Wednesday, August 26, 2009

BBT sends notification letters for recalculated annuity benefits.

Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) has sent notification letters for recalculated annuity benefits for Church of the Brethren Pension Plan annuitants, on Aug. 19. Back in April, the BBT Board determined that because the market decline was so severe, it was necessary to recalculate all annuitized pension accounts at an assumption rate of 5 percent in order to preserve the solvency of the Retirement Benefits Fund, which continues to be well underfunded.

The recalculated benefit will be reflected in the October payment to Pension Plan annuitants. The September payment will be the same as the current benefit.

Knowing that this would be difficult for many annuitants, but would present a significant financial hardship for some, BBT has established a grant program to soften the reduction. This grant program, which will be reviewed annually, will use non-pension funds to pay out an amount that is equal to or less than the actual reduction in benefits to qualifying annuitants.

An application for the grant program was included in the notification letters mailed last week, and is available online at pages/GrantProgramApp.pdf to download in pdf format. The Brethren Pension Plan encourages members to complete and return the application form if they need this assistance.

In anticipation of questions resulting from this significant change, BBT is offering the following set of questions and answers:

Question: The markets have been doing well over the past few months, so why do we need to still go through with the reduction in Pension benefits? Answer: By Aug. 9, the markets had gained 11.9 percent for the year, as measured by the S&P 500. However, even with the positive market activity of this year’s second quarter, BBT estimates that the Retirement Benefits Fund current funding status is approximately 70 percent--a slight improvement from the Dec. 31, 2008, level of 68 percent. Currently, benefit payments of approximately $1.2 million are disbursed to our annuitants every month. At this rate, even with the recent market returns flowing into the fund, we have high confidence that it will remain underfunded and could simply evaporate without this reduction in benefits. This benefit reduction is still very necessary.

Q: When might we see our benefits increase? A: This question is more difficult to answer. Assuming the markets continue to recover, the assets of the Retirement Benefits Fund will likewise recover, based on the implementation of this benefit reduction. BBT simply does not know how quickly this will happen. The present goal is for the fund to be 100 percent funded--able to meet all of its benefit obligations today and into the future. Returning the Retirement Benefits Fund to fully funded status while continuing to pay out monthly benefits will take many years. However, once this goal has been met, the next step is to pursue two goals simultaneously--build up the Pension reserve to meet future financial crises, and pPay out additional benefits. Benefits were recalculated using a 5 percent assumption rate, but all past increases that were applied to an annuitant’s original benefit have been retained in the recalculation process and are reflected in the new benefit amount.

Q: Why did it take longer than expected to recalculate benefit amounts? A: The records of our more than 1,500 annuities span 40-plus years of service to the denomination. Many of the early records pre-date electronic recordkeeping, and approximately 75 percent of all annuity records have migrated through three different recordkeeping software systems. Many of these annuities have received several percentage increases over the past 30 years. These are several important factors that have made the recalculation process complex and have required a great deal of "hands-on" interaction. As BBT is committed to making sure each record was recalculated accurately, the process required more time than originally estimated. BBT promised at least 30 days’ notice regarding a change in benefit, so the time needed to accurately recalculate benefits determined the October start date for the recalculation to be reflected in monthly payments to annuitants.

Q: What is BBT doing to share the pain of these reductions? A: Cost of living increases have been frozen for BBT staff, and positions that are open but are not deemed critical at this time are not being filled. Staff also are trying to reduce expenses where possible by delaying or eliminating projects. To date, BBT’s expenses are more than $200,000 under budget for the year against an expense budget of $3.3 million. Today, BBT has five fewer staff members and an expense budget that is $500,000 less than in 1999. While BBT is committed to managing expenses, it does not serve our members to undercut on customer service. Maintaining a strong organization and offering excellent service to members will increase resources and benefit BBT members.

Q: How did the Retirement Benefits Fund become underfunded, and why did BBT return to a uniform assumption rate of 5 percent? A: This situation did not happen overnight. The sharp decline of the markets in 2008 had a huge impact on the Retirement Benefits Fund, but for a few years, a higher percentage rate was being paid out than was being returned through investments. BBT attempted to maintain the levels of benefits for existing annuitants by lowering rates for new annuitants, but that was not enough to offset the high rates being paid out. BBT has striven to pay the highest benefits possible to its members, including paying out 13th checks during some years when earnings were good and actualized assessments indicated that the fund was maintaining adequate reserves. Changing to a uniform 5 percent assumption rate is the only effective way to remedy the underfunded status of the fund. When the Retirement Benefits Fund is fully funded once again, and the markets allow it, members will once again benefit from that prosperity.

Brethren Pension Plan offers a section of FAQs at For further questions contact Scott Douglas, Pension Plan director, at 800-746-1505.

-- Patrice Nightingale and others in the communications staff at BBT provided this report.

Source: 8/26/2009 Newsline
Haitian Brethren name provisional board, hold blessing for first ministers.

Eglise des Freres Haitiens--the Haitian Church of the Brethren--has taken significant steps toward its formal establishment in Haiti with the naming of a provisional board, and the blessing of ministerial leadership during a recent ceremony.

Ludovic St. Fleur, Haiti mission coordinator and pastor of Eglise des Freres Haitiens in Miami, Fla., and Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships for the Church of the Brethren, both took part in the ceremony. A workcamp group attending the ceremony also represented the involvement of Brethren Disaster Ministries in mission and church development in Haiti.

A theological training for the Haitian church held in mid-August closed with the special evening worship service that received Pastor Yves Jean as the first ordained minister of Eglise des Freres Haitiens. The Church of the Brethren accepted his ordination as a transfer from another denomination.

