Thursday, June 30, 2011

Conference business addresses issues related to sexuality, church ethics, climate change, decorum.

The 2011 Annual Conference taking place in Grand Rapids, Mich., on July 2-6 will have on its business agenda items related to human sexuality, along with a report from a committee studying the need for new guidelines on congregational ethics, and two new queries on climate change and proper decorum for discussions of church business.

The two items of unfinished business related to issues of sexuality are "A Statement of Confession and Commitment" from the Standing Committee of district delegates ( ), and a query on "Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships" (

Beginning the evening of June 29, Standing Committee is spending time in advance of the Conference deciding on recommendations on these two business items. The two documents have been the subject of a two-year discussion across the Church of the Brethren, called the "Special Response Process." The process has included facilitated hearings in each district, an online response option, and a Bible study and reading resources to engage the issues (go to

In the other unfinished business item, the Congregational Ethics Study Committee brings a report, responding to a 2010 query from Western Pennsylvania District asking if it would be helpful to develop a uniform process for districts to deal with ethical misconduct by congregations.

The Congregational Ethics Study Committee report will recommend that the 1993 "Ethics in Congregations" paper be updated and that the revisions be facilitated by Congregational Life Ministries staff in collaboration with the Council of District Executives and Office of Ministry. In addition, the committee suggests updating the 1966 "Theological Basis of Personal Ethics" paper and compiling it into one booklet with the "Ethics in Ministerial Relationships" paper and a study guide. In a final set of recommendations, the committee calls the church to follow guidelines for preventing and assessing misconduct in three categories: awareness of a congregation's own expectations and those of its wider community, legal and fiduciary responsibilities in the life and organization of a congregation, and attention to relationships and practices of accountability in congregations. The committee includes Clyde Fry, Joan Daggett, Joshua Brockway, and Lisa Hazen.

"Query: Guidance for Response to the Changing of the Earth's Climate" is brought by Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren in Peoria, Ariz., and Pacific Southwest District. Based on the biblical injunction to be stewards of God's creation, the query asks, "What is the position of Annual Conference on climate change, and how can we as individuals, congregations, and as a denomination take concrete action to live more responsibly and offer leadership in our communities and our nation?" The query goes beyond the US and asks about the effects of the earth's warming on the people of the world, pointing out that Americans are among the world's leaders in fossil fuel consumption and yet are not responding with sufficient urgency.

"Query: Proper Decorum" is brought by Mountain Grove Church of the Brethren in Fulks Run, Va., and Shenandoah District. It asks the Conference to consider rules of proper decorum related to people's positions on issues before the Conference. The query cites a sense of community and accountability in the church, but points out that "often our actions toward one another neither honor one another nor Jesus."

The new and unfinished business documents coming to the 2011 Conference are available in Spanish. Translations have been provided by Nancy and Irvin Heishman, former mission staff in the Dominican Republic. Find links to the Spanish-language business documents at the index page for Conference coverage:

Ministries of reconciliation and listening will offer assistance at Conference.

Many who have attended Annual Conference in past years are familiar with the yellow "On Earth Peace MoR (Ministry of Reconciliation) Observer" badges worn by skilled practitioners during Conference business sessions.

This year as particularly sensitive business is discussed, these volunteer "Ministers of Reconciliation" will offer assistance not only during business sessions but throughout the Conference, mediating conflict, facilitating communication, navigating misunderstandings, and in general helping to make sense of the proceedings.

Conference-goers may look for Ministers of Reconciliation in the "MoR Observer" areas on the Conference floor, or contact Leslie Frye at 620-755-3940. Schedule a specific appointment to talk with one of the Ministers of Reconciliation by contacting Frye, or at the On Earth Peace booth in the Exhibit Hall.

During this Conference a complementary service is available through Congregational Life Ministries, providing a "Ministry of Presence and Listening" to hear frustrations, attend to emotions, and explore questions. Staffed by trained spiritual directors and those experienced in clinical pastoral care, this ministry will be available following business sessions in the Prayer Room in Grand Gallery E in the DeVos Convention Center.

For more information or to schedule a specific time with a listener, contact Josh Brockway at 404-840-8310.

Not sure which of the above ministries might best meet your needs? Contact either one to get connected.

Church leader signs on to letters about Afghanistan, Medicaid budget.

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger has added his signature to two letters from American religious leaders, one addressing the Afghanistan war, and the other on the Medicaid budget.

On June 21 as President Obama prepared to announce the number of troops he planned to withdraw from Afghanistan, religious leaders sent him an open letter stating, "It is time to bring the US war in Afghanistan to an end."

Noting the cost of the war in lives and property, the open letter called for increased aid to Afghanistan. "The past 10 years have shown that we cannot broker peace in Afghanistan by military force," it said. "It is time to transition toward a plan that builds up civil society and provides economic alternatives for Afghans."

Acknowledging that the situation the president faces is complex and involves such issues as protecting the lives of soldiers, protecting Afghan civilians, defending the rights of Afghan women, supporting democracy, and saving innocent lives, the letter said, "We humbly believe there is a better way than war to address these important issues."

Signers included Christian leaders representing the National Council of Churches as well as Catholic leaders and Jewish, and Muslim leaders. Find the full text of the letter on Afghanistan at

At the request of Congregational Life Ministries staff, Noffsinger also signed on to a letter regarding Medicaid funding. The letter, also sent in June, was organized by the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC).

The letter to members of Congress urged them to protect Medicaid from drastic cuts and other harmful changes to the program, including the current Medicaid block grant proposals. The letter opposed proposals to drastically cut Medicaid spending, which benefits people with disabilities living in the community. While acknowledging the need to address the growing federal debt, the letter encouraged Congress to work toward deficit reduction strategies and changes to Medicaid that maintain the program's integrity and enable people with disabilities to continue to be active participants in their communities and congregations.

IDAC is a coalition of 25 national faith-based organizations, including representatives from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu traditions, with a mission of mobilizing the religious community to speak out and take action on disability issues. Find out more about the work of IDAC at

Group is encouraging local CPS anniversary celebrations.

A group that has set up a new website to tell the Civilian Public Service (CPS) story is also encouraging local celebrations of 70th anniversaries of CPS camps around the country. Nearly 12,000 conscientious objectors to war chose Civilian Public Service during World War II, performing "work of national importance" rather than bearing arms.

The new website, titled "The Civilian Public Service Story: Living Peace in a Time of War," may be found at Living CPS men from World War II, concerned that the story would not die with them, initiated its creation according to a press release.

The website includes the origins of the CPS program, which was an historic church-state partnership designed to protect the rights of conscience and which remained in effect until 1947. The website also provides a comprehensive listing of draftees who served in CPS as well as the communities, occupations, and denominations from which they entered, and the camps and units to which they were assigned. Users may search the database of names as well as a listing and description of the more than 150 settings where CPSers served in soil conservation, forest service, public health projects, state mental hospitals, as smoke jumpers, and human guinea pigs.

The site was launched on May 15, on the 70th anniversary of the opening of the first CPS Camp in 1941, in Patapsco near Relay, Md.

The Brethren Service Committee directly operated several of the other CPS camps that also opened in 1941 and have 70th anniversaries this year: in May, the CPS Camp No. 6 in Largo, Ind.; in June the CPS Camp No. 1, Onekama, at Manistee, Mich., and CPS Camp No. 7 in Magnolia, Ark.; in July, the CPS Camp No. 16 in Kane, Pa.; in August, the CPS Camp No. 17 in Stronach, Mich.; and in November, the CPS Camp No. 21 in Cascade Locks, Ore.

Resources available from organizers at Mennonite Central Committee include a sample press release suitable for local commemorations, a listing of camp or unit openings by month and location, along with contact information for local newspapers and libraries to help facilitate publicity about local CPS celebrations. Contact Rosalind Andreas at or 802-879-0012, or Titus Peachey at or 717-859-1151.

Disaster fund gives $30,000 to start Pulaski Country rebuilding project.

Brethren Disaster Ministries has received a grant of $30,000 from the Church of the Brethren's Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to start a new home rebuilding project site in Pulaski County, Va., following two devastating tornadoes.

The tornadoes caused widespread damage in the towns of Pulaski and Draper in Pulaski County, Va. Local recovery officials in Pulaski have requested the Brethren ministry to establish a national project in the area to assist with rebuild efforts. BDM expects to establish the project in late summer, to repair and rebuild homes for families in need of permanent housing.

