Thursday, July 04, 2013

Newsline Special: July 4, 2013


Annual Conference recognizes the new Church of the Brethren in Spain

Tim Harvey and Jay Wittmeyer present the recognition of the Church of the Brethren in Spain
Photo by Glenn Riegel
The business item recognizing the new Church of the Brethren in Spain was presented by past moderator Tim Harvey (left) and Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer.
Recognition of the Church of the Brethren movement taking hold in Spain was given with enthusiasm by the delegate body.

The proposal was presented by Tim Harvey from Standing Committee and Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service. They described how the church in Spain got started about 10 years ago when Brethren from the Dominican Republic emigrated to Spain to find employment and then started churches. With support from Fausto Carrasco, a Church of the Brethren pastor in Bethlehem, Pa., they have been attracting and ministering to other immigrants to Spain from Latin America and other areas of the world, as well as native Spaniards.

The Brethren movement was already established in Spain when Wittmeyer heard about it in 2009. He and Carol Yeazell made a visit. Tim Harvey also visited during his year as Conference moderator. Harvey said the visitors found functioning congregations, vital worship, and active outreach to other immigrants to that area of Spain.

During questioning from the Conference floor, one person raised financial concerns, asking if approving this mission would open the denomination up to excessive costs. Wittmeyer responded that the main work, the mission work, was already being done by the people in Spain. Church of the Brethren resources and staff will not be needed to plant the church, but the role of American Brethren will be to build relationships and be supportive. He did not see the Spanish church as being resource dependent.

In response to another question, Wittmeyer noted that the main Spanish Brethren congregation has over 100 worshiping, that there are four churches in Madrid, several in the northern part of the country, and some preaching points. He said there are probably around eight congregations deeply interested in connecting with the Church of the Brethren.

The voice vote was loud as the delegates gave approval with enthusiasm. Harvey then led a prayer of thanksgiving and celebration.

-- Frances Townsend is pastor of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren and a member of the Annual Conference News Team.

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

Conference decides that 1979 paper on Biblical Inspiration and Authority is still relevant

The officers of Annual Conference 2013
Photo by Glenn Riegel
The officers of Annual Conference 2013, from left moderator-elect Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, moderator Bob Krouse, and secretary James Beckwith.
The Conference delegates have decided that a 1979 Annual Conference statement titled “Biblical Inspiration and Authority” is still relevant today, in response to a query on biblical authority.

The query came from Hopewell Church of the Brethren and was passed on to Annual Conference by the Virlina District Conference. It asked if the 1979 Annual Conference statement is still relevant to the denomination, given what “appears to be a great diversity in approach to the primacy of scripture in general and the New Testament in particular within the Church of the Brethren.”

The action of the 2013 Annual Conference was to adopt a recommendation from the Standing Committee of district delegates “that the 1979 Annual Conference statement on Biblical Inspiration and Authority is still relevant and represents the position of the denomination today.  We encourage its on-going study in personal and corporate settings.”

Discussion of the query and the Standing Committee recommendation was lively and included a time for delegates to talk in their table groups as well as time for comments from the microphones. A number of speakers expressing a range of theological perspectives, all supported the statement that the 1979 paper continues to represent the position of the denomination. Others who acknowledged that the paper represents a compromise, still called for the Brethren to tackle the task of resolving differences and conflicts over how to read the Bible.

“How to you decide in 30 minutes what to do with a...3,000 year old book?” asked moderator Bob Krouse, at one point during the discussion.

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

Resolution Against Drone Warfare is adopted.

Nathan Hosler presents the Resolution Against Drone Warfare
Photo by Regina Holmes
Nathan Hosler of the Office of Public Witness presents the Resolution Against Drone Warfare to the 2013 Annual Conference.
The 2013 Annual Conference has adopted a Resolution Against Drone Warfare. Developed by the Office of Public Witness, the document was passed on to the Conference by the Mission and Ministry Board, which had adopted the resolution at a meeting earlier this year.

The resolution is thought to be the first statement against military drones by an American church body. It addresses the use of drones in warfare in the context of a reaffirmation of the longstanding assertion by the Church of the Brethren that “war is sin.”

Citing scripture and Annual Conference statements, it states in part, “We are troubled by the quickly expanding use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. These drones are being used for surveillance and remote killing of people. In our opposition to all types of war, the Church of the Brethren has spoken out specifically against covert warfare.... Drone warfare embodies the fundamental problems that covert warfare entails.”

