Thursday, September 26, 2013

Newsline: September 26, 2013


Preachers are announced for Annual Conference 2014, nominations are sought for next year’s elections.

Columbus, Ohio
Photo by
A view of Columbus, Ohio, site of the 2014 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren
The list of preachers and others who will be leading worship at the 2014 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren has been announced. The 2014 Annual Conference takes place in Columbus, Ohio, on July 2-6, a Wednesday through Sunday schedule. Delegate registration opens in early January. General registration will open in mid-February.

Also from the Conference Office: a call for nominations for offices to be filled through elections at the 2014 Conference. “Please prayerfully consider nominating persons for leadership,” said the Conference office.

Six offices will be filled: moderator-elect, a position on the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee, a position on the board of On Earth Peace, a position on the board of Brethren Benefit Trust, a trustee on the board of Bethany Theological Seminary representing the colleges, a position on the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee representing the district executives. Nominations are accepted until Dec. 1. Make nominations online at

2014 Annual Conference worship participants

Preaching on Wednesday evening, July 2: Tom Long of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.

Preaching on Thursday evening, July 3: Annual Conference moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, who pastors the congregations of Cristo, Nuestra Paz and West Charleston in Southern Ohio District

Preaching on Friday evening, July 4: Bob Kettering, pastor of Lititz Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa., in Atlantic Northeast District

Preaching on Saturday morning, July 5: Erin Matteson, co-pastor of Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren in Pacific Southwest District

Preaching on Sunday morning, July 6: Stafford Frederick, pastor of Summerdean Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., in Virlina District

The Worship Planning Team: Cindy Laprade Lattimer of Lancaster, Pa., and Lancaster Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District; David Steele, moderator elect from Huntingdon, Pa., and Memorial Church of the Brethren, who serves as district executive minister of Middle Pennsylvania District; Dana Cassell of Manassas, Va., and Manassas Church of the Brethren in Virlina District; David W. Miller of Hanover, Pa., and Black Rock Church of the Brethren in Southern Pennsylvania District

Choir director: Joy Brubaker of Lebanon, Pa., a member of Midway Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District

Organist: Jonathan Emmons of Greensboro, N.C., and Antioch Church of the Brethren in Virlina District

Pianist: Cyndi Fecher of Chicago, Ill., and Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Illinois and Wisconsin District

Children’s choir director: Donita Keister of Mifflinburg, Pa., and Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren in Southern Pennsylvania District

Music coordinator: Andrew Wright of New Carlisle, Ohio, and New Carlisle Church of the Brethren in Southern Ohio District

Chris Douglas serves as director of the Conference Office.

Find out more about the Conference theme “Live as Courageous Disciples,” the moderator’s theme statement in three languages including English and Spanish and Haitian Creole, suggested resources to read and study the theme scripture of Philippians, and much more at

Source: 9/26/2013 Newsline

Coordinators of NYC 2014 issue challenge for Brethren youth to exceed capacity at host university.

National Youth Conference (NYC) 2014 logo - large sizeWhat if so many people registered for National Youth Conference (NYC) that Colorado State University ran out of room to house everyone? That’s the challenge NYC coordinators Katie Cummings, Tim Heishman, and Sarah Neher are issuing to Brethren youth and to the denomination as a whole.

The conference is scheduled for July 19-24, 2014, at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. NYC is a week-long faith formation event for youth and their advisors that takes place every four years. All youth who have completed ninth grade through one year of college (at the time of NYC) are eligible to attend.

Typical attendance at NYC has been around 3,000 in recent history, but Colorado State University is able to house up to 5,000 people. The NYC coordinators are challenging the denomination to fill up all 5,000 beds.

“It may sound like a challenge, but if every participant just brought a friend along, it would happen! Or if everyone who reads this article tried to get one youth to attend NYC, it would happen!” they wrote for Newsline.

“There is a great story in the Gospels about Jesus feeding 5,000 people. Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You give them something to eat.’ And the disciples responded, ‘We only have five loaves and two fish.’ But where the disciples saw an obstacle, Jesus saw an opportunity.

“Particularly at this significant moment in the life and history of the Church of the Brethren, we need every youth to be at NYC 2014. Now is the time to bring the next generation together, to hear Christ’s call, and be blessed for the journey together.”

NYC coordinators see an opportunity to create a “delightful problem” for the Church of the Brethren: so many youth signing up for the conference that staff will “have to scramble to figure out where to house everyone. Wouldn’t that be incredible?”

The coordinators are encouraging church members to help support the ministry of NYC by joining the challenge: “Find one youth to send to NYC 2014!”

For more information about National Youth Conference, visit

Source: 9/26/2013 Newsline

BBT eliminates position of manager of Pension Operations.

Given the ongoing challenges of providing a competitive and cost effective Pension Plan to members, Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) has concluded that the agency needs to refocus resources. Therefore, BBT has taken another step to streamline the Benefits Department and has eliminated the position of Manager of Pension Operations, which has been held by John Carroll.

During this reorganization, Tammy Chudy has begun the interim assignment of providing operational oversight for all of the employee benefits provided by BBT.

Carroll began his employment with BBT on Jan. 25, 2010. He has served as manager of Pension Operations and has been key in assisting with compliance and customer service issues relative to the Pension Plan. He will continue to work on special projects, with his duties ending on Sept. 30, at which time he will receive a severance package. He also will have assistance with searching for a new position through an outplacement agency.

Source: 9/26/2013 Newsline

Clergy Women's Retreat is planned for January in southern California.

2014-retreat-logo“Hand in Hand, Heart to Heart: On the Journey Together” is the theme for the Clergy Women’s Retreat early next year. The event is to be held Jan. 13-16, 2014, at the Serra Retreat Center in Malibu, Calif., sponsored by the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry.

Leading the retreat will be Melissa Wiginton, vice president for Education Beyond the Walls at Austin Seminary. The scriptural focus is from Philippians 1:3-11 (CEB), “I keep you in my heart. You are all my partners in God’s grace.”

The retreat is open to all credentialed female ministers in the Church of the Brethren. The goal of the event is to provide a time of rest, renewal, fellowship, and inspiration. Events will begin Monday, Jan. 13, at 5:30 p.m. with dinner, and end Thursday, Jan. 16 with lunch. There will be a daily worship service, along with sessions led by Wiginton, opportunities for personal time and recreation, story sharing, and entertainment.

The registration fee is $325 or $415 for a private room, before Nov. 1. Costs rise after that date. Registration covers lodging, meals, and program activities. A limited number of scholarships are available, make requests in writing to with subject line Clergy Women’s Retreat Scholarship. For more information and online registration go to

Source: 9/26/2013 Newsline

‘Prodigal Christianity’ author to speak at General Offices, Bethany, N. Ohio District.

David Fitch
Photo by courtesy of David Fitch
David Fitch
The Church of the Brethren is hosting David Fitch on a speaking tour Oct. 21-23. Workshops and lectures take place at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.; Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind.; and the Northern Ohio District Office in Ashland, Ohio. An additional event takes place at Ashland Theological Seminary.

Each workshop will focus on “Leadership for a Prodigal Church.” Following his recent book “Prodigal Christianity,” Fitch will explore mission in a post-Christendom context, and ways Anabaptist thought and practice are poised for the current time.

Pastors and other church leaders are invited to attend a workshop in their region:
  • Oct. 21, 1-4 p.m. at the Church of the Brethren General Offices, Elgin Ill.
  • Oct. 22, 9 a.m.-12 noon at Bethany Theological Seminary, Richmond, Ind.
  • Oct. 23, 9 a.m.-12 noon at Northern Ohio District Office, Ashland Ohio
Ministers who attend one of the above workshops may earn .3 continuing education units through the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. A $10 administrative fee will be charged for continuing education units.

Fitch also will give a public lecture at Ashland (Ohio) Theological Seminary on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m.

Fitch is the B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary in Chicago, Ill., and founding pastor of Life on the Vine Christian Community, a missional church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He coaches a network of church plants in the Christian and Missionary Alliance linked to Life on the Vine. He also writes on issues churches must face in mission including cultural engagement, leadership, and theology. His articles have appeared in numerous periodicals including “Christianity Today,” “The Other Journal,” “Missiology,” and academic journals. His books include “The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission,” “The Great Giveaway: Reclaiming the Mission of the Church from American Business, Para-Church Organizations, Psychotherapy, Consumer Capitalism and Other Modern Maladies,” and mostly recently “Prodigal Christianity: Ten Signposts into the Missional Frontier” with co-author Geoff Holsclaw.

