Friday, May 21, 2010

Brethren work in Haiti receives second $150,000 grant.

The Church of the Brethren disaster relief work in Haiti has received another grant of $150,000 from the church's Emergency Disaster Fund. The work in Haiti responds to the earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince in January, and is a cooperative effort of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Haitian Church of the Brethren).

Brethren Disaster Ministries staff requested the additional allocation to continue feeding and shelter programs that currently are underway, and to fund the expansion of response into a number of new intermediate and long-term efforts. Previous allocations to this project total $150,000.

The new work will include home construction, providing potable water and sanitation facilities, agricultural projects, training for pastors in trauma recovery and resilience, medical programming in partnership with IMA World Health, purchase of a four-door truck for use in home construction, and construction of a warehouse and a guest house. The warehouse and guest house facility initially will be for use by American volunteers and staff, but in time is expected to become the headquarters of the Haitian church.

Also included in the grant is funding for a six-month evaluation of the response, to be carried out in July.

"The impact of the Jan. 12 earthquake, magnitude 7.0, is evident throughout Haiti," said the grant request. "Crumbled buildings litter Port-au-Prince, Carrefour, Leogone, Jacmel, and many towns in between. Families throughout Haiti are housing and supporting those displaced, without adequate food or living space. Temporary housing, from tents to makeshift sheet shelters, offers little protection as rains begin. The United Nations reports that 1.2 million people or 81 percent of the 1.5 million displaced have received some type of shelter materials (tent or tarp). The challenge is that nearly 300,000 have not."

The Brethren Disaster Ministries staff also noted signs of general progress in areas affected by the earthquake, including improved food distribution and better availability of drinking water. The Brethren in Haiti, especially the Delmas congregation, have "banded together to create their own community of support," the staff noted. "An encouraging sign is that even as they rely on Brethren food and shelter, they are moving toward more independence and reducing the amount of direct aid required to survive."

However, most of the relief efforts in Haiti have focused on those living in large encampments. "Haitians living in smaller groups or on the street near their demolished homes have received less aid. Most members of the Haitian Church of the Brethren indicate that Brethren relief is all they have received," the grant request said.

To date the Brethren response has provided a number of temporary shelters designed for two-year habitation, feeding programs, material aid shipments, seeds for spring planting, and has employed Haitians at all levels of response activities."A core philosophy of the response is to involve Haitian leadership in planning, decision making, and implementation of the response," the Brethren Disaster Ministries staff wrote. "During the last three months Haitian Church of the Brethren leaders have grown into capable leaders of the response and are helping longterm planning."

A separate grant is planned to continue Brethren support for the wider ecumenical disaster response by organizations such as Church World Service (CWS) and ACT Alliance, that addresses the significant breadth of need in Haiti. A third set of grants supports Haitian refugees in New York City being served through the Haitian First Church of the Brethren in Brooklyn.

Major accomplishments of the Brethren response as of April 30:
  • 21,000 hot meals provided to schoolchildren in Port-au-Prince;

  • monthly dry food distribution to 165 families or approximately 825 people--equivalent to 49,500 meals a month--with most food purchased in Haiti and some locally grown;

  • funding provided for Dominican Brethren to bring food aid to their families in Haiti;

  • partnering with Vine Ministries (an organization with ties to the Church of the Brethren) to help an additional 112 families receive food aid;

  • 21 leaders and teachers in Eglise des Freres Haitiens employed to support the response, 20 Haitian construction workers employed to build temporary housing, 4 Haitians employed to monitor and evaluate the response;

  • temporary wood and tin shelters built in the three Brethren communities of Marin, Delmas, and Tonm Gato, housing 120 people, in a construction effort that also includes three multipurpose rooms for worship, meetings, children's activities, storage, and shelter for neighbors;

  • a medical clinic provided by American and Haitian medical professionals that treated more than 1,300 Haitians, with trauma counselors working alongside the medical team and in the surrounding community;

  • 6,225 pounds of seed distributed to 250 farmers for spring planting;

  • 100 water filters and 1,000 CWS Hygiene Kits waiting in customs in Haiti to be distributed, with shipments en route carrying 94 standard tarpaulins and 220 extra large tarpaulins, 306 Family Household Kits, and 62,500 pounds of canned chicken donated by Southern Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic Districts.
For more about the work in Haiti visit

Source: 5/21/2010 Newsline Update
Haiti bean seed program combines disaster relief, development.

Haitian Brethren church leaders are actively implementing a new seed distribution program, according to Jeff Boshart, Haiti coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries. The program is combining disaster response with development of agriculture in communities where churches and preaching points of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Haitian Church of the Brethren) are located.

Following is Boshart's e-mail report:
"This program will become aseed loaning program run by each participating church. Jean Bily Telfort, general secretary of Eglise des Freres Haitiens and pastor of the Croix des Bouquets congregation, has studied agriculture and has met with farmers in each participating congregation to share the hopes for this project.

"Theleadership in each church developed the list of participants and the conditionsfor repayment of the seeds. Each participant will receive up to 25 pounds of bean seed, and will need to return an amount something closer to 27 or 28 pounds (including an "interest" payment also made in seed). Lead farmers have been identified in each congregation to receive and store the seed to be re-loaned next year.

"In term of actual dollar amounts, the price of beans at planting time is significantly greater than at harvest time, so the value of the beans returned is actually less, even though the quantity is greater. It will be up to each congregation to decide how long they wish to continue this project.

"Jean Bily reported that the help was enthusiastically received. Over 500,000 people are internally displaced in Haiti, having fled Port-au-Prince after the earthquake of Jan. 12. Many of these people have moved in with rural relatives and have strained already limited food reserves.

"To date $2,000 has been provided for seed purchases, and when completed over $5,000 will have been disbursed and240-270 farmers will receive this help within the next month. In the area south of Port-au-Prince, farmers already have planted and their beans are up."
In other news, the Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) Brethren Mission Fund is helping build worship shelters for some of the rural outlying churches not directly affected by the earthquake.

Source: 5/21/2010 Newsline Update
Church World Service announces 'Haiti Stage 2.'

Church World Services (CWS) is announcing a new phase of its relief effort following the earthquake, called "Haiti Stage 2." The effort marks transition of the international NGO's focus on emergency response to sustainable recovery and rebuilding, for example by helping expand rural food co-operatives and reuniting child domestic workers with their families.

Initial Haitian government plans to relocate large numbers of families to cities outside Port-au-Prince are being thwarted by land ownership issues and costs, a CWS release said. But CWS is dealing within those realities and expanding its work to help families recover where they are, and to support host communities stretched to accommodate migrating survivors. Those programs will range from repair of houses damaged by the quake and expansion of host homes where survivors are permanently relocating, to building food security for all by expanding already-successful farm cooperatives.

"We'll still be providing emergency aid as needed, but we're now working with partners in Haiti to respond to some very specific needs and for the longer-term development programs that are necessary to truly enable Haiti to build back better," said development and humanitarian assistance director Donna Derr.

The new specific rehabilitation focus will include permanent house repair for homes that can be made habitable and safe with minor repairs, expansion of host housing in locations outside quake-affected areas, increasing food security and food availability for the displaced and their host communities, basic services and transitional support for displaced people now living in spontaneous encampments, rebuilding and expanding local capacity to provide services and protection for vulnerable children and youth in Port-au-Prince, individual small grants for quick livelihood recovery, direct services for 1,200 people with disabilities and their families in metropolitan Port-au-Prince, ongoing provision of material support particularly to people still living in tent camps, and continued management and operation of a Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince humanitarian corridor between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

In Fonds Parisien and Ganthier, near the border with the DR, CWS and partners Servicio Social de Iglesias Dominicanas and Christian Aid are serving two spontaneous camps of displaced people-survivors who had no assistance until CWS's partner agencies arrived. "Here, we'll provide food, water, and temporary shelter materials and assist residents in leadership formation and community organizing," said Derr.

Child domestic workers, former gang members, teen mothers also will benefit. At the outset of its response, CWS determined to expand an existing program focusing on the ongoing needs of the country's most vulnerable children, including those who work as domestic servants. The agency's long-term assistance will continue that work in Port-au-Prince, along with support for former gang members and teenage mothers in Lasaline and Carrefour Feuilles. Part of that work will include a pilot family reintegration project to reunite "restavek" children and their families.

During the quake, local partner FOPJ (Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice) was left homeless like many of the children it serves. CWS plans to assist with the purchase a new building in which to house its community center for children.

The Church of the Brethren has contributed $150,000 to the work of CWS in Haiti through a grant from the church's Emergency Disaster Fund.

-- Lesley Crosson and Jan Dragin of Church World Service provided this release.

Source: 5/21/2010 Newsline Update
Brethren Disaster Ministries begins project in American Samoa.

A Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project has begun on the South Pacific island of American Samoa, repairing and rebuilding homes damaged by the Sept. 29, 2009, earthquake and tsunami. The event caused 15-20 foot waves that reached up to a mile inland, splintering houses, destroying cars and boats, and scattering debris along the coastline.

In the wake of the disaster, 277 homes were destroyed. Thirty-four American Samoans lost their lives, ranking this small island nation number two in the world last year for percentage of population killed in a disaster.

With numerous homes in need of repair, Brethren Disaster Ministries was invited by the American Samoa VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) and FEMA to assist in repairing and rebuilding homes on the island.

In January, an assessment team was sent to the island including associate director Zach Wolgemuth and volunteer A. Carroll Thomas, to continue conversations with local partners and develop a plan for involvement.

By the end of March, Brethren Disaster Ministries opened a project to help meet the ongoing repair and rebuilding needs. The effort involves coordinating and managing skilled volunteers from the island, led by BDM volunteers who are trained as disaster project leaders working in conjunction with Samoan construction workers who are employed through the American Samoan government to help repair and rebuild homes.

The first group of project leaders to serve on American Samoa included Cliff and Arlene Kindy of North Manchester, Ind., and Tom and Nancy Sheen of Trinidad, Calif.

-- Jane Yount serves as coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Source: 5/21/2010 Newsline Update
Grants fund Brethren project in Indiana, CWS response to floods.

Two grants from the Church of the Brethren's Emergency Disaster Fund are supporting a Brethren Disaster Ministries project in Winamac, Ind., and Church World Service efforts following flooding in the northeastern United States.

An allocation of $25,000 continues work by Brethren Disaster Ministries along the Tippecanoe River in Indiana following heavy rains and flooding in 2008 and 2009. The funds will support repair and rebuilding of homes in the Winamac region as well as the efforts of BDM and its volunteers including housing, food, travel expenses, tools, equipment, and supplies. Previous allocations to this project total $25,000.

A grant of $4,000 responds to a CWS appeal for assistance following record-breaking flooding in Rhode Island and other states. Funds will support material aid shipments and the work of CWS as it provides resources to affected communities.

Source: 5/21/2010 Newsline Update
Lutheran World Relief board meets at Brethren Service Center.

The Lutheran World Relief (LWR) Board of Directors met at the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center May 13-14. An afternoon was devoted to a tour of the Brethren Service Center campus and the Material Resources program.

LWR ties with the Church of the Brethren date back to 1951, when the Material Resources Distribution Center first began shipping quilts, soap, and other items for LWR. Board members and staff had an in-depth look at the Material Resources operation with director Loretta Wolf. During the tour Thomas J. Barnett, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone, blessed a container filled with quilts being packed for shipment to his country.

LWR has several fair trade projects and works closely with SERRV, which is a partner organization at the Brethren Service Center. This visit gave LWR leadership a closer look at the Chocolate, Coffee, and Handcraft projects at SERRV.

IMA World Health, which has its headquarters at the Brethren Service Center, received the Friend of LWR Award. The award was given on the basis of "Exemplary Provision of Health Resources" and is the result of 50 years of partnership and collaboration since IMA's founding in 1960.

-- Kathleen Campanella is director of partner and public relations at the Brethren Service Center.

Source: 5/21/2010 Newsline Update

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sunday worship, other sessions to be webcast by Annual Conference.

This year, Annual Conference has announced plans to run a pilot test of webcasting--that is, broadcasting live over the Internet--a smattering of sessions including Sunday morning worship on July 4.

"Can't make it to Pittsburgh this year for Annual Conference?" asked Conference director Chris Douglas in her report on the decision. "Have to miss that connection to the gathered body of Brethren? The news is that you can now participate in some sessions anyway...via the Internet! While it won't be as good as being there, it will sure beat not participating at all!"

The move is designed to include as many Brethren as possible in the Annual Conference experience. Brethren are invited to view all the broadcasts either individually, or in groups. "Plan a viewing party with others at your church!" Douglas invited.

Conference worship services have been named as the highest priority to share with the wider church. In fact, congregations with projectors are invited to consider joining their Sunday morning service on July 4 with the live Internet broadcast from Pittsburgh. The prelude music will begin at 10 a.m. (eastern time), with worship starting at 10:20 a.m. Those congregations further west will have the option of streaming a recording of the webcast into their sanctuaries at a time more suitable for their own time zone.

While plans to webcast some other Conference activities are tentative, consideration also is being given to offer webcasts of business or meal events, and perhaps an insight session or even a concert.

All the webcasts in this pilot project will be evaluated for participation, cost, and effectiveness, Douglas said. The webcasts are being provided at no cost through a collaboration of the Conference Office and Enten Eller, director of distributed education and electronic communication at Bethany Theological Seminary. No pre-registration will be required to participate in the webcasts.

More information will be posted at the website for the webcasts as it becomes available. Go to ahead of time to see what is available, and to view webcasts during the Annual Conference July 3-7.

Source: 5/20/2010 Newsline
New investment options are approved by BBT Board.

Investments were the focus of the April meeting of the Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) Board of Directors in Elgin, Ill. Staff and board members came together at the Church of the Brethren General Offices from April 24-25 to discuss the selection of new investment funds, the move to daily valuations of funds under management, the confirmation of two investment management firms, and other matters related to BBT’s ministries.

"We have listened to requests from our members and are working with the board to strengthen the services and products we offer," said BBT president Nevin Dulabaum. "We look forward to offering more investment choices, more frequently updated account values, and stronger fiscal management to those we serve."

Staff recommended five funds to offer to members and clients that fit new investment styles that were added to the investment guidelines for the Brethren Pension Plan and Brethren Foundation by the board in Nov. 2009. The board approved the funds, which include an emerging markets stock fund through DFA, ING’s global public real estate fund, a Principal high-yield bond fund, a Vanguard Treasury inflation-protected securities fund, and a commodities-based fund managed by PIMCO. Brethren Foundation clients will be able to invest in these new funds in the coming months, as will members of the Pension Plan, once BBT is able to offer investment assistance.

"We searched various sectors to try to identify the best mix of funds to offer, and we think these will give our members and clients more choices for diversifying their assets," said Jerry Rodeffer, BBT’s chief financial officer.

The board also approved the Investment Committee’s recommendation that the Pension Plan’s Common Stock fund be unbundled into its five components--International, Small Cap, Large Cap Core, Large Cap Growth, and Mid Cap Value--to provide greater variety of equity offerings for plan members. These funds will still comprise the Common Stock Fund, which will still be an allocation option.

The board approved an increase in how often BBT values its funds. While BBT currently values its funds twice monthly, the board approved a move to daily valuations. This decision will allow Pension Plan members access to updated account information through a recently launched Internet site, and will make up-to-date information available to Brethren Foundation clients once that ministry’s online presence is established.

Another decision could allow the Brethren Foundation to expand its client base. The board approved the request that the Brethren Foundation be allowed to serve non tax-exempt organizations that have values consistent with those of the Church of the Brethren, as long as those organizations do not make up more than 15 percent of the foundation’s annual revenue.

The board also confirmed two investment management firms. Based on current guidelines, the firm overseeing BBT’s large cap growth equity investments must exceed the performance of the Russell 1000 Growth index by one percent or more and bring in top quartile returns compared with similar investment managers over a five-year period. Because New Amsterdam, the manager of those funds, failed to achieve those goals in its tenure with BBT the Investment Committee recommended that the board dismiss this manager.

After interviewing two investment management firms to replace New Amsterdam, the committee recommended that Segall Bryant and Hamill, a Chicago-based investment adviser, be installed as the large cap growth equity manager for the Pension Plan and Brethren Foundation. The board approved both recommendations.

Additionally, the Investment Committee received a presentation by Agincourt--one of BBT’s two bond investment managers--reviewing its three-year performance. The board approved a recommendation that Agincourt be retained as a manager of those funds based on the firm’s outstanding investment performance. The firm’s portfolios for BBT and the Brethren Foundation beat the benchmark by seven percentage points in 2009.

Annual defense lists were presented to the board. Each year, BBT releases two lists of publicly traded companies that have strong business alliances with the Department of Defense. Because of BBT’s commitment to making investments that adhere to Brethren values and Annual Conference directives, actively managed investments in companies holding the 25 largest Department of Defense contracts, and companies that earn more than 10 percent of their income from such contracts, are prohibited. These lists can be found at by clicking on "Downloads" and then "Socially Responsible Investing."

"Although our managers are expected to avoid investing in companies that are not in compliance with BBT’s socially responsible investing guidelines, we go a step further in honoring the Church of the Brethren’s historic peace stance by producing these lists," said Steve Mason, coordinator of BBT’s socially responsible investing activities.

The board reviewed BBT’s 2010 shareholder initiatives, or efforts to effect change as an owner of stock in companies. This year, Mason will work with ConocoPhillips to ensure that its work does not interfere with the rights of indigenous people around the world. He also will pursue talks with Toyota regarding human rights and labor policies in its global supply chain.

