Friday, July 29, 2011

East Africa gripped by drought and famine

Thousands of Somalis are feared dead as famine grips the eastern Horn of Africa in the worst drought since 1950. A poor rainy season again this year means that the October harvest will not yield enough food. Crop failures will put 11 million people, mostly in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, at risk of malnutrition.

"This is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that deserves the attention and support of the world," said Zach Wolgemuth, associate director for Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Early last week, the UN officially declared a famine in parts of southern Somalia for the first time in nearly twenty years. A food crisis becomes a famine only when certain conditions are met - at least 20 percent of households face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope; acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent; and the death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons.

Other factors compounding the food insecurity in Somalia include the country's anarchic government, persistent fighting, large-scale displacement, widespread poverty, and disease. Trekking on foot for weeks or months to escape the drought, thousands of displaced Somalis are pouring across the border into neighboring Kenya carrying small children and whatever possessions they can manage. Some of the mothers arrive with dead infants in their arms.

The Church of the Brethren has released $40,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund to support the relief efforts of international partner Church World Service (CWS). According to an appeal released by CWS on July 21, 2011, the agency is focusing work on both immediate relief and longer-term food security and water initiatives. Work is focused in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

The CWS appeal states that the immediate work in Kenya, in cooperation with the ACT Alliance (Action by Churches Together), will involve provision of family food packages, Unimix nutritional supplement for children under the age of five, and water tinkering. The program will target over 97,500 families. Longer-term, CWS will bolster existing disaster risk reduction initiatives with food security, nutrition, and livelihood efforts, and construction of permanent water systems.

The CWS-supported efforts in Somalia are focused on contributing to the work by fellow members of ACT Alliance: Lutheran World Federation and Norwegian Church Aid. This includes emergency food, non-food items (shelter, clothing, hygiene materials), water and sanitation in the crisis phase at three of the border camps which currently house some 358,000 refugees.

In Ethiopia, CWS is supporting the response efforts by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus Development and Social Services Commission, who is providing food aid to 68,812 persons. The monthly rations consist of wheat, beans and cooking oil. Children under five, and pregnant or lactating women are receiving supplementary food, known as Famix, as well.

Contributions to support the East Africa drought and famine response may be sent to: Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Avenue, Elgin, IL 60120.

Jane Yount, Coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries, in New Windsor, Maryland.

Religious Leaders requesting a Circle of Protection

In a meeting with President Obama and senior White House staff on July 20, 2011 national Christian leaders asked the president to protect funding for programs for hungry and poor people in the ongoing budget debate and in any deal concerning the default crisis.

All agreed that we can get our fiscal house in order without doing so on the backs of those who are most vulnerable. The shared concern was to cut the deficit in a way that protects the safety net, protects the vulnerable, and maintains our investments in the future.

Christian leaders at the meeting included representatives from the National Council of Churches, the National Association of Evangelicals, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bread for the World, Sojourners, the Alliance to End Hunger, the Salvation Army, the National African American Clergy Network, the National Baptist Convention of America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

They are part of the Circle of Protection a nonpartisan movement that insists budgets are moral documents and that poor and vulnerable people should be protected not targeted in efforts to reduce long-term deficits. White House staff in the meeting included Senior Advisory Valerie Jarrett, Director of Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes and Director of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Joshua DuBois.

The Circle of Protection* statement has been signed by more than 60 heads of Christian denominations and religious organizations including the Church of the Brethren and endorsed by 45 heads of development agencies as well as leaders of other faiths. The Circle of Protection movement has worked to uphold the bipartisan consensus that has long prevailed in deficit-reduction agreements that programs serving poor and hungry people should be protected and exempted from any automatic cuts.

Last week, representatives from the Circle of Protection, a non-partisan movement that insists that the poor should be protected not targeted in efforts to reduce long term deficits, met with President Obama to express their concerns. From a press release provided by Philip E. Jenks, National Council of Churches.

*In a radio and press campaign by Sojourners Pastor Nan Erbaugh from the Lower Miami Church of the Brethren in Dayton, Ohio, shared her thoughts. Erbaugh who lives in Speaker Boehner's district, stressed the importance of such programs by saying, "As a pastor, mother, and grandmother, it is imperative to stand together to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society and whose voices are seldom heard inside the Beltway. As Christians, there is no doubt that we are morally accountable to take care of the least of these--hungry children are the responsibility of each and every one of us. Congress is not making decisions about issues, but about people. I cannot be silent because I am my brother and sister's keeper."

Church World Service Celebrates 65th Anniversary

"You have reached 65 years, but please don't retire!" With those words, Vincent Cochetel, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees regional representative for the United States and the Caribbean, joined those wishing Church World Service a fond birthday as the global humanitarian agency marked its 65th anniversary and its long service and dedication to refugee protection.

Cochetel's wishes were not merely professional - the UNHCR official told those attending a Thursday, July 21, celebration of the agency at the Museum of the City of New York that among those resettled by CWS during its early years was a relative of his wife's family fleeing persecution from the Soviet Union.

Such stories were common during the event, which also marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. In his remarks, the Rev. John McCullough, CWS executive director and CEO, said the experiences of immigrants and refugees reflect an underlying philosophy of CWS -- that partnership and working at solutions begins at the grassroots.

Erol Kekic, the director of CWS's Immigration and Refugee Program, noted that when Church World Service was formed in 1946, and when "food trains were organized to assist the victims of hunger caused by the Second World War, few imagined an agency functioning 65 years later with an annual operating budget of over 80 million dollars and staff of several hundred."

He added: "Much has changed since that time. CWS is today a global voluntary agency well equipped to respond to natural and human induced disasters, offer refugee assistance and work to alleviate hunger domestically and abroad. Since 1946, CWS has helped resettle 500,000 refugees into the US and changed countless lives abroad."

As one example of change and looking toward the future, McCullough announced that the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) has asked CWS to conduct a new international study focused on protection of the world's growing numbers of urban refugees.

The yearlong study aims to identify successful, replicable models in "host communities" in the U.S. and other countries that are helping refugees integrate more quickly and successfully into urban settings and new cultures.

-Chris Herlinger/CWS

Heeding God's Call rally and peace march

Nearly one hundred people rallied in Harrisburg, Pa., Friday afternoon, July 15, 2011, to express their strong feelings of putting an end to violence in their neighborhood. The rally and peace march were organized by Heeding God's Call, a group of churches uniting people of faith in the sacred responsibility to protect our brothers, sisters, and children. This march was a vigil and a rallying cry to stop gun violence, just one day after 18-year-old Keion Gooding was shot and killed outside his Harrisburg home.

Belita Mitchell, pastor of Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren, is active in Heeding God's Call, one of whose primary objectives is to ask gun shop owners to sign a code of conduct suggesting a few extra steps of precaution to eliminate the straw sale of firearms. Straw sale is buying handguns in bulk and selling them to people who would not be able to pass a background check. Individuals and congregations active in Heeding God's Call unite to bring God's vision of a peaceable kingdom, without the violent loss of over 30,000 American lives by gunfire each year, embracing Dr. Martin Luther King's hope for peace and safety in our communities.

Peace Corps partners with the University of La Verne College

The University of La Verne College of Law has entered into a ground-breaking partnership with the Peace Corps, establishing the very first Fellows/USA partnership in the nation to exclusively offer a law degree. Fellows/USA is a graduate fellowship program that offers financial assistance and degree-related internships to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).

Under the program, RPCVs enrolled at La Verne Law will participate in externships with local public interest organizations, or participate in one of the law school's two clinics, where they will use the cross-cultural, language and leadership skills developed in the Peace Corps to assist in providing legal services to people who cannot afford attorneys.

La Verne Law Fellows will have the opportunity to direct their talents toward advocating for children's and workers' rights, disabilities services, and public defenders' services, or combating human trafficking and slavery, among other important issues.

"The Peace Corps is delighted to have the University of La Verne College of Law as a partner in the Fellows/USA program," said Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams. "This new partnership not only opens doors to an enriching law school opportunity at a reduced cost, it also enables returned Peace Corps volunteers to continue their work in public service through meaningful internships in underserved American communities. Experience overseas, combined with a law degree, position a Peace Corps Fellow well for all future endeavors."

