Thursday, October 22, 2009

Annual Conference looks for stories about people taking Jesus seriously.

Stories related to the theme of the 2010 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, "Taking Jesus Seriously" (John 14:15), are sought for presentations during the conference next year on July 3-7 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

A letter from moderator Shawn Flory Replogle to district and congregational leaders in the Church of the Brethren has requested the submission of stories about people who have taken Jesus seriously, "as a way of challenging and inspiring us to consider the theme.

The Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee is looking for stories that may represent a moment of selfless action or a lifetime’s commitment to a cause of the Gospel, and that may be about one person, a congregation, a district, an agency, or an organization. "We are interested in stories that span the diversity of our denomination: theologically, geographically, generationally, and more," Replogle wrote. "The aim is to include those stories of faith and testimony throughout our time together in Pittsburgh, celebrating God’s good work among us."

At the moment, the Program and Arrangements Committee is interested in receiving a brief synopsis of stories and contact information for follow-up. Send submissions by Nov. 9 to the Annual Conference Office, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120 or

The moderator also issued a general invitation to attend the 224th recorded Annual Conference, and to hold the conference in prayer. "This is the only gathering within the Church of the Brethren where everyone is invited to the table, regardless of age, theology, and geography," he wrote. "This is the place that members of the Church of the Brethren come to be the body of Christ, to be a part of a community of faith that is more powerful than we could be on our own. That body will not be the same without you.

"Please hold the ‘big meeting’ in your prayers," he added. He requested prayer for the workers and staff of the convention center and hotels and restaurants in Pittsburgh, the delegates to the Conference, the Annual Conference officers, and the volunteers and other attendees. For more information visit

Source: 10/22/2009 Newsline
Grants go to Indonesia, American Samoa, Philippines, and Niger.

Church of the Brethren funds have given grants totaling $109,000 for disaster relief in Indonesia following the Sept. 30 earthquake, relief efforts following flooding in the Philippines, relief efforts and exploration of a Brethren rebuilding project following the massive tsunami in American Samoa, and a "Water for Life" program in Niger.

The Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) has given $69,000 to support work on the island of Sumatra following the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Sept. 30. The grant supports efforts by the Church World Service (CWS) Emergency Response Program. Shortly after the quake, CWS began distributing tarpaulins and blankets to affected communities. In addition, water distribution is under way and work has begun on sanitation facilities.

The Brethren grant also supports the distribution of food aid to children under age five, tools for rehabilitation, reconstruction of houses, and psychosocial first-aid for affected populations--particularly women and children. As part of the long-term response, livelihood recovery assistance will be provided and training will help communities in disaster risk reduction.

An EDF allocation of $10,000 for American Samoa follows the massive tsunami wave that struck in late September. The funds will provide small grants to support local relief efforts and initial grants to start a long-term recovery process. The money also will support an assessment trip to explore creation of a Brethren Disaster Ministries reconstruction project on the island.

An EDF grant of $20,000 is helping CWS and Action by Churches Together (ACT) provide assistance in the Philippines following flooding from tropical storm Ketsana, which unleashed continuous heavy rains for almost eight hours on Sept. 26. The storm mainly hit the island of Luzon. Extensive flooding affected more than three million people and caused at least 293 deaths. The grant will assist in providing emergency food and household supplies for 98,000 of the most vulnerable flood survivors.

The Global Food Crisis Fund has allocated $10,000 for the "Water for Life" program in Niger. The money will be used by the NGO Nagarta to assist in the construction of 20 wells in the villages of Dan Kalm and Dan Chamoua. Two of the wells will be used to supply potable water for drinking, while the rest will be used for watering gardens and livestock. Villagers will be trained to manage and maintain the wells and existing water spots.

In related news, Brethren Disaster Ministries holds its second Haiti Hurricane Response Workcamp on Oct. 24-Nov. 1. Executive director Roy Winter will join 10 volunteers and field staff for the workcamp. The group will work and worship with Haitian Brethren and will rebuild homes in the coastal city of Gonaives. Disaster News Network recently featured a story about the Brethren project in Haiti, go to

For more information and to make online donations to the Emergency Disaster Fund go to For more information and to make online donations to the Global Food Crisis Fund go to

Source: 10/22/2009 Newsline
Cincinnati church starts first BVS volunteer community house.

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) and Cincinnati (Ohio) Church of the Brethren have partnered to open the first BVS House as part of an initiative to develop community living opportunities for volunteers.

The initiative, which was announced last year, envisions a number of volunteer community houses supported by BVS and local congregations, each housing four-to-six volunteers serving in full-time BVS projects and committed to intentional practices of life together.

The BVS House opened in early October in Cincinnati and has welcomed four fulltime BVS volunteers: Katie Baker of Taneytown, Md.; Ben Bear of Nokesville, Va.; Laura Dell of Holmesville, Neb.; and Anne Wessell of Hershey, Pa. All are Church of the Brethren members.

On Sunday, Oct. 11, the congregation held a dedication service for the volunteers. The Cincinnati church has rented a house for the volunteer community and provides spiritual support including weekly meetings of congregation members and volunteers. For their part, the volunteers have committed to worship with the congregation, take part in the program of the church in the local community, and provide 40 hours a week of work for a local project.

Ben Walters is one of the co-pastors of the Cincinnati congregation, along with co-pastor Roger Cruser, and has provided much of the impetus for the church’s involvement, according to BVS director Dan McFadden. Having served as a BVS volunteer at the Washington Office in the 1990s, Walters was one of the first to express interest in the BVS House initiative, and has worked with BVS staff since then to make it a reality. He even personally visited the most recent BVS orientation to recruit prospective volunteers and "talk up" the project.

The Cincinnati church is in the Walnut Hills neighborhood of the city, which borders upscale areas as well as rough neighborhoods, McFadden said. In a recent communication with BVS, Walters wrote that the congregation is "building a new model of church in Cincinnati, where most of our work is outside our walls."

Two of the four volunteers at the BVS House in Cincinnati will work with the congregation’s program for children and other programs in the community surrounding the church. The others will serve at Interfaith Hospitality Network, an ecumenical agency partnering with local congregations to provide housing for homeless families, and Talbert House, a large agency providing a community-wide network of social services.

The new community emphasis in BVS is part of a partnership with Volunteers Exploring Vocation through the Fund for Theological Education (FTE) and a grant from the Lilly Foundation. Dana Cassell is helping to guide the initiative as the BVS volunteer staff for Vocation and Community Living.

"I am excited that this is a reality, that a BVS House exists," she told the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board during a recent report. "This is a partnership of something new--which actually is really old, the concept of intentional Christian community--with something established." For more information contact

Source: 10/22/2009 Newsline
Manchester College to launch school for pharmacists in Fort Wayne.

Manchester College will begin the accreditation process for a School of Pharmacy in Fort Wayne, Ind., with unanimous approval given by its Board of Trustees. Manchester College is a Church of the Brethren-related school in North Manchester, Ind.

The college plans to enroll its first students in the four-year Doctor of Pharmacy program in the fall of 2012. This is the 121-year-old baccalaureate college’s first venture into a doctoral program and into a satellite campus. It will be the only Doctor of Pharmacy program in northern Indiana.

"Graduate education for pharmacists is a natural fit with Manchester College," said president Jo Young Switzer. Manchester has a strong reputation in the sciences, particularly for preparing students for medical and graduate school. The college also emphasizes service learning.

Fort Wayne is a natural fit for the new venture. In addition to numerous medical facilities and opportunities for pharmacy practicum experiences, Fort Wayne offers many amenities attractive to the school’s 250 students, 40 faculty and staff members, and their families.

"The decision by Manchester College to start a PharmD program in Fort Wayne is a wonderful investment of financial and intellectual capital in our city," said mayor Tom Henry. "As the health care sector continues to grow in Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana, Manchester College’s expansion of professional programs is going to be key in creating the highly skilled, highly educated workforce employers demand."

The average starting salary for pharmacists exceeds $100,000 and demand in the highly competitive profession is expected to grow more than 20 percent in the coming decade, said Switzer. The college’s research indicates many pharmacy graduates--who come from throughout the nation--remain in the communities where they study. Said Switzer, "During our exploration, many told us that this project aligns well with other initiatives undertaken in northeast Indiana to strengthen the economy here."

Admission to Manchester’s new school will require two years of pre-pharmacy coursework. The college will add that program to its undergraduate curriculum in North Manchester and its students will compete with pre-pharmacy students from other colleges and universities for seats in the School of Pharmacy.

