Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Newsline: February 25, 2014


Brethren Disaster Ministries makes assessment visit to the Philippines

Photo by Peter Barlow

Brethren Disaster Ministries 
leader Roy Winter visits with 
Philippines villagers at a Heifer 
International project site
A visit to the Philippines from Jan. 18-28 to evaluate the current state of the response to Typhoon Haiyan was made by Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries--part of the Church of the Brethren response following the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan last November. Brethren Disaster Ministries is using the information gained to identify local partners and how the Brethren may best contribute to ecumenical relief and recovery efforts.

Accompanied by Church of the Brethren member Peter Barlow, who has volunteered for the Peace Corps in one of the hardest-hit areas, Winter visited with partners of Church World Service (CWS) and ACT International, communities where Heifer International is at work, and local Filipino organizations.

The two visited the island of Leyte and the city of Tacloban, which has received much of the world’s attention following the typhoon, met with government officials, and visited communities where Heifer is doing longterm sustainability work around Ormoc city. They also met with several village community groups, who received them warmly. At some places the two Brethren spoke with meetings of hundreds of people. “They mostly seemed really glad to see people who were there to help,” Winter said.

The storm made landfall on Nov. 8, 2013, and affected some 12 million people, displaced nearly a million more, and killed more than 6,200. “For many coastal fishermen, coconut farmers and rice farmers, the wind and storm surge not only took their home, it stole their livelihood possibly for years to come,” Winter reported.

He said that some areas they visited were hit by 40- to 50-foot tidal surges. In Tacloban, some two months later, the city was still struggling to regain basic infrastructure such as electricity, buildings were destroyed and roofs blown off. “It was a shock to see so many palm trees down,” Winter said, noting that is unusual given the resilient nature of the tropical trees that survive many storms. However, so many palms were blown down by this storm, the strongest typhoon in recorded history, that people are using their wood for rebuilding.

The hardest part of the trip was listening to the stories of death and loss, Winter said. They met parents who lost children, families in which many loved ones died, and communities that have been decimated. One man who survived by clinging to a tree, told how his wife was swept out of his grasp and lost to the storm.

Winter views the typhoon recovery in the Philippines as an opportunity for Brethren Disaster Ministries to help a country work at sustaining itself. He plans to focus the Brethren resources on rebuilding livelihoods for at least the next couple of years, with some support given to permanent construction work by partner organizations in the Philippines. So far at least $200,000 in donations have been received for Typhoon Haiyan recovery, with some significant responses from congregations and districts.

Read Winter’s personal report from the trip is at www.brethren.org/bdm/updates/tindog-tacloban-stand-up.html . A story from Peter Barlow’s experience of returning to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan is at www.brethren.org/news/2014/tita-graces-tiled-floor.html . Give to the Typhoon Haiyan appeal online at www.brethren.org/typhoonaid . Donations may be mailed to Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

Source: 2/25/2014 Newsline

On Earth Peace celebrates 40 years with conversations between ‘spirited peacemakers’

mage courtesy of On Earth Peace

On Earth Peace celebrates 40 years
with an emphasis on conversation
among peacemakers
By Marie Benner-Rhoades

"Your young people will see visions and your elders will dream dreams" (Acts 2:17).

Visions and Dreams of Building Peace: On Earth Peace Celebrates 40 Years. Through the 40-year history of On Earth Peace, its ministry of peacemaking has been the result of the dreams and visions of faithful Christians of all ages. In this anniversary year we are drawing on the Acts 2:17 passage above and building on those years of practical dreaming with the theme, “Visions and Dreams of Building Peace.”

One of the highlights of this 40th year will be a number of planned conversations between spirited peacemakers of all generations: elders, youth, and all ages between.  

Please join us! Arrange to sit down with someone who shares your commitment to nonviolent living and who differs from you in age, ethnicity, gender, theology, or some other significant way. We can provide further guidelines and a list of questions you could ask each other as you talk. Record your conversation in video, audio, photo, or text, and send it to us. We look forward to sharing brief segments of these conversations through our website and social media.

-- Marie Benner-Rhoades first published this announcement in the On Earth Peace e-newsletter “Peacebuilder.” Contact her at mrhoades@onearthpeace.org.

Source: 2/25/2014 Newsline

Bethany Seminary hosts speakers on peace and justice

By Jenny Williams

Two women known for their work toward peace, justice, and human rights spoke during the month of February at Bethany Seminary's Peace Forum, a weekly lunch gathering that highlights issues of peace and social justice through a variety of speakers and program formats.

Photo by CPT

Peggy Gish serving with Christian 
Peacemaker Teams
Peggy Gish has been involved with peace and justice work for 45 years, including work in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams since October 2002. Her recently released second book, “Walking Through Fire,” documents the Iraqi people's efforts toward justice and reconciliation while caught in political and religious hostilities. Having asked the group, "What if we put the same efforts into peacemaking as we do toward war?" Peggy shared stories of daily life for Iraqis, of her relationships with the people, and of her own kidnapping ordeal. She also spoke about the role of peacemakers as they interact with and listen to those considered "the enemy" and witness the truth behind stories presented in the news. Gish, who gave her presentation on Feb. 6, is a member of the Church of the Brethren and lives near Athens, Ohio.

Beena Sebastion, founder and chairperson of Cultural Academy for Peace in Kochi, India, spoke Feb. 20 on how peace is linked to equality between men and women. In addition to providing shelter and programs for women experiencing gender violence, the Cultural Academy offers a multitude of educational resources, including health classes, environmental awareness, an interfaith study center, and training on issues of masculinity for men--who also experience gender violence. Sebastion noted that the need for this work in India is heightened by tensions from religious, political, and social class differences. The Cultural Academy has collaborated with the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Women's Peacemakers Program organized by women from Asian countries.

Peace Forum is webcast every Thursday at 12 noon (eastern time). Go to www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcasts to see the presentations live or to view recordings.

-- Jenny Williams is director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

Source: 2/25/2014 Newsline

Building peace in Washington at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days

From March 21-24 hundreds of Christians will gather in Washington, D.C., to build peace together. The 12th annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference entitled "Jesus Weeps: Resisting Violence, Building Peace" will explore the violence that saturates our world and seek to find ways to build peace in all areas of society.

Ecumenical gatherings like EAD help us to unite with other Christians and give us an opportunity to meet with and encourage one another to work for good, as we are called to do in Hebrews 10:24-25. EAD is a great opportunity to use our unique Brethren voice to share visions of peace and reconciliation with Christians from different denominations, and also to learn from the experiences of Christians from around the world.

Through prayer, worship, workshops, and advocacy, participants will seek a vision for how our beliefs can take root in the social and political realities of our world. Participants will take these messages of peace and hope to Capitol Hill to call for change in public policy and together lift up a vision of a more just and peaceful world.

EAD brings speakers from around the world to address issues such as gun violence, domestic violence, worker justice, global hunger, climate change, and foreign policy issues such as Israel/Palestine, Syria, and Iran. But this is only a glimpse of the many issues that will be covered at the plenaries, worship services and workshops. For a full list of topics and workshops, and to register, go to http://advocacydays.org/2014-resisting-violence-building-peace.

If you have any questions about Ecumenical Advocacy Days, please contact Nathan Hosler, coordinator of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, at nhosler@brethren.org or 717-333-1649. Sign up for Action Alerts from the Office of Public Witness at www.brethren.org/advocacy/actionalerts.html.

Source: 2/25/2014 Newsline

National Council of Churches plans Christian Unity Gathering

The National Council of Churches (NCC) is planning a Christian Unity Gathering for May 18-20, at the Hilton hotel at Washington Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C.

The NCC has gone through sweeping changes over the last two years. After a time of reflection and reorganization, the NCC is poised to convene people of faith in exploring the widening revelation of God's love and challenge to deepen Christian commitment to work with people who are marginalized and disenfranchised from opportunities God desires everyone to enjoy.

