Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Children’s Disaster Services responds in Joplin, Brethren Disaster Ministries reports on preliminary activities, requests EDF grant

At the request of the American Red Cross, a team of Children’s Disaster Service (CDS) volunteers were to arrive by this morning in Joplin, Mo., to set up a Children’s Disaster Services Center at the Missouri Southern State University shelter.

The volunteers will care for children in the aftermath of the tornado that caused significant destruction on May 22. The twister rated a strong EF 4, packing winds up to 198 m.p.h., and cut a path a mile wide and six miles long through the most densely populated area of the city of 49,000.

Search and rescue personnel as of yesterday were about halfway through a full grid search of the area of tornado destruction. The fatality count was confirmed at 117 early Tuesday morning, May 24, with 200 missing and more than 400 injured. In light of the high number of fatalities, CDS is also assessing the need for dispatching a Critical Response Childcare team to work with traumatized children in the FEMA family assistance center.

In a conversation with Patricia Dennison, Missouri/Arkansas District disaster coordinator, Brethren Disaster Ministries staff were told that there has been no request for volunteers from outside the area, unless they are affiliated with a responding agency. Security around the disaster zone is very tight, and unaffiliated volunteers will likely be prohibited from entering the impacted area for safety reasons.

Following a conference call with the Missouri VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), Dennison reported that the area is "being overwhelmed with truckloads of clothes," and officials are hard pressed to find more places to store them. She says they’re asking people instead to "donate them to a local charity or have a large garage sale and send the money" to be used where most needed.

Responding with much-needed monetary donations is the best way to help disaster relief organizations which already have been stretched by the severe weather this spring.

Darrell Barr, Western Plains District disaster coordinator, and Gary Gahm, Church of the Brethren member from Kansas City, Mo., participated on the MO VOAD conference call as well. Barr, who lives only about 30 miles from Joplin across the Kansas state line, also represented BDM in a face-to-face agency meeting in Joplin yesterday with FEMA and other disaster response partners. Brethren Disaster Ministries will use the information from such meetings to help guide its response activities.

Roy Winter, BDM executive director, has telephoned Carolyn Schrock, Missouri/Arkansas District Executive, to share BDM’s willingness to help the district with any storm-related needs. Schrock confirmed that there are no Church of the Brethren congregations close to Joplin. However, one non-Brethren congregation, Nueva Vida, located in Carthage, Mo., has informal ties to the district, and its pastor, Edwin Reyes and his family live in Joplin.

Ruben Deoleo, Intercultural Ministries director for the Church of the Brethren, called Reyes to inquire about how the tornado may have affected his family and members of the church. Reyes shared that his sons were at Wal-Mart when the tornado struck the city. One was hit by an object on the back and the other on his legs, but both of them are fine, as is the rest of the family.

He also shared that his house filled up with water and he and his family are staying at his brother's house. He had no word about any of the church members. Schrock stated that the district "will be waiting to hear of any (unmet) needs of this congregation."

Remarking that "the 2011 spring storm season has been one of the most devastating on record," BDM associate director Zachary Wolgemuth has requested a grant from the Emergency Disaster Fund to assist with relief and recovery efforts of Church World Service (CWS). "In all," he said, "residents in approximately 15 states have suffered major damage." The request for $15,000 follows an earlier grant of $7,500.

CWS is responding in numerous communities, shipping clean-up buckets, hygiene kits, school kits, baby kits and blankets. The grant will support further material aid shipments as well as resources for the development of longterm recovery groups in affected communities. Additional grants are expected as the needs become known.

To support the 2011 US spring storms appeal, send your gift to Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. Give online at

-- Jane Yount is coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries in New Windsor, Md.

Convocation final message rejects war in favor of ‘just peace’

"We understand peace and peacemaking as an indispensable part of our common faith," states the opening sentence of a "final message" from the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC). The message issued yesterday, May 24, in Jamaica on the last day of the IEPC, is not considered an official statement of the sponsoring body, the World Council of Churches. Instead it is intended to represent a sense of the meeting.

The short, three-and-a-half page document was informally adopted by means of applause, during the afternoon plenary session. A first draft presented in the morning plenary was revised by the writing committee over the lunch break, after close to 75 people lined up at the microphones to give feedback and suggestions for changes.

Close to 1,000 people from more than 100 countries have been attending the IEPC, most of them representatives of Christian bodies along with some interreligious partners. The convocation has been sponsored by the WCC and hosted by the Caribbean Conference of Churches and the Jamaican Council of Churches. It is the culminating event of the Decade to Overcome Violence.

The final message from the meeting makes strong statements signaling a shift toward a "just peace" stance in the ecumenical movement. "Member churches of the World Council of Churches and other Christians are united, as never before, in seeking the means to address violence and to reject war in favor of ‘Just Peace,’" the message reads, adding in a later paragraph, "We are moving beyond the doctrine of just war towards a commitment to Just Peace."

"We are unified in our aspiration that war should become illegal," the message also asserts.

With regard to nuclear weapons it says, "We advocate total nuclear disarmament and control of the proliferation of small arms."

The message includes many expressions of concern for situations of violence and those who suffer from it, the underlying causes of conflict, injustices that affect many around the world, the way religion has been misused to justify violence, the sufferings of diverse groups of people, and the effects of climate change and environmental destruction.

The message confesses "that Christians have often been complicit in systems of violence, injustice, militarism, racism, casteism, intolerance, and discrimination" It also confesses that "issues of sexuality divide the churches," and calls on the WCC "to create safe spaces to address dividing issues of sexuality."

Churches are called to active peacemaking on a number of fronts, for example moving peace education to the center of school curriculums, naming violence against women and children as sin, supporting conscientious objection, advocating for "economies of life" in contrast to the "unfettered economic growth as envisioned by the neoliberal system," addressing the concentration of power and wealth, and more.

Many statements in the document are directed to governments, who are urged to, among other things, "take immediate action to redirect their financial resources to programs that foster life rather than death."

In a nod to the Historic Peace Churches, the message states that their witness "reminds us of the fact that violence is contrary to the will of God and can never resolve conflicts."

A related document, "An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace," which includes language condemning the "just war" doctrine as "obsolete" was not acted upon but served as a study document for the convocation. It is expected to come in some form to the next WCC world assembly in 2013 for consideration.

The Church of the Brethren has been represented at the convocation by delegate Ruthann Knechel Johansen, president of Bethany Theological Seminary, who has been accompanied by her husband, Robert C. Johansen.

The other Brethren in attendance were general secretary Stan Noffsinger, peace witness and advocacy staff Jordan Blevins, Scott Holland of the Bethany Seminary faculty, Pamela Brubaker professor emeritus at California Lutheran University, Brad Yoder of the faculty at Manchester College, Zakaria Bulus of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), and news director Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Brethren delegation to attend International Ecumenical Peace Convocation.

The International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) begins tomorrow at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, the culminating event of the Decade to Overcome Violence 2001-2011. The event is organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC). Major speakers include Martin Luther King III, WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit, and many other leaders from churches and religious communities around the world. "Glory to God and Peace on Earth" is the theme, aimed at witnessing to the peace of God as a gift and responsibility of the churches and the world.

Bethany Theological Seminary president Ruthann Knechel Johansen is the Church of the Brethren representative to the convocation. Also in the Brethren delegation are Scott Holland, professor of theology and culture and director of peace studies at Bethany Seminary, who also was on the WCC writing group that prepared the study document for the convocation; general secretary Stan Noffsinger; Jordan Blevins, peace witness advocacy officer; Robert C. Johansen, director of doctoral studies at the Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame; and Bradley J. Yoder, professor of sociology and social work at Manchester College in N. Manchester, Ind.

Newsline editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford also will be onsite at the IEPC and will post online reports and a photo album from Jamaica beginning May 18, as Internet access allows.

The IEPC is the culmination of the DOV program authorized by the WCC at its 1998 Harare Assembly. The event will bring together some 1,000 participants representing WCC member constituencies, ecumenical and civil society networks working in the area of peace and justice. Hosted by the Jamaican Council of Churches and the Caribbean Council of Churches, the IEPC will be the major ecumenical event prior to the 10th Assembly of the WCC in 2013 in Korea.

"The IEPC comes at a time when the world is experiencing significant political paradigm shifts, and much of this is coming with violence and conflict," said WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit in a release. "This event brings the peace movements and church leaders together and offers space and time to explore the role of the church and religion as peacemaker. We will ask one another what it means to follow Christ today and tomorrow."

"But peace is not just about ending conflicts," Tveit continued. "It is also about seeking justice and building sustainable conditions for peace. We find the need for just peace in the economy, peace among peoples and cultures, and peace within communities and with the earth."

According to the WCC, the primary goal of the convocation is to contribute to the efforts to create a culture of just peace and to facilitate new networks that will focus on peace in communities and the world. The four themes of the meeting will be on peace in the community, peace with the earth, peace in the marketplace, and peace among the peoples. These themes will be addressed through various components of the convocation--spiritual life, Bible studies, plenary sessions, workshops, and seminars. On Friday, May 20, a peace concert will be held in Emancipation Park in Kingston, featuring a number of Jamaican acts including the Fab Five, one of the top bands in Jamaica.

Churches around the world are invited to participate along with the convocation in worship on Sunday, May 22, when Christians worldwide will celebrate God’s gift of peace. "Those who take part will be together in spirit, song, and prayer with the IEPC participants in Jamaica, united in the hope of peace," said the WCC. Worship resources are available at including

The WCC plans to provide daily streaming video from plenary sessions and discussions at the IEPC, go to The main discussion document for the convocation, "An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace," is at Go to to listen to an interview with Grub Cooper, who has written the IEPC theme song. Sheet music is at For daily reports and a photo album beginning May 18, go to and click on "News."
New at The second in a series of study papers from the National Council of Churches is online at the church website. "Christian Understanding of War in an Age of Terror(ism)" was prepared ecumenically with each of four sessions written by a person from a different tradition--Brethren, Mennonite, Disciples, and Quaker. Jordan Blevins of the church's peace witness ministry helped compile the document, and Liz Bidgood-Enders is the Brethren contributor. The study paper will help Brethren walk alongside representatives from churches worldwide attending the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica, May 17-25. Find the paper at
(This article includes information from a release provided by the World Council of Churches.)