In related news, BDM also has received a grant from the Mennonite-related Everence Federal Credit Union. The credit union will donate $12,700 from its "Rebate for Missions" program to the global agencies of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Mennonite Mission Network. Each year, the credit union tithes to church and mission work 10 percent of its interchange income from the use of its Visa credit cards. In addition to the amount awarded to the two global organizations, a portion is also donated to local community charities through branch offices.

Hiroshima monument is dedicated to founder of friendship center.

On June 12, a group pulled red and white chords to unveil a new monument in the Peace Park in Hiroshima, Japan, honoring Barbara Reynolds for her love of hibakusha and Hiroshima, and for creating the World Friendship Center that keeps her hope and work alive.

The group at the unveiling included several hibakusha, or atomic bomb survivors, Reynold's daughter Jessica and husband Jerry, grandson Tony, and World Friendship Center volunteer directors and Brethren Volunteer Service workers JoAnn and Larry Sims. During the ceremony, the past and present mayors of Hiroshima addressed Reynold's accomplishments, as did a telegram from the governor of the prefecture.

In 1975, Barbara Reynolds, a 60 year old American, bowed humbly as she received honorary citizenship from the city of Hiroshima. Since returning in 1956 from a worldwide tour in a yacht christened, "Phoenix of Hiroshima," she had become involved with both the heartache and living hope of atomic bomb survivors.

During the worldwide voyage, as her family sailed into every port on the journey, their young Japanese crew was questioned about what really happened in Hiroshima. Those repeated stories opened her family's eyes about Hiroshima, the atomic bomb, and the plight of survivors.

Earlier, in 1951, her husband had taken the family to Hiroshima when he was employed by the US government's Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. His three-year assignment was to document the effects of the bomb on children. The Reynolds family lived on the US military base and was relatively isolated.

During the yacht voyage, however, they realized that nuclear weapons must not be used on anyone ever again. The magnitude of the bomb and the invisible killing power of radiation that continues to maim and kill those exposed must be eliminated.

In 1956, as they pulled into Hiroshima's harbor, the family were greeted as heroes. People thanked them for telling the world what happened, and for sailing into the restricted zone in an attempt to stop the testing of nuclear bombs in the Marshall Islands.

Barbara Reynolds became alone in 1964 when her husband divorced her, and her children returned to the US to attend college or to get married. At a Buddhist temple after a week's retreat of praying, crying, and asking God for direction, she understood that her call was to show God's love and compassion for the atomic bomb survivors and to work toward world peace.

From that point forward she worked to provide comfort and care for hibakusha. She challenged the city of Hiroshima to honor the survivors and treat them with respect. She pleaded for city assistance for them to have health care and homes where their medical needs would be taken care of. She took several hibakusha on pilgrimages to the US and other countries to provide an opportunity for the world to hear their stories and be moved by their pleas that the bomb should never be used on any people ever again in the world.

Reynolds created the World Friendship Center as a place where hibakusha came to share their stories. Visitors from around the world came to the center to learn about what happened and about peace efforts. Reynolds helped transform the hibakusha's shame, humiliation, and isolation into respect and honor.

Today the World Friendship Center continues to translate hibakusha stories into English, teach English classes, train Peace Park Guides, sponsor a peace choir, and on occasion assist the city of Hiroshima in translating peace efforts and documents from Japanese into English.

Visitors to the Peace Park will now know of the significant contributions of a very humble woman on her quest for justice and compassion for atomic bomb survivors and for world peace.

-- JoAnn and Larry Sims are directors of the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima, serving through Brethren Volunteer Service.

Joan Daggett resigns from Shenandoah District leadership.

Joan Lawrence Daggett has announced her resignation as acting district executive of Shenandoah District effective Sept. 15. She has accepted a call to serve as executive director of the Valley Brethren Mennonite Heritage Center (CrossRoads) in Harrisonburg, Va.

She has worked for Shenandoah District for 13 years, having begun as associate district executive on July 15, 1998. She was named acting district executive June 1 this year. Previously she served as a pastor. In previous employment she also was director of Christian Education at a Presbyterian Church from 1994-1997. She has been serving on the CrossRoads Marketing Team for the last four years. She is a graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College and Bethany Theological Seminary.

Daggett begins her duties with CrossRoads on Sept. 19.

Jorge Rivera ends service as associate executive for Puerto Rico.

Jorge A. Rivera has concluded his service as associate district executive for the Puerto Rico region of Atlantic Southeast District. He is now serving as interim associate executive until Sept. 31.

Rivera has served in the position for 12 years, following vast experience as an educator working at all levels of the Puerto Rican educational system. He was licensed in 1990 and ordained in 1994 at Yahuecas (Cristo Nuestra Paz) Church of the Brethren in Puerto Rico, where he also served as pastor when he was called to the position of associate district executive.

The Puerto Rico office will remain in Castañer through the interim ministry period at P.O. Box 83, Castañer, PR 00631-0083; 787-829-4338.

Pérez-Borges to serve as associate executive in Atlantic Southeast District.

Héctor Pérez-Borges has accepted a call to serve the Puerto Rico churches as associate executive for Atlantic Southeast District beginning Oct. 1, when the Puerto Rico office will move to the metropolitan area of Bayamón.

Pérez-Borges was licensed in 2003 and ordained in 2006 at Cristo El Señor Iglesia de los Hermanos in Vega Baja, P.R., where he has served as pastor since Feb. 1, 2004. He also is concluding a five-year term on the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board. He teaches courses for the Theological Institute of Puerto Rico (an Academy Certified Training System) and is actively involved in the church planting movement in Puerto Rico.

He holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry, a master's of business administration, and a master in arts in religion from Seminario Evangélico of Puerto Rico. He is retired as a chemist and has worked as an administrative dean in a post-secondary Bible college prior to his call to ministry.

BBT calls John McGough to serve as CFO.

John McGough starts July 1 as chief financial officer for Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT). He begins his service with BBT at the 2011 Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich.

McGough brings over 25 years of financial experience, including financial asset management, strategic planning, and a solid educational background. He started his career in a corporate trust department, where he prepared pension asset reports for money managers. Over his career, he has worked in private banking and as a general manager/partner for a home health care supplies company where he managed its working capital. His most recent position was in Rockford, Ill., where for nine years he served as vice president of Treasury Management for Harris N.A. (formerly AMCORE).

He is a certified treasury professional and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Montana in Missoula, where he majored in business administration and finance, and a master's of business administration, finance, from Charles H. Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, DePaul University, Chicago.

His family is ecumenical, with memberships at St. Thomas More Catholic Church and First United Methodist Church in Elgin, Ill.

Brethren bits: Personnel, job openings, college news, more.
  • About a dozen denominational staff, family members, and friends have bicycled from Elgin, Ill.--location of the Church of the Brethren General Offices--to Grand Rapids, Mich., to attend Annual Conference. The two-day bike trip took a route via Milwaukee, Wis., and the ferry across Lake Michigan, arriving in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, June 29. The bicyclers included Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) president Nevin Dulabaum and one of his daughters, along with Randy Miller, Becky Ullom, LeAnn Wine, Debbie Noffsinger, Anna Emrick, Scott Douglas, John Carroll, Joe Liu, and Jeff Lennard, among others.

  • The New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center is welcoming back Ed and Betty Runion, of Markle, Ind., as hosts of Windsor Hall for the months of July, August, and September.

  • The Brethren Disaster Ministries office at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., is welcoming Kailynn Clark, who is beginning a one-year term with Brethren Volunteer Service.

  • Bethany Theological Seminary seeks a full-time executive assistant to the president, with application date of July 15 or until the position is filled. Candidates should have strong organizational abilities, good interpersonal and communication skills, knowledge of office technology, and attentiveness to detail. A bachelor's degree, equivalent experience, and knowledge of the Church of the Brethren are preferred. A letter of application and resume should be sent to Executive Assistant Search, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374. A detailed position description, including list of responsibilities, is available by calling 800-287-8822 ext. 1803.

