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.