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.

Michael Wagner resigns as Sudan peace worker.

Michael Wagner, peace worker with the Church of the Brethren in southern Sudan, has resigned as of May 20 after nearly a year in the seconded position with the Africa Inland Church-Sudan, a member of the Sudan Council of Churches. He has taken a position as field coordinator for the John Dau Foundation, in Duk Payuel in the State of Jonglei, South Sudan.

Before joining the Church of the Brethren, Wagner served a two-year term with the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso, West Africa, in an enterprise development program. Prior to that, he was a life insurance auditor in Indianapolis, Ind.

For the peace of the city: International Day of Prayer for Peace 2011.

On Earth Peace is kicking off its fifth annual campaign organizing community groups and church congregations to participate in the International Day of Prayer for Peace (IDPP) on Sept. 21. The scripture theme for the 2011 campaign is "Seek the peace of the city--for in its peace, you will find peace" (Jeremiah 29). The IDPP is an initiative of the World Council of Churches, related to the United Nations observance of an international day of peace.

In 2011, On Earth Peace is seeking 200 faith and community groups around the world to plan public events on or near Sept. 21. While anyone is invited to sign up, On Earth Peace is especially seeking youth and young adults to organize gatherings, events, services, or vigils as part of IDPP.

Registration means committing to organize a public prayer event focused on violence during the week of Sept. 21. An introductory video, organizing resources, and online registration for the International Day of Prayer for Peace are available at

"While nations around the world stagger under economic devastation, endless war, and corrupt politics, and while rural and urban communities alike fail to thrive, the International Day of Prayer for Peace can be a doorway into eliminating violence and bringing reconciliation in your community and our world," said On Earth Peace program director Matt Guynn. "On Earth Peace partner groups from previous IDPP events have gone on to develop community leadership initiatives around issues of race, poverty, militarism, corruption, and religious violence."

For more about the IDPP contact Samuel Sarpiya, 815-314-0438 or

Officers issue prayer calendar to prepare for Annual Conference.

The Annual Conference officers are requesting prayer for the 2011 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, on July 2-6 in Grand Rapids, Mich. A prayer calendar is available below, and is online at in a format designed for easy use as a planner and for printing. The Implementation Committee of the Standing Committee of district delegates was asked to create a resource to help the officers and committee spiritually prepare for the work in Grand Rapids. This prayer calendar is the result, and is being shared with the whole church:
  • June 8: Join Annual Conference officers for prayer time at 8 a.m.
  • June 9: Pray for moderator Robert Alley, moderator-elect Tim Harvey, and secretary Fred Swartz.
  • June 10: Pray for all Annual Conference worship participants.
  • June 11: Pray for all Annual Conference congregational delegates and international guests.
  • June 12: Pray for Standing Committee members.
  • June 13: Pray for licensed and ordained ministers and district executives.
  • June 14: Pray for Church of the Brethren congregations and districts.
  • June 15: Join Annual Conference officers for prayer time at 8 a.m.
  • June 16: Read Mark 6:30-44. Pray for Saturday preacher Robert Alley.
  • June 17: Read Matthew 14:13-21. Pray for Sunday preacher Craig Smith.
  • June 18: Read Mark 8:1-10. Pray for Monday preacher Samuel Sarpiya.
  • June 19: Read Luke 9:10-17. Pray for Tuesday preacher Dava Hensley.
  • June 20: Read John 6:1-14. Pray for Wednesday preacher Stan Noffsinger.
  • June 21: Pray for Church of the Brethren denominational staff. Read Isaiah 65:17-25.
  • June 22: Join Annual Conference officers for prayer time at 8 a.m.
  • June 23: Pray for Annual Conference office staff. Read Isaiah 55.
  • June 24: Pray for Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee. Read John 2:1-12.
  • June 25: Pray for denominational ministries exhibiting in the Exhibit Hall. Read Luke 7:36-8:3.
  • June 26: Pray for the behind-the-scenes volunteers at Annual Conference. Read Luke 14:12-14.
  • June 27: Pray for Annual Conference business sessions. Read John 21:9-14.
  • June 28: Pray for safe travel to and from Annual Conference. Read Revelation 19:5-9.
  • June 29: Join Annual Conference officers for prayer time at 8 a.m.
Brethren and the Civil War.