Contact Joshua Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 303.

Source: 9/26/2013 Newsline

Advent devotional, outdoor ministry curriculum are among new resources from Brethren Press.

“Good News of Great Joy,” the Advent devotional from Brethren Press, and “Get Real: Finding Your True Self in Jesus,” the outdoor ministries camping curriculum for the summer of 2014, are now available. Purchase these and more resources from Brethren Press at 800-441-3712 or A shipping and handling charge will be added to the listed price.

The 2013 Advent devotional from Brethren Press, Good News of Great Joy“Good News of Great Joy” is written by Tim Harvey, pastor of Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., and a past moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. This pocket-sized paperback is meant both for individual use and for churches to provide to members. It includes a devotion, scripture, and prayer for each day from Advent through Epiphany. Get a pre-production price of $2 or $5 for large print for made by Oct. 7. After that date the price goes up to $2.50 per copy, or $5.95 for large print.

Get Real, the outdoor ministries/camping curriculum for 2014 from Brethren Press“Get Real: Finding Your True Self in Jesus” is the outdoor ministry/camp curriculum for next summer, developed by the National Council of Churches Committee on Outdoor Ministries in which Brethren Press is a partner. Offered on DVD, it includes 250 pages of printable curriculum, training video and materials, t-shirt and publicity graphics, and a new bonus section of Day Camp material for up to six weeks of activities. Daily guides engage each age level to explore scripture; experience activities that develop the “Get Real” theme, connect with Bible teachings, and connect with Christian community; and express love of Jesus through worship and song. Purchase one DVD for each camp site. Copies may be made only for use within each camp site. Cost is $375.

Contact Brethren Press at 800-441-3712 or

Source: 9/26/2013 Newsline

Feature: Bethany president focuses on making seminary a priority for the church.

This interview with Jeff Carter, the new president at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., was provided to Newsline by Frank Ramirez, pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Ramirez interviewed Carter while both were attending the National Older Adult Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C., in early September.
Jeff Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary
Photo by courtesy of Jeff Carter
Two things. Jeff Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary, is focused on two things. “I want Bethany to be your first thought in theological education,” Carter said, “and I want Bethany to be your first thought as a church resource.”

How do you get from youth pastor playing guitar and singing, “Jesus is the Rock and he rolled my sins away?” to a recognized figure in the ecumenical church, the head of an institution more than a century old with a venerable history and a changing future?

“This may not be the traditional path” to the presidency of the seminary, Carter said with a laugh, chronicling his 20-year journey from associate pastor in 1993, through 18 years of pastoral work at Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren, to his term as Church of the Brethren representative to the World Council of Churches. But his educational path may have uniquely prepared him for the position.

“I went to Bethany and six additional schools,” he explained. “I was probably one of the first students that did nontraditional education from a distance. I commuted to Bethany, but I also wanted an ecumenical degree, so that when I graduated with Bethany the larger church would also be behind my education.”

Carter considers his ability to balance full-time ministry and full-time education to be one of the gifts he brings to seminary leadership. “I balanced my family life, my church life, my school life, and managed to finance it all, with a sense of integrity and excellence.”

He looks forward to the challenges he faces. “At this time in our history [Bethany is] facing some pressing challenges, which also means we have some of our greatest opportunities. If we are willing to think creatively, imaginatively, and maintain our sense of faith and hopefulness, the future is limitless.”

The main tasks that lie ahead for the school include calling, equipping, and empowering people for ministry in a variety of settings, Carter said, adding “valuing academic rigor and practical experiences, and just exploring with faculty and staff what God is doing in the world and how we might be a part of it. We’re preparing people to share the gospel and extend the kingdom. That could be for the traditional pastoral ministry, church ministry, full-time, part-time ministry, chaplaincy--theological training can be used in a variety of ways. If you’re a lawyer with theological training you can serve the church and be a mediator.”

“I think everyone should have some theological education,” Carter said. One of his jobs, he asserted, is to remove any doubt that getting a theological education is possible. “We provide generous financial aid, and we can assist with housing for our residential students. Our online learning has been cutting edge from the very beginning. We have distributed education, so we can be found in many districts.”

For the individual seeking theological education, questions are similar to those facing the church as a whole, Carter said. “Where are the opportunities? Where’s the adventure?” This sense of adventure and opportunity is something Carter and his family bring to their new home in Richmond, Ind., and to his new position at the seminary, and is something he hopes to instill in all who are thinking of coming to Bethany.

“If there’s one thing I’d remove, it would be the doubt.  If you feel the call, go for it. Let us help you. Come for the big adventure.”

-- Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and was on the volunteer communication team at National Older Adult Conference.

Source: 9/26/2013 Newsline

Brethren bits.

Bishop emeritus Mano Rumalshah (right) in 2008 at Mission Alive conference held in Bridgewater, Va.
Photo by Janis Pyle
Bishop emeritus Mano Rumalshah (right) in 2008 at the Mission Alive conference held in Bridgewater, Va. He is shown with Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger (left). Rumalshah's former parish, All Saints Church in Peshawar, was the target of a horrendous bombing last Sunday, Sept. 22.
  • Shine: Living in God’s Light, a new Sunday school curriculum being developed by Brethren Press and MennoMedia, is accepting applications for writers for the following age groups: early childhood through junior youth. The writers will be working on products for the 2015–2016 curriculum year. Writers must attend a writers’ conference on Feb. 28-March 3, 2014, at Camp Mack in Milford, Ind. Writers’ expenses for meals and lodging at the conference and reasonable travel expenses will be covered. The application deadline is Dec. 31. For more information and an online application go to
  • Let's move logo 160September has been designated National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, based on the Let’s Move! initiative begun several years ago. “How might we tackle this problem peacefully, simply, together?” asks Donna Kline of Congregational Life Ministries staff. Resources for the Church of the Brethren commitment to this serious issue are available at
  • New Fairview Church of the Brethren in York, Pa., hosts the Fall Banquet for the Carlisle Truck Stop Ministry of Southern Pennsylvania District. The event on Oct. 5 starts at 4 p.m. with a Silent Auction. The meal begins at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $12. Contact the district office at 717-624-8636.
  • The youth at Salem Church of the Brethren at Stephens City have received thanks from Shenandoah District for their “creative and generous support of our disaster response teams.” The youth raised $766 for disaster response by participating in the Route 11 Yard Crawl on Aug. 10, selling sandwiches, drinks, chips, and yard sale items. Also contributing money to disaster relief in the district was the first Family Fun Day on Aug. 24, which brought in about $2,500, said the district newsletter.
  • Southern Ohio District has extended the registration deadline for an Outdoor Ministries Golf Outing on Oct. 5. The registration deadline has been extended to Sept. 30. The annual event is at Penn Terra Golf Course in  Lewisburg, Ohio, and offers fellowship, fun, a challenge, and a way to benefit the Southern Ohio District Outdoor Ministries summer camping program. After play, a meal will be served at Brookville Church of the Brethren. Cost is $70. Go to for more information and a registration form.
  • Idaho District Conference will be held Sept. 27-28 at Nampa (Idaho) Church of the Brethren.
  • The John Kline Homestead holds its Donor Dinner on Oct. 4, at 6 p.m., at Linville Creek Church of the Brethren in Broadway, Va. The featured speaker will be Jeff Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary. Cost is $20. Reservations are due by Sept. 30. Contact 540-896-5001 or .
  • Following news of the bombing at All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger shared his condolences. “It saddens us that acts of violence are perpetrated against any people, and especially where we have a relationship,” he said, remembering the participation of Peshawar bishop emeritus Mano Rumalshah at Mission Alive 2008 in Bridgewater, Va. The attack on the All Saints Church took place Sunday, Sept. 22, and according to “The New York Times” killed at least 78 people, including 34 women and 7 children. The attack was made as some 600 worshipers left the church following Sunday worship to receive free food being distributed on the lawn outside. Also sharing solidarity and concern was the Church of North India (CNI), which in a letter from general secretary Alwan Masih expressed “deep shock and concern at the terrible and inhumane act of bombing of innocent worshipers.... Church of North India deeply expresses its solidarity and concern with the victims and members of the bereaved families. We uphold the affected families in our prayers so that the Lord strengthen their faith as they journey through the time of umpteen trials and tribulations. We assure our continued prayers and support to all the Christian community of Pakistan.” The World Council of Churches characterized the bombing as the “single worst loss of life among Christians in Pakistan” in a letter from general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit, who said it was a “deliberate targeting of a vulnerable Christian community.” He called for an end to wanton violence and asked the government of Pakistan to protect all citizens from those bent on dividing the country and causing suffering.
Source: 9/26/2013 Newsline


Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Joshua Brockway, Dana Cassell, Chris Douglas, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Tim Heishman, Donna Kline, Jeff Lennard, Donna March, Jay Wittmeyer, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Newsline: September 20, 2013


Church leaders discuss moving Syria to peace; General Secretary attends with Syria, Russia, US, Europe leaders

Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, was one of a handful of American church leaders to be invited to an international meeting of Christians on Sept. 18 at the World Council of Churches (WCC) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The group that included Syrian, Russian, US, and European church leaders also met with Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary-general, and Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Representative for Syria, to discuss the role of the church moving all parties in Syria toward a peace agreement.