The first major event of this new era in the NCC is an inaugural Christian Unity Gathering. At this gathering the primary focus will be on the scourge of mass incarceration and what the ecumenical community is already doing and can do together to combat a justice system that warehouses and disposes disproportionate numbers of people of color.

A roster of presenters and resource people will lead the conversations and time together. In addition, new NCC general secretary/president Jim Winkler will offer his vision for NCC during a service of celebration.

Presenters and resource people include
  • Iva Carruthers, general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
  • Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund
  • A. Roy Medley, general secretary of the American Baptist Churches-USA and chair of the NCC Governing Board
  • Harold Dean Trulear, national director of Healing Communities and associate professor at Howard University School of Divinity
  • Jim Wallis, president and editor in chief of Sojourners
Visit www.nationalcouncilofchurches.us/events/CUG2014.php for the full roster of speakers and presenters in addition to those listed above, and for information on the schedule and registration.

(This article is from a National Council of Churches release.)

Source: 2/25/2014 Newsline

‘Guide for Biblical Studies’ studies Jesus' fulfillment of scripture

Author Estella Horning has written the Spring quarter of “A Guide for Biblical Studies,” the Brethren Press curriculum for adults. The theme for the quarter is “Jesus’ Fulfillment of Scripture.”

Lessons for the spring explore connections between Jesus and the Hebrew Scriptures: the reign of David and the lordship of Christ, the prophetic use of scriptures related to Jesus' crucifixion, and the ways Jesus used the Hebrew Scriptures in his own ministry and teachings.

Written from a Church of the Brethren perspective, “A Guide for Biblical Studies” is issued quarterly and contains daily NRSV scriptures, lessons, and questions for both individual preparation and classroom use. The curriculum follows the International Sunday School Lessons/Uniform Series.

Price is $4.25 or $7.35 large print, plus shipping and handling. Purchase one copy per student, per quarter either online at www.brethrenpress.com or by calling the Brethren Press order line 800-441-3712.

Source: 2/25/2014 Newsline

Tita Grace’s tiled floor: One family’s story of Typhoon Haiyan

Photo by Roy Winter

Peter Barlow visited the Philippines 
with Brethren Disaster Ministries 
leader Roy Winter. A former 
Peace Corps volunteer, he revisited 
areas of the country where he had 
worked before Typhoon Haiyan 
devastated the land and the lives of 
families he had known and loved.
By Peter Barlow

Grace Anne stood on a colorful tiled foundation, the only indication that a house once stood where a few broken cinderblocks with jagged rebar were emanating. My memories of standing within these walls, sleeping, eating with this wonderful family, came from a time when they hosted me just a few years ago.

"Ha! We are rico na!" Grace Anne's mother, Tita Grace, had said to me one day, as she proudly showed me her newly tiled floor, designed off of pictures she had seen in a re-gifted “Good Housekeeping” magazine. She stood with a large smile, pointing at the fragments of tile and drying grout in between. Without funds to buy proper tile, she had found a pallet of broken shards in town, so the floor was a colorful mix of blues, reds, greens, and all mixes in between.  In many ways, it looked better than if she had just gotten a standard set of tile, all alike, with similar patterns and shapes.

When we first drove through the little village of Cabuynan, Tanauan, Leyte on Jan. 22, I recognized only the big Copra Mill where sweating bodies had milled coconut oil, all of the huge containers overturned and leaking sludge. Everything else was a burned, spoiled palette of the town and houses that had once been.

We drove by the house the first time, since I was looking for the sturdy little home that I had known. But then we lurched the creaking jeepney to a stop and turned around, slowly creeping along the National Highway. Finally, we saw a bright tiled floor out in the open, and chain-link remnants of the fence that once guarded the hacienda. Roy and I exited the jeep and walked across the road carrying a few new folding chairs and provisional clothes as Grace Anne stood in a light drizzle in front of her makeshift home of donated plywood, paper-thin roofing, and a soiled UNICEF tent.

Her smile was huge, and as she talked, Grace Anne's pride shone through a strong composure. Only when asked of her experience during Typhoon Haiyan's fierce winds and surge did the corners of her beautiful big eyes puddle with anguish.

Grace Anne, her cousin Roussini, her mother and father, and her grandmother were all at her house when they began to hear the first rains hit the metal roof of their home during the evening of Nov. 8, 2013. Within an hour, winds were deafening, and their coastal community knew that this storm was unlike the others they had known.

The first salty Pacific wave shattered a thin wall of cinderblocks and mortar, and tore away the thin metal roof. At about five o'clock, Grace Anne held onto Roussini as they were carried on a wave, white and ferocious, some 50 feet high over to the steep mountain that flanks their little town. The other family members were unable to stay with them, and were forced in other directions. Grace Anne pointed to the places where she and Roussini clung for about three hours as wave after wave of storm surge wiped away homes and lives and the futures of so many. A boulder outcrop jutting out from the mountain where they found shelter at last stands as memorial to their horrible experience.

As they told their story, we stood under a tarp in the small cooking area listening intently, incredulously, to their memories of that night. Finally I asked about her mother, the woman I had known as Tita Grace. Before Grace Anne could answer, we heard a motor slow outside, and Terry, Grace Anne’s father came around the corner, much leaner than I remembered, with a large smile on his face, and outstretched arms.

Rain subsided and we walked on the colorful tile floor in the hot Philippine sun as Terry recounted his experience during the storm. Despite some new scars on his upper arms and a tighter gait to protect some broken ribs, he was the same Terry as always. His voice was tired though, and one could only imagine the pain that he had experienced in the couple of months since the storm.

That night, as waves had swept them toward the same steep slope where Grace Anne and Roussini were clinging for their lives, Terry and Grace held onto each other, grasping for tree tops as the torrent tossed them around. Finally, Terry said they lost their grasp on each other and he clung to a tall coconut tree as floating debris battered his arms and back. A giant white swell carried Tita Grace away into the darkness.

The day after the typhoon, light drizzle fell as Grace Anne, Roussini, and Terry were reunited. Their home was gone, and all that remained were some pieces of rubble and bright tile, washed by ferocious winds and rain. They would find Tita Grace’s torn body a half mile away amongst fallen mahogany branches and a bramble of balukawi vines, and eventually discover Tita Grace’s mother, a cousin, Terry’s mother and father, and many friends who had been lost to the typhoon as well.

For one family to feel this kind of pain is devastating, but unfortunately, it is similar to tens of thousands of stories of families in this jovial, welcoming corner of the world.

Grace Anne told me of her struggle to stay afloat, and her reliance on leaves and wood in those three hours. Neither she nor Roussini could swim, adding to their panic. She stretched her arms wide to show me the size of the snakes and lizards that floated in the white froth with her, and, when I asked her how, despite the waters and odds against them, she had managed to remain alive, Roussini and she clutched one another again, as I imagine they had that evening. Grace Anne shook her head, motioning to the sky.

-- Peter Barlow is a member of Montezuma Church of the Brethren and a former Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines. He accompanied Brethren Disaster Ministries leader Roy Winter on a trip to the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, to help evaluate how best the Church of the Brethren can support the relief and recovery effort.

Source: 2/25/2014 Newsline

'I trust there will be cactus blooms': Indiana leader reflects on court decision affecting church property

A court has ruled against South Central Indiana District in a property suit concerning Roann Church of the Brethren. The ruling on property and assets was in favor of a group wishing to leave the Church of the Brethren. Here is a prayerful reflection on this moment in the life of the district, from district executive minister Beth Sollenberger:

When Tim and I moved to Ohio I left a fun position as the associate pastor of the Sebring congregation behind. Tim was called to serve the West Charleston church and I was trying to find some joy being a lousy homemaker while I looked for a pastorate within driving distance. Things did not happen on my time. I was bored and desperate and sad and discouraged.