  • Oregon and Washington District seeks a district executive to serve a one-quarter-time position (12-15 hours per week) available Jan. l, 2012. The district includes 12 congregations located in Washington and four in Oregon. The preferred candidate demonstrates strong administration and communication skills, initiative, adaptability, and capacity to give oversight to district work. Location of the district office is negotiable. Responsibilities include to serve as executive officer of the District Board, oversee major administrative tasks of the district, represent the district in denominational and ecumenical events/circles/gatherings, facilitate the district's role in oversight of ministerial leadership working with area ministers and the ministry commission, facilitate the planning of district board meetings and district conference, facilitate the fiscal management of the district in collaboration with the district treasurer and stewardship commission. Qualifications include a clear commitment to Jesus Christ demonstrated by a vibrant spiritual life; commitment to Church of the Brethren faith, heritage, and values; membership in a Church of the Brethren congregation; demonstrated organizational and administrative skills; communication and interpersonal skills; computer/technology skills; four-year college degree or equivalent required; minimum of four years of experience in executive or supervisory positions in social service, non-profit, or ecclesiastical settings. Apply by sending a letter of interest and a resume via e-mail to Applicants are requested to contact three or four people who are willing to provide a letter of reference. Upon receipt of a resume, a candidate profile will be sent that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. The application deadline is Aug. 26.

  • Wakeman's Grove Church of the Brethren in Shenandoah District is hosting a special evening with Pamela Dirting, who will speak about her Brethren Volunteer Service experience in Ireland. The church's youth band will perform and a bonfire is planned afterward. The program will begin at 7 p.m. on July 9.

  • Construction has begun on Manchester College's new Pharmacy School, located near Dupont Road and Interstate 69 on the north side of Fort Wayne, Ind. The two-story building will be approximately 75,000 square feet and will house classrooms, offices, laboratories, student meeting spaces, and more, according to Manchester president Jo Young Switzer in her June newsletter. The groundbreaking will take place at 11 a.m. on Aug. 4 at the intersection of Dupont and Diebold Roads. The "ambitious" construction timetable calls for the building to open mid-summer 2012.

  • Manchester College also is constructing a $9.1 million Academic Center on its campus in North Manchester, Ind. Construction is well under way to prepare the building for students in August 2012, according to a release. In addition to 16 classrooms, the Academic Center will house faculty offices, study lounges, conference rooms, a small lecture auditorium, a peace studies library, and areas for language study, psychology research, video editing and accounting multi-media. Departments that will find permanent homes in the Academic Center include accounting and business, communication studies, economics, education, English, finance, history and political science, management, marketing, modern languages, peace studies, psychology, religion and philosophy, sociology and social work. The three-story Academic Center also will house computer labs, research labs, an atrium and café, and a Welcome Center for admissions. Find the full story at

  • Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., has begun a new partnership with Pennsylvania Highlands Community College for a Joint Enrollment Program for high school students interested in reducing their costs for a four-year bachelor's degree. According to a release, the program gives students the opportunity to earn an associate's degree at Penn Highlands and then transfer to Juniata to complete a bachelor's degree. The new program is specifically designed for students seeking a pathway to a four-year degree but who need a less expensive alternative for the first two years of study. The "2+2" plan is expected to apply to all of Juniata's academic programs (including business administration and accounting) except biology and chemistry. The two institutions finalized the agreement May 23.

  • Thirteen Brethren joined a New Community Project (NCP) tour to the Ecuadorian Amazon in mid-June, according to a release. The group spent four days in the rainforest guided by Delio, leader of the Siona people and an expert in traditional medicine. In a special ceremony, Delio presented NCP director David Radcliff with a hand-hewn canoe paddle to recognize NCP's seven years of visits to the rainforest and its advocacy efforts in the US for the Amazon and its people. The delegation also toured a 137-acre parcel of forest being preserved by NCP, as well as oil processing centers discharging petroleum waste into Amazon waterways. In other news from NCP, in South Sudan solidarity workers are spending the summer in Nimule for the fifth year in a row. NCP has recently forwarded $10,000 in assistance to partners in South Sudan for girls' education, women's development, and reforestation, making a total of $25,000 in aid thus far in 2011. For more go to or contact

  • Heeding God's Call "continues to grow its unique faith-based and grassroots campaign to prevent gun violence," according to a release from the organization that was begun in Philadelphia during a Historic Peace Church conference held under the same name in Jan. 2009. This year, in addition to holding regular bi-weekly vigils in two Philadelphia neighborhoods, in April the organization and its Northwest Philadelphia chapter, "Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence" (NPEG), hosted a Good Friday ecumenical service next to Delia's Gun Shop. "The service drew 250 people of faith to worship, sing, pray, and call on Delia's to adopt Heeding's Code of Conduct. The next morning, Holy Saturday, another 60 faithful braved a rain storm to join in worship in the parking lot of a church in Philadelphia's Burholme/Fox Chase section and then march to Mike & Kate's Sport Shoppe where they held a brief ecumenical service," said a release. There are now Heeding God's Call chapters in Harrisburg, Pa.; Baltimore, Md.; Washington, D.C.; and Columbus, Ohio, working on their own actions to encourage gun shops to follow guidelines aimed at preventing gun violence on the streets of America's cities. Go to

  • An Ample Harvest campaign connected with the National Council of Churches is inviting congregations and church members across the US to join in making donations of excess produce from community gardens to local food pantries. The effort "is a new form of charitable giving and provides a way to care for God's people by sharing the extra food they grow," said an invitation from the organizers. "We believe with the help of the Church of the Brethren many more food pantries will benefit from donations made by local gardeners." Churches are being encouraged to help local food pantries become registered for free (no fee is involved) at the coordinating website, then to urge people in the community to post at garden shops and nurseries. Resources for church leaders are available at A flier to help gardeners understand how to donate excess produce to food pantries is at and is appropriate for church bulletin boards.

  • The National Council of Churches (NCC) Interfaith Relations Commission seeks nominees for "Interfaith Engaged Congregations" to recognize congregations that engage with communities of other faiths. The Interfaith Engaged Congregational Initiative is receiving nominations for congregations that "have something important to share about interfaith engagement." To receive this recognition, a congregation must be affiliated with a member communion of the NCC, such as the Church of the Brethren; by Sept. 1 complete the nomination form and a two-page essay; submit at least three letters of support, one from the congregation's regional or national church structure, and at least two from recognized leaders of other faith communities; agree to be listed as a mentoring congregation for three years, and be available to provide advice about nurturing interfaith relations in a congregational setting. Find information at

  • The silence of the international community to the plight of millions of North Koreans facing starvation and severe malnutrition was of deep concern to the members of an ecumenical forum for peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula, which met June 16-19 in Nanjing, China. A release from the World Council of Churches reports that the group, the steering committee of the Ecumenical Forum for Peace, Reconciliation, Reunification, and Development in the Korean Peninsula (EFK), called on churches and the ecumenical community to advocate and lobby governments, the United Nations, and the European Union to end the strategy of using food as a political weapon to isolate the North Korean government and cause its downfall. Despite being the major donors of food aid to North Korea during the severe food crises following the famine of the 1990s, the US and South Korea have both withdrawn their food aid and imposed sanctions in response to North Korea's policy of developing nuclear weapons and its recent military activities. "Christians in South Korea are firmly committed to support food aid to our brothers and sisters in the North who are faced with starvation," said Kim Young Ju, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Korea, in the release. Recently the council sent a shipment of 172 tons of food to North Korea with the financial support of the EFK and South Korean churches, despite a government order prohibiting any civil society and religious organizations from supporting people in North Korea. "Even though the South Korean government is prohibiting us from sending food aid to North Korea, we will follow only the order of Jesus Christ, who taught us to love our suffering neighbours," said Ju.

Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Contributors to this Newsline include Jordan Blevins, Allen Brubaker, Nevin Dulabaum, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Philip E. Jenks, Donna Kline, Jeri S. Kornegay, Nancy Miner, David Radcliff, Susan Snyder, Brian Solem, Ginny Thornburgh, John Wall, and Roy Winter.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Newsline Remembrance: S. Loren Bowman

"Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you..." (Deuteronomy 8:2a).

S. Loren Bowman, 98, former general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, passed away on June 17. He was general secretary of the denomination for almost a decade, from July 15, 1968, until his retirement Dec. 31, 1977. At the time of his death he was living in La Verne, Calif.

"Please remember in your prayers at this time of loss, the Bowman family and all who mourn his passing," said a prayer request from the Church of the Brethren general offices in Elgin, Ill.

In total Bowman spent 19 years in church administration, having been executive secretary of the Christian Education Commission for 10 years until his appointment as general secretary. During that time he led development of group life programs, and curriculum planning built on a congregation defining its own educational goals. He worked with college administrators to establish Brethren Colleges Abroad. He also served on various units of the National Council of Churches, including the Division of Christian Education, Department of Educational Development, and Division of Christian Unity.