The resolution includes calls for action directed to the church and its members, and to the President and Congress.

After the delegate body approved the resolution, copies of a recent issue of “Sojourners” magazine were distributed that include an advertisement about the Mission and Ministry Board’s action on the resolution.

Read the full text of the resolution at .

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

Revision to Ministerial Leadership Polity is returned for further work.

Delegates vote during the 2013 Annual Conference
Photo by Glenn Riegel
The Annual Conference received the Revision to Ministerial Leadership Polity with appreciation for the work that has been done on the document, but returned it to the Mission and Ministry Board “for revision in accordance with Standing Committee concerns, to be brought back to the 2014 Annual Conference.”

Although information about this revision to the Church of the Brethren’s ministerial polity paper had been shared with previous Annual Conferences, the officers decided that it needed to be treated as new business since it had not yet been processed through the Standing Committee of district delegates.

The revision has been in the works for several years, led by staff of the Office of Ministry and the Ministry Advisory Council along with other groups including the Mission and Ministry Board and the Council of District Executives.

The paper presents the new concept of Circles of Ministry (Calling Circle, Ministry Circle, and Covenant Circle), revised steps for the calling process for ministers, and the new commissioned minister alongside the established ministry credentials of licensed minister and ordained minister. It also details the credentialing process, gives history on ministerial leadership in the church, theological perspective, and guidance for related issues such as accountability of ministers, reinstatement of ordination, and receiving ministers from other denominations.

The Standing Committee had spent much time in pre-Conference meetings discussing the revision, with several statements of support for the paper in general as well as several concerns being raised. The committee listed concerns about the paper and suggestions for ways the concerns may be handled, and shared that information with the Conference business session.

Standing Committee concerns centered in four general areas: a lack of mention of the plural non-salaried ministry (free ministry), the mandatory makeup of the cohort for each minister, transition of commissioned minister to ordained minister, and what happens if there is a change of call for a commissioned minister.

The following five suggestions were shared by Standing Committee and communicated to the Ministerial Advisory Council:
  • Integrate the 1998 paper on Plural Non-Salaried Ministry into the Ministerial Leadership Paper.
  • Change cohort make-up from polity to guidelines.
  • Find a way for persons to move from commissioned minister to ordained minister without needing to reenter the licensing process.
  • Allow for a change of call for commissioned ministers with district permission.
  • Seek intentional conversation with leadership from ethnic congregations, specifically Hispanic and Haitian, regarding how the Ministerial Leadership Paper will affect ministers in their contexts.
Find the document that was presented to the 2013 Annual Conference at . A packet of related study materials also is available.

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

Proposal on more equitable representation returns to Mission and Ministry Board

Moderator Bob Krouse chats with one of the tables
Photo by Glenn Riegel
Moderator Bob Krouse chats with one of the tables of delegates. There were 100 tables of delegates on the Conference floor for the 2013 business sessions. Many business items included time for table talk, which allowed for small group discussion in addition to time at the microphones for concerns and questions to be brought.
A proposal prepared by the Mission and Ministry Board to respond to a query on equitable representation on the board has been returned to the Mission and Ministry board for further work.

The Mission and Ministry Board was directed by the 2012 Annual Conference to respond to the query. However the board’s proposed amendments to the bylaws of the Church of the Brethren did not receive enough votes. Because the proposal would have changed polity, a two-thirds majority was required for passage.

After the motion failed, the Annual Conference officers ruled that the decision of the 2012 Conference to refer the concerns of the query to the Mission and Ministry Board still stands and that the board should do further work and bring a different answer to the concerns of the query to the 2014 Annual Conference. The officers provided an opportunity for delegates to submit recommendations to the board for its further work.

The proposal brought by the board, which did not receive enough support from the delegate body, would have changed how board members are chosen so as to reflect the large variation in membership numbers among the five geographical areas of the denomination. Proposed bylaw changes were to increase from 10 to 11 the number of board members elected by Annual Conference; decrease from 5 to 4 the at-large members elected by the board and affirmed by the Conference; change from 2 to 3 the number of members elected by Conference from each of the three most populous areas of the denomination (Areas 1, 2, 3); decrease from 2 to 1 the number of members elected by Conference from each of the two least populous areas (Areas 4 and 5); charge the nominating committee of Standing Committee with ensuring fair and equitable rotation of board members from among districts.

During discussion, delegates asked for and received time for table groups to discuss the issue together. At the microphones, comments focused on the question of whether equitable representation was needed, or if the diversity of experience might need more consideration. Several people spoke from or on behalf of less populous western districts who may feel disenfranchised, while others raised concerns about some of the most populous eastern districts not having representation for long periods of time, and having to compete for scarce slots on the board.

General secretary Stanley Noffsinger shared helpful information, saying that the Nominating Committee of Standing Committee is already directed to pay attention to which districts in each area are represented on the board, and to look for nominees from the other districts in those areas to spread out the opportunity to serve to all districts over time.

One speaker suggested that the number of board members be increased instead of taking board member slots away from Areas 4 and 5. Board chair Ben Barlow explained the financial reasons behind limiting the total board membership, citing a yearly cost of holding board meetings that is already around $60,000.

The vote on the proposal was 369 to 345, only a slim majority. This means the Mission and Ministry Board must return to the 2014 Annual Conference with another proposal in response to the query.

In another decision related to the Mission and Ministry Board, the Conference approved a proposal to increase the membership on the Executive Committee of the Mission and Ministry Board. Since the transition to the new structure of the Church of the Brethren Inc. in 2008, the board has been operating with an executive committee of four elected members as called for in the bylaws. However, the board has sensed a need to enlarge this number to five, primarily for better communication between the executive committee and the full board. A change to the bylaws was needed to make this happen, and it was passed by more than the two-thirds majority required.

-- Frances Townsend is pastor of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren and a member of the Annual Conference News Team.

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

Election results, David Steele to serve as moderator of the 2015 Annual Conference.

David Steele, district executive minister of Middle Pennsylvania District
Photo by Glenn Riegel
David Steele, district executive minister of Middle Pennsylvania District, has been chosen Annual Conference moderator elect. He is shown here leading worship for the 2012 Annual Conference.
In today’s election results, the Annual Conference has chosen David Steele of Martinsburg, Pa., as moderator elect. He will assist moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman in leading the Conference next year in Columbus, Ohio, and will serve as moderator for the Conference in Tampa, Fla., in 2015.

Steele is district executive minister for Middle Pennsylvania District. He is a graduate of McPherson (Kan.) College and Bethany Theological Seminary. Prior to his call to lead the district, he served as pastor of the Bakersfield congregation and as pastor of youth ministries and subsequently pastor at the Martinsburg Memorial congregation. He has also been very engaged in district and denominational youth ministry.

Other election results:
Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee: Shawn Flory Replogle of McPherson, Kan.

Bethany Theological Seminary trustee: Representing clergy, Frank Ramirez of Everett, Pa. Representing laity, Donna Shumate of Sparta, N.C.

Brethren Benefit Trust Board: Sara Huston Brenneman of Hershey, Pa.

Mission and Ministry Board: From Area  2, Dennis John Richard Webb of Aurora, Ill. From Area 3, Jonathan Andrew Prater of Harrisonburg, Va. To fill the unexpired term through 2017 of Rhonda Ritenour of York, Pa., who has resigned from the board: Donita J. Keister of Mifflinburg, Pa.

On Earth Peace Board: Chris Riley of Luray, Va.

Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee: Nancy L. Bowman of Fishersville, Va.
Other appointments by the Annual Conference related agencies will be brought for confirmation by the delegate body tomorrow afternoon.

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

Agency appointees are confirmed by the delegates.

Annual Conference agency executives and board chairs
Photo by Regina Holmes
Annual Conference agency executives and board chairs wait on the Conference stage as the delegates confirm their financial reports and board appointments.
The four Annual Conference agencies presented appointees to be confirmed to their boards by the delegate body. The Conference confirmed all of the appointments as follows:

Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board: Connie Burk Davis of Westminster, Md., and Lorida, Fla.

On Earth Peace Board: John Cassel of Oak Park, Ill.; Michelet Hyppolite of North Woodmere, N.Y.

Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees: Katherine Melhorn of Wichita, Kan.; John Neff of Moneta, Va.