Six people were licensed to ministry at the service: Telfort Jean Billy, Telfort Romy, Ely

Frenie, Dieupanou St. Brave, Altenor Jean Gesurand, and Altenor Duvelus. The licensed ministers also received the blessing of laying on of hands. Those who had completed the theological training received certificates.

Canned chicken donated from the meat canning project of Southern Pennsylvania District and Mid-Atlantic District was distributed during the service, evidence of the active collaboration between the Haitian Brethren, Global Mission Partnerships, and Brethren Disaster Ministries. The canned chicken was shipped to Haiti through the church’s Material Resources program and Brethren Disaster Ministries, as part of ongoing disaster relief work in Haiti following the four hurricanes and tropical storms that caused massive destruction there last year.

The Haiti Workcamp group was led by Jeff Boshart, Haiti disaster response coordinator, and Klebert Exceus, a Haitian consultant from Orlando, Fla. The group included five American Brethren, translators from the Haitian Brethren community in Florida, accompanied by members of Exceus’ family, and two Brethren pastors from the Dominican Republic--one of Haitian and one of Dominican background.

On the morning after the ordination and licensing service, Wittmeyer met with leaders of the Haitian church and the group established a provisional board for its new organization. The group elected leaders: Telfort Jean Billy of Croix de Bouquet Church of the Brethren was named as chair; Ely Frenie of Cap Haitian Church of the Brethren was named secretary; and Telfort Romy of Gonaives Church of the Brethren was named treasurer.

Source: 8/26/2009 Newsline
Workcamp ministry records another successful season.

The workcamp ministry of the Church of the Brethren Youth and Young Adult program had another successful season, with 31 workcamps and over 700 participants. It is inspiring to see the continued dedication of our youth and support of our congregations for the workcamp ministry.

Even in the current economic climate, junior and senior high youth and advisors, and young adult workcamp groups, gave a week of their time to serve others, worship together, meet new people, experience another culture, and have fun at a Church of the Brethren workcamp.

This workcamp year included two workcamps co-led by On Earth Peace: one on the topic of racism in Germantown, Pa.; and an intergenerational workcamp at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., focused on the peace witness of the Church of the Brethren and its connection to service. It was the first year for the "We Are Able" workcamp for intellectually disabled young adult participants, also held at the Brethren Service Center.

Young adult participants traveled to Northern Ireland to learn about "the troubles" and efforts at peacemaking and reconciliation, as they served at Kilcranny House. Senior highs served in Mexico, Brooklyn, West Virginia, the Lakota Reservation, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, among other locations.

Junior highs served at many places, including the John Kline Homestead, learning about Brethren history during the Civil War era. They also served at Innisfree Village, a residential community for intellectually disabled adults; at Indianapolis, helping restore houses; and at Washington, D.C., in soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

The 2009 workcamp theme was "Bound Together, Finely Woven" (2 Cor. 8:12-15). At each workcamp, participants explored their place in the tapestry of God’s creation and how the threads of their lives are interwoven with the lives of others, in both giving and receiving.

Watch for an upcoming photo album from this summer’s workcamps. Watch the workcamp website ( ) this fall for information about the 2010 workcamps. Brochures will be mailed to each Church of the Brethren congregation.

-- Jeanne Davies is coordinator of the Church of the Brethren’s workcamp ministry. The assistants coordinators for the 2009 workcamps were Meghan Horne, Bekah Houff, and Emily Laprade, serving through Brethren Volunteer Service.

Source: 8/26/2009 Newsline
Hoslers to work for peace and reconciliation with Nigerian Brethren.

Nathan and Jennifer Hosler of Elizabethtown, Pa., will begin serving in two new peace and reconciliation positions with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), working through the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships. The Hoslers are members of Chiques Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa.

The Hoslers will fill joint positions as teacher of peace and reconciliation at Kulp Bible College and peace and reconciliation worker with EYN. Start date for their work was Aug. 16, with plans to travel to Nigeria in September.

Jennifer Hosler has been a tutor of English as a Second Language with World Relief and AMF International, and has worked at the Naaman Center, a Christian nonprofit substance abuse treatment center in Elizabethtown. She holds a bachelor of arts in Biblical Language from Moody Bible Institute and a master’s degree in Community Psychology and Social Change from Penn State Harrisburg. She has participated in short-term mission trips to Kenya, Ethiopia, and Guatemala.

Nathan Hosler served in Germany with Weierhof Mennonite Church through Eastern Mennonite Missions, has work experience as a carpenter, and has been a groundsworker at Moody Bible Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Language from Moody, and a master’s degree in International Relations from Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I.

The Hoslers both have been lay leaders at the Chiques Church, Nathan as a book and Bible study leader, and Jennifer as a lay Bible teacher. They also have served as summer ministry interns for the congregation. In May this year, they attended a youth conference of EYN as representatives of the Church of the Brethren.

Source: 8/26/2009 Newsline
Solem begins as publications coordinator for Brethren Benefit Trust.

Brian Solem has accepted the position of publications coordinator at Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT). He began his duties at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on Aug. 24, providing oversight for all BBT publications, the content of the BBT website, and other special projects.

Solem brings strong writing skills and energy to the position. He received a bachelor of arts degree in English, cum laude, from Loyola University Chicago. He also recently taught English vocabulary to adults in China for a year, from April 2008-April 2009. Prior to teaching, he worked for the Law Bulletin Publishing Company in Chicago, Ill., and was a classified advertising representative and contributing writer for "Legal Employment Weekly." He grew up in Elgin, and currently resides in Chicago.

Source: 8/26/2009 Newsline
Schofield resigns as director of academic services at Bethany Seminary.

Joanna Schofield, director of academic services for Bethany Theological Seminary and the Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Ind., has submitted her resignation. She has served in the position since 1999.