Besides building their professional skills through externships, selected Fellows also will also receive as much as $4,500 per year in financial aid. For more information, visit

Georgia Markey to serve as acting district executive

The Southern Pennsylvania District Leadership Team is pleased to announce that Georgia Markey will serve as Acting District Executive beginning October 1, 2011. The Leadership Team envisions the development of a ministry team that will work alongside the acting district executive when circumstances require extra hands and expertise. Markey will serve as the district's placement officer and will be the contact for churches and ministers needing support and/or placement services. The associate district executive position currently held by Markey will be terminated effective September 30, 2011, as the board and staff work at restructuring staff and support staff for the district.

Markey, an ordained minister, came to the Southern Pennsylvania District as a district board member and chair of the district ministry commission. She moved from that position to serving as the administrative assistant in 1989. The position title was changed from administrative assistant to assistant to the district executive and in 1998 to the position of associate district executive. In that position, Markey has provided oversight of the administrative work of the district office and also worked closely with the Witness, Nurture, and Stewards Commissions of District Board in the outreach ministries of the District.

The District Office will continue to be located within The Brethren Home complex, at 6035 York Road, New Oxford, PA 17350. As the restructuring and reduction of staff takes shape, revised office hours will be advertised.

Elizabeth Keller to Resign from Bethany Seminary

Bethany Seminary announces that Elizabeth Keller, director of admissions, is resigning as of November 25, 2011. A master of divinity graduate of Bethany in 2008, she began serving the Seminary as interim director of admissions during her final year of study in 2007-2008. She has held the position of director of admissions since July 1, 2008.

During Keller's tenure, semiannual Campus Visit Days were established, giving many prospective students the experience of campus life, and admissions promotional and resource materials were expanded and updated. The Seminary also experienced its largest incoming class in more than a decade during the fall of 2009.

The Idaho and Western Montana District

The Idaho and Western Montana District is seeking candidates for the position of District Executive. This is a half-time position that could be filled by an individual or a team. It is available January 1, 2012. This District is comprised 6 congregations in Idaho; currently only in Idaho - Boise Valley, Bowmant, Fruitland, Mountain View, Nampa, and Twin Falls. Camp Wilber Stover, the district camp, is located at New Meadows, Idaho.

Interested and qualified persons may apply for this position by sending a letter of interest and a resume via e-mail to: A position description is available upon request. Applicants are requested to contact 3 or 4 persons who are willing to provide a letter of reference. Upon receipt of the resume the individual will be sent a Candidate profile that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. Application deadline: September 1, 2011

Bethany Theological Seminary

The Institutional Advancement Department at Bethany Theological Seminary seeks a full-time administrative assistant. Critical required skills include the ability to multitask, knowledge of computerized record keeping and communication systems, written communication, maintaining confidentiality, working collegially with department staff (who often work from remote locations), and interacting with the public in person and on the phone.

Knowledge and appreciation of the breadth of Church of the Brethren membership and organizational structure is highly desirable. Starting date is as soon as suitable arrangements can be made. Assessment of resumes and interviewing will commence as soon as applications are received and will continue until the position is filled.

Please submit inquiries, or letter of application and resume, to Lowell Flory, Executive Director of Institutional Advancement, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374,, 765-983-1805. Detailed position description is available on request.

Bethany Theological Seminary announces an opening for the full-time position of director of admissions with a starting date in October of 2011. The director of admissions will be responsible for a wide range of student recruitment activities, including: taking the lead to implement a recruitment plan, working as a team member in recruitment and marketing activities, representing the Seminary at off-campus events related to recruitment, conducting interviews, designing creative presentations for small and large group settings, and developing relationships with prospective students and church and college constituents. The work will include significant travel to visit students, attend camps, and conferences, etc.

Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree; a seminary degree is preferred. Familiarity with and an understanding of the Church of the Brethren is required. Two to five years professional experience in recruitment and marketing is valuable, and a career field of working with people is required. Experience in communications technology and multicultural recruitment is a plus.

Interested individuals are invited to submit a letter of application and resume to: Executive Director of Student and Business Services, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374 Application review will begin on August 15, 2011. Applications will continue to be accepted until the position is filled.

Brethren Benefit Trust

Brethren Benefit Trust has an opening for a Programmer Analyst and Technology Support Specialist. It is a full-time salaried position based in Elgin, Ill., for a not-for-profit, faith-based organization that provides Pension, Insurance, and Foundation services for 6,000 individuals and client organizations nationwide.

The primary responsibility is to develop and maintain a working knowledge of all IT systems; handle technology support requests from staff; write, analyze, review, and rewrite programs as well as maintain current computer programs; conduct trial runs; write documentation of programmed applications; provide backup for the Director of Operations for Information Technology; and complete other duties assigned by the Director.

Please send a letter of interest, résumé, three professional references, and salary-range expectation to Donna March at 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, or For questions or a position description, please call 847-622-3371.

Brethren Bits: Reflections, Milestones and More
  • What are we to say? Reflections on Annual Conference by Joshua Brockway, director, spiritual life & discipleship

    The Church of the Brethren now holds within it that same paradox-a confession of God's presence and absence. Some mourn the actions of the gathering, still others proclaim victory, and all decry the violence done to another through a threat of death.

    In between lamenting absence and celebrating presence is the question of the ages: What is God working within us in these days? That is the question of a sage to seeker, or a spiritual director to companion. That is the question for us as we consider being the church in the wake of Grand Rapids. The entire essay can be seen at

  • The BVS Summer Orientation Unit 293 met at the New Windsor Service Center from June 12 to July 1, completing their training and eagerly anticipating their next exciting and rewarding BVS adventure. The eleven participants have been assigned to their posts in Europe, Japan, and various locations in the United States.

    The United States assignments are Elizabeth Heiny of Long Beach, Calif., to Casa de Esperanza de los Ninos, Houston, Tex.; Vanessa Jacik of Hamburg, Germany, to Bridgeway in Lakewood, Colo.; Lina Berger of West Salem, Ohio, to San Antonio, Tex., Catholic Worker; Kailynn Clark of Yellow Creek CoB in New Enterprise, Pa., to Brethren Disaster Ministries in New Windsor, Md.; Charles Carney of Kansas City, Kans., to Companion Ministries in Kansas City, Kans.; Andreas Nowottny of Stuttgart, Germany, to Abode Services in Fremont, Calif. Rachel Buller of Comer, Ga., is going to Meeting Ground in Elkton, Md., and then to Asian Rural Institute in Tochigi-ken, Japan And going to Europe are Julianne Funk Deckard of Hickory, N.C., to Small Steps in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovia; Samantha Carwile of Anderson, Ind., CoB to Quaker Cottage in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Courtney Klosterman of Gilbert, Ariz., to Quaker Cottage in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Katarina Eller of Ephrata, Pa., CoB to San Antonio, Tex., Catholic Worker and then to Brot und Rosen in Hamburg, Germany.

  • Pulaski County, Virginia Tornado Recovery: Preparations are well underway to open a tornado recovery project in Pulaski County, Va., later this summer. Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM) will be engaged in 4 new rebuilds in the towns of Pulaski and Draper. The project is in response to two devastating tornadoes that damaged more than 250 homes and destroyed dozens of others on April 8.

  • Ashland City, Bellevue (Brentwood), Tennessee Flood Recovery. As much as 20 inches of water was dumped on Tennessee over three days in May 2010, submerging thousands of homes in the worst flood in Tennessee history. BDM first opened a rebuilding project based in Ashland City on January 30, 2011. A second project opened the first week of June, with much of the work being done in Bellevue.

  • Emergency Disaster Fund grants $4,000 to Church World Service. In response to flooding in Angola, this grant will support the work of Church World Service in assisting approximately 2,000 families by providing food, supplies for flood cleanup, and seeds and tools to restore farming and self-reliance.

  • Annual Conference Lost and Found: A valuable bracelet was found at Annual Conference in Grand Rapids and was never claimed. The owner can contact the Annual Conference office, describe the bracelet and arrange for its return. 800-323-8039, x229 or

  • Districts holding their annual meetings in August: Southern Plains District Conference is at Roanoke (La.) Church of the Brethren on Aug. 4-6; Western Plains District Conference will be at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren on Aug. 5-7. Michigan District Conference will be at Winding Creek Wesleyan Conference Center in Hastings, Mich., on Aug. 12-14.

  • Missouri and Arkansas District Conference is at Windermere Conference Center in Roach, Mo., on Sept. 9-10. Three districts will meet on Sept. 16-17: Northern Indiana District Conference at Middlebury (Ind.) Church of the Brethren; Southern Pennsylvania District Conference at Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; and West Marva District Conference at Moorefield (W.Va.) Church of the Brethren.