The college has not finalized its plans for a Fort Wayne site for the new school, which will require at least 35,000 square feet for classrooms, offices, and laboratories. The pharmacy school will be a part of Manchester College and governed by the college’s Board of Trustees.

The search for a founding dean and building of a leadership team will begin immediately. That team will begin preparing the school’s application for accreditation.

-- Jeri S. Kornegay is director of Media and Public Relations for Manchester College.

Source: 10/22/2009 Newsline
Veritas new church plant is launched in Atlantic Northeast.

Veritas, a "church plant to reach a new generation" in the Lancaster, Pa., area, was launched in Atlantic Northeast District with a worship gathering on Sunday, Sept. 13. Veritas is led by church planters Ryan and Kim Braught, with a team of core leaders. Don Mitchell serves as district director of church development.

"This is a great day" said district executive Craig Smith to the group of 56 worshipers.

Veritas’ worship gathering is on Sundays at 10:45 a.m., using the facility of English Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Pa. Every six or eight weeks the worship gathering will include participation in a service event.

The name "Veritas" is Latin for "truth, real, authentic, or genuine." The Veritas new church plant is dedicated to being an authentic community, where people are committed to each other and can genuinely seek how God wants followers of Jesus to live in this modern life.

"Above all, we seek to pattern our daily living after the life of Jesus: a life of humble service and unconditional love," said a statement from Veritas. "As part of a larger body of believers--the church, the body of Christ--we go into the entire world today with a mission of witness, service, and reconciliation."

The vision includes people gathering in homes in the greater Lancaster area on a weekly basis to pray together, share together, be in relationship with each other, and value open and honest dialogue centered on the scriptures. The Braughts envision people developing deep friendships that draw them together throughout the entire week. "We see people hanging out with each other, and spending time together, and forming witness and service projects that bring blessing to the community," they said.

Veritas is guided by the following three core values: A Safe Spiritual Search: to be a community where people experience genuine love and care. A Missional Kingdom Life: to be a community where people are blessing others in practical ways. An Authentic Worship Expression: to be a community where people create relevant worship experiences. For more information see

-- Stan Dueck is director of Transforming Practices for the Church of the Brethren.

Source: 10/22/2009 Newsline
Mid-Atlantic District holds its 43rd District Conference.

"Behold! I am doing a new thing...I will make a way in the wilderness...and rivers in the desert" (Isaiah 43:19) was the theme of the 43rd Mid-Atlantic District Conference. The conference began with 34 ministers convening in the beautiful chapel of the newly renovated St. Mark’s United Methodist Church to explore the basics of "Transformational Leadership," with Paul Mundey and Doug Sider. All were challenged to become self-aware and be the leaders God has called each to be. The workshop leaders were honest and led the group through how to become transformed, effective leaders in churches.

As the conference transitioned from the workshop to opening worship on Friday evening, participants enjoyed a meal with one another at Easton Church of the Brethren, and connected with other pastors and spouses in the district. A meal also was held at St. Mark’s, where connections were made and relationships renewed.

Linda Lambert gave a passionate message Friday evening, and Paul Mundey shared an energizing sermon on Saturday morning. Jonathan Shively, executive director of the Church of the Brethren’s Congregational Life Ministries, brought greetings and a vision for new church development. Stan Dueck, the church’s director of Transforming Practices, led a conversation on "Being the Church." Many conference attendees and delegates took the opportunity to share their thoughts during the time allowed for the conversation.

Business was light, the budget was presented by the district’s Leadership Team with few questions asked, and the microphones were quieter than usual. The body voted to approve the budget and affirmed the slate of leadership. Newly-elected and re-elected officers include Leadership Team members Dale Posthumus, Dianne Nelson, Ted Hallock, Brenda Hall, Martina Lane, and Karen Winter; Program and Arrangements Committee member Rusty Curling; Standing Committee member Howard Miller; Camp Mardela board member Jody Gunn; and Leadership Calling Team member Joe Ikenberry.

Participants at the district conference brought bags of nonperishable food items as a service project that was developed to reach out to the host community. A local Easton outreach, the Neighborhood Service Center, was the recipient of more than 330 boxes, jars, and cans of food.

The conference finished on a positive note with laying on of hands for new district moderator Cinda Showalter of Westminster Church of the Brethren, and moderator-elect Jim Lohr of Easton Church of the Brethren.

-- This report is taken from an article by Jody Gunn in the Mid-Atlantic District newsletter.

Source: 10/22/2009 Newsline
April Vanlonden to direct Academic Services for Bethany Seminary.

April Vanlonden has been called as director of Academic Services in a joint position for Bethany Theological Seminary and Earlham School of Religion (ESR) in Richmond, Ind. The director functions as the registrar for both schools in liaison with Earlham College, and facilitates the cooperative academic operation of the two seminaries.

Vanlonden is a recorded Quaker minister in the Western Yearly Meeting and pastors Fountain City (Ind.) Friends Meeting. She also is a mental health consultant for the Indiana Bar Association’s Committee on Civil Rights of Children, Indiana Screening, Assessment, and Treatment Pilot Project. She holds degrees from Indiana University and ESR.

Source: 10/22/2009 Newsline
Youth Peace Travel Team: A dream of peace.

Applications are being accepted for next summer’s Youth Peace Travel Team, a group of young adults age 19 to 22 who share Jesus' message of peace with other young people at church camps and other venues. The team is sponsored by the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Brethren Volunteer Service, On Earth Peace, and the Outdoor Ministries Association. They receive food, lodging, and travel expenses for the summer, and a college tuition grant. Applications are due Jan. 19, 2010. Go to or contact Becky Ullom at 800-323-8039 ext. 297.

The following is excerpted from a reflection by Jessica Flory-Steury, a member of the 2009 Youth Peace Travel Team along with Bethany Funkhouser, Chelsea Goss, and Marianne Houff:

"Before my experience on the Youth Peace Travel Team, I dreamed of peace on earth. I wondered what it would be like if all wars ended, world hunger was defeated, and love reigned over all. I always knew it was possible. I just didn’t know how....

"One of our junior high campers had a very interesting story. He had come to camp by invitation of a friend. He had not been to church more than a few times in his life. He didn’t know anything about the church, or much about Jesus Christ. He had come from a broken home and had witnessed things that no one should ever have to see in their lifetime.... He often teased other campers and in the past had been known to be involved in violence. In spite of that, he could be a kind and passionate individual. I was so glad he was there and I was glad to be there to witness his transformation.

"Throughout the beginning of the week, he got in trouble for goofing off. I discovered from conversation with him that he often had no idea what the leaders were talking about during Bible studies, leaving him frustrated and pushed even farther when he was reprimanded for not paying attention.

"From observing the campers that week, the team decided that these kids needed to hear more of the basics. They had more experiences of violence and hate in their lives than we could imagine. We told them that Jesus loved them--completely, uniquely, and intimately. We told them that we are called to love one another. In the session, we had them think of ways to break down walls of hate. At the end, we had them write their own ‘peace raps.’

"The passion and creativity that poured out of those kids was amazing. It was inspiring to observe that even though they had all experienced so much hate and violence in their schools and homes, they still had hope.

"The previously mentioned camper grew from an instigator to a leader...the one who was encouraging his teammates, presenting ideas, and motivating everyone to keep going. After we left that week, I wanted to go with that boy, to help him maintain his eagerness to learn and make peace and to remind him that he was loved. My hope is that we instilled something in him that doesn’t go away.... I pray that boy continues on his journey of peace with God....

" World peace will not be solved by one person in a day. We need each other and all the love that we possess to fulfill the message that Jesus had for us."

Source: 10/22/2009 Newsline
Brethren Bits: Correction, remembrance, personnel, jobs, and more.
  • Correction: The recent Pastoral Letter on the Economy was identified incorrectly in Newsline. It was from executives of the Annual Conference-related agencies, not the Inter-Agency Forum.

  • Remembrance: Joseph M. Long, 80, of Harrisburg, Pa., passed away on Oct. 14. He served as the Church of the Brethren’s denominational director for Youth Work from September 1959 through August 1964. He also was the first executive secretary of a tri-district Pennsylvania area of the Church of the Brethren encompassing the districts of Eastern Pennsylvania, North Atlantic, and Southern Pennsylvania, beginning in September 1964. He then served as the first executive secretary of Atlantic Northeast District at its formation by the former Eastern Pennsylvania and North Atlantic Districts in the fall of 1970. He continued in that office through his retirement. In other church work, he was one of Heifer Project’s "seagoing cowboys" in 1946, delivering animals to Poland, served two pastorates, and was a trustee and assistant manager at Camp Swatara and a trustee and director of development for Camp Eder. Born on Oct. 29, 1928, in Lebanon, Pa., he was the son of the late Henry F. and Frances (Horst) Long. He attended Hershey (Pa.) Junior College and earned degrees from Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and Bethany Theological Seminary. In Harrisburg, he was executive assistant to the Chairman of the Board of Probation and Parole for 20 years and volunteered for Contact Harrisburg for 35 years. Surviving are his wife, Shirley; son Timothy J. Long and wife Lorrie; daughter Patti Schylaski and husband Kurt; stepdaughters Leslie Hess and husband Brian, and Kelly Ross and husband Michael; 10 grandchildren and step grandchildren; and one great grandchild. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Oct. 30 at Ridgeway Community Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg, Pa., preceded by visitation from 1 p.m. Interment will be at the convenience of the family in Spring Creek Cemetery in Hershey. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are being received to Hospice of Central Pennsylvania, 1320 Linglestown Road, Harrisburg, PA 17110. Condolences may be shared at

  • Kendra Flory has been called to serve as half-time administrative assistant for the Western Plains District office beginning Nov. 30. She is a member of McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren, a graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College, and a 2009 graduate of Bethany Theological Seminary. The Western Plains District office is located on the campus of McPherson College.

  • Brethren Disaster Ministries is welcoming new Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker Steve Schellenberg. He is a recent graduate of Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., and has volunteered with Brethren Disaster Ministries in the past. He will join the leadership team at the Hurricane Katrina recovery project in Chalmette, La.

  • On Earth Peace has welcomed new BVS worker John-Michael Pickens. He is working with staff member Marie Rhoades to lead youth and young adult retreats in the Peace Education program. In 2008, he was a member of the denomination’s Youth Peace Travel Team. Contact him for more information about youth retreats at or 717-233-3786.

  • West Marva District seeks a district executive minister to fill a part-time position, available immediately. The theologically diverse district includes 62 congregations and two fellowships in Maryland and West Virginia, in the Appalachian Mountains. Its congregations are mostly rural, with several in urban areas. The preferred candidate will be someone who understands the history, values, and workings of the Church of the Brethren and will lead the district in focusing on its mission of nurturing the faith of its members and extending the witness of the Gospel to the people, problems, and needs of the world. The district office is located in Oakland, Md. Responsibilities include serving as executive officer of the District Board, giving general oversight to the planning and implementation of ministries, providing linkages with denominational agencies and ministries, assisting congregations and pastors with placement, building and strengthening relationships with congregations and pastors, articulating and promoting the vision and mission of the district, serving as an advocate for policies and directives of Annual Conference in conversation with the district, facilitating the calling and training of people to set-apart ministry and lay leadership, promoting unity in the district. Qualifications include clear commitment to Jesus Christ demonstrated by a deep faith and vibrant spiritual life; commitment to the New Testament and its values; commitment to Church of the Brethren faith and heritage; a minimum of 10 years of pastoral experience; communication, mediation, and conflict resolution skills; administrative, management, and budget skills; respect for theological diversity; flexibility in working with staff, volunteer, pastoral, and lay leadership; with a master of divinity or equivalent theological degree preferred. Apply by sending a letter of interest and a resume via e-mail to Applicants are requested to contact three or four people to provide a letter of reference. A candidate profile must be completed as well. Application deadline is Dec. 2.

  • The Special Response Resource Committee created by the 2009 Annual Conference met for the first time on Oct. 12-13. This committee was asked to develop a study guide and resource list for congregations, districts, and the denomination to discuss two documents that came to the 2009 Conference: "Statement of Confession and Commitment" and the query on "Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships." In an announcement from the Annual Conference Office, the committee has begun its work, which the Conference requested be available no later than April 1, 2010. Members are John Wenger, chair; Karen Garrett, recorder; James Myer; Marie Rhoades; Carol Wise; and Standing Committee liaison Jeff Carter. The committee will post occasional updates at

  • Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger has signed on to a letter from interfaith leaders to President Obama urging that poverty, climate, and coast restoration projects become priorities in the recovery of the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. More than 50 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders signed the letter, which was organized by Louisiana-based interfaith groups related to the Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign. The letter read in part, "Four years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck and the levees were breached, the slow pace of recovery, persistent poverty, climate change, and coastal land loss have created a moral crisis across the region that demands a powerful response from people of faith and our elected officials." For the full text go to

  • Recent shipments of disaster relief materials by the Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., included ten 40-foot containers of Lutheran World Relief kits, quilts, and soap. "This was quite intense as all ten containers needed to be delivered back to the Baltimore pier in less than eight days," reported director Loretta Wolf. Other recent shipments have been made on behalf of Church World Service (CWS) and World Missions Outreach to send blankets, school and hygiene kits, and other materials to Nicaragua; more than 32,000 pounds of baby kits, school kits, and hygiene kits to the Dominican Republic; one 40-foot high cube container to the Congo for IMA World Health; and domestic shipments for CWS were made to Mississippi, New York, Colorado, Minnesota, and Georgia.

  • Selma (Va.) Church of the Brethren observed its 95th anniversary on Oct. 18.

  • West Charleston Church of the Brethren broke ground on Oct. 18 for a new facility in Tipp City, Ohio.

  • Shenandoah District is requesting prayer following the death of District Youth Council member Angela Kania, daughter of Phillip Kania and Cathy (Cupp) VanLear, from injuries received in a car accident. She was a member of Lebanon Church of the Brethren in Mount Sidney, Va., and a student at Fort Defiance High School. Condolences may be sent to the family through the guest book at

  • Rebecca Miller Zeek, pastor of 28th Street Church of the Brethren in Altoona, Pa., has been named to the Juniata College Board of Trustees as a church trustee.

  • Flora Williams, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren from Lafayette, Ind., has written a manual titled "The Shepherd’s Guide Through the Valley of Debt and Financial Change" that combines financial management, counseling, and spiritual guidance for those doing pastoral counseling and family care. The book "is based on my teaching and research at Purdue University for 32 years, directing a financial clinic for 25 years, study at Bethany Theological Seminary, my ministering to families, and results of a survey funded by Eli Lilly for ministry excellence," she reported. "You can use this book to share the good news that God cares about our personal finances." Williams directed the financial advising clinic at Purdue, which was awarded "Outstanding Financial Counseling Center" in the US in 2001, and has written materials for the National Foundation for Consumer Credit to certify counselors. She also is past president and distinguished fellow of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. Contact 765-474-4232 or for more information.

  • A plea agreement has been reached in criminal charges brought against a young woman for an incident that took place while she was in the Fall 2008 orientation unit of Brethren Volunteer Service. Charges of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death had been brought against Melanie Blevins, who during the orientation checked into a hospital and was discovered to have given birth. After she told police the baby was stillborn, they found the body of the child in a trash bin outside the building where the orientation unit was staying in Baltimore, Md. On Oct. 13, Blevins pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was given a 10-year suspended sentence, ordered to perform 900 hours of community service over the next three years, and to continue in psychiatric care.
Source: 10/22/2009 Newsline
Mission and Ministry Board adopts budget, begins strategic financial planning.

The Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board met for its fall meeting on Oct. 15-19 at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Chair Dale Minnich led the board in a consensus model of decision-making. "Hearers and Doers of the Word" provided the theme for the meeting, based on James 1:16-25.

The board adopted a budget for 2010 and called for development of a long-range strategic financial plan; adopted new vision, mission, and core values statements; adopted a revision of the corporate by-laws; and adopted a Resolution Against Torture. Other major work at the meeting included a job evaluation for general secretary Stan Noffsinger and the renewal of his five-year contract.


The budget approved by the board anticipates an income of $9,488,760 and an expense of $9,807,100 for all Church of the Brethren ministries in 2010, representing a net expense of $318,340. Adoption of this overall budget included a Core Ministries budget of $4,962,000 of projected income, $5,342,930 of projected expense, and a net expense of $380,930.

Along with the 2010 budget the board also approved a statement calling on the general secretary "to initiate development of a long-range strategic plan...that matches income and expense for the core budget beginning in 2011, using consulting help as needed" and that "this plan be based on a series of income enhancement and cost reduction studies to explore new options." The plan is to be presented to the October 2010 meeting of the board for approval.

The Executive Committee was "of a mind that we resist more cuts at this time," Minnich told the board as he reflected on approving a deficit budget. The decision may represent postponement of further cuts in staff, salaries, and benefits, but it also may give time for the exploration of options "to be in a better place a year from now," he said. "Something needs to happen...that will address income and expense so we don’t just keep sliding down the slope."

"Every budget is a leap of faith," treasurer Judy Keyser told the board. "We put the amount out there as a challenge to fulfill these budgets." She characterized the approval of a deficit budget as "taking time to regroup" from the large losses of the last two years.

The board also received year-to-date budget information for 2009 and projections of cumulative losses in net assets over the next several years if general economic trends and giving to the church do not improve. In a separate session, the board discussed a number of questions related to longterm financial resourcing of denominational ministries, related to capital improvement needs at properties owned and operated by the church and other stewardship issues.

In a decision that Minnich reported as part of the renewal of contract for the General Secretary, the church’s funding department is to be reorganized under the direction of the General Secretary’s office, as part of the effort to develop new models.

Vision, Mission, and Core Values Statements:

The board engaged in several sessions of "table talk" in small groups as it gave input for new vision, mission, and core values statements. The new statements were written with leadership from a small group of board members and staff, as a follow-up to the combining of the former General Board with the former Association of Brethren Caregivers. Each of the previous bodies had its own separate sets of statements.

Heading the new document is the Vision Statement, "The Mission and Ministry Board envisions the Church of the Brethren wholly engaged in the reconciliation of all people to God and to each other."

A three-paragraph Mission Statement focuses on the calling of the board to extend the church’s witness around the world, caring for the whole fabric of the community of the Church of the Brethren, and supporting congregations "in their task to create joyful communities of faith that proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, cultivate discipleship, respond to human need, and make peace."

Eight core values of the board are described with one short phrase each, including Christ-likeness, servant leadership, discernment, community, stewardship, simplicity, hospitality, and peacemaking. (Go to for the Vision, Mission, and Core Values document.)

Resolution Against Torture:

A "Church of the Brethren Resolution Against Torture" was adopted after lengthy discussion and numerous revisions to a document originally presented by a small group of board members and staff. The resolution will be passed on to the 2010 Annual Conference for its consideration.

One question that motivated the small group presenting the resolution was, "Why didn’t we act sooner?" said board member Andy Hamilton as he presented the paper. He noted that it has been close to 10 years since questions about the use of torture have begun to rise in the United States.

The resolution includes four sections: an introduction from the Church of the Brethren’s experience of persecution and violence at times in its 300-year history, a biblical basis represented as "foundational for our conviction regarding the sanctity of life," a section headed "Torture Is a Violation of Word and Life" stating the church’s awareness of growing occurrences of torture throughout the world and attempts to legitimize it, and a section calling the church to confession and action in response. An additional page of references accompanies the resolution. (Go to for the full resolution.)

Intercultural survey:

The Intercultural Advisory Committee met concurrently with the Mission and Ministry Board and presented a report from an intercultural survey of selected denominational leaders. A primary motivation for the study was the mandate of the 2007 Annual Conference statement "Separate No More" for intercultural ministry in the Church of the Brethren. Ruben Deoleo, director for Intercultural Ministries, led the advisory committee into the study and has provided the primary oversight for it.

This was the first time in several years that the committee had been able to meet with all members present. Current members of the committee are Founa Augustin, Barbara Daté, Thomas Dowdy, Robert Jackson, Marisel Olivencia, Gilbert Romero, Dennis Webb, with Deoleo as staff.

An overview of the survey results was given by Darin Short of In[ter]sights, which conducted the survey. In[ter]sights used an "Intercultural Development Inventory" to survey leadership competency for health intercultural engagement. The survey assumes that cultural differences always are present in an organization, and that there is gradual movement and growth toward an intercultural mindset among leadership, Short said. He showed a graph of the Brethren survey, on a continuum from denial of other cultures, through polarization or minimization of cultural differences, to acceptance, and finally to adaptation to other cultures.

The majority of Brethren individuals surveyed (64 percent) showed a primary orientation of minimization, with 24 percent displaying a "reverse polarization" toward cultural differences—indicating more regard for other cultures than one’s own, 6 percent at a level of acceptance of other cultures, and small numbers in other categories. The survey results will provide a framework for the church to move forward in its intercultural work, Deoleo said.

Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries, then presented several questions from the Intercultural Advisory Committee responding to the survey: how to invite the involvement and gifts of all people at Annual Conference, how to plant new congregations and strengthen existing congregations in ways that integrate diverse cultures, how to dedicate financial resources to facilitate growth in a culturally responsive manner, and how the board may help lead the church to carry out the intercultural vision.

Sustainable community development in North Korea:

A highlight of the reports received at the meeting was a presentation on work against hunger in North Korea, given by Pilju Kim Joo of Agglobe Services International, and Global Food Crisis Fund manager Howard Royer.

Through annual grants and other efforts, the church is supporting four farm cooperatives in North Korea, in partnership with Joo’s nonprofit agency. In addition, the church has been invited to help provide faculty to teach at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, which has just opened outside the North Korean capital city Pyongyang. The university is a unique venture made possible through cooperative work by faith-based groups with the countries of North and South Korea.

Joo emphasized her endebtedness to the Church of the Brethren, which has been working with Agglobe Services International since 1997. Her wide-ranging slide presentation encompassed a variety of efforts taking place at the four farm cooperatives where some 15,000 people live, from the testing of new varieties of crops to providing basic farm equipment to the feeding of orphans—all under the heading "sustainable community development." At the conclusion of her presentation, the board rose in a standing ovation in appreciation for her work. (Go to for a photo album of the project in North Korea.)

In other business:

The board approved a revision of the Church of the Brethren corporate by-laws to bring to Annual Conference for approval next year. The revision was made necessary by the creation of the Church of the Brethren Inc. as a new entity merging the former General Board, the former Association of Brethren Caregivers, and functions of the former Annual Conference Council.

An update was given on trustee appointments in India. The Church of the Brethren continues to hold responsibility to appoint trustees for church properties that formerly belonged to the Brethren mission in India. On July 29, in a conference call, the board had received an update on legal developments in India, recalled commitments to continue in relationship with both the Church of North India and the India Brethren, and approved a resolution appointing Darryl Raphael Sankey of Valsad, India, to the trust. Noffsinger reported the action to the board because a small number of members were not able to be part of the conference call.

A Bible study led by Dana Cassell, a former intern in the Ministry Office, studied biblical images for the role of the minister. The Bible study was intended to help board members give feedback to a revision of a denominational document on ministerial leadership.

A time of blessing closed the meeting. Board members, staff, and guests were invited to express silent blessings for eyes, ears, hearts, and hands to hear and do the Word.

Go to for an online photo album from the meeting.

Source: 10/22/2009 Newsline Special Report
Brethren Bits: Seminary courses, anniversaries, and other upcoming events.
  • The Outdoor Ministries Association of the Church of the Brethren will hold its National Conference on Nov. 13-15 at Woodland Altars in Peebles, Ohio. The theme for the event is "Christ as Cornerstone." Richard Dawson, executive director at Camp Highroad in Virginia, will bring the keynote address. He has led a camp visioning team for the Southeast Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church which produced "The Seven Foundation Documents of Christian Camping," and has established an EcoEternity Forest at Camp Highroad, becoming the first such forest in the US. The schedule also includes worship, a concert, an OMA Auction to benefit the work of the association, and "break out sessions" featuring a nature hike, challenge course, and arts and crafts projects. Cost is $100 or $75 for Saturday only, with a late fee of $25 applying after Oct. 25. For more information contact or 937-417-1184.

  • A new deadline of Nov. 10 has been given to register for the annual Nigeria workcamp sponsored by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships. The workcamp is scheduled for Jan. 9-30, 2010. 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 Mission 21. The group will work in Kwarhi, tour Kulp Bible College, Hillcrest, and other schools, and visit a game reserve in Yankari. Cost is $2,200 inclusive of a round-trip flight to Nigeria, meals, lodging, in-country transportation, and overseas travel insurance. Requirements include a passport (valid for at least six months after the workcamp) and appropriate vaccinations and medications. Participants must be 18 or older. Those 14-17 years of age may participate if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who also is participating in the workcamp. Contact Global Mission Partnerships at 800-323-8039 or

  • Bethany Theological Seminary will offer two courses focusing on Brethren heritage in the Spring semester of 2010. Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies and associate professor of religious studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, will teach "Church of the Brethren History" at the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center in Elizabethtown. Adjunct faculty member Denise Kettering will teach "Brethren Beliefs and Practices" as a weekend intensive at the seminary’s campus in Richmond, Ind. For more details see Application deadline is the beginning of December. Contact Elizabeth Keller, director of admissions, at or 800-287-8822 ext. 1832.

  • Celebrations of the 125th anniversary of First Church of the Brethren in York, Pa., continue on Oct. 25, "Heritage Sunday," with performance of an anthem specially written for the anniversary. The anthem, "Generations Now," is by Greg Bachman of Tallahassee, Fla., a former member of the church. On Sunday, Nov. 22, the church holds its 125th Anniversary Celebration Banquet at 12:15 p.m. with former pastor Curtis Dubble speaking.

  • Common Spirit Church of the Brethren is celebrating its new fellowship status on Nov. 1, from 3-6 p.m. The celebration will be held at Open Circle Church of the Brethren in Burnsville, Minn., and will include entertainment provided by musicians from within Northern Plains District, a meal, and worship. Contact 612-724-0264 or

  • Daleville (Va.) Church of the Brethren plans a "Marathon Bible Study" on Oct. 24 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. "The marathon will provide a quick study of the 66 books in the Bible in an instructive, but fun way," said the Virlina District newsletter. Contact 540-992-2042.

  • Western Plains District is holding its "Gathering V" on Oct. 23-25 at the Webster Conference Center in Salina, Kan., on the theme, "Transformed by Jesus to Make Disciples." Plenary sessions and some other sessions at the gathering will be webcast in a joint effort of the denomination’s Congregational Life Ministries, Bethany Seminary, and the district. Plenary sessions will be led by Annual Conference moderator Shawn Flory Replogle and Congregational Life Ministries executive director Jonathan Shively. Continuing education units (CEUs) are available for those who view the events live--no recordings will qualify. The CEU fee is currently being waived for webcast events in October and November. To obtain credit, submit an online CEU request following a webcast to the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership at For the detailed schedule of webcasts go to

  • The inauguration of Michael P. Schneider as the 14th president of McPherson (Kan.) College will be held on Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. Go to for more details.

  • An International Day of Climate Action is being organized with the help of a number of faith communities, focusing attention on new scientific data about the pace of climate change. The major day for activities is Oct. 24. In one example, the Episcopal Church will hold bell ringings and is sponsoring a postcard campaign to call for a fair climate treaty when world leaders gather in Copenhagen in December. More information about the effort is available at, named for the 350 parts per million considered to be the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in earth's atmosphere.

  • Church World Service and a coalition of other faith groups are supporting this week’s 2009 Media Violence Fast. The focus is the impact of anti-immigrant hate speech in the media. The initiative signs up thousands of people from across the nation to consciously abstain from violence on television and radio, at least for one week. Join at
Source: 10/22/2009 Newsline Special Report

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Nathan Buse, Chris Douglas, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Karin Krog, Nancy Miner, Marcia Shetler, Callie Surber, John Wall, and Loretta Wolf contributed to this report.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Brethren Disaster Ministries responds to Indonesia, flooding in Georgia.

The Brethren Disaster Ministries program is responding to recent disaster situations with a grant for relief work following an earthquake in Indonesia, and the sending of a Children’s Disaster Services team following flooding around Atlanta, Ga.

Brethren Disaster Ministries has been monitoring the situation since two earthquakes hit Indonesia last month, and a massive tsunami swept over the South Pacific island of Samoa and surrounding islands in late September.

Disaster staff have been monitoring both situations through Church World Service, a longtime ecumenical and international partner. CWS Indonesia staff have reported that the level of damage in the earthquake that hit Sumatra at the end of September was "far worse" than the Sept. 2 earthquake that rattled West Java. CWS is responding to both earthquakes in Indonesia, providing non-food relief items such as family tents, blankets, and relief kits.

An allocation of $15,000 has been given from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund to CWS for work in Indonesia following the Sept. 2 earthquake, a 7.2-magnitude quake that struck West Java Province.

The grant will help provide supplies and shelter to 900 households, or about 4,500 people, in four remote communities that are among the worst-affected. In the four villages, most of the houses were destroyed by the quake and only a limited amount of aid has been able to reach the area in part because of limited road conditions. CWS has been assisting with food, blankets, tarpaulins, tents, hygiene kits, baby kits, and mosquito nets, and now plans to help the villagers with new shelters made from bamboo sheet walls, beams, and tarpaulin roofing.

In the Atlanta, Ga., metro area severe flooding has affected thousands of families. Judy Bezon, Children's Disaster Services (CDS) associate director, returned on Sunday from a week-long CDS response in Marietta, which she coordinated with a team of six volunteer caregivers. The team provided care for more than 100 children affected by the floods.

Brethren Disaster Ministries also is continuing three rebuilding project sites in the United States: a new project site in the Winamac, Ind., area in response to severe flooding last year; an ongoing project in Hammond, Ind.; and an ongoing site in Chalmette, La., where homes are being rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina.

Source: 10/7/2009 Newsline
Brethren staff take part in national conversations on disaster guidelines.

Leading staff of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services have been part of two efforts to draft guidelines for disaster response:

Judy Bezon of Children’s Disaster Services has contributed to an interim report from the National Commission on Children and Disasters about the needs of children in disasters.

Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries has contributed to a document from the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) defining how to minister emotionally and spiritually to people in times of disaster.

Winter has been part of the NVOAD Emotional and Spiritual Care Committee since it began shortly after the 9-11 attacks of 2001, and currently is NVOAD board liaison to the committee.

"I think it is an amazing piece of work in that a very broad group--interfaith actually--could develop a consensus," Winter said about the new document titled "Disaster Spiritual Care Points of Consensus." He explained how the document will serve the church’s ministries, saying, "This is intended to give guidance on how we interact with disaster survivors, no matter our role--even if rebuilding homes or caring for children."

Some 49 organizations are part of NVOAD, according to a release from Church World Service. The NVOAD organizations "are the driving force behind disaster recovery in the United States," CWS said. "National VOAD facilitates cooperation among every major nonprofit and faith-based disaster response organization in the US. National VOAD agencies focus on all stages of disaster--preparedness, relief, response, recovery, and mitigation. In 2008, these organizations provided more than $200 million dollars in direct financial assistance and more than 7 million hours in volunteer labor."

This is the first time that minimum standards of care have been set for how to minister emotionally and spiritually in times of disaster, CWS said in the release that focused on the respectful nature of the cooperative effort among faith-based organizations ranging from Catholic to Scientologist, Protestant to Buddhist and Jewish.

The set of standards outlines protections for disaster survivors at a time of physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological challenge. The 10 points of consensus include: basic concepts of disaster spiritual care; types of disaster spiritual care; local community resources; disaster emotional care and its relationship to disaster spiritual care; disaster spiritual care in response and recovery; disaster emotional and spiritual care for the care giver; planning, preparedness, training, and mitigation as spiritual care components; disaster spiritual care in diversity; disaster, trauma, and vulnerability; and ethics and standards of care.

To learn more about NVOAD and to review the Points of Consensus in its entirety go to

Children’s Disaster Services was part of a subcommittee that contributed to a section on shelter needs for children in the interim report from the National Commission on Children and Disasters. CDS is a Church of the Brethren ministry and the oldest organization of its kind in the US, having started caring for children in disaster situations in 1980.

A release quoted Bezon on how children may be neglected in disasters. "Child neglect is generally not intentional," she said. "Parents are left thinking about food, clothing, and shelter and whether they still have a job to provide clothing, food, and shelter." The work of Children’s Disaster Services has been to help care for children while parents are focused on other priorities. "At the same time we’re supporting the children, we’re supporting the parents and the family because if they are living in a shelter they get a break and know that their children are safe with us," Bezon said.

The National Commission’s interim report identifies areas for improvement in disaster assistance for children, references recent disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in which children’s needs were not met, and makes recommendations to improve care. Recommendations include assuring academic continuity following disasters, giving priority for housing assistance to families with school-aged children and especially those whose children have special needs, providing appropriate play and recreation options following disasters, and providing children access to crisis, bereavement, and mental health services.

Source: 10/7/2009 Newsline
128 faith communities participate in On Earth Peace campaign.

On Earth Peace organized 128 Church of the Brethren congregations and other groups in the US, Puerto Rico, and Nigeria to participate in the International Day of Prayer for Peace (IDOPP) on or around Sept. 21. On Earth Peace is a peace education, action, and witness agency of the Church of the Brethren.

Many churches prayed about local economic conditions, immigration issues, or religious tolerance, while others prayed for relief from local violence involving gangs or guns. Still others prayed for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some held prayer walks, asking God to help them see their neighborhoods in new ways. Others planted peace poles, which expressed blessings of peace in several languages. Still others held concerts and theater presentations. Everywhere people prayed for God's presence in their lives and in their communities.

Vigils in at least two cities where local violence was the prayer concern have contributed to positive community change. In Rockford, Ill., pastor Samuel Sarpiya of Rockford Community Church (Church of the Brethren) and fellow clergy had been engaged in a listening project since April with many communities within Rockford. They were planning a Sept. 21 vigil around the theme of better education for youth. All of that changed on Aug. 24, when two police officers shot and killed an unarmed black man at a church childcare center. The clergy found themselves in a tense situation with potential for further violence. The focus of their vigil suddenly needed to also address the more immediate issue and its aftermath. The clergy provided prayer leadership for Rockford’s observance of the International Day of Peace, a four-hour community gathering about both educational issues and how to move forward in the immediate crisis.

Through Sarpiya’s leadership, a group of civic, business, and religious leaders in Rockford have asked On Earth Peace to come alongside the situation. In the coming weeks, On Earth Peace will provide both organizing support and training in nonviolent community leadership for religious, business, and civic leaders who are addressing the unrest in the city.

In Philadelphia, a vigil for the International Day of Prayer for Peace sponsored by a multi-faith action group "Heeding God's Call" capped nine months of weekly rallies in front of Colosimo’s Gun Center (see feature below).

The International Day of Prayer for Peace was first proposed in 2004 during a meeting between World Council of Churches general secretary Samuel Kobia and then-United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan as one of the initiatives of the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence. It is celebrated annually on Sept. 21, the UN International Day of Peace.

-- Mimi Copp was a co-coordinator for the International Day of Prayer for Peace Campaign of On Earth Peace along with co-coordinator Michael Colvin. Contact her at 215-474-1195.

Source: 10/7/2009 Newsline
Community development program in DR gains new ecumenical partners.

The community development program of the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic is set to become a broader ecumenical venture involving partnership with Church World Service, the Foods Resource Bank, and Servicios Sociales de Iglesias Dominicanas (SSID, the Dominican partner of Church World Service).

The new partnership has received support and encouragement from the church’s Global Mission Partnerships, DR mission coordinators Irvin and Nancy Heishman, Felix Arias Mateo of the Church of the Brethren in the DR, and Howard Royer of the church’s Global Food Crisis Fund, as well as staff of the Foods Resource Bank and CWS.

This ecumenical program will include five Brethren communities at the outset. "The (total) project will engage 610 families in 32 ‘bateye’ or ethnically Haitian communities in organizing to overcome hunger and poverty," Royer reported.

In other news from the DR mission, students in the Theological Program are in the process of teaching "Introduction to the History of the Church of the Brethren," written by Galen Hackman originally for the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program in Nigeria and re-published this spring in Spanish and Haitian Creole. "There are currently over 30 students in the program (both pastors and laity)," the Heishmans reported. "The reception in the churches to the book has been enthusiastic as they celebrate their history and story." Copies have been shared with the Brethren mission in Haiti and Brethren churches in Puerto Rico. The book can be ordered through Brethren Press for $10 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712.

This summer, 32 volunteers from two Church of the Brethren congregations in the US as well as a denominational workcamp helped six Dominican Brethren churches hold Vacation Bible School, reaching approximately 1,100 children. "Many more of the 20 Dominican Brethren churches held VBS as well," the Heishmans said. "Thanks to assistant mission coordinator Jerry O’Donnell and the work team members for a job well done!"

In related news, the DR will be the site for the first-ever "international CROP Walk" held by CWS. The Brethren mission workers have been invited to participate as well as partner organization SSID. Novelist Julia Alvarez is involved in arrangements for the event, which will be connected with a CROP Walk in Middlebury, Vt. For more about the CROP Walk in the DR go to

Source: 10/7/2009 Newsline
Anna Emrick to be program coordinator for Global Mission Partnerships.

Anna Emrick has accepted the position of program coordinator for the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships, working at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. She will begin on Oct. 12.

She brings previous experience working for the Church of the Brethren and other nonprofit organizations, having served as a Brethren Press intern in the summer of 2007, having worked for the Brethren Volunteer Service office in recruitment from August 2004-August 2005, and having served an initial BVS assignment with the Human Resource Development Council in Havre, Mont. She also has studied overseas in Greece.

Emrick is a Church of the Brethren member and a graduate of Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., where she earned a bachelor of science degree in nonprofit management. She lives in Mason, Mich., and will be relocating to the Elgin area.

Source: 10/7/2009 Newsline
Brethren Press offers early order special for Advent devotional.

The annual Advent devotional from Brethren Press this year is written by Yvonne R. Riege, titled "Discovering the Holy in the Ordinary." An early order special is making the booklet available for a discounted price of $2 per copy for orders received by Oct. 30. After that date, the price goes up to $2.50 each. A shipping and handling charge will be added.

In another special offer, Brethren Press is now inviting regular readers of the Advent and Easter devotionals to become "seasonal subscribers" for only $4 per year. Seasonal subscribers will automatically receive both devotional booklets at the discounted rate, plus shipping and handling.

The Advent devotional is designed for congregations to offer for members’ use during Advent, and for individuals who desire a daily meditation to prepare for Christmas. The booklet includes a scripture reading, a short meditation on the scripture, and a prayer for each day of the Advent season. Order from Brethren Press at 800-441-3712.

Source: 10/7/2009 Newsline
An ‘Amen’ to a Historic Peace Church effort on gun violence.

As soon as we had said "Amen" to close our morning prayer time, my community member gave me the news: late the night before she learned that Colosimo’s Gun Center had been charged by the federal government for illegally selling guns to straw purchasers.

Two days earlier, on Sept. 21, more than 60 people of faith from across Philadelphia had gathered in front of the gun shop to hold a prayer vigil as part of On Earth Peace’s International Day of Prayer for Peace Campaign.

By Sept. 30, the business owner of Colosimo’s Gun Center had pleaded guilty in court, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) had permanently revoked the store’s license to sell firearms, and the store had been closed down.

These are the dramatic, recent developments in a string of actions, vigils, and protests by many faith communities in Philadelphia to do something about the gun violence choking our city. In the last two and a half weeks, over 50 people have been shot. Over the last five years, on average 304 people have been shot down and killed each year in the city. The "Philadelphia Inquirer" has tracked gun homicide details for the past 10 years (for more go to

More people die in Philadelphia alone by gun violence each year than the total number of people killed through gun violence in any of the countries in Western Europe, Japan, Canada, or Australia ( The great majority of the guns used in these shootings are illegal guns.

This past January, I went with four other people, including former Brethren Witness/Washington Office director Phil Jones, into Colosimo’s Gun Center. The five of us had come together for Heading God’s Call: A Gathering on Peace, which was organized by the Historic Peace Churches. The organizers of Heeding God’s Call knew they must put words into action and address the violence in the host city of Philadelphia. Colosimo’s Gun Center had long been known by both law enforcement and criminals as a prime source of illegal guns.

The latest ATF data revealed that one-fifth of all crime guns used in Philadelphia were traced back to this store, in a statistic prior to 2003. (Since then, ATF data has been suppressed by the National Rifle Association through the Tiahrt Amendment that is attached to the ATF appropriation bill each year so the public can no longer find out the latest statistics on crime guns and where they come from.)

We went to the store to ask the owner to sign a code of conduct created by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition and Wal-Mart, that is intended to help stem the flow of handguns to the illegal market by reducing the "straw buying" that feeds it. Straw buyers stand in for gun traffickers at gun shops to make bulk purchases that end up on the street, and Colosimo’s was involved in these kinds of sales.

This was not the first time the store owner had heard of the code of conduct or had been asked to sign it. Before the five of us came into his store, he met multiple times with a Heeding God’s Call delegation of religious leaders to learn about the code and listen to a plea to sign it. He said he would not sign it.

He also told the five of us who came into his store that he would not sign it. While we waited for him to sign it, we were arrested and then spent the night in jail. Two days later, another seven people connected to the peace gathering attempted to ask him to sign the code. They also were arrested. The 12 of us stood trial in May on charges of criminal conspiracy, defiant trespassing, disorderly conduct, and obstructing a public highway. As we stood trial, so too did the violence that chokes our city. After a one-day trial, the 12 of us were found not guilty.

Before and after the trial, and since January, we have held weekly Monday and Saturday protests in front of gun store, calling on the owner to sign the code of conduct. Over 250 Christians came to the store on Good Friday for a vigil, remembering the violence that took the life of Jesus, the gun violence that takes the lives of so many in Philadelphia, and this gun shop’s role in it. And most recently, we were there for the International Day of Prayer for Peace.

Later that same week, articles in the Philadelphia papers were reading "The Strength of a Prayer" and "Faith Triumphs over Firepower."

We are sending a message to our neighbors that we are paying attention, that we will not accept the violence on our streets, that we will persist and persevere in our insistence that all share the responsibility of ending gun violence. Through organizing and faithfulness we contributed to the actions taken by the Federal government to charge the gun shop for its participation in straw purchase sales. And we stand, and will continue to stand, with the people who have been fighting against gun violence for years upon years in this city.

-- Mimi Copp is a Church of the Brethren member of Shalom House, an intentional Christian Community in Philadelphia dedicated to pro-active peacemaking (

Source: 10/7/2009 Newsline
A reflection on arriving in Nigeria.

Jennifer and Nathan Hosler arrived in Nigeria in mid-August as Church of the Brethren mission staff serving with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). They are teaching at Kulp Bible College and working with EYN’s Peace Program. The following reflects on their first month in Nigeria:

"September 29, 2009: On Monday, we learned that a funeral was to be held at EYN headquarters. A staff person at the dispensary was returning from a nearby village on motorcycle the night before and was fatally injured in an accident.

"Life is fragile everywhere, all of the time. However, the environment of Nigeria often places people into precarious circumstances. It seems as though the heightened awareness of life’s fragility affects the speech of Christians in Nigeria. When speaking of plans, people do not assume that those plans will be met and verbally admit so. A common phrase added to plans is, ‘By His grace.’ For example, ‘We will leave for Jos on Tuesday, by His grace.’

"This heightened awareness of life’s fragility also produces an increased level of thankfulness to God for all types of circumstances such as rain for crops to grow or safety during travels. Even a cool breeze (welcome relief in a hot environment) elicits a ‘Mugode Allah’ or ‘We thank God.’

"This perspective on life brings to mind the words of James: ‘Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.’

"Privileged people in North America (which is most of us) typically assume that everything will work out. Only during extreme tragedy (a car accident, a terminal illness, the death of a child, etc.) do our thoughts ponder life’s fragility.

"The attitude of our Nigerian brothers and sisters provides a needed reflection for North Americans on the delicate balance of our lives and how easily that balance can be broken--in North America but especially so around the world. We should be challenged--as James wrote--not to assume anything about our lives, our health, our wealth, and act accordingly, and especially to exhibit thankfulness for both large and small things.

"When I feel the cool breeze tomorrow as I wake in Nigeria (by His grace), I will say, ‘Mugode Allah.’"

Source: 10/7/2009 Newsline
Brethren bits: Personnel, jobs, economy letter, flu resource, and more.
  • Camp Swatara has announced a program coordinator staff change. Natasha Stern has ended her service as program coordinator as of Sept. 30. She has served in this position for the last two years. On Oct. 12, Aaron Ross will begin as the new program coordinator at Camp Swatara. Ross has spent the last three summers on the program staff at the camp and has been a student at Millersville University.

  • The New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center is welcoming Maxine and Wade Gibbons of Denver, Colo., as volunteer hosts for the Old Main building in October and November.

  • Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., seeks applicants for a faculty position in Brethren Studies. The seminary invites applications for a three-year renewable part-time faculty position beginning Fall 2010. A candidate holding a PhD degree is preferred; ABD will be considered. The appointee will be expected to teach two graduate-level courses per year (at least one as an online offering), and offer one academy-level course biennially. Other duties will include student advising and the supervision of MA theses in the area of Brethren Studies as needed. The area of expertise and research may come from a variety of fields, such as historical studies, theological studies, Brethren heritage, or sociology and religion. Commitment to the values and theological emphases within the Church of the Brethren is essential. The seminary encourages applications from women, minorities, and persons with disabilities. The application deadline is Dec. 1. More information is available online at To appply, send a letter of application, curriculum vitae, and names and contact information for three references to Brethren Studies Search, Attn: Dean’s Office, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Rd. West, Richmond, IN 47374; .

  • Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) seeks a director of Financial Operations to fill a fulltime salaried position based in Elgin, Ill. BBT is a nonprofit agency of the Church of the Brethren that provides pension, insurance, foundation, and credit union services for 6,000 members and clients nationwide. The primary responsibility of the position is to direct the accounting operations of BBT, insuring an accurate reflection of its financial position through reporting and interpretation of financial information. In addition, the director is responsible to design, implement, and maintain systems as they affect financial reporting in order to provide management with timely and accurate information; direct all activities related to the supervision of Finance staff; assist staff in planning, operating, and controlling financial operations; direct reporting for the accounting of all entities under BBT; direct planning and budget activities; direct, prepare, and file all required tax returns and communication with the Internal Revenue Service; travel to board meetings and other events as appropriate. Knowledge and experience required includes a graduate degree in accounting, business, or related field, along with advanced certifications or degrees such as CPA or MBA; eight years of experience in finance, administration, and personnel supervision, preferably for not-for-profit organizations; with strong knowledge of accounting systems and business planning desired; current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren preferred; current and active membership in a faith community required. Salary is competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. Full benefits package is included. Apply as soon as possible by sending a letter of interest, resume, three references (one supervisor, one colleague, one friend), and salary-range expectation to Donna March, 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; For questions call 847-622-3371. For more about BBT see

  • The Church of the Brethren seeks a coordinator of online gift invitation to fill a fulltime position in the Stewardship and Donor Development department, working at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Starting date is Dec. 1 or as negotiated. A position description and application form are available on request. Responsibilities include promotiong and securing of online gifts to support ministries of the Church of the Brethren; working with multiple areas to develop and follow a comprehensive plan for e-community building and online giving; working with outside contractors if necessary for e-mail communications and to streamline online giving systems; working collegially with Brethren Press and communications staff on electronic media messages; developing and maintaining the Stewardship and Donor Development website pages and other web-based donor communication and gift invitation activities. Qualifications include public relations or customer service experience; familiarity with web-based communications (Convio database preferred); commitment to Church of the Brethren goals and objectives; positive, affirming, collaborative style of team participation; membership in the Church of the Brethren preferred. Required education and experience include a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience. Contact the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; or 800-323-8039 ext. 258.

  • The Church of the Brethren’s Inter-Agency Forum, made up of executives of the four Annual Conference agencies, has released a pastoral letter on the economy. The letter signed jointly by Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger, Bethany Theological Seminary president Ruthann Knechel Johansen, Brethren Benefit Trust president Nevin Dulabaum, and On Earth Peace executive director Bob Gross, was distributed by e-mail to Brethren congregations, pastors, districts, and denominational staff. "The economic crisis we are experiencing this year continues to demand attention from all levels of the church," the letter says in part. "We have been led during this particular crisis to review the bigger issues and to refocus our life and work together to move beyond fear to a renewed emphasis on our spiritual gifts and strengths.... We have been heartened to remember particular gifts that we believe God has given to the Brethren--gifts that may help us move forward with energy, vitality, and vision for our faith and the work of Christ in the world." The letter invites the church to join in considering a list of eight Brethren gifts, such as "courage, and a radical commitment to Jesus Christ," and "the study of scripture in community." The full text of the letter is available at linked to an index page of a number of related resources offered by the agencies.

  • An upgrade has been completed for "Find a Church" at The tool allows visitors to search for a Church of the Brethren congregation. New features include options to search by proximity by entering the first three numbers of a zip code; to search by district by choosing one of the 23 Church of the Brethren districts from a drop-down box; and to use a "new search" button that clears all previously entered information. Go to and click on the link to "Find a Church" at the top of the page.