Schofield has accepted an offer to work in a similar position for a newly created regional campus of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Representatives from both seminaries will work together to develop plans for an employee search process.

Source: 8/26/2009 Newsline
Brethren Volunteer Service unit begins work.

Members of the summer orientation unit of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) have begun work at their placements. The unit participated in training from July 19-Aug. 7 in Harrisonburg, Va. It was the 284th orientation unit for BVS.

Following are the new volunteers, their congregations or hometowns, and work placements:

Julia Dowling of Rumson, N.J., is serving at Jubilee USA Network in Washington, D.C.; Anna Ehscheidt of Neuwied, Germany, is serving at the International Community School in Decatur, Ga.; Becky Farfsing of Cincinnati, Ohio, is serving at the Forthspring Inter-Community Group in Belfast, N. Ireland; Emsi Hansen of Kropswolde, the Netherlands, and Sara Beth Stoltzfus of Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, are serving at the Family Abuse Center in Waco, Texas; Audrey Hollenberg of Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren is serving with the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry in Elgin, Ill.; Florian Koch of Gross Schneen, Germany, and Christian Schaefer of Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany, are serving at Samaritan House in Atlanta, Ga.; Emily Osterhus of Durham, N.C., is serving at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C.; John-Michael Pickens of Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is serving with On Earth Peace in Harrisburg, Pa.; Sarah Rinko of Terryville, Conn., is serving at Gould Farm, Monterey, Mass.; Myrta See of Mountain View McGaheysville (Va.) Church of the Brethren is serving with Su Casa in Chicago, Ill.; Emrah Sueruecue of Hamburg, Ga., is at Abode Service in Fremont, Calif.; Patricia Welch of Park City, Utah, is serving at the Palms of Sebring, Fla; and Steve Wiles of Elmira, N.Y., is serving at HRDC in Havre, Mont.

Source: 8/26/2009 Newsline
Bethany Theological Seminary begins its 105th academic year.

Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., begins its 105th academic year this week. Semester-long classes begin Aug. 27. Thirty-two new students are enrolled--including 28 in degree programs and 4 with non-degree status--the largest incoming class in more than a decade.

New master of divinity students enrolled in Connections, the seminary’s distance education program, met for their first class in retreat format in Camden, Ohio, during the weekend prior to the Aug. 24-25 orientation and returned to the Richmond campus to participate in orientation with residential students. During the retreat, the Connections students began their study of ministry and spiritual disciplines, shared spiritual autobiographies, and began to form spiritual sharing groups.

In her remarks at an orientation breakfast, Bethany president Ruthann Knechel Johansen encouraged new students to become more curious about and deeply acquainted with their particular gifts, and how they express love for God, others, and all creation.

"There is no more important work than the study of God and all the ways human beings have attempted to experience and speak about that ineffable mystery," Johansen said. "There is no more important work than the inquiring study of scripture and other texts, reflection on the nature and purpose of life, and the disciplining and commitment of your own life.... There is no more important work because the longing for love, justice, and peace in our families, churches, meetings, and societies throughout the world is profound. Because this hunger for love and meaning is pervasive, keep what you study here always in close conversation with what is happening beyond: in Afghanistan and in Richmond, in the Sudan and Washington, in your home communities and Jerusalem."

The transition from orientation to the beginning of classes will be celebrated at an opening convocation on Aug. 27 at 11:20 a.m. eastern time. Steven Schweitzer, Bethany's new academic dean, will speak on "Doing Theology in Community" (2 Chronicles 30).

The convocation will be webcast live at or visit the page at a later time to view a recording of the service.

-- Marcia Shetler is director of Public Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

Source: 8/26/2009 Newsline
International Day of Prayer for Peace campaign registers 100 groups.

On Earth Peace is encouraging Church of the Brethren congregations to take part in the International Day of Prayer for Peace, scheduled for Sept. 21 this year. The annual observance is an initiative of the World Council of Churches and its Decade to Overcome Violence. Michael Colvin and Mimi Copp are organizing the On Earth Peace campaign to promote the day.

As of today, a total of 100 congregations and groups have registered to take part in the On Earth Peace campaign, according to the organizers. Most congregations and groups are planning observances or vigils to mark the day. At least eight have taken up a challenge from On Earth Peace to hold listening initiatives in their local communities, in order to link the current economic challenges facing the country with the call to peacemaking.

In another development, Brethren musician and composer Shawn Kirchner, and Kay Guyer, a member of the church’s National Youth Cabinet and a budding video producer, will be working together on a new video for the campaign using photos and video clips contributed by this year’s participants.

A conference call tomorrow, Aug. 27, offered by On Earth Peace for organizers of International Day of Prayer for Peace events will address the topic "How to Get the Media’s Attention" and how groups can collect photos and video clips of their events. The call is scheduled for 12 noon-1 p.m. eastern time, facilitated by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Contact to take part. The conference call phone number is 712-432-0080, and the access code is 357708#. For more go to

Source: 8/26/2009 Newsline
Congregations are invited to celebrate Bethany Sunday.

Bethany Theological Seminary is inviting Church of the Brethren congregations to lift up the mission and ministry of the seminary on Sunday, Sept. 13. Several resources are available for use in worship services and other settings.

The Living Word Bulletin for Sept. 13, available through Brethren Press, features a devotional by Bethany’s director of admissions Elizabeth Keller. Resource packets recently mailed to all Church of the Brethren congregations include a bulletin insert, worship resources written by Bethany students and alumni, and a brief update on seminary activities. These resources also can be downloaded from .