In a recent newsletter, Shenandoah District included the following reflection on the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, and how Brethren at the time responded:

On May 19-22, 1861, the Brethren held their Yearly Meeting at Beaver Creek (now a congregation near Bridgewater, Va.). This is a particularly historic and meaningful gathering that deserves commemoration because it occurred in our district during the turbulent, opening days of the Civil War.

Through the winter and spring, 1861, as the nation spiraled toward disunion, the Dunkers debated whether to change the location of their meeting. As nonresistants and opponents of slavery, Brethren were a conspicuous minority in a slave-holding region preparing for war. Northern Dunkers feared that travel south was too risky, but Virginia Brethren countered that it was just as dangerous for them to journey north and the meeting proceeded as planned.

The turnout was large, but only four northern congregations sent representatives. The editor of the local newspaper, the "Rockingham Register," visited and wrote a lengthy and very interesting report.

Consider sharing this information with your church as a Brethren-style remembrance of the Civil War sesquicentennial, a basis for preaching, a Minute for Mission, a Sunday school topic, or some other form of commemoration. Interested persons can consult the Annual Conference minutes and Roger Sappington's book "The Brethren in the New Nation." For further information, including early 19th-century hymns that are still familiar and in the blue hymnal, contact Steve Longenecker, Professor of History, Bridgewater College,

Brethren bits: Remembrance, personnel, jobs, Annual Conference, more.
  • N. Geraldine Plunkett, 86, died May 20. An educator and writer from Roanoke, Va., she served as registrar at Bethany Theological Seminary (where she earned a master's degree) and earlier as administrative assistant for the Foreign Mission Commission of the Church of the Brethren's General Brotherhood Board. She also taught school in Virginia and Illinois and was a senior editor for Scott Foresman and Company. Plunkett was the author of two children's books published by Brethren Press, "Nathan's Secret" (2000) and "Sarah Beth's Problem" (2003).

  • Shenandoah District has named Joan Daggett as acting district executive minister, and has called John Foster, Bernie Fuska, and John W. Glick as the 2011 Placement Team to work with her on pastoral placement. Daggett will work closely with the district's Leadership Team in giving oversight to district ministries during the transition following the retirement of former district executive James E. Miller. She has been associate district executive since 1998.

  • Roseanne Segovia is the new editorial assistant for the Gather 'Round curriculum. From Oak Lawn, Ill., she is a graduate of Loyola University with a degree in journalism and English.

  • Rebekah Houff is serving in the Church of the Brethren's Youth and Young Adult Ministry this summer as part of a ministry formation elective through Bethany Theological Seminary. She began her work on May 30 with Youth Peace Travel Team orientation, and will assist with the Ministry Summer Service orientation. She also will work with the National Junior High Conference, youth activities at Annual Conference, and a few workcamps. She previously served as a volunteer and program assistant for the Youth and Young Adult Ministry from 2007-09.

  • Camp Alexander Mack in Milford, Ind., seeks a Gift Shoppe manager/office assistant to fill a two-thirds time year-round position. Primary responsibilities are to maintain merchandise for the Gift Shoppe, organize and price items for sale, oversee design and ordering of merchandise, run the shop including programming of cash register, provide support to the office manager and other management team staff, assist in creation of brochures, posters, and other marketing items. Compensation includes a competitive salary, medical expense reimbursement plan, life and long term disability insurance, conference and continuing education allowance, some meals, and one week paid vacation. Qualifications include a bachelor's degree or comparable education/experience, store sales and management experience, functional knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite and Photoshop, participation in a Christian church or fellowship, age 21 or older. Apply by sending a cover letter of intent, employment application (available at, and resume to Rex Miller, Executive Director, Camp Mack, P.O. Box 158, Milford, IN 46542; or by e-mail to

  • Camp Mack also seeks a finance assistant for a half time year-round position that could grow into a fulltime position. Responsibilities are to assist in the financial management operations of the camp, run financial systems for Accounts Payable and store receipts including related filing and check preparation, file reports and applications for government funds for food service programs, assist the executive director in the Donor Development program. Compensation includes a competitive salary, medical expense reimbursement plan, life and long term disability insurance, conference and continuing education allowance, and some meals. Qualifications include a bachelor's degree or comparable education/experience, working knowledge of financial software especially Dac-Easy, functional knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite, participation in a Christian church or fellowship, age 21 or older. Send a cover letter of intent, employment application (available at, and resume to Rex Miller, Executive Director, Camp Mack, P.O. Box 158, Milford, IN 46542; or by e-mail to .