Brethren Benefit Trust Board: Carol Hess of Lancaster, Pa.; Jerry Patterson of Ashburn, Va.; Beth E. Sollenberger of Goshen, Ind.

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

Mission and Ministry Board adopts budget parameter for 2014, welcomes international guests in pre-Conference meeting

Mission and Ministry Board chair Ben Barlow led the pre-Conference meeting
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Mission and Ministry Board chair Ben Barlow led the pre-Conference meeting
A budget parameter for the Core Ministries budget for 2014 was adopted by the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board in its meeting on Saturday, June 29, in advance of the Annual Conference.

Also on the board’s agenda was the welcoming of international visitors, recognition of board members who are completing their terms of service, a financial update, an update on the Brethren Service Center campus, reports from Global Mission and Service programs and from Congregational Life Ministries, and review of business coming to the Conference. Open Roof Awards were given to four congregations.

Budget parameter for 2014

A 2014 budget parameter of $4,895,000 in income and expense was set for the Core Ministries budget that funds the core denominational programs of the Church of the Brethren. Treasurer LeAnn Wine reported that the parameter includes the plan for a one-time use of $136,000 from designated funds.

Open Roof Awards went to four congregations
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Open Roof Awards went to four congregations
Open Roof 

Congregational Life Ministries presented Open Roof Awards to four congregations who have done significant work to become accessible to people living with disabilities: Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa.; Wolgamuth Church of the Brethren in Dillsburg, Pa.; Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; and Nettle Creek Church of the Brethren in Hagerstown, Ind.

Update from the Brethren Service Center

An update on the situation of the Brethren Service Center following the closing of the New Windsor Conference Center was given by Wine. The board heard that staff have been working hard to seek options for the use of two of the main buildings on the campus that are not being fully utilized, including meeting with county officials and real estate consultants. The board took action to authorize staff to pursue all options for the property, up to and including receiving letters of intent.

International guests

International guests coming to the Conference were welcomed, in particular those who are working as mission coordinators or mission liaisons with the Church of the Brethren and leaders of Brethren bodies in various nations: Markus Gamache from Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria); Ariel Rosario Abrieu, moderator of Iglesia des los Hermanos (the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic); Suely Inhauser, mission co-coordinator in Brazil and a minister of Igreja da Irmandade (Church of the Brethren in Brazil); and Ruth and Pablo Santos Terrero, a clergy couple who were present to represent the new Church of the Brethren in Spain.


Leaving board members were recognized for completing their terms of service, including board chair Ben Barlow, along with board members Andy Hamilton, Todd Eichelberger, and Wallace Cole.

A special recognition was given to Ruthann Knechel Johansen, who is retiring from the presidency of Bethany Theological Seminary. She had served as an ex officio member of the Mission and Ministry Board.

Two employees were recognized, who have resigned in recent months: Anna Emrick, who had been working in the Global Mission and Service office, and Amy Heckert, who has been on the website and communications staff.

In other business

The board received the resignation of board member Rhonda Ritenour of York, Pa., who is resigning because of a change of employment.

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

Bethany luncheon features conversation between past president and new president

Delegates recognize Bethany's retiring president and new president
Photo by Glenn Riegel
Delegates recognized Bethany's retiring president and new president during the business session, with a standing ovation for Ruthann Knechel Johanson (left) who is retiring from leadership of the seminary. At the podium is newly named president Jeffrey Carter, with Bethany board chair Lynn Myers.
The Bethany Theological Seminary and Brethren Academy luncheon is hosted each year by the Bethany Alumni/ae Coordinating Council. The luncheon is a time to recognize recent graduates of Bethany Theological Seminary and the Brethren Academy Training in Ministry programs, current students, faculty, and staff.

The event featured a conversation with Jeffrey Carter, who was in his second day as the new president of Bethany Seminary, and president emerita Ruthann Knechel Johansen, who was in her second day of retirement.

Johansen reviewed several accomplishments of her term as president stating that her contributions were not done alone but with and by the entire community. She named her accomplishments as adoption of the current Mission and Vision statement, which led to the Strategic Plan, which led to the development of a new curriculum and a Comprehensive Assessment Plan.