Congregations may request a free copy of the DVD titled, "Vines, Grapes, and Wineskins: Bethany Seminary’s Mission and Vision," a 22-minute skit that was presented as the seminary’s report to the 2009 Annual Conference. The skit features Brethren and Bethany personalities from the past and present meeting at a trolley stop, and engaging in conversation about Brethren history, pertinent questions Brethren face today, and the meaning of "another way of living." Request a copy of the DVD from Jenny Williams at or 800-287-8822 ext. 1825.

Source: 8/26/2009 Newsline
Brethren bits
  • Brethren Disaster Ministries has opened a disaster recovery project in Hammond in northwestern Indiana, having closed the Johnson County project in Greenwood, Ind. The Hammond area was hit with storms and flooding from remnants of Hurricane Ike last September. Approximately 17,000 residences were affected. With nearly 900 homes in this lower income, urban area still in need of assistance, Brethren Disaster Ministries has been called upon by the local recovery agency to assist with repair and reconstruction needs.

  • A team of five volunteers from Children’s Disaster Services responded to flooding in Silver Creek and Gowanda, N.Y., in mid-August. "The need was brief, so we were only there for two days," reported associate director Judy Bezon. If the area becomes a nationally declared disaster, she reported, there will be a more significant need for child care and Children’s Disaster Services will be called to help. In unofficial estimates, more than 500 homes in Gowanda were affected.

  • "Material Resource shipments have increased during August," reports Loretta Wolf, director of the Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources program that warehouses and ships disaster relief materials from the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Recent international shipments include a 20-foot container of baby, school, and hygiene kits shipped to Jordan on behalf of Church World Service (CWS); a 20-foot container of blankets and baby, school, and hygiene kits to Help the Children in Moldova, on behalf of CWS; a 40-foot container shipped to Israel on behalf of Lutheran World Relief’s Jerusalem program, with 525 cartons of school kits; five 40-foot containers shipped to Burkina Faso for Lutheran World Relief with blankets, clothing, soap, and quilts, and sewing, school, layette, and health kits, as well as 20 cartons of IMA World Health medicine boxes. Domestic shipments included baby, school, and hygiene kits and 1,150 emergency cleanup buckets sent on behalf of CWS in response to flooding in New York State. "Both Church World Service and Lutheran World Relief are in need of kit donations," Wolf added. "Please encourage your church or civic group to consider assembling kits as a service project." For instructions to assemble kits go to

  • Panther Creek Church of the Brethren in Adel, Iowa, will celebrate its 140th anniversary on Aug. 30. An Inglenook Cookbook Potluck will follow the morning worship service with dishes made using a recipe from the Inglenook Cookbook of 1901.

  • Peter Becker Community held a "Meet the Authors" event for two residents of the Church of the Brethren retirement community in Harleysville, Pa. The event on Aug. 26 honored Bob Nace and Ronn Moyer, two writers who have produced two very different books, according to a release from the community. "Life Has Never Been Dull" by Bob Nace is recommended "if you like to laugh," the release said. The book is a collection of short stories sharing some of the author’s most embarrassing life moments. "Swimming with Crocodiles" by Ronn Moyer is the second book he has authored and tells the story of his choice to do alternative service as a young man and a conscientious objector. Moyer ended up working to improve education and nutrition for the people of northern Nigeria, an experience that propelled him into a lifetime of humanitarian service. For more information contact or 267-446-0327.

  • Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., has posted significant gains in the rankings of "America’s Top Colleges 2009" poll in and the ratings published by "US News & World Report," according to a release from the school. Juniata now ranks 75th in the nation in the Forbes poll, up from 113th last year; and has jumped 13 slots in the "US News & World Report" ratings. Juniata was ranked 85th in the top 100 liberal arts colleges in "US News & World Report," up from a 98 ranking last year. "College presidents aren't supposed to say that we are surprised by our ratings, but Juniata's move up the rankings means that more and more people are aware of our educational successes and outcomes and we are overjoyed at that recognition," said Juniata president Thomas R. Kepple. Of the other five Church of the Brethren colleges and university, Bridgewater (Va.) College is ranked in Tier 3 of the liberal arts colleges nationally; the University of La Verne, Calif., is in Tier 3 of the national universities rankings; McPherson (Kan.) College is in Tier 4 of the liberal arts colleges, having been named in the national rankings for two consecutive years according to a release from the school; Elizabethtown (Pa.) College is ranked 4th in the category of Baccalaureate Colleges (North); and Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., is ranked 18th in the category Baccalaureate Colleges (Midwest) and 6th in the "Great Schools, Great Prices" Midwest rankings, having been named in the "US News & World Report" listing of America’s best colleges for the 15th consecutive year.

  • The World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee starts an eight-day meeting today, Aug. 26, in Geneva, Switzerland. "Messenger" editor Walt Wiltschek will be on the communication team for the meeting, seconded to the WCC from the Church of the Brethren staff. The committee is expected to elect a new general secretary for the WCC, to succeed Samuel Kobia who is not seeking a second term in office. According to Ecumenical News International, a news service related to the WCC, the ecumenical organization now has 349 member churches around the world. The Church of the Brethren is one of its member denominations.
Source: 8/26/2009 Newsline
Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. Jeri S. Kornegay, Patrice Nightingale, Marcia Shetler, Callie Surber, John Wall, and Jay Wittmeyer contributed to this report.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Annual Conference posts new polity and survey, announces fee increase.

The Church of the Brethren Annual Conference has made two new resources available online--the new polity document titled "A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues," and a survey about the Conference--and has announced a fee increase for the 2010 Conference.

The Program and Arrangements Committee of the Annual Conference announced the increase in registration fees, beginning with next year's Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., on July 3-7, 2010. Executive director Lerry Fogle has indicated that "the increase in registration fees, good for 2010 and 2011, was done in response to expanding costs of arranging and holding the annual meeting." He added a reminder that "this is the first raise in registration fees in five years." The new fee schedule replaces fees in place from 2005-09.