  • June 6 is the last day of online registration for the Church of the Brethren's 2011 Annual Conference- at -and the last day to get the advance registration price of $95 for nondelegates. Annual Conference is July 2-6 in Grand Rapids, Mich. After 11 p.m. (central) on June 6, the registration website will be taken down. The next time to register will be onsite in Grand Rapids beginning at 3 p.m. July 1. The onsite fee for nondelegate adults increases to $130. Other registration costs also increase including the delegate fee--which will go up to $350 from $300--the daily registration rate, registration for those age 12-20, and age group activity fees. Children under age 12 register for free, although an activity fee will apply if they plan to take part in age group activities. All children who attend Annual Conference must be registered. To register online or more information about the fee schedule and activities at the 2011 Annual Conference, go to

  • With just a few more days left to register online for Annual Conference, Congregational Life Ministries is encouraging Conference-goers to be sure to include the new Congregational Life Ministry Fair in their plans. "Join your brothers and sisters on Monday for an early light supper and share best practices for ministry areas including partnering with other churches, using the arts in worship planning, church planting, stewardship, deacons, older adults, children's ministry, and much more," said an invitation. Those who already have registered and would like tickets may go to
    and click on "Meal Tickets." Scroll down to the Congregational Life Ministries Fair, enter the number of tickets needed, and click on "Add and Continue." Continue to follow the prompts to enter contact and payment information. Pick up tickets at the "Will Call" table in the Annual Conference registration area in Grand Rapids.

  • Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) is holding its summer orientation June 12-July 1 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. This will be the 293rd BVS orientation unit and will consist of 15 volunteers--two from Germany and the remainder from the United States. They will spend three weeks exploring project possibilities and topics of community building, peace and social justice, faith sharing, and conflict resolution. A highlight will be spending a Saturday at the Church of the Brethren's National Junior High Conference. For more information contact the BVS office at 800-323-8039.

  • The church's Material Resources program has been busy recently with several shipments made for flood relief. International Orthodox Christian Churches in cooperation with Lutheran World Relief and Church World Service (CWS) sent a trailer load of health, hygiene, and school kits to Birmingham, Ala. CWS shipped 100 clean-up buckets, baby, school, and hygiene kits to Butler, Ala. Tuscaloosa received 432 CWS clean-up buckets, 10 bales of blankets, and baby, school, and hygiene kits. CWS blankets, baby, school, and hygiene kits were shipped to Atlanta. Two hundred CWS clean-up buckets and 1,200 hygiene kits were shipped to Little Rock, Ark.

  • June is "Torture Awareness Month" and resources for the observance are available from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). A reminder of the observance came in a recent action alert from Jordan Blevins, Church of the Brethren and National Council of Churches advocacy officer (find the alert at Brethren resources on torture include the 2010 Annual Conference "Resolution Against Torture" at Resources at include videos and discussion guides, worship resources, banners to display at churches, and opportunities to take action. Contact Blevins at for more information and to let his office know what your congregation is planning.

  • Have posts from the Church of the Brethren Facebook page stopped showing up on your wall? In a change made by Facebook, the default setting now shows posts only from friends and pages with whom you interact most. To show all posts, find "Edit Options" at the lower right. Click there and choose "All your friends and pages." Another setting, at the top right of the wall, lets you choose between "Top News" and "Most Recent." The default setting is Top News, in which posts appear based on popularity. Most Recent provides a chronological listing. This selection has to be made every time you log in to Facebook. The Church of the Brethren Facebook page at now has more than 4,000 fans.

  • The Sunnyslope Church in Wenatchee, Wash., hosted a Foods Resource Bank (FRB) weekend in mid-May. Events included a Sunday morning sermon by Ron DeWeers of the FRB. The congregation also planted an eight-language Peace Pole and had German, French, Hebrew, Spanish, and English speakers share a song or prayer. "It was really a faith expanding experience," commented Ken Neher, director of stewardship and donor development for the Church of the Brethren, who attends the congregation.

  • The sixth annual fishing derby held by East Chippewa Church of the Brethren near Orrville, Ohio, was a big success according to a release from the congregation. "At one time we had 122 fishing," said pastor Leslie Lake, minister of youth and music. Two-year-old Marley, with her grandfather, won a gift certificate for catching one of two golden trout that were placed in the pond.

  • Proceeds from the 19th Annual Disaster Ministries Auction at the Rockingham County (Va.) Fairgrounds netted an estimated $193,000, according to Shenandoah District. A total of $11,600 (including matching funds) was raised for the tornado rebuilding project in Pulaski, Va.

