Thursday, December 30, 2010

Manchester receives $35 million Lilly grant for School of Pharmacy.

Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., has received a $35 million grant from Lilly Endowment to launch a School of Pharmacy. The grant--the largest in Manchester College history--will help the college develop its first doctoral program on a Fort Wayne campus, surrounded by regional hospitals, pharmacies, and health care facilities and services.

Responding to the national shortage of pharmacists and openings in pharmacy schools, Manchester announced last fall its plans to seek accreditation for a doctoral program in pharmacy, with the first classes beginning in fall 2012. When accredited, the School of Pharmacy will enroll 265 students in an intensive four-year Doctor of Pharmacy program.

Speaking on behalf of Lilly Endowment, Sara B. Cobb, vice president of education, said, "The school will further important efforts in Indiana to increase opportunities for education and careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) disciplines. The endowment believes this support should add significantly to the intellectual capital in northeast Indiana and enhance the vibrant life sciences sector growing throughout the state."

"Lilly Endowment is making a powerful impact on the college’s ability to focus on the most important work before us: building a distinctive, academically strong, mission-centered School of Pharmacy," said Manchester president Jo Young Switzer. "This grant enhances our tools to attract exceptional faculty in a highly competitive market."

Recruiting and hiring are under way for faculty in pharmacy practice, pharmaceutics, medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, pharmacy administration, and biomedical science, said Philip J. Medon, vice president and founding dean of the School of Pharmacy. "Pharmacists practicing in patient-care environments will comprise the majority of the faculty. Pharmacy students will work side-by-side with pharmacists and other members of the health care team in medical care facilities and pharmacies in the community." (For more visit

-- Jeri S. Kornegay is director of media and public relations for Manchester College.

Bethany Seminary receives grants for events and programs.

Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., has received a $200,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations for financial support of its Presidential Forum. The grant will be used to establish an endowment to create perpetual funding for this event.

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations are a national philanthropic organization established through the generosity of the late American industrialist, Arthur Vining Davis, and provide grants for private higher education, religion, secondary education, health care, and public television.

The Presidential Forum, established by Bethany president Ruthann Knechel Johansen at the beginning of her tenure, brings noted speakers to campus for in-depth study and discussion of current topics. Previous years’ forums have focused on scriptures of peace from various faith traditions, the intersection of wisdom and the arts, and hospitality.

Johansen noted that in awarding the grant, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations board recognizes the excellent education that is carried out at Bethany and the high quality of the forums that have been offered. "This gift will permit Bethany Seminary to carry its witness to the church and society forward for years to come," she said.

The seminary also has received a $25,000 grant from Barnabas Ltd. to reactivate its Exploring Your Call (EYC) program for high school juniors and seniors. Barnabas Ltd. is an Australian foundation founded by the parents of current Bethany Board of Trustees member Jerry Davis. More than 50 youth attended EYC events at Bethany during the first half of the last decade, and several current seminary students report that EYC was an important catalyst in their decisions to pursue ministry. Russell Haitch, associate professor of Practical Theology and director of the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults, will direct and staff the program. The next EYC is scheduled for June 17-27, 2011.

-- Marcia Shetler is director of public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

Bethany Board of Trustees holds Fall meeting.

The Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees gathered at the Richmond, Ind., campus for its semi-annual meeting Oct. 29-31. The board celebrated several significant accomplishments, including receipt of two grants (see story above), acceptance of a proposal for a distributed education track for the Master of Arts degree, and ongoing partnerships with the World Council of Churches related to the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV).

The Association of Theological Schools has approved Bethany's proposal to launch MA Connections, a distributed education track for the MA degree. Like MDiv Connections, the seminary's distributed education track for the master of divinity degree, MA Connections will offer courses in formats that are more conducive to the needs and desires of students in a distributed education program, such as weekend and two-week intensive classes and online and hybrid classes. The seminary will officially enroll students in the track in the Spring 2011 semester.

The Bethany board heard that seminary president Ruthann Knechel Johansen will represent the Church of the Brethren at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in May 2011 in Kingston, Jamaica. The convocation is the culminating event of the DOV and will celebrate the efforts of member communions around the world.

Current and emeritus faculty of Bethany have been significantly involved in the DOV including Donald Miller, a former general secretary of the Church of the Brethren and professor emeritus at Bethany, who has been a moving force in the holding of several international conferences of the Historic Peace Churches, and Scott Holland, professor of peace studies and cross-cultural studies.

Johansen was named as denominational representative by Brethren who have worked closely with the US DOV committee, Brethren advisors to the various Historic Peace Church gatherings, and by Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren.

"Ruthann's voice of God's shalom and Christ's peace within the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Theological Seminary has encouraged us all to seek the roots of our peace church heritage," Noffsinger said. "Her articulation of the theology of peace through Brethren eyes and experience will be critical, as this convocation will be considering an alternative voice to the Just War theory to which so many Christians subscribe. This gathering will explore what many have come to believe is a more appropriate Christian response in a Just Peace Declaration."

In other business, the board heard a progress report on the seminary's 2010-15 strategic plan, including curriculum review, marketing recommendations, and development of a comprehensive assessment plan; and the board approved a 2.38 percent increase for tuition for the 2011-12 academic year, to $430 per credit hour.

-- Marcia Shetler is director of public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

Sudan Council of Churches requests prayer for upcoming Referendum.

The Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) is asking partner churches to be in prayer for the Referendum in southern Sudan. The vote scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 9, is a referendum on whether southern Sudan will secede from the northern part of the country. It is a result of the comprehensive peace agreement reached in 2005 after decades of civil war between north and south.

Writing that, "It is good to keep praying for one another," SCC director for Ecumenical Church Relations, Emmanuel Nattania A. Bandi, sent the following list of specific prayer requests to Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships for the Church of the Brethren:
  1. Those who have registered their names are facing the challenges of selling their votes out in the upcoming Referendum.
  2. Those who will cast their votes will not be influenced by other means to choose contrary to their choices.
  3. Ask God to guard the process to be peaceful, free, and fair.
  4. Ask God to grant a peaceful Referendum.
  5. After the result is announced let there be no violence among the ordinary people.
  6. Safe journey for the southerners in the North and Khartoum (the capital city) who want to come back to the South, and prayer for the means of transport."
Church of the Brethren mission staff in southern Sudan, Michael Wagner, has been counseled to leave the country and return to the United States over the period of the Referendum. He has been working as seconded staff with the Africa Inland Church-Sudan (AIC) since July. For more about Wagner’s work: For a photo album:

Mission staff give leadership for peace events in Nigeria.

In an update on their work with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) mission staff Nathan and Jennifer Hosler have reported on a number of peace events and peacebuilding classes they teach at EYN’s Kulp Bible College in eastern Nigeria.

In the meantime, a recurrence of violence and bombings over the Christmas weekend killed a number of people in the city of Jos, in central Nigeria, and in the northern city of Maiduguri. The Anglican bishop for the area of Jos reported to BBC news that he believes this latest round of bombings is politically motivated, and called on new media not to link it to religious differences in the hope of preventing more retaliatory violence by Christian or Muslim mobs.

A leader of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) e-mailed a preliminary report to the Global Mission Partnerships office that at least one EYN church in Maiduguri was attacked on the 24th and there are reports that one EYN member may have been killed.

Following is an excerpt from the Hoslers’ newsletter for November/December:

"The month of November flew by, with classes and conferences and a lot of work for peace! KBC final exams started Dec. 1 and finished on Dec. 4. Twenty students in the Certificate in Christian Ministry class graduated on Dec. 10. Though we arrived about a month into the start of the semester (mid-October), we were able to get in a fair amount of teaching.

"Nate gave four lectures on restorative justice, a field of peacebuilding that attempts to change a framework of wrongdoing and justice from retribution to restoration.... Jenn taught two lectures on trauma and trauma healing, lessons that aimed to create awareness of the physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds that are caused by traumatic events like violent conflict.

"A Female Theologian’s group exists within EYN and it held its annual conference from Nov. 4-6 on ‘Women and Peacebuilding in Church and Society.’ Jenn was asked to write and present a paper, which was entitled, ‘Peace by Peace: Roles for Women in Peacebuilding.’ Looking specifically at the context of violent religious identity conflict in Nigeria, she highlighted peacebuilding roles at interpersonal, family, and church levels. Additionally, roles for women were highlighted in the realms of mediation, negotiation, trauma healing, reconciliation, advocacy and awareness-raising, and coalition building. These were explained with Nigerian examples as well as stories of women’s peacebuilding across African countries like Liberia. Nate shared the importance of women doing the theology of justice and peacemaking.