Beginning with the 2010 Annual Conference, advance registration for delegates will cost $275 (or $300 for onsite registration); advance registration for non-delegates will cost $95 (or $120 onsite), with discounts for those registering for the weekend or single days of the Conference only, and a discount for Brethren Volunteer Service workers; advance registration for children ages 12-21 will cost $30 (or $50 onsite), with discounts for those registering for the weekend or single days; and children under 12 will be registered for free.

The new church polity on dealing with controversial issues was adopted by the 2009 Annual Conference, which took place in June in San Diego, Calif., and will help guide the Church of the Brethren as it enters into two years of intentional church-wide conversation about issues of sexuality. The new polity document has been posted at the Conference website, go to

A second new online resource is an "Annual Conference Survey" being conducted by the Program and Arrangements Committee to gauge preferences and attendance patterns for Annual Conferences. The survey was made available in printed form at the 2009 Annual Conference and is now available online at

"You are invited to register your thoughts about Annual Conference, its value to the denomination, and assist Program and Arrangements Committee in charting future direction of the annual meeting, its frequency and content," said Fogle. "Your feedback is encouraged."

Source: 8/13/2009 Newsline
Church planting goal set by denominational committee.

A commitment "to cultivate the networks and infrastructure to support 250 new church starts by 2015" has been announced by the Church of the Brethren's New Church Advisory Committee and Congregational Life Ministries executive director Jonathan Shively. The committee and Congregational Life Ministries have the role of providing denominational support to the church planting work initiated by districts in the Church of the Brethren.

"God is doing a new thing through the Church of the Brethren," said the committee in a statement at its webpage "A movement of emerging mission points and church planting is gaining momentum. Passion is rising. Vision is expanding. Commitment is deepening. Networks are developing. People are acting."

The new commitment includes five priorities for the work of the New Church Advisory Committee: prayer, assessment of potential church planters, training for participants in the new church movement, coaching for church planters, and cultivating of resources.

"Prayer is the first priority," said the committee. "Not one single mission or new church will begin without a strong and wide community of prayer." A yearlong denomination-wide prayer emphasis has been announced to undergird the new goal for church planting. The prayer emphasis began in May and will continue through May 2010. Go to for a list of month-by-month suggestions for prayer and a prayer card that may be printed in English or Spanish.

In comments on the need to assess potential planters and the training and coaching that will be provided for church planters, the committee emphasized that "while all ministry gifts are welcome in the church, there are particular qualities, traits, and skills that make it more likely that a church planter will thrive in the challenges of new church development." The committee plans to have an assessment process for new church planters in place beginning in 2010, and has a goal to make sure every church planter has the support and expertise of a trained coach.

Future training opportunities in church planting may include webinars and a variety of workshops and seminars, as well as the biannual conference for the new church movement. The next such conference is scheduled for May 20-22, 2010, on the theme, "Plant Generously, Reap Bountifully" (1 Corinthians 3:6). The event will be held at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. For more information contact

Source: 8/13/2009 Newsline
Brethren Academy publishes results of 2008 Pastoral Study Project.

In a series of visits to pastors in 2000-01 conducted by denominational staff and board members, the following were identified as things that drain pastoral energy: negative attitudes, unhealthy exercise of power, lack of numeric and spiritual growth, apathy, unrealistic and/or unclear expectations, gender barriers in placement (difficulty for women), and ambiguity of the pastor's role.

In the midst of the questions and challenges there were also signs of health and hope. Pastors spoke of those things that energized them: renewal, energy, and hope through spiritual nurturing and personal development; preparation for and leading worship; seeing the difference their ministry makes in the lives of people; congregations taking new initiatives; ministry growing out of a sense of vision; and denominational gatherings--Annual Conference and National Youth Conference.

Information, ideas, and insights from these visits, ecumenical studies, and other sources were used as the foundation for the proposal for the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence (SPE) program, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. SPE was begun by the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership in 2004. In 2008, a survey was distributed as part of the assessment process for the ongoing SPE program.

The Brethren Academy and its ministry partners, the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Theological Seminary, with input from the district executive ministers, undertook this Pastoral Study Project. Its purpose was to better understand the needs, concerns, and effectiveness of pastors. Christian Community Inc. conducted the survey, compiled the information, and analyzed the results.

Steve Clapp, director of Christian Community, Inc., stated that the study revealed:
  • Overall clergy morale in the denomination is higher than reflected in previous studies.
  • There are reasons to be concerned about our congregations relative to membership/attendance, hospitality, and stewardship matters.
  • Clergy rate their effectiveness relatively high in preaching, worship leadership, pastoral care, and knowledge of the Bible and theology. They do not give themselves high ratings in handling conflict, stewardship, work as change agents, evangelism and church growth, or dealing with sexuality issues.
  • Clergy have a close connection with their districts but do not feel as connected with church entities beyond the local level.
  • The majority of pastors felt that ministry has been a blessing to their lives, but a significant minority note that it has not been a blessing to their spouses or children.
  • Most rate their physical health as good or excellent, but a significant number do not exercise on a regular basis and do not have the healthiest eating habits.
  • The SPE program has had a positive impact on those who participated in the two tracks (Vital Pastors and Advanced Foundations of Church Leadership) and on the denomination as a whole.
Areas covered in the study project include compensation, insurance, and sabbath rest; clergy role and morale; concerns about the future; skills for ministry; health and well-being; denominational connections; the SPE program and concluding observations. You may peruse the 2008 Pastoral Study Project Final Report at .

The academy, Bethany Seminary, Office of Ministry, districts, denominational agencies, and groups of pastors will review and discuss the Study Project to determine future direction and programing for addressing pastoral needs and continuing education.