  • Two district conferences take place on the weekend of Sept. 23-25: Oregon and Washington District Conference is at Camp Koinonia in Cle Elum, Wash., on Sept. 23-25; South Central Indiana District Conference will meet at Logansport (Ind.) Church of the Brethren on Sept. 24.

  • Brethren Theological Training Academy in Spain: The Church of the Brethren has had a presence in Spain for at least ten years, and last year several delegations of U.S. Brethren visited Spain to meet with the Brethren there. The church leaders in Spain have formally requested to be recognized by the Church of the Brethren in the United States. Earlier this spring, pastors Fausto Carrasco and Daniel D'Oleo submitted to executive director of Global Mission Partnerships, Jay Wittmeyer, a proposal for theological training. Although formal recognition of the church in Spain has not yet occurred, Wittmeyer has given permission to begin this training program. However, because there has been no formal recognition of these churches, funds were not permitted to be designated to the training program. Jeff Boshart contacted both Brethren World Missions and Brethren Mission Fund (BMF) to see if they would consider jointly sponsoring the first year of theological training for Spain. The expenses for this training for 2011 (for two people) would be $4,200. The BMF committee agreed to contribute a one-time gift of $2,100 toward this work, with the monies being channeled through the Global Mission Partnerships, a ministry of the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren.

  • The World Hunger Auction will be held at the Antioch Church of the Brethren on Saturday, August 13th at 9:30 a.m. The auction includes the sale of crafts, quilts, toys, produce, baked and canned goods, special services and much more. Come early for the best selection. Let the highest bidder win, for doing what we can opens the door for God to do much more. The total amount raised in all the World Hunger Auction events in 2010 totaled $55,254.17 which is approximately $5,000 more than last year. For more information go to

  • West Marva District native interns at the White House. Robby May, of Cumberland, Md., and formerly of Westernport, Md., is interning at the White House this summer in the Office of Public Engagement, responsible for building relationships with advocacy groups and non-governmental organizations. His parents are Diane and Walter May; and Diane is pastor of Westernport (Md.) Church of the Brethren.

    Robby is in his third year of teaching at KIPP Gaston College Preparatory in rural Gaston, N.C., instructing political science, economics, and vocal music. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in social services and secondary education at Frostburg State University and a Master of Science degree in teaching, learning, and curriculum from Drexel University. He believes this summer's internship at the White House has taught him that people are needed in the trenches to work for social justice and "the changes we wish to see" in the world.

  • Church World Service Elkhart Office issued a report of Blanket + donor churches that contributed $3,000 or more to the CWS Blanket + program during the calendar year 2010. Two Virginia churches are listed in the report: Bethlehem Church of the Brethren Boones Mill, Virginia, Donation amount: $7,911.00 Bridgewater Church of the Brethren Bridgewater, Virginia, Donation amount: $5,110.00

    Church World Service Blankets + and Kits programs are critical aspects of the immediate relief that disaster victims need. The contributions made by the participating congregations enable CWS to extend a blanket of warmth and protection to victims of disaster at home and abroad.

  • A Special Milestone: Marie Frantz, a member of the Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Ft. Wayne, Indiana celebrates her 100th birthday on August 7, 2011.

  • Song & Story Fest could be described as one of the best kept secrets of the Church of the Brethren. The event held on June 26 - July 2, 2011, marked the 15th Annual Song & Story Fest and the first time held in the great state of Michigan. Song and Story Fest, sponsored by On Earth Peace is an intergenerational family camp for those who enjoy a wide variety of musical styles and storytelling as part of their spiritual worship and growth. Next year's annual fest will be held July 1 -7, 2012. At this time, the site has not yet been determined.

  • Bridgewater College Receives Disc Golf Course as Alumni Gift. Teed off at your golf performance? If so, say bye-bye to the traditional birdie and join Bridgewater College on July 30 when it completes its new 9-basket course for disc golf - also known as Frisbee golf. In the morning hours of July 30, Bridgewater students and faculty will assemble the disc baskets at each hole. The course should be open for play in the afternoon.

    The course was donated to Bridgewater College by members of the class of 2010. Class president Zack Guida of Bristol, R.I., said the idea to create a disc golf course at the college grew out of a pastime in which he and other students would throw Frisbees at random objects, which substituted for baskets.

    The class of 2010 supported the idea with donations, and Bridgewater College faculty and staff helped push the project through the administrative process with the town of Bridgewater. Guida noted that the course is open to the public as well as the campus community.

  • "If you love teaching, this is the best place you can possibly teach," says John Deal, assistant professor of economics at Manchester College. Praise from Deal and other faculty and staff members helped convince The Chronicle of Higher Education to place Manchester on its "Honor Roll of 2011 Great Colleges to Work For."

    The Honor Roll, in The Chronicle, is based on a survey of nearly 44,000 employees at 310 colleges and universities. Only 42 of The Chronicle's 2011 Great Colleges made the Honor Roll. Manchester receives high marks from its faculty and staff in six areas.

    This is Manchester's second year on The Chronicle's "Great Colleges to Work For" roster in the tenure category. "You know exactly what they are looking for so nothing comes as a surprise," said Deal, who achieved tenure status this spring.

  • Students and two recent graduates from Manchester College will create an economic index to help Wabash County woo business and industry. The start-up project - underwritten by a $16,000 grant from Ball Brothers Foundation Venture Fund - will serve as a model for other rural areas, said John Deal, chair of the College's economics program. The full news release with links at:

  • Manchester College is a leader among the nation's colleges and universities for its volunteerism, service learning and civic engagement. For the fifth year in a row, the school is on the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. Link to the story on the website:

  • Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village near Boonsboro, Md., hosts its seventh Annual Summer Festival on Saturday, Aug. 6, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The family fun includes children's games, face painting, a petting zoo, inflatable's play area, arts and crafts vendors, a magician, and a food and bake sale. For more information contact Kathy Neville, festival chair, at 301-671-5005, or go to

  • A Youth and Young Adults Peace Retreat is offered at Camp Mount Hermon near Tonganoxie, Kan., in Western Plains District on Aug. 12-14. Download a brochure at or contact the District Office at 620-241-4240 The event is billed as a historic Peace Retreat with leadership from staff of On Earth Peace and Bethany Theological Seminary. It is being created along the lines of the original Peace Institute led by Dan West on June 24-July 4, 1948. During this time, the youth, with the help of their leaders, built the fireplace in the dining hall of the camp, along with the bell tower. It is sponsored by the Western Plains District Witness Commission.

  • The 100th Anniversary celebration for Schoolfield Church of the Brethren in Danville, Va., will be Aug. 13-14. During a portion of its history, the congregation's name was changed to Danville, First Church of the Brethren. At the 2009 Virlina District Conference, approval was given for the name Schoolfield to once again be used. Celebration activities include a cookout on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. for members, former members, friends, and the district. On Sunday morning, worship at 10 a.m. will feature a message from Curtis English, pastor of the Danville, Emmanuel Church, and David K. Shumate will bring words of greeting and reflection from Virlina District. A covered dish meal will follow.

  • Peace Covenant Church of the Brethren in Durham, N.C., will celebrate its new congregational status with special services on Sunday, Aug. 21. Bob Gross of On Earth Peace will be the keynote speaker for both the 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. services.

  • An all-day Fall Foliage and Mother Churches Bus Tour is scheduled in Virlina District on Oct. 15. Tickets are $40, thanks to contributors to a matching gift challenge. The history tales of district executive David Shumate and reports at the six stops will be recorded by videographer David Sollenberger. A copy of the DVD will be made available to each participant. Copies will be for sale later via the District Resource Center. Mother churches highlighted on the tour: Peters Creek in Roanoke, Va.; Daleville in Botetourt County; Topeco in Floyd County; Spruce Run in West Virginia; Fraternity in North Carolina; and Germantown Brick in Franklin County. Ticket purchases may be made through the District Resource Center 540-362-1816 or 800-847-5462.

  • Heritage Fair 30th Anniversary: It's not too early to start planning for Heritage Fair on Saturday, September 24, reports Camp Blue Diamond. It is the hope that all 55 churches of Middle Pennsylvania District will participate in some way as the camp celebrates the 30th anniversary of its annual fair. The emphasis will be on Brethren heritage. The Heritage Fair proceeds support the ministries of Middle Pennsylvania District and Camp Blue Diamond.

  • The Campaign ... a nationwide effort enabling millions of gardeners nationwide to donate excess garden produce to a local food pantry. More than 4,000 food pantries can now receive fresh produce from local growers. However, there are more than 33,500 food pantries in America, so many are still missing the opportunity. Gardeners across America are now harvesting food from their gardens and many are donating to pantries, but many more are not yet able to donate to a local pantry.

    While food pantries nationwide are begging for help, gardeners nationwide are looking to help a pantry. can bring them together... but only if the food pantry is listed in the registry. wants to share this information with all of the food pantries/shelves/closets/cupboards/banks. Register

Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Contributors include Jennifer Williams, Don Knieriem, Sue Snyder, Chris Herlinger, Adam Pracht, Julia Wheeler, Jordon Blevins, Nancy Miner, Jane Yount, Ed Groff, Jeri S. Kornegay, and John Javed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Open Roof Award is presented to Oakton Church of the Brethren.

Mark 2:3-4 (the story of people breaking through a roof to bring a paralyzed man to Jesus) was the inspiration for the creation of the Open Roof Award in 2004, established to recognize a congregation or district in the Church of the Brethren that has made great strides in its attempt to serve, as well as be served by, people with disabilities. This year’s recipient, Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va., Mid-Atlantic District, exemplifies both of these aspects of service.

The award was presented during the meeting of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board Meeting prior to Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich. The award was presented by Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries, and Heddie Sumner, a member of the Disabilities Ministry. Paula Mendenhall received the award on behalf of the Oakton congregation.

The broadness with which the Oakton faith community has defined "disability," recognizing that each of us is less than whole in some way, is exceptional. Following are just a few of their ministries, both within and outside of the church:

Upon hiring a new secretary with memory issues, the church worked with the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services to provide training and basic workplace accommodations. An extensive training manual was developed, with detailed checklists for complicated tasks. Church members are encouraged to follow up by e-mail on all work requests.

The Oakton church also coordinates with county services to provide volunteer work for disabled persons, including stuffing and folding bulletins each week.

Mentoring and intervention assistance have been provided on an as-needed basis for persons with various levels of emotional and social disability. This includes tutoring, behavior counseling, assistance with legal issues, and emergency housing during family conflicts.

Sunday school teachers and attendees have been educated and accommodations have been provided for a student in the faith community with a hearing impairment. Children learn to speak clearly and face-on when interacting with their peer. During storytelling, this student often holds and reads the story picture, and is also given the option of a non-singing area (with others) during music practice.

A weekday Bible study is held at the home of a parent with a disabled infant since medical issues prevent the parents from coming to church. Church members also provide respite care as needed for medical appointments.

In an ongoing effort to make the facility and worship more physically accessible, Oakton has added an elevator and ramps, ADA-compliant restrooms, and has created several wheelchair spaces in the sanctuary by shortening pews. Large-print bulletins, hymnals, and Bibles are available; wireless hearing assistance electronics are provided upon request including a cochlear-implant T-loop.

This is just a sampling of the many ways Oakton Church of the Brethren has carefully assessed the needs of its congregation and expanded its collective way of thinking to encourage all to serve and be served. In recognition of the congregation’s clear focus on abilities rather than disabilities, we congratulate them on this much-deserved award.

-- Donna Kline is director of the Church of the Brethren Deacon Ministry.

Interfaith coalition says houses of worship cannot cover cuts to poverty programs.

An interfaith coalition of religious leaders has launched a new campaign to encourage policymakers to maintain a robust US commitment to domestic and international poverty programs. The group includes Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger.

To kick off the campaign, the leaders sent letters this week to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, stating that "People who are served by government program--those who are poor, sick, and hungry, older adults, children, and people with disabilities--should not bear the brunt of the budget-cutting burden."

The coalition is concerned that the Administration and Congress are enacting a budget deal that will place an undue burden on the poor "while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice."

More than 25 heads of communion and national religious organizations are taking part. The campaign announcement featured leaders of the National Council of Churches, Church World Service, Presbyterian Church (USA), Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and Islamic Society of North America.

The 18-month public policy campaign will urge Congress and the Administration to exempt programs that assist at-risk families and children in the US and abroad from budget cuts. Among other actions it will include a daily prayer vigil on the front lawn of the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C., near the US Capitol. Led by a different religious organization each day at 12:30 p.m. (eastern) the vigil will continue throughout the budget negotiations.

The letters from the religious leaders make it clear that religious groups would be unable to make up the difference in funding if the government further cuts or eliminates assistance programs. They warn that without a sustained federal commitment to federal- and state-run assistance programs, religious organizations and houses of worship, while doing their best, cannot be the sole support for the country’s most vulnerable.

(This article is excerpted from a National Council of Churches press release. Find more at

McPherson College group returns from Haiti with new perspective.

On a path in Haiti, Tori Carder found herself alone with the Haitians hosting the Global Enterprise Challenge team from McPherson College. Not knowing the language well, Carder began to simply hum the hymn "How Great Thou Art." All the Haitians around her joined in, and a connection was made beyond words.

The moment encapsulates a significant accomplishment of McPherson College’s Global Enterprise Challenge--building a relationship with the people of Haiti, and changing the students’ perspective on the world. After their journey to Haiti from May 30-June 6, Carder said now she noticed amenities she used to take for granted--such as running water and abundant food. "It’s harder to just go back to everyday life," the Eudora, Kan., sophomore said.

The road to Haiti started in Nov. 2010 for five McPherson (Kan.) College students, when the college challenged its students to take 10 days and come up with a sustainable venture to help the people of Haiti. In this "Global Enterprise Challenge," 30 students worked together in six assigned teams on thoughtful, creative proposals. The winning team members each won a scholarship and the opportunity to travel to Haiti.

The winning team consisted of Carder; Steve Butcher, sophomore, Atlantic, Iowa; Nate Coppernoll, freshman, Stillman Valley, Ill.; Melisa Grandison, senior, Quinter, Kan; and Ryan Stauffer, senior, Milford, Neb. They were accompanied by Kent Eaton, provost, and Ken Yohn, associate professor of history. Their winning concept--called "Beyond Isles"--was to create a community market that would incorporate a physical market on the ground in Haiti as well as open up global markets through the Internet.

After arriving in Haiti, however, the plan changed. The team landed in the earthquake-damaged capital of Port-au-Prince, then traveled over land and by boat to the community of Aux Plaines on Tortuga Island, where the Church of the Brethren has a local church. A member of the Aux Plaines community is now a member of the Church of the Brethren in Florida, and she acted as a guide during the team’s time in Haiti.

In Aux Plaines, it became apparent that the people of Haiti had greater immediate needs and that substantial improvements in infrastructure would be necessary to make Beyond Isles a reality. In meeting those immediate needs, the students helped the Haitian community to dig out a pond, worked with children in the local school, and built connections.

Eaton said the team gained a clearer understanding of the complexity of the needs in the Aux Plaines community, and that the relationships that developed would be critical in future work on Tortuga Island. "Sharing shovels and space together, it was a way to say, ‘This project is so important, we want to help you with it,’" he said. "‘We’re willing to get up to our knees in mud to help you with it.’ It forms the foundation for a significant relationship."

Yohn said that because of the complexities in Haiti, it was hard to make general statements. "You find the human condition is amplified--it’s writ large," he said. "At the same time you have this sense of poverty, there’s also this sense of nobility."

Everywhere he went in Haiti, Yohn said, he felt like the sun was rising--that the potential for improvement was just on the horizon.

-- Adam Pracht is coordinator of development communications for McPherson College.

Church of the Brethren pastor arrested, relinquishes credentials.

Dennis L. Brown, who has served since Nov. 2006 as interim pastor and then pastor of Ivester Church of the Brethren in Grundy Center, Iowa, was arrested July 8. He is charged with sexual abuse in the third degree.

A document obtained from the clerk of the court’s office in Bremer County alleges that Brown traveled to the Waverly area in May to meet a 15-year-old victim, whom he contacted over the Internet, and that he allegedly performed a sex act with the victim. The document also includes a police report alleging that he confessed to the police. Iowa newspapers report Brown remains in jail on a $50,000 bond.

The denomination’s ethics process for ministerial misconduct was started after receiving the news of the arrest, according to Mary Jo Flory-Steury, executive director of the Church of the Brethren Ministry Office. The Ministry Office has been working with the congregation and Northern Plains District.

The congregation placed Brown on immediate leave from his pastoral duties after hearing of his arrest, and last evening acted to terminate his employment. The district will take action to accept the surrendering of his ordination credentials and therefore terminate the ordination.

Flory-Steury said that the Ministry Office acts very quickly in such a situation, and with care for every person involved. "We are doing our due diligence," she said. "We are paying attention to our ecclesiastical process."

International Day of Prayer for Peace organizers seek 200 churches.

International Day of Prayer for Peace is the day to start stopping violence and building reconciliation in your community. On Earth Peace is looking for at least 200 congregations and community groups--anywhere on the planet--to hold public prayers about community or global violence during the week of Sept. 21.

As of July 12, 42 congregations and community groups have registered with the campaign, including groups in South Africa, Nigeria, Sudan, the DR Congo, and across the United States. Eleven events so far are being organized by youth or young adults.

On Earth Peace nonviolence organizer Samuel Sarpiya reflects: "Since Alexander Mack, our mandate as the Church of the Brethren is to be peacemakers--not to just sit idly by and think thoughts about peace, or stay out of things but to step in. In a generation that is marred with so much violence, we must unite our voices and our hands to work together to stop violence and bring reconciliation. We’re calling on the church to step up, to make this a distinctive and a declaration of who we are as Brethren in this time."

Registration is free and online at

-- Matt Guynn is program director for On Earth Peace.

Next church webinar is on ‘Befriending a New Vision.’

"Befriending a New Vision" is the title of the next Church of the Brethren webinar scheduled for Sept. 27 and 29. Roger Shenk will share from his experience of walking with a congregation through discovery and renewal while honoring its tradition. Shenk is pastor of Bahia Vista Mennonite Church, a 60-year old church in Sarasota, Fla., that, in 2009, began to take bold yet thoughtful steps in revitalizing its approach to ministry.

The topic will connect with many leaders and congregational members as a candid discussion about leading an established church through the process of renewing itself without dishonoring the past or the people who still find meaning in it. Relevant subjects will including the roles of prayer and preaching, how to befriend new people who question doctrines that Brethren identify around, helping people navigate the fears of displacement, and the principle of "the Fridge."

Webinar times are Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 3:30-5 p.m. (eastern) or 12:30-2 p.m. (Pacific); and Thursday, Sept. 29, at 8-9:30 p.m. (eastern) or 5-6:30 p.m. (Pacific). The content repeats on Thursday. A continuing education credit of 0.1 is available for those who participate in the live session, through the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.

Go to For more information contact Stan Dueck, director of Transforming Practices for the Church of the Brethren, 717-335-3226 or

BBT Board calls new leadership following resignation of its chair.

Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) Board chairwoman Deb Romary unexpectedly resigned from the BBT Board of Directors on July 5, immediately following the action by the Annual Conference delegate body on two business items related to issues of human sexuality. She had served as chairwoman of the BBT Board since July 2010. She was elected by the BBT Board in Nov. 2010 to serve a second four-year term; that election was affirmed on July 4 by the Annual Conference delegate body.

"It was with great sadness that I resigned from my position as chairwoman and a member of the Brethren Benefit Trust Board," she said in an interview on July 10. "However, factors beyond my control that impacted the work I was performing, as well as my family and the BBT Board and staff, made it imperative that I resign."

"With Deb's unexpected departure from the board, we have lost a capable leader as well as a friend," said Nevin Dulabaum, BBT president. "Deb helped shape many key decisions at BBT over the past four years, and she will be sorely missed."

The BBT Board met on July 6 for its regularly scheduled reorganization meeting, and called Karen Orpurt Crim to serve as board chairwoman for the next year. Ann Quay Davis was elected vice chairwoman and Nevin Dulabaum was elected Board secretary. The board also elected BBT's corporate officers: Nevin Dulabaum, president; Scott Douglas, vice president; John McGough, treasurer; and Donna March, secretary.

On July 4, John Waggoner was elected by the Annual Conference delegates to serve a four-year term on the BBT Board. He joined the meeting by phone and was welcomed by the board. The board also welcomed back Craig Smith, who was elected by Brethren Pension Plan members to serve a second four-year term.

In an interview on July 10, Karen Orpurt Crim said, "The BBT Board and staff give thanks for the four years of service and leadership Deb Romary gave to BBT. It is with sadness and regret that we accept her resignation from the BBT Board."

BBT's next two regularly scheduled board meetings are a conference call on Sept. 19 and a meeting in the Altoona, Pa., area on Nov. 18 and 19.

(This release was provided by Brethren Benefit Trust.)

Karn to direct buildings and grounds at New Windsor Service Center.

Gerald Karn will begin Aug. 1 in the position of director of Buildings and Grounds at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. He most recently was project manager and manager of housekeeping at Vindobona Nursing Home in Braddock Heights, Md.

In previous positions he has served as building engineer for the American Red Cross, Holland Laboratories, Rockville, Md., and plant operations/carpenter for Frederick (Md.) Memorial Hospital. He brings over 25 years in the field of facilities and facility management, managing multiple facilities, and complex remodeling and construction projects. His home is in Burkittsville, Md.

Williams named to new position at Bethany Seminary.

Jenny Williams has been named director of communications and alumni/ae relations at Bethany Theological Seminary as of July 1. Since coming to Bethany in 2008, she has held the position of advancement office coordinator and coordinator of congregational relations, working primarily with data management and communication to Churches of the Brethren and other donors.

Her new responsibilities will focus on strengthening Bethany's relationship with Church of the Brethren congregations and districts and with alumni/ae and other individuals through print and electronic media, programs for alumni/ae activities and involvement, and events that increase Bethany's visibility. She also will oversee data management for the Advancement Office. She previously served 14 years at McPherson (Kan.) College in the field of advancement.

From the Moderator: Charge to the 2011 Annual Conference.

Annual Conference moderator Tim Harvey, who will preside over the 2012 annual meeting in St. Louis, Mo., has issued a charge to the Church of the Brethren. His remarks were made at the closing worship service of the 2011 Conference. He invites open conversation with church members, pledging "that as I travel around the denomination over the coming months, I am willing to have any conversation with any person about any aspect of life and ministry." Following are the beginning paragraphs of his remarks. The full text is at or the moderator’s blog at

"On a chilly Sunday in November 1983, I was baptized at Bethel Church of the Brethren in Broadway, Va. This congregation has been my family’s home for several generations; the original church building (which no longer stands) was built on land donated by my great-great-great grandfather.

"Since that day, I’ve realized something about the nature of the church. On that November Sunday, I got all of you--and all of you got me. I like to joke about who got the better end of that bargain--I’m fairly certain it’s me.

"All joking aside, however, being called as moderator of the 2012 Annual Conference has made me realize the depth of the body of Christ. During this past year (and especially during the week at Grand Rapids) I’ve learned how deeply you love the church. That love for the church means that you also love me. I am humbled by that love and will do what I can to hold that with integrity.

"I’ve also learned that although we love the church, we have a lot of work to do--more than we expected--to learn what it means to love one another." (Read more at or

Brethren bits: Correction, remembrance, CDS to Minot, and more.
  • Correction: The Quilt Auction sponsored by the Association for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren offered two mini-quilts and five wall hangings, along with six paintings created by artist/pastor Dave Weiss to highlight the daily themes. The paintings brought $364.

  • If you have not yet registered for the 2011 National Older Adult Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C., on Sept. 5-9, now is the time to sign up and save $30. Register by mail or online at on or before July 22 for the reduced rate of $150 per person. All registrations postmarked or submitted after July 22 will be $180. Bus trips to NOAC also have been announced. The NOAC office has contact information for bus hosts for the following: Atlantic Northeast District (from Hershey, Pa.)--Bill Puffenberger; Atlantic Northeast (from Brethren Village)--Earl Ziegler; Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio--Ron McAdams; Southern Pennsylvania District--Glenn Kinsel; Western Plains District--David Fruth or Ed and June Switzer. Contact the NOAC office at 800-323-8039 ext. 302 or or go to for information about the conference.

  • Remembrance: Kaysa Joanne (Anderson) (McAdams) Meeks, a former treasurer and business manager at Bethany Theological Seminary, died July 1 after a struggle with cancer. She was residing at the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio. Born April 10, 1938, she grew up in Hartford City, Ind., and attended Ball State University. She was married to Larry McAdams from 1963-80 and lived in Tipp City, Ohio, until 1988. She worked for DAP Inc. and received her MBA from the University of Dayton. After graduation, she was promoted to production manager for DAP and relocated to Chicago, Ill. She then worked for Bethany Seminary and relocated with the school to Richmond, Ind., until retirement. On Jan. 12, 2002, she married Dan Meeks. She was a long time member of the Middle District Church of the Brethren (Good Shepherd) and Oakland Church of the Brethren in Bradford, Ohio. She is survived by her husband; daughter Pam McAdams-Belgar of Brookville, Ohio; son Tim McAdams of San Francisco, Calif.; stepdaughters Jenni (Rick) Phillips and Jane (Paul) Combs of Brookville; and grandchildren. A memorial celebration was held July 9 at Oakland Church of the Brethren. Memorial donations are received to Emmaus Community of Darke County, Oakland Church of the Brethren, and State of the Heart Hospice. Condolences may be sent to the family at

  • Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has been asked to deploy a team to Minot, N.D., to work in shelters there. The request came from the American Red Cross. Many families in Minot have lost their homes to severe flooding of the Souris River. "They are predicting that it will be a long term response through the end of October," reported Judy Bezon, associate director of Children’s Disaster Services. "We are gathering a team that will arrive on Monday."

  • The war in Afghanistan is the focus of this week’s Action Alert from the Church of the Brethren’s Peace Witness Ministries and advocacy officer Jordan Blevins. The alert responds to the adoption of a resolution against the war by Annual Conference. "As the resolution states, there are so many ways we can take action, beginning by being in prayer for all those impacted by the conflict. We can also extent our witness from prayer to action of our hands and feet.... Part of that is using our voices to advocate for policy changes, and changes that bring a responsible end to the war." The alert calls attention to an amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act: "Afghanistan Exit and Accountability Act" (HR 1735) that "calls on the Obama Administration to execute an immediate and responsible end to the war in Afghanistan," the alert said. Go to for a form to contact members of Congress to support and co-sponsor HR 1735.

  • Wayne Pence, pastor of Mountain View Fellowship Church of the Brethren in Shenandoah District, and his daughter Natalie represented the Church of the Brethren at a national gathering of Bread for the World in Washington, D.C., in June.

  • Red Oak Grove Church in Floyd County, Va., dedicates a new fellowship hall on July 17.

  • Brethren across the country are invited to the Fifth Annual Family Peace Camp at Camp Ithiel near Orlando, Fla., on Sept. 2-4 (Friday evening to Sunday noon) just before Labor Day. The resource leader is Peggy Gish, a Church of the Brethren member and member of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) who has just returned from three months in the Middle East. Her session topics, following the theme "Dare to Act for Peace," are: Truthtelling: Unmasking the Lies; Interrupting Violence through Accompaniment and Intervention; Rising above the Culture of Violence; Moving Beyond Our Action; and Visions and Dreams: Daring to Do the Impossible. The camp also includes morning devotions and worship, campfire, talent night, discussions, swimming, table games, music, and more. For information about the minimal costs for food and lodging, directions, and questions contact Phil Lersch at or 727-544-2911. Lersch is chair of the Atlantic Southeast District Action for Peace Team.

  • The Southeastern District of the Church of the Brethren holds its District Conference at Mars Hill (N.C.) College on July 22-24. Two districts hold meetings the following weekend, July 29-31: Northern Plains District at Camp Pine Lake in Eldora, Iowa, and Northern Ohio District at Ashland (Ohio) University.

  • Elizabethtown (Pa.) College Music Camp the week of July 10-16 has been collecting music instruments--new and used--to benefit students at Joplin (Mo.) High School whose community was ravaged by an EF5 tornado. Cash donations also were accepted at each performance.

  • Young Christians age 18-30 are invited to apply for a program addressing the links between environmental and socio-economic justice, jointly organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). "Youth for Eco-Justice" starts with a two-week training and immersion in the context of the international climate change negotiations (COP 17) in Durban, South Africa. The seminar will take place at the Glenmore Pastoral Centre in Durban from Nov. 26-Dec. 10. In the months following, participants will initiate and implement projects in their home countries. Postmark deadline for applications is Aug. 15. Download a brochure at The online application form is at

Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Judy Bezon, Jordan Blevins, Kim Ebersole, Carol Gardner, Tara Hornbacker, and Karin L. Krog.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Annual Conference attendee receives death threat

A credible death threat was received by an attendee of the 2011 Annual Conference, during the event held in Grand Rapids, Mich. The recipient of the threat is a gay person, and the threat made reference to the person's sexuality.

The person had been receiving harassing e-mail communications for about a year in advance of the Conference. Onsite in Grand Rapids, the victim received threatening notes slipped under the hotel room door. The nature of the threats escalated onsite.

A statement about the threat was shared with the whole Conference at the start of the extra evening business session on July 5, which had been made necessary by the length of time earlier in the day for Special Response discussions related to human sexuality.

General secretary Stan Noffsinger was called to the microphone to share the following statement, and Annual Conference moderator Robert E. Alley then led the body in prayer.

"When we come to Annual Conference we're a family and we have a concern related to a member of our family," Noffsinger said "When one person is affected, the Bible assures us that we all are affected. A gay person here at Annual Conference has received a credible death threat. We have contacted security, and the Grand Rapids police are involved in the investigation. We in the Leadership Team are grieved by this, especially if it is someone within our gathering who is responsible for the violence of this threat. This is not behavior that is acceptable within the Church of the Brethren and we want to be very clear that it will not be tolerated."

Police have been investigating both the e-mails and the threatening notes. To our knowledge no identification has been made of the perpetrator.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Delegates return Special Response business items, reaffirm 1983 paper on human sexuality.

The 2011 Annual Conference has acted on two business items related to issues of sexuality--"A Statement of Confession and Commitment" and "Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships"--which have been the subject of a two-year Special Response Process across the denomination.

The Conference approved the following recommendation from the Standing Committee of district delegates, and an amendment that added a sentence to that recommendation:

"In light of the Special Response process, as outlined by the 2009 paper 'A Structural Framework For Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues,' the Standing Committee recommends to the 2011 Annual Conference that 'A Statement of Confession and Commitment' and 'Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships' be returned. It is further recommended that the 2011 Annual Conference reaffirm the entire 1983 'Statement on Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective' and that we continue deeper conversations concerning human sexuality outside of the query process."

The final decision approved the recommendation to return both items of business to the sending bodies, and included the amendment made by James Myer, a leader in the Brethren Revival Fellowship.

The Standing Committee recommendation to return both items of business was put on the floor the morning of Tuesday, July 5, in Step 4 of the five Special Response steps with which the two business items have been processed. Myer was the first at the microphone with his amendment, the only one that was adopted by the delegate body.

Many more amendments and motions were made as the session extended into the afternoon business time, but all were rejected in a process in which the delegates were asked to vote whether or not to process each motion before discussion was allowed. Numerous points of order were called from the microphones, as well as questions of clarification, and challenges about how the Special Response business was conducted.

Special Response process
The five-step decision-making process for highly controversial business items is part of the Special Response Process set in motion by the decision of the 2009 Annual Conference to treat the two items of business using the "Structural Framework for Dealing with Strongly Controversial Issues." This is the first time that the five-step process has been used at an Annual Conference.

Steps 1 and 2 of the process during the evening business session on July 3 included an introduction by Annual Conference moderator Robert E. Alley, who presided. The Forms Reception Committee then presented its report summarizing findings of the hearings held across the 23 church districts over the past year. Members of Standing Committee presented their report and recommendation. Each report was followed by time for questions of clarification. (Find the Standing Committee report and recommendation and a link to the Forms Reception Committee report at

Step 3 was held in the next day's afternoon business session, in a "sandwich approach" that began with a time for statements of affirmation, then statements of concern or changes needed, and then more statements of appreciation.

Step 4 took place today beginning in the morning business session. The moderator reviewed the process and the temporary suspension of Robert's Rules of Order. Speeches from the floor were limited to one minute. The recommendation of Standing Committee was followed by a time when amendments and motions were made. Although Step 4 does not specify time for discussion of the recommendation as a whole, the moderator gave that opportunity before taking the final vote.

In Step 5, which followed the vote, the moderator gave a statement of closure, expressed appreciation to those who contributed to the process, and led the body in prayer.

Prayer was held throughout the five steps of the process. The moderator also reminded the delegates of the many people in the wider church who share concern about the Special Response business. "As we pray, let us be aware of all the prayers of people here and in distant places that surround us in our Conference," he told the delegate body. "Let those prayers connect you to the eternal One, the Holy One, the Almighty, and the Christ."
Presentation by Forms Reception Committee
The Forms Reception Committee, a subcommittee of Standing Committee, brought its 12-page report summarizing the Speical Response hearings that have been held across the denomination.

The committee made up of chair Jeff Carter, Ken Frantz, and Shirley Wampler, presented what they characterized as a qualitative as well as quantitative analysis of responses received during the process. "We wanted to model transparency" in providing the information, Carter said.

Responses were reported to the committee by means of standardized forms filled out by the note takers and facilitators of the hearings, which were organized by Standing Committee members in each district. Additional people responded via an online response option and the sending of letters, e-mail, and other communications. The committee said it gave greater weight to the responses received through hearings.

The committee handled over 1,200 pages of material, Carter reported, representing 6,638 people who took part in 121 hearings, which included 388 small group meetings.

"These hearings were characterized by respect," Frantz said as he reported the methodology of the committee in analyzing the responses in four areas: structural elements such as the way hearings were held, common themes and statements such as the tenor of conversation, contextual elements such as Brethren heritage and understandings, and statements of wisdom.

"We like numbers," Carter said, "but this is a qualitative study, meaning that it's very difficult to count votes when you're talking conversation."

He and the other committee members presented an analysis that about two-thirds of the Church of the Brethren supports the "Statement of Confession and Commitment," with about one-third rejecting it; and that about two-thirds want to return the "Query: Language on Same-Sex Covenantal Relationships," with about one-third wanting to accept it.

That finding was qualified by a number of others, including that the reasons for people's attitudes toward the two business items varied considerably; that "the majority of the denomination is in the middle," as Carter put it; that over half of the hearing groups were not of one mind; that many hearings focused instead on the 1983 statement on human sexuality; that there is general weariness with the conversation; and that great love for the church was expressed.

"The threat and fear of split is palpable," Frantz said. "Many of you cautioned against a vote that would create that split." Later during the time for questions he added, "There's a really strong steady desire to remain in unity with one another. It was very clear."

The Special Response Process itself was "a life-giving, thought-filled conversation," Carter said.

Following the reports, the Forms Reception Committee and Standing Committee received many affirmations for their work. Some questions of clarification asked particularly about the two-thirds, one-third analysis, and there were requests for additional data such as more information about the ages of people taking part in the hearings.
Decision to 'return'
In response to a question asked about what it means to "return" a business item, Conference secretary Fred Swartz answered that to recommend return is one of seven possible responses for Standing Committee to make to an item of new business.

To return an item may indicate several things, he said, among them that Standing Committee feels the concern has already been answered, or that the concern may not be appropriate, or that the concern has prompted another way of responding other than a simple yes or no. In this case, he told the delegates, Standing Committee feels the concern was answered in another way.

To return an item of business is not synonymous with rejection, he emphasized, adding that the Forms Reception Committee report indicates that both the query and statement served a valuable function.

Bob Kettering and Cathy Huffman were the Standing Committee members who presented the recommendation. Kettering explained that the committee is counseling congregations and districts to continue discussion and to refrain from forwarding queries about sexuality to Annual Conference. "At this moment there may be better and healthier seek the mind of Christ," he said.

Huffman responded to a question about whether the Standing Committee report, which advocates forbearance, means there should be no punitive response to congregations engaging in discussion of sexuality.

The Standing Committee report affirms relationship with one another, she responded. "As congregations we respect our differences," she said, giving examples of congregations that differ on women in pastoral leadership or participation of members in the military. She went on to add that congregations have freedom to follow the Spirit and to invite anyone to be part of them without fear of censure.
At the start of the extra evening business session at 9 p.m. on July 5, which had been made necessary by the length of time taken for Special Response discussion earlier in the day, a serious situation was shared with the Conference.

General secretary Noffsinger was called to the microphone to share the following statement:
"When we come to Annual Conference we're a family and we have a concern related to a member of our family. When one person is affected, the Bible assures us that we all are affected. A gay person here at Annual Conference has received a credible death threat. We have contacted security, and the Grand Rapids police are involved in the investigation. We in the Leadership Team are grieved by this, especially if it is someone within our gathering who is responsible for the violence of this threat. This is not behavior that is acceptable within the Church of the Brethren and we want to be very clear that it will not be tolerated."
The moderator then led the body in prayer.

Bob Krouse is chosen as moderator-elect, and more election results.

Bob Krouse, who was nominated from the floor, has been elected to the position of moderator-elect. He is a resident of Fredericksburg, Pa., and pastor of Little Swatara Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District. He will serve as moderator of the 2013 Annual Conference.

Additional election results:
Program and Arrangements Committee: Thomas Dowdy of Long Beach, Calif.

Bethany Theological Seminary trustees: representing the colleges - Jonathan Frye of McPherson, Kan.; representing the laity - D. Miller Davis of Westminster, Md.

Committee on Interchurch Relations: Torin Eikler of Morgantown, W.Va.

Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee: Herb High of Lancaster, Pa.

On Earth Peace Board: Patricia Ann Ronk of Roanoke, Va.

Brethren Benefit Trust Board: John Waggoner of Herndon, Va.

Mission and Ministry Board: Area 3 - Becky Rhodes of Roanoke, Va.; Area 4 - Jerry Crouse of Warrensburg, Mo.; Area 5 - W. Keith Goering of Wilson, Idaho.
Appointments confirmed by the Conference:
Mission and Ministry Board: Janet Wayland Elsea of Port Republic, Va.; Don Fitzkee of Manheim, Pa.; and Patrick C. Starkey of Roanoke, Va.

On Earth Peace Board: Madalyn Metzger of Bristol, Ind.; Louise Knight of Harrisburg, Pa.

Bethany Theological Seminary trustees: Gregory W. Geisert of Harrisonburg, Va.; David W. McFadden of N. Manchester, Ind.

Brethren Benefit Trust Board: Deb Romary of Fort Wayne, Ind.; Craig H. Smith of Elizabethtown, Pa.
Resolution on war in Afghanistan calls for withdrawal of combat troops.

The Annual Conference adopted a Resolution the War in Afghanistan. The resolution was received from the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board, which had approved it during a partial-day meeting on July 2. The board forwarded the resolution on Afghanistan immediately the same morning to the Standing Committee of district delegates for Annual Conference consideration.

The last time the Church of the Brethren spoke on Afghanistan was when the General Board issued a resolution after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The current resolution has been made in part because of encouragement from the National Council of Churches and ecumenical colleagues to provide a peace church response to the war in Afghanistan.

The resolution calls on the President and members of Congress to began an immediate withdrawal of all combat troops, and to instead invest resources into the development of the Afghan people and infrastructure.

A list of six other recommendations urge the Church of the Brethren to become more engaged in areas such as humanitarian aid, alternatives to violence, ministry to those affected by the war, interfaith and intercultural dialogue, and study, prayer, and action related to just peacemaking.

Congregational Life Ministries to facilitate revision of congregational ethics document.

In response to the "Guidelines for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Paper" query adopted in 2010, a study committee brought recommendations to this year's Annual Conference.

The committee recommended that the 1993 "Ethics in Congregations" paper be reviewed, revised, and updated. The revised document would also include guidelines and suggestions for a denominational process of accountability. The report recommends "that these revisions be facilitated by Congregational Life Ministries staff in collaboration with the Council of District Executives and the Office of Ministry."

Joshua Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship, presented the report. He remarked that although other denominations have long had policies regarding ministerial ethics, the Church of the Brethren may have been the first to adopt an ethics document for congregations. He also noted that going as far back in history as the book of Acts, Christians have met together to consider actions of faith and how to live out Christian values and principles.

A question from the floor concerned whether the revised and updated paper would come back to Annual Conference for approval. Brockway stated that it would come back for Conference action. He added that in the meantime, he expected a thorough process of consultation and review, which would take more than a year's time to accomplish.

Conference adopts query on climate change, returns query on proper decorum.

The Conference acted on two queries brought to the delegate body on Tuesday, July 5. The Conference returned the "Query: Proper Decorum" brought by Mountain Grove Church of the Brethren and Shenandoah District, and adopted the "Query: Guidance for Responding to the Changing of Earth's Climate" brought by Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren and Pacific Southwest District.

Proper decorum
Following the custom for the moderator-elect to handle one item of business, Tim Harvey presided over discussion of the query on proper decorum. This query petitioned the Annual Conference to have rules of proper decorum relating to persons' positions on issues before the Annual Conference.

The concern arose as for the past few years many people have been wearing things at Conference to signal their stance on contentious issues. The recommendation from Standing Committee was that the query "be returned with appreciation and that the district be referred to the section in the Annual Conference booklet entitled 'Accountability to One Another.' "

Responses from the floor included much discussion of the rainbow and black and white scarves being worn. Some people deplored them for being divisive, but comment was also given that they were helping stimulate good conversations between persons with different views. One delegate reminded the body of the biblical call to mutual submission and respect for one another.

Standing Committee's recommendation that the query be returned
was adopted on a voice vote.
Climate change
The query asked for Conference's position on climate change and for guidance about how individuals, congregations, and the denomination can take concrete action and offer leadership on this issue. Standing Committee's recommendation was that the query should "be adopted and that it be referred to the Washington Advocacy Office of the Global Mission Partnerships"--a program of the Church of the Brethren.

During debate, a couple of amendments were proposed but none were adopted. One would have provided more detail about how the Washington office would handle this assignment and asked that a progress report be made to a future Annual Conference. Another, which was determined to be a substitute motion, would have returned the query to the district. Several spoke in favor of it, most because they did not believe that human-caused global warming has been established as scientific fact. The substitute motion failed when it was put to a vote.

Work on the query had to be suspended for the dinner break and evening worship. Moderator Robert Alley told the delegates to return after worship at 9 p.m. for an unusual night session. After more discussion, the recommendation from Standing Committee was adopted without amendment.
Standing Committee accepts new vision statement for the decade.

In addition to its work to make recommendations on business coming before the Annual Conference, the Standing Committee of district delegates also accepted a new vision statement for the Church of the Brethren for this decade during its pre-Conference meetings in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The committee has recommended the new vision statement to the 2012 Annual Conference for adoption. In elections, the body named a new group of church representatives to the National Council of Churches (NCC). An appeal was dealt with in closed session.

Vision statement
The denominational vision statement for the decade was brought by a task team that has been working on its formulation, and was presented by several members of the group: Jim Hardenbrook, Bekah Houff, David Sollenberger, and Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries.

The statement reads: "Through Scripture, Jesus calls us to live as courageous disciples by word and action: To surrender ourselves to God, to embrace one another, to express God's love for all creation." It was presented in a booklet that included related resources, a study guide suitable for use by congregations, and ideas for how to implement the statement.

Two Standing Committee members, Ron Nicodemus and James R. Sampson, were appointed to the task team to help prepare for presentation of the statement in 2012. The vision statement also will be sent to the church agencies for their planning prior to the 2012 Conference.
Ron Beachley, Audrey deCoursey, and Phil Jones were elected Church of the Brethren representatives to the NCC. Also, new members were named to committees of the Standing Committee: George Bowers, Mark Bowman, Charles Eldredge, and Bob Kettering were named to the Nominating Committee; David Crumrine, Melody Keller, and Victoria Ullery were named to the Appeals Committee.
Board sends Afghanistan resolution to Conference, sets reduced budget parameter for 2012.

In a partial-day meeting on July 2, the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board approved a resolution on Afghanistan that was sent for adoption to the Conference (see above story), sharply reduced the budget for 2012, heard reports, and participated in presentation of this year's Open Roof Award.

The board approved a parameter for the 2012 budget that requires reductions of $638,000 to achieve a balanced budget in the Core Ministries Fund. Approval of the detailed, line-item budget of $4.9 million will be delayed beyond the usual October timeline in order to accomplish the reductions. A need to reduce the 2012 budget had been anticipated by staff and board doing financial planning over the past year.

Among other business items, the board:
  • heard reports from Ruthann Knechel Johansen, who represented the church at the International Ecumenical Peace Conference in Jamaica; and board member Andy Hamilton, who participated in a delegation to celebrate the completion of 100 homes in Haiti;

  • received an update on development of the Ministerial Leadership paper;

  • participated in honoring Oakton (Va.) Church of the Brethren, which received this year's Open Roof Award for its efforts in the area of disabilities.
Ben Barlow is beginning a two-year term as board chair, with Becky Ball-Miller serving as chair-elect. Other members selected for the Executive Committee were Andy Hamilton and Pam Reist.

Ministry of Reconciliation offers post-Conference version of insight session.

It is not too late to participate in the "What Have We Learned from the Special Response Process" insight session offered by On Earth Peace and the Ministry of Reconciliation.

Because the extra business session called for Tuesday night at 9 p.m. affected attendance for the insight session, MoR program coordinator Leslie Frye is offering a post-Annual Conference version. The purpose will be to give participants an opportunity to share what they would like to carry forward and what they would like to leave behind from the Special Response process church has been engaged in for the past two years.

All are invited to share their reflections on the process (not the outcome, just the process) on a form that is available from Frye, and return it in the next few weeks. Results will be compiled and shared.

Contact Leslie Frye, program coordinator, On Earth Peace Ministry of Reconciliation,, 620-755-3940.

Offering the table.

Offerings taken during worship services are often assumed to be only money, but during the July 2 worship service of Annual Conference, attendees offered much more than that.

As a way of tangibly "extending Jesus table," moderator Robert Alley suggested a special opportunity for Brethren to offer gifts other than their dollars to people around the world. So a special offering of comforters and school supply kits was taken during worship, and many people participated.

After the traditional offering bags passed each row, a quiet parade of worshipers made their way forward. As the bell choir beautifully chimed the tune of "It Is Well with My Soul," grandmothers offered comforters, children offered crayons and notebooks in canvas bags, some families offered boxes of kits, and all types of Brethren offered what they were led to give.

Photos of Church of the Brethren ministries in action skimmed across the mega screens as people lined up to give. The pile quickly grew to a mountain, and just as tangible as the gifts was the joy that filled the room.

These unique offerings will be collected at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., and distributed by Church World Service to families who need them, extending Jesus' table around the world.

Conference by the numbers.
  • 3,200 final registration number for the 2011 Annual Conference. This number includes 861 delegates as well as the nondelegates who attended.

  • 388 peak number of online viewers of Annual Conference webcasts, during the Tuesday afternoon discussion of Special Response business. Other points of highest participation in the webcasts were the Sunday evening business session Step 1 in the Special Response process (348), and the Tuesday morning session Step 4 of the process (346). Peak viewership for worship was on Tuesday, with 294 viewers.

  • 185 people at the new delegate orientation.

  • 150 walkers and runners in the annual 5K Fitness Challenge sponsored by Brethren Benefit Trust, on Sunday morning, July 3. Nathan Hosler was the overall winner for the second year in a row, coming in with a time of 17:24. Chelsea Goss finished at 21:43, claiming the first spot for female runners. Don Shankster was the first-place male finisher of the walking race with a time of 33:08. Paula Mendenhall took the first-place female walker with a time of 36:30.

  • 2 new fellowship and 2 new congregations welcomed by Annual Conference: Renacer Roanoke, Va.; Peace Covenant Church, in the "triangle" area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, N.C.; Light of the Gospel Fellowship, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Mountain Dale Church in West Marva District.

  • $53,352.33 received in the Conference offerings during worship, in a preliminary number yet to be confirmed by the Conference office.

  • 4 mini quilts and quilted wall hangings auctioned for $5,085, to raise funds for hunger and the Global Food Crisis Fund.

  • $3,240 raised in a silent auction of the district comforters that were brought as an offering during the first evening of the Conference. The original idea was to donate the comforters to Church World Service (CWS), but after seeing their beauty and quality Conference-goers suggested that a silent auction could raise the money to buy many more blankets for CWS. The total raised by the silent auction will buy 648 CWS blankets.

  • 314 pounds of food representing 241 and a half meals given in Monday evening's offering of food to the West Michigan Food Bank. The junior and senior high groups helped to collect the offering and load it for transfer to the food bank.

  • about 10 denominational staff, family members, and friends 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. Bicyclers included Nevin and Maddie Dulabaum, Becky Ullom, LeAnn Wine, Debbie Noffsinger, Anna Emrick, John Carroll, Joe Liu, Jeff Lennard, and Randy Miller, among others.

  • 15th of October is the deadline to submit recipes for a new Brethren Press project. In an announcement titled "What's Cooking?" Conference-goers found out that a new "Inglenook Cookbook" is coming and Brethren Press needs recipes to include in it. Since 1901, the "Inglenook Cookbook" has been a tradition passed from generation to generation. The new cookbook project looks to follow in that same tradition by assembling the best recipes from today's kitchens. Submit recipes by Oct. 15, and help continue the tradition. To find more visit The "Inglenook Cookbook": live simply, eat well.

  • $1,000 donated by generous supporters of Brethren Press to provide gift certificates to Conference-goers this year to stock church or camp libraries. Four $250 gift certificates were won by Ridgely (Md.) Church of the Brethren, Northview Church of the Brethren in Indianapolis, Ind.; Elm Street Church of the Brethren in Lima, Ohio; and Camp Alexander Mack.