Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Newsline: November 25, 2014


Brethren Disaster Ministries surpasses goal of Sandy recovery grant from Red Cross

Photo by Jenn Dorsch

Volunteers from Frederick Church of the Brethren at Sandy recovery site in Spotswood, N.J.
By Jane Yount

A Hurricane Sandy recovery grant that Brethren Disaster Ministries was awarded last year from the American Red Cross (ARC) provided the financial backing needed to expand Brethren Disaster Ministries’ efforts in New Jersey from one project in Toms River to a second project based in Spotswood.

As a recipient of this grant, the Brethren Disaster Ministries goal was to repair or rebuild 75 homes by the end of 2014. We are pleased to announce that by the end of the third quarter of 2014, 74 homes have been completed at both sites, with 9 more in progress in the Spotswood area. (The current work in Toms River is exempt from the grant.

Brethren Disaster Ministries’ main concern is to engage our volunteers in helping disaster survivors who are most in need. All of our cases are now being received from the Monmouth County Long Term Recovery Group (MCLTRG), which is providing a steady flow of appropriate work for our volunteers to do on behalf of Sandy survivors.

Some of the people we are helping include single mothers with one or two children and no insurance, an older couple who ran out of money and are still traumatized by the flood, a very poor couple with a child, and numerous others like these. Brethren Disaster Ministries therefore has decided to continue recovery work in Spotswood into the spring of 2015 and possibly longer.

Trinity United Methodist hosts volunteers

At the beginning of this year, Trinity United Methodist Church opened its doors as a housing facility for Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers responding to Hurricane Sandy in Spotswood, N.J.

“The fact that BDM ended up in this particular church is truly a match made in heaven,” said Ruth Warfield, volunteer household manager who served from July through September. Her predecessor, Doretta Dorsch, had started joint dinners for church members and disaster volunteers on Wednesday nights, a weekly tradition that has continued and has borne much spiritual fruit.

Warfield shared story after story about how this invitation to dinner has had a profound impact on people’s lives and pulled the church together into a much stronger community. Different members of the congregation have gotten up during Sunday services and told the congregation that Brethren Disaster Ministries’ presence at the church and having these suppers together has changed their lives.

One person, who had been strongly opposed to sharing the church facilities with outsiders, said the inspiring example of the Brethren volunteers made him change his mind. One woman said her husband had pretty much stopped talking due to the incredible stress her family is undergoing. She told the congregation that he’d been talking again during the last three Wednesday night suppers, and for the first time in a year seems to enjoy life again. Another woman has a husband with dementia, and another has Alzheimer’s, but you wouldn’t know it on Wednesdays.

Something holy is happening on those nights.

According to Ruth Warfield, the ladies of the church gradually began to take ownership of the dinners and “have begun to feel like family.” She anticipated as many as 50 people at the next dinner. “Watching this community become strong and vibrant--there just aren’t words to describe it,” she said.

-- Jane Yount serves as coordinator of the Brethren Disaster Ministries office at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

Source: 11/25/2014 Newsline

EYN Compassion Fund has distributed more than $200,000 to aid Nigerian Brethren

Since a special appeal for the Nigeria crisis at the 2014 Annual Conference in early July, giving to the EYN Compassion Fund topped $168,459, according to the Church of the Brethren finance office. That amount is in addition to the $120,210.45 collected in the first half of this year.

Since its inception, the EYN Compassion Fund has collected donations totaling $305,821.

Photo by Zakariya Musa

Distribution of relief goods in Maiduguri, Nigeria, at a church of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
This fall a new Nigeria Crisis Fund began receiving donations toward a matching challenge of $500,000 from the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board, and the EYN Compassion Fund is being closed out.

Over the past two years, the EYN Compassion Fund has received more than $288,670 in donations for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and has distributed $201,645.92 to EYN. All the donations received have been sent directly to EYN, except the remaining balance of about $87,000, which will be sent soon.

Large gifts made since July include $17,050 from Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, and a grant of $10,000 from the United Church of Christ (UCC). A rebate of $8,750 that the Church of the Brethren received from Brotherhood Mutual through the Brethren Mutual Aid Agency, was part of a distribution from the EYN Compassion Fund that was sent to EYN earlier this year.