Carter was then asked to reflect on how he plans to lead into the future. He is coming to the Presidency at a time when many good things are already in place, he said. “This gives me the opportunity of time to think about where we are and to listen to the board, faculty, and staff, and the broader denomination, and to then start dreaming about the next strategic plan.” He shared that his main responsibility is to maintain the health of the Bethany community and the wider church, and to keep open communication. A goal he brings is to “Look out, look forward, leading us [Bethany Seminary] into new growth, yet firmly planted in our mission.”

Carter has another goal--that Bethany Seminary become the first thought when one considers where to seek theological study. He also desires that the seminary is the first thought when a congregation needs resources. “Rather than look at Google or Wikipedia, call the seminary,” he suggested.
Ruthann Knechel Johansen is greeted by Enten Eller
Photo by Randy Miller
Ruthann Knechel Johansen is greeted by Enten Eller during a reception in her honor, hosted by Bethany Theological Seminary where she is retiring as president.

Both Johansen and Carter recognized the goal that the seminary has for growing a stronger ecumenical influence. Carter has served the denomination in ecumenical settings and stated, “I always left [ecumenical] meetings with a better understanding of my Brethren identity.” He explained this was due to the many conversations that happen in ecumenical settings where he was called on to explain a Brethren practice or belief.

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership announced that the Academy Certified Training System (ACTS): Christian Growth Institute serving Shenandoah and Virlina Districts has received re-certification. Recognition also was given to the final cohorts of the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Vital Pastor Program and Advanced Foundations of Church Leadership Program. The year 2013 brings the culmination of these programs, but the Brethren Academy will continue to provide continuing education in new ways.

Lowell Flory was presented a memorial album in recognition and thanks for his involvement with the Advanced Foundations programs over 10 years.

-- Karen Garrett is a member of the Annual Conference News Team

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

Conference donates backpacks of school supplies in witness to host city

Conferencegoers bring an offering of school supplies
Photo by Regina Holmes
Conferencegoers bring an offering of school supplies as a witness to the host city of Charlotte,N.C.
Annual Conference attendees offered a mountain of backpacks filled with school supplies during Sunday afternoon's worship service on June 30. This special offering for the Conference host city of Charlotte, N.C., was a unique way that the Church of the Brethren bears witness to the generosity, service, and love of Jesus.

Two days later, during business this afternoon, moderator Bob Krouse presented the backpacks to Jill Dineen, executive director of Classroom Central, an organization based in Charlotte that provides teachers of underprivileged children with school supplies for their classrooms.

"I was one of seven kids who grew up in extreme poverty," said Dineen as she received the offering. "I know the difference these backpacks will make on students like me.... This gift allows students to have a tangible application of your generosity."

After noting her strong sense of faith learned from her mother, Dineen shared that she was moved and humbled by the "humongous mass" of backpacks. "On behalf of all the children we serve, thank you for the blessing of your generosity."

Jill Dineen, executive director of Classroom Central
Photo by Regina Holmes
Jill Dineen, executive director of Classroom Central, thanks the Church of the Brethren for donations of school supplies, and receives a check from moderator Bob Krouse (at left) representing cash donations from Conferencegoers who traveled by plane to the host city Charlotte and could not bring school supplies with them.
After a handshake and a hug, Krouse concluded in agreement with Dineen. "God bless you, church, for being so faithful."

--Mandy J. Garcia is staff for donor communications and a member of the Annual Conference News Team

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

Ecumenical visitors include Disciples president, BDM partner.

Sharon Watkins, president and general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Photo by Regina Holmes
Sharon Watkins, president and general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Ecumenical guests were introduced to the delegate body during the Monday business session. General secretary Stanley Noffsinger introduced Sharon E. Watkins, president and general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Zach Wolgemuth of Brethren Disaster Ministries introduced Charlie Gockel, a partner in the home rebuilding project site in Prattsville, N.Y.

Watkins brought greetings from her denomination. In her remarks she described her church saying, “If the Church of the Brethren is all about peace, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is all about unity.” She said that our two denominations partner in many ways, and noted that many Conference-goers were telling her stories of local connections between Brethren and Disciples as well.

Gockel is a United Methodist pastor and Executive Director of Huntersfield Christian Training Center in Prattsville. In Aug. 2011, Hurricane Irene dropped 18 inches of rain on the area. The training center shut down its regular programming and opened its facility as a shelter for flood-displaced families. The staff began to oversee volunteers and case management.

Charlie Gockel, Executive Director of Huntersfield Christian Training Center in Prattsville, N.Y.
Photo by Regina Holmes
Charlie Gockel, executive director of Huntersfield Christian Training Center in Prattsville, N.Y.
For the first year, Gockel and his staff did the work themselves, an often overwhelming task. He reported that he prayed for help several times and eventually was guided to Brethren Disaster Ministries. In June 2012, the Brethren came to oversee the ecumenical long-term reconstruction effort which continues in the area. Gockel expressed deep gratitude for the help and support of Brethren Disaster Ministries and the work of the many volunteers who have served his community.

-- Frances Townsend is pastor of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren and a member of the Annual Conference News Team.

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

BBT 5K contributes to On Earth Peace '3,000 Miles for Peace.'

At 7 a.m. today, 37 walkers and 64 runners gathered in Freedom Regional Park in Charlotte, N.C., to participate in the 2013 Fitness Challenge at Annual Conference, sponsored by Brethren Benefit Trust.

After a brief welcome, BBT president Nevin Dulabaum shared that this year’s race had a unique component: it was a designated “3,000 Miles for Peace” event. All participants had the opportunity to log miles and raise dollars to donate to the Paul Ziegler Young Peacemakers Fund, which undergirds the peace-building efforts of On Earth Peace in memory of Paul Ziegler, a young man who planned to ride his bicycle across the country for peace, but never got the chance.
Winners of the Fitness Challenge walk/run
Photo by Glenn Riegel
Winners of the Fitness Challenge walk/run: (from left) Susan Fox fastest female walker, Chelsea Goss fastest female runner, Matthew Fahs-Brown fastest male runner, Don Shankster, male walker champion.
“Paul was always my boy with a plan,” wrote Paul Ziegler’s mother in a letter to Fitness Challenge athletes. “He would often lean over in church and say, ‘Why are we just sitting here? If everyone were out doing something for someone else, just think how much we could accomplish.’ ” It was in that spirit of service and with the memory of Paul’s determination that runners and walkers of all ages set out to each cover 3.1 miles for peace--as quickly as they could.

The out-and-back route ran alongside beautiful ponds, crossed over creeks, and traversed under trees. Although it was humid, the cloud cover and early morning temperature made it a lovely day for a little exercise.
Runners in the Brethren Benefit Trust Fitness Challenge
Photo by Glenn Riegel
Runners in the Brethren Benefit Trust Fitness Challenge

Susan Fox was the fastest female walker, crossing the finish line at 39:50. Don Shankster, male walker champion, finished at 33:27. Chelsea Goss protected her title of fastest female runner, clocking in 24:36. And Matthew Fahs-Brown took home the prize for fastest male runner at 17:45.

This annual event is well-loved for the fresh air, fellowship, and healthy competition, but this  year’s Fitness Challenge went a little further than past races--pounding the pavement for peace.

--Mandy J. Garcia is Church of the Brethren staff for donor communications.

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

Experiencing God’s love: A young adult conversation with Mark Yaconelli

Mark Yaconelli speaks with the young adults
Photo by Mandy Garcia
Mark Yaconelli speaks with the young adults
Nineteen young adults gathered for casual conversation with Mark Yaconelli on Saturday evening at Annual Conference in Charlotte. A circle of chairs filled the small conference room, and the group conversation was comfortable. Brief introductions were made before Mark told a story to set the theme for our time together.

A friend of his visited a classroom of kindergartners and asked them, “How many of you can draw?” All the children raised their hands. “How many of you can sing?” Again, all hands were raised. “How many of you can draw a picture of a pig in a spaceship, or sing a song about a turtle dancing on the trees?” After pondering only a moment, he faced a room full of creative, willing artists with their hands high in the air.

Later, that same friend visited a classroom full of university students and asked the same questions: Can you draw? Can you sing? But after each question, only one or two hands were raised, and those admissions came with qualifiers like, “I only do still life drawings,” or “I only sing a certain style of music.”

This led Mark’s friend to ask one final question: “What happened to you in the last 13 years?!”

The point of the story was that we all start out confident in our abilities, and empowered to be creative. But not too many years later we enter a society that measures our worth only by appearance, achievements, and affluence. That pressure leads to fear and anxiety, which is the opposite of love.

Lists of anxiety and love, in young adult conversation with Mark Yaconelli
Photo by Mandy Garcia
To respond to this conclusion, Mark began two lists on a large piece of paper taped to the wall. One column was marked “Anxiety” and the other “Love.” Under “Anxiety” were words like “results,” “conforming,” and “control,” but parallel to those words were others in the “Love” category like “relationships,” “creating,” and “contemplation.” Each young adult in the circle identified times in their lives that fit into each category, and Mark’s conclusion was that each person has experienced moments of God’s love, but we rarely slow down enough to savor them--to see how they might change us.

So Mark invited the group to spread out, find a comfortable posture, and close their eyes. He then guided participants through a silent prayer exercise. It was a search through memories, a quest for sacred moments--moments when God’s love was most clearly present. He asked what those moments looked like, what they felt like, how they smelled and felt to the touch.

After several minutes of meditation, the group split into several smaller ones and shared whatever they felt comfortable sharing from the experience. For some it was difficult, for others it was a relief. For all it required vulnerability.

Mark posed one final question, which was met with quiet reflection and pondering: How can we make sure that we continue to experience sacred moments of love in a society driven by anxiety?

Though the time was brief and the room was small and unattractive, the Holy Spirit made the minutes precious, and moved participants to beautiful places. Perhaps for some, this experience might even be their newest memory of experiencing God’s loving presence.

--Mandy J. Garcia is staff for donor communications for the Church of the Brethren.

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline

Sending of the Seventy helps bring healing to Northern Plains District

A cross lies on an open Conference booklet
Photo by Glenn Riegel
Northern Plains District held an Insight Session to explain a program that was developed and implemented to help bring healing at a time when the district had become deeply divided and tensions were high.

While dealing with this strife, district executive Tim Button-Harrison attended a conference on the Missional Church. The focus was on Luke 10:1-12, the story of Jesus’ sending of the seventy into the mission field, two by two. He began to imagine how a visiting program within the district might work.

Button-Harrison and other district leaders designed the plan, originally implemented in 2008 and carried out for a second round in 2012. Each congregation was to appoint two or three members who would visit another congregation. Then each of these visitors would be paired with a visitor from another congregation and together they would visit a different congregation. Their main tasks were to listen to the people and take notes during their visits, and later report back to an area gathering of the visitors.

Visitors were trained and congregations prepared to participate through scripture study, prayer, and reflection on prepared questions about what God is doing in their church and community, and what the church is doing.

A panel of several persons who had participated in the process told about their experiences and how it affected them and the congregations. Hope, healing, and new, deep friendships were common themes in the presentations. Even the long car rides that the visitors shared on their way to the churches turned out to be valuable experiences. Many friendships were formed in long conversations together.

One pair of visitors almost got stuck in the deep mud of a back road on the way to a rural congregation that had been feeling upset and not part of the “body.” The members were surprised the visitors had made the effort to come to them and to hear them out.

Panelists also spoke on how important it was for congregations to tell their stories to outsiders. As they did so, they often were able to better appreciate their own ministry efforts. Validation from the visitors was of great value to them. One panelist said that a church had been talking about shutting down, but participated in the process and described to their visitors some “huge things they were doing in the community. It made a lot of difference to them to see how someone from the outside appreciated their report. It gave them renewed energy.” This congregation and another struggling congregation elsewhere in the district are now talking about planting new congregations in their areas.

Panelists did not say that the process had created uniformity in the district on the issues of concern, but that people now are more appreciative of one another, have more respect, and are working at treating one another with love. One panelist said that his is one of the more conservative congregations. He said, “Now when we get together with other churches in the district, it’s not about those [political] views, it’s about doing God’s work.” Others agreed, saying that the mood on the district board is different now and that the focus is more on mission than on what has divided them.

The Northern Plains District Office is eager to share plans, training documents, and other written materials with anyone who would like to take a closer look. E-mail or call 641-485-5604.

-- Frances Townsend is pastor of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren and a member of the Annual Conference News Team.

Source: 7/4/2013 Newsline


Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Contributors to the news coverage of Annual Conference include: photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Debbie Surin, Alysson Wittmeyer; writers Karen Garrett, Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend; Conference Journal editor Eddie Edmonds; Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden; donor communications staff Mandy Garcia; website staff Amy Heckert and Don Knieriem; and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services