Contact director Julie M. Hostetter at to share feedback and suggestions as the academy continues its work to support pastors.

-- Julie M. Hostetter is director of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. This article first appeared in the academy's newsletter "The Scroll."

Source: 8/13/2009 Newsline
Children's Disaster Services updates its training curriculum.

Children's Disaster Services (CDS) has updated the workshop and curriculum used to train its volunteers. CDS is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren serving children and families following disasters.

"It started with a gathering of experienced trainers, where we discussed the workshop, its vital concepts, and updates that were needed," reported associate director Judy Bezon. Training materials were enhanced through consultation with Kathy Fry-Miller, a CDS volunteer who writes curriculum and trains child care givers professionally. The result is a workshop that has both an instructor's and a participant's manual, and an updated "look."

The updated curriculum is designed to be easier for instructors to present, offering a selection of activities to tailor a training workshop to individual teaching styles while ensuring that participants receive a standardized curriculum and learn the things they need to know to work with children after a disaster.

"We then tested the new curriculum to see what worked well and what needed to be changed

before it was finalized," Bezon reported. The updated curriculum was tested at workshops in March and April, one in La Verne, Calif., presented by Sharon Gilbert and Gloria Cooper; and the other in Fort Wayne, Ind., presented by Kathy Fry-Miller and John Kinsel. "As a result of these workshops, we found things that needed to be fixed--places where the instructor's and participant's manuals could be clearer, and additional ideas that would enhance the workshop. These ideas are being incorporated into the final version of the curriculum," Bezon reported.

Two "Train the Trainers" workshops are being held in August at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The three-day workshops will cover principles of adult education, the revised curriculum and its presentation, and the basics of using PowerPoint slides to enhance instruction. For more information contact Children's Disaster Services at 800-451-4407 ext. 5.

Source: 8/13/2009 Newsline
Southeastern District Conference called to be 'Beam of Hope.'

Southeastern District Conference was held on July 24-26 at Mars Hill (N.C.) College. The theme from moderator Jeff Jones was, "The Church: Called to be the Beam of Hope." Throughout the conference there was the opportunity for individuals to share their favorite scriptures and how God has used those scriptures in their lives.

The business session started at 2 p.m. on Friday, July 24, with reports from agencies and district commission reports, along with a pastor recognition, and other reports. A presentation was given on how to make camps and churches a "Safe Place." The $91,617 budget was approved.

Jim Hardenbrook, a former moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, delivered the messages for worship on Friday evening and Sunday morning, along with the messages for the pastors and spouses noon lunch, and the youth gathering.

The 35 youth led the worship service on Saturday evening, July 25, with the message of "God's Gift to Us, Jesus," presented by mime ministry. After the youth worship time, ice cream and cake were served to recognize all those who volunteer their time for the district's camping ministry.

The 2010 district conference moderator John Markwood shared that the theme for next year will be, "For God so Loved..." (John 3:16). Randy Clark, pastor of Brummetts Creek Church of the Brethren in Green Mountain, N.C., was called as moderator-elect.

-- Martha Roudebush is district co-executive minister for Southeastern District.

Source: 8/13/2009 Newsline
Becky Ullom to direct Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

Becky Ullom will begin as director of the Church of the Brethren's Youth and Young Adult Ministry on Aug. 31. She currently serves as director of Identity and Relations, where she is responsible for the denominational website and a range of other communication tasks for the church.

"Ullom brings a passion for young people, organizational acumen, visionary leadership, a history of ministering with Brethren youth, and strong skills in group process," according to an announcement of the appointment. Jonathan Shively, executive director for Congregational Life Ministries, commented, "As a native of young adult culture and an enthusiastic ambassador for vital youth and young adult ministries, Becky will lead us collaboratively and competently into a new and dynamic future with young people, and she will be a valuable addition to the staff of Congregational Life Ministries."

Previously, Ullom has served as coordinator of National Young Adult Conference in 2003-04, and one of the coordinators of National Youth Conference in 2001-02. She also has taught high school English. She has served in several ecumenical settings, including as a young adult steward with the World Council of Churches and as a Church of the Brethren delegate to the National Council of Churches. She holds degrees from McPherson (Kan.) College in English and Spanish, and English as a Second Language.

Source: 8/13/2009 Newsline
Nigeria Workcamp registration is now open.

A team of volunteers will travel to Nigeria from Jan. 9-30 next year as part of an annual Nigeria Workcamp. Workcampers will worship, learn, create relationships, and work with Christians from Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and with team members from Mission 21 in Switzerland. The group will work in Kwarhi, tour Kulp Bible College and Hillcrest School and other schools, and visit Yankari Game Reserve, the premier game reserve in Nigeria.

Cost will be $2,200 per person, which includes a round-trip flight to Nigeria, in-country meals, lodging, transportation, and overseas travel insurance. A deposit of $200 is required with registration. The workcamp experience is open to participants age 18 or older, those 14-17 years of age are able to participate if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who is participating in the workcamp. Requirements for participation also include a passport valid for at least 6 months after the workcamp, and up-to-date vaccinations for Nigeria as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Applications and personal reference forms are due by Oct. 9, 2009. Global Mission Partnerships, a ministry of the Church of the Brethren, reserves the right to make the final decision regarding acceptance into the Nigeria Workcamp. Go to to download the forms. For more information contact or 800-323-8039.

Source: 8/13/2009 Newsline
What if Jesus met Gandhi at a youth group in Pennsylvania?

What if Jesus met Gandhi? At a youth group? In Pennsylvania? It would be Agape-Satyagraha!

Young people do not need to read the "Wall Street Journal" to know that society is dealing with a deepening economic depression. They get the news at home by reading the anxiety of their parents. And it trickles down! Internalizing this, some kids begin to lash out in anger or turn to bullying at school. Others seek a sense of belonging and safety by joining gangs.

Where do kids go to be safe? How can they feel safe amid this stress? When do they learn to deal with anger?

In Harrisburg, Pa., it is at the Agape-Satyagraha program initiated by Brethren Community Ministries, a program of First Church of the Brethren with leadership from Gerald Rhoades, who serves on the church's pastoral team. On Earth Peace recently began partnering with the ministry, and hopes to help other congregations across the denomination replicate it in their own communities.

What is Agape-Satyagraha? The word agape is a Greek word used in the New Testament to describe the love Jesus commanded that his followers have for one another. Satyagraha is a Sanskrit word popularized by Mahatma Gandhi to describe nonviolent resistance that supports justice without eliminating the oppressor.

The program in Harrisburg teaches youth how to recognize and respond to their own feelings, how to respond to others in positive ways other than violence, and how to turn the other cheek. Agape-Satyagraha offers a five-level peace training equipping youth with skills for daily life and long-term development as community leaders.

Adults call this conflict resolution and transformation skills. But Agape-Satyagraha sounds way cooler! It is making peace hip (and hop) for a new generation, offering hope for youth during this economic downturn.

The Shumaker Family Foundation has made a challenge grant of $12,500 to On Earth Peace to support the Agape-Satyagraha program. For more information go to Congregations interested in becoming a pilot site of Agape-Satyagraha are invited to contact Marie Rhoades at or 717-867-1902.

-- Gimbiya Kettering serves as communications staff for On Earth Peace.

Source: 8/13/2009 Newsline
Brethren bits:
  • Remembrance: Ernest W. Lefever, 89, died on July 29 at a Church of the Brethren retirement center in New Oxford, Pa. Known for the controversy in 1981 over his nomination for assistant secretary of human rights under President Ronald Reagan, he was an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren from 1941 or 1942 through 1979. He grew up in a Brethren family in York, Pa., attended Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, was ordained in York (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren, and attended Bethany Theological Seminary for one year before going on to earn a degree from Yale Divinity School in 1945. As a young man, he volunteered with the anti-war and civil rights activist A.J. Muste, who was a leader in the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Lefever worked with Brethren Service following World War II, helping direct the YMCA War Prisoners' Aid program in England and Germany from about 1945-48. During that time he also was a regular correspondent for the Religious News Service, which reported in an interview in 1988 that "exposure to the results of Nazism and the rise of Communist tyranny in places like Hungary and East Germany shattered his pacifist outlook and turned him into what he now describes as a 'morally concerned realist'...." During the varied and complicated career that followed, Lefever was an international affairs specialist with the National Council of Churches, a staff consultant on foreign affairs to Sen. Hubert Humphrey, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institute, and founded the Ethics and Public Policy Center in 1976, described as a conservative think tank in his obituary in "The Washington Post" (go to ). He became a critic of the ecumenical movement and the civil rights movement, and critiqued the social activism of liberal mainline denominations. However, in a 1996 letter to "Messenger" magazine, Lefever described himself as "a grateful beneficiary of my Brethren heritage," and remembered his five summers as a youth participating in Brethren workcamps ranging from Pennsylvania to Yakima County, Wash. An article he wrote that year for "The American Enterprise" titled "Charity During the Great Depression" looked back at his childhood and his experiences of Brethren parents who share their limited resources with the needy. He quoted his mother's teaching, "We are put on earth to help others."

  • Personnel notes:

    • Jonathan L. Reed has been appointed interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of LaVerne, Calif. He has been professor of religion at the university since 1993, and is an authority on Mediterranean and early Christian archaeology.

    • Emily Cleer has resigned as administrative assistant for Illinois and Wisconsin District, as of Aug. 7. She began her work with the district in April 2008, having brought a rich background of administrative and clerical skills to the position. She and her family live in rural Canton, Ill.

    • On Aug. 14, Jay Irrizarry is completing a two-year Brethren Volunteer Service assignment working for the Church of the Brethren's Information Services department at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. He begins a new BVS assignment in Wichita, Kan., in mid-September.

    • Sam Cupp has begun work as Youth Ministry assistant in Shenandoah District. He is a freshman at Bridgewater (Va.) College and has been an active member of the District Youth Council and served on the district's Youth Heritage Team in 2007-08.

  • Job opening:

    • The Church of the Brethren seeks candidates for the position of director of Identity and Relations. The director of Identity and Relations communicates the mission and ministry of the Church of the Brethren to those affiliated with the church and to those outside who seek information about the church. A major responsibility is oversight of the denominational website at This person is also responsible for annual reports, connections with district conferences, and meeting other communication needs. Candidates should have proven experience in communications and website development; have a deep understanding of the Church of the Brethren and be an active member of the church; bring experience with the denominational scope of the church's life and work; have superior skills in writing, editing, and public speaking; and have the technical and relational skills to manage a complex website and collaborate with others. This position, located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., is part of the Brethren Press communication team and reports to the publisher of Brethren Press. Applications will be received immediately and will be considered until the position is filled. Request a position description and an application from Karin Krog, Office of Human Resources, at or 800-323-8039 ext. 258.

  • Nine people participated in the Training in Ministry (TRIM) and Education for Shared Ministry (EFSM) Orientation on July 13-16 at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind: Kim Beares from Mid-Atlantic District, Bill Fisher and Shawn Tanner from Virlina District, David McDaniel from Shenandoah District, Thomas Prager and Randy Short from Michigan District, Susan Price from Pacific Southwest District, Mary Beth Tuttle from Western Plains District, and David Young from South-Central Indiana District.