He was named acting general secretary for four months in early 1968, during the illness and subsequent death of the previous general secretary Norman J. Baugher.

Bowman was born Oct. 7, 1912, in Franklin County, Va., to Cornelius D. and Ellen Bowman. He was a graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College, earned bachelor and doctor of divinity degrees from Bethany Theological Seminary (then Bethany Biblical Seminary), and did graduate work in religious education at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1935 he married Claire M. Andrews.

He served in eight pastorates over the course of his career, and prior to his employment on the denominational staff was a member and chair of the former General Brotherhood Board, elected at the 1952 Annual Conference. He was licensed to the ministry in 1932, ordained in 1933, and made an elder in 1942.

He was author of the book, "Power and Polity Among the Brethren: A Study of Church Governance," and wrote a membership study book, "Choosing the Christian Way." He served on the editorial board of "Brethren Life and Thought" and was on the committee that produced "The Brethren Hymnal." In 1969 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Bridgewater, and in 1977 received the college’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.

On retirement as general secretary, his citation noted the "key frontiers" of his administration: "One was to regard diversity or pluralism within the church as a source of enrichment. Another was to seek to consolidate established programs in order that new priorities could be addressed. A third was to structure the general secretariat so that power would be shared and authority delegated in a team approach."

In his work as general secretary, he was remembered for the question, "Is the usual enough?" He oversaw a major reorganization of the former General Board, which included a large turnover of staff, putting an emphasis on a team approach to administration, greater flexibility in program, closer coordinator of overseas ministries, and heightened response to mission in the world.

He was quoted in a 1977 newspaper article, during his last year as general secretary, as saying to the Annual Conference that new understandings of how the planet and its people are tied together inseparably in creation, and finding a new way of life on this planet, is a foremost task of the church.

In retirement, he continued to advocate creative thinking in the church. He wrote occasional pieces for "Messenger" magazine including an Aug. 1984 column on "Looking Beyond the Usual" calling the church to search for a more holistic approach to life, and an opinion piece in Oct. 1993 advising, "We should be talking about the nature of our diversity."

A memorial service is planned for Friday, June 24, at 2 p.m. at La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren (2425 "E" Street, La Verne, CA 91750-4912; 909-593-1364). Memorial gifts are received to La Verne Church of the Brethren.


Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Conference officers review how Special Response decisions will be made.

The following report from the three Annual Conference officers--moderator Robert E. Alley, moderator-elect Tim Harvey, and secretary Fred Swartz--reviews plans for how Special Response business items will be addressed during the Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., on July 2-6:

Two years ago, Annual Conference adopted a revised document "A Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues" and directed two items of new business to that framework: a query from Northern Indiana District regarding "Language on Same Sex Covenantal Relationships" and a statement from Standing Committee (a committee of district delegates) titled "A Statement of Confession and Commitment." Both items relate to various matters regarding homosexuality.

During the past two years, through personal and congregational study, through Standing Committee-led hearings, through prayer, and in other ways, we have sought to consider how to respond to these two business items. They are part of the unfinished business for the 2011 Annual Conference.

When Annual Conference delegates meet this year in Grand Rapids, any Standing Committee recommendation to these two items will be processed using the five-step procedure described in the framework document. This framework document may be read as part of the Special Response resources at or go directly to

Officers have scheduled the first two steps in this process on Sunday evening, July 3. These include presentations by Standing Committee regarding the background on the two business items, what Standing Committee has learned from hearings, etc., and what Standing Committee recommends to answer the query and statement. These steps are for information only.

On Monday afternoon, July 4, we will return for Step 3 which will follow a "sandwich" approach with persons first offering affirmations of Standing Committee’s recommendation, then persons presenting concerns or questions about the recommendation, and finally additional affirmations. During this step, persons may speak for only one minute.

On Tuesday morning, July 5, Step 4 will put the recommendation before the delegates for any amendments or other motions. Each amendment or motion will be tested with the delegates, who will be asked whether they wish to entertain that proposal. If so, then the proposal will be processed by normal parliamentary procedure. If not, then the proposal will not be considered further. At the end of this step, the delegate body will vote on the recommendation. After the decision, Step 5 will be a time of closure with the process and decisions.

When Standing Committee meets prior to the Annual Conference, it will engage in a similar process, first receiving the report from the Forms Reception Committee from the district hearings and other communications, then engaging in conversation around the report and the two items of business, and then formulating any recommendation to the delegate body.

This special response process has been deeply undergirded with prayer by individuals and groups within our denomination. As we come to Annual Conference, we continue in prayer for discernment, for understanding, for clarity, for unity, for forbearance, and for faithfulness to Christ. All who have engaged in this process love Christ and the church, especially the Church of the Brethren. May that love fill us with hope and promise as we gather in Grand Rapids.

-- Annual Conference moderator Robert E. Alley, moderator-elect Tim Harvey, and secretary Fred Swartz.

Annual Conference bits and pieces.
  • The "Messenger" series of Special Response essays has been collected into a single resource available as a download. The six essays were published from Sept. 2010 through June 2011 to help readers prepare for the 2011 Annual Conference. "Considering the Special Response Process" can be downloaded for $1.99 from

  • A new and important survey is now posted on the Annual Conference website at The Revitalization Committee, appointed last year by the Church of the Brethren Leadership Team, wants people who have never gone to Annual Conference, those who have attended sporadically, those who used to go but no longer do, and those who attend regularly, to all fill out this brief survey. "Please help us shape the future format and design of Annual Conference by taking time to give your input," said the Conference Office.

  • For the second year in a row, congregations are invited to join in worship with Annual Conference by viewing the webcast of Sunday morning worship together at "Using a computer to project Sunday morning's worship live (or recorded, in the case of congregations in western time zones), congregations can share in the prayers, the singing, and the preaching right from the Conference floor for their worship services on July 3," said an invitation from the Conference Office. Last year, estimates were that well over 1,000 Brethren from more than 16 states joined in. For technical assistance to join in the service, contact Enten Eller, director of Electronic Communication at Bethany Seminary, or 765-983-1831.

  • There will be many ways to follow events at Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., on July 2-6. Webcasts of every business session and worship service are planned, find them at, click on "Annual Conference." A recording of each webcast will be available shortly after the session concludes. Daily news reports and photo albums will be at, along with the daily sermon and worship bulletin. Facebook updates will be posted at

  • The 2011 Annual Conference will make a witness to host city Grand Rapids. The Michigan District Witness Commission is planning service projects that are within walking distance of the convention center. Sign up at On the right hand side of the page, there are three different service options for Tuesday, July 5. Click on any of the three to get more information and to participate.

  • In other service projects Conference attendees are invited to prepare and bring along School Kits and non-perishable food items to Grand Rapids. The School Kits are used by Church World Service to give children affected by disasters, or those in impoverished schools, refugee camps, or other difficult settings, some of the basic tools for learning (instructions are at The School Kits will be presented during the opening worship service on the evening of July 2. The food offering to benefit the West Michigan Food Bank will be led by the junior and senior high youth during the evening worship service July 4. The following day, the youth will load the food onto a truck for delivery to the food bank. "Our goal is for Annual Conference 2011 to contribute 4,000 items. ‘Can’ we do it?" asked an announcement.

  • Free Wi-Fi will be available throughout the DeVos Place Convention Center during the Conference, made available by Brethren Benefit Trust, which is paying the cost for all participants. Username will be "brethren benefit" (with a space between the two words). The password will be "trust" (all lower-case). "We’re grateful for their sponsorship, which will make it easy to stay connected to Internet while in the convention center," said Conference director Chris Douglas.

  • A number of international guests have been invited to Annual Conference, but the Global Mission Partnerships staff fear many will not be granted visas by the US government to enter the country. Those who have been invited include Jinatu L. Wamdeo, general secretary of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria; Elijah Tumba, director of finance for EYN; Agnes Thliza, national secretary of the EYN women’s organization ZME; Jean Bily Telfort, general secretary of the National Committee of Elgise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti); Vivek and Shefali Solanky of the Church of the Brethren in India and currently attending Bethany Seminary. Mission workers who are expected include Robert and Linda Shank (North Korea), Grace Mishler (Vietnam), and Jennifer and Nathan Hosler (Nigeria).