The money collected in the EYN Compassion Fund was used for a variety of purposes, as determined and distributed by EYN leadership--in particular the EYN Relief Committee and the EYN district church councils. The money helped the families of EYN pastors who lost loved ones or homes or churches in the violence, aided other affected EYN families, and as the insurgency grew also was used for larger food and material aid distributions and helped EYN begin building relocation sites for displaced people.

Prior to receiving donations for this fund, the Church of the Brethren had received donations to help EYN rebuild churches that had been burned in rioting and civil unrest. The EYN Compassion Fund was started to broaden the use for donations when it became clear there was a much greater need emerging in Nigeria.

For more about the new Nigeria Crisis Fund, find a link on the page www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis.

-- Pat Marsh of the Church of the Brethren finance office contributed to this report.

Source: 11/25/2014 Newsline

Musa Mambula speaking tour to extend into mid-January

Photo courtesy of Chiques Church of the Brethren

Musa Mambula, National Spiritual Advisor to Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)
Nigerian Brethren church leader Musa Mambula has begun a speaking tour in the Pennsylvania area, giving presentations at a variety of Church of the Brethren congregations. His list of speaking engagements extends through December and into January. His presentations focus on the persecution of Christians by Boko Haram terrorists in northern Nigeria and the church’s response.

Mambula is a writer, educator, and current National Spiritual Advisor for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). He is a 1983 graduate of Bethany Theological Seminary at its former location in Oakbrook, Ill., and in 2007 was a fellow at the Young Center at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. He received his doctorate degree in education from the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria, in 1995.

Helping to plan and publicize his speaking schedule are Monroe Good, a former Church of the Brethren mission worker in Nigeria; and Don Fitzkee, chair elect of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board and director of Development for COBYS Family Services.

Musa Mambula’s upcoming speaking engagements or attendance at Church of the Brethren congregations (this list may not be comprehensive):

Nov. 30:
Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, 8:15 a.m. early worship followed by Sunday school at 9:15 a.m. and worship at 10:30 a.m.

Mount Wilson Church of the Brethren in Lebanon, Pa., 7 p.m. 
Dec. 3:
Mechanic Grove Church of the Brethren in Quarryville, Pa., 5:30 p.m. fellowship meal followed by a Sharing Session
Dec. 7:
Mountville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, 10:15 a.m. worship followed by a fellowship meal and a Sharing Session
Dec. 10:
Knobsville Church of the Brethren in McConnelsburg, Pa., 7:30 p.m. Information and Sharing Session
Dec. 14:
University Baptist and Brethren Church in State College, Pa., 9:30 a.m. worship followed by Sunday school forum at 11 a.m.
Dec. 21:
Union Bridge (Md.) Church of the Brethren, 9:20 a.m. Sunday school followed by worship at 10:30 a.m.
Dec. 28:
Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren in Mifflinburg, Pa., 8 a.m. early worship with a second worship service at 10:30 a.m.

Bermudian Church of the Brethren in East Berlin, Pa., 7 p.m.
Jan. 4, 2015:
Middle Creek Church of the Brethren in Lititz, Pa., 9 a.m. Sunday school followed by worship at 10 a.m.

Atlantic Northeast District Special Evening Service hosted by Hempfield Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa., 7 p.m. on the theme “A Call to Support Our Nigerian Brothers and Sisters”
Jan. 5-9, 2015:
Trip to Bethany Theological Seminary (details to be announced)
Jan. 11, 2015:
Ephrata (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, 8:30 a.m. traditional worship followed by Sunday school at 9:45 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.

Indian Creek Church of the Brethren in Harleysville, Pa., 5 p.m. Information and Sharing Session followed by a special service at 7 p.m. to be arranged by Atlantic Northeast District
Jan. 18, 2015:
New Fairview Church of the Brethren in York, Pa.

Coventry Church of the Brethren in Pottstown, Pa., 7 p.m.
Mambula also has received some media attention, including a report from his presentation at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. The article titled “Nigerian church leader asks Elizabethtown church: we need your prayers, and your support, against terrorists” is published by Lancaster Online at http://lancasteronline.com/features/faith_values/nigerian-church-leader-asks-elizabethtown-church-we-need-your-prayers/article_b65dbf2a-703d-11e4-b46d-b7eca7c26c54.html.

Source: 11/25/2014 Newsline

Global Food Crisis Fund grant supports agriculture training in east Africa

An allocation of $4,300 from the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) has been given to support the attendance of six people at an agriculture training event in Kenya. The training is being provided by Care of Creation, Kenya (CCK), a former GFCF grant recipient.

The training will focus on teaching conservation agriculture or “no-till” techniques, combined with biblical teaching on ways to transform farming practices in Africa. The six people whose participation is funded will come from Eglise des Freres au Congo, the budding Brethren group in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Gisenyi Evangelical Friends Church in Rwanda; and Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services in Burundi.

Each of these groups has received grants from the GFCF for agricultural initiatives in the past, and will be asked to invite one church leader and one agronomist to represent their organization at the training event. The GFCF grant will cover travel expenses for the six participants.

Source: 11/25/2014 Newsline

Advent worship resources are online for the 2014 Advent offering

“Our God, in this time of year when we intentionally seek out the familiar, you challenge us with something new. While we are busy dusting off old traditions that rekindle sentimental
feelings of time past, you invite us to imagine your presence among us in a new way, a way that
helps us reevaluate everything we have ever done and anything we might do.”

This quote from an invocation prayer written by Tim Harvey for the 2014 Advent offering in the Church of the Brethren provides a sample of the free Advent worship materials that are now available online.

The suggested date for the Advent offering is Sunday, Dec. 14. The theme is “Hope: See the Unexpected” (Luke 1:39-45). The special Advent offering supports core Church of the Brethren denominational ministries with a focus on international partnerships with brothers and sisters in Nigeria, Haiti, South Sudan, and many other places around the world, as well as events and ministries that provide opportunities for people of all ages to give voice to the fulfilled promises of God through action.

The resources offered online include worship resources written by Harvey, pastor of Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va.; an “Advent offering exegesis” on the text from Luke 1:39-45 by Joshua Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship for the Church of the Brethren; a bulletin insert with children’s activities; and more.

Go to www.brethren.org/offerings/advent.

Source: 11/25/2014 Newsline

Brethren bits

Onekama Church of the Brethren booth at Christmas fair
A selection of Advent and Christmas events at Church of the Brethren congregations and organizations across the country:

The Chicago Area Churches of the Brethren are holding a Holiday Bazaar Fundraiser on Dec. 6, from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m., hosted by York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill. The event will benefit Heifer International. Sponsoring congregations include York Center, Highland Avenue, First Church Chicago, and Neighborhood Church. “Start the Christmas season off right and make a purchase that will help change the world!” said an invitation. Gifts will be available from Heifer International, Brethren Press, Equal Exchange, Ten Thousand Villages, and Cal’s Candy. Baked goods also will be on sale. The event will feature Christmas music, children’s activities and crafts, and refreshments including coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cider, and popcorn.

“Come to Bethlehem and See...” is the theme for an outdoor live nativity program at Bethlehem Church of the Brethren in Boones Mill, Va., on Dec. 20 between 5 and 8 p.m. “Come experience the story of Christmas as you walk by scenes of Mary and Joseph, shepherds with their sheep, angels, and wisemen,” said an invitation. “Then come into Bethlehem Church of the Brethren for cookies, hot chocolate, and warm fellowship. Golf carts rides are available to assist your tour.” The program will be held rain or shine. For more information contact 540-493-7252.

Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., is holding an Advent Prayer Vigil on Dec. 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the chapel. "Please join us during this season of darkness, of diminishing light, in remembering the people in the world, particularly our Nigerian brothers and sisters, victimized by the pain of violence, separation, and poverty," said an invitation in the South Central Indiana District newsletter. "Let us join together as a community of faith. Utilizing scripture, prayer, and song, may we be reminded of the promise of the coming hope of the one who would bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world."

