Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Webcasts from the conference are being offered at www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcasts/PeaceConf2010. An online photo album has been started at www.brethren.org/site/PhotoAlbumUser?AlbumID=13041&view=UserAlbum.

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Conference holds day of reporting from participants’ work for peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Webcasts from the conference are being offered at www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcasts/PeaceConf2010. An online photo album has been started at www.brethren.org/site/PhotoAlbumUser?AlbumID=13041&view=UserAlbum.

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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Progressive Brethren Gathering hears from seminary president.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Information about the Church of the Brethren’s Special Response process is at www.cobannualconference.org/special_response_resource.html.)

Church helps Haitians access clean water during cholera outbreak.

The Church of the Brethren is providing help to communities and neighborhoods of L’Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Haitian Church of the Brethren) to gain access to clean water during the cholera outbreak in Haiti. Jeff Boshart, Haiti coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries, returned Friday, Nov. 12, from a week visiting church leaders and partner organizations in Haiti.

One hundred new water filters have been distributed to the Haitian congregations by Brethren Disaster Ministries, with another 100 water filters to come. A new well dug with funding from Brethren Disaster Ministries has proved to be an artisian well capable of providing a steady flow of clean water for one neighborhood where Haitian Brethren live. Also, a cistern for collecting rainwater funded by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund has been completed on the island of La Tortue. This cistern will serve a school supported by a Haitian Church of the Brethren congregation in Miami, Fla.

The Haitian Brethren are not severely affected by the epidemic, so far. "According to general secretary Jean Bily Telfort and moderator Yves Jean, except for the Peris congregation near St. Marc, where one church member lost her life to the epidemic, they have no other reports of anyone even being sick," Boshart said.

All of the congregations of Haitian Brethren have been informed about the need for disease prevention, according to Klebert Exceus, Haitian consultant to Brethren Disaster Ministries who supervises the disaster rebuilding projects. The government also is broadcasting information through media sources about how to avoid cholera. Media reports this week indicate that the death toll to cholera in Haiti is now over 1,100, with more than 18,000 people hospitalized for the disease.

Boshart, Exceus, and Jean met last week with Haiti staff of IMA World Health to do planning for the new Brethren health care initiative in Haiti. During the meeting, "IMA encouraged our churches to have water treated with chlorox, a basin, and soap available," in order to fight the spread of cholera, Boshart said. "They encouraged us to have all churchgoers wash their hands before entering their church buildings for worship."

In an aside, he added that Haiti mission coordinator and Miami pastor Ludovic St. Fleur joked, "Instead of being a church known for washing feet, we might become known as a church that washes hands."

A recent success is the artisian well dug just two weeks ago in an area of the city of Gonaives where Brethren have been building homes for disaster survivors. The well is in a neighborhood of 22 homes built together in a small community by Brethren Disaster Ministries in partnership with Sant Kretyen pou Devlopman Entegre (Christian Center for Integrated Development). Brethren Disaster Ministries funded the well, which was dug by an organization called Haiti Outreach.

"After the well was completed, clean, drinkable water began pouring out all over the place, according to local residents," Boshart said. "Haiti Outreach staff have been drilling wells in Haiti for nearly 20 years and this is only the second artisian well they have come across in all of that time. Not only these 22 families, but many neighbors are getting water there presently."

Brethren Disaster Ministries also is celebrating completion of its 85th house in Haiti. "This is a special house," Boshart said, "as it is the first permanent house to be built for any of the Brethren earthquake victims."

The recipient family of Jean Bily Telfort, general secretary of the National Committee of L'Eglise des Freres, were among the over one million people displaced by the earthquake. After the earthquake he was offered a temporary shelter built by the Brethren, but declined saying it should be given to someone else. Since then, his wife and young son have been living with his mother-in-law some four hours away from their home community in Port-au-Prince. "The family is now reunited!" Boshart rejoiced.

The recipients of food and other aid in several communities, as well as the National Committee of the Haitian Brethren, have sent letters of thanks to Brethren Disaster Ministries for their support in this time of need.

NCC centennial gathering celebrates 100 years of ecumenism.

Last week’s Centennial Gathering of the National Council of Churches (NCC) and Church World Service (CWS) brought more than 400 people to New Orleans, La., to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1910 World Mission Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland--an event many church historians regard as the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement.

The National Council of Churches itself was formed in 1950 out of several national church streams, including Church World Service.

The theme for the centennial gathering Nov. 9-11, "Witnesses of These Things: Ecumenical Engagement in a New Era," comes from Luke 24:48, the same scriptural theme text as the 2010 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Church of the Brethren representatives to the NCC are Elizabeth Bidgood Enders of Harrisburg, Pa.; J.D. Glick of Bridgewater, Va.; Illana Naylor of Manassas, Va.; Kenneth M. Rieman of Seattle, Wash.; and representing the denominational staff Mary Jo Flory-Steury, executive director for Ministry, and general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger.

The agenda included five "vision papers" presented for discussion: "Christian Understanding of Unity in an Age of Radical Diversity," "Christian Understanding of Mission in an Age of Interfaith Relations," "Christian Understanding of War in an Age of Terror(ism)," "Christian Understanding of the Economy in an Age of Growing Inequality," and "Christian Understanding of Creation in an Age of Environmental Crisis."

The vision papers were not presented for a vote, but used to stimulate ideas for future directions for common, life, witness, and mission. In comments after returning from the gathering, Noffsinger said that his office is preparing study guides to help Brethren use the vision papers, with plans to offer them as online resources.

In action items, the gathering adopted a number of statements including a resolution supporting comprehensive immigration reform, a call for ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II), a document "Honoring the Sacredness of Religious Others: Reaffirming our Commitment to Positive Interfaith Relations" that takes note of controversies over the building of Islamic houses of worship and threats to burn the Koran, a resolution on violence against Christians in Iraq, and a resolution calling for investigation of human rights abuses in Myanmar. The NCC welcomed one new member communion, the Community of Christ, once known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

In other business the NCC Governing Board, which includes Noffsinger as a member, adopted a resolution calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan, approved merging the US Conference for the World Council of Churches into the NCC, and re-elected Michael Kinnamon as NCC general secretary. The resolution, "A Call to End the War in Afghanistan," calls for withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan "to be completed as soon as possible without further endangerment to the lives and welfare of US and NATO troops, Afghan troops, and Afghan civilians." The document states "that we must reaffirm our witness to Christ's commandment to love our enemies," and calls on member communions "to articulate to one another and to government authorities the concept of a ‘Just Peace’ as a proactive strategy for avoiding premature or unnecessary decisions to employ military means of solving conflicts."

(This article is primarily excerpted from releases by Philip E. Jenks of the NCC staff and Lesley Crosson of CWS. For more about the gathering go to www.ncccusa.org/witnesses2010.)

Spanish language ministry training track is available to Brethren.

A new Spanish language ministry training track is being created for the Church of the Brethren, through the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership and a Mennonite ministry certification program, Seminario Biblico Anabautista Hispano. The Brethren Academy is a partnership of the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Theological Seminary.

In a report to the fall meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board, academy director Julie M. Hostetter outlined how the new program will work as a Brethren track in the Mennonite Education Agency’s program for Hispanic Pastoral Leadership Education. The Spanish language training track, SeBAH-CoB, will parallel the Academy Certified Training System (ACTS) programs that the Church of the Brethren currently has in place for English speaking students.