Board and members approve CoBCU merger with CAFCU.

During a specially called members meeting April 29, Church of the Brethren Credit Union (CoBCU) members overwhelmingly approved a merger with Corporate America Family Credit Union (CAFCU) that will lead to a greater variety of products, service hours, and locations.

After more than 72 years of serving the Church of the Brethren with savings and loan opportunities, as well as checking accounts and online banking, CoBCU’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a merger proposal with CAFCU in March. CoBCU’s board was pressed to seek a partnership with a larger credit union due to the impact of a fragile economy, a declining demand for loans, and the inability for an institution of its size to offer adequate products and services while maintaining a balanced budget.

The state of Illinois approved the merger April 1, and the merger is set to be complete June 1. The vote by the CoBCU membership was the final step in completing the process.

"The Credit Union Board worked tirelessly to find a merger partner that would bring improved services and expanded locations for our members," said Nevin Dulabaum, president of Brethren Benefit Trust and a CoBCU member for 27 years and board member. "We feel that CAFCU is the best choice, and it’s great to know that our members agree. This will be a great new chapter in the life of our denomination’s credit union."

Over 50 members attended the meeting, and more than 300 members voted to approve the merger via proxy ballots that were sent out at the beginning of April. Both CoBCU and CAFCU staff were present to answer questions, including CAFCU president Peter Paulson.

Now that CoBCU members have approved the merger, they should anticipate receiving information from CAFCU ahead of the June 1 transition, as well as debit cards and checks where applicable.

After performing a thorough search of potential merger candidates across the country, the CoBCU board accepted a merger proposal from CAFCU, a $550 million credit union based in Elgin, Ill., that serves nearly 60,000 members across the country. This decision was based on CAFCU’s mission statement, excellent member service track record, familiarity with credit union mergers, financial stability, and impressive list of products and branch locations. Direct questions concerning CoBCU to Lynnae Rodeffer, director of Credit Union special projects, at 847-622-3384, or learn more about CAFCU at or by calling 800-359-1939.

-- Brian Solem is publications coordinator for Brethren Benefit Trust.

Emergency Disaster Fund distributes more than $360,00 in grants.

The Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) has distributed $362,500 in grants for disaster relief and rebuilding in Haiti, Japan, Libya, and Tennessee and other areas of the South and Midwest affected by tornadoes and flooding.

An allocation of $300,000 continues support for the Church of the Brethren’s work in Haiti following the devastating earthquake of January 2010. This grant will provide funding to continue the collaborative response of Brethren Disaster Ministries with Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Haitian Church of the Brethren) and the Church of the Brethren Global Mission Partnerships. The five grants given to this project in 2010 totaled $700,000.

This year, the Brethren earthquake related work in Haiti has the following goals: to build 25 new homes and repair 25 damaged homes in 2011; provide safe drinking water in locations with clusters of Brethren-built homes; support sustainable agricultural development in communities impacted by the earthquake or receiving survivors; build a hospitality center (building) to house US guests/volunteers and to provide a national office for the Haitian Church of the Brethren; support partners in improving health care for all Haitians; support pastors and church members in emotional and spiritual recovery from the trauma of disasters.

A grant of $30,000 has been given to establish a Brethren Disaster Ministries work project site in Brentwood, Tenn., to assist residents affected by the devastating floods of May 2010. Funds will be used to underwrite operational expenses related to volunteer support, including housing, food, and travel expenses incurred onsite as well as volunteer training, tools, and equipment needed for rebuilding and repair of homes. The project site opens in June.

A grant of $15,000 responds to an appeal from the Asia Rural Institute in Japan for help with earthquake damage. ARI is a partner of the Church of the Brethren through the Global Food Crisis Fund and has applied to be a project site for Brethren Volunteer Service. The disaster in Japan resulted in expensive damage to the ARI training facility, estimated at over $4,500,000. The institute has relocated its 2011 training to Tokyo as part of a disaster management plan. This grant will support the repair and rebuilding of ARI facilities.

An allocation of $10,000 responds to a Church World Service (CWS) appeal following the displacement of families from violence in Libya. This grant will support critical humanitarian aid, income generation programs, and trauma support for displaced families now living in Egypt.

A grant of $7,500 responds to a CWS appeal following the severe storms and tornadoes that caused loss of life and property damage across the Midwest and South of the United States. Record flooding along the Mississippi River continues to affect communities in its path as well. The money will support shipment of material aid and resources and training in the development of long-term recovery groups. Shortly following the storms, CWS responded by shipping cleanup buckets, hygiene kits, school kits, baby kits, and blankets. CWS staff also will begin training for local long-term recovery groups, which play an integral role in linking survivors to outside resources and support, such as the Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding program.

An update from Nigeria: Brethren again affected by violence.

Nigeria mission staff Nathan and Jennifer Hosler have provided the following update on post-election violence in Nigeria and how it has affected Brethren congregations there, and how Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) is responding. The Hoslers are teaching at EYN’s Kulp Bible College and working with the EYN Peace Program:

Horrific headlines yet again feature violence in northern Nigeria. While this violence was ignited by presidential election results, longstanding issues are involved.

Nigeria held a presidential election on April 16. The winner, Goodluck Jonathan, is a Christian southerner. A Muslim northern candidate, General Buhari, won in the north. Goodluck Jonathan was able to get at least 25 percent of the vote in northern states and he held the entire south.

Many Muslim supporters in the north were certain that because they supported Buhari he was sure to win. When Buhari lost, rioting erupted all across northern cities: Maiduguri, Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola, and more. Small Mubi and Michika (towns close to Kulp Bible College and EYN Headquarters) also experienced violence. There was an allegation of corruption by the loser but all the international observers concurred that the election was relatively free and fair (a huge step for Nigeria).

In total, five EYN churches were attacked. Four were burnt in Biu and one damaged in Kaduna. Other denominations were also affected; the targets of attack were anything Christian, or Muslim supporters of the Christian candidate.

There is long-standing intolerance in Nigeria. Divisions are often north/south but predominantly along religious lines. Both southern and northern Christians were attacked in the north. The issue is power--which religion has it--and to a slightly lesser extent, which regional or ethnic group is in control. Many northern Muslims think northern Muslims should be in charge of the country.

Poverty and lack of education are also factors. The north is extremely underdeveloped compared to the south and there are large amounts of jobless, unemployed young men with little education. These factors create a tinderbox which can ignite a fire at the slightest provocation. In this case, the election set off the current round of violence.

In the aftermath of the violence, EYN will press forward. Much of its ministry will continue as normal, while also picking up the pieces, rebuilding, and trying to heal from the trauma of burnt homes, shops, and churches. With the crisis reaching new places that had never experienced violence (Mubi, Michika), it makes one wonder how far reaching the next crisis will be. We have heard people say, "How can this happen in little Michika, a fairly small community that hasn’t experience violence?"

Encouraging events in Michika include a unified response. There were no revenge attacks in Michika. Community elders were able to stop people from retaliating. In Michika, Christians also are finding nonviolent ways of expressing their displeasure with the violence, organizing a community boycott of a specific market day.

While prevention work can be done, the long-term circumstances of the conflict have not changed. The next crisis could be just around the corner. Yet the church is not standing still, waiting for crisis to break out. Jesus commanded his followers to be "as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16, KJV). Peace work will press forward, cautiously. Trust has been broken--and there was not much trust between Muslim and Christian communities to begin with. A needed initiative is a conflict monitoring system, a communication structure in place that involves paying heed to warning signs, rumors, and alerting authorities before violence occurs.

New Believers Church Bible Commentary highlights 1, 2, 3 John.

J.E. McDermond is the author of the newest volume in the Believers Church Bible Commentary on 1, 2, 3 John, now available from Brethren Press. The 344 page volume is published by Herald Press as part of a a cooperative project of the Church of the Brethren, the Brethren in Christ Church, Brethren Church, Mennonite Brethren Church, Mennonite Church USA, and Mennonite Church Canada.

The New Testament letters of 1, 2, 3 John were "written during a time of church schism that has left Christians confused and questioning their status before God," says a review from the publisher. The author of the three letters "argues that the Christian life has two fundamental markers: acceptance of Jesus Christ’s role in God’s plan of salvation, and the need to practice love in interactions with other believers." In his commentary, which is the 24th volume in the commentary series, J.E. McDermond "shows that these two crucial concepts are as relevant and important today as they were back then," according to the review.

Order the new commentary from Brethren Press for $18.75 plus shipping and handling. Call 800-441-3712 or go to

Also new from Brethren Press is this summer’s Guide for Biblical Studies, the Church of the Brethren curriculum for adults. The June, July, August 2011 curriculum on the theme "God Instructs the People of God" is written by Robert W. Neff with study questions and "Out of Context" feature written by Frank Ramirez. Order from Brethren Press for $4 or $6.95 large print, plus shipping and handling. Call 800-441-3712 or go to

Iraq reflection: Like kerosene on a wound.