  • Save a life by giving blood at the Annual Conference Blood Drive on July 4, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and on July 5, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. The blood drive will be in the Recital Hall. Each donor must show photo identification (driver's license for most) or two pieces of non-photo identification (credit card, library card, blood donor card, etc.). Appointments may be scheduled in advance at the Conference registration area. "Donors and volunteers to help with the donation area are greatly needed to make this a success," said an announcement from coordinator Bradley Bohrer. "We met our goal last year of 200 units. Let's exceed that this year!" Contact Bradley Bohrer, Pastor, Crest Manor Church of the Brethren, 574 291-3748 or 574 231-8910, cell 574 229-8304,

  • A gathering to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Youth Peace Travel Team will be held on the first evening of Annual Conference on Saturday, July 2, at 9 p.m. at Ah Nab Awen Park in Grand Rapids. Past years’ teams will join the 2011 team--Mark Dowdy of Huntingdon, Pa.; Tyler Goss of Mechanicsville, Va.; Kay Guyer of Woodbury, Pa.; and Sarah Neher of Rochester, Minn.

  • Volunteers and mediators from the Ministry of Reconciliation (MoR), a program of On Earth Peace, will be available during all of the business sessions at the 2011 Annual Conference, according to an announcement from On Earth Peace. The mediators will be present in order to assist participants in resolving conflicts during a year in which business items are considered particularly controversial. On Earth Peace also is advertising a special insight session, "What Have We Learned from the Special Response?" on July 5, at 9 p.m. "As a people we are striving to learn how to communicate faithfully so that we can hear the voice of God among us when we have strongly different opinions," said an announcement. "What would we like to carry forward from our experiences with the Special Response Process for next time? What would we prefer to leave behind? Come prepared to share and hear experiences of this unprecedented process as we seek to build and care for the body of faith in the midst of conflict and difficult conversation." For more information contact Leslie Frye at or 620-755-3940.

  • Church of the Brethren staff have been invited to prepare for Annual Conference by setting aside a time of prayer and scripture each weekday. Beginning this week, employees based at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill., have been invited to gather in the chapel each day from 9:15-9:30 a.m. Those unable to join the gathering can participate through a worship guide posted on the General Secretary’s page of the church’s website.
Haitian church celebrates 100th home.

A group of church leaders from the US traveled to Haiti June 4-8 to help Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) celebrate completion of the 100th home built by Brethren Disaster Ministries. The church was also celebrating a new Church of the Brethren guesthouse, which will be able to house workcamps.

The guesthouse sits on two-thirds of an acre in Croix des Bouquets, outside Port-au-Prince. A wall was built in November, and work began on the guesthouse in January. The group visiting from the US in June was the first to stay in the building, where plumbing and electrical hook-ups were being finished the day of the celebration.

"I want to thank God for this occasion to gather in this building," said Klebert Exceus, who has led the building efforts in Haiti. "We give God the glory."

The 100th home sits with two others just beyond the wall of the guesthouse. They are among 22 homes completed since January. People were expecting to move into the new homes throughout the month of June. Each house cost $7-8,000.

Several pastors and church leaders spoke at the celebration, which was held in the guesthouse and attended by a busload of Brethren from the two closest congregations. They asked the visitors to convey their thanks to supporters in the US. Jean Bily Telfort, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren in Haiti, recalled the days immediately after the January 2010 earthquake.

"There were people who were in tears, but today there is joy. We want to thank all the volunteers and supporters. We thank God for you."

While in Haiti, the group from the US church worshiped with several congregations and visited communities in Port-au-Prince, Fond Cheval, Morne Boulage, Gonaives, and Bohok. They saw a number of the houses built by Brethren Disaster Ministries, and visited with some of the recipients of these homes.

"We have traveled here from the US to celebrate the many accomplishments God is doing here among you in Haiti," said Andy Hamilton during his sermon on Sunday morning at the Delmas church in Port-au-Prince. "Every time I hear the stories I am encouraged. Your faith has an effect on my small congregation in Akron, Ohio. We hold you in prayer constantly."

The delegation from the US included representatives from Church of the Brethren staff, the Mission and Ministry Board, the district executives, the Haiti Advisory Group, and disaster auctions.

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

CDS volunteers go to Springfield, complete Joplin response.

A new response site for Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) is Springfield, Mass., which was hit by a tornado on June 2. A team of five CDS volunteers began work there late last week in response to a call from the American Red Cross.

In Springfield, the CDS team is working in the Mass Mutual shelter--a multi purpose arena and convention center. "The center is working well," reports CDS associate director Judy Bezon.

The Springfield Tornado has just been "declared," Bezon says, "which means the President has identified it as a major disaster area, which in turn makes federal resources available to those whose homes have been destroyed." She expects FEMA to open eight Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) where people come to apply for aid. "We have had preliminary talks with the FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaisons about setting up child care centers in some of their DRCs," she adds.

Meanwhile, CDS volunteers are completing a project to care for children of families living in shelters in Joplin, Mo. Previously this spring, CDS also served in Tuscaloosa, Ala., after tornado destruction there in April.

The last CDS volunteers will leave Joplin today. A total of 28 CDS volunteers have worked there since the tornado. The response has lasted well past the standard time limit of two weeks for CDS volunteers, so new volunteers have been rotated in while others left after completing their two weeks. "The last few days, CDS volunteers who lived locally drove in to help us--they couldn't stay an entire week," Bezon reports. "The Red Cross Case Workers worked hard to find places for the last people in the shelter to live. Generally we leave a few days before the shelter closes, as numbers of children are dwindling."

Bezon herself worked in Joplin up until last week as part of a Critical Response Childcare team that was deployed because of the high number of fatalities. That specially trained team was "very very needed in the shelters," she says. Some of the children in the Joplin shelters required intensive caregiving.

The CDS volunteers in Joplin handled an especially stressful situation very well, Bezon says gratefully. "It was a hardship because the volunteers were living in the shelters, and the work was so difficult. The sheer number of children and the behavioral needs were very intense."

The destruction in the area of Joplin hit by the tornado is "just unbelievable," in Bezon’s words. The path of the tornado was a mile wide and six miles long, and passed through low and middle income areas. "Everything in its path was completely flattened," she says. "It looks barren in every way."

One reason the shelters in Joplin had been needed for longer than usual was that damaged homes continued to be condemned and demolished, forcing families to find other places to live when all available housing and hotels were already full, Bezon explains. Many residents "doubled up" by sharing their homes with friends. The people left in the shelters were those without the connections or the money to find other places to live.

In other disaster relief news, Brethren Disaster Ministries has just learned that it will receive a grant for $52,500 from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee for the rebuilding work in the Nashville area.

The Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) has given $5,000 to Brethren Disaster Ministries for assessment and project development following the 2011 spring storms in the US. The money will help BDM staff gather information, attend meetings, and travel to disaster sites.

An EDF grant of $4,000 has been given to aid the community of Union Victoria CPR in Guatemala, following wind damage to a suspension bridge used for transporting coffee beans to market.

Carol Bowman resigns as coordinator of stewardship formation.

Carol Bowman, coordinator of stewardship formation, has resigned effective July 31. Her last full day of work is July 20. She has served fulltime in her present position since Nov. 16, 2006.

She began employment with the Church of the Brethren on Jan. 1, 1998, as a half time member of the Congregational Life Team in Area 5. In April that year, she assumed an additional half time position with the Funding Team as a financial resource counselor for the West. Her future plans include spending time enjoying family and friends, and employing her passion for creativity and for the local and district church.

New webinar focuses on importance of emotional intelligence.

A new Church of the Brethren webinar led by Pacific Southwest District executive minister Don Booz will focus on the importance of emotional intelligence for pastors and church leaders. The webinar is scheduled for June 21 and 23.

"We all have emotions but some of us do not have emotional intelligence," said an announcement. "This webinar begins to help people understand what tools they need to build and to sustain meaningful relationships" and "will illustrate how emotional intelligence makes a difference in effective leadership."

In addition to serving as executive for Pacific Southwest District, Booz is a trained marriage and family therapist and has helped pastors and lay people understand church dynamics and systems for over 30 years. He is certified in Emotional Intelligence (EQi), Emotional Intelligence 360 (EQ360), and the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence (TESI), and is most interested in helping church leaders and ministers to develop better skills for effective communication.