Former UN secretary-general joins church leaders for Syria discussion

Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary-general, and Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Representative for Syria, joined the group of Christian leaders today at the WCC Ecumenical Institute Center to discuss the role of the church in moving all parties in Syria toward a peace agreement.

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger was one of the American church leaders at the meeting.

In remarks to the church leaders Annan said that their gathering was timely and important and that the churches must give the message “Go beyond 'not go to war' but build peace.”

Brahimi told the group that in addition to prayers and support for the Syrian people and those negotiating peace, they need the advice of the church.

Both Annan and Brahimi acknowledged that the possibility of a negotiated political settlement is possible given the US and Russian agreement during the past week, however, challenges remain. Annan added that while most churches are against military strikes in response to the chemical weapons attacks, the churches must now speak to the leaders to promote peace.

The church leaders present were
  • Archbishop Hilarion, Russian Orthodox Church
  • H.E. Metropolitan Prof. Dr. Gennadios of Sassima, Ecumenical Patriarchate
  • Dr. Charles Reed, Archbishop of Canterbury representative
  • Stanley J. Noffsinger, Church of the Brethren, US
  • Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Bishop Martin Schindehütte, German Protestant Churches (EKD)
  • Rev. Thomas Wild, French Protestant Church
  • H.E. Archbishop Dr. Vicken Aykazian, Armenian Apostolic Church (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin)
  • H.B. Gregorios III Laham Patriarch of Antioch and of All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church
  • Metropolitan Eustathius Matta Roham, Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Jazirah and Euphrates, delegated by His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka
  • Cor-Episcopos Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, delegated by His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka
  • H.G. Bishop Dimitrios Charbak, delegated by H.B. John X (Yazigi), Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East
  • H.G. Bishop Armash Nalbadian, Armenian Orthodox Church Diocese of Damascus
  • Fr. Ziad Hilal, s.j., Society of Jesuits International Organizations
  • Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary, World Council of Churches, Geneva
  • Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary, Lutheran World Federation, Geneva

‘Our hearts and souls should be shaken...our prayer unceasing’

Following the meeting, Noffsinger shared via e-mail some of what he learned from Syrian church leaders about the terrible effects of the conflict for the Syrian people.

“The conditions of life for the people of Syria are deplorable and terrifying,” Noffsinger wrote from Geneva. “One colleague spoke of mortars shelling their neighborhood for hours on end, and as a church leader his phone rings all day and night to accompany members of his parish through their traumas of war.

“Our hearts and souls should be shaken by the brutality and horror of war, and our prayer and fasting unceasing for an end to the violence. I have no doubt but that our recent call for peace must now be followed by insistence for our nation’s leadership to continue dialogue and peacemaking with other nations.”

Noffsinger also commented on the need for American Christians to work together with Syrian Christians. “Together with the people of Syria, we may discover a solution for a lasting and sustainable peace,” he said.

He asserted that “the work of peacemaking has begun.” Quoting from the biblical book of Isaiah, chapter 2 verse 4, he wrote: “May it one day be said that at this time in history we ‘beat [our] swords into plowshares, and [our] spears into pruning hooks; that nation shall not lift up swords against nation, neither shall [we] learn war anymore.’”

Communiqué calls churches to continue to raise voices for peace

At the end of the meeting the group agreed to a communiqué that said there can be no military solution to the crisis in Syria, and that it was time for the international community to take responsibility to end the violence and begin a political process toward peace.

"Now is the time to raise one voice for peace and work for a negotiated solution among all parties to the conflict," the communiqué said. "Churches must continue to raise their voice in their congregations and with their governments. We must strengthen the public outcry so that those in power will protect the common interest of humanity."

The communiqué follows in full:

Communiqué from the WCC consultation on the crisis in Syria

Church leaders from Syria, Russia, United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Turkey, and representatives of international organizations in Geneva gathered for a World Council of Churches consultation on the crisis in Syria together with Mr. Kofi Annan and the Joint Representative for Syria, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi.

Churches worldwide have spoken out against the war in Syria. Now is the time to raise one voice for peace and work for a negotiated solution among all parties to the conflict. Blessed are the peacemakers, the Scriptures say. Churches must continue to raise their voice in their congregations and with their governments. We must strengthen the public outcry so that those in power will protect the common interest of humanity.

We believe there can be no military solution to the crisis in Syria. It is time for the international community to assume its responsibility to end the violence and initiate a political process that brings peace for all the people of Syria. Resolute action now is necessary to save lives; waiting has already cost many lives. Collective action for peace is needed to save not only the people of Syria but also the surrounding region as well.

We urge the United Nations Security Council to adopt without delay a resolution based on the September 14 agreement by the Russian and American foreign ministers. We call on the governments of Russia and the United States to exercise their major responsibility for peace, collaborating to convince national and foreign parties to the conflict to put an end to the violence and accept the multilateral compromises that are essential for peace.

The Security Council must also set a date for a second peace conference on Syria, building on the foundations agreed but not implemented after the peace conference in 2012 in Geneva. Many tens of thousands more lives have been lost since then. Many thousands more lives are at stake now. To fail to reach conclusive results at the next Geneva conference is not an option.

The current openings for negotiations also need immediate steps to de-escalate the conflict, including the adoption of an arms embargo by the Security Council and measures to stop the flow of foreign combatants into Syria.

The humanitarian situation in Syria and in neighboring countries is precarious. Humanitarian assistance is a vital aspect of the churches’ mission and solidarity with those suffering. Such aid also contributes toward a process of reconciliation. National, regional, and international church ministries are alleviating the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Syrians affected by the war. It is important for church-related agencies to redouble their efforts now, including aid for refugees. Full humanitarian access is essential, as stipulated in the 2012 Geneva conference.

Christians in Syria are an integral part of a diverse society with a rich history. They have their place in civil society and commit themselves to build a future for Syria where citizens of all faiths enjoy equal rights, freedom, and social justice. They are also committed to engage in constructive dialogues with other religious and ethnic communities so that Syria's pluralistic heritage is protected and secured. The WCC and the wider ecumenical family support such a process.

We join the people of Syria in prayer for a peaceful future for the country and the whole Middle East, and may our Lord keep them in His grace.

-- Find out more about the World Council of Churches, where the Church of the Brethren is a founding member denomination, at A New York Times/Reuters article about the Syria consultation hosted by the WCC was published Sept. 19 and is online at

Source: 9/20/2013 Newsline

Bethany Theological Seminary welcomes new class for 2013-14.

On Aug. 26-27, Bethany Theological Seminary welcomed new students for the 2013-14 academic year to orientation on the school’s campus in Richmond, Ind. Twelve of the students are just beginning their seminary journey, with four having begun classes in the spring and summer.
The seminary also welcomed Alexandre Gonçalves from Brazil, a pastor in Igreja da Irmandade (the Church of the Brethren in Brazil) who has served as president of the Brazilian Brethren, and as a director of nonprofit organizations.

The new class is diverse in experiences and perspectives. Second-career students will study alongside a new college graduate. Several are in ministry and denominational service in the Church of the Brethren. Another is exploring seminary study following participation in the military. Those with Brethren connections are joined by sisters and brothers from Quaker, Presbyterian, and nondenominational traditions. Education, technology, insurance, and community service are fields of expertise in the group.