The following report from the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) in Iraq is by Peggy Gish, a Church of the Brethren member and long-term volunteer with CPT. She recently rejoined CPT’s Iraq team in Suleimaniya, in the Kurdish north of the country. The CPT team has been monitoring the violent response of the Kurdistan Regional Government to a nonviolent people’s campaign that started Feb. 17 inspired by the "Arab Spring" movements for democracy in many areas of the Middle East:

Lightning and thunder burst over Suleimaniya as thousands of new security forces carrying batons lined city streets. It was April 19, and the backup soldiers positioned around the outskirts of the city got drenched in the storm. A day earlier, the forces occupied the main square after removing protesters who had been a constant presence there for 62 days. Demonstrations were banned, with a "shoot to kill" order that was later changed to "shoot the legs" of anyone who disobeyed.

"I don't know what is happening to our society. Now our leaders are killing their own people," a university student told us, her eyes full of pain and disgust. She too was walking around in the city center assessing the situation the day after soldiers took over the square.

When we asked one of the soldiers from another Kurdish city what he thought about the protests, he said, "These are just people trying to cause problems. We are here to keep the peace."

On our way home, another team member and I stopped when we saw a crowd of students milling around peacefully in front of Suleimaniya University. About 15 students sat down quietly in the middle of the crowd.

"Sixteen buses of students were kidnapped when they drove to the court house this morning," a young woman told me. "They intended to ask the judge why he is not doing anything about the crimes of killing demonstrators. We are going to stay here until they are returned." Another student said, "We are being denied the right to speak out our concerns freely."

Soon security police arrived and stood in a line along the street. I walked up and greeted several of them in Kurdish, with little response. My attempt to find and talk to their commander was interrupted when the police started spraying water over the crowd. Then they charged into the crowd, beating students with batons. We followed students as they hurriedly fled the area. A block away we heard shooting and later found out that 75 students had been injured and 100 arrested.

"They took our buses to a deserted area, and we were told not to phone anyone or we would be beaten," one of the students who had been taken captive on the buses told us the following day. "At first they took off the buses any student organizers, teachers, or members of opposition parties, beat them, and took them away. Then any woman with a head covering or any man with a beard were told to come down, and some were beaten."

He explained that after keeping them about eight hours, security forces let the people go two by two to walk back to the edge of the city. When we asked him how he thought this would affect the students who had been protesting, he said, "It is like putting kerosene on a wound."

Though public protests have been banned, many here tell us that the determination of the people for change has not been crushed.

-- For more about the work of CPT in Iraq go to Initiated by the historic peace churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers) CPT seeks to enlist the whole church in organized, nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict.

Indentured as children, empowered for life: CWS aids children in Haiti.

Just by sheer numbers alone, young people in Haiti are a vital force in society--roughly half of the country's population of about 10 million is now under the age of 20. But young people face enormous challenges: in a country where still only half of the population is literate, acquiring an education is not easy, with students and parents struggling to pay fees or enroll in schools.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of children and teenagers find themselves in some type of indentured servitude. In Haiti, youths who are domestic servants are called "restaveks."

There are not many havens for restaveks--but luckily Church World Service partners with one. The building housing the Ecumenical Center for Peace and Justice, known by the French acronym FOPJ, was destroyed in the Jan. 2010 earthquake. But thanks to about $100,000 in support from CWS, its US church partners, and other supporters, the center quickly revived and re-opened its doors in late 2010.

With its training classes for cooks, hairdressers, masons, electricians, and others in a comfortable, airy space, the center is like an oasis in the din of Haiti’s capital city. Nearly 400 students attend classes here. FOPJ is not only a haven for restavek children and youths. It is also providing support and educational training for former gang members and teenage mothers.

"It would make a big difference if there was a center like this in every neighborhood in Port-au-Prince," said CWS Haiti program manager Burton Joseph.

"Any day I don’t go to the center, I feel awful," said 22-year-old Mikency Jean, a native of the city of Cape Haitian. Jean came to Port-au-Prince at age 11 to work as a restavek for her aunt. That experience proved difficult--12-hour days of cleaning and cooking without pay. But Jean has been determined to do something better, and has taken cooking classes and training at the center, embracing a hoped-for vocation in cooking. Jean’s specialty and love is making salads – she wants to work at a restaurant someday.

She and classmates know that the future remains uncertain in Haiti--"we talk about it all the time"--and it is by no means certain that there will be jobs for them. But with the training at FOPJ, Jean and others will be ready.

"Oh yes, I’m hopeful," said Jean’s classmate, Moise Raphael, as he and Jean prepared kibbe, a dish of bulgar wheat and minced meat. "What’s most important is the knowledge and training I’ve received here," Jean said, adding that the camaraderie and fellowship has also been important. "That’s what makes me feel good about FOPJ."

"The things we get here, we don’t get anywhere else."

Polycarpe Joseph, head of FOPJ, said his center’s programs, with the support of CWS, its denominational partners, and others, is an example of grassroots, sustainable development that gives Haitians a voice in their future. "This is a living example of the partnership between the US churches and the people of Haiti."

-- Chris Herlinger is a writer and photographer with Church World Service. CWS is a partner organization for the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Church of the Brethren in Haiti. CWS celebrates its 65th anniversary this month, "and we're continuing to build a world where there's enough for all," said an announcement in the "Service" e-newsletter. A timeline of highlights from CWS history is online at

Brethren bits: Annual Conference birthdays, personnel, bookstore reminder, CPS website, more.
  • The three Annual Conference officers for 2011 all have birthdays this month--and moderator-elect Tim Harvey is using this unusual occasion as a call for prayers of celebration. He and Conference secretary Fred W. Swartz share a birthday on May 27, and moderator Robert E. Alley’s birthday is May 25.

  • Michael Colvin has resigned from On Earth Peace, effective May 18. Since May 2008, he has worked as a full or three-quarter time volunteer in key organizational roles, including coordinating the International Day of Prayer for Peace (IDPP) campaign and providing web design and maintenance. With Colvin's undergirding service, On Earth Peace's IDPP campaign has emerged as an offering of global reach, and a gateway through which hundreds of community groups partner with On Earth Peace each year. He was also central in the early development of the Change for Peace program. He is moving on to greater involvement with local activism in Portland, Ore., an expanding web consulting business, and preparations for his June 4 wedding to Susan Shepard.

  • Dawna Welch began May 1 as youth advisor for Pacific Southwest District. She is a licensed minister in the Training in Ministry (TRIM) program, and for the past seven years has been director of the Children and Young Families Ministries at La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren. In her work for the district, she will be establishing a District Youth Cabinet and helping organize junior and senior high events.

  • On July 11, Virginia Harness will begin a one-year internship in the Brethren Historical Library and Archives. She is completing a bachelor’s degree at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., and carried out an internship with Lost Towns Project in Annapolis. She also has worked as an archaeology intern in both the field and laboratory. She and her family are Church of the Brethren members, most recently from Kansas, and now from Lynchburg, Va.

  • Brethren Press reminds those planning to attend Annual Conference 2011 to "remember your tax exempt letters for bookstore purchases." Tax exempt purchases for church congregations at the Conference bookstore will require an accompanying tax exempt letter from the congregation. A copy of this letter can be left with Brethren Press and will cover purchases for the week. In addition to the letter, the state of Michigan requires a short form to be filled out for each purchase. Brethren Press will have a supply of short forms at the registers and encourages churches to consolidate their purchases to cut down on paperwork. Purchases that do not follow these guidelines will be subject to sales tax.

  • The new website for Civilian Public Service (CPS) has been launched and is now live at The launch took place May 15 at a 70th anniversary celebration of the first CPS camp opening at Patapsco Camp, now in Patapsco Valley State Park near Relay, Md. On the program were speakers Edward Orser, a historian who has examined the Patapsco Camp; Cassandra Costley of the Selective Service; J.E. McNeil from the Center on Conscience and War; and John Lapp, former director of Mennonite Central Committee; among others.

  • May 17-19, 2012, are the dates for the next New Church Development Conference, to be held in Richmond, Ind., on the theme "Plant Generously, Reap Bountifully." The event is for church planters, core teams, committees, district leaders, and established congregations called to support new church development. Keynote leaders will be Tom Johnston and Mike Chong Perkinson of Praxis Ministries. Worship, prayer, workshops, and networking are key features of the event. Sponsored by the Church of the Brethren New Church Development Advisory Committee and Congregational Life Ministries and hosted by Bethany Theological Seminary.

  • On Memorial Day weekend, Brethren young adults will gather for the 2011 Young Adult Conference at Camp Inspiration Hills near Burbank, Ohio. The event takes place May 28-30 on the theme, "Re: Thinking Church" (Acts 2:1-4). For information go to

  • The Church of the Brethren is joining in the national "Let’s Move!" initiative to end childhood obesity. The emphasis for May "is all about simplicity, an important concept whenever we consider changing long-ingrained habits," said a note from Donna Kline of the Congregational Life Ministries staff. Learn more about all aspects of the program at "And then share this information with everyone who cares about the health and future of our children," Kline said in an announcement. "Be sure to use the link on the page to share your stories with us so we can celebrate our successes together!"

  • York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., is now hosting the new Chicago area office of Heifer International.

  • Codorus Church of the Brethren in Dallastown, Pa., was damaged last week when a seed planter broke loose on a nearby farm and rolled through the wall of the church. The York (Pa.) Daily Record reported on May 13 that farmer Dan Innerst was planting soybeans when the hitch on his tractor broke and his grain drill swung free and began rolling down a sloping field, coming to rest in the junior and senior high Sunday school classrooms of the church. No one was hurt, but a crew from the fire company and area rescue squads worked on the building to shore up the roof. Read the story at and see a video from WGAL Channel 8 at

  • Olympic View (Wash.) Community Church will reach out internationally when Lily Ghebral becomes an Ambassador of Goodwill, traveling to Iran with filmmaker Abdi Sami. She is a senior at Lakeside School in Seattle. The Oregon/Washington District newsletter quoted her comment from the church newsletter: "I believe that this trip will help me develop a deeper understanding of Iran and Muslim culture, but also help me represent Americans in a positive light."

  • The historic First Church of the Brethren in Chicago needs some $100,000 to repair its roof, according to the Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter. The church building served for many years as home congregation for Bethany Theological Seminary when it was on the west side of Chicago, and also provided office space for Martin Luther King Jr. during a period when he worked in the city. "The majestic trusses that lift the sanctuary roof have rotted out at the point where they meet the pillars," said the newsletter.

  • Olathe (Kan.) Church of the Brethren successfully planned a surprise celebration on April 9 for Truman and Retta Reinoehl, for 45 years of service in ministry in the Church of the Brethren.

  • World Hunger Auction events began in Virlina District on May 1 with a six-mile Hunger Walk starting and ending at Antioch Church of the Church. Events continued May 14 with a bike ride through the mountains and valleys of Franklin and Floyd Counties. A golf tournament on May 25 will take place at Mariner's Landing Golf and Country Club. An organ and vocal concert on June 19 at 4 p.m. at Antioch Church of the Brethren will feature organist Jonathan Emmons joined by a vocal quartet. The World Hunger Auction itself will be Aug. 13 at the Antioch Church. For more information go to

  • Steven J. Schweitzer, academic dean at Bethany Theological Seminary, is leading a "Practice of Ministry" day in Virlina District on June 4. "The Sermon on the Mount: Jesus and the Old Testament" will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Summerdean Church of the Brethren. A .6 continuing education credit is available to ordained ministers. Cost is $25, which includes lunch.

  • Retiring Elizabethtown (Pa.) College president Theodore E. Long will offer the final address of his presidency during the college's 108th commencement on May 21, beginning at 11 a.m. Approximately 500 undergraduate and graduate students will have met the requirements to receive their diplomas. The event will be held on the lawn in front of the Alpha Administration Building. Long also will receive an honorary degree, and has been granted emeritus status by the college board of trustees. On April 29, a new Steinway D grand piano appeared in the college's Leffler Chapel and Performance Center, given by the trustees in appreciation for his 15 years of service as Elizabethtown president.

  • Commencement at Manchester College in N. Manchester, Ind., will include awarding of an honorary degree to alumna Janis Johnston of Oak Park, Ill., a family psychologist and philanthropist. She will speak for commencement on May 22, when 201 students are to receive degrees. Baccalaureate services begin at 11 a.m. in Cordier Auditorium; commencement begins at 2:30 p.m. in the Physical Education and Recreation Center.

  • Two of the Manchester students graduating this May are recipients of Fulbright grants, including Brethren member Katy McFadden. She is a member of Creekside Church of the Brethren in Elkhart, Ind. Of Manchester College’s 28 Fulbright recipients through the years, 13 (46 percent) have been members of the Church of the Brethren. This represents more Fulbrights per student than at any other Indiana college or university, according to a release from the college. McFadden will spend a year teaching English in Indonesia.

  • Four students at Bridgewater (Va.) College have been awarded Summer Christian Experience Scholarships and will spend 10 weeks working at church-related camps. Each student was awarded $2,750 from the scholarship program, which is funded by the college endowment fund. Receiving the scholarship are: Abram Rittenhouse of Green Bank, W.Va., who will serve at Brethren Woods in Keezletown, Va.; Jennifer Stacy of Inman, S.C., who will serve at Camp Bethel in Fincastle, Va.; Whitney Fitzgerald of Lexington, Va., who will serve at Shepherd’s Spring in Sharpsburg, Md.; and Amanda A. Hahn of Culpeper, Va., who also will serve at Shepherd’s Spring.

  • The Family Abuse Center in Waco, Texas, honored Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) with an award for "Volunteer Group of the Year." The center, led by former Church of the Brethren associate general secretary Kathy Reid, has been providing a safe haven for victims of domestic violence in Waco since 1980. It provides services to more than 600 victims each year as well as prevention efforts through education, intervention, and outreach to a service area that includes seven central Texas counties. BVS director Dan McFadden visited the center to receive the award in person.

Newsline is edited by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Contributors to this issue of the Church of the Brethren Newsline include Charles Culbertson, Virginia Feaster, Elizabeth Harvey, Gimbiya Kettering, Donna Kline, Jeri S. Kornegay, Karin L. Krog, Jeff Lennard, Nancy Miner, Jonathan Shively, and Roy Winter.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Newsline Special Report
Intercultural consultation celebrates unity through the cross of peace

"I hope we are all looking forward to being in a sacred space...and just love each other," said Rubén Deoleo, director of Intercultural Ministries, as he welcomed participants to the Church of the Brethren's 13th Intercultural Consultation and Celebration.

It was a fitting opening to a meeting on the theme "United by the Cross of Peace" (Ephesians 2:14-22). Approximately 100 Brethren from across the US and Puerto Rico gathered April 28-30 in Mills River, N.C., hosted by His Way Church of the Brethren/Iglesia Jesucristo El Camino and Southeastern District.

On Earth Peace (OEP) offered a day and a half on peacemaking. Matt Guynn, OEP coordinator of peace witness, led several sessions with help from a team including Samuel Sarpiya, church planter in Rockford, Ill., and a nonviolence organizer for OEP; David Jehnsen, nonviolence educator from the area of Columbus, Ohio; Carol Rose, co-director for operations for Christian Peacemaker Teams; Bob Hunter of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in Richmond, Ind.; and Kay Guyer, Manchester College student and a member of the 2011 Youth Peace Travel Team. An afternoon on mentoring and coaching in churches was given by Stan Dueck, the denomination’s director of Transforming Practices.

Each day included an evening worship service, moments for prayer, music from many different traditions, and warm fellowship during break times and meals provided by the host church and district volunteers. Concurrent Spanish-English interpretation was provided.

Throughout the weekend, speakers linked peacemaking to central themes of Christianity, in particular the love that Jesus expressed for the whole world, symbolized by the cross. General secretary Stan Noffsinger greeted the gathering, for example, with his conviction from scripture that "there are no ifs, ands, or maybes: love our neighbors as ourselves." His Way associate pastor Carol Yeazell, while listing areas of the world represented, said, "Christ’s body is all over the world. He came for each and every one of us."

Guynn characterized the OEP-led sessions as being about the "holistic peace of Christ" that "ripples out to issues in the community...issues where we challenge the situations in the world where there’s injustice and violence."

Participants shared in Bible study of the Sermon on the Mount and Acts focusing on concepts of peace, and learned about nonviolence theory including the six basic principles of Kingian nonviolence and the three levels of violence posited by Dom Helder Camara. The meeting also identified barriers to peace or "bricks in the wall of hostility," and talked about how Christ’s peace might break in. In small groups, participants shared about situations of violence and oppression, practiced listening to each other, and prayed for healing.

Each section of the OEP presentation invited responses from the group. Many focused on immigration issues, and in discussion the group identified many different types of violence suffered by immigrants: economic exploitation, targeting by gangs as well as law enforcement, anti-immigrant laws, ICE raids, deaths while crossing the border, family separations, discrimination, drug violence, immigrant children’s loss of cultural and family connections.

"How is God leading you in the midst of this? How might the love of Christ be available?" Guynn asked at one point during a session in which people listed "faces of violence" in their own communities. Some minutes later, a woman from Caimito, P.R., responded: "In the name of God, the reign of violence needs to be expelled out of human life."

Preaching for worship also addressed the theme of unity through the cross of peace. Jehnsen spoke for the opening service, saying, "We cannot participate in the violation of God’s creation." He traced the development of nonviolence theory coming out of the New Testament, the historic peace churches, and the work of Martin Luther King Jr.

Jesus came to shine "the light of love, the light of mercy, the light of truth," preached Hunter on Friday evening. "The vocation of the Christian is to shine the light" in times of darkness, he said, telling stories of nonviolent action that has shined light on situations of violence and oppression. "The gospel of peace is a revolution, and it is a place of reconciliation."

Friday’s service also included presentation of the Revelation 7:9 Diversity Award to Sonja Griffith, executive minister for Western Plains District and one of those who helped found the Intercultural Consultation. She was host pastor of the first consultation, held in 1999.

Three people spoke for the closing service celebrating ethnic diversity: Gladys Encarnación of Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren, Glen Arm, Md., who gave the message in Spanish; Timothy L. Monn, pastor of Midland (Va.) Church of the Brethren; and Founa Augustin, of the Haitian Brethren community in Miami, Fla.

Augustin and Monn, by coincidence, both rephrased the theme scripture in their own ways. "To follow the cross in unity with mutual agreement, for the sake of the love of Jesus," stated Augustin. Monn displayed his version on an overhead screen, beginning with verse 11: "Therefore, remember that you who are... Black... Hispanic... Anglo... Haitian... Korean... Native American... Pennsylvania Dutch.... You who were once separated from each other have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, he has made the many groups one.... making you all Brothers and Sisters--in Christ. You are BRETHREN!!!!"

The Intercultural Advisory Committee that organizes the consultation includes Founa Augustin, Barbara Daté, Rubén Deoleo (staff), Thomas Dowdy, Robert Jackson, Nadine Monn, Marisel Olivencia, Gilbert Romero, and Dennis Webb. Webcasts were offered on the Bethany Seminary website by a team including Enten and Mary Eller, David Sollenberger, and Larry Glick.

View recordings at A photo album is at

Consulta Intercultural celebra la unidad a través de la Cruz de la Paz

"Yo espero que todos estemos anticipando estar en un espacio sagrado… y que todos nos amemos," dijo Rubén Deoleo, director de Ministerios Interculturales, cuando daba la bienvenida a los participantes de la 13va Consulta y Celebración Intercultural.

Fue una apertura apropiada para la reunión del tema: "Unidos por la Cruz de la Paz" (Efesios 2:14-22). Aproximadamente 100 hermanos Brethren de los EE UU y Puerto Rico se reunieron del 28 al 30 de abril, en Mills River, Carolina del Norte, auspiciados por la Iglesia de los Hermanos/Iglesia Jesucristo el Camino y el Distrito Southeastern.

La agencia Paz en la Tierra: "On Earth Peace" (OEP) ofreció un taller de día y medio sobre asuntos de paz. Matt Guynn, coordinador de testimonios de Paz de OEP, dirigió varias sesiones con la ayuda del equipo incluyendo Samuel Sarpiya, un sembrador de iglesias de Rockford, Illinois, y un organizador pacífico de OEP; David Jehnsen, educador de no-violencia del área de Columbus, Ohio; Carol Rose, codirectora de operaciones de los equipos cristianos hacedores de paz "Christian Peacemaker Teams"; Bob Hunter de "Intervarsity Christian Fellowship" en Richmond, Indiana; y Kay Guyer, estudiante de Manchester College y miembro actual del equipo viajero de paz "2011 Youth Peace Travel Team." Una tarde de capacitación, guía y asesoramiento en las iglesias fue presentado por Stan Dueck, director de transformación de prácticas de la denominación "Director of Transforming Practices."

Cada día incluyó un servicio de culto por la noche, momentos de oración y recogimiento, música de diferentes tradiciones y una amena confraternidad durante los espacios de descanso y comidas fue proporcionado por la iglesia anfitriona y los voluntarios del distrito.

Durante todo el fin de semana, los presentadores conectaron el hacer la paz con los temas centrales del Cristianismo, en particular el amor que Jesús expresó para todo el mundo y que simbolizó con la cruz. Por ejemplo el Secretario General, Stan Noffsinger al dar la bienvenida al grupo expresó su convicción de la escritura "no hay peros, y’s o quizás: amar al prójimo como a nosotros mismos." Carol Yeazell, pastora asociada de la iglesia Jesucristo el Camino, mientras enumeraba las áreas representadas en la reunión, dijo: "El cuerpo de Cristo está en todo el mundo. El vino por todos y cada uno de nosotros."

Guynn caracterizó las sesiones dirigidas por OEP como "la Paz integral de Cristo," cuyas ondas alcanzan a la comunidad… cuestiones en las que desafiamos las situaciones en el mundo donde hay injusticia y violencia."

Los participantes compartieron, en el estudio de la Biblia, el Sermón de la Montaña y Actos enfocando en los conceptos de paz y aprendiendo acerca de la teoría de no-violencia incluyendo los seis puntos básicos principales de Kingian y los tres niveles de violencia planteados por Dom Helder Camara. La asamblea también identificó las barreras que se interponen a la paz "ladrillos en el muro de hostilidad" y habló acerca de cómo la paz de Cristo puede traspasar esa pared. En grupos pequeños, los participantes compartieron situaciones de violencia y opresión, practicaron el escuchar unos a otros, y oraron por la sanidad.

Cada sección de la presentación de OEP invitó a las respuestas del grupo. Muchos enfocaron en los asuntos de inmigración y, en la discusión, el grupo identificó los diferentes tipos de violencia que sufren los inmigrantes: explotación económica, ser el blanco de las pandillas y de las autoridades policiales, leyes anti-inmigrantes, redadas, muertes al cruzar la frontera, separación de la familia, discriminación, violencia de drogas, niños inmigrantes que pierden la cultura y la conexión con la familia.

"¿Cómo te está guiando Dios en el medio de esto? ¿Cómo el amor de Cristo está disponible?" preguntó Guynn durante una de las sesiones en la que se hacía una lista de "las caras de la violencia" en sus propias comunidades. Unos minutos después, una mujer de Caimito, Puerto Rico, respondió: "En el nombre de Dios, el reino de violencia necesita ser expulsado de la vida humana."

La predicación del culto también abordó el tema de la unidad a través de la cruz de la paz. Jehnsen habló en el servicio de apertura diciendo, "Nosotros no podemos participar en la violación de la creación de Dios." El encontró que el desarrollo de la teoría de no-violencia viene del Nuevo Testamento, las iglesias históricas de paz y el trabajo de Martin Luther King Jr.

Jesús vino para brillar "la luz del amor, la luz de la misericordia, la luz de la verdad," predicó Hunter el viernes por la noche. "La vocación del cristiano es brillar la luz" en las horas de obscuridad, dijo, contando historias de acción no-violenta que ha dado luz en situaciones de opresión y violencia. "El evangelio de paz es una revolución, y es un lugar de reconciliación."

El servicio del viernes, también incluyó la presentación de Revelación 7:9, se otorgó el premio "Diversity Award" a Sonja Griffith, Ejecutiva del Distrito Western Plains por ser una de las personas que ayudó en la formación de la Consulta Multicultural. Ella patrocinó la primera consulta en el año 1999.

Tres personas predicaron en el servicio de clausura, celebrando la diversidad étnica: Gladys Encarnación de Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren, Glen Arm, Maryland; Timothy L. Monn, pastor de Midland (Virginia) Church of the Brethren; y Founa Augustin de la comunidad Haitiana de Miami, Florida.

Augustin y Monn, coincidencialmente, expresaron el tema de la escritura de su propia manera. "Seguir la cruz en unidad, con consentimiento mutuo, por el amor de Jesús," dijo Augustin. Monn mostró su versión en la pantalla, empezando con el verso 11: "Por lo tanto, recuerden que ustedes que son… Negros…Hispanos… Anglos… Haitianos… Coreanos… Nativos Americanos… o Daneses de Pennsylvania… Vosotros, que una vez fuisteis separados unos de otros habéis sido acercados y unidos por la sangre de Cristo. Porque El mismo es nuestra paz y ha hecho de los muchos grupos uno… haciéndonos a todos Hermanos y Hermanas en Cristo. ¡Tú eres HERMANO/HERMANA BRETHREN!!!"

El comité "Intercultural Advisory Committee" que organiza la consulta incluye los siguientes miembros: Founa Augustin, Bárbara Daté, Rubén Deoleo (staff), Thomas Dowdy, Robert Jackson, Nadine Monn, Marisel Olivencia, Gilbert Romero, y Dennis Webb. Puede encontrar las grabaciones en la página web de Bethany Seminary, hechas por el equipo de Enten y Mary Eller, David Sollenberger y Larry Glick. Para ver entre a este sitio: Fotos:

(Translation by Mariana Barriga.)

Brethren Disaster Ministries issues update on tornado, flood response.

BDM staff continue to monitor the tornadoes that plowed through Raleigh, N.C., and 18 counties on April 16. On May 6, BDM associate director Zach Wolgemuth attended the North Carolina VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) meeting in Greenville. BDM will stay involved in long-term recovery planning in that state, and at some point will decide on an area in which to set up a rebuilding project.

Brethren volunteers from Virlina and Shenandoah Districts have begun work on minor repairs such as roofing, windows, and siding in response to the Pulaski County, Va., tornadoes that struck on April 8. "As the community establishes a long term recovery group, we may be asked to help with major repairs and rebuilding work," Yount reported.

Tennessee flooding:
In Tennessee, this is the second May in a row for severe flooding. Today, the Mississippi River flooding crested around Memphis. However, the Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project site in Tennessee is in the Nashville area, which is not threatened by the current Mississippi Valley flooding.

"As the floodwater moves downriver, the levees protecting the communities around New Orleans are in danger of being breached. BDM is now in its last few weeks of Katrina recovery work" in the New Orleans area, reported Yount this afternoon. "We’re certainly praying that these communities don’t get inundated again."

A year ago, three days of heavy rain in May 2010 dropped up to 20 inches of water on Tennessee, causing severe flooding from Nashville to Memphis and completely submerging many homes. A BDM rebuilding project based in Ashland City, northwest of Nashville, was started on January 30. A second project is set to open in just a few weeks, on June 1, in the Brentwood area just south of Nashville.

"Plans are well underway to host volunteer groups by the first full week in June at this new site," Yount reported. Volunteer groups will be housed at Harvest Fields Baptist Church on Sams Creek Road in the town of Pegram, Tenn. Site leaders for the month of June will be Steve Keim and Ken and LouElla Imhoff.

The long-running Hurricane Katrina rebuilding project in Chalmette, La., will be completed by mid-June. BDM has moved its base from a volunteer house to Camp Hope in the community of Arabi. Plans are for the former volunteer house to be brought back to family living status.

How to help:
"As always, the prayers of the Christian community for the victims and the responders are needed, welcome, and appreciated," Yount said.

"It is most helpful to make financial contributions that can be used where they are most needed," she said. She emphasized that donations of clothing or other unrequested material goods are not helpful, and that unaffiliated volunteers are not encouraged in tornado zones due to safety issues.

Donations to the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services can be sent to the Emergency Disaster Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120 or go to

Church World Service (CWS) is appealing for Emergency Clean-Up Buckets to assist both flooded and tornado-stricken homeowners. Instructions are at The buckets are warehoused and distributed by the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

CDS cares for children in Alabama, receives requests from Mississippi and Tennessee

Just as Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) is finishing a response to a devastating tornado in Tuscaloosa, Ala., new requests for services keep arriving, reports LethaJoy Martin of the CDS office.

CDS has been responding at the Belk Center Park Recreation Building shelter in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Six CDS volunteers initially arrived on April 29, and eight volunteers have served at the shelter so far. As of today, the CDS volunteers have cared for 126 child contacts.

"They did a fantastic job of getting on the child's level, listening to them, hearing how their homes were destroyed, how they had to go into a closet and were afraid," Martin wrote in an e-mail update this afternoon. "CDS volunteers are a calming presence in the midst of chaos for these children. One little boy had a very difficult time settling down, but when one of our male volunteers arrived, this little boy went right to him and calmed down. He felt safe."

The additional requests for Children's Disaster Services volunteers span a number of states affected by the recent tornado outbreak or the Mississippi River flooding, or both--from Missouri and Illinois to Tennessee and Mississippi.

In Cleveland, Tenn., which is recovering from the devastating effects of a tornado, a partner agency has requested CDS to care for children of parents coming in to a large distribution center where they can pick up necessities and items to start rebuilding their lives. "This is a different type of request for CDS and we are sending leadership to further evaluate the situation," Martin wrote.

At the request of the American Red Cross and in response to flooding in Mississippi, the program has volunteers standing by to staff CDS centers in three very large shelters in the state. The CDS teams are ready to serve when the shelters are operational.

"Children's Disaster Volunteers are wonderful!" Martin commented. "When the call goes out, they respond." For more about Children’s Disaster Services, go to


Newsline is edited by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Contributors to this issue of the Church of the Brethren Newsline include Mariana Barriga, LethaJoy Martin, Roy Winter, Jane Yount, and news director and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Christian Citizenship Seminar connects food and faith.

What does food have to do with faith? How does "our daily bread" become "The Bread of Life?" At Christian Citizenship Seminar 2011, 55 high school youth and adults considered these questions in depth, using scriptures from the Old and New Testaments as guides.

Beginning on March 26 in New York City, participants heard the testimony of two Brethren young adult seminarians, Angela and Nathan Inglis of Brooklyn (N.Y.) Church of the Brethren, who have made radical personal food choices based on their faith. Participants also learned about international hunger relief projects of Church World Service (CWS) from Ann Walle, director of Innovation and Strategic Affairs. Nelly Gyebi, an exchange student from Ghana currently studying in Moundridge, Kan., shared personal experiences of carrying water and of gender discrimination. Prior to touring the United Nations, participants studied the hunger related portions of the Millennium Development Goals through the leadership of Phil Jones, director of refugee resettlement of the CWS affiliate office in State College, Pa.

In Washington, Brethren farmer and sustainable living advocate Tom Benevento challenged the group on a number of issues related to typical US consumption patterns. A highlight of the week was a meeting with Max Finberg, director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Agriculture.

Christian Citizenship Seminar participants typically compose the largest group of Brethren who lobby Congress through personal visits on a single day in any given year. On March 30, the tradition continued as youth and advisors visited their congressional representatives after receiving training from Wendy Matheny, a Brethren young adult who works in Washington as leadership coordinator for the American Association of University Women.

"When you go to Capitol Hill, you realize that the people there are actually people and it’s not just this big government machine. They listen to you--for the most part," reflected CCS participant Kinsey Miller, Black Rock Church of the Brethren, Glenville, Pa.

"I came to CCS because it combines my two favorite things--the Church of the Brethren and politics!" reported CCS participant Evan Leiter-Mason of Glade Valley Church of the Brethren, Walkersville, Md.

Considering the theme, it was fitting that the gathered community shared communion during worship on the final evening. "CCS is about identifying and reinforcing connections between the faith we speak and the lives we live. This year, I wanted participants to tackle a topic that is both universal and also very personal. Food is one of the most basic elements of life, and we have complicated relationships with it. I hope participants discovered a new appreciation for the complex justice issues surrounding food and for the questions those issues ask us as faith-filled people," said Becky Ullom, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Church of the Brethren.

Ullom, who provided this report, coordinated the event with Jordan Blevins, advocacy officer, and Mandy Garcia, coordinator of donor invitation. Christian Citizenship Seminar is sponsored by the Church of the Brethren, and takes place each spring.

Dominican church holds 20th annual assembly.

The 20th annual assamblea of Iglesia de los Hermanos (Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic) opened at Camp Bethel near San Juan, D.R., on Feb. 17 and concluded Feb. 20. Pastor Onelis Rivas presided as moderator. About 150 persons including 70 delegates from 28 congregations met together in business sessions and in Bible study and worship.

Earl K. Ziegler of Lancaster, Pa., was the main speaker for the conference theme on "Receiving the Promise" based on Luke 24:49. Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission Partnerships, was the official representative from the US church. Marcos Inhauser, a leader the Church of the Brethren in Brazil, also participated in the assembly.

Each session began with spirited singing supported by loud music involving drums, guitars, and vocalists. The singing was a way of gathering the people who came from all areas of the camp to attend the assembly, in an open air structure with a tin roof. Evening services continued to 10:30 p.m., with one night’s service ending at 11 p.m.

The three basic concerns of the conference were the need for a stronger youth program, lack of finances, and leadership issues. Called to serve as the 2012 moderator-elect is pastor Isaias Santo Teña of the San Luis Church, with pastor Mardouche Catalice of the Boca Chica church serving as moderator for the next year.

Attendance was less this year due to the geographical location of the conference and the threat of deportation for undocumented Haitian Brethren who have come to the DR to work in sugar cane fields and farm fields and in construction. The Haitians are invited to come to the DR and work but are not given any permanent status. The tension around this issue is greater since the Haitian earthquake in 2010. About one-third of the congregations of Iglesia de los Hermanos are Haitian.

The Holy Spirit was alive and well in the assembly and the singing was a foretaste of heavenly music. Pray for Iglesia de los Hermanos en la Republica Dominicana.

-- Earl K. Ziegler provided this report.

Church program in DR experiences financial, administrative problems.

The Church of the Brethren mission in the Dominican Republic and Iglesia de los Hermanos (the Church of the Brethren in the DR) have been facing financial and administrative problems in recent years. The program in the DR did not receive a clean audit report in its most recent annual financial audit, reported Global Mission Partnerships executive director Jay Wittmeyer.

"We’ve been working toward a clean audit and have been getting closer to that goal," Wittmeyer said.

One of the main problems has been the intermingling of the microfinance community development funds with church funds, he reported. A large amount of money is outstanding in uncollected or unrecoverable loans given as microloans. Another problem has been undocumented expenses. Also donations from US congregations have gone directly to Dominican congregations without an accounting through the national church, and the practice has led to conflict.

The remaining amount in the community development fund, about $84,000, has been returned to the US, Wittmeyer said. The amount of outstanding, uncollected, or unrecoverable loans comes to more than $52,000, according to the audit. From 2001 to 2009 the fund received grants from the Global Food Crisis Fund totaling $515,870. The grants from the GFCF also provided support for salaries and program expenses of staff managing the microloan program as well as the loans.

Global Mission Partnerships has been making efforts to improve administration of the program in the DR, sending former Nigeria mission workers Tom and Janet Crago to work with the financial system for several months. The couple helped arrive at a recommendation that the community development program be registered outside the Church of the Brethren.

Irvin and Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, who finished up as mission coordinators at the end of 2010 after close to 8 years in the DR, worked hard to facilitate a clean audit and establish accountability structures, Wittmeyer said. They also encouraged stewardship and encouraged the DR church to overcome issues of dependency on the US church. In addition, Brazil mission coordinator Marcos Inhauser has been helping engage in the conversations with the DR church, in particular on spiritual growth.

"We’ve been working to get the microloan program registered" as a separate nonprofit in the DR, Wittmeyer said. "We don’t have that program running yet but we’re working on it."

At the root of the problems is that "Global Mission Partnerships tried to set up institutions that were beyond the capacity of the local church to administer," Wittmeyer explained. "In fact, they were institutions that were beyond the Global Mission Partnerships’ capacity to administer."

Iglesia de los Hermanos has begun to recognize and deal with issues of administration and accountability, he said, chief among them financial accounting practices and conflicts of interest caused when leadership functions such as that of moderator or pastor have been combined with functions ordinarily associated with a church staff or treasurer. The church also has been dealing with power struggles among leadership.

At this year’s asamblea, an audit report was presented that Iglesia de los Hermanos also must begin making annual audited financial reports to the DR government. The church was registered in 2003 but has yet to make a report. Most of those in attendance at the asamblea had not been aware of problems with administration of the church or that its registration might be in jeopardy, Wittmeyer said.

"At the asamblea I saw signs of strength and growth in the church in the DR," he said. "There were a number of contributions from congregations to the national church body, and questions about how to set that amount. It was a good conversation and showed people taking ownership." Another strength of the church is its strong support for Haitian immigrants and evidence of Haitian-Dominican equality within the church.

Global Mission Partnerships plans to move away from a long-standing practice of directly paying the salaries of Dominican pastors. The shift is necessary to help the church in the DR become self sufficient, Wittmeyer said, as he acknowledged that many US Brethren who have lived or worked in the DR will have continuing legitimate concern for the people’s needs.

"The Church of the Brethren wants to help support the ministries that address poverty and provide for needs like clean water, schools, help with immigration issues, theological education, etc. But this needs to be done in ways that are both accountable and build the capacity of the church."

For questions about the mission in the Dominican Republic contact Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships, 800-323-8039 or

Brethren students and chaplains meet from East and Midwest colleges.

What does it mean to be Brethren today? About 20 Brethren students and the campus chaplains from Bridgewater (Va.) College, Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., and Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., explored that question as they met April 1-3 at Grand Vue State Park in Moundsville, W.Va.

The idea of a joint retreat for Church of the Brethren colleges in the East and Midwest grew out of student brainstorming and gradually materialized over the past year. The West Virginia spot, just south of Wheeling, was chosen as a central point for the colleges attending.

Students led informal discussions on topics including peace, justice, simplicity, sustainability, and community during the weekend. Each of the three college groups also planned and led a worship service. Free time offered opportunities for hiking, disc golf, games, and further conversation. Juniata chaplain Dave Witkovsky contributed his culinary abilities in the kitchen for on-site meals.

The retreat ended with a mountaintop closing circle and hopes of doing another such gathering in the future. The schools are among six colleges/universities affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, stretching from eastern Pennsylvania to California. According to "Church of the Brethren Yearbook" statistics, they enroll a combined total of more than 300 Brethren students.

-- Walt Wiltschek is campus pastor at Manchester College.

Mission staff report on Nigeria’s post-election violence.

In their April newsletter, Church of the Brethren mission staff Nathan and Jennifer Hosler report on post-election violence in Nigeria. The Hoslers are serving in peace and reconciliation positions with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), teaching at Kulp Bible College (KBC) in northeastern Nigeria near the city of Mubi.

"Nigerian presidential elections occurred on Saturday (April 16) and there has been violence Sunday and Monday," the Hoslers wrote. "Supporters of one party are angry that their candidate did not win. Rioting has occurred in Mubi (30 minutes drive south) and Michika (40 minutes drive north), along with other main cities in northern Nigeria. This is the first time Adamawa State (the state we live in) has experienced violence like this. Stores and cars have been burnt. People were shot. Churches in Mubi including a main EYN church were targeted but the army was able to intervene before the attack occurred."

The Hoslers share a prayer request "for safety and a restoration of calm and order. Pray for peace of mind for us and our families in North America. Please pray for wisdom and accuracy in information."

The Hoslers have recently begun work with a KBC Peace Club, which successfully completed its first outreach program outside of the college. In March the club traveled to EYN Gi’ima--a large church in Mubi--to present a program on youth and young adults and peace. "Youths, aimless and without jobs to occupy their time, are often and easily persuaded to take up arms as thugs for politicians or others who wish to cause havoc. The program included two dramas and two speakers. The message, given to the 750 people in attendance, was simple but relevant: youth should avoid being used by politicians for violence and instead work for peace."

The couple also have been working on a peacebuilding partnership with the Women’s Fellowship of EYN, known as ZME, one of the strongest groups within EYN. "One of the requests from the ZME Director is for the EYN Peace Program to teach peacebuilding topics during the annual national women’s training seminars," the Hoslers wrote. "Women from every church district gather together and learn topics that range from health and sanitation, skills acquisition (jewelry making, batik, etc.), and biblical and theological topics. The women attendees then return to their districts as resource persons to teach others what they learned...a very effective way of spreading awareness and skills for peacebuilding."

Find more reports from the Hoslers at

Bethany Seminary to celebrate 106th commencement.

On May 7, Bethany Theological Seminary will celebrate its 106th commencement, at the seminary campus in Richmond, Ind. Two observances will mark the occasion. A ceremony for conferring degrees will take place in Nicarry Chapel at 10 a.m. Admittance to this ceremony is by ticket only. A worship service, open to the public, will be held in Nicarry Chapel at 2:30 p.m.

Commencement speaker and former "Messenger" editor Fletcher Farrar will give an address titled "Nicodemus at Dawn," based on Isaiah 59:9-19 and John 3:1-10, at the academic ceremony. Three members of the graduating class will speak at the afternoon service: Anna Lisa Gross, Kimberly Koczan Flory, and Larry Taylor.

Ten students will receive master of divinity degrees, eight will receive master of arts, and two will receive a certificate of achievement in theological studies.

Those who will receive a master of divinity are Craig L. Gandy of Peru, Ind.; Anna Lisa Gross, Richmond, Ind.; Rebecca M. Harding, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Kimberly C. Koczan Flory, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Benjamin R.G. Polzin, Richmond, Ind.; Daniel L. Rudy, Richmond, Ind.; Lee D. Saylor, James Creek, Pa.; Christine Ann Sheller, Des Moines, Iowa; Justin Trent Smith, New Lebanon, Ohio; and Lawrence Russell Taylor, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Those who will receive a master of arts degree are Jabani Adzibiya, Adamawa State, Nigeria; Matthew Boersma, Greensburg, Ind.; Laurie J. Diaz, Chambersburg, Pa.; Christopher D. Fretz, Richmond, Ind.; Lindsey Kate Frye, Richmond, Ind.; Travis Edward Turner Poling, Richmond, Ind.; Monica Rice, Richmond, Ind.; Karen Roberts, Richmond, Ind.

Those who will receive a certificate of achievement in theological studies are Gieta M. Gresh, Denton, Md., and Renee Jeane Vrtiska, Gibsonia, Pa.

-- Jenny Williams is Advancement Office coordinator at Bethany Seminary.

Older Adult Month is observed in May.

The theme for the 2011 Older Adult Month is "Grounded and Growing" based on Psalm 92 and Colossians 1:9b-12. Each May, the Church of the Brethren observes Older Adult Month, a time to celebrate and give thanks for God’s good gift of aging.

"As people of faith, Brethren are grounded in our faith in many ways: through God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and through our families, friends, and our faith communities," said an invitation from the Older Adult Ministry. "This grounding serves as both a firm foundation and as fertile soil for continued understanding, growth, and revelation throughout our faith journey. No matter our age, we are called by God to continue to grow, to show new life, and to flourish.

Materials have been created for individual and communal meditation and worship during May and throughout the year. The resources that are available include five different meditations, a variety of worship resources, and a plan for an entire worship service based on the theme. Visit to download resources or contact Kim Ebersole, director of family life and older adult ministries, at 800-323-8039 ext. 302 or

70th anniversary of Civilian Public Service is to be celebrated.

May 15 is the 70th anniversary of the first Civilian Public Service (CPS) camp opening in Patapsco, Md. A special celebration is being planned and is open to the public. Sponsors are the Church of the Brethren, the Mennonite Central Committee US, the Center on Conscience and War, the American Friends Service Committee, and the Kansas Committee for a CPS Memorial.

The event will include a picnic lunch, the launch of a new CPS website featuring a database of all CPS workers and camps, brief remarks by sponsoring agencies, CPS alumni and historians, and a visit to the Patapsco CPS Camp site in Patapsco Valley State Park. The picnic will begin at 1 p.m. at Relay Town Hall, 1710 Arlington Ave., Relay, Md.

The CPS Memorial Website Project team of archivists includes Terrell Barkley, director of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives; the late Ken Shaffer, former director of the BHLA; Wendy Chmielewski, George Cooley Curator of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection; Rich Preheim, director of the Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee; John Thiesen of the Mennonite Historical Library and Archives; Anne Yoder, archivist for the Swarthmore College Peace Collection; and from Lewis & Clark College, Paul Merchant and Doug Erickson. Others doing content review include J. Kenneth Kreider, professor emeritus, History, at Elizabethtown College. Jonathan Keeney, a Brethren member from Elgin, Ill., was hired by the project to scan images for all the CPS units/camps from the CPS photo collection in the BHLA.

Those interested in attending the celebration are requested to RSVP by May 11 to Titus Peachey at or 717-859-1151. For detailed directions, see

A prayer response to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The following prayer is offered by Joshua Brockway, Church of the Brethren director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship:

God of the empty tomb, whose life and resurrection we celebrate in this season of Easter, we are confronted by so much death--from the demise of thousands of nameless individuals to celebrations over the killing of notorious criminals--while knowing in our hearts that the death of one of your children is never a cause to rejoice.

As we gather proclaiming the truth of Easter, hear our wondering thoughts of the future, and our visions of your peace, so that our lives may reflect your way of life within a world falling into terror and death.

For it is in the confession of fears and hopes, anxiety and relief that the world knows us to be fully human and fully alive in you. Multiply our witness through our praise and service so that our prayers for "your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven" might become manifest in our midst.

In the name of the one who died and yet rose again, Jesus the Christ, we pray. AMEN

NCC: Death of bin Laden must be a turning point for peace.

The death of Osama bin Laden does not "eradicate the scourge of terrorism," but it should stimulate the churches to commit themselves "to moving forward together as witnesses for God's love and peace," said a statement released Tuesday on behalf of the National Council of Churches (NCC) member communions. Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger is one of the church leaders who have signed the statement.

Following is the NCC statement in full:

The death of Osama bin Laden is a significant moment in the turbulent history of the past decade. It does not eradicate the scourge of terrorism nor does it bring closure to the grieving and pain the world has endured since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for which he was the primary architect. The National Council of Churches deplores and condemns the extremism he personified, the twisted illusions that wrought years of violence and evil in the world.

Now the member communions of the National Council of Churches pray for God's help as we commit ourselves to moving forward together as witnesses for God's love and peace. In Nov. 2001, as the world reeled from the terror attacks, the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service challenged their communions to take the lead:

"It is time (we said then) for us as an ecumenical community to make a renewed commitment to a ministry of peace with justice, and to make real in these days the call of Jesus, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44). In his Beatitudes, Jesus calls us,

his followers, to be merciful if we are to receive mercy; he reminds us that the peacemakers are blessed and will be called children of God. And, he proclaims us ‘the light of the world’; our good works should be a beacon to others so they may give glory to God (Matthew 5:14-16).

"We lift up ‘Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century,’ a 1999 Policy Statement of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. We reaffirm and highlight the statement's call to build a culture of peace with justice characterized by these convictions:
  1. The transcending sovereignty and love of God for all creation and the expression of that love in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, whose mission was to reveal understanding about that divine presence, to proclaim a message of salvation and to bring justice and peace;

  2. The unity of creation and the equality of all races and peoples;

  3. The dignity and worth of each person as a child of God; and

  4. The church, the body of believers, whose global mission of witness, peacemaking, and reconciliation testifies to God's action in history."
Osama bin Laden is dead. Just as Christians must condemn the violence of terrorism, let us be clear that we do not celebrate loss of life under any circumstances. The NCC's 37 member communions believe the ultimate justice for this man's soul--or any soul--is in the hands of God. In this historic moment, let us turn to a future that embraces God's call to be peacemakers, pursuers of justice, and loving neighbors to all people.