  • Virlina District has reported on the Pulaski tornado offering that is in progress. Approximately 400 homes were damaged or destroyed in Pulaski, Va., as the result of a tornado on April 8. So far the district has received $29,347 to support rebuilding work, with collections taken in more than 40 congregations. Also individuals and the West Marva Women's Rally contributed.

  • The John Kline Memorial Trail Riders are holding their annual ride June 3-5 in the Roanoke (Va.) area. The group of horseback riders re-enacts the ministry of Civil War-era Brethren leader and elder John Kline, who is one of the peace martyrs of the Brethren movement. On Friday and Saturday, the group will ride the trails of Carvins Cove. Friday evening they will travel to Camp Bethel to present a program to the Parent-Child Retreat group. Sunday morning they will ride (weather permitting) to Cloverdale Church of the Brethren to worship with the congregation and lead the Sunday school hour. Cloverdale will be the 40th church this group has visited. This year 14 riders will take part along with at least eight support team or family members. "We ask for your prayers as we continue to bring the message of Brother John Kline to our churches as well as to those we meet on the trails," said a note in the Shenandoah District newsletter.

  • Five McPherson (Kan.) College students are on a trip to Haiti as the winning team in a "Global Enterprise Challenge," according to a release. Last November, McPherson students were challenged to come up with a sustainable venture to help the people of Haiti. The winning team, who departed for Haiti's "La Tortue" (Tortuga) Island on May 30, came up with "Beyond Isles"--a community market that would incorporate a physical market for agricultural and clothing products in Haiti, a global market through Internet channels, and an educational component for Haitians to continue to develop their skills. The students are Melisa Grandison, Steve Butcher, Tori Carder, Nate Coppernoll, and Ryan Stauffer, accompanied by professor Ken Yohn and college provost Kent Eaton, who said the priority for the trip is to partner with and help the people of Tortuga, with the winning concept a secondary concern. Howard Royer of the church's Global Food Crisis Fund reports the McPherson group plans to connect with a GFCF project on Tortuga, and that Haitian Brethren may help out as hosts.

  • Several Brethren colleges have been named to the 2010 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, including McPherson (Kan.) College; Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa.; Manchester College in N. Manchester, Ind.; and Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. McPherson was named "with distinction."

  • An interview with Annual Conference moderator Robert E. Alley is featured in the June edition of "Brethren Voices," the Brethren community television program provided by Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland, Ore. Alley discusses the theme of Annual Conference as well as the business items coming up in Grand Rapids. Copies are available from Portland Peace Church of the Brethren. Contact

  • CrossRoads, the Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, Va., is inviting new members to join its mission, according to a release. The center was founded 10 years ago by Mennonites and Brethren in the Shenandoah Valley, and is guided by a board and committees consisting of Brethren and Mennonites who are developing the center "to capture the essence of the Anabaptist vision and pass it on to new generations." Congregations and individuals may purchase a $100 membership that supports the center and its "Chronicles" and "Legacy Alive" publications. During the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, "Legacy Alive" will carry features that focus on how the war affected the Brethren and Mennonites. Learn more at

  • Wilbur Mullen of Greenville, Ohio, a former staff member of the Church of the Brethren General Board, was inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame on May 26. His nomination by Theresa Crandall noted his extensive history of service within and outside the church: more than four years in Civilian Public Service camps as a conscientious objector during World War II; direction of the Brethren Service International Work Camp in Hamburg, Germany, beginning in 1949, and leadership of related study tours and peace seminars; participation in UNESCO events in Europe in the 1950s; presidency of the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville beginning in 1976, during a time of financial crisis for the home; disaster recovery work after a tornado hit Xenia, Ohio, in 1978; and even his "famous lemon shakes that are served at the Darke County Fair," benefiting college scholarships through Rotary International. His name is among 350 inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame since 1977, alongside people like Bob Hope, John Glenn, Erma Bombeck, and Paul Newman. "Life must be a joyful journey," he wrote to Newsline, "one filled with constant surprises."

Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Contributors to this Newsline include J. Allen Brubaker, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Steven Gregory, Ed Groff, Matt Guynn, Tim Harvey, Donna Kline, Karin Krog, Doc Lehman, Wendy McFadden, Adam Pracht, Callie Surber, and Loretta Wolf. Newsline is edited by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren.