are sought by the Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The program warehouses, processes, and ships disaster relief materials on behalf of ecumenical partners including CWS. Go to
    for information about how to assemble a kit. This fall there will be pick-up points for kits in Pennsylvania and Missouri: St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Zelienople, Pa., will accept kits Mondays from Sept. 21-Oct. 5; Zion Lutheran Church in Indiana, Pa., will accept kits Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during the same time period; and the Festival of Sharing at the State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Mo., will collect kits on Oct. 16-17.

  • A letter expressing concern for Christians in Iraq has been sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton by Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). The Church of the Brethren is a member denomination of CMEP, and Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of the church’s Global Mission Partnership, serves on the CMEP board. The letter dated July 22 expressed distress at the resurgence of violence against the Christian community in Iraq, deplored acts of violence especially against vulnerable minorities, and urged policies to protect faith communities there. The letter was signed by CMEP executive director Warren Clark and board chair James Fine. "According to reports seven churches in Baghdad and Mosul were attacked over the weekend of July 12, resulting in the loss of several innocent lives and many injuries, mostly women and children," the letter said in part. "We hope you will work closely with the Iraqi government to ensure that all possible security measures are taken to combat these violent attacks."

  • The SERRV Store at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., holds an overstock sale on Aug. 5-12, "with many new markdowns and great deals on old favorites!" said an announcement. For a limited time, Cafe Justo Morning Roast Decaf will be on sale for $6.50.

  • A new website has been announced by East Chippewa Church of the Brethren in Orrville, Ohio. "Our new website address is ," said the church in an invitation for people to visit and view the new site.

  • The annual community ice cream social in Abilene, Kan., was hosted by Buckeye Church of the Brethren on July 12. Freewill donations were accepted for the Buckeye Disaster Relief Fund.

  • A "Vegetable Basket Program" in the North Penn and Indian Valley areas of Pennsylvania includes Hatfield (Pa.) Church of the Brethren as a partner. The program donates excess fresh produce to food banks, according to a local newspaper article. Go to

  • A $1.8 million addition to White Hill Church of the Brethren in Stuarts Draft, Va., is one of $70 million worth of projects recently procured in Virginia by Harrisonburg-based Nielsen Builders Inc., according to the "Daily News Record."

  • An information session for the Springs of Living Water church renewal initiative will be offered at Linville Creek Church of the Brethren in Broadway, Va., on Sept. 29, from 7-8:30 p.m., sponsored by Shenandoah District. Go to for a registration form.

  • The Northwest Brethren Arts Gathering takes place Aug. 7-9 at Camp Koinonia near Cle Elum, Wash. On the agenda are arts, crafts, stories, and songs. The planning committee includes Mike Titus, Nancy-Louise Wilkinson, Pat Liley, and Rocci Hildum.

  • The dining service at Peter Becker Community has begun doing on-site composting, with the compost to be used for the residents’ vegetable gardens. Peter Becker is a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Franconia, Pa. The new program was reviewed in an article in the "Reporter News" of North Penn, Pa. The community is "reaping tasty new rewards for recycling" through the program with its dining service, Cura Hospitality. "So far it's been very successful," Bill Richman, the Cura general manager, told the paper. Go to
    for the full article.

  • Church of the Brethren minister Jeannine Leonard presided over a wedding that has become a YouTube sensation, according to "The Lutheran" magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A couple who was married at Christ Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn., have become celebrities thanks to a video of their dance down the aisle, which they posted on YouTube to share with family and friends. The wedding of Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz took place on June 20, and by July 24 there were more than 1.5 million views of the five-minute aisle dance. "The Lutheran" reported that the wedding party was scheduled to do an encore dance for the Today Show.
Source: 7/30/2009 Newsline
SPECIAL REPORT: Maiduguri churches burned in violence in northern Nigeria.

At least two churches of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) have been destroyed in Maiduguri, and several Brethren members killed in violence that has swept across northeastern Nigeria since the beginning of this week. The churches named in a report from EYN leaders include EYN Maiduguri/Wulari (or Maiduguri No. 1 church), which was burned down, and EYN Jajeri.

The report was received from EYN General Secretary Jinatu Wamdeo and a leading EYN pastor from Maiduguri who also is a former chairperson of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Borno State Branch. (His name is being withheld to help ensure his safety.)

"EYN Wulari--the biggest EYN church--is bombed," the report said. "Three EYN members of Local Church Council Jajeri were killed, the assistant pastor injured. The security and the driver of EYN Maiduguri (were) injured."

Violence also has been threatened in Mubi, the closest town to the headquarters of EYN.

The Maiduguri churches were destroyed early in the morning on Monday, July 27, during a wave of terrorist-type violence that began Sunday and included bombings of police stations and barracks, and attacks on police across the area, according to news reports. The violence reportedly has been perpetrated by members of an obscure fundamentalist Islamic sect that is opposed to Western-style education.

This is the third time violence has affected EYN churches in recent years: EYN members were injured in the town of Jos in central Nigeria during rioting in December 2008, and at least five EYN churches in Maiduguri were destroyed or damaged in February 2006, in violence sparked by the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

At least 13 churches have been destroyed and more than 50 Christians have been killed in Maiduguri, the EYN leaders reported. The churches that were destroyed included the COCIN (Church of Christ in Nigeria) Railway church, whose pastor was among those killed. "The brutal murder of Pastor Sabo of COCIN Railway was a sad one," the EYN leaders wrote.

Government officials may have had warning of imminent attacks by the Islamic sect, the report indicates. Prior to the outbreak of violence, leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria had expressed concern to the police commissioner and other officials. "On Friday the State Governor in a state-wide radio and television broadcast assured all that adequate security measures were put in place and no cause to fear, but alas," the report said.

The report ended with a plea for prayer: "Please pray for all Christians in northern Nigeria, more especially in Bauchi, Yobe, and Borno States. Pray for peace in Nigeria and these places."

Source: 7/29/2009 Newsline Special Report
World Council of Churches sends letter to Nigerian President.

Two ecumenical bodies--the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian Association of Nigeria--have issued statements on the recent violence in northeastern Nigeria. Also, updates have been received from Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria); see story below.

The WCC has called on the Nigerian government to ensure the safety of all its citizens, according to a release from the organization. WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia in a letter to Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua sent on Aug. 4, has urged the government to "ensure the safety of all citizens" as well as to see that "all perpetrators (of) acts of violence and human rights violations are brought to justice."

The letter responds to the recent outbreak of violence in the city of Maiduguri and other areas of northeastern Nigeria following clashes between a militant Islamist group and security forces. Some 800 people were killed, including "more than 50 Christians," while "at least 13 churches (...) have been destroyed," according to the WCC release. Two EYN congregations were among those affected by violence in Maiduguri, and several Brethren members in Maiduguri were injured or killed (see the Newsline Special Report of July 29).

Kobia also wrote to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). "We condemn and deplore such wanton acts of violence," his letter to CAN said. The WCC release noted that Nigeria is almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, with the northern population being mainly followers of Islam and Christians being more numerous in the south.

Regretting that "inter-communal violence has already claimed the lives of more than 12,000 Nigerians during the past decade," Kobia stated in his letter to the Nigerian president that "the reasons for this violence are rooted in politics rather than religion." Among the factors that "push the country towards violence and insecurity," he listed: "Widespread poverty, corruption, poor governance, and political instability," as well as "abuses by the security forces, including extra-judicial killings and torture."

Commending some "promising" governmental initiatives regarding police reform and the investigation of a 2008 incident of inter-communal violence, Kobia pointed out: "These initiatives have yet to make a tangible impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians who are constantly facing blatant violations of their human and fundamental rights."

Go to for the full text of Kobia's letter to the Nigerian president. Go to for his letter to the
Christian Association of Nigeria.

Source: 8/6/2009 Newsline Extra
Christian Association of Nigeria makes statement on violence.

According to Ecumenical News International (ENI, which is related to the WCC) in a report issued on Aug. 4, "Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria have appealed against any act that can further inflame tensions in the north of Africa's most populous nation."

A follow up release on Aug. 5 said that, "The Christian Association of Nigeria has criticized the killing of an Islamic leader whose followers set off riots in northern Nigeria that claimed hundreds of lives and caused extensive property damage."

The releases reported that the violence in northeastern Nigeria in late July included violent protests by Boko Haram, an Islamist sect that says it represents Islam and is seeking the total incorporation of Muslim religious laws; the launch of a full-scale military onslaught by the Nigerian armed forces on July 30 against followers of Boko Haram; and the arrest of the group's leader Yusuf Mohamed, who later died while in custody.

The Nigerian president has ordered an inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Yusuf Mohamed, according to ENI. "Police say he was killed in a gunfight, but a senior army officer said the Boko Haram leader had been alive when he was captured and turned over to authorities."

Source: 8/6/2009 Newsline Extra
Updates provided by EYN members in Maiduguri.

Updates from EYN members in Maiduguri report that the EYN Maiduguri (No. 1) Church resumed worship on Sunday, Aug. 2, with a service held outdoors after its sanctuary was bombed. (See photo album at showing before and after pictures from the EYN Maiduguri Church.)

The reports also added more tragic news, that the total number of deaths may have risen to 1,000 or more, including "the military personnel, the police, Christians, and the sect members." Also, the number of Christian pastors killed in Maiduguri has risen to three. None of the pastors who have died were Brethren, although the assistant pastor of the EYN Jajeri Church was injured.

The two pastors killed in addition to COCIN (Church of Christ in Nigeria) Pastor Sabo, whose death was reported in the Newsline of July 29, were the pastor of a National Evangelical Mission who was reported to be severely injured in the violence and died after having been taken to a medical clinic; and Pastor George Orji of Goodnews Church Maiduguri, who was reported to have been killed after having been abducted along with other Christians.

An EYN church leader who is a former chairperson of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Borno State Branch, sent information about peacemaking efforts by church leaders in recent years. He has been among those calling on the government to help establish a forum where Muslim and Christian clerics could meet, and to sanction those whose preaching incites violence. These kinds of efforts to foster peaceful interreligious relationships have taken place in areas especially "where EYN has played a significant role," he wrote.

His e-mail also questioned the government's promptness in responding to problems confronting the country, and its willingness to act "in an unbiased manner."

Go to for a photo album of the destruction to EYN Maiduguri Church.

Go to for more information about the Church of the Brethren work with EYN in

Go to for ways to help support and encourage Nigerian Brethren.

Source: 8/6/2009 Newsline Extra

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren. Contact or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Jeri S. Kornegay, Karin L. Krog, Nancy Miner, Wes Richard, Carmen Rubio, Marcia Shetler, John Wall, and Jay Wittmeyer contributed to this report.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Delegation celebrates church anniversary, Brethren connections in Angola.

A Brethren delegation to Angola has helped celebrate church connections built through disaster relief efforts there, attending the 125th anniversary celebration of the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola. Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, and Dale Minnich, chair of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board, traveled to Angola on May 19-28.

Reporting on the experience, both men highlighted longterm connections that Brethren Disaster Ministries has built with the Bie Province, or district, of the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola through relief efforts following the civil war that ended in 2002, and the unique relationships that Brethren enjoy in the central African country. "It was a great trip, and we were warmly received," Minnich said in a telephone interview following his return. "They value the Church of the Brethren relationship, even though it is fairly recent."

Since 2001, the Church of the Brethren has supported 10 relief projects in Angola with grants chiefly from the Emergency Disaster Fund, but also from the Global Food Crisis Fund, Minnich said. The Bie Province has been a partner in disaster relief work for several years, and representatives of Bie Province attended the Brethren 300th Anniversary Conference held in Virginia last July.

Another partner has been SHAREcircle, a nonprofit development organization based in Evanston, Ill., and led by Angolans now living in the United States. Over the years, Brethren Disaster Ministries has taken an active role in helping SHAREcircle gain support for its work, Winter said. On the trip to Angola, the Brethren accompanied a number of SHAREcircle representatives. According to Minnich, SHAREcircle’s executive director Guerra Freitas attends Reba Place Church in Evanston--a congregation that for many years was connected with the Church of the Brethren as well as the Mennonite Church.

While in Angola, Winter and Minnich were recognized at a Jubilee celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola. The celebration that took place over several days was attended by upward of 22,000 people, according to a count by church leaders. The executive director of the Angolan Council of Christian Churches brought the sermon for the main worship service.

The event also included a presentation by Minnich, who was asked to review Brethren mission work--past, present, and future--and new ways of working in mission that the Brethren are creating, for example in Haiti. "They were really interested in the global mission relationships," Minnich said. For his part, he commented that he had "no idea what the size of the crowd was going to be.... The fields and forest around were full of people."

Winter was impressed by an "amazing offering celebration" during the five-hour worship service. "People bringing forward what they had to offer God--fish, goats, furnishings for a new school, grains, beans, and much more. The whole time everyone was celebrating and dancing."

The anniversary celebration was held at the Camundongo Mission, 12 miles outside the town of Kuito in central Angola, where Winter observed evidence of the church’s success in rebuilding following the war. "In the two years since my last visit, a church has been built to replace one destroyed in the war. Two new schools, a health clinic, and housing for teachers have all been completed through a partnership with the government," he reported.

SHARECircle is now focusing on an ambitious project to build a university in the central highlands of Angola. Winter and Minnich visited the proposed site, four square kilometers of land provided by the Angolan government some distance outside of Kuito. There is no other higher education possibility in the area, said Minnich, who described the university as "a really important development step for the highlands of Angola.... It’s a great vision."

While Brethren Disaster Ministries is not directly involved in the university, Church of the Brethren organizations and individuals interested in the project are encouraged to contact Roy Winter at

Source: 7/16/2009 Newsline
BBT reports progress in changing pension assumption rate.

Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) has reported on its work to lower the annuity assumption rate for the Church of the Brethren Pension Plan, in a letter from BBT president Nevin Dulabaum sent in mid-June to all annuitants. The Pension Plan has provided retirement benefits to ministers and lay employees of the Church of the Brethren and its agencies since 1943.

The decision to lower the rate came in late April, in response to losses incurred because of the economic recession. The BBT Board approved the change of all past and future annuity assumption rates to 5 percent, a significant decrease from rates that have been in the range of 6 to 8 percent in recent years.

As of Dec. 31, 2008, the Retirement Benefits Fund held by BBT had enough assets to meet only 68 percent of its current obligations. The decision to reduce the assumption rate has been made in an effort to return the Retirement Benefits Fund to fully funded status. Returning the fund to fully funded status "is our first priority," BBT has stated on its website.

Monthly pension payments at the new rate will begin Sept. 1. An estimated 1,450 people will be affected. The group includes retired pastors, former district and denominational staff, and others who are receiving annuities.

"Based on our preliminary calculations, the reduction (in monthly payments) will be in the 15 to 20 percent range for most annuitants, but there are a number of variables that could have your individual rate falling above or below that range," Dulabaum wrote.

The organization has worked diligently to make this conversion accurately, the president reported. However, converting the rate for members who retired several decades ago, when calculations were made by an earlier computer system or by hand, has required much more work and a longer process than expected, he said.

BBT has employed three temporary staff to serve as a data compilation team. The team has had to pull paper files and worksheets dating back decades, and then input that information into a new computer database. The team also is researching and cross referencing other records and information to ensure that the figures used are accurate.

Hewitt Associates, a national employee benefits consultant, has been retained to compute the new monthly payments based on the 5 percent annuity assumption rate. Once that work is complete, BBT will send letters informing every annuitant of the amount of his or her new monthly benefit.

Retirees who experience great financial hardship because of the reduction will be able to apply for a new grant program. BBT has appropriated non-Pension Plan assets from its operating reserves to provide special assistance, up to the amount of the benefit reduction. The BBT Board will review and evaluate the grant program each year.

"We know that this process is difficult and that this change is a disappointment to you and to all of our Brethren Pension Plan annuitants," Dulabaum wrote in his letter. "We have also received support for making an extremely tough decision. Our first responsibility is to ensure that the Plan can cover its payments for decades to come."

He also noted that "the 5 percent rate to which we are moving is still on the high end of annuity assumption rates being offered today. While this news provides little consolation, it does help to put into context just how severe of a loss in equities we have gone through over the past 20 months.... This current downturn continues to present problems to all pension plans nationwide, whether church-based or secular."

For more information go to where BBT is offering an online link with answers to the most frequently asked questions about changes in the Pension Plan.

Source: 7/16/2009 Newsline
Project leaders are trained for disaster response.

"I always knew there was a lot that went on behind the scenes but I had no idea..." stated one participant during a Brethren Disaster Ministries’ project leadership training held May 26-June 4.

The 10-day training event brought 16 individuals from across the country to the Brethren Disaster Ministries project in Louisiana, focusing on servant leadership, teamwork, and communication. The event also included workshops on safety, volunteer management, household management, cooking, construction management, record keeping, and much more.

Interspersed between workshops, participants were given hands-on opportunities to participate in construction activities as they learned new skills and honed skills in areas such as drywall, window and door installation, flooring, trim carpentry, etc. During a day-long workshop presented by On Earth Peace, participants learned about different personality types and how they affect teamwork, communication, and interpersonal relationships.

Labeled a success by both participants and trainers, a similar model for workshops is expected to be used in future trainings. "Brethren Disaster Ministries project leaders are the backbone of the domestic rebuild program and vital to this ministry. While we are excited about the newly trained leaders and the possibilities that lie ahead, we have seen an increase in weekly volunteerism and recognize the need to train more leaders to meet that demand," said Zach Wolgemuth, associate director.

Brethren Disaster Ministries expects to offer another project leader training in the near future; interested individuals are invited to contact 800-451-4407.

-- Zach Wolgemuth is associate director of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Source: 7/16/2009 Newsline
Archives deemed a ‘treasure’ in book on conscientious objection.

The Brethren Historical Library and Archives has been called a "national treasure" by Steven J. Taylor, author of the new book "Acts of Conscience: World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors" (Syracuse University Press, 2009). The archives are located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

In the book’s acknowledgments, Taylor praises the Brethren Historical Library and Archives along with the Mennonite Church Archives in Goshen, Ind., and the Swarthmore (Pa.) College Peace Collection. The author did extensive research at each location, and says, "There are endless books to be written based on the rich historical documents maintained at these archives."

Taylor’s book documents how a group of young conscientious objectors who worked in mental hospitals as part of their Civilian Public Service (CPS) during World War II, attempted to reform the mental health system after the war. They made public the abuse and poor services endured by patients, and led a reform movement to improve conditions in mental institutions.

CPS was created and funded by Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers as an alternative to military service during World War II. With the approval of the US government, young men who expressed conscientious objection to the war were assigned to work of national importance, such as fighting forest fires, serving as guinea pigs in scientific experiments, and working as attendants in mental hospitals.

"Acts of Conscience" is available from Brethren Press for $45 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712.

-- Ken Shaffer is the archivist at the Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Source: 7/16/2009 Newsline
Bohrer ends service as director of Sudan mission initiative.

The position of director of the Church of the Brethren’s Sudan mission initiative is being eliminated, as part of a re-evaluation of the needs of Global Mission Partnerships. Bradley Bohrer leaves the position on July 31, after which he will receive a three-month severance package.

The Sudan mission was initiated by the former Church of the Brethren General Board in Oct. 2005. It will continue as a program of the church’s Global Mission Partnerships, under the leadership of executive director Jay Wittmeyer. "We are committed to the mission in Sudan, although we are eliminating the director position. We continue to maintain a position vacancy for mission workers in Sudan," Wittmeyer said.

All designated gifts to the Sudan mission continue to be held in a special fund to support future in-country work by Brethren mission staff.

Bohrer has directed the Sudan initiative since Sept. 11, 2006. During his tenure, the Church of the Brethren has explored the feasibility and foundational understandings for a mission in Sudan; explored locations for mission workers and possible partnerships with other churches and nonprofit organizations in southern Sudan, with the help of a volunteer assessment team that included Enten Eller and the late Phil and Louise Rieman; and established a working relationship with RECONCILE, a peace and justice ministry in southern Sudan related to the Sudan Council of Churches. A short-term Brethren mission worker was placed in Sudan to work with RECONCILE, under Bohrer’s leadership.

In previous work for the church, Bohrer pastored Brook Park (Ohio) Community Church of the Brethren for over 22 years. In 1995-97 he taught at Kulp Bible College in Nigeria. He also has worked in Northern Ohio District as director of Pastoral Continuing Education. He holds degrees from Manchester College, Bethany Seminary, and Ashland Seminary.

Source: 7/16/2009 Newsline
Farmer is called as director of computing for Bethany Seminary.

Edward R. Farmer has been called as director of seminary computing for Bethany Theological Seminary and Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Ind., beginning Aug. 1. The director provisions, manages, and secures technology resources for the seminaries; advises them on the use and development of information technology; and coordinates resources between the seminaries.

Farmer has extensive experience in computer systems management and netware integration and administration. He has been a systems engineer for Dayton Cincinnati Technology Services since 2004 and tech coordinator for Precious Blood Elementary School in Trotwood, Ohio, since 2007. He holds degrees from Albion (Mich.) College and the University of Texas at Dallas, and also has been an adjunct instructor for use of computer software at Indiana Vocational Technical College.

Source: 7/16/2009 Newsline
Cyndi Fecher joins Gather ’Round staff as managing editor.

Cyndi Fecher has been named managing editor of the Gather ’Round curriculum project of Brethren Press and the Mennonite Publishing Network, as of Aug. 3. She will work out of the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

Fecher was Gather ’Round project assistant from 2006-07, and more recently has been doing writing, editing, layout, and proofreading as publications coordinator for Brethren Benefit Trust since Jan. 2. Of additional benefit is her teaching experience in South Korea, where she taught English as a second language to students age four through adult. She also brings technical expertise in website management and publishing software.

Source: 7/16/2009 Newsline
Brethren Volunteer Service summer orientation begins.

The 2009 Summer Orientation unit of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) will be held July 19-Aug. 7 in Harrisonburg, Va. This will be the 284th orientation unit for BVS and will consist of 18 volunteers from across the US, Germany, and the Netherlands.

This unit is sponsored by the Little Hill Community Urban Farm and the New Community Project, and will focus on sustainable living and localization. Volunteers will learn about global and local issues of social justice, care for creation, poverty, and peacemaking. Highlights will include hiking a mountain, biking to the grocery store, a weekend immersion in Washington, D.C., and spending a final week at Brethren Woods Camp and Retreat Center in Keezletown, Va.

A BVS potluck on Aug. 3 at 6 p.m. at Brethren Woods Camp is open to all who are interested in helping welcome the new BVS volunteers. For more information contact BVS office staff volunteer Beth Merrill at

Source: 7/16/2009 Newsline
Conference calls prepare International Day of Prayer for Peace.

On Earth Peace is calling on churches and organizations to join its annual campaign to participate in the International Day of Prayer for Peace (IDOPP) on Sept. 21. The commemoration is an initiative of the World Council of Churches. This year, a special emphasis of the campaign is how the recession is affecting local communities.

Conference call training sessions for congregations and individuals interested in carrying out "Listening Initiatives" in their local communities as part the campaign are offered on July 20 and 28 at 12-2 p.m. Eastern time. The sessions will be facilitated by David Jehnsen, chair of the board of Every Church a Peace Church, and founder of the Institute for Human Rights and Responsibilities. Jehnsen will be basing the training on a process of community organizing originally used by Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights movement.

In addition to Listening Initiatives, churches and other groups may participate in the campaign through an observance or a vigil, depending on each group's interest and experience with peace and social justice issues. So far, about 60 congregations and groups have registered. Visit To participate in a call, contact

Source: 7/16/2009 Newsline
Brethren bits
  • In remembrance:

    • Jeannette W. Patterson, 67, died on July 2. She was a key employee of the Church of the Brethren’s Virlina District and its predecessors for 38 years, from 1968-2006. She is survived by her husband, Wessley, her son, Keith, and grandson, Dusty. Funeral services were held on July 6 in Roanoke, Va.

    • Tom Mullen passed away June 19. He had taught at Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Ind., and his courses were attended by students at Bethany Theological Seminary following its move to Richmond. Mullen is known to Brethren as a popular humorist who has spoken at National Older Adult Conferences and Caring Ministries Assemblies. He was the author of a number of books including "Laughing Out Loud and Other Religious Experiences." He is survived by his wife, Nancy Faus-Mullen, who is a former professor at Bethany Seminary.

    • Sheri Layman Fecher, 53, passed away July 11 at her home in Elgin, Ill., after a long battle with cancer. She was employed by the Church of the Brethren General Board in 1996 and 1997 as Yearbook assistant. She is survived by her husband of 31 years, Donald Fecher, a former director of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes; daughter Cyndi Fecher, publications coordinator for Brethren Benefit Trust; and son Leland Fecher and fiancee Alison Mulert. She was a dedicated teacher who taught at Larkin and South Elgin High Schools for 12 years, and was active at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin. A memorial service will be held July 25, at 10 a.m., at Highland Avenue Church. A memorial scholarship fund has been created at South Elgin High School.

  • Personnel notes:

    • Stephen E. Abe concluded his service as district executive of West Marva District on June 30, rather than Sept. 30 as previously announced. The district's new e-mail address is

    • Justin Barrett has resigned as program assistant for the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships, effective July 30. He began in the position on Sept. 24, 2007. Previously, he served as office coordinator for Student Services at North Park Theological Seminary in the Chicago area. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University and North Park Theological Seminary, with a master’s degree in Christian Ministry. He will be relocating to Massachusetts.

    • Cristian Villegas has begun as a baler in Material Resources at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. He graduated last year from Francis Scott High School, and last fall worked with the boxcar crew in Material Resources.

  • A health care statement from religous leaders has been signed by Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger. The statement declares that current economic conditions have made health care reform an urgent priority. The declaration was drafted with the assistance of the National Council of Churches Health Task Force. "No longer can we afford to squander the hopes and dreams of the American people through a much-too-costly system that contributes to economic despair," the statement said in part. "Families and individuals must be able to rely on affordable care in times of illness or accident and preventative care to safeguard health and well-being. Go to for the full statement.

  • Brethren Volunter Service (BVS) is moving forward with an initiative to develop community living opportunities for volunteers. Supported by BVS and local congregations, each volunteer community will house four-to-six volunteers serving in full-time BVS projects and committed to intentional practices of life together. The first BVS house, sponsored by Cincinnati (Ohio) Church of the Brethren, is expected to begin hosting volunteers as early as August. The new community emphasis is part of a partnership with Volunteers Exploring Vocation through the fund for Theological Education and a grant from the Lilly Foundation. Congregations and volunteers interested in the new community houses may contact Dana Cassell, volunteer staff for Vocation and Community Living, at

  • Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) is offering four more Level 1 Workshops before the end of the year. Workshops train volunteers to minister with children and families following disasters. Workshops will be offered on Aug. 10-11 at the Native American Ministry United Methodist Church in Milwaukee, Wis., with Lorna Jost as local coordinator (contact 605-692-3390); Sept. 25-26 at Virden (Ill.) Church of the Brethren with Charlot Cole as coordinator (217-370-5382); Oct. 9-10 at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren with Elva Jean Naylor as coordinator (620-241-3123); and Nov. 6-7 at Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church in Sykesville, Md., with Mary K. Bunting as coordinator (410-552-1142). For more about registration and cost go to or call 800-451-4407, ext. 5.

  • Brethren mission coordinators for the Dominican Republic, Irvin and Nancy Heishman, have been visiting congregations on the West Coast since Annual Conference ended. They have given presentations at a number of congregations in Oregon and Washington District, and traveled to Nampa (Idaho) Church of the Brethren. Nancy Heishman was one of the preachers for worship at the Conference that ended in San Diego on June 30.

  • Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren in York, N.D., has decided to close. A celebration of the church and a final worship service is scheduled for Aug. 30, according to the Northern Plains District newsletter. The district is calling for letters of support to Pleasant Valley Church, care of pastor Steve Cameron,

  • A Bible study group at Brethren Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Lancaster, Pa., has now been in existence for more than 45 years, according to a note from Charles Bieber who serves as teacher. The group recently motored to Carlisle, Pa., to visit the Church of the Brethren there and encourage newly installed pastors Marla and James Abe.

  • Champaign (Ill.) Church of the Brethren has announced a priority of working with the local police department, following a reassessment of its ministry, in an announcement in the Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter. "Late last summer the congregation started praying for the officers of the police department every Sunday," the report said. "The officers and the Chief were stunned that someone would pray for them, then they were thankful, then they each and all asked us to continue." The church regards prayer as a first step, with a next step to encourage police to interact with children in the neighborhood in a non-threatening manner, and ultimately to become more responsive to neighborhood needs. "The church is trying to position itself to be the center, or hub, of the neighborhood activities, in essence to be the agent of change."

  • A team of volunteer builders from Carpenters for Christ on June 2 kicked off construction to rebuild Erwin (Tenn.) Church of the Brethren, which was destroyed by fire last summer. A Tennessee news website has posted a video clip and photos, go to

  • A new district website is under construction in Northern Plains District, thanks to the efforts of Ida Van Weston and Kathy Mack, according to the district newsletter. Go to

  • The 2009 district conference season begins with two conferences on July 31-Aug. 2: Northern Plains District meets at Pine Lake Christian Camp in Eldora, Iowa, on the theme, "Faith, Hope, and Love: The Greatest of These Is Love" (1 Cor. 13:13) with Alice Draper as moderator; Western Plains meets at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren on the theme, "Become New!" with Leslie Frye as moderator.

  • A program at Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village may lead to a long-term partnership with Washington County Hospital Wound Center, according to a release from the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md. Debra Manahan, certified wound-care specialist, is a member of a team of healthcare professionals dedicated to wound care and wound healing who once a week meets at Fahrney-Keedy to make "wound rounds" among residents. "Our long-term goal is to become the facility of choice to facilitate optimal care for those who suffer with wounds or other skin issues," Manahan said. The team also includes three Washington County Hospital physicians, staff from Flagship Rehabilitation, and other Fahrney-Keedy staff.

  • Ellen K. Layman has received the 2009 Merlin and Dorothy Faw Garber Award for Christian Service from Bridgewater (Va.) College. Layman is a 1965 graduate who has worked at the college in many capacities: as part-time instructor in journalism from 1979-82, director of public information 1991-95, associate director of development 1995-2000, director of media and church relations 2000-01, director of alumni and church relations 2001-07, and director of special projects since 2007. Layman also has had a career in journalism and politics. She is a member of Dayton (Va.) Church of the Brethren.

  • Harmony Cafe opened June 1 as the second open-to-the-public restaurant at Cross Keys Village-The Brethren Home Community in New Oxford, Pa. The cafe in the Harmony Ridge Community Center is part of a recent expansion that includes the 56-unit Harmony Ridge West Apartments and the Harvey S. Kline Wellness Center. The new facilities were dedicated in a ceremony on May 29 with Nevin Dulabaum, president of Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT), as guest speaker. Harvey S. Kline was an original trustee of BBT.

  • The Brethren Revival Fellowship has announced registration for this summer’s Brethren Bible Institute to begin July 19. The institute will be held July 20-24 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. This year, some classes will be designed with extra study and assignments suitable for licensed ministers. Contact Brethren Bible Institute, 155 Denver Rd., Denver, PA 17517.

  • The John Kline Homestead has a new brochure, and has started a newsletter. In addition, the Board of Directors has begun a formal capital fund campaign to raise at least $425,000 by the end of 2009, in an effort to preserve the homestead of John Kline, a Brethren elder and martyr during the Civil War era. The homestead project is contacting several congregations in Shenandoah District with encouragement to raise $10,000 each to support the preservation of the historic homestead in Broadway, Va., near Linville Creek Church of the Brethren. Contact Linville Creek pastor Paul Roth at

  • Nine Brethren departed July 14 for a New Community Project Learning Tour to El Salvador. The New Community Project is a Brethren-related nonprofit organization. In El Salvador, the group will be hosted by Emmanuel Baptist Church and will receive briefings on the current political, social, and economic situation in the country; will visit the site of Oscar Romero's martyrdom; and will live and work in a community assisting in housing construction. The delegation is led by New Community Project director David Radcliff and Jim Dodd of Midland, Va. In other news from the project, a grant of $6,000 has been given for a women's gardening project, tailoring training, and reforestation programs in Nimule, Sudan. This follows grants of $30,000 given earlier this year for these projects and for girls' education in Sudan. For more visit

  • Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is holding its tenth Christian Peacemaker Congress on Sept. 17-20 in Denver, Colo., on the theme, "Restoring Balance: Peace Through Right Relationships." The congress will be hosted by the Student Action Committee at Iliff School of Theology. Presenters include George Tinker, Baldridge Professor of American Indian Culture and Practice at Iliff; Elizabeth Garcia, a CPT worker and immigration activist; and Harley Eagle, coordinator of Indigenous Work for Mennonite Central Committee. Go to

  • A CPT reservist has been charged with littering for leaving water bottles for migrants near the US-Mexico border. On June 1, John Heid and two other people placed three-dozen gallons of water on a migrant trail in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge near Tucson, Ariz., according to a release from CPT. The three were confronted by a US Border Patrol agent "armed with an M-16 assault rifle," and by a Fish and Wildlife officer, and escorted out of the area. "The date (June 1) marked the beginning of the most lethal month of the year in the Tucson Sector of the US-Mexico borderlands," CPT said. "One hundred degree days become the deadly norm. This year, migrants crossing this desert are dying at a record rate; 89 bodies have been recovered."

  • Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has sent an update on a letter on Holy Land Peace sent by Christian leaders to President Obama on June 4. Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger was one of those who signed. Jeffrey Feltman, acting assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, has responded with a letter expressing appreciation for the Christian leaders' "work to advance our collective goal of realizing a comprehensive Middle East peace," and laying out the obligations that the US administration has placed on all parties including Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab states. CMEP continues to gather signatures for the Holy Land Peace letter, go to

  • An ElderQuest walking retreat for older men is led by Brethren minister Roger Golden on Sept. 20-25 in Abingdon, Va. "The Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34 mile rails-to-trails project, will provide four days of walking, reflection, and life planning," he reported. The group will walk 34 miles to Whitetop Mountain, Va., and return. Pre-retreat training is required. Deadline for registration is Aug. 1. Go to
Source: 7/16/2009 Newsline

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Frank Buhrman, Mary K. Heatwole, Karin L. Krog, Patrice Nightingale, David Radcliff, Paul Roth, Glen Sargent, Marcia Shetler, Anna Speicher, Jay Wittmeyer contributed to this report.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Brethren meet for 223rd Annual Conference, begin denomination-wide conversation on sexuality.

A total of 2,077 people met for the 2009 Annual Conference in San Diego, Calif., on June 26-30, including 670 delegates from congregations and districts, and 1,407 nondelegates. The Conference was led by moderator David Shumate and was held at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center.

Decisions made by the delegate body set in motion at least two years of intentional denomination-wide conversation on two documents related to human sexuality. In addition, the Conference approved a revision of the church's paper providing a process for conversation about strongly controversial issues, acted on a query regarding secret oath-bound societies, and received a number of reports. The body also elected new church leadership (see story below).

Denomination-wide conversation on sexuality

Annual Conference acted on two business items related to issues of human sexuality, after spending most of the afternoons of June 27 and 28 discussing the items "A Statement of Confession and Commitment" and "Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships."

The action has set in motion at least two years of intentional denomination-wide conversation on the two documents. The delegates voted to accept both as "special response" items to be dealt with using the newly revised process for strongly controversial issues. In doing so, the Conference turned down a recommendation from the Standing Committee of district delegates to postpone the query until a later time.

Standing Committee also has named a Special Response Resource Committee that is called for in the process for strongly controversial issues. The committee will develop resources on the issues, in order to aid the church in the conversation process.

Named to the committee are Karen Long Garrett, a recent Bethany Seminary graduate and manager editor for Brethren Life and Thought; James Myer, a minister at White Oak Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa., and a leader in the Brethren Revival Fellowship; Marie Rhoades, a staff member of On Earth Peace; John E. Wenger, a Church of the Brethren member and psychologist from Anderson, Ind.; and Carol Wise, executive director of the Brethren and Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Interests.

"A Statement of Confession and Commitment" came from last year's Standing Committee, addressing the issue of homosexuality as one that "continues to bring tension and division within our Body," confessing that, "we are not of one mind on this matter," and declaring that the church's 1983 paper Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective "remains our official position." The statement acknowledges tension between different parts of the 1983 paper, confesses "meanness and fighting" over the issue, and calls the church to stop unchristian behavior.

"Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships" from Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Northern Indiana District asks "whether it is the will of the church that this language on same-sex covenantal relationships will continue to guide our journey together" referring to a sentence in the 1983 paper that same-sex covenantal relationships are "not acceptable."

Standing Committee representatives Larry Dentler and Janice Kulp Long presented the committee's recommendations. Long also is on the pastoral team at Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren, which sent the query.

"We are a diverse group, just as the delegates of our congregations are diverse," said Dentler, who reported that last year after Standing Committee adopted its statement he felt "amazed that we could be unanimous...because there were persons of all theological perspectives." After further discussion this year, he realized that "some of us were seeing things in different ways." Some on Standing Committee see the statement as saying that the 1983 paper is one "we need to stick to," he explained, while others see the 1983 paper as simply "what we have," and that the 1983 paper really opens up more opportunity for discussion.

"Others' perspectives help me understand myself and our (church) body better," said Long. "Our denomination can only find a way through present brokenness as we seek God's light together." She also clarified that the Beacon Heights Church intends with the query simply to ask, "What words regarding covenantal relationships could God lead us to today?"

Debate on the two items was lengthy and marked by lines at the microphones, with many people wanting to speak. A group of young adults read a statement calling for support and inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Other expressions ranged from affirmation for an intentional denomination-wide conversation, to commitment to biblical authority and the Bible's teachings on homosexuality, to weariness with the amount of time and energy already spent on the issue. Some expressed a desire to immediately reopen the 1983 statement. Several speakers said that it will be impossible for the whole church to come to agreement.

"There comes a time when you have to agree to lay things to rest," said Myer, who was a member of the committee that brought the 1983 paper. He spoke from the floor in support of the recommendation for denominational conversation, but "with some reluctance" he said, because the church already has worked on these issues for some 30 years. His support came out of observing the Standing Committee process in creating its statement, he said, "that it was possible in this day and time to come up with something that received unanimous approval."

Revision of paper to deal with strongly controversial issues

By an overwhelming vote, the Conference affirmed the motion of Standing Committee to adopt the revision of the paper, "A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues." The document represents an update of a paper of the same name passed in 1988, but never utilized. The revision passed with one amendment to shorten to one minute the time speakers would have during floor discussion of topics using this process, instead of 1 1/2 minutes, to give more people a chance to speak and be heard.

The 1988 paper called for a committee to provide resources on an issue and facilitate denomination-wide conversation, but did not specify doing anything with the information gathered. This revision outlines a fuller process of conversation that may take two to three years, giving Standing Committee the responsibility of holding hearings across the denomination, and bringing the issue back to Annual Conference.

Moderator David Shumate commented that having a good process for controversial issues would provide a "surge protector" effect for the church, and added that the church needs special time to work with issues that "try us as a body."

Membership in secret oath-bound societies

The Conference respectfully returned the "Query: Secret Oath-Bound Societies" and reaffirmed the statement on membership in secret societies passed by the 1954 Annual Conference--with an amendment asking the Conference officers to appoint a three-member group to develop resources to educate and inform the church on this topic.

The officers named a three-person Resource Team to develop resources to educate and inform the church on the topic of secret oath-bound societies. Named to the team are former general secretary Judy Mills Reimer; Bethany Theological Seminary professor of New Testament studies Dan Ulrich; and Harold Martin, a leader in the Brethren Revival Fellowship.

Other business

Revised corporate by-laws for the Church of the Brethren were submitted for information, with the expectation that they will be brought for action at next year's Annual Conference. A revision of the by-laws is being submitted following the major reorganization of the Church of the Brethren, Inc., last year as the former Association of Brethren Caregivers and Annual Conference Council were combined with the then General Board under one corporate umbrella. The by-laws passed in 2008, which are now in force, included a lot of items from the church's polity manual and are very lengthy. The corporate attorney advised that a way be found to simplify them, reported general secretary Stan Noffsinger. Noffsinger invited additional comments and suggestions on the by-laws proposal to be sent to the Church of the Brethren's Leadership Team.

A report on child protection activity was given by Kim Ebersole, director of Family Life and Older Adult Ministries. The report affirmed the continuing relevance of the 1986 report of the Conditions of Childhood Task Force, and added three new recommendations for the denomination. The report was called for by a 2007 query, following which a survey process was conducted with congregations, districts, church programs, and agencies such as church camps, and the Caring Ministries staff also conducted a number of other activities to educate the church and to call for more attention to the protection of children across the denomination.

Three recommendations were given, that every Church of the Brethren congregation, district, agency, ministry area, program, and camp adopt and implement a child protection/child abuse prevention policy appropriate for its ministry setting; the Church of the Brethren maintain resources to assist congregations, districts, agencies, ministry areas, programs, and camps in developing child protection/child abuse prevention policies; and the church continue to help strengthen families and ensure that parents and caregivers have the knowledge, skill, support, and resources to care for their children.

The delegates approved a zero percent cost of living increase for the annual adjustment in the recommended ministerial cash salary table, at the recommendation of the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee. The committee explained that usually the cost of living increase is based on the percentage of increase in the Consumer Price Index, however with the economic situation the Index fell this year rather than increased and the group did not want to recommend a decrease in the salaries of pastors.

Other reports received by the Conference included agency reports from the Church of the

Brethren, Bethany Theological Seminary, Brethren Benefit Trust, and On Earth Peace; Living Peace Church sharing from the microphones; a report from the Program and Arrangements Committee; and others.

The closing Conference business session also included appreciation for retiring Annual Conference executive director Lerry Fogle, and the consecration of Shawn Flory Replogle as moderator and Robert E. Alley as moderator-elect for 2010.

(Frances Townsend, pastor of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren, contributed to the reporting from the Annual Conference business sessions.)

Source: 7/1/2009 Newsline
Annual Conference chooses Robert E. Alley as moderator-elect.

The 2009 Annual Conference has called Robert Earl Alley of Harrisonburg, Va., as moderator-elect for 2010 and moderator for 2011. Alley is pastor of Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren. He will serve next year assisting the 2010 Annual Conference moderator Shawn Flory Replogle, pastor of McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren.

Other election results:
  • Program and Arrangements Committee:
    Victoria Jean (Sayers) Smith of Elizabethtown, Pa.

  • Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee:
    Tim Button-Harrison of Ames, Iowa

  • Committee on Interchurch Relations:
    Jim Hardenbrook of Edinburg, Va.

  • Bethany Theological Seminary Trustee representing the colleges:
    David Witkovsky of Huntingdon, Pa.

  • Brethren Benefit Trust Board:
    Carol Hess of Lancaster, Pa.

  • On Earth Peace Board: David R. Miller of Dayton, Va.
The following appointments have been confirmed:
  • Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees:
    Jerry Davis of La Verne, Calif., and John D. Miller of York, Pa. Also confirmed as a representative of the alumni association was Rhonda Pittman Gingrich of Minneapolis, Minn.

  • Brethren Benefit Trust Board:
    Carol Ann Greenwood of Walkersville, Md., and Donna Forbes Steiner of Landisville, Pa.

  • On Earth Peace Board:
    James S. Replogle of Bridgewater, Va., and Robbie Miller of Bridgewater, Va.
Source: 7/1/2009 Newsline
Standing Committee creates new denominational Vision Committee.

The Standing Committee of district delegates approved the formation of a new committee for the denomination, which will have the task of discerning a long-range vision for the Church of the Brethren for each upcoming decade.

The committee was recommended by the Church of the Brethren's Leadership Team, which includes the Annual Conference officers and the general secretary, and the Inter-Agency Forum.

In its decision, Standing Committee directed that the Vision Committee be implemented quickly enough to create a vision for the coming decade 2011-2020. It also amended the paper outlining a charter for the new committee to include the charge to be "immersed in prayer, seeking God's purpose for our denomination."

The Vision Committee will be appointed in the fifth year of the previous decade, to create a vision for the next decade, and to report to Annual Conference in the eighth year of the previous decade. The eight-member committee will include a member from the Church of the Brethren staff or Mission and Ministry Board, a representative of each Annual Conference agency (Bethany Theological Seminary, Brethren Benefit Trust, and On Earth Peace), and four members appointed by Standing Committee from the membership of the denomination.

Moderator Shumate commented about the new committee, "I see it as a matter of leadership...for the time and place that we're in."

Source: 7/1/2009 Newsline
Mission and Ministry Board sets budget parameter for 2010.

The Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren addressed a full agenda at a pre-Conference meeting June 26, led by chair Eddie Edmonds. The group set a budget parameter for Core Ministries for 2010, received a report on a survey studying the feasibility of a capital campaign, established a committee to write a resolution on the issue of torture, received a report on the situation of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, named a new chair and chair-elect and a new executive committee, among other business.

The board also celebrated a Brethren delegation that went to Angola recently (story to come).

Budget Parameter for Core Ministries in 2010

The board adopted a balanced budget with a parameter of $4,962,000 for the church's Core Ministries in 2010, with the understanding that if staff cannot meet the parameter a deficit budget may be presented to the board at its October meeting. The decision requires another reduction of $381,000 in expenses, over the present year's budget. The board will make a final decision on the 2010 budget in October.

Treasurer Judy Keyser reported on financial challenges facing the denominational ministries, as well as some points of improvement. Giving from congregations currently is ahead of budget for 2009 (which was revised downward at the March meeting of the board), investment income has improved since the first of the year, and "we are financially viable at this point," Keyser said.

However, "we are still living in a volatile economy," she warned, sharing concerns about maintaining adequate net assets to support operations, the anticipation of large deficits this year in the budgets of several self-funded ministries including Annual Conference and the New Windsor Conference Center, and how to sustain the church's Core Ministries when that fund has had a loss of over $1 million in two years.

Discussion of the budget centered on a phrase in Keyser's report, indicating that the recommendation for 2010 would mean "the loss of some major ministries." General secretary Stan Noffsinger explained that a plan is not yet in place for the required reduction in expenses for next year, but he anticipates a number of measures including reviewing staff positions that come open before filling them, reviewing the cost of the church's properties and programs, and no increase in employee salaries or benefits in 2010. "We will provide as much information before the October meeting as we have available," he assured the board.

Report on Survey for Capital Campaign

Stewardship and Donor Development director Ken Neher presented the results of a survey by fundraising consulting firm RSI, on the feasibility of a new capital campaign to support denominational ministries. The survey found both "unprecedented" high levels of support for denominational ministry, he reported, as well as lack of confidence from potential donors in the capacity of the church to raise a large amount of money, and skepticism from some over the purpose of the campaign.

RSI recommended a number of next steps, Neher said, including to postpone implementation of the proposed campaign, engage in board development, revise the "case statement" for support to give more details, and when ready to adopt a multifaceted campaign and to retain fundraising counsel to start the campaign.

The board adopted an Executive Committee recommendation to receive the report and request staff to give clarification of the need and rationale for the campaign.

Study Committee on Torture

The board formed a committee to write a resolution on the issue of torture, working with the general secretary. Noffsinger reported encouragement from ecumenical colleagues to address the issue, saying that the Church of the Brethren currently does not have a statement on torture. The four-person committee will include board members Andy Hamilton, John Katonah, and Tammy Kiser, and a staff member to be named by the general secretary.

New Executive Committee Is Named

The board selected a new Executive Committee: Dale Minnich, who will serve as chair through 2011; Ben Barlow, who will serve as chair-elect through 2011, and then as chair through 2013; and at-large members Vernne Greiner and Andy Hamilton. The Executive Committee also includes ex officio members general secretary Stan Noffsinger and 2010 Annual Conference moderator Shawn Flory Replogle.

Other Business

The board named Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries, to the denomination's new Vision Committee.

Special recognition was given to outgoing members of the board, including outgoing chair Eddie Edmonds and Ken Wenger, who is completing service on the Executive Committee with this meeting. Also recognized was Kathy Reid, who has resigned as associate general secretary and executive director of Caring Ministries. A special citation was shared for the staff members whose positions were ended following the economic downturn and the reductions in the Church of the Brethren's 2009 budget.

Board member Ben Barlow reported on a youth/young adult meeting of EYN in Nigeria, which he attended with a small delegation of young adults from the Church of the Brethren in the US. It was the 17th such conference for EYN, he reported, and included 2,200 youth/young adults. The theme was, "Launch Out into the Deep," from a passage in Luke. He experienced "a powerful spirit" in EYN, he said, also listing a number of challenges facing the Nigerian Brethren including a difference between urban and rural churches, differences between the older and younger generations in leadership, and the question of the ordination of women--at a time when some women already are engaged in church ministry.

The Executive Committee announced that it is starting a process for a performance review for general secretary Stan Noffsinger, whose present contract ends in June 2011. The performance review will culminate at the October meeting of the board.

Source: 7/1/2009 Newsline