Go to to view the webinar at 3:30-5 p.m. (eastern time) / 12:30-3 p.m. (Pacific time) on Tuesday, June 21; or 8-9:30 p.m. (eastern) / 5-6:30 p.m. (Pacific) on Thursday, June 23. The content will repeat on Thursday. A continuing education credit of .1 will be offered to those who participate in the live session only, offered through the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.

Next in the webinar series will be a September webinar led by Roger Shenk, a pastor in Sarasota, Fla., on the "Turnaround Congregation."

In related news, Stan Dueck, director for Transforming Practices and a key organizer of the Church of the Brethren webinars, recently completed a certification process for the "EQ-i.2," a resource to help people better understand personal qualities such as initiative, empathy, self-control, adaptability, and decision-making, and the connection to interpersonal traits such as getting along with others, working with teams, and leadership.

Coaching is one of the leadership resources provided by Congregational Life Ministries through the office of Transforming Practices. The EQ-i.2 is now one of several resources available to further develop the vitality and skills of pastors, church leaders, and congregations. For more information about receiving coaching and resources such as the EQ-i.2, contact Dueck at 717-335-3226, 800-323-8039, or

Denominational Deacon Trainings continue in 2011.

Donna Kline, director of the Church of the Brethren’s deacon ministry, has provided the following report about the Denominational Deacon Trainings that are being held in 2011:

Mexico in February? Count me in!!! It was a great trip, even though in reality it was Mexico, Ind., the location of the first deacon training session of the winter/spring 2011 calendar. Next was a visit to Roaring Spring, Pa., where the training included a very meaningful session on the power of anointing.

For some of the Freeport, Ill., attendees the March workshop was their third deacon training session in as many years, and they’ve already signed up for another! The spring calendar ended with a full weekend in Pennsylvania, starting with a visit to the northernmost congregation in Southern Pennsylvania District, Sugar Valley, and ending with the largest session of the spring where more than 90 attendees participated in an afternoon workshop hosted by County Line Church of the Brethren in Champion, Pa., not far from Pittsburgh.

Altogether, nearly 250 deacons have been trained so far in 2011!

Next on the calendar are pre-Annual Conference deacon workshops to be held on Saturday, July 2, in Grand Rapids, Mich. The morning session will be on "Deacon Spirituality and Commitment," and in the afternoon we will talk about creative ways to offer support in the workshop "Beyond Casseroles." Register now at

The fall schedule is nearly complete as well, starting with workshops at Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va., in late September. Other host churches include Quakertown, Pa., in October, and Lakeview Church of the Brethren in Brethren, Mich., in November. Visit for full calendar and registration information, and plan to attend a session near you. For more information contact or 800-323-8039 ext. 304.

Brethren bits: Correction, remembrance, personnel, Today Show, more.
  • Correction: In the Newsline of June 2, Ron De Weerd’s name was spelled incorrectly in a "Brethren bits" note about a Foods Resource Bank celebration. In another correction to "Brethren bits," in addition to his other accomplishments Wilbur Mullen served on the denominational staff in the area of health and welfare and as director of Brethren Volunteer Service.

  • Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-CayfordMinistry Summer Service interns received orientation at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill., before most of the group went to summer placements in congregations, camps, and on the Youth Peace Travel Team (YPTT): (from left) Mark Dowdy, serving on the YPTT; Todd Eastis, serving at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; Ryan Roebuck, Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren; Kyle Riege, Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; Hunter Keith, Black Rock Church of the Brethren in Glenville, Pa.; Tyler Goss, YPTT; Kay Guyer, YPTT; Sarah Neher, YPTT; Kristen Hoffman, Middlebury (Ind.) Church of the Brethren; Allison Snyder, Hanover (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; Sally Lohr; Katie Furrow, Camp Mardela in Denton, Md.

  • Phyllis Louise Miller, 79, died June 6 at her home in Richmond, Ind. She was the wife of Donald E. Miller, who was general secretary of the Church of the Brethren from Sept. 1986 until he retired in December 1996, and is professor emeritus at Bethany Theological Seminary. Born Oct. 4, 1931, in Dayton, Ohio, to J. Paul and Verda Hershberger Gibbel, she grew up in Hollansburg, Ohio, and attended Manchester College. She taught home economics in public schools in Illinois and Ohio. After she and her husband were married on Aug. 19, 1956, they moved to Chicago where she taught in elementary schools. In 1969 she helped develop and direct a nursery school program related to York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill. In 1986 she and her husband moved to Elgin, Ill., and she became deeply engaged in the ministries of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren. She retired to Richmond, Ind., in 1997, where she was an active member of Richmond Church of the Brethren. Over the years she taught Sunday school and helped coordinate Christian education in congregations. She was one of the initiators of the Global Women’s Project and is regarded as an advocate of women’s leadership in the ecumenical church. Survivors include her husband, daughter Lisa Kathleen Miller (Cyrille Arnould) of Luxembourg, sons Bryan D. Miller of Chicago and Bruce D. Miller (Michelle Ellsworth) of Boulder, Colo., and grandchildren. The funeral was held at Richmond Church of the Brethren on June 12. Memorial contributions are received to the Global Women’s Project and Richmond Church of the Brethren. Condolences may be sent to the family at

  • Amy Buchweitz is serving as Brethren Press summer intern from June 6-Aug. 5. She is a senior at Murray State University in Kentucky.

  • On June 15, NBC’s "Today Show" featured a Brethren Volunteer Service project with Al Roker broadcasting live from the grounds of Casa de Esperanza de los Niños (House of Hope for Children) in Houston, Texas. Patrick and Susan Chapman Starkey, BVS volunteers from Virlina District, are serving there as foster parents.

  • "Peace in Isaiah" is the latest Covenant Bible Study from Brethren Press, written by David A. Leiter, an Old Testament scholar and pastor of Green Tree Church of the Brethren in Oaks, Pa. Explore the eight visions and two songs of peace in Isaiah, in this study meant for small group use. "Isaiah employs messages of peace to move the community forward from despair to hope, from desolation to restoration, from ruin to rebuilding. By taking these same messages seriously, perhaps we can be moved to do those things that will bring a larger sense of peace into our lives and our world," said a review from Brethren Press. The book offers 10 sessions that promote group interaction and open discussion. Order for $7.95 per copy, plus shipping and handling. Call 800-441-3712 or order online at

  • Brethren Volunteer Service workers in Germany attended Kirchentag, a national church festival that took place in Dresden, along with Kristin Flory, coordinator of Brethren Service (Europe). Two BVSers are serving in Germany: Kendra Johnson at Peace Brigades International in Hamburg, and Susan Pracht at Church and Peace in Laufdorf.

  • A "hidden gem" from the Brethren Historical Library and Archives is a new feature at Not many know of a connection between "Peanuts" creator Charles Schultz and the now defunct Brethren Service Center in Modesto, Calif. Schultz moved to California in 1958 where he built his first studio, and during this time he was featured in the junior high magazine "Friends," co-published by the Church of the Brethren. See a rediscovered photograph of Schultz at

  • Bethany Theological Seminary has launched a redesigned website at "Enjoy the crisp, clean looks; larger layout; and improved navigation structure!" said an announcement from Enten Eller, director of electronic communication at the seminary. "While we are proud of our work, we know that it is difficult to capture every single loose end--we'd be glad for your help! If you find a loose end that still needs to be tied up, such as a broken link or a missing photo, or even a missing page, just let us know. Additionally, we're also glad to hear your comments and suggestions as to how we might improve things even more." Send feedback to

  • First Church of the Brethren in the Allison Hill area of Harrisburg, Pa., has become a center for peace concern after the neighborhood suffered a series of incidents of senseless gun violence. In one incident, a 24-year-old man survived being shot seven times on a sidewalk near the church. Reports in the "Patriot-News" have highlighted the way residents are using the church as a home base for restoring community. Find stories at

  • Skyridge Church of the Brethren in Kalamazoo, Mich., kicked off a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary on Pentecost, June 12 (find the "Kalamazoo Gazette" report at The church also sponsored the annual "Peace Pizzazz" celebration, with the Campaign for a US Department of Peace. The outdoor festival emphasized multicultural acceptance and was made possible by some 100 volunteers and more than 60 organizations, including 12 schools and 10 religious communities. The theme was "Weaving the Golden Rule into Our Lives."

  • Eaton (Ohio) Church of the Brethren collected clean-up buckets for Church World Service in response to the spring’s tornadoes and flooding. The Fellowship Class sponsored the project, holding an Italian dinner to raise funds. Many churches in Southern Ohio District helped purchase items and sent volunteers to assemble the buckets at a "bucket party" in early June. In total 304 buckets were assembled along with cartons of school kits, hygiene kits, and baby kits.