District-based student cohort groups will be created, some of which may include both Brethren and Mennonites. The first cohort is in Atlantic Northeast District, and is scheduled to hold orientation at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., on Jan. 20-23, 2011. This first cohort group can include up to 15 students.

At its district conference this past weekend, Pacific Southwest District affirmed the formation of a Brethren-Mennonite cohort group that will have an orientation session in late winter 2011. Several additional districts and individuals have expressed interest in the SeBAH-CoB program and more cohorts will be formed in the future. For more information contact the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, at 800-287-8822 ext. 1820.

Disaster volunteers receive a warm welcome in a cold climate.

Located in north-central South Dakota, the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation recently became the coldest "hot spot" for disaster relief activity. An economically depressed area that suffered damage from a tornado, the reservation was in need of volunteers to assist with a variety of tasks before extreme winter weather set in.

After receiving an urgent request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for volunteers, Brethren Disaster Ministries joined other National VOAD organizations on a conference call to discuss needs, resources, and logistics. The call revealed the need for volunteers with a variety of specific skills including roofing, plumbing, electrical wiring, carpentry, CDL drivers, and backhoe operators.

Following the call, Brethren Disaster Ministries contacted several volunteers in order to put together a small team that could respond in less than a week. There were many unknowns going into the project, and volunteers were asked to be prepared to embark on a real adventure, and to be extremely flexible.

Having recently returned from meetings with FEMA officials in Washington, D.C., Brethren Disaster Ministries staff noted that the different agencies that were responding needed to rely on one another. Even though not many details were provided about the project, the agencies knew that they could trust one another to do their part. Brethren staff have observed the collaborative work and partnership between disaster relief agencies evolving in an impressive way, especially collaboration between nonprofit and governmental agencies.

With travel assistance from FEMA, Brethren Disaster Ministries sent four volunteers to South Dakota. The entire response lasted two weeks and involved approximately 20 volunteers from different organizations who placed multiple mobile housing units and prepared them for the upcoming winter months.

Brethren volunteer Larry Ditmars reported, "I came here expecting an adventure, and so far am really loving what I've found." Ditmars, who has a CDL license, worked with local workers to haul mobile units from a staging area to onsite lots where they were hooked into utilities and winterized.

"We were Brethren. We were Lutheran. We were Mennonite. We were Christian Reformed. We were Hope Crisis. We were Missionary," he commented, adding: "We were from Kansas, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Manitoba. We were outsiders! We were the Body of Christ united in one Spirit and one mission.

"The people of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe saw us and were amazed," he said. "They never knew a group of outsiders could care to give that much. The caring, healing, loving hands of Christ were at work in us in that place."

In all, over a dozen homes were prepared for families in need of housing. Volunteers were thanked by the Tribal Chairman, who hosted a dinner for them before their departure. Brethren volunteers included Jeff Clements, Larry Ditmars, Jack Glover, and Steve Spangler.

-- Zach Wolgemuth serves as associate director of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Council continues work on ministerial leadership polity document.

The Ministry Advisory Council of the Church of the Brethren held its fall meeting at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on Oct. 19-20. The group focused its energy on the continuing process of major revisions to the denominational Ministerial Leadership polity paper.

An entity created by Annual Conference, the Ministry Advisory Council is a collaborative group that exists to facilitate effective ministerial leadership in the Church of the Brethren. It includes representatives from the Office of Ministry, Bethany Theological Seminary, the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, the Council of District Executives, and the Brethren Higher Education Association.

Caring for revisions to the Ministerial Leadership paper has been a major responsibility of this group in the last several years. The conversation began in 2007 with a Consultation on Ministerial Leadership, is projected to continue through 2013, and will include presentation of revisions to the Annual Conference for approval. The council also heard reports from each of the represented bodies.

-- Dana Cassell is staff for Vocation and Community Living in Brethren Volunteer Service.

BRF offers new commentary on Ephesians/Philippians.

The Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) has announced publication of a commentary on Ephesians and Philippians by Harold S. Martin and Craig Alan Myers. The book is part of a Brethren New Testament Commentary series aiming to give a readable explanation of the New Testament, with loyalty to Anabaptist and Pietist values. Martin is general editor of the series.

"Believers, in the Ephesians letter, are pictured as a worldwide family of redeemed sons and daughters who have peace with God, and are to be living at peace with each other.... They are to be rejoicing in the great riches they possess in Jesus Christ," said a description of the commentary. Philippians is described as an "intensely personal letter (that) expresses the great joy Paul experienced--even while in prison--and exalts the example of Jesus Christ."

Suggested donation for the 180-page volume is $15. Send requests and donations to Brethren Revival Fellowship, P.O. Box 543, Ephrata, PA 17522-0543; or go to www.brfwitness.org/?page_id=268&category=3&product_id=25.

Brethren bits: District job opening, OEP board, Spain visit, Advent video, workcamp brochures, more.
  • The Church of the Brethren’s South Central Indiana District seeks a district executive minister for a three-quarter time position available April 1, 2011. The district is made up of 46 congregations in the middle third of the state of Indiana with an average worship attendance from 10 to 350. They are predominantly small congregations in small towns and rural settings. The district is theologically diverse. The preferred candidate demonstrates initiative, adaptability, and capacity to envision future ministry. The district office is currently located in North Manchester. Responsibilities include serving as executive officer of the District Board; facilitating implementation of core ministries of the district; assisting congregations and pastors with search and call of ministerial leadership; assisting congregations and pastors with development of wholesome relationships; assisting congregations with church growth initiatives. Qualifications include a clear commitment to Jesus Christ demonstrated by a vibrant spiritual life; a commitment to Church of the Brethren faith and heritage; a commitment to the Seven Core Values of the district; a master of divinity or equivalent degree; minimum five years of pastoral or related experience; strong personal, communication, and mediation skills; strong administrative, management, and budget skills; respect for theological diversity; willingness and ability to travel. Send a letter of interest and a resume via e-mail to officeofministry@brethren.org. Applicants are requested to contact three or four people to provide a letter of reference. Upon receipt of a resume, the individual will be sent a Candidate Profile that must be completed and returned before the application is complete. The application deadline is Dec. 17.

  • Camp Swatara, outdoor ministries center for the Church of the Brethren’s Atlantic Northeast District, is seeking applications for a part-time director of Development. This position involves approximately 18 hours per week. Provided is shared office space in the camp office. Applicants should have excellent interpersonal skills, be willing to travel to visit with potential donors, and have basic computer skills working with database software. The opening will be filled by Jan. 1, 2011. Interested persons should send a resume, references, and a letter of intent to Marlin Houff, Administrator, Camp Swatara, 2905 Camp Swatara Rd., Bethel, PA 19507.

  • The New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center is thanking Eddie and Becky Motley of Scottville, N.C., who have served as volunteers at the Brethren Service Center for the last six months.

  • A new video resource is available for the Advent Offering on the theme, "Prepare the Way." Congregations are invited to stream the video in their sanctuaries during the offering, or in other settings as desired. Downloadable copies are not available due to music copyright. The Advent Offering is scheduled for Dec. 5.

    Other resources are at www.brethren.org/site/PageServer?pagename=give_AdventOffering.

  • A Spain visit has been made to connect with people and churches interested in the Brethren movement. Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships; Fausto Carrasco, a pastor at Nuevo Amanecer Fellowship in Bethlehem, Pa.; and Carol Yeazell, a pastor at His Way/Iglesia Jesucristo El Camino in Mills River, N.C., met with church leaders in the Asturias Province of Spain during a visit from Nov. 2-9. The majority of interested parties are of Dominican background and many are from the Church of the Brethren in the DR, but there also is representation from Ecuador, Colombia, and the Spanish community. Representatives also came from Madrid and the Canary Islands to attend meetings. The "mother church" of the group is La Luz in las Tinieblas in Gijon, pastored by Santos Terrero, Carrasco's half-brother. The new mission effort will need to be approved by the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Planning Council to receive official support, Wittmeyer said.

  • The On Earth Peace board met Sept. 23-24 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The board approved the formation of a task group for a racism audit of the organization. Other major items of business included approving a budget for the 2011 fiscal year and updates about the Ministry of Reconciliation, the "Step Up!" program, and community nonviolence programs. The board reorganized for 2011, calling Madalyn Metzger of Bristol, Ind., to continue as chair; Robbie Miller of Bridgewater, Va., as vice chair; Doris Abdullah of Brooklyn, N.Y., as treasurer; and Ben Leiter of Washington, D.C., as secretary. Outgoing members were thanked for their service: Sarah Quinter Malone, Jordan Blevins, and Ken Edwards. Special thanks was extended to Joe Detrick, liaison with the Council of District Executives.

  • After hours of labeling, sorting, and printing, the 2011 workcamp brochures are making their way out into the Church of the Brethren, reports Carol Fike, assistant coordinator of the Workcamp Ministry. "Youth of the denomination, remember to check your mailbox to receive your copy of the brochure," she said in an announcement. "If you did not receive a brochure contact the Workcamp Office and we would love to send one out to you." Registration for workcamps opens Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. central time, on a first come, first served basis. "The earlier you register the more likely you are to get your first choice," Fike said. For more information call the Workcamp Ministry at 800-323-8039.

  • "Let us give hope to one another," invites a new resource for the Christmas season from the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund. A mini-poster is available for congregations, Sunday school classes, and others interested in contributing to food security and agricultural development abroad this Advent. The poster highlights five giving levels, and what gifts can accomplish--ranging from the $250 that helps establish a tree nursery and demonstration plots in the Rift Valley of Kenya, to $50 that purchases a bag of rice seed for a farm rehabilitation program in N. Korea. Other programs focus on Haiti, Honduras, Sudan. Go to www.brethren.org/globalfoodcrisisfund or call 800-323-8039 to order printed copies.

  • Dates for the 2010 Christian Citizenship Seminar have been announced by the Youth and Young Adult Ministry: March 26-31 in New York City and Washington, D.C., on the theme, "Give Us Today Our Daily Bread" (Matthew 6:11, NIV). The seminar is for high school students and advisors to explore the connections between the food we eat and the faith we speak. Online registration will open early in 2011. For more information go to www.brethren.org/ccs.

  • Dec. 1 is the deadline for new students to register for the spring session and January intensive at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. Find application information at http://bethanyseminary.edu/admissions/apply or contact Elizabeth Keller, director of Admissions, at kelleel@bethanyseminary.edu or 800-287-8822 ext. 1832.

  • The SERRV Store at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., is holding a holiday overstock sale in the Blue Ridge Building on Nov. 24-Dec. 4--9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays (closed Thanksgiving). All sale items will be 60 percent off.

  • Seven months after construction began, Shiloh Church of the Brethren has completed its rebuild. The church near Kasson, W.Va., lost its building to a fire on Jan. 3 this year. "The only work that remains is a small amount of work in the kitchen area," reported pastor Garry Clem in a recent e-mail. "We have seen first-hand how God and God's people can really be a blessing to each other. We have received support from the coast of California to the east coast of the United States. We even received support from Nigeria. More than 200 gifts of money, supplies, and services have been received to this point. And we shall never forget the greatest gift of all, and that is the prayers that have been prayed for we here at Shiloh." As a gesture of thanks to supporters, the church is holding an open house on Nov. 20 beginning at 2 p.m. The official dedication will take placed Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011, "which coincides with the first anniversary of the burning of our beloved Shiloh," Clem noted. "All are welcome and encouraged to attend these celebrations. May God bless each of you in a very special way."

  • World Hunger Auction events in Virlina District have raised $55,254.17 this year, approximately $5,000 more than last year according to the district newsletter. The funds benefit Heifer International, Roanoke (Va.) Area Ministries, the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund, and the Heavenly Manna organization.

  • Melanie Snyder, author of the Brethren Press book "Grace Goes to Prison," is the keynote speaker at the 2010 graduation ceremony for Bethel Ministries, an organization that helps men leaving incarceration change their lives to become law-abiding, productive members of society. The ceremony and a dinner take place Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. at Mountain View Church of the Brethren in Boise, Idaho. Snyder has been a featured speaker throughout the US, speaking on restorative justice. Suggested donation is $15. This is an "adults only" event as children are not allowed due to the presence of men on probation.

  • Mercedes-Benz USA is giving three annual scholarships to McPherson (Kan.) College, according to a release. McPherson offers a unique major and four-year degree in automotive restoration. Each year, one $5,000 scholarship will be awarded to each of three students working toward an automotive restoration degree. This year, recipients are Rod Barlet, a Church of the Brethren student from Elizabethtown, Pa., along with Kendall Critchfield from Hesston, Kan., and Taylor Adams from Ashland, Va. In addition to the scholarship, the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, Calif., will offer at least one internship to a qualified McPherson College automotive restoration student each year.

  • Stephen Morgan, president of the University of La Verne, Calif., has received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. He received the honor at a ceremony Nov. 8, along with Theodore Long, president emeritus of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Morgan was at Juniata for the annual director's meeting of Brethren Colleges Abroad, a consortium of colleges and universities associated with the Church of the Brethren. Presidential representatives from four colleges attended the meeting: La Verne, Elizabethtown, Bridgewater (Va.) College, and Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind.

  • In other news from ULV, a Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) Team is participating in Campbell Soup Company’s "Let’s Can Hunger" Campaign. A kick off event took place Nov. 8 with a panel presentation including Vicki Brown DeSmet, founder and CEO of "Sowing Seeds for Life"; Linda J. Carroll, area representative for Campbell Soup Company; La Verne City Council member and mayor pro tem Donna Redman; City of La Verne director of community services Nikole Bresciani; ULV associate professor Cathy Irwin; and La Verne police chief Scott Pickwith. The public forum provided an opportunity for community leaders and the public to discuss the need to recognize the challenge of feeding the hungry, both locally and globally. The SIFE Team has a goal of donating 100,000 food items to the community food bank by Dec. 20.

  • The Springs of Living Water Initiative is offering a new spiritual disciplines folder this Advent at www.churchrenewalservant.org. Several districts in the Church of the Brethren are engaging in the initiative to bring renewal to existing congregations, with leadership from David S. and Joan Young of Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. In an announcement from the Springs Initiative, the new resource follows lectionary themes and the topic from the Church of the Brethren bulletin series, and offers a daily scripture text for participants to "read and meditate upon and attempt to apply throughout the day." An insert provides options for next steps in spiritual growth. Study questions written by Vince Cable may be applied to personal spiritual growth or Bible study groups. Also assisting in preparing the resource were Sue Richards and Bill and Deidre Schaefer. "In the Springs Initiative the entire church joins in seasons of spiritual growth with the outcome of greater unity and a collective sense of being on a spiritual journey," the announcement explained. Contact davidyoung@churchrenewalservant.org.