On a winter day, surrounded by cold snow and a living room taken over by dusty clutter, I happened to glance at an abandoned cactus plant relegated to the lamp stand in the corner. We had originally been faithful keepers of the plant--watering sparingly but on schedule, turning occasionally so a new side would receive the sunlight, storing in the dark as suggested...and always we had waxy green stems to enjoy, never a bloom.

On a dark December day, after being told NO one more time, I huddled into the couch corner and discovered one bright pink bloom brightly attached to the cactus stem.

It is difficult to know what to say when, during this winter that will not quit, the judge has ruled against the district and for those who have chosen to leave the Church of the Brethren. And yet, I trust that there will be cactus blooms, reminders that God is over all and in control and guiding our lives. God knows us from before we came into being and ever after. God loves us through despair and gives us purpose and peace.

Thank you Almighty God for all those who have gone before us, planting the Church of the Brethren congregations that make up our district. Thank you God for all those who worship and serve you. Thank you God for the churches of our denomination with whom we share the joys of faith and the disappointments of living. Thank you for cactus blooms and signs of your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

-- Beth Sollenberger is executive minister of South Central Indiana District of the Church of the Brethren.

Source: 2/25/2014 Newsline

Brethren bits

Manchester University

Raylene Rospond will
serve as dean of
Manchester University's
College of Pharmacy
  • Raylene Rospond will become the next vice president and dean of the College of Pharmacy for Manchester University, according to a university release. Currently deputy provost of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, she will assume the Manchester post on June 30. Rospond succeeds Dave McFadden as dean, who assumes the presidency of the university on July 1. At Drake, Rospond served as associate professor, associate dean, and chair of pharmacy practice before becoming dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Services in 2003. She became deputy provost in June 2013. She led strategic plans that gained re-accreditation of the pharmacy program, new laboratories, and enhanced physical facilities. During her leadership, Drake doubled the endowment and scholarships and transformed the curriculum for the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. The four-year, professional Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program at Manchester University is in the process of enrolling its third class on its new campus in north Fort Wayne, Ind.
  • Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va., seeks a facilities manager to fill a fulltime salaried position beginning immediately. The camp seeks a motivated, dependable, caring worker with good interpersonal, organizational, and leadership skills. The facilities manager ensures that facilities and site enhance the experience of guests and campers by overseeing all housekeeping and maintenance. The preferred candidate will have experience or proven ability in repair and renewal of facilities including construction, carpentry, electrical wiring and control, plumbing of water and sewage, vehicle and camp/farm equipment maintenance. Starting benefits package includes salary of $29,000, optional family medical insurance plan, a pension plan, professional growth funds, and optional on-site family/individual housing. Camp Bethel is a tobacco-free workplace. An application, a detailed position description, and more information will be made available at www.CampBethelVirginia.org or send a letter of interest and an updated résumé to Barry LeNoir at CampBethelOffice@gmail.com .
  • Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is looking to fill two new positions: communications and engagement director and program director. CPT is seeking a communications and engagement director to coordinate, develop, and implement a new overall CPT communications strategy to share CPT’s story in a way that honors the voices of CPT’s partners, undoes oppression, and furthers CPT’s mission, vision, and values. Find the full job description and requirements at www.cpt.org/openings/ced . CPT is seeking a program director to oversee current projects and support the organization’s Peacemaker and Reserve Corps with attention to team and partner needs, direction, budget, sustainability, personnel processes, and health. Find the full job description and requirements at www.cpt.org/openings/pd . For all openings at CPT go to http://cpt.org/openings . Christian Peacemaker Teams, which was founded with support from the peace churches including the Church of the Brethren, has the mission of building partnerships to transform violence and oppression, with the vision of a world of communities that together embrace the diversity of the human family and live justly and peaceably with all creation. CPT is committed to work and relationships that honor and reflect the presence of faith and spirituality; strengthen grassroots initiatives; transform structures of domination and oppression; embody creative nonviolence and liberating love.
  • Brethren Disaster Ministries is asking Brethren to help Church World Service replenish its supply of CWS School Kits. “Church World Service is down to its last few cartons of CWS School Kits, and those have all been spoken for,” said an announcement. “Our warehouses need replenishing so that we can meet pending requests and future needs.” CWS School Kits give basic tools for learning to children in impoverished schools, refugee camps, and other difficult settings including the aftermath of floods, tornados, and other disasters. Last year, 57,730 CWS School Kits were provided for children in need in the US and around the world. International recipients included Syrian school children forced to flee their homes by the civil war. Many of the kits are warehoused and shipped from the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. For information to assemble kits go to www.cwsglobal.org/get-involved/kits/school-kits.html .
  • World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit has visited Iran, underlining “the important role of faith leaders, religious communities, and governments to work together for the cause of justice and peace,” according to a WCC release. Tveit was in Iran from Feb. 15-20 where he met with representatives of WCC member churches and participated in the seventh round of dialogue between the WCC and the Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue, held in Tehran. He also met with Ali Jannati, minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance of the Islamic Republic of Iran, where Abouzar Ebrahimi, president of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, was also present. In his discussion with the minister, the WCC general secretary stressed the significant role Iran could play for peace and stability in the Middle East region, including Syria. “The cultural history of Iran as well as its strategic location in the Middle East makes it one of the important actors in ensuring a peaceful coexistence between the different religions, denominations, ethnic groups, and countries,” said Tveit. The WCC delegation in addition met with the leading religious figure Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi Amoli. In meeting with him, Tveit stressed the responsibility of leaders of faith in promoting justice and peace to build a world free of nuclear weapons. Find the full WCC release at www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/wcc-general-secretary-conveys-message-of-201cjustice-and-peace201d-in-iran .
  • Today an event in Washington, D.C., organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and the ACLU preceded a Congressional hearing on solitary confinement, “Reassessing Solitary Confinement II: The Human Rights, Fiscal and Public Safety Consequences.” National faith leaders, survivors of solitary confinement and their families, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and human rights activists joined together to spotlight the continuing national human rights crisis faced by tens of thousands of adults and children held in conditions of long-term isolation in prisons, jails, and detention centers at the federal, state and local level, said a release. “The United States now holds far more prisoners in solitary confinement than any other democratic nation,” said Ron Stief, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture’s executive director. “An estimated 80,000 incarcerated adults and youth are held in solitary confinement in US prisons, jails, and detention centers. They are held in isolation for 23 to 24 hours a day in small cells with no natural light and no meaningful contact with staff or other prisoners for weeks, years, even decades. This violates basic religious values of community, restorative justice, compassion, and healing. The faith-based members of NRCAT are united in opposing treatment that violates our values as people of faith.” For more go to www.nrcat.org .
  • Newville Church of the Brethren is hosting Southern Pennsylvania District’s Truck Stop Ministry Spring Banquet on April 5. For ticket information call 717-385-7932.
  • Monitor Church of the Brethren near McPherson, Kan., is holding a Bethany Weekend on March 8-9. Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., will teach two sessions on scripture interpretation on the morning of March 8, with afternoon sessions devoted to the role of scripture and prayer in worship. Lunch will be provided. Ottoni-Wilhelm will preaching on Sunday morning for services starting at 10 a.m., followed by a potluck meal. To attend, contact joshualeck@hotmail.com or 620-755-5096. An RSVP would be helpful for food preparations.
  • Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a Spiritual Renewal Weekend March 7-9, featuring Tara Hornbacker, professor of Ministry Formation at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. The focus will be an exploration of evangelism in the Sermon on the Mount. The weekend opens Friday evening with worship including special music and drama, and on Saturday a dessert social begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by worship at 7:30 p.m. with special music by Mill Creek Church of the Brethren’s Praise Team. Sunday worship begins at 11 a.m., preceded during the 10 a.m. Sunday school hour by a drama workshop for youth and young adults led by Hornbacker. For more go to http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1110837621104-240/StauntonHornbacker.pdf .
  • The 2014 Shenandoah District Disaster Ministries Auction will be held May 16-17 at the Rockingham County (Va.) Fairgrounds.
  • David Radcliff of the New Community Project will be giving presentations at churches and retirement communities in Western Plains District: Feb. 28, 6:30 p.m. Mont Ida Church of the Brethren; March 1, 10 a.m. Wichita (Kan.) First Church of the Brethren; March 1, 3 p.m. The Cedars in McPherson, Kan.; March 2, 10 a.m. leading worship at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren; March 5, evening presentation at Rochester Church of the Brethren, Topeka, Kan. He also plans several other presentations at McPherson College, Tabor College, Washburn University, and Barstow School, said a district announcement. For more information contact 785-448-4436 or cafemojo@hotmail.com .
  • Virlina District’s Pilgrimage XVIII will be held March 14-16 at Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va. The pilgrimage retreat is a spirit-filled experience for adults of all ages who, no matter where they are in their spiritual walk, want to take another step to draw closer to God, said the district newsletter. For information or brochures contact 336-765-5263 or haynesmk1986@yahoo.com.
  • The Church of the Brethren Regional Youth Conference hosted by McPherson (Kan.) College is March 28-30 on the theme “Called by God: Preparing for the Journey Together.” Guest speakers and musicians will be Jacob and Jerry Crouse. Online registration and schedule can be found at www.mcpherson.edu/ryc . Registration deadline is March 24.
  • Youth Roundtable, a regional youth conference hosted by Bridgewater (Va.) College, will be March 21-23. The event includes workshops, small groups, songs, open mic night, and worship. The speaker will be Eric Landram, a Bridgewater College alumnus and member of Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren who is now attending Bethany Theological Seminary. Go to http://iycroundtable.wix.com/iycbc for updates and to register online. Cost is approximately $50.
  • South Central Indiana District Conference will be held Saturday, Sept. 13, at Pleasant Dale Church of the Brethren on the theme, "Released by Grace" (Isaiah 55:1-3). The district moderator is Kay Gaier.
  • “Donations + Reimer Memorial = New Tractor!” said an announcement from Camp Bethel, a Church of the Brethren outdoor ministry center near Fincastle, Va. The camp reports that 64 supporters enjoyed a meal and holiday program by the Jones Family at Camp Bethel's Christmas TOGETHER Banquet on Dec. 6, raising $5,760. “When our dear friend, mentor and supporter Judy Mills Reimer passed way on November 13, we were honored for Camp Bethel to be included in her memorial,” said the announcement. George Reimer, Judy Mills Reimer’s husband, and son Troy (son) Reimer requested that any memorial gifts go toward a new tractor, and donated the remaining $8,600 balance for the tractor. More about the camp is at www.CampBethelVirginia.org .
  • Spring Candlelight Dinners at the John Kline Homestead in Broadway, Va., will be held at 6 p.m. March 14 and 15 and April 25 and 26. The site is the historic home of Civil War era Brethren elder and peace martyr John Kline. The dinner guests will experience a family’s struggle as the Civil War impacted Shenandoah Valley homes and farms in the early months of 1864, around a family-style meal in the John Kline house. For reservations, call 540-896-5001 or e-mail proth@eagles.bridgewater.edu . Cost is $40 per plate; groups are welcome. Seating is limited to 32.