  • Brethren Revival Fellowship and Brethren Volunteer Service are sponsoring their annual joint volunteer orientation at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., on Aug. 16-26. The group is expected to include 15 volunteers.

  • A Heifer International and Church of the Brethren study tour of Armenia and Georgia has been canceled because not enough participants have registered to take part. The study tour had been planned for this fall.

  • Resources to aid people of faith during the national debate on health care reform are being made available by the National Council of Churches (NCC). "As children of God, created in the image of God, adequate health care is a matter of preserving what our gracious God made," said a release from the NCC. "From the middle class to those most in need, we are feeling the health care crunch. Insurance premiums have doubled in the past 10 years. And our uninsured neighbors have it even worse as they struggle to get by without the care they need." The NCC is offering a conference call and webcast on healthcare reform with President Obama, hosted by leaders in the faith community, on Aug. 19 at 5 p.m. (Eastern time) (dial 347-996-5501, no passcode, long-distance charges may apply; or log on to The NCC also has posted online resources including a pastoral letter and call to action for health care reform at

  • Spruce Run Church of the Brethren near Lindside, W.Va., celebrated its 180th anniversary at a Homecoming Service on Sunday, July 19. The two-hour worship service featured special music and a historical presentation, and was followed by a meal and an afternoon musical program.

  • Crab Orchard (W.Va.) Church of the Brethren is dedicating additions to its sanctuary on Sunday, Aug. 23, at 11 a.m. The congregation recently had its baptismal backdrop refurbished. The backdrop was painted by noted Brethren artist Medford Neher during World War II, illustrating Jesus' baptism and the descending dove. According to a note in the Virlina District newsletter, "Although Neher did work for over 100 congregations, he is best known for a mural on 12 panels displayed in the Quinter-Miller Auditorium at Camp Alexander Mack in Milford, Ind.... His painting at Crab Orchard was created during a series of revival meetings which he held for the congregation and as an object lesson to the youth and children of the church."

  • Rockford (Ill.) Church of the Brethren is selling its property and seeking a new location and mission to continue its fellowship as a Church of the Brethren, according to a notice in the Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter.

  • A re-chartering service will be held on Sunday, Aug. 16, at 4 p.m., for Masons Cove Church of the Brethren in Salem, Va. In February last year the Virlina District Board took action to disorganize the congregation, and then with a small body of individuals reorganized the Masons Cove Church with a commitment to being the Church of the Brethren, according to an announcement in the district newsletter. "They have worked to heal, grow, and be Christ's Church," the newsletter said.

  • Western Plains District has announced a new location for its district office. The district office has moved to the Miller Library on the campus of McPherson (Kan.) College. Following is contact information for the Western Plains District: P.O. Box 394, 1600 E. Euclid, McPherson, KS 67460; or 620-241-4240.

  • The Western Plains District Conference held in McPherson, Kan., on July 31-Aug. 2 recognized several "Milestones in Ministry." Recognized for 65 years in ministry (since 1944) were Dean L. Farringer, Merlin L. Frantz, and Charles J. Whitacre. Others recognized for significant years of service included Lyall R. Sherred for 50 years; John J. Carlson for 40 years; Francis Hendricks and Jean M Hendricks for 30 years; C. Edwina Pote for 20 years; Stephen L. Klinedinst for 15 years; and Sonja P. Griffith, Lisa L. Hazen, and Thomas H. Smith for 10 years.

  • The Bridgewater College Alumni Choir will present a concert at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 16, at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren. The Alumni Choir was co-founded by Jesse Hopkins, Edwin L. Turner Distinguished Professor of Music at Bridgewater College, and Jonathan Emmons, a 2005 graduate. In addition to his duties at the college, Hopkins served as music director at the Bridgewater Church for many years. Emmons earned a master of music degree in choral conducting from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and is director of choirs and college organist at Wesley College in Dover, Del. Both musicians have helped lead music for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. The concert is open to the public at no charge.

  • Camp Pine Lake in Northern Plains District, near Eldora, Iowa, suffered some damage in an Aug. 9 wind and hail storm. Camp Board chair Kirby Leland reported in the district newsletter that "the Pine Lake area, including the town of Eldora, was hit hard with hail as large as baseball size and winds strong enough to do severe damage to mature trees.... The good news is that there were no injuries sustained from the wind and hail. We can be thankful there was not a camp going on with children on site." Several trees were destroyed on the camp property, two vehicles and the camp pick-up trick suffered some damage, some windows and doors were broken or damaged, and the camp lost power for a time. A number of volunteers from the district and camp counselors from the Reformed Church helped do clean up.

  • The August edition of "Brethren Voices," a community television program produced by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, features Tom Benevento of the New Community Project. Benevento works out of Harrisonburg, Va., where he gives a video tour of a Sustainable Living Homestead. Viewers are treated to the workings of a greenhouse that can be built for $100, and an explanation of how Benevento is turning the homestead into a demonstration of sustainable living with landscaping that is truly edible and food producing. The New Community Project is a nonprofit related to the Church of the Brethren. In September, "Brethren Voices" will feature 87-year-old Paul Libby, a Seagoing Cowboy who tells his story of delivering heifers to Poland following World War II. For more information about Brethren Voices, contact Ed Groff, producer, at

  • A quartet from Peoria (Ill.) Church of the Brethren sang the National Anthem for a recent Peoria Chief's baseball game. The quartet included Penelope Garrison, Vicki Matheny, Dan Boulton, and Russel Boulton.

  • Gay Mercer of Mack Memorial Church of the Brethren in Dayton, Ohio, has been an architect for a home makeover in Beavercreek, Ohio, as part of the television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
Source: 8/13/2009 Newsline

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Francie Coale, Mary K. Heatwole, Karin Krog, Jonathan Shively contributed to this report.