  • Springfield (Ore.) Church of the Brethren is part of a partnership with ShelterCare and Brethren Community Services to create affordable housing. On June 10, they dedicated the new Afiya Apartments for 16 adults with psychiatric disabilities. "Our Springfield Church has once again accomplished an amazing thing for the people of their community," commented Oregon and Washington District executive Steven Gregory in an e-mail note about the event.

  • In honor of Jim Miller’s service as Shenandoah District executive for the past 19 years, the district’s Leadership Team presented him with special gifts at a reception June 12 at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren: a desktop sculpture of "The Divine Servant," and the planting of a peace pole in his honor at the district office, at a date later in the summer.

  • Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village ceremonially broke ground recently for its $2.6-million Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion. Fahrney-Keedy is a Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md. Lantz Construction of Winchester, Va., is heading up the project. The groundbreaking included (from left) Charles Wiles, a Fahrney-Keedy resident and Board member; Joe Dahms, Board of Directors chair; Keith Bryan, Fahrney-Keedy President/CEO; William McKinley, member, Washington County Board of Commissioners; State Del. Neil Parrott; Pete Heffern, Lantz Co. project manager; and Partha Tallapragada, senior engineer, Maryland Environmental Service.

  • Elizabethtown (Pa.) College has announced a new partnership with the Wheatland Chorale, which brings the chorale to the college as a resident artistic organization. Established in 1987, the chorale--taking its name from the Wheatland Hills neighborhood of Lancaster, Pa., where founder Robert J. Upton lived--is one of Pennsylvania's premier choral ensembles.

  • Twelve students at the University of La Verne, Calif., have been awarded Summer Service Scholarships and will spend 10 weeks serving at a variety of locations along the Pacific Southwest and Northwest. Each was awarded $3,000 from the scholarship program, funded by the Christian Leadership endowment fund. Students are serving at camps in Oregon, Washington, and California, including Camp Myrtlewood, Camp Koinonia, Camp La Verne, Camp Mariastella, and Camp Oaks, as well as in church communities such as Portland Peace Church of the Brethren and La Verne Church of the Brethren, and in social service organizations such as Pomona Valley Habitat for Humanity.

  • As Bridgewater (Va.) College coaching and teaching legend Harry G.M. "Doc" Jopson celebrates his 100th birthday on June 23, former students and supporters have created an endowed fund in his honor for track and cross country programs. Jopson, who came to Bridgewater in 1936 to head up the biology department, also reinvigorated a defunct track program and founded the cross country program. By the time he retired in 1981, his runners had chalked up two dozen undefeated track seasons and dozens of conference and state championships. Jopson was selected Old Dominion Athletic Conference Track Coach of the Year, 1978-81. The new Jopson Track Endowed Fund now contains more than $25,000.

  • Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is celebrating 25 years with the help of a benefactor who matched all 25th anniversary donations up to $5,000 this spring, according to a release. "As we celebrate 25 years of disciplined, nonviolent peacemaking, we face the challenge of ensuring the financial foundation to go forward for the next 25 years," said co-director Carol Rose. The release warned that CPT is some $67,000 behind budget projection for the year, despite trimming expenses, and if donations do not increase important projects will be cut. In more news from CPT, "Create Space for Peace" has earned top honors in the second Annual International Book Awards. The book is a collection of experiences and insights from the late Gene Stoltzfus, CPT founding director, and his 40 years of peacemaking. The book made the list of finalists in the 2011 International Book Awards, announced in Los Angeles on May 11 by the JPX Media Group. "Create Space for Peace" was a finalist in the category of Spirituality: Inspirational. For more information go to

  • The next Spiritual Disciplines Folder for the Springs of Living Water Initiative in Church Renewal can be found at for the season after Pentecost, June 13-Aug. 28. "With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the focus of this season is the church’s mission in the world," said an announcement. Vince Cable, pastor of Uniontown Church of the Brethren in Western Pennsylvania District, has created this summer disciplines folder. The Spiritual Disciplines Folder is the basic tool used in the Springs initiative to aid congregations in reading scripture and having prayer together as a body. The folder offers Sunday morning texts, based on the lectionary, and daily scriptures that build up to each Sunday, with the options of an insert inviting participants to take the next step in spiritual disciplines, and a place church name and times of services on the front. At Annual Conference in early July, Joan and David Young and members of the Springs Advisory Committee will be available to talk about the Springs Initiative, and will assist at the Congregational Life Insight Session on Tuesday evening on the topic, "Transformation: Stories of Congregational Vitality and Hope."Contact

  • Escalating violence against civilians in Sudan’s disputed oil-producing state of South Kordofan is leading to a major humanitarian catastrophe, says a release from the World Council of Churches. An estimated 300,000 people are cut off from relief aid and unable to escape fighting, according to aid agencies. Up to 40,000 people have fled fighting between Sudanese government troops and members of the former Sudan People's Liberation Army. The Sudan Council of Churches is calling on the international community and the UN mission to rescue survivors and prevent a return to war. "The people of Sudan as well as the churches in Sudan have committed too much of their lives in the past decades to work for peace to see the region slip into violence again," WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit said. In a Jan. 9 referendum nearly 99 percent of voters in South Sudan chose to secede. On July 9, South Sudan is to formally declare independence and become the world’s newest nation.

Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Contributors to this Newsline include Charles Culbertson, Chris Douglas, Stan Dueck, Anna Emrick, Kristin Flory, Jeff Lennard, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Elizabeth Harvey, Karin L. Krog, Michael Leiter, Martin Rock, Howard Royer, Pat Via, Becky Ullom, Zach Wolgemuth, David Young, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

BBT board approves changes impacting retirees of Brethren Pension Plan.

The phasing out of the Brethren Pension Plan Annuity Benefit Reduction Assistance Program and a change in how the fund that pays out all Pension Plan annuities is invested were two major action items approved by the Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) Board of Directors when they met April 30 and May 1 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

While board members also addressed a number of other business items, including its securities lending program, compliance and data security issues, socially responsible investing screens, and BBT's clean audit opinion for 2010, it was the Brethren Pension Plan that received substantial discussion time.

"Nothing that we do as a board and staff is more important than safeguarding and strengthening the Brethren Pension Plan for all of our members--both retirees and actives--using the means that we have," said BBT president Nevin Dulabaum. "Having made a number of decisions over the past two years that immediately strengthened the Pension Plan, the board at the April meeting focused its attention on action steps that are intent on helping the plan weather economic challenges in the future."

BBT board votes to end Brethren Pension Plan grant program in 2014:

In Oct. 2009, the month that Brethren Pension Plan members received a reduction in their annuity payments due to the underfunded status of the Retirement Benefits Fund (from which Pension Plan annuities are paid), a grant program was established for qualified members who were left most vulnerable. Members who qualified for a grant received a payment that was equal to no more than the reduction in their pension annuity payment.

This Annuity Benefit Reduction Assistance Program was approved by the BBT board to give some members assistance and time to adapt to the reality of lower annuity payments. The grants were made from BBT reserves, and the program was intended to be reviewed each year.

In April, the board approved a plan that will bring a gradual end to the grants; financial assistance from the grant program will steadily decline over the next three years. Grants will continue unchanged through the end of 2011. In 2012, members who qualify for grants will receive no more than 75 percent of the amount their annuity payments were reduced. They will receive up to 50 percent of their annuity reduction amount in 2013, and 25 percent of their annuity reduction amount in 2014, through Sept. 30, at which point the grant program will end--a full five years after its inception.

The ending of the grants will not impact regular annuity payments in any way. All annuitants who receive a monthly benefit payment from Brethren Pension Plan will continue to receive their monthly check, and at the same amount.

"Because these funds are coming from BBT's reserves, this program cannot continue indefinitely," said Scott Douglas, director of Brethren Pension Plan and Employee Financial Services. "However, in light of a difficult situation, we hope that this gradual reduction of grant funds will give recipients ample time to adapt to this change."

Retirement Benefits Fund further diversified to lower risk and increase potential gains:

Despite the fact that the Retirement Benefits Fund (RBF) is underfunded, are there ways to position the fund so that it maximizes potential returns while minimizing potential risk? This is a question that BBT has been asking in the wake of the market collapse of 2008. While the RBF's funding status is also affected by a number of uncontrollable variables--the number of people entering and exiting the pool and their ages, life expectancies, accumulations, and the surviving spouse benefit option that they may have chosen, among others--one important element that BBT can control is how it is invested.