The 2013-14 class at Bethany includes 10 students in the master of divinity program: Patricia Edgecomb of Elmira, N.Y.; Don Fecher of Elgin, Ill.; Alexandre Gonçalves of São Paulo, Brazil; Arion Lillard of Dayton, Ohio; Jill Long of Orland Park, Ill.; Graham Melendez of Indianapolis, Ind.; Becky Ullom Naugle of Elgin, Ill.; Shayne Petty of Yellow Springs, Ohio; Brody Rike of West Alexandria, Ohio; and Tabitha Hartman Rudy of Roanoke, Va.

Five students are enrolled in the Certificate of Achievement in Theological Studies program: Corey Gray of Richmond, Ind.; Beth Middleton of Boones Mill, Va.; Tracy Perkins-Schmittler of Richmond, Ind.; Sue Smith of St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Catherine Thomas of Mobile, Ala.

One student, Paul Eckert of Richmond, Ind., is enrolled in the master of arts program.

-- Jenny Williams is director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations at Bethany Seminary. For more about Bethany go to

Source: 9/20/2013 Newsline

Children’s Disaster Services to work in Colorado following floods.

Children's Disaster Services (CDS) is actively assembling teams to support Multi-Agency Resource Centers in response to the Colorado floods. “CDS teams will deploy soon,” said a Facebook post this morning. “Please keep CDS and the affected children and their families in your prayers.”

Roy Winter, associate executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, has been contacting CDS volunteers who may be able to travel to Colorado in the next few days. Children’s Disaster Services is a department within Brethren Disaster Ministries and works cooperatively with FEMA and the American Red Cross to provide care for children following disasters, through the work of trained and certified volunteers. CDS has been meeting the needs of children since 1980.

“In conversations with the American Red Cross and Save the Children I have learned several things,” Winter reported, among them that many shelters for flood survivors are being consolidated as families are able to move back home or find other housing. Save the Children has provided care in shelters up to this point, “however, they will only be available through the end of next week (Sept. 27),” Winter said.

The Multi-Agency Resource Centers are just now being organized, and will be the locations where those affected by flooding will go to apply for aid and receive services. “CDS will staff these MARCs as they open and take over providing child care in any larger shelters at the end of next week,” Winter said.

For more information about Children’s Disaster Services go to For more about the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries see

Source: 9/20/2013 Newsline

United Nations holds second forum on ‘The Culture of Peace.’

On Friday, Sept. 6, the United Nations held the Second High Level Forum on The Culture of Peace. The background for the forum is the passing of, by consensus, Resolution 53/243 on the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace, followed by the implementation of the International Decade for Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010).

The president of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, opened the forum followed by opening remarks from the deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson. In recognition of the vast role of religion for a Culture of Peace, the three keynote speakers came from the religious community: His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia; Sayyid M. Syeed, National Direction Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America; and Elie Abadie, M.D., a rabbi from the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue.

As noted, the keynote addresses were given by persons from the Abraham faiths--Jewish, Christian, and Islamic. They were followed by addresses from heads of state, theologians, and professors, among other noted individuals. All spoke their own words on peace, or quoted words from holy books, and upheld modern-day peacemakers such as Nelson Mandela or those deceased peacemakers we build monuments to honor such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Three of the people who spoke at the day-long forum have gone forward with making a difference in their communities, or helped make peace somewhere in the world by their actions.

One was Azim Khamisa, founder of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, whose son was killed 18 years ago by a 14-year-old gang member. Khamisa runs his organization along with the grandfather of his son’s killer, to help bring youth safety to our urban areas. He noted that the killer of his son was only 11 years old when he joined the gang. His organization offers youth an alternative to joining a gang. He quoted Dr. King on the responsibilities of those who love peace to learn to organize and be as effective as those who love war.

Tiffany Easthom, country director for South Sudan, Nonviolent Peaceforce. Easthom goes to both of the sides involved in an armed conflict. Her organization does not take sides in the conflict, but acts as mediator between the warring factions. Sometimes the warring communities cannot speak face-to-face with each other, but will talk to strangers that they feel do not have a stake in the outcome. The Nonviolent Peaceforce does not have weapons of any kind.

Grace Akallo, founder and executive director of United Africans for Women and Children’s Rights (UAWCR) was one of the 139 girls kidnapped from a girl’s boarding school in 1996 by the Lords Resistance Army in northern Uganda. Although 109 of the kidnapped girls were released to Sister Rachelle Fassera, who had followed the rebels into the forest, Akallo--who was 15 at the time--was one of the 30 girls that the rebels kept. The girls had to become soldiers and wives to the rebels. As a survivor, she speaks on behalf of children who are forced, by adults, to become soldiers and if they survive, cannot return to their villages or homes because of the stigma of what they have done and/or because their families are dead.

Special thanks to the forum and its reminder of the actions that are needed for a Culture of Peace to take hold. We all have the words for peace and most of us can quote peace texts either from scripture or from other people we have heard speak on peace. But, this forum forced me to ask myself, What action did I take today toward a Culture of Peace? For indeed it is said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

-- Doris Abdullah is the Church of the Brethren United Nations representative and chair of the Human Rights Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.

Source: 9/20/2013 Newsline

Mid-Atlantic District leader preaches at Antietam’s Dunker Church.

Both words and actions were evident and obvious at the 43rd annual Brethren Service at the Dunker Meetinghouse, the landmark and centerpiece of the Civil War battlefield at Antietam National Park. The service is held each year on the Sunday closest to the battle, which took place 151 years ago on Sept. 17, 1862.

This year, the service centered on the words that were spoken by many that fateful day in 1862, which also was the theme of the sermon given by Gene Hagenberger, district executive of the Church of the Brethren’s Mid-Atlantic District.

Before any words were spoken, however, several of the worshipers rushed to the aid of a woman who had accidentally driven her car into a ditch just outside the meetinghouse. With Eddie Edmonds, pastor of Moler Avenue Church of the Brethren in Martinsburg, W.Va., and with the aid of several other strong backs, the car was lifted out of the ditch and then driven back onto the road.

In his message, Hagenberger called to mind words spoken at the dedication of the rebuilt meetinghouse in 1862, which seemed to minimize the harshness of the conflict. For example, Hagenberger related the disbelief of one soldier who survived the carnage of the corn field at Antietam, when his commanding officer ordered troops to take to their feet and charge.

Also remembered was the story of Oliver Wendell Holmes--who went on to serve for 30 years as a Supreme Court Justice--and his experience of the battle. Lying wounded on the field, Holmes was asked by his chaplain if he were a Christian. Replying that he was, Holmes was told, “Well, that’s alright, then,” and was left to suffer for quite some time.

There were more stories, about young men and boys who were killed, and even of one loyal dog who was seen by retreating soldiers standing guard over the fallen body of his master. The dog soon fell to a bullet and the two were buried together.

Hagenberger suggested that sometimes silence is sufficient when actions speak louder than any words. He encouraged all of those present, whether in word or action, to witness to the Brethren commitment to peace and service.

In the sermon, and in the prayers lifted up at the service, petitions were raised for peace in Syria and in other troubled places around the world.

Ed Poling, pastor of Hagerstown (Md.) Church of the Brethren, wrote and performed a song about the Brethren and the battle as he has done for several years. In this year’s ballad, Poling described the peaceful stream that flows through nearby fields, representing the waters of baptism and of healing, and foreshadowing God’s reign of peace as described in the book of Revelation.

The Back Porch singers from the Hagerstown congregation also sang a number. Shape note hymns from the 1901 Brethren Hymnal were sung by the congregation, which numbered well over 100 people.

-- Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and was one of the Brethren pastors who helped lead this year’s service at the Dunker Meetinghouse at Antietam.

Source: 9/20/2013 Newsline

William Waugh called to lead S. Pennsylvania District.

William A. (Bill) Waugh will begin as Southern Pennsylvania District executive minister on Jan. 1, 2014. He has 27 years of experience in pastoral ministry serving two congregations, Greensburg Church of the Brethren in Western Pennsylvania District since 1992 and Mohrsville Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District from 1985-92.

His leadership experience includes terms on the Standing Committee of district delegates to Annual Conference, and a term as moderator of Western Pennsylvania District where he also has been an ex-officio member of the District Leadership Team and served on the Pastor/Parish Team, Church Life and Growth Team, and as a facilitator for Special Response Hearings.

At the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center with offices at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College--a program related to Bethany Seminary and the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership--he has been a board member since 2012 and has been an instructor, teaching “Introduction to the New Testament,” “Introduction to the Old Testament,” and “Interpreting the Bible.

He is a 1982 graduate of Messiah College with a bachelor’s degree in Bible, and holds a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary and a doctor of ministry degree from Ashland Theological Seminary.

The Southern Pennsylvania District Office will continue to be located at 6035 York Road, New Oxford, Pa.

Source: 9/20/2013 Newsline

Many Brethren congregations and communities plan to celebrate Peace Day.

Peace Day will be celebrated on Sept. 21, and On Earth Peace and the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness have teamed up this year to invite Brethren congregations and groups to plan events on the theme “Who Will You Make Peace With?”

On Earth Peace reports that more than 120 communities in 18 countries will be praying for peace this weekend. Also, this weekend marks the end date of the 3,000 Miles for Peace campaign initiated by On Earth Peace development director Bob Gross in honor of the late Paul Ziegler, a McPherson (Kan.) College student and member of Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren who died in a bicycle accident. On Earth Peace reports that “trails, roads, and rivers have been traveled by hundreds to collectively raise funds and awareness for our violence prevention programs. We've traveled 6,322 miles. We've raised $147,561.”

Following are just a few of the many events being planned by Brethren and others. Also below: a worship resource for Peace Day written by Matt Guynn of the On Earth Peace staff.

University Park (Md.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a progressive ride/walk that will stop at various neighborhood sites throughout the town.

Andy Murray, a former director of the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., and a popular Brethren folk singer and composer, has completed a 335-mile bicycle ride from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Washington, D.C., as part of 3000 Miles for Peace.

Wakeman's Grove Church of the Brethren in Edinburg, Va., plans an afternoon "Gathering for Prayer and Peace" 3:30-6 p.m., Sept. 21, led by Gabe Dodd and Bill Haley. The program will include a discussion on "Shalom and Human Flourishing," and a children's peace project, concluding with a prayer service at 5:15 p.m.

Bridgewater (Va.) College will hold an interfaith Peace Day service at 6 p.m. Sept. 21 on the campus mall.

Trinity Church of the Brethren in Sidney, Ohio, is holding an outdoor World Peace Prayer Ceremony at 10 a.m., Sept. 21, as “a way to share our spirit of peace and to pray for peace and happiness for every country in the world, by raising flags. Our prayers are to the one Creator God, and transcend our national boundaries, religions, and ideologies,” said an announcement from the congregation. “A similar ceremony was held at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on Valentine's Day, 2013.” Involved in the ceremony is Kyoko Arakawa, the spouse of a Japanese family associated with the Honda Of America manufacturing plant located in the same county, who presented a Peace Pole to the congregation a couple of years ago. For more information contact pastor Brent or Susan Driver, 937-492-9738 or

On Sunday evening, Sept. 22, Creekside Church of the Brethren in Elkhart, Ind., will host a Candlelight Labyrinth Service at 7:30 p.m., outdoors in the Creekside labyrinth prayer garden. The service includes time for meditation and contemplation, and an opportunity to walk the candlelit labyrinth. It is open to the public. Bring lawn chairs.

Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren is involved in the Fort Wayne, Ind., celebration of the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21 at 11:30 a.m. on the plaza at the Allen County Public Library. Other partners in the event are JustPeace, of the University of Saint Francis, the Peace and Justice Commission of Fort Wayne and Allen County, and members of Plymouth Congregational Church Peace and Justice Committee. The church also is hosting a performance of ceremonial dances by the Tibetan monks of the Labrang Tashi Kyil Monastery on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m., sponsored by the Indiana Center for Middle East Peace. “The monks will be in Fort Wayne September 18-24,” said the church newsletter, “they will create a peace mandala at the Allen County Public Library and give performances at various local sites” which also include Manchester University.

Peace Community Church of the Brethren in Windsor, Colo., will celebrate Peace Day with a Blue Grass Gospel Jam and the planting of the peace pole.

Bryan Hanger, a Brethren Volunteer Service worker and legislative associate at the Office of Public Witness, will preach for the Peace Day Service at Peters Creek Church of the Brethren on Sunday, Sept. 22. “I will be preaching about how Jesus is our Peace and our Identity, drawing on Ephesians 2:14-22,” he said in a Facebook announcement.

Ivester Church of the Brethren in Eldora, Iowa, is holding a Walk/Bike for Peace on Sept. 21. The event starts at the Pine Lake Trail at Deer Park, according to an announcement in the Northern Plains District newsletter. A brunch will be offered for participants at 9:30 a.m. Donations will be received for the work of On Earth Peace, and miles walked or bicycled will contribute to the 3,000 Miles for Peace campaign.

International Brethren groups participating in Peace Day include the new Church of the Brethren in Spain, Brethren in the Dominican Republic, and possibly Brethren churches in Haiti, according to On Earth Peace. Ron Lubungo of the Brethren group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) posted on Facebook the group’s plans to gather “with other congregations around us to pray for peace in our state and abroad countries.” The Shalom Ministry in Reconciliation and Development (SHAMIREDE), a peace agency of the Brethren in Congo, is organizer of this event at Uvira in South Kvu Province of DRC. In Nigeria the effort Lifelines Compassionate Global Initiatives, affiliated with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), has been planning an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to fast, sing, and pray together in preparation for an interfaith gathering and visits by Peace Advocates to local churches and mosques.

Heeding God’s Call, an initiative against gun violence that has roots in the Historic Peace Churches, announced a number of events supporting Peace Day Philly in Philadelphia, Pa. Events began last week with a Sept. 14 happening with RAW Tools founder Mike Martin, who forged guns into garden tools as part of a gathering that also included stories, songs, and prayers for transformation led by Shane Claiborne at Simple Cycle in Philadelphia. On Sept. 21, at 2 p.m., a Memorial to the Lost Service with a Tee Shirt Memorial will remember each of the 288 people killed by gun violence in Philadelphia in 2012, at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church. On Sunday, from 3-5 p.m., an Interfaith Conversation on Gun Violence with voices from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths will be held at Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia, led by moderator Chris Satullo of WHYY.

Community responsive prayer

In this responsive prayer written by Matt Guynn, the leader shouts out the phrases and the community repeats them back. Freely adapt to fit your context.

Leader: Turn to someone near you and say, “The peace of the Lord be with you!”
Congregation: The peace of the Lord be with you!

Leader: Turn to someone else and say, “The love of the Lord be with you!”
(congregation will continue to repeat each phrase)

Leader: Turn to someone else and say, “Who will you make peace with?”

Leader: Find someone else and say, “I want to make peace with you!”

Leader: Find someone else and say, “Will you make peace with me?”

Leader: Find someone else and say, “May we learn to live the peace of Christ!”

Leader: Find someone else and say, “Let's pray for the violence to stop!”

Leader: Give us strength to make it so. Find someone else and say, “The violence in our homes is over!”

Leader: Give us strength to make it so. Find someone else and say, “The violence in our streets is over!” (may name a specific issue of concern)

Leader: Give us strength to make it so. Find someone else and say, “The violence in our faith communities is over!” (may name a specific area of faith-related violence)

Leader: Give us strength to make it so. Find someone else and say, “The violence with the earth is over!” (may name a specific area of environmental devastation)

Leader: Give us strength to make it so. Find someone else and say, “The violence between countries is over!” (may name specific countries)

Leader: Give us strength to make it so. (may include one’s own spoken prayer here)

In closing, invite people to pray in pairs or small groups.

For more about Peace Day 2013 and to register an event go to
Source: 9/20/2013 Newsline

Brethren bits.

  • Correction: A change of date has been announced for the nonviolence training sessions in Akron, Pa., led by Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Palestine coordinator Tarek Abuata. The event has been postponed to Nov. 16-17, instead of the dates of Nov. 9 and 16 as given in last week’s Newsline. The sessions, sponsored by the “1040 for Peace” group, are planned as “intensive experiential workshops giving participants a comprehensive introduction to Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy and strategy of nonviolence.” Sponsored by the sessions will cost $100 to attend. Take 5 percent off the fee payable to “Christian Peacemaker Teams” by registering prior to Oct. 15. Send by mail to registrar H.A. Penner, 108 South Fifth St., Akron, PA 17501-1204. Participation is limited; partial scholarships are available. Contact 717-859-3529 or
  • Remembered: Mary Elizabeth (Spessard) Workman, 93, passed away Sept. 14 at the Cedars Health Care Center in McPherson, Kan. She was a former member of the Church of the Brethren denominational staff, serving from 1955-63 as director of Children’s Work. She and her late husband Ronald Workman also were early leaders in the International Christian Youth Exchange (ICYE) and served as regional representatives for that program for eight years as well as personally hosting exchange students from Finland, Japan, and Germany. She also served the church at the local and district levels while living and working in Goshen and Elkhart, Ind. She was a pioneer in helping establish the Oaklawn Psychiatric Center Auxiliary in Indiana, serving as its president during a time when her home was a "community home" for Oaklawn patients. She and her husband worked with the blind and their rehabilitation and in 1968, she began employment with the Elkhart Rehabilitation Center, becoming the founder of Services for the Visually Impaired. In 1972 she was named “Woman of the Year" by the Goshen Business and Professional Women's Organization. In 1980, Beta Sigma Phi gave her the "First Lady of the Year" award. McPherson College in 1970 gave her the "Alumni Citation of Merit" award for outstanding public service. She was born July 18, 1920, near Nickerson, Kan., the daughter of Keller and Agnes (Slifer) Spessard, and was married to Ronald Workman in 1963. He passed away on May 7, 1985. Survivors include step-son David Workman of Denton, Texas, step-grandchildren, and step-great-grandchildren. The funeral service is at 2 p.m. Sept. 20 at McPherson Church of the Brethren with Chris Whitacre officiating. Memorial donations are received to McPherson Church of the Brethren, care of Stockham Family Funeral Home, 205 N. Chestnut, McPherson, KS 67460.
  • Remembered: Olden D. Mitchell, a former district executive in the Church of the Brethren and a longtime pastor, has passed away. He served from 1951-54 as Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, and Wisconsin district executive, in what is now Illinois and Wisconsin District. In other significant service to the denomination, he chaired the Annual Conference study committee on Diminishing Membership, which reported to Conference in 1981. At that point he was “discipleship counselor” in Northern Indiana District. He served several congregations in Indiana and in Virlina District, and did several interim pastorates after retirement. He also wrote many letters to Messenger magazine over the years. At the time of his death he was living in North Manchester, Ind. A memorial service will be held at Manchester Church of the Brethren on Nov. 29 at 2 p.m.
  • Remembered: Mary Stowe died on Sept. 15. She and her late husband, Ned Stowe, were longtime program volunteers for the denomination serving at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. She was a member at York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill. A memorial service will be held on Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. at the York Center Church.
  • An important artefact from the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., in which four young black girls were killed on Sept. 15, 1963, has been given to the Smithsonian by the family of Melva Jimerson. She was a staff member of the Church of the Brethren in Washington, D.C., who during the 1980s-90s served for seven-plus years in the church’s Washington Office and also for a time worked for Church Women United. She and her husband Jim also served as staff of the Plowshares Peace and Justice Center in Roanoke, Va., and were members of Williamson Road Church of the Brethren. The Jimerson family donated “a piece of shattered stained glass from the church” reports Religion News Services (RNS). The piece was picked up by Jim Jimerson, who was active in the civil rights movement, when he visited the church after it was bombed. “This was just a little over two weeks after the March on Washington, which had generated so much optimism for progress of civil rights,” son Randall Jimerson told RNS. He and his siblings made the donation to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will open in 2015. RNS reported it was a speech by President Obama at last year’s groundbreaking for the museum that prompted the family to make the donation. The piece of broken window had been in their dining room hutch for decades. Randall Jimerson “said his jaw dropped when Obama specifically cited ‘the shards of glass’ from the Birmingham church as objects his daughters should see in the forthcoming museum. ‘That’s us,’ he thought. ‘That’s what we have.’” Read the RNS article at
  • Resources are now online for this year’s Junior High Sunday, scheduled for Nov. 3. The theme is a scripture text from 1 John 4:16b-18: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” Find the resources, including worship resources, a scripture jam, children’s stories, a skit, and more at
  • Also new online at are Spanish and Haitian Creole translation of the Annual Conference theme statement from moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman. The theme for the Conference that takes place next year, July 2-6, in Columbus, Ohio, is “Live as Courageous Disciples.” Find the theme statement and links to the translations at
  • Black Rock Church of the Brethren in Glenville, Pa., continues its year-long celebration of 275 years with a Homecoming Weekend on Oct. 4-6. Events will include a Friday evening Festival of the Arts, Saturday afternoon Love Feast with leadership from several former pastors, and Sunday morning service and fellowship. The homecoming will be followed by a Fall Fest on Nov. 2, and Memories of Christmas on Dec. 8, which will round out the anniversary celebrations. Black Rock, established in 1738, was the fourth Brethren congregation planted in North America and the first west of the Susquehanna River, said the announcement from the church. For more information contact 717-637-6170 or or go to
  • Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren hosts a Solar Fair from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Sept. 28. The free event “will give residents and small business owners a chance to learn what generating with the sun is all about,” said an announcement in the “Modesto Bee” newspaper. “Attendees can meet with solar installers and get information on financing, federal tax credits, and incentives. People who have placed systems on their roofs will talk about the experience. The church will show off its own panels.” The fair is sponsored by SolarEverywhere. Read the “Modesto Bee” article at or go to for more information.
  • The 37th Brethren Disaster Relief Auction is Sept. 27-28 at the Lebanon (Pa.) Valley Expo Center. The “Lebanon Daily News” reports that the event will begin with volunteers coming together to assemble school kits for disaster victims. The auction, an annual event of two Church of the Brethren districts--Atlantic Northeast and Southern Pennsylvania--takes place each year on the fourth weekend of September, raising money for disaster relief. Proceeds go to Brethren Disaster Ministries and the United Relief Fund of the two districts. Volunteers will be needed at 2 p.m. on Sept. 27 to assemble Church World Service "Gift of the Heart" School Kits. Over the years since the auction began in 1977, “it has provided more than $12 million in disaster relief to victims of natural and man-made disasters both in the United States and internationally,” said a release. For sale this year: more than 75 quilts will be among the items to be sold in various different auctions including a children's auction, heifer auction, coin auction, theme basket auction, silent auction, and pole barn auction. Read the “Lebanon Daily News” article at Find out more about the auction at
  • Western Pennsylvania District holds the 30th Annual Brethren Heritage Festival at Camp Harmony in Hooversville, Pa., on Sept. 21 starting at 7 a.m. with a breakfast, followed by 9 a.m. devotions with bread and cup communion. Events continue through the afternoon including booths, a District Choir, children’s activities, music, a Heritage Auction, a Red Cross Blood Drive, and closing devotions. For more go to
  • The Bridgewater (Va.) Home Auxiliary Fall Festival is Sept. 21 at 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds. The auxiliary supports the Bridgewater Retirement Community. The festival features auctions of art, quilts, gift baskets, and more, along with specialty shops and food, including breakfast and lunch.
  • Middle Pennsylvania District’s 33rd Annual Heritage Fair will be Sept. 28 at Camp Blue Diamond. There will be a family style dinner and a free concert by Joseph Helfrich on Friday, followed on Saturday by a breakfast and food and craft booths as well as auctions, children’s activities, music, and more. Brethren historical impersonator Larry Glick will be at the fair on Saturday. Sunday features a free continental breakfast followed by worship in the lodge.
  • West Marva District Conference is Sept. 20-21 at Moorefield (W.Va.) Church of the Brethren on the theme, “Follow Me” (Matthew 16:21-26). J. Rogers Fike is moderator.
  • Northern Indiana District Conference will be held Sept. 20-21 at Camp Mack, Milford, Ind.
  • Southern Pennsylvania District Conference will be held Sept. 20-21 at Greencastle (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Moderator Larry Dentler will lead the meeting.
  • South Central Indiana District holds its district conference on Sept. 21 at Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind. Moderator Guy Studebaker and moderator-elect Kay Gaier will lead the conference in the theme “Take Your Mat and Walk” (Mark 2:9). Since the conference coincides with the 2013 Peace Day, over the lunch hour all participants will be invited to walk a few steps for peace as part of the 3,000 Miles for Peace campaign of On Earth Peace.
  • “Called to be Servants: Entrusted to Be Servant Leaders” is the title of the new Spiritual Disciplines folder from the Springs of Living Water Initiative in Church Renewal. The folder offers Sunday texts and daily scriptures on 12 biblical traits of the servant leader for whole congregations to use together in worship and daily devotions. With the folder omes a guide for daily prayer as well as a commitment page for persons on the journey, said a release, along with a summary sheet of the 12 traits, using Christ’s example as the model servant leader. The folder can be used for group Bible study, Sunday school classes, and individual study. Vince Cable is the author of the Bible study questions. “In Springs of Living Water, regular nurture of the spiritual life is seen as the basis of all renewal,” said the release. “Churches discover new spiritual energy, new depth of faith, new unity, and a sense of being on a faith journey. The folder and Bible study questions are available at .
  • In more news from the Springs Initiative, the Level 2 Springs Academy for pastors began Sept. 14, and registration is open for the next Foundations for Christ-centered Church Renewal class to start Feb. 4, 2014. Carried out through five interactive conference calls over a 12-week period, the course will teach a spiritually grounded, servant-led path of ongoing church renewal, and the five roles of a transformational pastor. Class members participate in daily spiritual disciplines, intermingled with study of the texts “Springs of Living Water, Christ-centered Church Renewal” by David S. Young who teaches the course, and “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard J. Foster. Guest pastors from Springs engage in a call-in to share how they implemented the renewal process. For more information contact or refer to the Springs website at
  • Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village’s Auxiliary been an increasingly visible aspect of the Boonsboro, Md., continuing care retirement community, reports a release. In recognition of this, two ginkgo trees will be dedicated in the Auxiliary’s honor, at noon on Saturday, Oct. 19. The Fahrney-Keedy Auxiliary provides support to the residents of the community by holding fund-raisers and events to raise money. The money is used to provide programs for the residents, purchase items needed to support the residents and assist the associates in scholarships and recognition. A plaque to be displayed near the trees reads, “In recognition, honor and appreciation of our Auxiliary and their untiring commitment and service.” The public is invited to the dedication. For more information, call Deborah Haviland, director of marketing, at 301-671-5038, or Linda Reed, director of admissions, at 301-671-5007.
  • McPherson (Kan.) College is offering a series of courses and webinars for the purpose of training and supporting small congregations, under the title “Ventures in Christian Discipleship.” An announcement of the series came in the Northern Plains District newsletter. The first is a webinar on Nov. 9 with Deb Oskin as presenter on the topic “Faith and Finance for Small Congregations,” intended for church treasurers and others responsible for the financial operations of a congregation (cost is $15). A two-part classroom workshop on “Building Healthy Relationships” will be held Jan. 25 and 26, 2014, taught by Barbara Daté (cost is $50 for Jan. 25 and $25 for Jan. 26). Two webinars will be led by Donna Kline, director of the Church of the Brethren Deacon Ministry: “Deaconing in Small Congregations” and “The Gift of Grief: Offering Support in Times of Loss” both on April 12, 2014 (cost is $15 per webinar). Joshua Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship for the denomination, will give webinars on “Spiritual Direction” and “The Practice of Prayer” on March 8, 2014 (cost is $15 per webinar). Contact campus pastor Steve Crain at . For more details go to
  • Peter Kuznick, professor of history at American University and director of the university’s Nuclear Studies Institute, will speak at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. on the topic “The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Rise of the American Empire.” The lecture takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 26 in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science. The lecture is free and open to the public, sponsored by the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. “Rather than emphasizing the triumphalist narrative or the victims’ narrative regarding the atomic bombings of Japan, Kuznick will emphasize an apocalyptic narrative,” said James Skelly, director of the Baker Institute, in a release from the college. “He will note that the people involved in the decision to utilize atomic weapons understood that the processes that they had set in motion could ultimately lead to the elimination of all life on the planet.” Kuznick is the author of “Beyond the Laboratory: Scientists as Political Activists in 1930s America” and currently is writing a book on scientists’ opposition to the Vietnam War. He was a co-author, with film director Oliver Stone, of “The Untold History of the United States,” and also helped Stone write a 10-part documentary series of the same name for the Showtime Network. For more about Juniata College go to
  • Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is issuing an invitation to a “first ever CPT Americas Convergence”--five days of worship, public protest, fellowship, accompaniment, and the opportunity for nonviolent direct action from Nov. 20-24 in Georgia in advance of the annual School of the Americas witness at the gates of Fort Benning, Ga. CPT also is joining with the Alterna Community and Georgia Detention Watch in an annual public witness and civil disobedience action at the Stewart Detention Center, a privately run prison and immigration detention center in Lumpkin, Ga. The annual witness at the gates of Ft. Benning calls for the closure of the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), now known as WHINSEC, which since 1946 “has trained over 64,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, psychological warfare, military intelligence, and interrogation tactics,” the CPT release said. “SOA graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people, targeting educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. They have tortured, raped, ‘disappeared,’ assassinated, and massacred hundreds and thousands of Latin Americans.” For more details contact CPT reservist Beth Pyles at . More information is at and
Source: 9/20/2013 Newsline


Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Matt Guynn, Michael Leiter, Harold Penner, Glen Phillips, Glen Sargent, John Wall, Christy Waltersdorff, David Young, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Newsline: September 13, 2013


Brethren respond to Syria crisis, participate in fasting and prayer, prepare $100,000 grant for refugee needs

Church of the Brethren leaders, congregations, schools, participants at National Older Adult Conference, and other individual members of the church have been responding to the crisis in Syria in a variety of ways, including participating in fasting and prayer for peace in Syria (see the call to a day of fasting and prayer at ). In the latest response from the denominational staff, Brethren Disaster Ministries is preparing a grant of $100,000 from the church’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) in support of the needs of Syrian refugees, with the numbers of refugees anticipated to increase with the increasing severity of the conflict. The grant will go to ecumenical partner agency ACT Alliance, which has been helping to coordinate humanitarian aid since the civil conflict in Syria began (see the full report below).

Also, general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger has written a letter to President Obama from the office of the general secretary of the Church of the Brethren (see below).

General secretary writes to President Obama

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger has sent the following letter to President Obama on the Syrian crisis, dated Sept. 9:
Mr. President,

In 2011, I was a guest of the Vatican to the Day of Reflection, Dialogue, and Prayer for Peace and Justice for the World, held in Assisi, Italy.  There I received a copy of your October 13, 2011, letter commending all faith leaders to “interfaith dialogue, [to unite] in common cause to lift up the afflicted, make peace where there is strife, and find the way forward to a better world for ourselves and our children.”

On that world stage I committed to urge leaders of Nations to make every effort to create and consolidate, on the national and international levels, a world of solidarity and peace based on justice. I committed to work for a world in which peace and justice, restorative justice to be specific, are recognized as basic human rights.

It is therefore within the context of the Church of the Brethren’s historic peace tradition, the public declaration I committed to in Assisi, and your own words commending us to a better way forward, that I prayerfully ask you to more fully count the cost of action that destroys human life, life that has been created in God’s own image, and pursue with all due diligence, interventions that are non-violent and which include the wisdom and leadership of the global community.

Mr. President, you are in my daily thoughts and prayers, as you seek peace, and pursue it.

May God’s shalom and Christ’s peace be evident in your every word and deed.


Stanley J. Noffsinger
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren 
Grant of $100,000 will aid Syrian refugees

A grant of $100,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund is being prepared by Brethren Disaster Ministries, to go to the ACT Alliance for the humanitarian crisis in and around Syria.

Brethren Disaster Ministries is challenging the Church of the Brethren and its members to provide additional resources to expand the Brethren support of this response. To give to this response online, go to; or send to Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

“As the civil war in Syria extends into its third year, the resulting humanitarian crisis has resulted in more than 4,000,000 internally displaced people in Syria and nearly 2,000,000 refugees that have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and northern Africa countries,” writes Roy Winter, associate executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service.

“Those trying to live inside Syria have been displaced multiple times as they flee the violence. Those traveling to other countries are experiencing a growing intolerance and resentment from their host countries. Recent developments including use of chemical weapons are one of several indicators of an increasing severity of the conflict. The result is a humanitarian crisis that ACT Alliance defines as both a mega and protracted emergency.”

The ACT Alliance has been helping coordinate humanitarian aid since the Syrian civil conflict began. Implementing partners include the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), Lutheran World Federation, Finn Church Aid, the Middle East Council of Churches, and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (the Evangelical Church in Germany). Brethren Disaster Ministries intends half of this initial grant of $100,000 to support the IOCC work in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, with half designated to be applied where it may be needed most.