"For Jenn, writing the paper was a chance to do focused research and also have her eyes opened to the great resource for peace that exists in the ZME, or Women’s Fellowship group in EYN. We hope that new efforts of the EYN Peace Program will engage this vital group within the church, training, supporting, and encouraging them in creative grassroots peacebuilding efforts. We shall see where this goes in the future!

"One of the highlights for Nate was seeing the KBC Peace Club implement its first official event on Nov. 14. The group meets weekly for discussions on various biblical themes and topics related to peace. Another of its goals is also to plan events that build peace and encourage thinking about peace within the KBC community and local area. The group planned a forum for the Sunday evening church service at the KBC Chapel, entitled ‘What Is Peace?’ A faculty member, a student, and KBC principal Toma Ragnjiya were the presenters on the New Testament and Peace, Women and Peace, and Peace and Conflict in Nigeria, respectively. Feedback from attendees--KBC students and staff, EYN denominational staff, and community members--was positive and people were eager to attend another event or hold a similar event in another location.

"We also have been putting the finishing touches on the EYN Peace Resource Library, creating bibliographic resources for students and knowledge seekers."

The Hoslers’ newsletter ended with several prayer requests, including for peace in Nigeria as the country faces elections. "Originally scheduled for January, they have been postponed until April," the Hoslers reported. "Elections are typically times of tension, corruption, and even violence. The country faces many problems for which good leaders of integrity are needed. Pray for good leadership for Nigeria and for peace during tense times." For more about the Hoslers’ work:

Steve Bob ends employment with Church of the Brethren Credit Union.

Brethren Benefit Trust has announced that Steve Bob’s employment will end as director of operations for the Church of the Brethren Credit Union. "This was a difficult cost-containment measure," said a release from BBT, which also asked for prayer for the Bob family.

Bob will work at the credit union through Jan. 31, 2011. He then will receive a severance package, career counseling, and assistance in seeking new employment. He began work for BBT on Nov. 3, 2008. During his tenure, he was instrumental in developing several new credit union services including online banking and bill pay, and he implemented procedures to bring the credit union into compliance with state and federal regulations.

BBT: Putting our wellness where our money is.

Regardless of whether you supported the landmark health care legislation that was passed by the Democrat-majority Congress in March 2010, one thing is for certain: leaders of the soon-to-be Republican-majority House of Representatives have stated that they want the legislation repealed.

While no one knows how this political arm wrestling will impact the nation’s health care in the years to come, there are related issues that need immediate attention. According to a 2007 study by Milken Institute more than 109 million Americans (about one in three) have cancer, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, pulmonary conditions, mental disorders, or have experienced a stroke. At the time of the study, these health problems made a whopping $1.3 trillion annual impact on the economy, equal to about 9 percent of the US gross domestic product. With the federal government announcing in November that 59 million Americans do not have medical insurance, it is clear that these issues need immediate bipartisan attention.

In the meantime, there are many steps that can be taken to improve the health of individuals while trying to tame ever-increasing medical expenses. Brethren Benefit Trust will soon take one such step. On Jan. 1, BBT will institute a company-wide wellness initiative--an elective program that we offer to all Brethren Medical Plan employer groups.

According to numerous sources, a wellness program with an incentive improves the overall claims experience of employee medical insurance plans, which in turn helps reduce employer health care costs. Second, there is a reduction of workplace injuries. Third, there is an improvement in employee productivity. Fourth, there is a decrease in absenteeism. I also believe such a plan will result in improved corporate morale and camaraderie as people’s self esteem increases.

In mid-January, each participating BBT staff person will undergo a blood draw. Soon thereafter, each employee will receive a confidential health assessment. At mid-year, employees will undergo a second blood draw and receive an updated assessment. Beginning in 2012, staff members must participate in the blood draws and meet certain health benchmarks (or obtain a medical waiver from their physicians). Employees who choose not to participate in 2011 or who do not meet the health benchmarks in subsequent years will be assessed a wellness premium that is equal to 20 percent of BBT’s individual employee medical insurance premium.

Claims from this program will be billed through the Brethren Medical Plan’s preventive care component. While the wellness blood draw will replace other preventive blood work (because the wellness blood work is comprehensive, preventive, and the results can be shared with physicians), the plan will still allow other preventive measures like annual physicals.

To some, this program might not seem very desirable. I understand. As someone who has been overweight for most of his adult life, I too could wind up paying that 20 percent premium assessment. Nevertheless, the reality is that affordable employer medical insurance is an asset that is quickly slipping off the employer benefit landscape. Many businesses have eliminated this benefit or have greatly increased their employees’ out-of-pocket expenses.

The time is right for employees and companies to work together. Employees striving to become healthier will help mitigate the rising cost of employer-based insurance plans, which should enable employers to continue offering medical insurance plans with lower premiums and deductibles so that the employees do not experience debilitating out-of-pocket expenses from a catastrophic medical event.

Who knows how long it will take for Congress to agree on a long-term health care solution? By the time that happens, BBT staff and perhaps other Brethren Medical Plan members should be healthier, happier, and have comparatively lower insurance premiums.

-- Nevin Dulabaum is president of Brethren Benefit Trust.

God’s timing: On disaster rebuilding in Indiana.

This reflection on God’s timing was written earlier this Fall by Brethren Disaster Ministries associate director Zach Wolgemuth after he visited a rebuilding project in Indiana, in an area affected by flooding:

"I have found the timing of my trip to Winamac to be beneficial. Certainly I did not plan things this way, but God seems to have a way of laying everything out.

"One house has been behind schedule because the old home was not torn down when it was supposed to be and the new foundation was just completed. The homeowner was on the schedule to be one of the first to be completed, but ended up at the bottom of the list because he told them that others needed the help more than he did.

"No one really checked into his situation and took his word for it. This is a man who has taken almost everything that life has thrown at him in stride, and with an attitude that I wish I had on some good days. His house was completely uninhabitable and he and his wife/partner of 20 years have been living in a very old trailer. He has been out of work and spends much time caring for a disabled son.

"To top all this off, the man’s wife/partner found out in May that she has breast cancer and is now undergoing treatments. Which means that he is left caring for everyone.

"You can tell that he cares deeply for his family. He told me that this construction on their new house will bring her joy--to be able to look out the window and see the work happening.

"Why God’s timing? Every now and then I need a wake-up call. Hearing this man tell his story, and knowing that we in Brethren Disaster Ministries are doing some good in the world and making a difference is helpful.

"Not only that, I am completely humbled. Yes, he is rough around the edges. But I am convinced I would be jagged around the edges if I were to walk in his shoes. None of us really know how blessed we truly are!"

From Germany: A former BVSer reflects on living up to your beliefs.

Former Brethren Volunteer Service worker Patrick Spahn--a member of BVS Unit 283--has returned to Germany after carrying out a term of service at the Center on Conscience and War (formerly NISBCO) in Washington, D.C. He wrote the following reflection about his work there:

"I am already back in Germany for two months, and it feels like far longer since I edited the last ‘Reporter for Conscience’ Sake’ or answered a phone call on the GI Rights Hotline. Working at the Center on Conscience and War was a very great time for me.

"I learned a lot about the issues, such as recruiter abuse, conscientious objection, and American military culture and religion. I am aware of many problems I hadn´t been aware of previously, such as the recruitment of poor people, and the glorification of soldiers and their duty.

"On an even more personal level, I loved working at the center. Working for a cause I am passionate about and truly believe in was very fulfilling and something I want to keep doing. Prior to working at the center, I had a hard time choosing between two different college programs, Social Work or International Policy Management. After my time at the center I decided to study the last mentioned. I don´t think I would have decided on that program, and that future, without volunteering at the center.

"Working together with the staff of CCW was a big part of this decision, and part of the reason why I had such a great time. All are in different ways role models, and just by working with them I learned a lot about dedication, passion, and how to keep doing this tough work for a long time.

"I will never forget stories of the people who called CCW. A woman in the Air Force who thought about getting pregnant just to get out of the service, which doesn´t work in that branch. Or the woman who was sexually harassed by men higher up in her chain of command while deployed on a ship. Or the conscientious objector who is still struggling to get out after years of trying.

"Then there are all the conscientious objectors who turned their entire lives around with that decision, and those who even lost friends and family because of their newly found beliefs that no longer allowed them to participate in the armed forces. I have deep respect for these courageous folks. All of them are an example for me of how important it is to live up to your own beliefs, convictions, and conscience.

"The German people used to have a very skeptical relationship toward soldiers and the military based on the two world wars. Now I see tendencies in Germany that scare me. The recruiters go into schools, the armed forces get smaller but get ready for more deployments, and folks start to be less skeptical about soldiers. Additionally a very popular young politician is the current Defense Secretary, and his popularity boosts public opinion of the military a lot.

"I am already in contact with the German War Resisters League, Mennonite Counseling Network (part of the GI Rights Hotline in Germany), and Iraq Veterans Against the War to become active here in Germany as well. In mid August I met with my congresswoman to talk about my service at the Center on Conscience and War as well as German politics in regards to the military, Afghanistan, and conscription.

"I thank you for your support. Without it I could not have had all these life-changing experiences, and I could not have helped all these people. Take care and from the bottom of my heart I say, Auf Wiedersehen!"

Brethren bits: Correction, job opening, IRA rollover extension, more.
  • Correction: A previous Newsline article gave misleading information about the 2011 National Older Adult Conference. The following organizations are helping to sponsor specific events at NOAC, but not the conference itself: the Fellowship of Brethren Homes is sponsoring an ice cream social; the Brethren-related colleges and university and Bethany Seminary are sponsoring alumni receptions; Everence (formerly Mennonite Mutual Aid) is sponsoring the address by Robert Bowman; the Brethren Village in Lancaster, Pa., is sponsoring the address by David Fuchs and Curtis Dubble; and the Palms of Sebring, Fla., also is planning to sponsor an event.

  • Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has an opening for a fulltime personnel coordinator. Preferred start date is April 15, 2011. Compensation is a stipend based on need. Initial appointment will be for a period of three years. Preferred location is Chicago, Ill. Persons with the required experience and skills who have not been members of CPT are welcome to apply. If chosen as the most promising applicant, an individual will be invited to participate in a CPT delegation and month-long training and discernment process. For more information go to Contact Carol Rose, CPT Co-Director, at with expressions of interest and nominations by Jan. 12, 2011.

  • An extension of the charitable IRA rollover has been put in place with the compromise tax bill passed by the US Congress. In an alert to church members, Steve Mason of Brethren Benefit Trust and the Brethren Foundation notes that this provision allows taxpayers who are 70 1/2 years old or older to make tax-free transfers of up to $100,000 per year from a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA directly to charity. The provision originally was effective for 2006-07 and then twice extended through 2009, but was allowed to expire on Jan. 1, 2010, and had not been available since. "The new law extends the charitable IRA rollover for two years, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, (that is, through 2011)," Mason writes. "Recognizing that there is little time left to take advantage of this extension in 2010, the new law allows donors to elect to treat IRA rollover gifts made in Jan. 2011 as if they were made on Dec. 31, 2010. Taxpayers who make this election are permitted to count their gift against the $100,000 limitation on such gifts in 2010 instead of against the 2011 limitation. They may also count their gift toward fulfilling their required minimum distribution for 2010." Individuals should consult with a financial counselor to ensure that they qualify. For more information go to

  • Dec. 31 is the registration deadline for "The Protestant Church of Germany: Past and Present," a study abroad offering from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. The trip takes place June 13-25, 2011, with instructor Ken Rogers, professor of Historical Studies at Bethany Seminary. This ecumenical and intercultural course, taught in English, will have participants spend 11 days in and around Marburg, Germany, addressing the questions: "How do the practices and beliefs of the Protestant (State) Church of Germany compare with our own?" and "How does one’s social context shape our Christian faith and theology?" Participants will live with local families and meet with clergy, laity, and theologians. A one-day bus excursion will take the group to important sites of Brethren history including the village of Schwarzenau, where the first Brethren baptisms took place in 1708. Cost is $2,500, including airfare from Philadelphia. Go to or call 800-287-8822 ext. 1824.

  • Join a faith expedition to Vietnam on March 6-20, 2011, coordinated by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships. "Are you looking for a new travel experience in 2011? Would you like to learn more about Church of the Brethren involvement overseas?" asks the invitation. "Space is limited so contact us soon!" Participants will visit historic sites and Church World Service projects in Hanoi, Hue, and Muong Te. Price per person is $3,000 and includes airfare and in-country room, board, and travel. The deadline for applications is Jan. 5, 2011. Contact Anna Emrick at or 800-323-8039 ext. 230. For more information go to

  • On Earth Peace has announced plans to expand its Agape-Satyagraha program training young people to respond in positive, nonviolent ways to the conflicts and challenges they face. Agape-Satyagraha is currently in seven sites: Harrisburg, Pa.; Canton, Ill.; Lima, Ohio; Modesto, Calif.; South Bend, Ind.; Union Bridge, Md.; and Wilmington, Del. "In the coming year, we want to make this opportunity available in three more communities. Will you help us?" said the announcement from executive director Bob Gross. Also, On Earth Peace has posted a slide show of children's peace murals created by groups taking part in the Kids as Peacemakers program (find it at Over the past two years, more than 30 groups of children in 16 different communities have taken part. "In the coming year, with your help, On Earth Peace plans to support at least 10 more churches and schools to offer the Kids as Peacemakers program for children," the report said. For more information about On Earth Peace planning for 2011, go to

  • Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., hosted a "Thou Shalt Not Kill" symposium on the death penalty on Dec. 4 with actor Mike Farrell of "M.A.S.H." fame, currently president of Death Penalty Focus. Also on the program was Church of the Brethren member Rachel Gross, who with husband Bob Gross of On Earth Peace co-founded the Death Row Support Project in 1978. Find a report from the Fort Wayne "Journal Gazette" at

  • East Chippewa Church of the Brethren in Orrville, Ohio, is holding a benefit dinner and concert the evening of Jan. 15, 2011, for the family of Wayne Carmany, who suffered from cancer for an extended period of time and passed away Dec. 29. The concert will feature musical talents and groups including New Beginnings, Brass Ensemble, Bob Hutson, Lela Horst, Rachel King, Rick Horst, Leslie Lake, and the East Chip Vocal Band.

  • The combined choirs of Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren and Olivet Presbyterian will present a benefit concert for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank Network at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2011, at the Staunton Church. "Celebrate the Joy of Christmas this New Year" will be performed with accompanying orchestra, under the direction of David MacMillan.

  • Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland, Ore., has been in the news for its relationship to the family of Mohamed Mohamud, the teen accused of plotting to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. A report from Religion News Service interviews former pastor Sylvia Eagan, who explained how in the 1990s Peace Church was one of the congregations that aided the family as they fled from war in Somalia and a refugee camp in Kenya. Parents Osman and Miriam Barre were offered asylum in the US and gained the sponsorship of several churches in the Portland area. "It was our responsibility to help them find a place to live, get to appointments, and get settled," Eagan told RNS. Read "The Religious History of the Suspected Portland Bomber" at

  • Panora (Iowa) Church of the Brethren on Dec. 19 honored Esther Thompson for 76 years as a church organist. The "Guthrie Center Times" tells her story at

  • Roxbury Church of the Brethren in Johnstown, Pa., has honored Charles Allison for teaching Sunday school for more than 50 years, according to a report in the "Tribune-Democrat."

  • Codorus Church of the Brethren in Dallastown, Pa., is noting the upcoming 71st wedding anniversary of members John W. and Mary S. Keeney, who were married Feb. 3, 1940. As of the end of January, the couple both will be 96 years old.

  • The Brethren Mission Fund of the Brethren Revival Fellowship is sponsoring a workcamp to Haiti on Feb. 26-March 5, 2011. On-site coordination will be by Jeff Boshart, Haiti disaster response coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries, and leaders of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti). Cost is $900 including on-site meals, lodging, transportation, and travel insurance. Airfare to Port-au-Prince is an additional cost. Contact trip coordinators Doug Miller 717-624-4822, Jim Myer 717-626-5555, or Earl Eby 717-263-7590.

  • World Council of Churches general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit has hailed US ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. "Such a decision is especially meaningful in what is for Christians the season of peace," his statement said in part. "With member churches around the world we thank God for this small but significant demonstration of progress on a problem that continues to deny the hopes of people everywhere. We also welcome cross-party support in one nation for a decision that concerns all nations. The US and other nuclear powers do not possess weapons of mass destruction in isolation. They do so against the best interests of humanity." He concluded, "The ratification by Russia of the New START treaty would be a welcome start to 2011. We pray that the New Year will see more such news that is good news for all." Find the full statement at

  • Church of the Brethren member Sarah Scott Kepple designed the house that was built this fall in Savannah, Ga., by "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." The show will be aired Jan. 16, 2011, on ABC affiliates. Kepple is employed by Hansen Architects.

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Kim Ebersole, Anna Emrick, Leroy M. Keeney, Marilyn Lerch, and Brian Solem contributed to this report.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Annual Conference issues 2011 logo, makes online input form available for Special Response.

A new logo and a full theme statement for the 2011 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren have been released. Moderator Robert Alley has posted a full statement about the 2011 theme, "Gifted with Promise: Extending Jesus’ Table," at
along with detailed plans for Conference worship services.

In other news from the Conference Office, an online response form is now being offered for those unable to attend a Special Response hearing about items of business related to sexuality.

The 2011 Annual Conference will be July 2-6 in Grand Rapids, Mich. The event is open to all members, family, and friends of the Church of the Brethren, and will feature daily worship services, business sessions for congregational and district delegates, age group activities, meal events and insight sessions on a wide variety of topics, and more.

New this year, delegates will be able to register online at beginning Jan. 3 through Feb. 21, 2011. Online registration for nondelegates will begin Feb. 22 at noon central time. A letter explaining the registration process for delegates is being mailed to all congregations.

This year’s theme is taken from the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-14. The logo illustrating the theme has been designed by Darin Keith Bowman of Bridgewater, Va.

"The expanding cloth logo concept depicts the feeding of the 5,000 at its essence," says Bowman’s description of its meaning. "The elements themselves represent the promise of a coming miracle that is beyond belief. The table surface is a cloth that expands as it transforms literally and figuratively into a dove. This present and future transformation is initiated by the Spirit and carried out by the faithful. The overhead view invites us to find our place at the table. The figures around the table represent different aspects of our faith journey, inviting (maroon), receiving (orange), and teaching (green). The different colors of the figures also give the logo an intercultural dimension. Finally, where two or three are gathered, we are certain of God’s presence. The logo can serve as a visual reminder that we can make shared experiences around the table so much more than just physical nourishment."

In the Conference Office announcement about the new online input form, Conference director Chris Douglas wrote: "The officers and Standing Committee of Annual Conference value the input of our congregations and membership in the two business items currently in our Special Response Process: ‘A Statement of Confession and Commitment’ and ‘Query: Language on Same Sex Covenants.’"

Most district hearings on these business items occurred this fall, with leadership from members of the Standing Committee of district representatives. For those unable to attend a hearing this fall the online input form has been made available through Feb. 28, 2011.

The form is to be used to share opinions about what Standing Committee should know regarding the statement and the query as the group prepares its recommendations to the 2011 Annual Conference. "As the e-mails come in, they will be compiled for consideration along with the responses from the district hearings in the work of Standing Committee," Douglas said.

Find the online form at -- click on "Special Response Input."

Meeting issues ‘Letter from Santo Domingo to All Churches.’

Representatives of the Historic Peace Churches in Latin America have issued a "Letter from Santo Domingo to All Churches" as a joint declaration calling on churches worldwide to commit to work to overcome violence.

The conference on Nov. 27-Dec. 2, 2010, was the fourth and final in a series of peace church conferences that have been part of the World Council of Churches Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV). More than 70 Brethren, Friends (Quakers), and Mennonites from some 17 countries gathered in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, on the theme, "Hunger for Peace: Faces, Paths, Cultures." The effort flows into the culminating conference of the DOV, the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation to be held in Jamaica next year.

The letter is written in 13 sections beginning with an overview of the history of the event, and the types of stories and theological reflections that were offered. It continues with calls to care for particular vulnerable communities, shared challenges for peacemaking, concerns for political and disaster-related situations in certain countries, calls for peace churches to help build public policy and to work together, and dreams for the overcoming of violence.

The letter closes with the invitation for "all churches in Latin America and around the world to come together in this movement to overcome violence and reject any possibility of just war." (Find the full letter, in Spanish and English, at

The letter was formulated by a small committee that gathered a "sense of the meeting" out of the presentations at the conference, with an approval process conducted in the consensus tradition of the Friends. The formulating committee had the job of reducing several days of presentations, testimonies, reports, and personal stories into a document of common understandings. The committee included César Moya, Delia Mamani, and Alexandre Gonçalves.

Testimonies shared during the conference revealed difficulties as well as opportunities for Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker churches working for peace in Latin America and the Caribbean. Reports and stories of church programs, and other personal efforts, addressed broad areas of peacemaking, justice and human rights work, and services meeting human needs.

Also presented were the theological roots of peacemaking in the three peace church traditions (find a report of the Brethren presentation on a peace church hermeneutic given by Gonçalves at

Worship services were hosted by local Mennonite and Brethren congregations, with evening devotions led by the three denominational groups. On one afternoon the group experienced an "alternative" tour of colonial Santo Domingo with an emphasis on the genocide, slavery, and other injustices set in motion with Columbus’ arrival in the Americas.

Alix Lozano, a Mennonite minister who has taught for 16 years at a seminary in Colombia, set the tone for the conference with her opening sermon calling for a focus on the "peace of the city." She called for the church to carry out peacemaking at the service of the surrounding community. Noting a text in Jeremiah in which the prophet tells the exiles in Babylon that, in Lozano’s words, "from the wellbeing of the city depends your wellbeing," she urged: "Work for your city, and pray for it."

Suely and Marcos Inhauser of Igreja da Irmandade (Church of the Brethren in Brazil) closed the conference by jointly preaching the evening sermon at host congregation Mendoza New Anointing Church of the Brethren, a Haitian-Dominican church. The story of the newly resurrected Christ appearing to his disciples while they were in hiding from the authorities, was related to Haitian experiences of oppression and discrimination in the DR and became a challenge to confront violence and oppression head on.

"I really love this Jesus of ours because he was so courageous," the Inhausers preached, pointing out that after the resurrection Jesus returned to the same city in which he had suffered torture and death. Nothing can be done about violence and oppression if we run away, they said, "We have to face it with a witnessing presence." They called believers to move out of shelter and hiding and into the world as disciples of Christ. "I need you to get out and spread the peace."

Webcasts of many of the presentations at the conference are at A photo album is at

NCC leaders offer pastoral advice to Senate on nuclear arms reduction.

With perhaps unintended irony, two US senators have declared that Christmas is not the time to move toward peace by reducing the number of nuclear arms in the arsenals of the US and Russia. Today, Dec. 15, general secretary of the National Council of Churches Michael Kinnamon and several heads of NCC member communions, including Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger, sent the lawmakers a reminder that the Prince of Peace is the reason for the season.

Senators Jim Demint and Jon Kyl have both declared their intention to delay ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START II) during the lame duck session of Congress. Observers suspect they may be taking the stand for partisan reasons, but each has declared that Christmas is not the time to support arms reduction.

"You can't jam a major arms control treaty right before Christmas," Demint said in an interview with Politico, calling the whole thing "sacrilegious." "This is the most sacred holiday for Christians," he said. "They did the same thing last year--they kept everybody here until (Christmas Eve) to force something down everybody's throat."

Earlier, Kyl complained that efforts by Senate majority leader Harry Reid to ratify START II as well as pass other legislation was too much at Christmas time. "It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out, frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians," insisted Kyl.

But Kinnamon sent the senators a peaceful admonishment that they have overlooked the true spirit of Christmas. "If anything this time of year should be an encouragement for our leaders to work harder for peace on earth in response to God who wills peace for all," he said. "Peace is major theme of the Advent season and celebration of Christmas. The NCC looks forward to being able to celebrate ratification of this treaty to reduce nuclear stockpiles and improve verification. Any delay would be contrary to our commitment to peace on earth."

Last month the general assembly of the NCC and Church World Service unanimously adopted a call to ratify the treaty. Kinnamon and CWS executive director John L. McCullough sent copies of the statement to US senators (see

Meeting today with the heads of several NCC member communions, Kinnamon said several other leaders endorsed the call to senators to recognize that the Christmas season is indeed the appropriate time to support measures for peace.

The leaders include Noffsinger along with Wesley Granberg-Michaelson of the Reformed Church in America; Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Church in North America; Michael Livingston of the International Council of Community Churches; Betsy Miller of the Moravian Church Northern Province Provincial Elders' Conference; Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Gradye Parsons of the Presbyterian Church (USA); Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church; and Dick Hamm of Christian Churches Together.