In other business:
  • auditing firm Legacy Professionals LLP offered a "clean opinion"--its highest designation--for BBT and Brethren Foundation 2009 financial reports;

  • bylaws for BBT and the Brethren Foundation and their incorporated entities were updated and approved;

  • staff and board addressed an ongoing issue with its custodian and administration of BBT’s securities lending portfolio;

  • Michael Leiter, senior director of marketing and development at Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village in Boonsboro, Md., was elected to serve as a board member representing the Brethren retirement communities--a seat vacated by Carol Davis who resigned March 4; and

  • board and staff reviewed the process for electing three board members in 2010. Two candidates--Wayne Scott and John Waggoner--will appear on the Annual Conference ballot; Karen Crim was elected to serve a second term by members of the Pension Plan; and in November, the board chose Eunice Culp to fill the third open seat. The elections of Crim and Culp will be brought to Annual Conference for affirmation.
-- Brian Solem is publications coordinator for Brethren Benefit Trust.

Source: 5/20/2010 Newsline
Bethany Seminary hosts third Presidential Forum.

Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., hosted its third annual Presidential Forum April 8-10. This year's theme, "When Strangers Are Angels: The Spiritual and Social Movements of Brethren, Friends, and Mennonites in the 21st Century," was celebrated through lectures, discussions, drama, and worship. The story of Jacob wrestling with the stranger from Genesis 32 was invoked in a variety of ways.

Martin Marty, distinguished service professor emeritus at the University of Chicago and columnist for "The Christian Century," was the featured lecturer.

A Pre-Forum Gathering for alumni/ae and friends featured lectures presented by Bethany faculty members. Academic dean Steve Schweitzer shed light on "Dimensions of the Stranger in the Old Testament." "Surprised by Emmanuel: Mission with Jesus in Matthew" was presented by Dan Ulrich, professor of New Testament studies. Through story and song, Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, associate professor of preaching and worship, gave a presentation on the prophetic and pastoral distinctives of Anabaptist-Pietist preaching. Tara Hornbacker, associate professor of ministry formation, and Russell Haitch, associate professor of Christian education and director of the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults, invited participants to share in small group discussion on the topic, "How Is Today's Church Living out Our Brethren Values?"

The Presidential Forum began with worship and a plenary session on "The Demands of the Stranger" led by Marty. He challenged the crowd to consider three aspects of the stranger: the stranger within ourselves and our own faith communities, the stranger beyond our faith communities (where he noted the particularity of the Anabaptist tradition being founded on estrangement from mainstream Christianity), and finally the global stranger.

A play closed out the evening, "Man from Magdalena" written by Earlham School of Religion student Patty Willis. The play chronicled the journey of Manuel Jesus Cordova Soberanes, a Mexican immigrant, who rescued a nine-year-old boy whose mother had just been killed in an automobile accident in the southern Arizona desert.

Saturday morning began with a panel discussion, where representatives from each of the historic peace churches (Church of the Brethren, Friends, and Mennonites) responded to the questions "What defines someone as a stranger in your faith community?" and "How are we strangers to each other?"

This led to a lively discussion about the particularities as well as deep points of connection between the three traditions. As a Mennonite teaching at Bethany, Malinda Berry, instructor in theological studies and director of the Master of Arts program, spoke of her experience on the Church of the Brethren campus as "coming to spend time with the cousins and getting to know the extended family." Jay Marshall, dean at Earlham School of Religion, noted that today Quakers may have few external identifying markers such as unique dress, but "many orientations still matter, including the inner light, spiritual disciplines, and a commitment to equality."

Following the panel discussion, attendees had the opportunity to continue the conversation with pairs of panel members or discuss the theme topic with area experts on poverty, immigration, globalization and militarism, sexuality, and racism.

Scott Holland, professor of theology and culture and director of peace studies and cross-cultural studies, led a Saturday afternoon intertextual interpretation of the theme of the stranger, engaging stories of Anabaptists' experience from around the globe. The discussion and question time centered on the complexities of befriending the stranger. Holland responded with a question a man had asked him in Kenya: "What do you do when the stranger wants to kill you?" He concluded that such questions will never completely be answered, but that the two simple answers we have known--fight back or die--are not the only two options and there are a variety of ways to create cultures of peace.

During the final plenary, Marty spoke about the gifts of strangers. He presented several ways in which the Historic Peace Churches offer a unique perspective. The principles of community and hospitality were highlighted in his address.

The forum culminated in an energetic closing worship service. Participants were invited to break bread with a neighbor unknown to them. Blessings were exchanged, hearts were opened, new ideas were planted.

-- Lindsey Frye is a student at Bethany Theological Seminary.

Source: 5/20/2010 Newsline
NCC Governing Board calls for end to gun violence.

Alarmed by statistics that 100,000 Americans annually are victims of gun violence, the National Council of Churches (NCC) Governing Board has unanimously adopted a resolution calling for legislative action to limit access to assault weapons and hand guns.

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger is a member of the Governing Board, which met May 17-18 in Elizabeth, N.J. He also serves as an at-large vice president on the executive committee of the NCC.

"Ending Gun Violence: A Resolution and Call to Action," also calls on Congress to close the "gunshow loophole" that allows buyers to purchase firearms from private sellers without submitting to background checks or providing documentation of the purchase.

The resolution calls on member churches to support the NCC staff "in coordinating ecumenical efforts for gun violence reduction," including the preparation of educational materials and establishing dialogue among gun owners and gun control advocates.

"Responsible gun ownership can be consistent with our constitutional rights," the resolution states. "However, it must be stressed that there are relatively few shootings by average citizens defending themselves. Rather, most fatal and non-fatal shootings result from abuse or misuse of guns." The resolution cites statistics that firearms are used in 1.5 million crimes annually in the United States. "More than 69,000 shootings each year are non-fatal, yet still leave in their wake a trail of pain, suffering, and/or disfigurement, and anguish and grief for family and community," the resolution states.

Among other business, the Governing Board also issued a pastoral letter urging US President Barack Obama and Congress to assure equal access to education for all children. The letter asks government leaders not to lose sight of the fact that public schools are the basic institution for educating the nation's children and urges the nation's leaders to help craft a system of education that looks upon children as unique and valuable individuals rather than "products to be tested." And the letter cautions politicians against scapegoating principals and teachers when schools fall short of arbitrary goals. Widespread childhood poverty is a tragic factor that should prompt all politicians to seek the most equitable and accessible system of education, the pastoral letter said.

The letter was drafted by the NCC's Education and Leadership Ministries Commission, with primary contributions from the Council's Committee on Public Education and Literacy.

The Governing Board pledged to partner in the work to reform education through a number of specific measures including: encouraging congregations to value public education and teachers through sermons, worship, and prayer; supporting parent education and adult literacy; encouraging congregations to partner with public schools to provide tutors, school supplies, exposure to computers and many other supports; supporting out-of-school supports like better and widely available pre-school and after school programs; and continuing to educate our members about the value of Community Schools that surround public schools with social supports.

The full text of the resolution against gun violence can be found at The full text of the pastoral letter on education can be found at

-- This report is taken from press releases by Philip E. Jenks, the National Council of Churches’ media relations specialist. A "Prayer for the Human Tragedy Behind Immigration," shared by José Luis Casal of the Presbyterian Church (USA) at the NCC Governing Board meeting, has been posted on the General Secretary’s page of in both English and Spanish, go to

Source: 5/20/2010 Newsline
Kendal Elmore to serve as executive for West Marva District.

Kendal W. Elmore will begin as executive minister for West Marva District, as of Aug. 1. Since Jan. 2006 he has pastored Toledo (Ohio) Heatherdowns Church of the Brethren.

Elmore has more than 36 years of experience in ministry, having also served as pastor of a number of congregations in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Indiana. He brings extensive experience in district work, having been chair of the board and chair of the ministry commission in both Western Pennsylvania and Northern Ohio Districts. In Mid-Atlantic District, he has been a member of the New Church Development Support Team, the Ministerial Continuing Education Committee, and the Ministry Commission.

He attended Ferrum College and Virginia Commonwealth University, and completed the denomination’s Three-Year Reading Course in 1976, participating in the program in both South Central Indiana and Virlina Districts.

The West Marva District office will continue to be located in Oakland, Md.

Source: 5/20/2010 Newsline
Personnel, job openings, YAC, and much more.
  • Philip J. Medon has been selected as founding dean for Manchester College’s new School of Pharmacy. He most recently was founding dean of the School of Pharmacy of Southern Illinois University. With graduate degrees from Purdue University, he also has held faculty and administrative positions at University of Louisiana at Monroe, University of Illinois-Chicago, and University of New Mexico. He will join Manchester on July 1 as vice president and dean of the School of Pharmacy, and as a professor of pharmacy and toxicology. The School of Pharmacy is the college’s first doctoral program and will be located in Fort Wayne, Ind. For more visit

  • Nancy Buffenmyer has resigned as editorial and marketing assistant for the Gather ’Round curriculum jointly produced by Brethren Press and the Mennonite Publishing Network, as of May 21. She has worked for Gather ’Round since Jan. 2008.

  • The Church of the Brethren seeks a director for the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Start date is Nov. 1. Responsibilities include to promote the history and heritage of the Church of the Brethren by administering the BHLA and facilitating research and the study of Brethren history, provide reference services, assure the cataloging of books and processing of archival records, formulate policies, budget, develop the collection, recruit and train interns and volunteers. Requirements include a master’s degree in library science or archival studies and extensive knowledge of Church of the Brethren history and beliefs with a graduate degree in history or theology and/or certification by the Academy of Certified Archivists preferred; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision of the Church of the Brethren; grounding in library and archival disciplines; customer service skills; research and problem-solving skills; proficiency in Microsoft software and experience with OCLC products; three-to-five years of experience working in a library or archives. An application, resume, and three reference letters are due no later than June 25 to Karin Krog, Director of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60123;; 847-742-5100 ext. 258.

  • Brethren Benefit Trust seeks an accounting manager to fill a fulltime position at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Function is to maintain an accurate daily valuation process and provide support to the CFO, with primary responsibility to direct the workload of daily valuation of pension and foundation investment funds. Additional responsibilities are to confirm trading activity of mutual fund shares for pension and foundation investment choices; provide backup for payroll, accounts payable and receivable; conduct internal audits and testing for accuracy and compliance within each program offered by BBT; assist in developing a business continuity plan; and other duties as assigned. BBT seeks candidates with undergraduate degrees in accounting, business, or a related field, and a CPA is preferred. Other requirements include strong verbal and written communications skills and proficiency in Microsoft Office; 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 and benefits are competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. BBT hopes to begin interviewing by June 15. Apply by submitting a letter of interest, resume, three references (one supervisor or professor/teacher, one colleague, one friend), and salary-range expectation to Donna March at 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, or For questions or clarification about the position, call 847-622-3371.

  • The Church of the Brethren seeks an editorial assistant for the Gather ’Round Curriculum Project of Brethren Press and the Mennonite Publishing Network. The individual will fill a 30-40 hour per week position at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., available May 24. The editorial assistant supports the editorial and marketing arms of the curriculum project, working closely with the managing editor and project director; coordinates contracts and payments for illustrators, designers, writers, and photographers; researches and requests permissions for use of copyrighted material; copy edits and proofreads material; serves as a liaison to denominational customer service staff and the public; produces spreadsheets and other reports; assembles a monthly e-newsletter; coordinates logistics for writers conferences and other meetings; and performs general office duties. The editorial assistant also maintains and updates the Gather ’Round website and troubleshoots web download orders. For a full position description request the application packet from the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 258;

  • Zach Wolgemuth, associate director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, was among those invited to speak at a "Champions of Hope" volunteer dinner on April 22 held by the Lakeshore Area Regional Recovery of Indiana (LARRI). Brethren Disaster Ministries received an award in recognition of its ongoing partnership and assistance following flooding in northwest Indiana. There were about 270 people at the event, including donors, sponsors, volunteers, and partner groups including the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, the United Methodist Church of Tennessee, and the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In his remarks, Wolgemuth credited LARRI staff and the disaster volunteers. "It goes without saying that the efforts of all the volunteers, donors, partners, and sponsors are changing lives here in this great community.... There is light where there was darkness, hope where there was hopelessness."

  • Stan Dueck, the denomination’s director for Transforming Practices, has been involved in several meetings in Virlina District and Roanoke, Va. On April 30, he met with pastors of urban congregations in a meeting arranged by Tim Harvey, pastor of Central Church of the Brethren. The pastors recently had participated in a pulpit exchange among their respective congregations. Conversation centered on stories of transformation in which churches and pastors see God working in the community, and time was devoted to exploring ways the churches may work together to make effective use of their ministries and resources. Dueck also gave a workshop for a district leadership training event at Copper Hill Church of the Brethren on May 1. "Why We Do What We Do" discussed dynamics of cultural shifts and the role that church systems have in shaping values, relationships, worship, leadership, evangelism, and conflict in communities of faith. On Sunday, May 2, he participated in the 85th anniversary of Central Church, and then worshiped at Renacer, a Hispanic church start pastored by Daniel and Oris D’Oleo.

  • The Older Adult Ministry Cabinet is meeting at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on May 20-22 for an annual planning retreat. The cabinet assists Kim Ebersole, director of Family and Older Adult Ministries, to develop resources and programing. Members attending the retreat are Bill Cave (Pennsylvania), Anne Palmer (California), Heddie Sumner (Michigan), and LeRoy Weddle (Kansas). Other cabinet members are Deanna Brown and Kim Witkovsky, who are unable to attend.

  • On Earth Peace is offering Peace Retreats for congregations, districts, and camps. Contact for more information and to request contact from an On Earth Peace staff member who will help tailor a retreat to the congregational, district, or camp setting. Groups that host retreats are required to provide food, housing, and a stipend for the leadership. In return, On Earth Peace will provide retreat facilitators and an organized schedule of activities and lessons. For more go to

  • A John’s Way Ministry was started by Clover Creek Church of the Brethren in Fredericksburg, Pa., a year ago in honor of John Scott Baird, a member of the church who was born with a rare genetic abnormality that confined him to a wheelchair. He passed away on May 5, 2004, at age 19. The ministry accepts donations of used medical equipment and supplies in good working condition and freely gives them to anyone in need of them. "The equipment is cleaned, checked over, and placed in storage ready for the next request," said an article in the Middle Pennsylvania District newsletter.

  • York (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren will receive a special presentation from Church World Service (CWS) on June 13, according to the church newsletter. Regional director Patrick Walker will present a framed photo recognizing donations of over $100,000 to Church World Service, with which the church joins the CWS "millennium club."

  • Shenandoah District Disaster Ministries Auction estimates proceeds of $190,000 from the event at the Rockingham County (Va.) Fairgrounds. "God certainly blessed us with wonderful weather, faithful, hardworking volunteers, and a great crowd of folks, some of whom traveled from as far away as Pennsylvania and Ohio," said the report from associate district executive Joan L. Daggett. Numbers from the weekend include 1,299 tickets sold for an oyster/ham dinner, and 171 pancakes and 335 omelets eaten at a Saturday morning breakfast.

  • As of last report, $103,000 is needed by the end of 2010 to reach a goal of $425,000 to purchase the John Kline Homestead house and land in Broadway, Va. A note from the Virlina District Board in the district newsletter encouraged congregations to help provide these funds. The property is the historic home of Elder John Kline, a Civil War-era Brethren leader and martyr for peace. The Town Council of Broadway has requested that the John Kline Homestead be included in area tours commemorating 150 years since the Civil War (2011-2015). Contact the John Kline Homestead Preservation Fund, P.O. Box 274, Broadway, VA 22815.

  • Pacific Southwest District’s newsletter has reported on a two-year ministry enrichment project, "Building Side-Doors." The project began last month with four orientation seminars. A total of 89 people attended from the 14 churches who voted to participate. Participants received instruction and "a wealth of ‘building tools’ as they anticipated the construction of their side-doors (new outreach ministry initiatives)," the newsletter said. Translation of materials has begun for the Spanish-speaking churches involved. "Glendora Church got a jump start on one new side-door--a community garden," the newsletter said. "According to Rev. Mike Martin, there have already been inquiries from people in the community on how they can get involved."

  • World Hunger Auction events in Virlina District began April 18 and will culminate Aug. 14 with an auction at Antioch Church of the Brethren in Rocky Mount, Va. Nine churches in the district are participating in the effort, which includes events such as a Hunger Walk held April 18; the Spring Jamboree on May 2 at Smith Mountain Lake Community Church; a Hunger Bike Ride on May 22 at Antioch Church; an Organ Concert featuring Jonathan Emmons on Aug. 1 at Antioch Church; and a World Hunger Golf Tournament on July 10. For more information contact or 540-483-2534.

  • Manchester College this fall resumes hosting a regional youth conference for Church of the Brethren youth in the Midwest. The conference, titled "Powerhouse 2010," will be held on Nov. 13-14 on the college campus in North Manchester, Ind., for youth in grades 9-12 and advisors. Presenters will include National Youth Conference speakers Angie Lahman Yoder and Dave Sollenberger on the theme "Hidden Treasure" (Proverbs 2:1-5). The weekend will include worship, Bible study, games, recreation, music, and more. Further details, including registration information, will be available early this fall.

  • The Brethren Bible Institute offered by the Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) will be held on July 19-23 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. For registration and class information contact BBI, 155 Denver Rd, Denver, PA 17517.

  • Four Juniata College faculty were honored May 4 with teaching and service awards during a Spring Awards Convocation. Honorees included Church of the Brethren member Celia Cook-Huffman, who holds the W. Clay and Kathryn Burkholder Professorship in Conflict Resolution and is associate director of the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. Also honored were Michael Boyle, who holds the William J. von Liebig Chair in Biomedical Sciences; Kathleen Biddle, assistant professor of education; and Philip Dunwoody, associate professor of psychology. Cook-Huffman was honored with the 21st annual Beachley Award for Distinguished Academic Service.

  • The Henry Luce Foundation has awarded $120,000 to the "Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace," an online publication of the Plowshares peace studies cooperative of the three Historic Peace Church colleges in Indiana: Manchester, Earlham, and Goshen. The publication is the only research journal focused on ways religion can cause or exacerbate war and how religion can foster peace despite religiously-influenced conflict around the globe. It is edited by Joseph Liechty, professor of peace, justice, and conflict studies at Goshen College, and was created with support from a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The journal is at

  • The World Council of Churches (WCC) is part of a consultation to promote "justice tourism" in Israel and Palestine. The week of May 29-June 4 has been designated World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel. "There is an emerging concern that Christian tourists have an ethical obligation to engage with the people living there, to become witnesses to their struggle for freedom, human dignity, equality, justice, and peace," said a release. The consultation May 18-21 is to consolidate a "theology of pilgrimage for Palestine-Israel" and produce a study guide for Christian tourists. The meeting is organized by the Alternative Tourism Group, the Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism, Kairos Palestine, and the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum--an initiative of the WCC. For more go to

  • Christian leaders in Iraq have called for end to violence in a May 6 statement released through the World Council of Churches. The statement by the Council of the Christian Church Leaders of Iraq came after a May 2 attack in the northern city of Mosul, where buses carrying Christian university students were bombed. One person was killed and 188 injured. Since then more attacks have taken place throughout Iraq, although not all were against Christians, the WCC release said. "The wave of violence comes after contentious national elections and at a time when the country is struggling to form a new government," the release said. The church council was includes patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and heads of churches from the 14 Christian communities in Iraq. Find the statement at

  • There are only two weeks left to register online for Annual Conference on July 3-7 in Pittsburgh, Pa. June 7 is the last day for the advance, non-delegate registration fee of $95. After that date, participants must register on site in Pittsburgh, where the registration fee will be $120 for the full Conference. The June 7 deadline also applies to age-group registrations and purchasing meal tickets and Conference booklets. Go to and click the "Housing and Registration" link. For questions, contact the Conference Office at 800-323-8039 or

  • Tweets are being shared by participants at the Church Planting Conference that began today at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. Follow the Twitter stream at So far, participants have shared comments ranging from "Belita speaking Pour out Holy Spirit!" to "Recognizing new church plants at plenary session of the conference. Wow! great things happening in the CoB!! Praise God." The conference continues through May 22 on the theme, "Plant Generously, Reap Bountifully" (1 Corinthians 3:6).

  • Young Adult Conference meets May 29-31 at Camp Blue Diamond near Petersburg, Pa. The theme for this gathering of Church of the Brethren young adults is "Community" based on Romans 12:4-8. Information and registration are online at
Source: 5/20/2010 Newsline

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Chris Douglas, Kim Ebersole, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Jon Kobel, Jeri S. Kornegay, Karin L. Krog, John Wall, Walt Wiltschek contributed to this report.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Seminary charts course for a new direction with strategic plan.

At its March 2010 meeting, the Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees approved a strategic plan to guide the work of the seminary through 2015. Bethany Seminary is the graduate school and academy for theological education for the Church of the Brethren, located in Richmond, Ind.

Passage of the plan marked completion of another step in Bethany’s ongoing process of developing, implementing, and assessing the seminary’s strategic direction.

Reframing Bethany’s mission and ministry to address the challenges of providing quality theological education in the 21st century was high on Ruthann Knechel Johansen’s priority list when she assumed the presidency in 2007. The recommendation of one of the seminary’s accrediting bodies to evaluate enrollment and develop a comprehensive assessment plan, and the approaching end of the strategic initiatives of the time, underscored the need to address the issue.

Johansen also considered external factors influencing the perception of theological education. "In the last several decades, great changes have occurred in all Christian communions: in the local congregations and districts of the Church of the Brethren, and in the United States and global cultures, leading to the observation that we are living in a post-Christian time," she observes. "Reconsideration of Bethany’s mission and vision invites clarification and possible enlargement of them in the face of significant challenges."

Johansen approached the process by inviting people from many constituency groups into dialogue. This included several joint meetings of the board, faculty, and staff, including an envisioning discussion informed by storytelling and personal sharing, and a weekend retreat funded by a grant from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion led by Faith Kirkham Hawkins.

Through these conversations it became clear that Bethany’s future direction would be served best by holding fast to and creatively incorporating the Church of the Brethren core testimonies that contribute to God’s transforming work in the church and the world.

In Oct. 2008 the board received and approved a strategic direction paper based on the discussions and drafted by Johansen. The paper presents challenges facing the seminary, goals to address the challenges, and strategies for achieving the goals. The board also approved the creation of a Strategic Planning Committee to prioritize the strategies and set a timeline and benchmarks for meeting the goals.

A year later the board approved a new mission and vision statement, which can be viewed at The new mission statement reads, "Bethany Theological Seminary equips spiritual and intellectual leaders with an Incarnational education for ministering, proclaiming, and living out God's ‘shalom’ and Christ's peace in the church and the world."

Johansen describes the mission statement this way: "An Incarnational education is based on the life and work of Jesus Christ, emphasizing both the historical context of his life, death, and resurrection and the timeless call to embody his example of caring for God’s creation, loving neighbor and enemy, and serving the weak and the poor through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As we practice this distinctive manner of living, we experience God’s ‘shalom’ and Christ’s peace, reconciled with God and reaching out in reconciliation to others amidst our diversity."

With the mission and vision statements as a guide, the Strategic Planning Committee reviewed the 22 recommendations from the strategic direction paper and categorized them into seven priorities with accompanying subsets of goals and tasks. The goals focus on educational ethos and environment; curriculum focus, integration, and expansion of the educational program; and funding for new initiatives. Each task has a time frame for completion, measurable marks for accomplishment, and personnel assignments.

Implementation of an ongoing assessment plan will complete the circle of work related to the strategic direction process. Karen Garrett of Eaton, Ohio, has been hired as coordinator of assessment. She holds a master’s degree from Bethany and a master’s degree in education with specialization in curriculum and assessment. At a future meeting, the board will approve a comprehensive assessment plan in anticipation of a focus visit by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in 2011.

When describing how Bethany’s new strategic direction will shape the work of the seminary, Johansen says, "Preparing students for religious vocations today involves more than giving them biblical and theological knowledge and skills for carrying out ministerial vocations. Bethany must provide the contexts and resources for understanding present realities in relation to the past and the future, such as ‘fore-grounding’ work that prepares leaders for pluralistic contexts, developing curriculum in conflict analysis, offering courses that bring Matthew 25 and Matthew 28 together in conversation, and interpreting the seminary’s importance as a valuable educational resource for analysis and interpretation of and witness to urgent questions facing church and society.

"Incarnational education transforms the teaching and learning experience because it invites us to embrace Christ’s way of love and to continue the work of Jesus--in service, in simplicity, and in the pursuit of peace and justice for human beings and the earth."

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

Source: 5/5/2010 Newsline
Intercultural consultation celebrates diversity in harmony.

"Live in harmony with one another" (Romans 12:16). Drawing inspiration from Romans 12:15-17, approximately 100 Church of the Brethren members gathered to worship and work together at Camp Harmony in Pennsylvania. From April 22-25, the camp hosted people from congregations across the US and Puerto Rico, representing many ethnic groups including African Americans, white Americans, and Spanish speakers from around the world.

Previously known as the Cross-Cultural Celebration and Consultation, this 12th Intercultural Consultation and Celebration was both a continuation of work from previous years and a movement in a new direction, guided by the denomination’s Intercultural Advisory Committee and Rubén Deoleo, director of Intercultural Ministry.

There were a variety of activity options for participants. A Bible study workshop on Brethren core values and diversity was led by pastor Tim Monn of Midland (Va.) Church of the Brethren. An intensive workshop on the Friendly Style Profile explored individual and cultural diversity, uplifting strengths and gifts while identifying skills to better understand and prevent dysfunctional conflict, taught by Barbara Daté of the Intercultural Advisory Committee and Oregon and Washington District. A session on mentoring was offered by Stan Dueck, the denomination’s director of Transforming Practices. As always, there was lively worship in a variety of styles and languages that was a restorative for many participants.

Pastor Samuel Sarpiya of Rockford (Ill.) Community Church of the Brethren and On Earth Peace delivered the opening sermon and set the tone for the event. He spoke eloquently about how the church’s peace heritage has influenced his work in the Rockford community following a police shooting in a black neighborhood. Sarpiya reminded the consultation that working toward peace is an important foundation for a multicultural congregation and an important message to share with our wider communities.

The Friday evening dinner was brought and shared by about 20 congregations from the host district of Western Pennsylvania, providing a treat in the form of favorite "traditional" Germanic/European recipes.

That night’s worship service featured Ray Hileman, pastor of Miami (Fla.) First Church of the Brethren. Before a mixed group of consultation participants and members of the host district, he challenged churches to begin intensive work to becoming intercultural. He spoke of being one race (human), one culture (Christian), and united by one color (red, representing Jesus’ blood spilled for us). The third annual "Revelation 7:9 Diversity Award" was presented to Carol Yeazell for her support of racial/ethnic and intercultural ministries.

Closing worship on Saturday was led by Don Mitchell of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren. Without a formal sermon, the inspiring service allowed attendees to find harmony through such diverse music as a Latin jazz-influenced prelude, several Spanish choruses, a Haitian hymn, traditional African-American gospel songs, the hymn "Move In Our Midst," and well-known praise choruses. The service featured reflections by Belita Mitchell, pastor of Harrisburg First Church; Joel Peña, pastor of Iglesia Alfa y Omega in Lancaster, Pa.; and Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries.

English to Spanish interpretation for worship services and plenary gatherings was provided by Nadine Monn, Marisel Olivencia, Gilbert Romero, Jaime Diaz, and Ruby Deoleo. All three worship services, musical gathering times, the session by Stan Dueck, and the workshop by Tim Monn were webcast in partnership with Bethany Theological Seminary, with assistance from Enten Eller, the seminary’s director of Distributed Education and Electronic Communication. Recordings are available at

According to the Intercultural Advisory Committee’s mission statement, this annual event is intended to enrich and strengthen the Church of the Brethren by our unity as people of all colors, modeling for the larger church the blessings of being one as God’s people. Its attendees returned to their congregations re-energized and with fresh ideas about how to belong to an intercultural Christian community.

-- Gimbiya Kettering is communications coordinator for On Earth Peace, and Nadine Monn is a member of the Intercultural Advisory Committee. Committee member Barbara Daté also contributed.

Source: 5/5/2010 Newsline
BVS volunteer from Germany is detained for visa lapse.

A young German man, Florian Koch, who has been serving in the United States through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) was detained for more than a week by immigration authorities in April. A request to extend his visa had been denied and BVS was in the process of filing a motion to reconsider the visa denial, when Koch was detained while vacationing in Florida by bus.

The volunteer was detained on April 19 when those on the bus he was traveling in were checked by immigration officials. He was held at a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) transitional detention center in Pompano Beach, in the greater Miami area.

On April 28 he was released under voluntary departure status, after the Church of the Brethren retained an immigration attorney and posted his bond. He now is legally authorized to stay in the country for 60 days in order to finish up his time in the United States.

During his time in detention with ICE, Koch was briefly threatened with transferral to another detention center in an undisclosed location. He was taken to the Miami airport along with a group of some 150 other detainees to be put on a flight--most probably to Louisiana, BVS learned. In the end, however, the ICE kept him in Florida until his release last Wednesday.

Koch has been volunteering at Samaritan House in Atlanta, Ga., an organization that serves homeless men and women through employment programs and a restaurant called Café 458. He came to BVS through EIRENE, a German volunteer organization that regularly places 12-15 volunteers each year through BVS and has a strong historical connection with the Church of the Brethren, which was one of its three founding organizations in 1957 along with the Mennonites and the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Staff of BVS, EIRENE, Samaritan House, and the Church of the Brethren; board members of the Community of Hospitality, the organization providing housing to Koch in Atlanta; and Koch’s parents all worked diligently for his release.

On learning of Koch’s detention, BVS director Dan McFadden flew to Miami arriving on April 23 to work personally to gain his release. He and Community of Hospitality board members worked to locate and retain an immigration attorney in the Miami area. Also advocates in Georgia were in touch with members of Congress about his case.

McFadden kept in touch with Koch through daily telephone calls, met with him when the detention center allowed visitors over the weekend, and was present to receive Koch on his release and accompanied him back to Atlanta.

In Germany, EIRENE director Ralf Ziegler and Koch’s parents advocated for his release with the US consulate in Frankfurt, and the German consulate in Miami. Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger alerted National Council of Churches leaders to the case and personally went to the ICE offices in Chicago to post the bond.

BVS and its international volunteers have not experienced such legal repercussions before on issues of immigration, according to McFadden. Although in recent months several other international volunteers with BVS have been denied visa extensions, they have continued to serve in the United States while appeals are in process.

BVS will be reviewing its procedures for visas for international volunteers, Noffsinger said.

"While Florian had a host of witnesses and advocates working on his behalf within the system, thousands remain in detention, often without advocates," Noffsinger noted. "What is our role as a church to befriend the stranger in our midst, to visit and accompany the imprisoned, and to seek fair and just actions? This incident puts the onus on us to be informed and involved out of our own concern for our sister and brother human beings."

Source: 5/5/2010 Newsline
Church representative attends ‘Beijing + 15' on status of women.

The following report from Doris Abdullah, Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations, reports her experience at the 54th Commission on the Status of Women:

So exactly what was the 54th meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women from March 1-12 at the United Nations in New York all about anyway? Was it to assess the status of women 15 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (held in 1995), or was it a celebration for the world’s women to embrace their sisterhood as one with the common goal of addressing discrimination and claiming our bodies as our own?

All the human rights violations against women--either expressed in outright violence, persistent harsh poverty, lack of education and training, poor health, lack of representation or participation in government or the economy--all are wrapped up in continual discrimination against women and the girl child, and a lack of control over our own bodies. I would say that the two weeks explored all the above and gave the world’s women a grand look at themselves and these sometimes explosive and misunderstood subjects with mutual respect and decorum.

A wealth of talents, ingenuity in the face of violence, and remarkably educated women who have achieved extraordinary things.... I headed for the panel discussions at the Salvation Army, universities, hotels, and the Church Center at the UN, so that I could be a little closer to the speakers and hear them in a smaller setting. These parallel events were packed with brainstorming ideas from women group founders, the global support network of women, and those sharing common interests. At these events, one could caucus with representatives from any place on the globe.

The five regional group speakers came from Argentina, on behalf of MERCOSUR and Associated States; Chile, on behalf of the Rio Group; Equatorial Guinea, on behalf of the African Group; Samoa, on the behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum; and Yemen, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

While I have not tried to picked a best speech from such a variety of great presentations, I do think that Louise Croot, president of the NGO International Federation of University Women, spoke six words that represent what the whole two weeks tried to convey: "Human rights are also women’s rights."

And I would add, these rights should be respected by all governments and their institutions within societies. A quotation from the Beijing Platform for Action: "Equality between women and men is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and is also a necessary and fundamental prerequisite for equality, development, and peace."

-- Doris Abdullah is co-chair of the NGO Human Rights Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance. She notes that most panel discussions and speeches given during the "Beijing + 15" meeting are available at

Source: 5/5/2010 Newsline
Shaffer retires from Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Ken Shaffer Jr., director of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA), has announced his retirement effective Dec. 31. He has served for more than 20 years in the position.

He began working for the Church of the Brethren in Aug. 1970 as consultant for curriculum development for the former General Board. From 1987-89 he was editor of "A Guide for Biblical Studies." From 1972-88 he worked at Bethany Theological Seminary in Oak Brook, Ill. His positions at Bethany included bookstore manager, acquisitions librarian, administrative assistant to the Doctor of Ministry program, and library director.

In Jan. 1989 he began as BHLA director. He has held responsibility for the extensive archival collection housed in the basement of the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. With documents dating back to a 1539 German New Testament, the archive preserves Brethren publications, records, and items of historical importance. Shaffer aids researchers, provides information for church programs and projects, serves as staff liaison for the Brethren Historical Committee, oversees the work of interns, and writes about Brethren history. Most recently he has contributed to a new project to digitize Brethren periodicals, in a cooperative endeavor with several other Brethren bodies.

Shaffer has written numerous articles for "Messenger" magazine, and was book review editor for "Brethren Life and Thought" from 1986-99. He has written two Brethren Press books on "Texts in Transit" with co-author Graydon Snyder and compiled the third supplement to the Brethren Bibliography.

Originally from Maryland, he is an ordained minister. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Bridgewater (Va.) College, a master of divinity from Bethany Theological Seminary, and a master of arts in Library Science from Northern Illinois University.

Source: 5/5/2010 Newsline
BVS volunteers in Europe reflect on their experiences.

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) currently has 12 volunteers serving in six European countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Netherlands, Hungary, Germany, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. Below are excerpts from three volunteer reports in the most recent BVS Europe newsletter:

Sarah Hurst, who completed her BVS service a few weeks ago, explains Quaker Cottage in N. Ireland, for others who may work there in the future: This year we were lucky enough to have had the worst winter Belfast has seen in the last 50 years, or so many people have told me. Since the volunteers live up on the mountain, right beside the cottage, they are the first ones who will know about any snow/ice lying on the roads.

When this happens, you then get to enjoy the lovely job of "gritting the road." Grit is a combination of sand and salt that you sprinkle on the road to melt the snow and ice so the buses can make it up and down the mountain. Once you learn how to do it effectively, it should take no more than 40 minutes to grit the road and walk back up. Believe me, by the time you leave Quakers you will become a professional at gritting.

You will get to experience a lovely Christmas here. Quakers gets donations from families and companies of food and toys. We dedicate the two rooms upstairs for these donations and it takes the entire staff to sort and categorize the food and toys. After everything is sorted, hampers are made to give out to current and past families.

The Tuesday younger afterschool group mails letters to Santa at the Christmas market and then gets a visit and a wee toy from him as well. The preteen and older afterschool group gets a visit from a "silly Santa"--usually one of the staff and the children know it. This is to protect any of those who may believe in Santa from being teased. All in all it’s a brilliant time for everyone to enjoy themselves.

Summer, on the other hand, is a bit different. The summer program is a very important time for the children, who in most families do not get to experience half the things we do in the summer. There are definitely challenges that they face and often times they will act out because they’re scared. It is such an important time for us to build up our relationships with these children and really gain their trust so we can boost their confidence.

The main thing at Quakers is to be flexible and patient. If you really embrace the work, the extra hours do not seem that bad and you will enjoy your time here so much more. Good luck and have fun; it’s truly an experience you will not forget!

Jill Piebiak writes from the European Office of the World Christian Student Federation (WCSF) in Budapest, Hungary: I don’t think that I can really say how happy I am to be working for this organization. Although the job is filled with many ups and downs and sometimes incredibly frustrating moments, I am so glad to be working somewhere that fits with my goal, career aspirations, and values.

I work with a regional committee of volunteers who are so enthusiastic and very committed to the organization. I am the staff representative on the preparatory committee working on our theological conference in Berlin, "Religion, Ethics, and Politics--God and the Use of Power." We are expecting approximately 60 youth from across Europe, a student from Africa, and one from the Asia Pacific regions of the WSCF.

I also am helping to promote the World Council of Churches’ Lenten Study, "Cries of Anguish, Stories of Hope." My role is to try to get WSCF members to participate online in discussions about the weekly Bible studies. This means that it has become part of my Lent. Each week my boss and I sit down for about an hour to study the Bible, watch the videos, and reflect on violence against women.

Our organization has responded in solidarity to three issues since I have been here. First, with a student in Belarus who had been thrown out of university for attending a European Union conference on civil society. The second was for the people of Haiti and in particular the local Student Christian Movement there. Finally, we have written the government of the Philippines condemning them for the illegal arrest and torture of Dr. Alexis Montes, uncle to the regional secretary of WSCF Asia Pacific, and 43 other medical professionals.

I feel that my work matters, not only individually in terms of the organization but also the organization’s work really matters and makes a difference in the world.

Katie Hampton reports about her adventures with Internet radio at the OKC Abrasevic Youth Cultural Center in Bosnia-Herzegovina: A dominant experience of my fall and winter has been "Abras Radio," an Internet radio station. I helped write a grant for this project. As the BVS volunteer in OKC, I decided to host a radio show about "sevdah" traditional Bosnian music, which I adore.

Someone wrote a description for my show: "Most of us grew up listening to ‘sevdah’ on the radio. Katie didn't. She grew up on a farm in Oregon. ‘Sevdah’ on Wednesdays with Katie."

My friend Dolores, who sings "sevdah," promised to help. I then had two weeks to create six radio shows. I was going to America for a month and needed to leave play lists and interviews that staff could put on in my absence. I had an amazing time interviewing different people from Mostar--young people, old people, musicians.

At the end of January, we had a final event and promotion of Abras Radio, and Abras Media in general. Young Mostar heavy metal bands played (some of the band members lead a metal show on Abras Radio), we featured a local hip-hopper who also leads a radio show, and there was a presentation of the Internet portal and radio site. Some of the young people decided they were interested in video too, and worked with me to film interviews and the concert, and later edited the footage. By this point, the number of young volunteers had grown to about 15 and there were about 10 different weekly radio shows.

This project was a coming together, not only of Croat and Bosniak young people, but also punk rockers and metalheads, which is even more amazing! In the end the project really did what it said that it would: create an alternative media space, truly open to members of the community, bringing together youth from both sides of a divided city, uniting them through radio, music, and activism.

The money for the project is basically all spent, so the future is uncertain. We are writing other grants, hoping they will be approved. We desperately need more equipment--the studio doesn't even have proper microphones and our video camera is practically not functioning. What will the future hold for Abras Media?

In terms of my own volunteering, I am beginning to train young people to continue with video work in Abras Media--hoping to leave something behind, to contribute something more lasting.

Source: 5/5/2010 Newsline
Brethren bits: Correction, remembrance, personnel, job opening, more
  • Correction: The Newsline of April 22 incorrectly listed Bob Gross, executive director of On Earth Peace, as helping plan the upcoming "Peace Among the Peoples" conference.

  • Remembrance: Henry Barton, who served Brethren Press as a bindery helper for close to 40 years, died on April 28. He worked for the denominational publishing house in Elgin, Ill., from Feb. 1948 to his retirement in Oct. 1984. Survivors include daughter Brenda Hayward, who is the receptionist at the Church of the Brethren General Offices. The funeral service was held at Wesley United Methodist Church in Elgin on May 2. Memorials are being received to Wesley United Methodist Church or American Legion Post 57.

  • Staffing changes at the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center took effect May 3. The changes are intended "to reduce costs while also increasing efficiency," said an announcement. The housekeeping department will consist of Harry Torres, who will handle coordination with community service and volunteer agencies and programs such as the ARC of Carroll County, in addition to his current responsibilities; Christine Watson, who will take on additional responsibilities to inventory and order supplies and provide leadership when supervisors are absent; and Ella Patterson, who while continuing in her housekeeping position will be cross trained in dining services to provide assistance in each area as needed. Fay Reese has accepted a transfer to a fulltime position in dining services.

  • Randy and Jill Emmelhainz of Ostrander, Ohio, have been appointed resident directors of Lybrook (N.M.) Community Ministries, beginning June 1. They will replace David and Maria Huber, whose term of service will end the last of July. Lybrook Community Ministries is related to Western Plains District and Tokahookaadi Church of the Brethren, located in a Navajo community of New Mexico. Jill Emmelhainz is working on an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) degree and has done course work in intercultural studies. Her experience in community involvement has included organizing community events and participating in a variety of community arts activities, recruiting and supporting community volunteers, producing curriculum for homeschoolers, arranging workshops for a national conference, working as a ski patroller and Outdoor Emergency Care instructor, and writing and editing newsletters. Randy Emmelhainz is completing a master’s degree in intercultural studies at Columbia (S.C.) International University. He is certified in secondary education in mathematics, has taught math and adult education computer classes, has been part-time pastor for an African Methodist Episcopal church, and has formed a small consulting business. The couple will serve through Brethren Volunteer Service.

  • The Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., is extending appreciation to Brad and Bonnie Bohrer of Brook Park (Ohio) Community Church of the Brethren, who volunteered from April 20-May 5 to organize and prepare for shipment the family household kits for Haiti.

  • The Church of the Brethren seeks a fulltime coordinator of donor invitation to be part of the Stewardship and Donor Development team, working at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The position builds relationship and invites participation in Church of the Brethren mission and ministries through electronic and traditional communication strategies. The applicant should be a team player, working closely with the communications staff toward a consistent Brethren message. Also desired are above average Internet communication skills, experience with CONVIO, and excellent writing ability that is inspirational, motivational, and invitational. Responsibilities include promoting and securing online and direct mail gifts from individuals, corporations, and foundations; writing invitation and newsletter materials; working with staff to develop and follow a comprehensive plan for e-community building and giving invitation; work with outside contractors for e-mail campaigns, donation page site design, online giving, and/or direct mail; responding to inquiries regarding stewardship and donation concerns; serving as a website sub-administrator; developing and maintaining alumni and donor lists, contacts, and related records; representing and interpreting the stewardship concerns of the church. Desired skills and knowledge include a strong Christian faith and membership in good standing in a Church of the Brethren congregation; grounding in Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision, mission, and core values of the denomination; familiarity with youth and young adult culture; positive, affirming, collaborative working style; commitment to denominational and ecumenical objectives; basic knowledge of financial planning tools and estate and tax laws; communication, fundraising, public relations, or customer service experience; leadership experience at the congregational, district, or denominational level of the Church of the Brethren; experience with web-based communication and e-mail systems; a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience. The position is open until filled. Request the position description and application packet from the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 258;

  • Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger has signed an ecumenical letter supporting Christians and minorities in Iraq. Leaders of the National Council of Churches from a number of Christian denominations have signed the letter of concern sent April 26 to Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, and Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. Christians in Iraq have suffered more than a dozen violent deaths so far this year, the NCC reported, including a three-year old child in Mosul who died on March 27 after a bomb exploded next to his home. A release link to the full text of the letter is at

  • Registration for summer workcamps has topped 350. "We now have a total of 361 participants in 2010 workcamps, including leaders!" said an e-mail from coordinator Jeanne Davies. Youth and Young Adult Ministry director Becky Ullom notes that "this number is pretty remarkable in a year when there are almost no senior high workcamps due to National Youth Conference." For Young Adult Conference, registration stands at 73. Young adults are encouraged to register at

  • The 2011 National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) planning committee held its initial meeting May 3-5 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Committee members include Peggy Redman (California), Elsie and Ken Holderread (Kansas), Deanna Brown (Indiana), Guy Wampler (Pennsylvania), and Kim Ebersole of the Congregational Life Ministries staff who serves as NOAC coordinator. "Passion and Purpose in a Changing World" was chosen as the conference theme, reflecting the desire older adults have to be aware of, involved in, and connected to the dynamic world in which they live. NOAC will be held next year on Sept. 5-9, at the Lake Junaluska (N.C.) Conference and Retreat Center.

  • "Take Charge. Solve the Conflict," is the title of a webinar led by Celia Cook-Huffman--the third of a three-part series on "Developing Conflict-Healthy Congregations." Cook-Huffman is professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., and associate director of the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. Her webinar will be repeated May 6 at 5:30-6:30 p.m. (Pacific time) or 8:30-9:30 p.m. (eastern). Connect to the webinar at

  • A preaching camp for youth and young adults ages 16-28 will be hosted by Bethany Theological Seminary and Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Ind., on June 13-18. Part of the Academy of Preachers, the event is one of three held across the country to help young preachers find a unique voice, better articulate beliefs and practices, connect with the living Word, and deepen confidence in God. Cost is $500, with $300 in scholarships provided, leaving the fee for each young preacher at $200. The camp has space for only 24. Preaching will be on texts related to the Ten Commandments. Sermons are video-recorded and used in a coaching process through the week, with each young preacher assigned a coach. For more information and a registration form go to

  • Harmony Church of the Brethren is celebrating its 140th year of ministry in the Middletown/Myersville area of Maryland. The successor of the Anna Maria Moser branch, logs from the Fisher Hollow Road site were brought to Harmony and the meetinghouse was finished in 1870. As a fundraiser, 140 afghans are being commissioned by a company and will be sold. An anniversary celebration is planned for Nov. 14.

  • East Chippewa Church of the Brethren near Orrville, Ohio, holds its 5th Annual Fishing Derby for children on May 15 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Activities are free of charge and the public is welcome, said a release from the church. It is sponsored by the senior high youth and held at a pond on the property of youth advisors Larry and Lysa Boothe (8435 Fox Lake Rd. north of Rte. 585). The youth provide bait and many of the fishing poles, and clean the trout that are caught. "The pond is also stocked with perch, small mouth bass, crappie, and blue gill, however, if someone catches one of these fish we ask that they are released back into the pond," said the announcement. Junior high help teach fishing techniques. The Recreation and Family Life committee provide hot dogs and chips, and a grill is ready for those who like to eat their catch right away. Guests are welcome to bring their own poles and lures. "The derby has opened a whole new way for our church to expand its doors," explained Lysa Boothe. "The fishing derby is our way of showing that God is everywhere and in everything and is not just for church." For more information call 330-669-3262 or visit

  • A five-star rating from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been awarded to Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Boonsboro, Md. The rating is the best possible, according to a release from the home. "Each nursing home in the nation receives an overall rating of from 1 to 5 stars, with 5 indicating the home is considered ‘much above average’ in quality of its services," the release said. The ratings are updated numerous times each year, see The overall rating is based on a combination of three others for each home: health inspection findings, data on nurse-staffing hours, and clinical data relating to the care provided. Fahrney-Keedy also has received high scores in the latest state survey of residents’ families. Questions covered staff and administration, care provided, food and meals, autonomy and resident rights, and physical aspects of the home. Fahrney-Keedy was rated higher by its responsible parties than were other homes in the state average. "Our dedicated staff and a wonderful core of volunteers are the reasons for our growing success and high ratings," said Keith Bryan, interim president.

  • Bridgewater (Va.) College president Phillip C. Stone will deliver the 2010 commencement address in his last commencement as chief executive of the college, at 2 p.m. on May 16, on the campus mall. Some 300 seniors are expected to receive degrees. Stafford C. Frederick, pastor of Summerdean Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., will deliver the message at the 10 a.m. baccalaureate service in Nininger Hall. Stone took office on Aug. 1, 1994, as the seventh president of Bridgewater College. His retirement from Bridgewater will be effective June 30.

  • The commencement address at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., will be given by Harriet Richardson Michel, president of the National Minority Supplier Development Council and a 1965 graduate. Juniata's 132nd commencement ceremony takes place at 10 a.m. on May 15. Michel's work for civil rights and minority opportunity dates back to her college career at Juniata, according to a release from the college, when in her senior year she was one of a group of students to travel to Alabama as part of an effort to bring attention to civil rights abuses. During one event, police attacked the demonstrators including some of the Juniata students. Photographer Charles Moore took photos of Richardson tending to a bloodied Galway Kinnell, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who was serving as a Juniata artist-in-residence in 1965. The photo was featured in "Life" magazine. Michel has been honored by numerous awards, among them the 2006 "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" by "Black Enterprise" magazine, a 2005 induction into the Minority Business Hall of Fame, and the 2004 Hall of Fame Award from "Enterprising Woman Magazine." She has taught or lectured at Harvard Law School, Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, and the University of Florida.

  • The May program from "Brethren Voices," the community television program of Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, features storytellers from the annual Song and Story Fest, a family camp co-sponsored by On Earth Peace. Featured are Rocci Hildum and Mike Titus of Wenatchee, Wash.; Jim Lehman of Elgin, Ill.; and Jonathan Hunter of San Diego, Calif. The June issue of "Brethren Voices" will feature Chuck Boyer of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, who has served on the denominational staff and as moderator of Annual Conference in 1993. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Chuck as he continues to battle cancer while living at Hillcrest Homes in La Verne," said a release from producer Ed Groff. For more about "Brethren Voices" contact Copies are available for a donation of $8.

  • The new immigration law in Arizona is being critiqued by Christian leaders including the National Council of Churches (NCC) and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops denounced the law as "draconian" and called on Congress to stop political "gamesmanship" and pass immigration reform, according to Religion News Service. Michael Kinnamon, NCC general secretary, reiterated the view of member denominations and Arizona religious leaders that "this legislation will not contribute to the reform of our nation's immigration system." Church of the Brethren statements on immigration available online include a 1982 Annual Conference "Statement Addressing the Concern of Undocumented Persons and Refugees in the United States" at and a 2006 pastoral letter from the former General Board at

  • Nuclear weapons "are a crime against humanity" and must be removed from the face of the earth, NCC general secretary Michael Kinnamon told a rally held in New York on May 2, on the eve of a United Nations conference on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons treaty. A resolution against nuclear weapons was enacted by the General Assembly of the NCC and Church World Service last November. Kinnamon also cited a statement by the World Council of Churches made just three years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "It is only eight words, but I wish these words could be chiseled above the door of every church: ‘War is contrary to the will of God.’" The rally in Times Square was attended by an estimated 40,000 people, hours after a failed attempt to explode a car bomb. Participants included Kimura Hisako, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, and mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • The National Council of Churches has released a new education and worship resource on domestic poverty. "The crisis of poverty calls on the church as the body of Christ to be ‘hands and feet’ in our community, working to eradicate poverty and provide everyone an equal opportunity to prosper," said an announcement. Download the resource from

  • The "Akron Beacon Journal" has marked the 40th anniversary of the Kent State shootings on May 4 with an interview with Dean Kahler, one of the students hit in the shooting and paralyzed from the waist down. The interview notes that "As a member of the pacifist Church of the Brethren, he was against the war in Vietnam--and, in fact, any war," but simply wanted to see what went on at a student demonstration. Kahler remains upbeat, he told the paper. ''I had some things that really helped me through--a strong family, cadre of friends, belief in my faith." The interview is online at
Source: 5/5/2010 Newsline