In 2010, BBT commissioned one of its investment consultants to examine the asset allocation mix of the RBF and to propose new investment options. A preliminary report was presented to BBT's investment committee in January, and a final report in April. After considering a number of scenarios, the board selected a new asset allocation mix for the RBF that utilizes many of BBT's new investment options, increases the diversification of the portfolio, and is aimed at increasing returns while minimizing risk.

The board also gave the go-ahead to BBT's Pension Plan Task Force to continue to seek ways to strengthen the plan. The team has received a report from Aon Hewitt on possible enhancements or changes that could be made based on industry trends and practices, and also is using information from conversations with other faith-based pension plan providers.

Securities lending program to become self-sustaining:

Following a discussion in the Investment Committee, led by chair Jack Grim, the board approved a motion that will result in the securities lending program becoming self-sustaining. This means that the use of future revenue from BBT's securities lending program will first be used to offset fees to the program, including legal expenses.

BBT is currently in the middle of a lawsuit with its custodial bank regarding the securities lending program. Until this decision by the board, payment for securities lending legal fees came from BBT's reserves.

"The action the Board took was to recognize that income from the program must first pay for all expenses of the program," said Dulabaum. "Income in excess of expenses will continue to be used to offset the various fees associated with each investment fund."

In other business:

FedEx was given a "no-fly zone" by the board. Each year, companies that have business practices at odds with Church of the Brethren Annual Conference statements are screened from BBT's investment portfolio. This includes businesses that have major contracts with the US Department of Defense. Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) director Steve Mason presented two lists of Department of Defense contractors that in 2010 either earned 10 percent or more of their income from such contracts or were one of the top 25 publicly traded contracting firms. While many of the firms are not household names, the same cannot be said about FedEx. With the board's approval of the lists, BBT will avoid patronizing FedEx during the next year, as well as the 83 other businesses that appear on the lists (review the lists at, click on "Downloads" then "Socially Responsible Investing").

The Investment Committee and board addressed details related to BBT's investment guidelines, including how large a small cap company can be and a benchmark for the Public Real Estate Fund, which was shifted to the Standard & Poor's Developed Property Index. The board in closed sessions discussed the ongoing securities lending litigation, and efforts to comply with federally mandated security laws. A facilities and compliance task force that includes Carol Hess, Carol Ann Greenwood, Ann Quay Davis, and Dulabaum was created.

The next BBT board meetings will be on July 6 in Grand Rapids, Mich., following Annual Conference; and Nov. 18-19 in Martinsburg, Pa., at the Village at Morrisons Cove.

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

AmeriCorps education awards cut off to faith-based volunteer network.

After 15 years of participation in the AmeriCorps education award program, Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) has learned that its access to the program has been cut off. Federal budget cuts mean the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is not funding such grants to the volunteer networking organization of which BVS is a member, for the 2011-2012 term.

BVS participates in the AmeriCorps program through the Catholic Volunteer Network (CVN), a networking organization for a number of faith-based volunteer groups. BVS membership in CVN means that its volunteers may apply to receive the $5,350 education award from AmeriCorps, and BVS gains access to other benefits like a health insurance program for its volunteers.

"The decision process for the 2011 federal budget was particularly grueling, with several months of delays and continuing resolutions," said a notice from CVN. "The final decision had a devastating effect on CNCS and programs operating under the corporation's umbrella. CNCS was funded at $1.1 billion, which is $72 million below the 2010 fiscal level. The Learn and Serve America program was cut entirely from the 2011 budget. AmeriCorps programs received a $23 million cut. On top of these budget cuts, CNCS received nearly twice the amount of applications for national service funds, as compared to last year. Over 300 organizations applied for Education Awards Program grants--of these programs, only 50 were funded."

"There's dismay" among the BVS staff, said director Dan McFadden. The cuts will be a loss particularly for volunteers who enter BVS carrying large college debt, he said. To support these volunteers BVS may have to look for other ways the church can help, such as paying the interest on school loans which average $20,000 to $30,000 for current volunteers. "The debt load that volunteers come out of college with continues to rise," McFadden said. "We have had volunteers with up to $50,000."

Thirteen BVS volunteers currently are in the AmeriCorps education award program. In 2009-2010, 21 BVSers received the award, but that was an unusual year, said McFadden. Since BVS began participating in the program in 1996, more than 120 BVSers have received the education award, estimates orientation coordinator Callie Surber. This represents some $570,000 or more that has helped BVS volunteers repay student loans, she said.

Former BVS director Jan Schrock was instrumental in making it possible for faith-based volunteer organizations to participate in AmeriCorps, McFadden said. At first, BVS and other such groups worked through the National Council of Churches to participate with AmeriCorps. CVN then picked up administration of the program for the past 13 years.

However, loss of access to the education award is not expected to affect recruitment for BVS. "Most BVSers don't come into BVS because of the AmeriCorps education award," McFadden said. Actually, BVS staff recently had been assessing whether to continue the connection with AmeriCorps, because of new requirements that could have forced BVS to "take the faith language out" of its application, he said. "In evaluating this we asked past volunteers that received the AmeriCorps award how many would not have come into BVS if it hadn't been for the education award?" Only three out of the 20 who responded said they would not have entered BVS without the award.

Other organizations will be harder hit, McFadden said, such as Jesuit Volunteer Corps which has up to 300 volunteers participating with AmeriCorps. The cuts do not apply to organizations enrolled in the 2010-2011 grant term, including BVS, which will receive its full education awards for the rest of the year. Programs like BVS also may find other ways to access AmeriCorps education awards, such as through state programs in places where volunteers work.

"The Catholic Volunteer Network has begun to reach out to community service and government leaders to determine creative solutions for this crisis," the CVN notice said. "We would also like to encourage you all to advocate on behalf of the Catholic Volunteer Network, our member organizations, and the AmeriCorps program as a whole."

McFadden asked for prayers for the staff at CVN. "Their jobs are likely at stake."

Emergency Disaster Fund makes grants for tornado response.

Two grants have been given from the Church of the Brethren's Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) for disaster response work following recent tornadoes in the United States. A grant of $15,000 responds to an expanded appeal from Church World Service (CWS) following a weekend of tornadoes that affected seven states from Oklahoma to Minnesota, and $5,000 is supporting the work of Children's Disaster Services (CDS) volunteers in Joplin, Mo.

As the full needs of those affected by this spring's storms and tornadoes becomes clear, and communities plan for long-term recovery, Brethren Disaster Ministries will have opportunities to set up rebuilding projects and is expected to request further grants toward the repair and rebuilding of homes.

The grant to CWS will help pay for shipments of material aid and provide resources and training in the development of long-term recovery groups in affected communities. A prior grant of $7,500 from the EDF responded to the initial appeal from CWS for this project, made on May 13.

The grant for the work of CDS in Joplin responds to the EF 5 tornado that hit the city May 22. FEMA requested CDS volunteers to care for children in Disaster Recovery Centers there. The grant pays for travel, lodging, and food for the volunteer CDS teams.

Children's Disaster Services has 20 volunteers working in Joplin, caring for children at a Multi Agency Resource Site, two FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers, and in a Red Cross shelter. In addition, a specially trained critical response team is accompanying the Red Cross's Integrated Care team on home visits to families who have experienced a death when there are children in the home.

To contribute to the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children's Disaster Services, or to learn more about the Emergency Disaster Fund, go to

Planting network rolls out year-long prayer emphasis.

The New Church Development Advisory Committee is "rolling out a year-long prayer emphasis" according to Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries. Over the months leading up to the 2012 church planting conference, the committee aims "to cultivate a dynamic network of prayer that includes sharing prayer needs and telling stories about ways that prayer is being answered," he announced in a Facebook post.

The new initiative continues to use a theme that has been established in previous years by the Church of the Brethren's planting effort: "Plant Generously, Reap Bountifully" from a verse in 1 Corinthians 3:6, "I (Paul) planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth."

Online resources for the initiative will be made available both at and via the Facebook page for the Church of the Brethren Planting Network. Resources will include the prayer card for the year, in both English and Spanish.

"Please pray with us, encourage your congregation, family, friends to pray, and connect through the resources that will become available soon," Shively noted.