Kinnamon and the group also reminded the Senate that the theme of peace at Christmas time is unmistakable in scripture. The song of the angels on the night Christ was born makes it clear that the word on high is "Peace on Earth," Serapion said, citing Luke 2:14. The Prophet Isaiah declares the coming of a messiah called, "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

"In this advent season we anticipate the birth of the Prince of Peace and hear the good news to 'fear not,'" said Noffsinger. "The theme of 'fear not' calls us to a world freed from these weapons that are based on the response of fear."

-- Philip E. Jenks is media relations specialist for the National Council of Churches.

Murray Williams tour proclaims Anabaptist values for the present context.

For four days in early November, the Church of the Brethren hosted British church planter and self-proclaimed Anabaptist Stuart Murray Williams. In a tour organized by Stan Dueck of Congregational Life Ministries, Murray Williams spoke and led workshops at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, as well as Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren, First Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., and Somerset (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

Murray Williams opened the gathering in Frederick by stating clearly that Anabaptism "has something very significant to say to our current context." At each gathering, he presented the seven core Anabaptist convictions discerned by the British Anabaptist Network and published in his recent book, "The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith" (order from Brethren Press for $13.99 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712).

He also described the context of Western Christianity through the lens of what he and others have termed Post-Christendom. He was quick to qualify the nature of Post-Christendom for the American context by noting the legal separation of church and state. Yet, he also provided an outsider's observation by noting that from across the Atlantic, it looks as though the United States "has a different form of Christendom, a Christian nation ideology."

Tim Heishman, a 2011 Youth Peace Travel Team member, attended the gathering at Roanoke and came away "feeling inspired and hopeful, as well as challenged," he said. In a sense, Heishman reflected, Murray gave "us a loving (and humble) report card," and encouraged attendees "to aspire to the life of radical discipleship that the founding Brethren/Anabaptists embraced."

The seven directors of the Congregational Life Ministries staff attended the gatherings. In addition to three of the public meetings led by Murray Williams, the staff spent several hours in a closed session with him. During that time, the six directors and executive director Jonathan Shively explored how Anabaptist values could be applied in this new and changing Post-Christendom context.

Murray Williams is chair of the Anabaptist Network ( and since 2001, under that auspice, has served as a trainer, mentor, writer, strategist, and consultant with particular interest in urban mission, church planting, and emerging forms of church.

-- Joshua Brockway is director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship for the Church of the Brethren. Find a photo album at

Youth seek ‘Hidden Treasure’ at Powerhouse regional youth conference.

No pirates were involved, but about 100 senior high youth and advisors came to Manchester College in Indiana on Nov. 13-14 to seek "Hidden Treasure" at the 2010 Powerhouse Church of the Brethren regional youth conference.

Participants came from six districts spanning Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois as the conference received a "reboot" in a new format and new time of year after a two-year absence. The conference was organized by Manchester’s Campus Ministry office, and many Brethren college students assisted with the weekend.

Three worship services looked at "The Treasure Within" (our unique gifts and talents), "The Treasure Among Us" (our larger faith community), and "The Treasure Before Us" (scripture and the pursuit of wisdom). Angie Lahman Yoder, a Manchester alumna from Peoria, Ariz., spoke at two of the services, and another alumnus, Brethren videographer Dave Sollenberger of North Manchester, Ind., wove reflections amid a series of video clips at the other. Manchester sophomore Kay Guyer, an art major, created three colorful banners that hung in Wampler Auditorium to illustrate the themes.

Other highlights of the weekend included a high-energy concert by Mutual Kumquat, a popular band composed mostly of Manchester graduates, and a selection of breakout sessions led by denominational leaders, local pastors, and Manchester faculty on themes of vocation, service, salvation, and wisdom literature. Youth also had time to explore the campus, play games, do creative arts, or relax.

Feedback was positive, and another conference is tentatively being planned for next fall. Watch for details at

-- Walt Wiltschek is campus minister at Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind.

Atlantic Southeast District holds ecumenical Family Peace Camp.

On Sept. 3-5 an intergenerational Family Peace Camp with a strong ecumenical flavor gave expression to the joys and challenges of living peaceably in these times, sponsored by the Action for Peace Team of Atlantic Southeast District, and hosted by Camp Ithiel.

More than 70 campers, including 10 teens and 13 children, sang, danced, played, and shared stories of how God's presence gives strength to carry the burdens of brokenness and struggle. Father Eric Haarer of the Roman Catholic Spiritual Life Institute in Crestone, Colo., and Ireland, led the adult sessions using the theme, "A Love Stronger than Our Fears" focusing on inner peace.

Haarer is a rare find among religious leaders. He grew up in a Mennonite home in Michigan, was baptized as a youth into Lansing (Mich.) Church of the Brethren, and found his calling to a Roman Catholic religious vocation while serving in a Mennonite volunteer project. He has found peace and meaning for his Anabaptist heart within the tent of the Roman Catholic Church.

In a few hours of fellowship and worship, the camp group came together as a vibrant, caring community of faith made up of Brethren, Catholics, Christian and Missionary Alliance members, and people of other Christian traditions. An older Baptist woman led a band of young girl campers in colorful rhythmic liturgical dance during congregational singing. A mixed age praise band, with very little rehearsal, combined fiddles, bass guitar, ukulele, recorder, and keyboard in skillful harmony.

"Each person has a unique journey," was one camper’s response to the event. "There is quiet pain and burden-bearing in young people as well as in older folks. Somehow this camp helped us reveal some of the dark stuff and let it go, giving room for trust and laughter and faith to be confirmed and enriched."

A planning group has been named to arrange for the 2011 Family Peace Camp, to take place at Camp Ithiel in Gotha, Fla., on Sept. 2-4. Everyone is welcome!

-- Merle Crouse is a member of the Action for Peace Team.

John Kline Homestead closes in on goal to purchase property.

There is "exciting news" coming from the John Kline Homestead preservation project, according to leader Paul Roth. The project is within $5,000 of raising the $425,000 needed to purchase the historic Kline family property by the end of this year.

A John Kline Homestead Preservation Trust was created in 2006 in hopes of preserving and eventually being able to purchase the home of Elder John Kline, a leader of the Brethren during the Civil War and a martyr for peace. The homestead is in Broadway, Va., near Linville Creek Church of the Brethren where Roth is pastor.

The date has not yet been set by Park View Federal Credit Union of Harrisonburg, Va., for closing on the property, Roth said. The homestead Board of Directors will plan a celebration event after the property has been purchased.

This fall the homestead has hosted a number of events both to encourage the raising of funds and to highlight the peacemaking witness of Elder John Kline as a key anniversary of the Civil War approaches in 2011.

"We just completed our third Candlelight Dinner in the John Kline house with 88 guests enjoying a traditional homemade meal and the conversations of people who lived in the house sharing their concerns about the rumors of war in the fall of 1860," Roth reported. Actors played the parts of people who would have lived and worked in the house at that time. An actor playing John Kline "read from his Jan. 1, 1861, diary entry, fearing the impact of secession and war upon his family and congregation," Roth said.

More Candlelight Dinners will be offered in 2011. Tentative dates are Jan. 21 and 22, Feb. 18 and 19, March 18 and 19, and April 15 and 16. Tickets are $40 per plate. Seating is limited to 32. Reservations will be received beginning Jan. 3. For more information contact Paul Roth at 540-896-5001 or

James Miller retires from Shenandoah District.

James E. Miller will retire as district executive minister of the Church of the Brethren’s Shenandoah District, effective May 31, 2011. He began in the position in June 1992.

Ordained at Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren in Hagerstown, Md., in 1974, he is a graduate of Manchester College and holds master’s degrees from Bethany Theological Seminary and American University. His previous service has included work with his wife, Mary, in Africa and South America, serving with East Africa Yearly Meeting of Friends in Kenya from 1970-73, and with Mennonite Central Committee in Brazil from 1981-85. He was associate district executive for Shenandoah 1977-81, and district executive for Northern Plains District 1985-92.

His retirement plans include spending time as an ESL tutor and doing volunteer research work with the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.

Devorah Lieberman named ULV’s 18th president.

Devorah Lieberman has been selected to be the 18th president of the University of La Verne (ULV), a Church of the Brethren-related school in La Verne, Calif. According to a release from the university, she will be the first female president in ULV’s 119-year history when she begins in the position on June 30, 2011, following the retirement of president Stephen C. Morgan.

Lieberman has a 33-year career in higher education. Since 2004 she has served as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y. Prior to her time at Wagner, she spent more than 16 years at Portland (Ore.) State University as a faculty member in the Department of Communication Studies and an administrator.