  • The November edition of "Brethren Voices," a community television program from Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, features an interview with Audrey deCoursey, associate pastor at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill. The show is hosted by Brent Carlson. In December, the program features an in-studio visit with 17 members of the 291st orientation unit of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). Contact producer Ed Groff at groffprod1@msn.com. Copies of the program cost $8, with donations forwarded to Portland Peace Church of the Brethren, 12727 SE Market St., Portland, OR 97233.

  • People around the globe are called to "put their names and faces behind the call for strong international action on climate change" by the World Council of Churches, one of a coalition of Christian organizations holding a "photo petition" ahead of the next round of negotiations by the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The event takes place in Mexico Nov. 29-Dec. 10. Individuals and groups are invited to contribute images of themselves and their message about climate change by sharing a picture via Flickr ( www.flickr.com/groups/climatejusticephotopetition ) or by sending pictures, individual or group name, and country, to photopetition@gmail.com. View photos at www.climatejusticeonline.org. Resources are available at www.oikoumene.org.

  • Terry Barkley, director of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives, has written an article in the current "Living Blues" magazine (#209) entitled "In Search of Charley Patton: Revisiting Holly Ridge and Longswitch." The illustrated article is about the controversy surrounding the final days, death, and burial place of Charley Patton, the father of the Mississippi Delta Blues singers. Barkley describes "Living Blues" as "the oldest and most authoritative Blues magazine in the world." The magazine was founded in Chicago, but is now owned and published by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, Oxford.

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, cobnews@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Charles Bentley, Carmen Rubio Cooke, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Ed Groff, Cori Hahn, Julie Hostetter, Marlin Houff, Gimbiya Kettering, Adam Pracht, and John Wall contributed to this report.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Brethren couple begin teaching in North Korea.

Classes started Nov. 1 for Robert and Linda Shank, Church of the Brethren workers who have now begun teaching at a new university in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, located at the edge of North Korea’s capital city, has opened and is in operation.

A call to prayer for the Shanks was issued by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships. "Pray that they get sorted out in the first months, that they have good rapport with their students and colleagues from around the world," said executive director Jay Wittmeyer.

For several months the couple have been at a sister university in China, preparing curriculum, as they and other faculty got ready to teach at the brand new institution.

From Kansas, the Shanks’ road to North Korea has taken them through a succession of agricultural assignments in developing countries: Ethiopia, Liberia, Nepal, and Belize. Robert Shank holds a doctorate in wheat breeding and has conducted rice research. Linda Shank holds a master’s degree in counseling and learning disabilities.

They are working in North Korea under the auspices of Global Mission Partnerships and the church’s Global Food Crisis Fund. Since 1996, the fund has provided grants in North Korea for hunger relief, agricultural development, and farm rehabilitation, and currently supports a cluster of farm cooperatives in order to help North Koreans boost agricultural production and equip their country to avert periodic famine.

At Christmastime the Shanks are expected to visit family in the United States and Dubai, and then continue teaching in North Korea in the winter and spring.

For more about the new Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, read a report on a visit to the school made by Global Mission Partnerships executive Jay Wittmeyer last September, go to www.brethren.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=9381. Also available is a photo album from the university’s dedication ceremony, go to www.brethren.org/site/PhotoAlbumUser?AlbumID=9373&view=UserAlbum.

Medical initiative is announced for Haiti; island braces for storm.

A tent encampment in Haiti, following the earthquake
One of the tent encampments that sprung up in Haiti following the January earthquake that devastated the nation. The island is currently bracing for a storm, Tropical Storm Tomas that may turn into a hurricane before hitting later this week--even as millions still live in tent cities and makeshift shelters on the street. A hurricane warning is active for Haiti and parts of the Dominican Republic, with up to 10 inches of rain expected. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

A new Church of the Brethren medical initiative is in the early stages of development for Haiti. Members of the Brethren Disaster Ministries medical team sent to Haiti in March to serve survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake have been reaching out to others in the denomination with experience in Haiti, in order to develop a more comprehensive approach to medical needs there.

The intention for the new initiative is to hire Haitian medical professionals to help develop the plan. It will likely begin as a one-year pilot project serving five different communities where Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Haitian Church of the Brethren) already has a church presence.

The medical operation will be mobile, operating out of the back of a large van or small bus. The same communities will be visited each week, in order to establish relationships between caregiver and patients. Haitian staff, once hired, will be charged with the task of learning about other medical initiatives in those communities such as clinics, hospitals, or community health organizations, and nurturing mutually beneficial connections to existing programs.

The Church of the Brethren’s Haiti mission coordinator Ludovic St. Fleur, and Brethren Disaster Ministries Haiti response coordinator Jeff Boshart plan to travel to Haiti on Nov. 5 for several days of meetings with Haitian church leaders and others, including the head of IMA World Health's Haiti operations.

The announcement of the new medical initiative comes at a time when Haiti is struggling through an outbreak of cholera, noted Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships. At least one member of Eglise des Freres Haitiens has died of cholera. Wittmeyer asked for prayer for those affected by the cholera outbreak, and noted that other ongoing efforts by the Brethren will help support health for the Haitian people such as the building of wells and water collection systems alongside the rebuilding of homes and churches destroyed by the earthquake.

A Benefit Dinner on Nov. 6 at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren will raise "seed money" for the initiative. The menu will feature Ethiopian and Ghanian food. Funds to support the new medical initiative in Haiti can be sent to the Emerging Global Mission Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

For more information contact Jeff Boshart at peggyjeff@yahoo.com or call the Global Mission Partnerships office at 800-323-8039.

In other news from Haiti, the island is bracing for Tropical Storm Tomas, which is predicted to hit late this week. As of today, a hurricane warning has been issued, with five to ten inches of rain expected in Haiti and parts of the Dominican Republic.

In Haiti, the storm threatens a nation still struggling with cholera and the earthquake devastation that has made millions homeless. Those in tent cities and make-shift shelters on the streets will be particularly vulnerable to the high winds and strong rains of a tropical storm.

Boshart reported that at least three Brethren churches in the Port-au-Prince area are planning to open their worship buildings as community shelters during the storm. Also timely as the storm approaches was a food distribution for Brethren communities in the Port-au-Prince neighborhoods of Marin and Croix des Bouquets, and the mountain village of Tonm Gato.

Church World Service (CWS) said yesterday it is "pre-positioning" aid as Tomas threatens. The agency is planning for a response in Haiti and the DR. The aid being prepared in advance of the storm includes about 10,000 tarps and a sizeable stock of hygiene kits.

For more see an interview with Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, by Disaster News Network at www.disasternews.net/news/article.php?articleid=4086.

Brethren periodicals to be digitized.

The committee developing a Brethren Digital Archives is closing in on its goal of raising enough money to send the first phase of documents for digitizing by the end of the year. The longterm mission is to digitize Brethren periodicals dating back to 1851, when Henry Kurtz began publishing the "Monthly Gospel-Visitor," forerunner of "Messenger" magazine.

The Brethren Digital Archives (BDA) is a collaborative effort of publishers, libraries, and archives affiliated with the various Brethren groups that trace their spiritual ancestry back to Alexander Mack. To accomplish the digitizing, the BDA committee has partnered with Lyrasis, the nation’s largest regional membership organization serving libraries and information professionals. Grant funds make it possible to scan these publications for approximately $50,000, far less than the original estimate of $150,000, and the group is seeking to raise this amount by the end of the year.

The Brethren Historical Library and Archives has been represented at the BDA by the late Ken Shaffer. Those who attended the group’s September meeting included Steve Bayer of the Old German Baptist Brethren; Eric Bradley of the Morgan Library, Grace College and Seminary; Darryl Filbrun of the Old German Baptist Brethren, New Conference; Shirley Frick of the "Bible Monitor"; Liz Cutler Gates of the "Brethren Missionary Herald"; Larry Heisey and Paul Stump of the Brethren Heritage Center; and Gary Kochheiser of the Conservative Grace Brethren. For a full list of the partner Brethren groups and the periodicals to be digitized, or to make a donation, visit www.brethrendigitalarchives.org .

-- Wendy McFadden is publisher and executive director of Brethren Press.

Church staff participate in conference call with Selective Service.

Jordan Blevins, advocacy officer and ecumenical peace coordinator for the Church of the Brethren and the National Council of Churches, and Dan McFadden, director of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS), participated in a conference call with the Selective Service System on Oct. 13.

Programs and agencies of other denominations, along with a number of interested groups, also participated. The call was hosted by Cassandra Costley, manager of the Alternative Service Program of the Selective Service System, and the meeting was opened by Selective Service director Lawrence Romo. The purpose was to update the group on what’s been happening with the Alternative Service component of Selective Service.

There was a clear emphasis from the Selective Service staff that there in no expectation of a draft being implemented by Congress. They do not anticipate one in the future, yet reminded the group of their intent to be ready in that event.

Costley reported there are now three groups that have signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with the Selective Service System: the Church of the Brethren, including BVS; the Mennonite Church USA, including Mennonite Voluntary Service; and Christian Aid Ministries’ CASP (Conservative Anabaptist Service Programs). She added that these were the first memorandums of understanding completed by Selective Service in over 20 years. Selective Service will continue to pursue memorandums of understanding with other branches of the peace churches and interested agencies. The conference calls also will continue to be held twice a year.

-- Dan McFadden is director of Brethren Volunteer Service.

BVS Fall unit volunteers begin work.

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) unit 291 held orientation on Sept. 26-Oct. 15 in Oregon at Camp Myrtlewood in Myrtle Point and in Portland. The unit was the largest for several years, with more than 30 volunteers. Volunteers, congregations or hometowns, and placements follow:

Bahirah Adewunmi of College Park, Ga., to the Church of the Brethren/National Council of Churches office in Washington, D.C.; Jonathan Bay of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, to Hopewell Inn in Mesopotamia, Ohio; Alicia Camden of Virginia Beach (Va.) Christian Church Uniting, to the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C.; Michelle Cernoch of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren, to L'Arche in Cork, Ireland; Alissa Cook of Dublin, Ohio, to Quaker Cottage in Belfast, N. Ireland; Britta Copeland of Middlebury (Ind.) Church of the Brethren, to the Palms Retirement Community in Sebring, Fla.; A.J. Detwiler of Fairview Church of the Brethren in Williamsburg, Pa., to Camp Blue Diamond in Petersburg, Pa.; Han and Tim Dowdle of Lelystad, Netherlands, to CooperRiis in Mill Spring, N.C.

Carol Fike of Freeport (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, and Clara Nelson of Cloverdale (Va.) Church of the Brethren, to the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministries in Elgin, Ill.; Elvira Firus of Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany, to Meeting Ground in Elkton, Md.; Rider Frey of Riley, Kan., to Camp Myrtlewood in Myrtle Point, Ore.; Rachel Gehrlein of Glenmoore, Pa., and Rebecca Rahe of Bad Salzuflen, Germany, to Family Abuse Center in Waco, Texas; Chelsea Goss of West Richmond Church of the Brethren in Henrico, Va., to On Earth Peace in Portland, Ore.; Thorsten Hagemeier of Berlin, Germany, to Talbert House in Cincinnati, Ohio; Sarah Hall of Manchester Church of the Brethren in N. Manchester, Ind., to Emmanuel Baptist Church in El Salvador; Malea Hetrick of Port Matilda, Pa., to Colegio Miguel Angel Asturias in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

Jamie Jamison of Ottawa (Kan.) Community Church of the Brethren, to Cincinnati (Ohio) Church of the Brethren; Elias Knoechelmann of Gieboldehausen, Germany, to Project PLASE in Baltimore, Md.; Rachel McBride of North Liberty (Ind.) Church of the Brethren, to Camp Courageous in Monticello, Iowa; Mike Nicolazzo of Ambler (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, to Kilcranny House in Coleraine, N. Ireland; Shannon Pratt-Harrington of Athens, Ohio, and Josh Schnepp of Beaverton, Mich., to Brethren Disaster Ministries in New Windsor, Md.

Ashley Reber of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., to San Antonio (Texas) Catholic Worker House; Andreas Rohland of Bayreuth, Germany, to Lancaster (Pa.) Area Habitat for Humanity; Jonathan von Rueden of Wiesloch, Germany, to Interfaith Hospitality Network in Cincinnati, Ohio; Caroline Ryan of Brookhaven, Pa., to East Belfast Mission in Belfast, N. Ireland; Jacob Short of Stryker, Ohio, to Center on Conscience and War in Washington, D.C.; and Jeremiah Zeek of 28th Street Church of the Brethren in Altoona, Pa., to Camp Mardela in Denton, Md.

Camp Mack board names new building, construction begins.

At its Oct. 30 meeting, the Indiana Camp Board chose names for the building that will house the office and dining services formerly located in Becker Lodge at Camp Mack in Milford, Ind. The lodge was destroyed in a July 11 fire.

All facilities at Camp Mack are named for Brethren leaders, with the camp itself named for Alexander Mack Sr., the founder of the Church of the Brethren.

The first new building will be called the John Kline Welcome Center. John Kline, a minister and doctor from Broadway, Va., during the Civil War era traveled across the Mason-Dixon line treating the injured or sick on both sides of the conflict. Soldiers allowed him to move freely as he traveled north on his horse, Nell, to preside over the church’s Annual Meeting. In 1864 Kline was killed in an ambush, while returning home after getting new shoes put on his horse.

The kitchen and dining rooms will be named the Kate Warstler Dining Center in honor and memory of Kate Warstler, a longterm and beloved Camp Mack cook. She was the first fulltime cook at Camp Mack, beginning in 1977 at a time when food service was incorporated into one new facility built in the lower level of Becker Lodge.

The new offices will be called the Manly Deeter Office Complex in memory of Manly Deeter, a member of the locating committee that chose the land for Camp Mack and also a member of the Incorporating Committee. Deeter Cabin, a log cabin built in 1925 and demolished in 1985, was the first office building and camp gift shop at Camp Mack.

On Nov. 1, construction began on this large multipurpose structure. Earth was moved preparing for the foundations that are expected to be completed as soon as possible. The goal is to have this building operational by June 1, ready to serve the coming summer’s campers. The general contractor for the job is D.J. Construction from Goshen, Ind.

As soon as blueprints are finalized for the John Kline Welcome Center, work will begin on blueprints for Becker Retreat Center, a building to replace the lodging and meeting rooms lost in the fire.

The Camp Board recognized that funds from the insurance will not cover all the construction costs of buildings that together will provide the services once housed in Becker Lodge. Much financial support will be needed to help pay for buildings that will serve the current generation and hopefully campers and retreat participants for years to come. Therefore the board has established a building fund and invites donors to give to it in any amount. The fund is receiving gifts at Camp Mack, P.O. Box 158, Milford, IN 46542 or online at www.campmack.org.

-- Phyllis Leininger is office manager for Camp Mack.

Outdoor Ministry Association plans annual retreat.

"Beside Still Waters" is the theme for the 2010 annual retreat of the Church of the Brethren’s Outdoor Ministry Association, to be held Nov. 14-18 at Camp Eder near Fairfield, Pa. The retreat is for camp leaders serving in a variety of roles (directors, program coordinators, maintenance and food service personnel, administrative assistants, seasonal staff, etc.).

The keynote speaker will be Nancy Ferguson, an ordained minister and certified Christian educator in the Presbyterian Church (USA), who has served as project manager for the New Earth curriculum. She will lead the group in learning more about how camp leaders can better provide retreat spaces and programs for campers, program participants, and rental/user groups.

The schedule includes worship, keynote presentations, workshops, roundtable discussions, the association’s annual membership meeting, and times for recreation and fellowship such as evening campfires and a hayride. A field trip will be offered to Gettysburg National Battlefield.

Workshop topics include "Seeing the Sacred in the Ordinary" led by Linda Alley; "Got Spirit?" "Training Staff to be Environmental Leaders," and "Training Staff to be Spiritual Leaders" led by Ferguson; "Delectable Programming" led by Shannon Kahler; and two workshops on marketing led by Melissa Troyer.

Find a brochure and more information at www.brethren.org/site/DocServer/2010_OMA_Retreat_Brochure.pdf?docID=9581.

Deadline nears to attend workshop on intercultural competency.

Registration closes Nov. 7 for the workshop "Intercultural Competency/Competencia Intercultural: Being an Effective Leader in a Diverse Changing World." The workshop is scheduled for Nov. 11, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg, Pa.

The event will be offered in both English and Spanish, and is jointly sponsored by the Church of the Brethren, On Earth Peace, and Mennonite Central Committee.

Designed for pastors, church members, and district leaders, the event will be led by Eric H.F. Law, adjunct faculty for the Doctor of Ministry program at McCormick Theological Seminary, ACTS Doctor of Ministry program in Preaching, and the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Law will speak on viewing intercultural communities of faith through the lens of theology and will lead the group in exploring the questions: What is culture? Why are there intercultural conflicts? How do racism, power, and privilege affect the way we can be effective leaders in a diverse community?

The $25 registration fee includes lunch with a vegetarian option. A continuing education credit of 0.5 is available for $10. Register online at www.brethren.org/ericlaw2010 or contact Stan Dueck, director of Transforming Practices at sdueck@brethren.org or 717-335-3226.

Church of the Brethren Yearbook goes to electronic format.

The 2010 Yearbook of the Church of the Brethren is now available from Brethren Press in an electronic format on CD. The Yearbook will no longer be available in printed form.

"The CD yearbook is an essential resource for Church of the Brethren information," says a description from Brethren Press. The disc format is searchable, easy to navigate, and contains contact information for congregations, districts, pastors, ministers, moderators, and Church of the Brethren agencies. The disk also includes the previous year's Statistical Report for 2009.

New features made possible by the electronic format, which also can be downloaded to a personal computer, include searchable navigation such as bookmarks, clickable links to other sections of the book or to websites, clickable e-mail addresses, and a "find" tool that enables quick searches of the entire listings.

Packaging for the new CD format also is friendly to the environment, using vegetable inks and a minimum of 10 percent post-consumer recycled content, as well as a 100 percent recycled tray and the option for the user to only print what is needed on paper.

The Yearbook on CD is available from Brethren Press for $21.50, plus shipping and handling. For more information or questions about the new electronic format, contact managing editor James Deaton at 800-323-8039 or jdeaton@brethren.org.

Also new from Brethren Press:

The Winter quarter’s "Guide for Biblical Studies," the Bible study and small group curriculum for adults. The theme for the Winter, "Assuring Hope," is addressed by author Harold S. Martin, and by "Out of Context" writer Frank Ramirez. "Guide for Biblical Studies" is available from Brethren Press for $4 per copy, or $6.95 for large print, plus shipping and handling.

Pre-publication orders are being accepted for the Brethren Press annual devotional guide for the Lenten season. "The Cost of Following Jesus: Devotions for Lent and Easter 2011" is written by J.D. Glick. This pocket-sized paperback is designed for congregations to provide to their members, and for individual use. Each day’s entry includes a scripture text, meditation, and prayer. Order for $2.50 each, or $5.95 large print, plus shipping and handling. Save 20 percent by ordering by Dec. 17.

To order any of these products from Brethren Press call 800-441-3712 or order online at www.brethrenpress.com.

Brethren bits: Corrections, remembrances, personnel, jobs, more.
  • Corrections: In the Newsline of Oct. 21, an incorrect link was given for Church of the Brethren workcamps. Find the correct page at www.brethren.org/workcamps. Caption information for the photo from the Church of North India’s 40th anniversary celebration also was incorrect. At the head table at CNI’s anniversary were Annual Conference moderator Robert Alley (second from right), seated among CNI church leaders and the Archbishop of Canterbury (second from left). In the Oct. 7 remembrance for Brett K. Winchester, his church membership was incorrect. He was a member of Mountain View Church of the Brethren in Boise, Idaho.

  • Correction: The General Secretary's office has provided a full list of all the other leaders of denominations who participated in Monday's meeting with President Obama (see the Newsline Special report of Nov. 1): Bishop Johncy Itty of Church World Service, Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Bishop John R. Bryant of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Sharon Watkins of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt Jr. of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Archbishop Khajag S. Barsamian of the Armenian Church of America, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, Gradye Parsons of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Betsy Miller of the Moravian Church, Thomas Swain of the Religious Society of Friends, Wesley S. Granberg-Michaelson of the Reformed Church in America, Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader of the United Methodist Church, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America, Geoffrey Black of the United Church of Christ, and Walter L. Parrish III of the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

  • Kenneth M. Shaffer Jr., 64, director of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., passed away on Oct. 23 at his home in Elgin. In May he had announced his retirement date as Dec. 31. He had served as BHLA director since Jan. 1989, holding responsibility for the extensive archival collection housed in the basement of the General Offices. With documents dating back to a 1539 German New Testament, the archive preserves Brethren publications, records, and items of historical importance. Shaffer regularly aided researchers, provided information for church programs and projects, served as staff liaison for the Brethren Historical Committee, oversaw the work of interns, and wrote about Brethren history. He began work for the Church of the Brethren in Aug. 1970 as consultant for curriculum development for the former General Board. From 1972-88 he worked at Bethany Theological Seminary in Oak Brook, Ill., where his positions included bookstore manager, acquisitions librarian, administrative assistant to the Doctor of Ministry program, and library director. He served as book review editor for the journal "Brethren Life and Thought" from 1986-99. From 1987-89 he was editor of "A Guide for Biblical Studies," the Brethren Press Bible study curriculum for adults. Most recently he had contributed to a new project to digitize Brethren periodicals, in a cooperative endeavor with several other Brethren bodies, and along with co-author Graydon Snyder was writing articles for "Brethren Life and Thought" to bring their books on "Texts in Transit" up to date. He also compiled the third supplement to the Brethren Bibliography and wrote numerous articles for "Messenger" magazine, of note recently his contributions to the coverage of the 300th anniversary of the Brethren movement. Originally from the eastern shore of Maryland, Shaffer was born Dec. 10, 1945, in Greensboro, Md. He graduated from North Caroline High School in 1963, and from Bridgewater (Va.) College in 1967. He received a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary in 1970. In 1983 he also completed a master of arts degree in Library Science from Northern Illinois University. Professional memberships included the American Library Association, the American Theological Library Association, Beta Phi Mu (a library science honor society), the Chicago Area Theological Library Association, and the Midwest Archives Conference. He was an ordained minister and early in his career filled two summer pastorates. Most recently he was active in Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin. He is survived by his sister Jean Shaffer, aunts Kathleen Cole and Betsy Bareford, and numerous cousins. His funeral was held Oct. 27 at Denton (Md.) Church of the Brethren. A memorial service is planned at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren, at a date yet to be determined.