Employee recognition at Fahrney-Keedy, 
a Church of the Brethren retirement 
community in Maryland
  • Twenty associates were honored for service excellence and for years worked during the annual Employee Recognition Dinner of Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md. Associates nominated their co-workers for the service excellence awards, which went to six individuals: in nursing, Lisa Younker, LPN, Raykia Harvey-Thorne and Tamara Bowie, GNAs; in assisted living, Amanda Myers and Katie Lee; in accounting, Debbie Slifer. Length-of-service awards were given to associates having worked for multiples of five years. At five years: Janet Cole, RN, assisted living; Evan Bowers, LPN, and Kathy Kennedy, nursing; Ginny Lapole and Nancy Hoch, environmental services; and Tina Morgan, human resources. At 10 years: Pam Burger and Carla Spataro, LPN, nursing; and Kelly Keyfauver, RN, director of Nursing. At 15 years: Debbie Martz, environmental services, and Mary Moore, nursing. At 20 years, Kathy Cosens, CMA, nursing. At 25 years, Martha Wolfe, human resources. At 40 years, Ginger Lowery, environmental services.
  • The Global Women’s Project is providing some special resources to help Brethren begin the season of Lent, which starts on Ash Wednesday, March 5, and celebrate International Women's Day on March 8. “This year, think about using the excellent International Women's Day resources from the GWP website to create a women-centered worship on Sunday, March 2, and pass out the new GWP Lenten Calendar,” said an invitation. “Lift up women around the world, celebrate the season of Lent, and share stories and prayers with your faith community.” To receive free copies of the Global Women’s Project Lenten Calendar, send an e-mail to info@globalwomensproject.org with the number of copies requested. Or ask to receive a page of the calendar by e-mail each day. Find the International Women’s Day resources online at http://globalwomensproject.wordpress.com/worship-resources .
  • The Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center (CrossRoads) in Harrisonburg, Va., is inviting entries to a highlight of its Open House on Saturday, March 8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Gingerbread Village, composed of entries in the gingerbread house contest. “You are encouraged to enter your creation and be eligible for prizes, including gift certificates from local businesses,” said the announcement. The contest entry fee is $5; admission to the open house is $3 per person. Go to www.vbmhc.org or phone 540-438-1275 for contest information.
  • Juniata College students, sponsored by the Juniata College Campus Ministry, held an annual "Meal for CROP" on Feb. 18 in the Baker Refectory. Each year, Juniata's Christian Ministry Board asks students to sacrifice their evening meal so those meals can be sold to the general public and the money raised is donated to CROP, a hunger relief program of Church World Service. The Huntingdon Forum of Churches also sponsors the meal, noted a release from the college. Each year, 75 percent of the funds go to CROP and the remaining 25 percent is donated to the Huntingdon Area Food Bank to fight hunger at the local level. “Over the past 20 years, members of the Huntingdon community have helped to raise more than $50,000 for hunger relief,” the release said.
  • Elizabethtown (Pa.) College was recognized for creativity in marketing and communications at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District II Conference held Feb. 9-11 in Baltimore, Md. Representatives from the college's Office of Marketing and Communications accepted awards in creativity, multimedia communications, web, and illustration, said a release from the college. Mid-Atlantic District II, which includes Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and West Virginia, is the largest of eight CASE districts. Awards earned by the college in the four-year colleges and universities category included Gold for Creativity on a Shoe String for the "Tag You're It" Campaign, a grassroots social media promotion to engage Homecoming attendees; Bronze in Best Practices in Communications for the "Share Your Moment" Campaign--an integrated communications effort for accepted students; Bronze in Web Site: Student Recruitment for redevelopment of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies website, etowndegrees.com.
Source: 2/25/2014 Newsline


Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Peter Barlow, Marie Benner-Rhoades, Jonathan Brenneman, Joanna Davidson-Smith, Kendra Flory, Elizabeth Harvey, Nathan Hosler, Jeri S. Kornegay, Paul Roth, Glen Sargent, Beth Sollenberger, John Wall, Jenny Williams, Roy Winter, Jane Yount, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Newsline: February 15, 2014


Annual Conference 2014 will celebrate courageous discipleship

Home page image for 2014 Annual Conference logo Live as Courageous Disciples
General registration opens Feb. 26 at 12 noon (central time) for the 2014 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren in Columbus, Ohio, on July 2-6. The theme, “Live as Courageous Disciples,” is from the New Testament letter to the Philippians. Events take place at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

The Conference will be led by moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman assisted by moderator-elect David Steele and secretary James Beckwith. Also on the Program and Arrangements Committee are Cindy Laprade Lattimer, Shawn Flory Replogle, and Christy Waltersdorff. Conference office staff are director Chris Douglas and assistant Jon Kobel. Site coordinators are Burt and Helen Wolf. Find a list of preachers, worship leaders, musicians, choir directors, age group activity leaders, and more of the volunteers who make Annual Conference possible at www.brethren.org/ac/2014/annual-conference-leadership.html.

A preview of the 2014 Conference follows below. Find more detailed information and the registration link that will go live Feb. 26, at www.brethren.org/ac.

A family friendly focus

Conference planners have focused on family friendly activities, in particular events on Saturday evening--the last night of the Conference--that are for all ages. A concert will bring to the Conference stage three groups who will be enjoyed by adults and children: Blue Bird Revival Band, Community of Song, and Mutual Kumquat. In addition, intergenerational activities are being planned with help from the Outdoor Ministries Association.

Children listen to a story during worship
Photo by Glenn Riegel
“We are hoping that families within driving distance who can’t come for the whole Conference will at least join us for the weekend,” said Conference director Chris Douglas. “Saturday night is planned to give exciting options for them, along with Exhibit Hall. And then at the closing worship on Sunday morning we hope to draw a lot more Conference-goers.”

Saturday evening’s intergenerational activities include “Get Real: Living as Courageous Disciples!” an event featuring biblical and modern-day stories of courageous disciples, as a way to explore the Annual Conference theme with camp-type activities. Participants will choose from games, arts and crafts, a sing-a-long, a book nook, nature exploration, personal challenges, dramatic storytelling, word puzzles, movies, and more.

The three music groups that headline Saturday evening’s concert will provide something for everyone. Performing from 7-7:30 p.m. is Blue Bird Revival, a high-energy gospel band featuring new versions of traditional hymns, as well as their own down-home combination of country, bluegrass, ragtime, and gospel. Community of Song will perform from 7:45-8:15 p.m., a 10-member Church of the Brethren male ensemble from Southern Ohio and South-Central Indiana Districts that for eight years has been singing a variety of religious music including early American, contemporary, spirituals, and gospel. Mutual Kumquat closes out the concert from 8:30-9 p.m., a popular Brethren band that has performed at Annual Conference, National Youth Conference, National Older Adult Conference, Song and Story Fest, and many regional youth conferences and district conferences and Brethren related colleges. The group formed in 2000 as students at Manchester College and since then has travelled across the country with an eclectic sound and a positive message and unique combination of danceable rhythms, stick-in-your-head melodies, rich harmonies, and poignant, uplifting, and humorous lyrics.

Registration fees

To register for the full Conference, adult nondelegates will pay $105 using the online registration process (open from Feb. 26 through June 3). The daily rate for adults is $35. Young adults post-high school to age 21 will pay only $30 to attend the full Conference, or a daily rate of $10. Children age high school and younger do not pay a fee to register, but fees for age group activities still apply. Children and youth must register in order to attend. All registration fees increase significantly after June 3, at which time online registration closes and participants must register on-site in Columbus.

Columbus, Ohio
Courtesy of Experience Columbus
Hotels and lodging

The conference hotels are the Hyatt Regency Columbus, the Crowne Plaza Columbus Downtown, Drury Inn and Suites Columbus Downtown, Red Roof Inn Columbus Downtown--all of which are either part of the convention center or connected by a covered walkway or within a block distant. Hotel reservations open at the same time as online registration, on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 12 noon (central). Find more information about the Conference hotels at www.brethren.org/ac/2014/ac-hotels.html. Information about camping and RV park options also is posted at www.brethren.org/ac/2014/camping-info.html.


Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Members of Mutual Kumquat at the Manchester University luncheon, with campus minister Walt Wiltschek
The Conference opens on Wednesday, July 2, with evening worship starting at 6:50 p.m. Hearings on Conference business will be held Wednesday after worship.

On Thursday, July 3, and Friday, July 4, worship services take place in the evening. On Saturday, July 5, worship is in the morning at 8:30 a.m.

Business sessions are Thursday through Saturday in the morning and afternoon. On Thursday and Friday business begins with Bible study, and is scheduled from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 2-4:30 p.m. On Saturday, business is scheduled from 10:15-11:30 a.m. and 2-4:30 p.m.

Saturday evening will offer a variety of activities for the whole family, including music concerts and intergenerational activities from 7-9 p.m.

Sunday morning worship on July 6 at 8:30-10:30 a.m. will close the Conference.

On each day, Conference-goers may participate in a wide range of additional activities such as insight sessions on topics of interest; catered meal events (tickets may be purchased along with Conference registration); age group activities for early childhood through elementary grades, junior and senior high youth, and young adults; activities for singles; support groups; the Conference exhibit hall; and more.

In addition to Bible study, singing, games, and other daily activities, special age group activities include:
  • For the elementary ages: presentations by Yurtfolk and the New Community Project, mobile interactive science booths provided by Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry, and trips to the Columbus Zoo.
  • For the junior high: presentations by Yurtfolk and New Community Project as well as local fair trade and international crafts store Global Gallery, a puppet workshop, mobile interactive science booths provided by Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry, a trip to the Columbus Zoo, and a chance to hang out with Mutual Kumquat after the Saturday evening concert.
  • For the senior high: presentations by the National Youth Conference coordinators, workcamp coordinators, On Earth Peace, the New Community Project, and the Brethren colleges; a chance to attend the Brethren Volunteer Service luncheon and one of the Brethren college luncheons; a local service project; trips to the Columbus Zoo, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, and the Center of Science and Industry; and hanging out with Mutual Kumquat.
  • For the young adults: outings to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, game and movie nights, a special chance to get to know the music and ministry of BlueBird Revival and founder Josh Copp, and a service project to “Pack a Sack” for the homeless for distribution by the Columbus Community Shelter Board/YMCA/YWCA in cooperation with the Sawmill Interfaith Community Care Group, which includes Living Peace Church of the Brethren.
Age group activity fees range from a small daily fee for early childhood, to $65 (going up to $90 onsite) for the full Conference for elementary ages, to $85 ($100 onsite) for junior and senior high. For activity fees for young adults and singles see the activity listings at www.brethren.org/ac/2014/age-group-activities.html .

Tour historic German Village

A tour of the Germany Village, a historic district in Columbus just 10 minutes from the downtown, is offered on Saturday, July 5, from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Because the tour conflicts with a business session, it is offered to nondelegates only. The guided tour will start at the visitor center at the German Village Meeting Haus, with an award-winning video offering an excellent historical overview of the area. Each visitor receives a map and guide highlighting area shops and restaurants, and will be guided through the brick streets lined with quaint homes, gardens, shops, galleries, and restaurants. Afterward, the group will spend time shopping and have a chance to eat in one of the authentic German restaurants. Ken Kreider, retired professor and Brethren historian, will accompany the tour, give introductory comments and information about the background of the Brethren movement into Ohio and the major Brethren bodies in the area. Cost is $10 and includes bus transportation, guided tour, and visitor guide/map.

2012 Annual Conference Choir, 175 x 118
Photo by Glenn Riegel
Conference choir

"O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!" (Psalm 95:1) is the theme scripture for the 2014 Conference Choir. “I extend the invitation to sing uplifting songs of praise and worship,” said Joy Brubaker, choir director, in an invitation to singers. The choir will sing five numbers during Conference worship services. Rehearsals are held daily after the afternoon business session until 5:45 p.m.

Quilting bee

Congregations are invited to send finished quilt blocks for the Annual Conference Quilting Bee sponsored by the Associate for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren. Finished 8 and 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch blocks must be constructed according to the instructions. All quilt blocks should be postmarked by May 15, and mailed with a dollar donation (make checks payable to AACB) to offset the cost of quilting materials. Quilt tops are assembled prior to the Conference and quilted onsite in the Exhibit Hall. The completed quilts and wall hangings are auctioned with proceeds benefiting hunger relief. See www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/2014-aacb-quilting-info.pdf.

5K Fitness Challenge sponsored by BBT

Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) is sponsoring the 5K Fitness Challenge, a walk/run held early morning of July 5, and open to all ages. Start time is 6:30 a.m. The event will be held approximately three miles from the convention center at Franklin Park Conservatory. Participants provide their own transportation to the park. Completed registration forms with check payable to Brethren Benefit Trust must be received by May 23 for the early-bird fee of $20 ($25 after that date). Families of four or more may register for $60. Go to http://brethrenbenefittrust.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/2014%20Pre-Registration%20Form.pdf.

Tour Bethany Seminary on the way to Conference

Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., right off I-70 west of the Indiana-Ohio state line, is offering tours for Conference-goers to stop on their to or from the Annual Conference. “As you take a break from the road, we’ll give you a tour of the Bethany Center and introduce you to the Bethany community of today,” said an announcement. Tours will be offered July 1 and 2 and 7, Sunday, July 6, after 1 p.m. Contact Monica Rice at 800-287-8822 or ricemo@bethanyseminary.edu. For directions, go to www.bethanyseminary.edu/about/directions. For information on lodging, restaurants, and local places of interest, go to waynet.com.


Much of what takes place at Annual Conference is supported by the many volunteers who give their time. Volunteers are sought for the following areas: registration, ticket sales, information, packet stuffing, ushering, tellers, hospitality/greeters, early childhood care and assistance with other age group activities, and first aid. Sign up at www.brethren.org/ac/registration/volunteer.html.

Source: 2/15/2014 Newsline

Pre-Conference events include Ministers’ Association, Congregational Vitality Workshops

Two ministry training events head the meetings that precede the 2014 Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio: the Ministers’ Association, and Congregational Vitality Workshops. Other regular annual meetings held prior to the Conference include the Standing Committee of district delegates, the Mission and Ministry Board, and the Council of District Executives, among others.

Ministers theme is ‘Preaching the Lively Word’

The Ministers’ Association pre-Conference event is Tuesday, July 1, through Wednesday, July 2, at the Columbus convention center. “Preaching the Lively Word: Text and Context in Today's Pulpit” is the theme, with leadership by Thomas G. Long.

Long is the Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. He has previously taught preaching at Princeton, Columbia, and Erskine seminaries. He is the author of numerous books and articles on preaching and worship as well as biblical commentaries on Matthew, Hebrews, and the Pastoral Epistles. He served as senior homiletics editor of “The New Interpreter's Bible,” and is an editor-at-large for “The Christian Century.” His latest books are “Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral” (2009), “Preaching from Memory to Hope” (2009), “What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith” (2011), and “The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care” (2013, with Thomas Lynch). Emory University awarded him the Emory Williams Award for teaching excellence in 2011.

Session one on July 1 from 6-9 p.m. is titled “Disruption, Enchantment, and Wisdom: The Emerging Languages of Preaching.” Session two on July 2 from 9-11:45 a.m. is titled “The Churches at the Four Corners: Insights on Preaching from the New Testament Churches.” Session three on July 2 from 1-3:45 p.m. is titled “Puzzles, Riddles, and Paradoxes: Preaching and the Parables of Jesus.”

This event includes continuing education units for ordained ministers. The deadline to register is June 15. Find more information and register at www.brethren.org/livelyword.

Congregational Vitality Workshops

Congregational Vitality Workshops 2014
The Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries is offering two Congregational Vitality Workshops prior to Annual Conference. On Wednesday, July 2, at 9 a.m.-12 noon will be a workshop on the topic “Restoring Hope: Transforming Lives and Congregations”; at 1:30-4:30 p.m. a workshop will be held on the topic “The Role of Congregations in Mental Health.”

“Restoring Hope: Transforming Lives and Congregations” will address the question, What does the future look like to you, family members, friends, and the congregation you attend? Hope is the ability to see a future that is life-giving. Unfortunately, many people feel weighed down by scarcity and grief. Practical resources will be shared for helping people rediscover hope. Christian people with hope transform congregations creating vital communities of faith.

“The Role of Congregations in Mental Health” will take a look at the number of people, one in four adults or nearly 30,000 members of our faith tradition, who will experience some type of mental illness during their lifetimes. This workshop will present ways that faith communities and people engaged in mental health recovery can work together to educate communities about mental illness, and equip them to develop supporting, caring responses through relationships and practices that facilitate recovery. The Church of the Brethren’s new partnership with ADNet, the Anabaptist Disabilities Network, will be introduced and information shared about how church members and congregations can participate.

Registration deadline is June 23. Cost is $15 per person for one workshop, $25 per person to attend both workshops. Lunch is on your own. For a registration form and more information go to www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/congregational-vitality-workshops.pdf.

Source: 2/15/2014 Newsline

Bidding process brings Annual Conference back to Ohio and California

The Conference office has announced the locations for upcoming Annual Conferences. In 2018 the annual meeting of the Church of the Brethren will return to Cincinnati, Ohio, where it has been held in previous decades; and in 2019 the event returns to the Town and Country Resort in San Diego, Calif., where it was held in 2009.

Other upcoming locations already have been announced: Tampa, Fla., in 2015; Greensboro, N.C., in 2016; and Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2017.

Joel Brumbaugh-Cayford

The Town and Country Resort in San Diego, Calif., will again be a site for Annual Conference in 2019
Conference director Chris Douglas explained that the bidding process for Conference locations has allowed for a choice of best prices for convention centers and hotels, among other expenses. The 2012 Annual Conference made a decision to no longer require a mandated geographical rotation to certain areas of the country, as part of a number of actions intended to help revitalize the annual meeting.

The Conference decision in 2012 releases planners from polity approved in 2007 that required a strict geographical rotation covering the entire US. Instead, under the new recommendation, the Annual Conference may be rotated among a handful of locations that “maximize sound fiscal stewardship for Annual Conference and attendees.”

The previous way of settling on locations by geographical rotation was thought to ensure good participation by Brethren from across the country. However, Douglas explained, in practice it meant only a few cities in some regions could bid for the event. “You take away the competition factor,” she said. The end result, ironically, was higher costs and less incentive for families to attend.

Distance is another factor that used to play in to costs but is not nearly so important anymore, because the cost of airfares no longer relate to actual miles traveled, but rather to factors such as the size of the airport or whether it is a carrier’s hub.

In addition to costs and expenses, the Program and Arrangements Committee takes many other things into account when deciding on locations for Annual Conference, Douglas said. These include the type of meeting facilities in the city, how easy it is to travel to the location, and the number of Brethren living in the area, among others.

The bidding process encourages every city to do its best job in terms of prices, and as more cities are invited to bid, the Conference office is discovering that locations where the meeting has been held in recent years are very competitive. Hence the return to Town and Country in San Diego, and to the convention center in Grand Rapids, which hosted the 2011 Conference.

Douglas shared that after Town and Country was defeated by Cincinnati’s bid for the 2018 Annual Conference, it came back with a more competitive bid for the 2019 meeting that will provide significant savings for Conference-goers, especially larger families: free breakfast, free parking, free wifi, a significantly lower room rate than was charged in 2009, and more.

“We would have never gotten that kind of bid if we had been limited in our geographical area,” said Douglas. “And we want to encourage Brethren from the east to travel out west and experience it. People really loved the setting in San Diego in 2009, there were so many positive comments about Town and Country. So begin your planning now to go to San Diego in 2019!

“I will still try to find some geographic rotation, and I am committed to looking for locations west and east of the Mississippi that offer an opportunity to the whole church for a meaningful Conference,” Douglas assured. “However, we receive lower prices when we are not mandated to only receive bids from one area of the country each year.”

Source: 2/15/2014 Newsline

On Earth Peace seeks volunteers for Ministers of Reconciliation team at Annual Conference

Photo by Regina Holmes

One of the MoR observers on duty at the 2011 Annual Conference. For some years, the Ministry of Reconciliation (MoR) has provided observers as a resource for participants in the Conference business sessions. This year, the ministry also is helping to provide teams of trained volunteers who will be available to be called on as needed throughout the Annual Conference venue.
“Already planning to attend the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference? Are you hearing a call to a ministry of presence and reconciliation?” asks an invitation from On Earth Peace. The Ministry of Reconciliation (MoR) is seeking members for a team to serve at the Conference. “Please prayerfully consider whether you or someone you know might be gifted to this ministry.”

Annual Conference Ministers of Reconciliation team

Annual Conference was and will be a unique challenge for peacemakers, notes the announcement from On Earth Peace. Building healthy relationships at Annual Conference requires managing social change, resolving conflicts, navigating family system dynamics, learning about cultural differences, respecting different understandings of scripture, all at the same time. These complexities create a powerful opportunity for God to work through us in ways we can’t always anticipate or see.

The work of the Annual Conference MoR team is varied and diverse. Last year, members talked with people who were concerned about queries, the voting process, decisions of Annual Conference, table facilitation, decisions of staff, security, decisions of Annual Conference officers, unauthorized placement of materials, difficult questions at booths, and rude comments that had been overheard.

The team talked with people having interpersonal conflicts magnified by the pressures of Annual Conference, personal conflicts at home, and congregational conflicts. The team also helped people find rooms and lost objects, played with children, and served the youth.

Contact MoR director Leslie Frye at Lfrye@OnEarthPeace.org or 620-755-3940 by March 15 to express interest in this opportunity. For more details go to www.onearthpeace.org/sites/default/files//2014%20AC%20MoR%20details.pdf.

Source: 2/15/2014 Newsline

Court decision on properties is celebrated by First District Church of the Brethren in India

The Supreme Court in India has made a decision in a decades-long bitter court battle over ownership and control of former Brethren mission properties, following an early 1970s merger with the Church of North India (CNI) that included the former mission of the Church of the Brethren.

The court decision of Sept. 30, 2013--Civil Appeal Case #8801, Malavia Vs. Gameti--ruled that the First District Church of the Brethren in India continues as the legal successor of the Church of the Brethren mission and is vested with its properties. The ruling states that it does not hold that the resolution for unification to establish the Church of North India resulted in the dissolution of the First District Church of the Brethren and, de facto, all properties transfer to CNI.

Church of the Brethren denominational staff in the US including the general secretary and executive director of Global Mission and Service have stayed in touch with leadership of CNI and leadership of First District Church of the Brethren as the court issued its ruling and as the church properties move into the control of First District and its congregations.

General secretary Stan Noffsinger has expressed a desire to leaders of the First District Church of the Brethren to meet later this spring to encourage continued efforts at reconciliation between the two communions as the properties case comes to an end.

Jay Wittmeyer

Ankleswar Church in India, one of the church buildings affected by the Supreme Court decision in a decades-long dispute over former Brethren mission properties.
History of the dispute

The Church of the Brethren is a founding member of the CNI and has been in close relationship with the unified church, which included participating in the 40th anniversary celebration. While the Church of the Brethren helped establish CNI in the 1970s, a number of individuals decided to remain outside of that unification process and continued to worship as First District Church of the Brethren India.

Ownership of the properties, including church buildings of local congregations as well as schools and other mission institutions, was disputed since 1978, when a lawsuit challenging CNI ownership was first brought. The case was mired in the courts for many years, eventually coming to the country’s Supreme Court.

Through the years, the American church was aware of ongoing tensions in its former mission area and tried to follow the prolonged litigation process that ensued without participating in it or influencing it. However, the Church of the Brethren in the US has been involved as the organization required to nominate trustees to steward properties during the legal dispute.

In 2003, Annual Conference made a decision to seek a relationship with both bodies, after the American denomination had related in an official capacity solely to CNI for more than 30 years. Brethren in the US have tried to relate to both church communions equally. American Brethren have sent delegations to India in efforts to maintain relationships and have sponsored attempts at reconciliation and mediation between the parties to the dispute.

“We rejoice that the vision for unity that gathered the members and congregations of six denominations, including the congregations arising from the Church of the Brethren mission in India, and which formed the Church of North India (CNI) in 1970, has provided a strong church framework for most of the participants,” the Annual Conference statement of 2003 said, in part. “We also recognize that this framework has not been suitable for many of the former Church of the Brethren members.... The US Church of the Brethren mourns the division that has emerged.... We seek forgiveness for instances during this period where either action or inaction by the US church was hurtful or divisive for either body. We believe that the churches in India have primary responsibility for resolving the issues of name, property, and resolution of the conflicts that plague them” ( www.brethren.org/ac/statements/2003-recommendation.html ).

First District Church of the Brethren celebrates ruling

One result of the court decision has been to restore most of the church buildings to the possession of local Brethren congregations, said a report to the Global Mission and Service office from a leader in First District Church of the Brethren. In practice, up to the time of the ruling many of the local church buildings under dispute had been shared with CNI congregations.

First District Church of the Brethren in India “has been freed from the shackles of conflict, controversy, and uncertainty,” said the report. “Our church will henceforth move ahead independently and unfettered as the body of Christ following the Brethren principles of peace and harmony.

“To mark this historic occasion...a thanksgiving meeting was organized at Valsad followed by a community luncheon. Representatives from different Brethren churches participated in these celebrations. And a rally was taken out through the City of Valsad as a part of these celebrations.”

Jay Wittmeyer

The Church of North India congregation at Ankleswar held a special service and gathering of the historically Brethren congregations of CNI in the area to welcome Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer during a visit in 2009. At the time, CNI was marking the beginning of its 40th anniversary year. Shown here, women and girls prepare to dance for the celebration.
CNI experiences adverse effects from ruling

“After Supreme Court order, Church of North India on the verge of falling apart,” was the headline of a DNA India news report in late November. Reporter Ashutosh Shukla wrote that the Supreme Court order “stated that CNI cannot have any authority over one of five Protestant denominations over which it holds sway. Based on this order, another denomination will approach the state to pull away from the CNI.”

When CNI was formed in 1970 it merged four other Protestant denominations in addition to the Church of the Brethren, and the court decision may put all of those mergers at risk, the news report indicated.

“This opposition that is brewing among the denominations of the CNI has put a question mark over its very existence,” DNA India reported.

The Supreme Court decision “also settled the issue about following of a faith,” the DNA India news piece added, quoting a section of the ruling that stated, “In the name of unification and merger, it is aimed that there is total control of not only properties and the churches but it will also have an ultimate effect of imposing particular faith or belief, which is not permissible.”

Bishop of the Gujarat Diocese of CNI, Silvans S. Christian, has written to Global Mission staff in the US that “CNI has been removed and have no place to worship the Almighty. Hence, they are meeting either in the open space or hiring the Hall or other premises. This situation, I surely believe, will compel you to bring out tears.”

At present, according to Christian, the CNI congregations of Valsad, Khergam, Vyara, Ankleswar, Umalla, Navsari, and Vali are facing a serious problem of finding a place to meet for worship.

Read the DNA India article at www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-after-supreme-court-order-church-of-north-india-on-the-verge-of-falling-apart-1921928.

(Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service, contributed to this report.)

Source: 2/15/2014 Newsline

WCC shares hopes for peace in Syria with members of Syrian opposition

“The immediate end of the suffering of the people in Syria must now be the focus for all parties in the Geneva 2 talks,” World Council of Churches general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit said in a meeting today, Feb. 14, in Geneva, Switzerland, with members of the Syrian opposition. And “this includes all parties in the conflict,” he added.

Representatives of the Syrian opposition requested the meeting with Tveit after receiving a WCC message calling for an end to the conflict delivered to both sides of the Geneva 2 talks by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN representative leading the talks and the United Nations-Arab League joint representative for Syria.

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger was one of the American church leaders who took part in the ecumenical gathering that issued the message.