From 2002-05 she was one of 13 national scholars selected to participate in the Project on the Future of Higher Education. She has chaired the American Council on Education (ACE) International Collaborative, has been an ACE Institute Facilitator and an Institutional Representative chair for the New American Colleges and Universities, and has served on an advisory board for the National Review Board for Civic Engagement. Along with her administrative duties, she has continued to teach and one course co-taught online with a professor in Greece, "Intercultural Business Communications," earned her the American Council on Education "Bringing the World into the Classroom" award in 2010.

ULV held a special event introducing Lieberman to the campus community on Dec. 8.

National Older Adult Conference to be held Sept. 5-9, 2011.

"Passion and Purpose in a Changing World" (Romans 12:2) is the theme for the 2011 National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) on Sept. 5-9 at Lake Junaluska (N.C.) Conference and Retreat Center. Adults age 50 and older are invited to this Church of the Brethren event.

Speakers for worship are Robert Bowman, associate professor of biblical studies at Manchester College, who will preach for the opening worship service Monday evening; Philip Gulley, a master storyteller and author of "If the Church Were Christian," "I Love You, Miss Huddleston," and the Harmony and Porch Talk series, who will preach on Wednesday evening; and Susan Stern Boyer, pastor of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, who will preach for the closing service, with Ken Kline Smeltzer, interim pastor at Burnham (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, sharing a brief reflection about the week.

Morning Bible studies will be led by Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, associate professor of preaching and worship at Bethany Theological Seminary.

Other featured speakers include Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove, a leader in the new monastic movement and author of many books including "To Baghdad and Beyond," about his experience with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq; David E. Fuchs, M.D., and Curtis W. Dubble, who will share a dialogue about "Unexpected Travels in Healing" exploring questions about life, death, medical ethics, and faith raised by the illness of Dubble’s wife, Anna Mary; C. Michael Hawn, university distinguished professor of church music at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas, whose address, "Singing with the Saints," will explore the gifts of the world Christian church and invite the audience to join in a "choir rehearsal for heaven."

On Tuesday evening, NOAC will be graced with a concert of spirituals, show tunes, and classical selections sung by Amy Yovanovich and Christyan Seay. Music continues Thursday evening with a hymn sing coordinated by Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, assisted by Hawn, the NOAC choir, and a variety of musicians.

Opportunities for service will include a fundraising walk supporting leadership development of young adults through Ministry Summer Service, and the collection of school and hygiene kits for disaster relief. Also offered will be dozens of Interest Groups on a wide variety of topics, arts and craft classes, and recreational opportunities such as hiking, tennis, golf, and boating.

NOAC is receiving support from the following sponsors: the Fellowship of Brethren Homes, the Brethren-related colleges and university, Bethany Theological Seminary, Everence (formerly Mennonite Mutual Aid), Brethren Village in Lancaster, Pa., and the Palms of Sebring, Fla.

Kim Ebersole, director of family life and older adult ministries for the Church of the Brethren, coordinates NOAC assisted by the planning committee of Deanna Brown, Ken and Elsie Holderread, Nancy Faus-Mullen, Peggy Redman, and Guy Wampler.

Registration materials will be sent to past attendees, congregations, district offices, and retirement communities around March 1. They also will be available online at or contact or 800-323-8039 ext. 302.

Brethren bits: Personnel, jobs, Sudan, bullying, Lent devotional, more.
  • Steve Mason, director of the Brethren Foundation Inc. and the socially responsible investing activities of Brethren Benefit Trust, has been called as interim chief financial officer of BBT. This temporary role will last up to one year. He will work from his home office in North Manchester.

  • Jerry and Connie Reynolds have retired as managers of Camp Emmanuel in Astoria, Ill., as of Nov. 1, after serving five years in the position. Mike and Ruth Siburt of Decatur (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, began as the new camp managers on Nov. 11. The new Camp Emmanuel e-mail address is

  • The University of La Verne, Calif., seeks an interfaith chaplain to promote and advance a campus culture that values religious diversity, community service, and social awareness. A doctorate in an appropriate field is preferred, but a master of divinity or equivalent degree will be considered. The position requires a minimum of three years experience in college administration or related religious leadership. Preference will be given to candidates with ordination in a religious tradition. Benefits include a comprehensive health and welfare plan, tuition remission program for employee, spouse, and dependent children, and a generous 10 percent contribution to the university’s 403B retirement plan. Review of applications begins Jan. 3, 2011. For a full job description and to apply go to

  • The Gather ’Round curriculum, a project of Brethren Press and Mennonite Publishing Network, is accepting applications to write for the 2012–13 year. Writers are hired for one or two quarters for a particular age unit: preschool, primary, middler, multiage, junior youth, or youth. Writers produce well-written, age-appropriate, and engaging material for teacher’s guides, student books, and resource packs. All writers will attend an orientation conference March 6-10, 2011, in Chicago, Ill. For more information, visit the Job Opportunities page at The deadline for applications is Jan. 1, 2011.

  • Brethren are asked to commit themselves to prayer for Sudan, which is on the brink of renewed hostilities as it enters into a crucial stage of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. This request comes from Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of the church’s Global Mission Partnerships. "On Jan. 9, a historic referendum vote is scheduled to determine if the predominantly Christian South will secede from Sudan and form an independent state, the Government of Southern Sudan," Wittmeyer said. "At the best of times, elections and referendums are difficult processes, but given Sudan’s tumultuous history, ethnic tensions, and disputed oil fields and water resources, this referendum could spark violence and even outright war. Brethren are asked to pray that this historic event takes place in a peaceful, timely, and credible manner, and that the results of the vote are respected on all sides."

  • Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has announced the planting of a local church council in the neighboring country of Cameroun. The announcement came in a Nov. 24 e-mail from EYN general secretary Jinatu L. Wamdeo to the US church’s Global Mission Partnerships. "We are happy to inform you that we have witnessed big events of God’s work through the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) in Cameroun yesterday where autonomy is given to Zamga Cameroun," Wamdeo wrote. "It is the first in EYN History to install a Local Church Council (LCC) EYC outside Nigeria."

  • Church of the Brethren resources on the problem of bullying are available online, including a pastoral letter signed by general secretary Stan Noffsinger, a video clip of Noffsinger speaking about the issue, "Safe Places" materials originally prepared for a Health Promotion Sunday, and more. "Our response to bullying, at its base, is a response to violence. Bullying, for any reason and in any manner, is inconsistent with the Good News of Jesus Christ," the letter says, in part. Find resources at

  • Brethren Press is offering a pre-publication price for its 2011 Lent devotional, "The Cost of Following Jesus: Devotions for Ash Wednesday through Easter" by J.D. Glick. Order by Dec. 17 to get the special discount price of $2 per copy and $5 for large print. After Dec. 17 the cost is $2.50 per copy, $5.95 for large print. Become a seasonal subscriber to the annual devotional series and receive both Lent and Advent devotionals at the discounted price, with your subscription automatically renewed each year. Call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712 or go to

  • Brethren Disaster Ministries associate director Zach Wolgemuth has been involved in meetings with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) around disaster housing initiatives and how to work with government partners. He reports that a core working group has been established, unofficially called the Collaborative Housing Work Group, with one representative each from Habitat for Humanity, Christian Reform World Relief Committee, Mennonite Disaster Service, and Brethren Disaster Ministries. "This is a unique opportunity with lots of promise," he wrote. "Communication and collaboration among agencies will be keys to success. We hope to develop a framework for our response to housing needs in the wake of disaster, to understand each other’s strengths and capacities so that we might better serve those in need. We then hope to develop a decision tree to help guide responders after an event."

  • Michigan District has a new address at P.O. Box 6383, Saginaw, MI 48608-6383.

  • Shane Claiborne, one of the keynote speakers at National Youth Conference, will be featured at a meeting at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren at 7 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2011. "Another way of Doing Life" will be the subject of his presentation. The announcement of the event notes that his message is a needed one during a time of unemployment, war, environmental disaster, and political corruption. All are welcome, including parents and grandparents. A free-will offering will pay for the expenses of the evening. Claiborne’s appearance is sponsored by the Taxes for Peace Interest Group of the Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness and 1040 for Peace. For more information, contact John Stoner at 717-859-3388.

  • Harold Martin of the Brethren Revival Fellowship is this quarter’s speaker for a half-hour radio program of the Sunday School Meditations Association. The program offers commentary on the International Sunday School lessons, produced out of Lancaster, Pa. Listen at

  • IMA World Health’s Safe Motherhood Kit is to be featured on ABC’s "20/20" program this Friday. IMA is headquartered at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The special episode titled "Be the Change: Save a Life" will focus on six common health problems from around the world and what can be done to fix them. The Dec. 17 program kicks off ABC News’ new year-long global health care series. For a promotional video from ABC go to

  • Springs of Living Water, a Brethren-based church renewal program, is making a Christmas eve spiritual disciplines folder available for use by congregations this season. "Guided by the Light of Christ Jesus" is available online at, along with study questions written by Vince Cable, pastor of Uniontown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. The folder is designed to be distributed at Christmas eve services, so individuals will have a daily scripture to meditate on and follow into the new year, according to an announcement from Springs leader David Young. The texts follow the international lectionary, with themes from the Brethren bulletin series. An insert offers options for spiritual growth, anything from a commitment to Sunday worship to a family discerning how to carry the light of Christ daily. Contact

  • Kathryn Grim, oldest member of First Church of the Brethren in York, Pa., will celebrate her 100th birthday at an Open House at the Brethren Home Community on Dec. 18. The church newsletter reports that today Willard Scott was scheduled to honor her on NBC’s "Today Show."

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Charles Bentley, Douglas Bright, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Phil Lersch, Craig Alan Myers, Harold A. Penner, Paul Roth, Brian Solem, Julia Wheeler, Jay Wittmeyer, Roy Winter, David Young contributed to this report.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Brazilian Brethren leader presents a peace church hermeneutic based in community

Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic -- A presentation from a leader of Igreja da Irmandade (the Church of the Brethren in Brazil) opened the fourth full day of the Historic Peace Church conference in Latin America. Representatives of Friends (Quaker), Mennonite, and Church of the Brethren groups in Latin America and the Caribbean are holding the conference at a retreat center just outside Santo Domingo, the DR.

A peace church hermeneutic based in community experience was presented by Alexandre Gonçalves, president of Igreja da Irmandade.

"Christianity and violence are not compatible," he said forcefully, adding that it is impossible to think about an active nonviolence without starting to think about the manipulation of power within ourselves and with each other in our churches and societies.

Describing differences between the Brethren and the many pentecostal-type churches that are growing quickly in Brazil, he gave a forceful critique of pastoral leaders and church hierarchies that are domineering and even abusive. In Brazil, the leadership of pentecostal-type churches are "every day more oppressive," he said, and are strongly influenced by messianism, and the narcissistic individualism of secular society. "We are looking at a huge phenomenon of power concentration in the clergy."

On top of that, he added, Brazil is inundated with the prosperity gospel, which he described as "a pragmatic relationship with God influenced by consumerism."

By contrast, he explained the peace church community hermeneutic that he said is based in the tradition of the "priesthood of all believers." He defined "hermeneutic" as the interpretation of scripture and its practical application. The Brazilian Brethren talk about and interpret scripture within the church as the community of God, and with a community perspective, he said. They also seek practical application of the Bible texts as a community. This includes prayer and reflection, directed by the Holy Spirit, and requires participation by all members of the church.

"What we’re interested in is how the Spirit can talk in diversity," he said, "...without forgetting our critical capacity and caring." In their worship services, the Brazilian Brethren do not preach sermons but share about the experiences that they have lived, he explained. "It’s a simultaneous process of construction and deconstruction. We want to reflect and live out a life full of significance."

During a question and answer session, in which Gonçalves fielded several supportive but also skeptical questions, he was asked if such a hermeneutic community can ever really exist in practice. He answered in the affirmative: yes, he said, this is being done by Brethren in Brazil. He also acknowledged its difficulties, saying the Brazilian Brethren have not stopped talking about hard issues. But, he maintained that diversity of opinion should not be a problem in the church.

For the rest of the day Dec. 1, the conference received a preliminary report from a three-person committee working on a final document from the event, spent time in a creative activity aimed at narrowing down the conference presentations to key concepts, and took a walking tour of the colonial zone of Santo Domingo.

The afternoon tour followed a guidebook telling an alternative history of Santo Domingo--the first European city in the Americas. Titled "Five Hundred Years of Domination and Resistance," the guidebook was created for the 13th International Summit of Justicia Global held in May this year, with an introduction by Irvin Heishman, a coordinator of the Church of the Brethren mission in the DR.

The tour visited sites where Christians can contemplate Columbus’ arrival on the island as "an encounter of two cultures," and invited the conference to remember the genocide of the original population and the exploitation of slaves imported from Africa, as well as acts of faithful resistance to this oppression by Catholic Dominican friars such as Fray Anton de Montesinos. In 1511, Montesinos preached what is considered the first sermon for human rights in the Americas.

The day closed with an evening of presentations, worship, and fellowship at a Mennonite Church in Santo Domingo.

Webcasts from the conference are being offered at An online photo album has been started at

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is news director for the Church of the Brethren.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Peace church testimonies highlight struggles and successes, told with joy and tears

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – Testimonies shared over the past two days at the Historic Peace Churches conference in Latin America reveal difficulties as well as opportunities for success for Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker churches working for peace.

Two days have been filled with the reports and stories of church programs, and other personal efforts in areas of peace, justice, human rights, and services meeting human needs. Given with aids like PowerPoint presentations, videos, and statistical analysis, some reports impressed the conference with the gravity of situations of violence in many Latin American and Caribbean countries. For example, numbers like the millions of children who are affected by sexual violence in Brazil were presented, or the three murders a day that are committed on the island of Puerto Rico.

But many of the reports and testimonies also were opportunities to share joy and tears with fellow Christian workers for peace. Some speakers offered personal challenges and passionate callings to the group, while others simply told their own stories of faith.

Among the many testimonies and stories told were the experience of Mennonite women in Latin America, their emerging work against domestic violence even in their own congregations, and the effort to open ordination and the ministry to women....

The work of the Brethren in Haiti following the earthquake, where homes are being rebuilt and displaced people are being fed, not just in the church but also neighbors known and unknown....

The many programs for children, adolescents, and families in a variety of countries, ranging from a Brazilian program to prevent the sexual abuse of children, to a project in Venezuela teaching creative play, to those working for healthy families and against domestic violence in Central America, to a Chilean pastoral couple offering counseling to men and women on issues related to gender and sexuality....

The jail visitation ministries of Quakers in Jamaica, and the women in Bolivia who are volunteers implementing an AVP (Alternatives to Violence Program) originally developed by Quakers working in prisons in the United States....

The testimony of one Quaker man about the work done to end military conscription in Honduras and to provide alternative service options for conscientious objectors....

The reports and testimonies are being collected by a documentation committee drafting a final document to come out of the conference. Also being collected are comments from small groups that are meeting each evening to respond to the day’s information.

Yesterday’s evening devotion led by Mennonite pastors invited the symbolic crying of tears through the mixing of salt with water. This evening, a Brethren group led devotions on the theme of dealing with the trials that can come in church ministry.

Suely Inhauser of Igreja da Irmandade (the Church of the Brethren in Brazil) talked about a moment of despair when she was trying to lead a church that seemed about to fall apart. Yet God’s grace came from a completely unexpected source--a drunken man who wandered into that church meeting at a critical moment, with words of wisdom that could only have come from the Spirit.

Peacemaking is similarly impossible without the accompaniment of God and others. "Who are we to solve the wars? We can’t talk about peace alone," she told the group, asking them to join her in contemplation of Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed--God bringing fruit out of small efforts and unexpected sources.

The evening closed with her invitation to the other Brethren present to join her in kneeling prayer, a symbolic prostration of the self before God.

Webcasts from the conference are being offered at An online photo album has been started at

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is news director for the Church of the Brethren.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Conference holds day of reporting from participants’ work for peace

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - A full day of reporting was held today by the participants in the Historic Peace Church conference in Latin America, which continues this week through Thursday at a Catholic retreat center outside Santo Domingo.

Starting with a history of the Friends in Latin America and an overview of Quaker foundations for peacemaking, the group spent the rest of the day hearing a series of short 15-minute presentations from a wide variety of peace- and justice-related programs in various countries and churches.

The evening offered a brief history of the island shared by the DR and Haiti, and the colonial roots of violence that has marked the relations between the two countries, given by Mennonite pastor Miqueas Ramirez of Santo Domingo’s Iglesia Evangelica Menonita Luz y Vida. A Mennonite group led evening devotions, and small groups had an opportunity to start reflecting on what they have been hearing from other participants.

The opening presentation of the day by Adriana Cabrera of the Friends meeting in Bogota, Colombia, offered the Quaker image of an inner light of God in each human being as foundational for peacemaking.

Cabrera holds a master of divinity degree from Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Ind., in the United States, and in Colombia directs a human rights-related program. Her work includes women’s reproductive rights and work with the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.