-- Find the NCC statement and list of signers at For an action alert from the Peace Witness Ministries of the Church of the Brethren go to To join in discussion with Peace Witness Ministry staff and other Brethren about what the church should say about the war in Afghanistan and the war on terror, go to

Brethren bits: Remembrance, personnel, jobs, call for photos, more.
  • Remembrance: C. Wayne Zunkel, author of the popular Brethren Press book, "To Follow in Jesus’ Steps," passed away on April 21 at Brethren Village, Lancaster, Pa., after residing there six years. Born on March 4, 1931, in Lima, Ohio, he was the son of the late Charles and Cleda Zunkel. He was the husband of Linda Zunkel of Elizabethtown, Pa., and former husband of Grace (Schrock) Morentz. He held degrees from Manchester College, Bethany Theological Seminary, and Fuller Theological Seminary. He was an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren, serving pastorates in Pennsylvania and California. He was a published author of seven books relating to church growth and ministry. His final book, "To Follow in Jesus' Steps," has been published in five languages: English, Spanish, Creole, Korean, Hausa. In volunteer positions in the church, he was a delegate to the National Council of Churches 1963-68, chairing the Brethren delegation 1966-68; served on the denomination’s Parish Ministries Commission 1968-71, and in 1974; and on the General Board in the early 1970s. He was founder and editor of the Brethren Peace Fellowship newsletter 1967-97. He is survived by his wife, Linda; children Lynn Shire, Debra (Roy) Peters, Jan Zoya, Dave Zunkel, and Jonathan Zunkel; and three grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. on May 7 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Memorial contributions are received to the C. Wayne Zunkel Memorial Fund for the translation of Brethren materials, care of the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

  • The Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center ( ) in Harrisonburg, Va., invites applications for the position of full-time executive director. The successful candidate will have expertise in fundraising, marketing, administration, public relations, volunteer coordination, and interpreting the vision of the center to the church and community. The director should be committed to the heritage that Brethren and Mennonites share, especially in the Shenandoah Valley. Salary and benefits as determined by the Board of Directors. Send letter of application, resume, and three recommendations to Beryl H. Brubaker, Chair, Search Committee, 965 Broadview Dr., Harrisonburg, VA, 22802 ( ). Position open until filled.

  • The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has announced a Fellowship Program for People of African Descent, from Oct. 10-Nov. 4, 2011. The program is recommended to Brethren by the denomination’s UN representative, Doris Abdullah. The program will provide the opportunity to deepen understanding of the UN human rights system, with a focus on issues of particular relevance to people of African descent. The candidate must be an African descendant, have a minimum of four years of experience dealing with Afro-descendant or minority issues, be fluent in English, and have a letter of support from an Afro-descendant organization or community. All documents submitted must be in English. The selected candidate is entitled to a stipend to cover accommodation, basic living expenses in Geneva, Switzerland, basic health insurance, as well as a return economy class plane ticket. Submit applications by e-mail to or by fax to 004122-928 9050 with a cover letter clearly indicating "Application to the 2011 Fellowship Programme for People of African Descent" with the following documents: application form; curriculum vitae; letter of motivation (max. 1 page) in which the candidate explains his/her motivation for applying, what he/she hopes to achieve through this fellowship, and how he/she will use what they learn to promote the interests and rights of Afro-descendents; and aA letter of support from an organization/entity the candidate is affiliated with. Download the application form at The deadline is May 31.

  • Photographs of Brethren "extending the table" are sought for a presentation during the closing worship service of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. The service is July 6 in Grand Rapids, Mich., on the theme, "Jesus Extends the Table to Us." Photographs will be displayed on large screens during an act of commissioning for the congregation. The worship planning team seeks help from Brethren photographers in acquiring photos of ways in which congregations extend hospitality and welcome others, because Jesus welcomed us. Images may be from celebrations of Love Feast, but also may show ways congregations greet people as they arrive for worship, reach out into the community, and engage in service ministries. Photographers are requested to contribute only their own original works, and to have the permission of people pictured in any photos submitted. Send photographs as jpg attachments to an e-mail to Rhonda Pittman Gingrich at, along with credit information and written permission for their use by the Annual Conference.

  • General secretary Stan Noffsinger is among 50 Christian leaders signing a joint statement on the federal budget--called "the strongest and most unified Christian voice in the budget debate," in a release from the National Council of Churches. The document attempts to "form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad." It outlines eight principles for ethical decision-making to be considered in a moral budget including protecting and improving "poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance to promote a better, safer world" and ensuring that budget discussions "review and consider tax revenues, military spending, and entitlements in the search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits." It also calls for creating jobs. Go to

  • Over 30 congregations answered a call from the Workcamp Office and blessed youth workcamp participants with nearly 2,000 small gifts as a token of their support. "That’s enough for each workcamper to receive at least one small gift and a bookmark," reports coordinator Jeanne Davies. "We are grateful for this tangible demonstration to our youth of the Body of Christ!" Summer workcamps begin in early June.

  • The final Spring deacon workshops are this month. Southern and Western Pennsylvania Districts are hosting deacon workshops in mid-May: on May 14 at Sugar Valley Church of the Brethren in Loganton, Pa.; on the afternoon of May 15 at County Line Church of the Brethren in Champion, Pa. Both sessions will include the workshop, "What are Deacons Supposed to Do, Anyway?" "Deacons and Pastors: The Pastoral Care Team" will be the second workshop offered at Sugar Valley. For more information and to register, visit The deadline is May 9. Go to the website also for details about the pre-Annual Conference deacon workshops on July 2 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

  • The Church of the Brethren "Messenger" magazine won an Award of Excellence from Associated Church Press (ACP) for Ken Gibble's poem "Entry Room." The poem appeared in the Dec. 2010 issue. The Award of Excellence is the equivalent of a first-place award from ACP.

  • The Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations, Doris Abdullah, attended the UN Commission on the Status of Women earlier this year. In a follow up report, she notes helpful new websites for information on women’s issues: and In a new appointment at the UN, Michelle Bachelet, a medical doctor and former President of Chile, has been named Under-Secretary General of the UN and director of UN Women. This appointment "gives women a seat at the table of world government policy and decision making for the first time in history," Abdullah said.

  • A university student Social Media Club has posted a YouTube video about Grace Mishler’s disabilities ministry in Vietnam. Mishler teaches in the Department of Social Work at National Vietnam University of Social Sciences and Humanities, supported in part by the Church of the Brethren Global Mission Partnerships.

  • May's edition of "Brethren Voices" community television program from Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, honors the Haitian Church of the Brethren. Host Brent Carlson joined a Brethren Disaster Ministries workcamp in Haiti building homes with Haitian Brethren for families who suffered from the earthquake. Carlson filmed building efforts and interviewed recipients of homes. For its April edition, "Brethren Voices" featured "The Peace Church Journey to Becoming a Welcoming Congregation," the story of the Portland church. June will feature an interview with Annual Conference moderator Robert Alley. Contact A donation of $8 is requested.

  • Two district disaster auctions in May benefit Brethren Disaster Ministries. The 31st Annual Mid-Atlantic District Disaster Response Auction will be May 7 at the Carroll County Agricultural Center, Shipley Arena in Westminster, Md. The 19th Annual Disaster Ministries Auction is scheduled for May 20-21 at Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg, Va.

  • All is well at Pleasant Hill Village, a Brethren retirement center in Girard Ill., after a tornado struck the area April 19. "Our neighbors did not fair so well as the path of the twister ran across the field just north of the facility," said a note from chaplain Terry Link. "The outbuildings and home of some elderly neighbors were hard hit. We have given them shelter here at the home as clean up and repairs are underway. The home itself was passed over on Passover Tuesday and thankfully there were no reports of deaths from the storm. Praise God."

  • In another tornado update, Heifer Ranch in Perrysville, Ark., sustained damage in the strong storms that moved through the state. Several buildings including the horse, dairy, and lambing barns were destroyed, as well as a pump house and yurts in the Global Village section. Several roofs were damaged as well. "All Heifer Ranch employees, residents, volunteers are safe," said an e-mail forwarded by Brethren member and Heifer supporter Florence Crago. Photos are on the Today’s THV Channel 11 website

  • Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md., hosts a Spring Open House on May 14 from 1-4 p.m. Guests will receive tours, meet the staff, and have the opportunity to take a horse-drawn carriage ride. To RSVP or for more information call 301-671-5015 or 301-671-5016 or visit

  • A "Homeless Horizons Bike Tour" began May 1 as Brethren Housing Association director of development Christopher Fitz spends a week touring Dauphin, Lebanon, Lancaster, York, Adams, and Cumberland Counties of Pennsylvania via bicycle highlighting the plight of the homeless. The association is a Brethren program based in Harrisburg, Pa. The tour kicked off with a block party, where the Ray Diener House was dedicated. The house is named for a long-time supporter of the association, who was murdered in 2007. "The legacy of compassion and redemption that he embodied...will live on in this former crack house, soon to be a home for two more homeless families," said a release. Contact 717-233-6016 or

  • The University of La Verne, Calif., is celebrating outgoing president Steve Morgan with an "Ann and Steve Morgan Out the Door BBQ and Dance" on May 14 at 4 p.m. Register at

  • David Goodman Jr., CEO of D.C. Goodman and Sons and a trustee on the Juniata College board, will receive an honorary degree during the college’s 133rd commencement ceremony May 14. The commencement address will be given by Maryanne Wolf, professor of child development and director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University. Beulah Baugher, former director of housekeeping at Juniata, received an honorary doctor of humane letters at a special dinner April 30.

  • Paul Fike Stutzman of Germantown Brick Church of the Brethren and a member of the Virlina District Board, is the author of "Recovering the Love Feast: Broadening our Eucharistic Celebrations" (Wipf and Stock). The book will be a resource for an insight session on the Love Feast at Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., at 9 p.m. on July 5.