  • Kenneth L. Brown, 77, died yesterday, Nov. 3, at the Cleveland (Ohio) Clinic of complications stemming from vasculitis, an auto-immune disease. He was a national peace studies pioneer and professor emeritus at Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., a nonviolent activist, and an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren."Ken was an amazing man," said Manchester president Jo Young Switzer in a release sent out by the college late yesterday. "For decades, his name was synonymous with our Peace Studies program. His students grappled with big questions and ambiguities. We respected him for all that and more." For 25 years, beginning in 1980, he directed the nation’s oldest peace studies program--the Peace Studies Institute and Program in Conflict Resolution at Manchester College. He also served as a consultant to peace studies programs across the country and around the world, and led study teams to Vietnam, Brazil, Northern Ireland, Haiti, Thailand, India, Jamaica, Colombia, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Cuba. After retiring in 2006, Brown continued to teach and with his wife, Viona. The couple also had hosted weekly discussions for students in their home, since their arrival in North Manchester in 1961. In 2005, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Peace and Justice Studies Association, of which more than 300 colleges and universities are members. He also was a founder of several organizations, including the Brethren Action Movement and the War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund. A native Kansan, he graduated from Wichita East High School in 1951, and from McPherson College in 1955. He attended Wichita State University and pursued graduate work at the University of Kansas. He held degrees from Bethany Theological Seminary and Duke University, where he received his doctorate in 1964, and also attended Garrett School of Theology and the University of California. Early in his career, he held pastorates at two Church of the Brethren congregations, and taught in the Chicago school system. He is survived by his wife, Viona, sons Chris Brown and Michael P. Brown, and daughter Katy Gray Brown. A memorial service will be planned.

  • Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) is mourning a death in the family of a denominational leader. Barka Filibus, a son of EYN president Filibus Gwama, died on Oct. 24 in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, perhaps of a heart attack. "He has a family with four children," report Nigeria mission workers Nathan and Jennifer Hosler in an e-mail asking for the American church’s support for the Gwama family and EYN as a whole. The Hoslers drove to the family’s home village of Gava to attend the burial service, where they were asked to bring condolences on behalf of the Church of the Brethren in the United States. Notes of condolence may be sent to EYN President Filibus Gwama at revfgwama@yahoo.com.

  • Pierre U. Ferrari has been named CEO of Heifer International, an organization that originally started as the Church of the Brethren’s Heifer Project. He succeeds interim CEO Charles Stewart and Heifer’s longtime president and former CEO Jo Luck. Ferrari, who was born in Africa in 1950 in then the Belgian Congo, has more than 40 years of business experience ranging from Coca-Cola USA to socially oriented organizations like CARE and the Small Enterprise Assistance Fund. He is chair of the board for Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, where he led the board to firm up its global commitment to fair trade by 2013 with its vanilla, cocoa, and coffee farmers; is a board member of the Small Enterprise Assistance Fund; sits on the advisory council for the Emory Ethics Center in Atlanta, Ga.; is a director of Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products; is president of "Hot Fudge" community development venture capital fund; and teaches (Sustainable) MBA Marketing at Bainbridge Graduate Institute. He holds a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Cambridge and an MBA from Harvard Business School. In a release from Heifer, Ferrari noted its "amazing legacy" but added that he has been hired "at a time where the urgency to end poverty is even greater. Heifer has a totally relevant set of values and model for today. My task will be to serve our various communities to empower more people much more rapidly, with a sense of passionate urgency."

  • Camp Bethel seeks a food services director. Camp Bethel is the outdoor ministry of the Church of the Brethren’s Virlina District, located near Fincastle, Va. This fulltime salaried position is available for a dependable, caring worker with good interpersonal and leadership skills. Starting date is as early as Jan. 1, 2011, and no later than April 30, 2011. Culinary experience or training is required, and staff management experience is preferred. Starting benefits package includes salary of $29,000, family medical insurance plan, a pension plan, travel allowance, and professional growth funds. An application, a position description, and more information is available at www.campbethelvirginia.org/jobs.htm, or call 540-992-2940, or send a letter of interest and an updated résumé to Barry LeNoir, Camp Director, at campbetheloffice@gmail.com (note that this is a new e-mail address for the camp).

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

  • Applications are being received for the 2011 Youth Peace Travel Team. The team is sponsored annually by the Church of the Brethren's Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Brethren Volunteer Service, On Earth Peace, and the Outdoor Ministries Association. Dates of service for the 2011 team are May 30-Aug. 15. Members of the team travel to Brethren camps throughout the US with the goal of talking with other young people about the Christian message and the Brethren tradition of peacemaking. College-age Church of the Brethren young adults (19-22 years old) will be selected. A stipend is paid to team members. Find the application at www.brethren.org/site/DocServer/YPTT_2011_Application.pdf?docID=10022. For more information contact the Youth and Young Adult Ministry office at 800-323-8039 ext. 289. Applications are due Jan. 19, 2011.

  • Assistant coordinators for the 2012 workcamp ministry are sought by the Church of the Brethren. "Are you a young adult who loves workcamps?" said an invitation. "Would you like to serve through Brethren Volunteer Service?" To learn more, go to www.brethren.org/workcamps or contact the workcamp office at cobworkcamps@brethren.org or 800-323-8039.

  • The deadline is Dec. 1 for nominations for Annual Conference-elected positions. Conference director Chris Douglas is issuing an urgent call for nominations, as she noted in an e-mail reminder very few nominations have been given to the Nominating Committee. Nomination forms are available online at www.brethren.org/ac. Those who make nominations should inform the nominees, who will receive an e-mail notice from the Conference Office and must fill out the Information Form that is also available on the website. Both forms must be filled out to complete a nomination. Find a list of the leadership positions that are open for 2011 at www.cobannualconference.org/pdfs/03RequestforNominations2011.pdf.

  • The 2011 youth and young adult workcamp video has been released. This year’s workcamp theme is "We Are the Body." To view the video, go to www.brethren.org/workcamps. Request a copy from the workcamp office at 800-323-8039. Copies are also available from district offices.

  • The final deacon training of the year will be held at Bermudian Church of the Brethren in East Berlin, Pa., on Nov. 14. The afternoon of workshops is sponsored by the Church of the Brethren’s Deacon Ministry and will include workshops on the Pastoral Care Team (deacons and pastors) and the "Art of Listening." Details and registration information can be found at www.brethren.org/deacontraining. The following deacon events are planned for 2011: Feb. 5 at Mexico Church of the Brethren in Peru, Ind.; March 19 at Freeport (Ill.) Church of the Brethren; and May 15 at County Line Church of the Brethren in Champion, Pa.

  • A series of presentations on "Faith Essentials for Anabaptists" with Stuart Murray Williams begins this afternoon, sponsored by the Church of the Brethren’s Congregational Life Ministries. Murray, an English scholar known for his most recent book, "The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith" (order from Brethren Press for $13.99 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712), is to speak about the core components of Anabaptism, and the contemporary significance of a faith tradition of following Jesus. One event in the series is free and open to the public--an evening lecture today at 7 p.m. at the Young Center at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Contact Congregational Life Ministries at 800-323-8039.

  • IMA World Health was forced to lay off a number of staff in mid-October, after the organization was not awarded an expected contract with USAID in the African country of the Democratic Republic of Congo. IMA World Health is a partner organization of the Church of the Brethren, with office headquarters at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. "IMA World Health’s mission is to advance health and healing to vulnerable and marginalized people the world over," said an IMA statement. "Funding for that work is provided primarily by grants from public funding sources. As a direct result of the ending of a significant grant, IMA has reduced its workforce to reflect its current income level. Staff losses are difficult and regrettable, but IMA’s staffing and cost structure must be appropriate for its funding levels. IMA is now leaner, but still strong and vital as we continue our mission to those in need."

  • A sermon by pastor Tim Ritchey Martin of Grossnickle Church of the Brethren in Myersville, Md., is featured on the Foods Resource Bank website. He gave the message at the Oct. 24 harvest celebration of the Grossnickle growing project in western Maryland, which involves six Brethren congregations, a United Church of Christ congregation, and a Catholic parish. Find "You're Not You When You're Hungry," at www.foodsresourcebank.org/reflection.

  • Four Church of the Brethren districts are holding conferences over the next two weeks: Illinois and Wiconsin District Conference is Nov. 5-7 in Shannon, Ill., with Orlando Redekopp as moderator. Shenandoah District Conference is Nov. 5-6 at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren, with Bernie Fuska as moderator. Virlina District Conference is Nov. 12-13 in Roanoke, Va., with Sharon S. Wood as moderator. Pacific Southwest District Conference is Nov. 12-14 at Hillcrest Retirement Village in La Verne, Calif., with Felton Daniels as moderator.

  • Theodore Long, president of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, will lecture at Juniata College on "Educating for Global Citizenship" at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 8 in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science. Before the lecture, according to a release from Juniata, Long will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Juniata president Thomas R. Kepple. Long will retire from the Elizabethtown presidency in July 2011, after a 15-year career

  • In news from McPherson (Kan.) College, those receiving annual Young Alumni Awards this year included two Church of the Brethren members: Becky Ullom, the denomination’s director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and Iowa farmer Paul Neher of Ivester Church of the Brethren in Grundy Center, whose family opened their doors in 2004 to a Sudanese family of eight.

  • The World Council of Churches has condemned the killings on Sunday at a church in Baghdad, Iraq, when gunmen took hostages in the Sayidat al-Nejat Church. The WCC "is deeply troubled by the continuous suffering of Christians in Iraq and continues to stand in solidarity with all churches as they pass through turbulent and challenging times and witness to the love and peace of God in Jesus Christ even amidst hatred and aggression," a statement said.

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, cobnews@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Judy Bezon, Kathleen Campanella, Lina Dagnew, Jeanne Davies, Chris Douglas, Nathan and Jennifer Hosler, Cindy Kinnamon, Donna Kline, Don Knieriem, Jeri S. Kornegay, Rene Rockwell, Howard Royer, John Wall, Walt Wiltschek, and Roy Winter contributed to this report.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Brethren leader one of Christian delegation visiting President Obama

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger was one of the Christian leaders who met with President Barack Obama this afternoon, Nov. 1. The White House invited the delegation of leaders of denominations connected with the National Council of Churches (NCC) and Church World Service (CWS) in celebration of 100 years of ecumenism in the United States.

"What an event! It wasn’t just a feel-good meeting, it was substantive," commented Noffsinger in a phone interview following the meeting. "We had a very pastoral visit. There was no partisanship. We were there as people of faith."

As the meeting opened, as a way of acknowledging a seeming lack of civility as the country deals with issues, Wesley S. Granberg-Michaelson of the Reformed Church in America read the passage from James 3:16-18. At the invitation of the President, the meeting concluded with prayer led by Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt Jr. of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

"We set the stage with scripture and closed with prayer." Noffsinger said.

The Christian leaders thanked President Obama for robust engagement with the faith community, and for passage of health reform legislation, while also pressing him to take a strong stance on behalf of people facing poverty and hunger.

The group urged the President to prioritize a number of issues, including strengthening the country’s fraying safety net; extending unemployment benefits as the economy continues to falter; lifting people out of poverty with a focus on job creation for those in poverty, job training, and education; Middle East peace; and the US relationship with Cuba, urging the President to lift the travel ban from the US to Cuba so that American-based organizations like Church World Service can support churches and communities there.

Meeting on the eve of the mid-term election, the Christian leaders also emphasized the need to work together for the common good and spoke of the power of churches to lead and break down walls of division.

"Almost in every issue we laid on the table he (the President) was crisp in his responses, very well thought out," Noffsinger said. "I was very impressed with his caring for and concern for the unemployed, those who need health benefits, those who face violence in their lives."

The President spent almost a quarter of an hour longer than was scheduled with the Christian leaders, something Noffsinger noted indicated his interest in the conversation. "He stayed with us for about 42 minutes," Noffsinger said.

Noffsinger was chosen to take part in the delegation as a member of the executive committee of the NCC, and was one of two leaders representing the peace churches along with Thomas Swain of the Religious Society of Friends, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. The group also included NCC president Peg Chemberlin, NCC general secretary Michael Kinnamon, CWS president John McCullough, and heads of communion of 14 other denominations representing a variety of Christian traditions from the NCC.

"As the economic downturn has battered the middle class, it has been even more devastating to those already living on the economic margins of society," said Chemberlin in a release from the NCC. "Our denominations and organizations are on the front lines--providing meals, support, and assistance to those hit hard by the economic downturn--but we know that more needs to be done."

"Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow's election, our faithful witness is needed now more than ever," said Kinnamon. "Today, tomorrow, and into this next Congress, our country needs to come together and reclaim our values of justice and equality."

Noffsinger expects continued dialogue with White House staff following today’s meeting, reporting that the President told the group of church leaders there are several new initiatives that his staff want to work on with the faith community.

The President also acknowledged the divisiveness and rancor of the current political climate, Noffsinger said, but expressed his feeling of accountability to all people of the country, and talked about the continuing role of faith in his own life.

The elections were not the focus of the meeting, Noffsinger emphasized, but added that the Christian leaders "are concerned with the discourse, and will continue to be in prayer for legislators and the President."

The delegation presented the President with a Saint John's Bible, a framed sampler of statements commemorating 100 years of ecumenism, and a picture plaque commemorating the CWS "Feed the Future" initiative.

At a reception following the meeting, hosted by the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, members of the delegation had an opportunity to meet directors of that office’s 12 focus areas. "There was significant conversation," Noffsinger said. He himself had a chance to speak with staff related to AmeriCorps, regarding stories of transformation brought about by volunteer involvement in local communities, and with staff of US AID and the Department of Agriculture, regarding Church of the Brethren initiatives against hunger and the work of the Brethren Service Center.

(This report includes sections of a release by the National Council of Churches. Philip E. Jenks of the NCC and Kristin Williams of Faith in Public Life contributed. Photos from the White House meeting are expected to be made available later this week.)