She reminded the group that the concept of an inner light also means that the work of peacemaking starts with ourselves. A story from what she called "the colonialist push" of the Quakers from the US--whose mission workers started many of the Friends meetings in Latin America--brought the point home. In the early mission years, she said, there was a practice of not offering translation into Spanish at business meetings. One woman working with the Quakers in Mexico resigned over this discriminatory practice. Her protest proved to be transformational, Cabrera related, and it wasn’t too long before interpretation was offered, along with translation of foundational Quaker texts.

She called the Historic Peace Churches conference to a similar passion and risk taking for peace and justice. The great Quaker leaders over history have "plunged into the water" of abolition, prison ministry, and penal reform, in just a few examples. "What inspires us," she asked, "and for whom do we work?"

Cabrera offered three challenges, directed both to the Quakers present and to those from other Christian traditions: first, to do peace work as a calling, in order not to turn it into idolatry; second, to do peace work with joy, despite and in the midst of suffering; and third, to let go of "Anglo Quakerism" and to seek what the Latin American experience may have to offer.

"What is our (Latin American) Quaker voice, and what does that voice have to say?" she asked. "How ready are we to let God take us into new territory? How ready are we to be surprised by God?"

Webcasts from the conference are being offered at An online photo album has been started at

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is news director for the Church of the Brethren.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Peace church gathering in Latin America begins with focus on the ‘peace of the city’

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic -- Representatives of the Historic Peace Churches in Latin America began a week of meetings today with a focus on seeking "the peace of the city." The group of 77 Friends (Quakers), Church of the Brethren, and Mennonites from 17 countries gathered in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, on the theme, "Hunger for Peace: Faces, Paths, Cultures."

The gathering is the fourth in a series of Historic Peace Church conferences that have been part of the World Council of Churches’ Decade to Overcome Violence.

An evening of ice breakers and sharing of expectations for the conference was held yesterday evening, Nov. 27, as some participants were still arriving on late-evening flights.

But Sunday morning worship at the Iglesia Evangelica Menonita Luz y Vida--a Mennonite congregation in Santo Domingo--set a foundation on the first full day of the conference. Alix Lozano, a Mennonite minister who has taught for 16 years at a seminary in Bogota, Colombia, preached for worship.

Asking what it means for the Kingdom to come--as Jesus prays in the Sermon on the Mount--she called on the local congregation and the conference to peacemaking that is carried out on behalf of the city in which we live. Noting the text in Jeremiah in which the prophet tells the exiles in Babylon that, in Lozano’s words, "from the wellbeing of the city depends your wellbeing," she urged, "Work for your city, and pray for it."

A Mennonite community in Colombia has done just that, she told the group. Starting with a soup kitchen in a very needy and violent sector of the city, the church has grown its ministry into the San Nicolas Platform for Peace. The program recently witnessed a march for peace that involved city leaders on Sept. 21, the International day of Prayer for Peace. And the program has marked success, in a significant reduction in violence.

"If you and I don’t pursue it, the Kingdom of God is not going to come," she said. "It comes by the work that you do with your hands, in the presence of the church."

The day opened with a review of the history of the Decade to Overcome Violence and the role the Historic Peace Church consultations are playing in that process, given by Donald Miller, a former general secretary of the Church of the Brethren in the US and faculty emeritus of Bethany Theological Seminary. It closed with an evening presentation on the theological foundation for peacemaking, given by John Driver, Mennonite professor, theologian, and missiologist from the US who has served in Latin American and Caribbean countries as well as in Spain, and has authored various books.

At least one participant has high expectations for outcomes from the conference. "I have lots of expectations because it’s the first time that...the Friends, Mennonites, and Brethren are joining together for something like this" in Latin America, said Loida Fernandez, interviewed during a break in the meetings. She is coordinator of the Quaker groups in Latin America, on behalf of the Friends World Committee for Consultation.

Outcomes could include cooperation in areas of common concern like training for nonviolence, mediation, conflict resolution, and maybe even developing a curriculum for peace, she said. But first, "We need to learn a lot about each other," she cautioned.

As the conference continues, delegates will be engaged in just that--learning about each other’s experiences of violence and peacemaking through telling personal stories. The meeting continues through Thursday, Dec. 2.

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is news director for the Church of the Brethren.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Progressive Brethren Gathering hears from seminary president.

Bethany Seminary president Ruthann Knechel Johansen called for a new sense of wonder in a time of "dis-ease," as she gave the keynote address to the Progressive Brethren Gathering this past weekend in North Manchester, Ind.

The meeting brought more than 200 people from across the country to gather at Manchester Church of the Brethren and Manchester College. Sponsored by Womaen’s Caucus, Voices for an Open Spirit, and the Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Interests (BMC), the gathering explored the theme "Forward Together: Conversations Towards an Enlivened Community."

The timing of the meeting--while Special Response hearings related to issues of sexuality are being held in each district of the Church of the Brethren--made the denominational conversation a backdrop and context for discussion.

"Why or how is this moment in our history different than all other moments?" Johansen asked--one of several questions in which she juxtaposed a "holy order" or a "compassionate and just order" over against evidence of dis-ease and disorder in church and society.

Reviewing times of disorder in the biblical record and church history, and current social disorders, she asserted that, "We are entangled in the cultural value of unmindful domination." This leads to abstracting people into issues, she said, and to attitudes like sexism, militarism, homophobia, racism, materialism.

"How shall we disenthrall ourselves" in the face of our own disorders? she asked. Her answer pointed to the order found in the created universe, a natural world she sees as having been given the power to shift and create anew. The example of the root system of the redwood forests offers a model of order for a time of disorder, she noted, as a network of trees that yet maintain individuality.

Another resource for dealing with disorder is the history of forebearance in the Church of the Brethren, Johansen said. She pointed to instances in which congregations have not been forced to comply with Annual Conference decisions, even over historically contentious issues such as the ordination of women and the peace witness.

Forebearance, however, requires discernment--and "discerning the role of boundaries or rules is particularly difficult in the church," she said, especially when the secular world calls for sharp divides.

The ultimate solution is to become "incarnational people," she concluded. Incarnational people, she said, are those who accept the invitation to incarnation with Jesus Christ, who embrace the gift of human embodiment--and sexuality, and who choose to be relational. Incarnation is made possible through the Spirit of God, and without a spiritual awakening, she warned, the church will not realize the Spirit in its midst and will not see the boundary walls already broken down.

"We must carry the incarnation out of the Bible, out of glib protestations of the faith, and into our own bodies," she said. "There we may meet one another in all our holy diversity."

In closing, before taking questions, Johansen pointed to a sense of wonder as the key to incarnational living, and to finding "holy order" in a difficult time. Wonder will aid the church in its task of discernment, she said. Wonder also may reduce our anxiety, and lead us back to the study of scripture with greater sensitivity, she added.

Wonder presents the possibility that "new dimensions of God’s reign may arise," she said. "Wonder is, I think, the soil that nurtures love."

The gathering also included an afternoon of workshops, and daily worship services. Messages were brought by Debbie Eisenbise, pastor of Skyridge Church of the Brethren in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Kreston Lipscomb, pastor of Springfield (Ill.) Church of the Brethren. The Sunday morning service was held with Manchester Church of the Brethren. Evening activities included a concert by Mutual Kumquat and a square dance.

The college hosted a banquet Saturday evening, followed by a playful exercise asking the gathering to rate how it felt about 15 word pairs under categories such as "Our church" and "What we want" and "What to do." The exercise seemed aimed at revealing how progressive Brethren feel about the denomination, and how they want to respond to decisions of Annual Conference.

In a Sunday school session held after the closing worship service, participants in the gathering and members of the Manchester congregation shared experiences of attending Special Response hearings in different districts. Experiences ranged from very negative to quite positive, from one man’s statement that, "It (the process) was set up for failure," to a woman’s testimony about a very "mindful" and well prepared process in her district.

However, a variety of concerns about the hearing process predominated in the ensuing discussion. As the session turned to the question of how to respond to eventualities at the 2011 Annual Conference, comments ranged widely from those who openly welcome a schism in the denomination, to those worried about the destructive nature of a church split, to those committed to staying in the denomination.

Carol Wise of BMC closed the gathering with a plea to provide care for people who during the Special Response hearings may be subjected to hurtful comments because of their sexual orientation or that of family members. "I’m very concerned about that as we move through this process," she said, "the way we’ve put a particular community on display and on trial."

(Information about the Church of the Brethren’s Special Response process is at