The ACT Alliance response prioritizes food, water, safe sanitation, shelter, household supplies, education, and psychosocial interventions. The Brethren grant will help provide aid to 55,700 people displaced in Syria, 326,205 Syrian refugees in Jordan, 9,200 refugees in Turkey, and 40,966 refugees in Lebanon. Goals include providing direct aid to more than 432,000 Syrian people throughout the next year.

NOAC participants sign a letter to President Obama
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
NOAC participants sign a letter to President Obama, urging "life-giving" means in Syria
More than half of NOAC participants sign letter to President Obama

A letter urging President Obama to "seek life-giving means to assist Syrians as they would seek peace and pursue it" was signed by close to 500 of those participating at the 2013 National Older Adult Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C., last week. The registration at NOAC 2013 was about 800 people.

After the Thursday evening concert at NOAC, and Friday morning before and after closing worship, many NOAC attendees took advantage of an opportunity to sign the letter. The letter, along with many pages of signatures, has been submitted to the White House by the church’s Office of Public Witness. Find the text of the letter at

Bethany Seminary, McPherson College invite students and faculty to fast and pray

At least two of the institutions of higher education related to the denomination--Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., and McPherson (Kan.) College--called their student body, faculty, and staff into prayer and fasting for peace in Syria over the weekend.

At Bethany, the call to a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria was shared with the entire seminary community as well as the neighboring seminary at Earlham School of Religion. Nicarry Chapel was made available as a place to come and pray for peace during the day on Saturday, Sept. 7.

The e-mail invitation sent from the Bethany Community Life Team (Eric Landram, Karen Duhai, Nick Patler, Amy Gall Ritchie) also offered a prayer, and the opportunity for those in the seminary’s distance learning program to send in prayers, stories, or poems to be shared in the chapel space that day:

“Our hearts are heavy with concern for Syria and for our world leaders this week. We have been seeking the will of God and yearning for peace in our world. In efforts for continued prayer and discernment, we have made Nicarry Chapel available for you tomorrow, Saturday, September 7th from 8am to 4pm as a place to offer up your prayers. Come and set your mind and heart towards peace. Seek God's shalom. Pray that all my know the peace of Christ.

“Come, light a candle for peace. Come, write a letter to our leaders voicing your desire for peaceful resolution and place it in the basket on the worship center. Come, sit in the dark with the Holy as you seek discernment in your own way of living and being.

“Below is an email from the Church of the Brethren's General Secretary, Stan Noffsinger. You are invited to be a part of this conversation, the act of fasting, and the voice of our church's call for peace.

“If you are at a distance but wish to offer your prayer in this space, please email the Community Life Team your prayer, or story, or poem and we will read it in your place or simply place it in the basket for you. Peace be with us all--and with our world. --The Community Life Team”

The McPherson College faculty of Philosophy and Religion also shared the call to a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria with the whole campus. An e-mail sent by Tom Hurst on behalf of the group of faculty said, in part, “As individuals, at times like this, we often feel impotent to impact the decisions of our national political leaders. This does not need to be the case. Those who believe in prayer should pray. Those who believe in fasting as a way to help focus one’s beliefs should use Saturday to fast. Those who believe in writing to the President and to Congress should write emails. Other ideas follow in the letter below.

“In the spirit of this letter which has come from the General Secretary of this college’s founding denomination, the Church of the Brethren we, the faculty of the McPherson College Philosophy and Religion Department, recognizing that diverse views do exist on our campus related to this issue, ask that we each respect one another’s opinions and also ask you to consider finding a way to express your desire for a peaceful solution to this crisis.”

The communication was signed jointly by Dr. Steve Crain, Dr. Kent Eaton, Dr. Paul Hoffman, Dr. Tom Hurst, and Dr. Herb Smith, and included the full text of the Newsline announcing the day for fasting and prayer.

Elizabethtown Church places ad for peace in Sunday paper

Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren’s Peace Group on Sunday placed a paid advertisement in the area newspaper, the Lancaster “Sunday News.” Reported pastor Greg Davidson Laszakovits, “our Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren Peace Group decided it was time to make a bold and public proclamation of peace, even as the US considers military action on yet another country. We hope others might do the same in their communities.”

The full text of the advertisement follows:

As followers of Jesus who seek to practice his nonviolent teachings we grieve over the chaos in Syria. We abhor the senseless deaths of 100,000 people, the displacement of 2 million refugees, and the heinous gassing of 1400 people by chemical weapons. We have prayed for and will continue to pray for peace and stability in Syria and the surrounding region.

We confess that we do not live in Syria or in its region. Nor are we threatened by these atrocities. Nevertheless, we are compelled by our Christian conscience to speak out in the interest of all people as children of God.

We believe that nonviolent means are the only way to secure a stable and lasting peace. We are convinced that violence only begets more violence--that an eye for an eye soon spirals into endless blindness. Responding to violence with violence will only inflame more evil actions.

Specifically, we ardently plead for President Obama and the US Congress to immediately stop planning any military action against Syria for ten compelling reasons:
  1. The unintended consequences of such strikes are dangerous and simply unknown.
  2. There is no certainty that US attacks will prevent the future use of chemical weapons.
  3. US strikes will give license for other nations to respond to American attacks and set off a regional inferno. Though the US hopes not to put “boots on the ground,” make no mistake, this will lead to greater loss of life.
  4. US strikes are not an act of self-defense. The US is not under any imminent danger or threat. Any military action will only further entangle the US in yet another conflict.
  5. US attacks against a sovereign nation without provocation or the endorsement of the United Nations is a violation of international law. In doing so we lose all moral clout to persuade other nations not to strike sovereign nations without provocation.
  6. The U.S. cannot and should not try to impose its will on other countries. Have the hard and ugly lessons of Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq been so quickly purged from our memories?
  7. U.S. military strikes will play into the view of America as the Great Satan.
  8. Military action may incite contagious anger—producing a new generation of suicide bombers threatening U.S. interests.
  9. Neither violence nor the threat of violence will win the hearts and minds of friends or enemies.
  10. The proposed attacks violate the very essence of the life and message of Jesus, who overcame evil with good and who always responded to violence with non-violent action.
We urge all people of peace and goodwill who share our concerns to immediately express their views to President Obama and to their U.S. representatives and senators. Act now! Congressional discussions are already underway. They will begin in full tomorrow, September 9.

“I object to violence because, when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” --Gandhi

This statement is sponsored by the Peace Group of the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren
Individual Brethren respond with expressions of concern

Communications staff and the office of the general secretary have received a number of statements of concern about the situation in Syria from individual members and friends of the church. Following is a sampling of the concerns and prayers that have been received:

“Shalom. The situation Syria is on our mind and [we] pray for them.”

"Again, we desperately hope...."

"Thank you for mentioning the Orthodox priests who were violently abducted this spring. They have been on my heart for some time. Many in the Orthodox community fear they have already been or will soon be beheaded. May our prayers for peace be heard and answered swiftly!"

“Fasting and prayer can clear our mind and help us discern the spirit, but the next step is research and investigation, and then speaking truth to power. The problem is that there currently is no public media outlet that will speak the truth. Could it be that the COB has come to be what it is ‘for such at time as this?’ Esther risked her life and confronted the king.”

“Please we shall pray together. Syria is a country just north of my country a few kilometres and maybe we shall be impacted over this war. We shall stand to pray for peace and cry for God to help.” (Sent in by a Newsline reader in Kenya.)

"The question of what to do about chemical weapons is urgently serious, and cries out for a response. The world is rightly being reminded of the 1925 Geneva convention against the use of such weapons. But [I am] afraid America is not in a great position to take the moral high ground on this issue--remembering our heavy use of napalm and other chemical products in various "little wars," like Vietnam. We'll never know how many lives were wasted by the heavy use of agent orange and other "sprays" in that long, destructive war which still searches for a real reason to have been waged over a 10-year period against a peasant people. And while deploring the "new" chemical warfare in Syria, wiping out more than 1,000 lives, other questions come to mind--such as the simultaneous use of so-called conventional weapons that already has taken the lives of more than 100,000 persons in Syria. And thus even the horror of chemical weapons should in no way excuse or allow the use of a whole range of other killing materials and machines--which also serve as instruments of horror. War is not the answer. War is the problem. Too simplistic, yes. But I think there are times to say NO, even as we search for the best YES possible."

Source: 9/13/2013 Newsline