The message, which was given to Brahimi in mid-January before the talks, stresses the need for “immediate cessation of all armed confrontation and hostility within Syria” ensuring that “all vulnerable communities in Syria and refugees in neighbouring countries receive appropriate humanitarian assistance.” It urges “a comprehensive and inclusive process toward establishing a just peace and rebuilding Syria.”

Representatives from the Syrian opposition included Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Abdel-Hady al-Yaaqubi, Islamic scholar, Dr. Badr Jamous, vice-president of the Syrian National Coalition, Abdul-Ahad Steifo from the Assyrian Democratic Organization, Mohammad Farouk Tayfour, deputy leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Dr. Imad Eldin Rashid, president of the Syrian National Movement.

The group met for an hour and a half and then joined a press conference where Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Abdel-Hady al-Yaaqubi made a strong plea for the release of kidnapped Syrian religious and laypersons.

In the meeting Tveit invoked prayers for peace in Syria, saying that with concern for security of all Syrians, including Christians, Muslims, and people of different faiths “we hope for a ‘just peace’ in Syria, a vision to which the WCC is deeply committed”.

We as religious leaders have to carry the hope that miracles are possible and that there will be peace,” he said. “If we are not doing this, who will?”

Tveit said that “we must work together for a future for Syria, where equal rights, stability, democracy and freedom for religion and expression for all” can prevail.

The WCC and its member churches “believe we must work together as religious communities and leaders,” he said.

Ending conflict, contributing to peace process

In discussions with the WCC staff members, the representatives of Syrian opposition each shared their perspectives on the current challenges of the dialogue process, as well as efforts aimed at defusing the conflict.

Sheikh Mohammad Abdel-Hady al-Yaaqubi, in his response affirmed the role of religious leaders in supporting efforts for peace, stability and democracy in Syria.

He said that all communities, regardless of their religious affiliations in Syria have suffered.

Yaaqubi, along with others in the group, highlighted the significance of common heritage of both Muslims and Christians, which he said has historical roots spanned over centuries in Syria and the Middle East.

On behalf of the members of the group, he also strongly condemned the kidnapping of the nuns of the Ste Thecla Convent in Maaloula, and the two Orthodox bishops from Aleppo last year in Syria.

In a press conference following the meeting, Yaaqubi made a strong statement on the kidnappings, “calling upon all Islamic militants to immediately release all those who are unjustly detained against their will, especially the innocent bishops, nuns and monks”. He emphasized that this sort of activity does not reflect the values of Islam.

In April 2013 Archbishop Mar Yohanna Gregorios Ibrahim from the Syriac Orthodox Church and Archbishop Paul Yazigi from the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch were kidnapped near Aleppo while returning from a humanitarian mission. Later in December 2013, 12 nuns were also kidnapped.

During the press conference Tveit emphasized that the WCC condemns all violence perpetrated against the Syrian people, repeating that their suffering has to end.

Find the Statement to Geneva 2 talks from the WCC Ecumenical Consultation on Syria at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-programmes/public-witness-addressing-power-affirming-peace/middle-east-peace/statement-for-geneva-2-talks-on-syria.

Source: 2/15/2014 Newsline

National Christian leaders oppose mass incarceration

Banner for Christian Churches Together (CCT)
Christian leaders sat transfixed as Darren Ferguson, pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Far Rockaway, N.Y., told the story of his decline from adolescent years with promise to incarceration and God’s power to restore and redeem. On this night, the leaders were struck by one thing: Jesus loves the prisoner and he was one.

Christian Churches Together (CCT) represents the broadest coalition of church leaders in the United States, including several church “families”: Historic Protestant, Evangelical/Pentecostal, Catholic, Orthodox, and Historic Black Churches. They came together for the group’s annual meeting in Newark, N.J., Feb. 4-7.

Annual Conference moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman preached for a worship service led by the Brethren participants. Also in attendance were moderator-elect David Steele; general secretary Stan Noffsinger; Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden, president of CCT’s Historic Protestant group; and Office of Public Witness coordinator Nathan Hosler.

For the past six years, CCT has educated itself and taken action on issues of poverty, racial justice, and immigration reform. This year, the group furthered its commitment to these issues by engaging the issue of mass incarceration in the US.

The message was clear, from speakers that included formerly incarcerated faith leaders, a federal judge, a former prosecutor, a director of state corrections and a social worker, as well as the deliberation among CCT participants: Mass incarceration is not just an issue. It is first and foremost about people created in God’s image with lives, families, hopes, and dreams ensnared within a web of personal struggles and choices exacerbated by social conditions, laws, structures, and historic dehumanization of people of color.

Mass incarceration is a destructive system of human control in which certain ethnic minorities experience inequitable interaction with the nation’s penal system. Current realities include:
  • With only 5 percent of the world’s population, the US has 25 percent of the world’s imprisoned people (source: Sentencing Project).
  • Incarceration rates have increased from 500,000 inmates in jail and prison in 1980 to more than 2.2 million in 2010 (Sentencing Project).
  • For-profit prison companies commonly demand 90 percent occupancy from the states that contract with them (“Six Shocking Revelations About How Private Prisons Make Money,” by April M. Short on Salon.com).
  • CCA and Geo Group, the nation’s two major private prison companies, “have had a hand in shaping and pushing for criminal justice policies such as mandatory minimum sentences that favor increased incarceration” (Public Interest Report, Sept. 2013).
  • The “War on Drugs” dramatically increased the US prison population from 41,000 drug offenders in 1980 to half a million in 2010 (Sentencing Project).
  • African-Americans make up 13 percent of the US population and use drugs at the same rates as people of other races, but represent 45 percent of those imprisoned for drug violations (Drug Policy Alliance Report).
  • Criminal prosecutions of immigration suspects in federal court districts along the US southern border have increased by 1,475 percent over the last 20 years resulting in increased demand for prisons and detention centers to hold inmates (“War on Undocumented Immigrants Threatens to Swell US Prison Population,” by Chris Kirkham on Huffington Post and TRAC Reports).
  • One in three Black men and one in six Latino men are likely to be imprisoned in their lifetime; only 1 in 17 white men will experience the inside of a jail or prison in his lifetime (Sentencing Project).
In light of these facts and others corroborated by the personal testimonies of several speakers, agreement among CCT’s leaders was palpable. The group declared:

“The church in the United States has a moral and ethical imperative to protect human dignity and must address the problem of mass incarceration in our nation.

“First, we recognize that the legacy of the dehumanization of people of color has borne lasting effects in current-day society. These effects are perhaps most acutely experienced by our African-American brothers and sisters who were deemed non-human ‘chattel’ by law in the days of antebellum slavery and whose human equality was challenged by the Jim Crow system of subjugation until passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 attempted to right it. We see the vestiges of these systems of human control in America’s current system of mass incarceration.

“Second, we recognize that these systems are not only affecting African-Americans. They are now impacting all people of color, the poor, the marginalized, and the immigrant in the United States. Latinos and other immigrants, in particular, are experiencing the brunt of increased detention rates in the midst of their struggle for immigration reform.

“Third, while there is a role for prisons to address violent offenses, we recognize that our nation’s justice system has lost the hope embodied by its historic vision to ‘correct’ and restore broken people back to society. As followers of Jesus Christ, we believe in the redemption and reconciliation of all things, rather than retribution. This includes the prisoner and broken systems. This is the essence of the gospel.”

As Christian leaders, CCT declared: “Mass incarceration must stop. We are challenging ourselves together with government and the nation to seize this moment when multiple forces are aligning toward positive action to correct the injustices within our ‘justice’ system.”

CCT is encouraging its member denominations and organizations to increase awareness, educate, and take action to oppose mass incarceration in the public square. CCT also committed to developing guiding principles for the church in its efforts.

(This report is taken from a release provided by Christian Churches Together.)

Source: 2/15/2014 Newsline