  • Caring Ministries staff are recommending a government website that offers helpful advice for churches concerned about the flu. Heddie Sumner, a member of the Older Adult and Disability Ministry cabinets, has provided the recommendation. The site offers a document on the H1N1 flu with sections on what organizations can do to help people stay healthy, suggestions for reducing the spread of flu at religious meetings and gatherings, child and youth programs, vaccine distribution, vulnerable populations, and more. Also at is a Church of the Brethren document with suggestions for congregations in the event of a serious pandemic.

  • Brethren in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia have created a tax-exempt enterprise called the John Kline Homestead to preserve the house and other historic buildings on the original farm of Elder John Kline, a Brethren leader and peace martyr during the Civil War era. The homestead is in Broadway, Va. "If we do not purchase the property by Dec. 31, 2009, we will lose the opportunity to preserve the homestead as a Brethren heritage center to share the legacy of Elder John Kline’s life and ministry," reports a bulletin insert that is being made available about the effort. The group has set up a "Rescue Fund" that has received about $150,000 in gifts and pledges toward the needed $425,000 to purchase the house and one acre of property. The nearby Linville Creek Church of the Brethren has given $60,000, and pastor Paul Roth is a leading member of the preservation effort. In a related event, Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a benefit performance of the play "The Final Journey of John Kline," on Saturday, Oct. 10, at 7:30 p.m. The play was written by Lee Krahenbuhl for the 1997 John Kline Bicentennial, and is performed by the New Millennium Players of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. An online photo album of the John Kline Homestead is available at . For more information contact the John Kline Homestead Rescue Fund, P.O. Box 274, Broadway, VA 22815; or go to .

  • Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Boonsboro, Md., has unveiled a newly designed website. The website designed by InfoPathways Inc. in Westminster, Md., features an extensive list of services, multiple event calendars, rotating photographs, an online employment application, and more. Go to

  • Enrollment has reached a record high at McPherson (Kan.) College this fall. A release from the college announced that the enrollment of 542 fulltime students represents a number that has not been surpassed at the college since the late ’60s. "The college has been on a steady increase since 2003 when full-time enrollment was at 386," the release said. "The swift increase in enrollment can be attributed to two key factors--recruitment and retention.... Spring to fall retention was 88 percent, the highest McPherson College has seen in over 15 years."

  • The New Community Project is lead organizer for the One Mile Challenge, an initiative to encourage non-car forms of transportation for shorter daily trips. "In the United States, 25 percent of all travel is under two miles in length, and these short trips are the most environmentally harmful as emissions are at their worst in the first few minutes of vehicle operation," said a release from director David Radcliff. The challenge was launched on Oct. 3 in Harrisonburg, Va., with the hope that other communities will follow the city's example in promoting alternative transportation. Go to for more information.
Source: 10/7/2009 Newsline
Congregational Life, seminary, and districts cooperate on webcasts.

Webcasts of presentations at three upcoming district meetings are being planned with the help of the Transforming Practices office of the Church of the Brethren’s Congregational Life Ministries and Bethany Seminary’s Electronic Communications.

"Don't miss these webcast events!" said an announcement from Stan Dueck, director for Transforming Practices.

The webcasts are offered from a Christian coaching training event in Western Plains District on Oct. 12-13, the "Gathering V" in Western Plains District on Oct. 23-25, and the Pacific Southwest District Conference on Nov. 6-8. They are a collaborative effort between Congregational Life Ministries, Bethany, and the districts. For a detailed schedule and how to participate go to
  • A "Life/Christian Coaching Training" on Oct. 12-13 in Western Plains District will be led by Jane Creswell. This 12-hour course provides the basics to begin to practice coaching for creative pastoral ministry. Creswell is managing director of the Organizational Leadership Development Lab at Purdue University and co-founder of two organizations, Coach Approach Ministries and Internal Impact LLC. In previous work in the district she provided foundational training for the coaching effort among the congregations in Western Plains. A 67-page workbook can be purchased for use during the webinar from Western Plains District for a $15 charge. This fee is part of Jane Creswell's expenses. To order the workbook contact Western Plains District Office at and it will be sent via e-mail.

  • Plenary sessions led by Annual Conference moderator Shawn Flory Replogle and Congregational Life Ministries executive director Jonathan Shively, worship services, and several workshops will be webcast from the Gathering V in Western Plains at various times on Oct. 23-25. For the schedule go to

  • Presentations by Diana Butler Bass and Charles "Chip" Arn will highlight webcasts from the Pacific Southwest District Conference on Nov. 6-8. Bass is an independent scholar specializing in American religion and culture and author of several books including "Christianity for the Rest of Us" and "The Practicing Congregation." Her two presentations will be offered on Nov. 6 at 2:15-4 p.m. and on Nov. 7 at 1-3 p.m. (Pacific time). Arn is president of the Church Growth Institute. He will provide two sessions on the topic "Side Doors: Effective Church Outreach in the 21st Century" on Nov. 7 at 10:30-11:30 a.m. and 2:15-3 p.m. (Pacific time). Also to be webcast are workshops on a variety of topics as well as Sunday morning worship.
For more information go to or contact Stan Dueck at

Source: 10/9/2009 Newsline Extra
Bethany Seminary offers January study trip to Kenya.

Bethany Theological Seminary is seeking additional participants for a travel seminar to Kenya, to take place on Jan. 2-20, 2010. The focus of the study trip will be Christian theology and ministry, particularly as informed by the missional context in Kenya and with the Masai tribe.

In student responses to previous offerings of this course, one student wrote: "Kenya was beautiful. It stole my heart. It also left me confused and preoccupied, as any romance will." The seminary is offering the course as a cross-cultural experience of the "two-thirds world" to stretch minds and give focus to Christian ministry.

Participants will spend time living with people of the Masai tribe and "will witness what happens when the Gospel takes root in one of Africa’s most traditional cultures," according to a description of the course. Also offered will be opportunities to converse and study with professors and students at an African seminary, and opportunities to do ministry with small children in orphanages, with older women and men who are suffering from illness, and with Kenyan pastors who will partner in prayer and worship. The trip will include an overnight stay at a game park and time in the capital city, Nairobi.

Information about the travel seminar is available at Contact instructor Russell Haitch at or 800-287-8822 ext. 1827. The deadline for applications is Oct. 16.

Source: 10/9/2009 Newsline Extra
National Junior High Sunday is scheduled for Nov. 1.

Sunday, Nov. 1, has been scheduled as National Junior High Sunday in the Church of the Brethren. The junior high theme for the upcoming year is "Overflowing with Thankfulness" (Colossians 2:6-7).

"I hope many congregations will invite junior highs to lead worship on that Sunday," said an announcement from Becky Ullom, director of the church’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

A number of resources for National Junior High Sunday are available online: a Bible study by Dennis Lohr of Palmyra, Pa.; worship resources including a call to worship, invocation, invitation to giving, offertory prayer, readers theater, and benediction; a skit and prayer litany by Lorele Yager of Churubusco, Ind., (the skit is adapted from a demonstration by Charles Tayler of Goshen City, Ind.); a sample bulletin cover, and some creative ideas for worship including a "thankfulness display" and worship center.

Go to for links to the junior high resources.

Source: 10/9/2009 Newsline Extra
Advent Offering will be held on Dec. 6.

"What are we waiting for?" is the question asked in the Church of the Brethren Advent offering materials. The second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 6, is the date suggested for this special offering to support the denominational ministry of the Church of the Brethren.

Based on Zechariah's proclamation of Jesus giving light to those who sit in darkness and guidance to walk in the way of peace, the Advent Offering resources ask church members to reflect on the significance of "Emmanuel," or "God with us."

"In our time and culture, we are asked to move away from a cultural response to Christmas celebration and to recognize Jesus' coming as a call to work for God's reign of justice and shalom," said Carol Bowman, coordinator of Stewardship Education and Formation.

Resource materials for the special offering including a poster and an Advent activity calendar titled "Changing the Look of Christmas." The resources will soon be posted online at The poster also will appear on the back cover of the denomination’s "Messenger" magazine. Additionally, a resource guide with an order form and a sample bulletin insert will be enclosed in the October "Source" packet that is mailed to each Church of the Brethren congregation. Congregations on standing order will automatically receive the materials around Oct. 19. Those not on standing order can order bulletin inserts online or by calling Brethren Press at 800-441-3712. Congregations are asked to provide their own offering envelopes.

"Please join congregations across the country by prayerfully participating in the Advent offering," Bowman said. "The gifts you share will renew spirits and bring light, peace, and justice to God's children everywhere."

Source: 10/9/2009 Newsline Extra