A Festival of Wreaths takes place at Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md., on Dec. 13 from 3-7 p.m. “Join us for our Holiday Spectacular!” said an invitation. “Come see our display of more than 50 uniquely decorated wreaths and bid on your favorite at the Silent Auction, beginning Nov. 15. Enjoy baked goods from our Bake Sale while listening to holiday music, and take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through our community to see our dazzling Luminaria, presented by the Auxiliary.” Proceeds from the event benefit the Pastoral Care Ministries at Fahrney-Keedy.

Liberty Mills Church of the Brethren in South Central Indiana District is holding a new Live Nativity on Dec. 14 at 6 and 7 p.m. Also at Liberty Mills Church this year, on Dec. 13, at 5:30 p.m., the congregation will enjoy a "Fun and Crazy Christmas Sweater Soup Supper and Caroling" event.

Camp Eder’s Fourth Annual Christmas Tree Festival is Dec. 12, 13, and 14 from 5-8:30 p.m. This free event features a Christmas Tree Decorating Contest, cookies and hot beverages, Christmas carols at the campfire, and a candle-lit reading of the Nativity story each evening at 8 p.m. “Come and experience Camp Eder covered in Christmas Lights, vote on your favorite Christmas tree, and worship at one of the candlelight services,” said an invitation.

At Logansport Church of the Brethren in Indiana, members of the church are invited to celebrate Christmas Eve Communion from 4-6 p.m. on Dec. 24. "This is a time where people can take time from their busy schedules to pray, rejoice, thank the Lord for His blessings, or all of these. People come anytime they like and when they are ready they can remember why we celebrate Christmas through communion. One of the pastors administers communion to each family and prays a blessing over them for the new year," said the district newsletter.

Peru (Ind.) Church of the Brethren is having a blanket give-away on Dec. 6, from 9 a.m. to noon.

The Open Table Cooperative issued an invitation “to engage the Advent season with creativity and an eye toward seeking God outside the lines. Based on Keri Smith’s ‘Wreck This Journal’ we hope you will join us as we use daily activities to discover where we are being called this Advent and Christmas season.” The invitation notes this all-ages journal can be used individually or as a family. “This journal is meant to be wrecked, as you may be able to tell from the title. The instructions may seem odd, but think outside the box and allow yourself to be surprised by where you are led! Have fun with it! Be open to finding renewal and new birth in unexpected places.” Download the journal from www.opentablecoop.org/advent-journal/?mc_cid=64f599faee&mc_eid=d8fdc70623 . The Open Table Cooperative also will collect photos of favorite journal pages on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #AdventJournal14 .

“Lights of Love” at Spindale Church of the Brethren in North Carolina offers church members an opportunity to honor a loved one with a light that will be lit through the month of December, according to a communication from Southeastern District. A suggested donation of $2 per name supports the effort.

Dupont (Ohio) Church of the Brethren presents an annual Christmas Dinner Theater on Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. and Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. This year the church presents “The Journal.” Call the church office for tickets at 419-596-4314; cost is by donation but a ticket is required for the meal. The meal includes ham, potato, vegetable, dessert, and drink.

Chicago Area Churches Holiday Bazaar
  • Brethren Disaster Ministries has been including non-Brethren denominations in its trainings, reports the disaster ministries office. At a hands-on Disaster Project Leadership Training in Bayville, N.J., from Aug. 26-Sept. 4, 5 of the 13 participants were members of the Disciples of Christ or United Church of Christ. Brethren Disaster Ministries is developing partnerships with other denominations, which eventually may lead to joint disaster response project sites.
  • A briefing on Nigeria in the Methodist Building in Washington, D.C., featured an interfaith delegation connected with EYN. The briefing was co-sponsored by the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, the Islamic Society of North America, and the National Council of Churches, USA. It featured an interfaith delegation that has connections with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and included EYN member and leader Zakaria Bulus. Bulus is the former EYN national youth chairman and has been the youth coordinator of the African Continental Assembly of Mission 21. Presently he is the church secretary of the local congregation of Maiduguri, the largest congregation of Brethren in Nigeria, as well as a committee (board) member of the EYN peace program. In addition to his education in marketing (business), he has completed a theological basic education through distance learning, and has completed numerous ecclesiastic continuing education courses. For more information contact Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Public Witness, at nhosler@brethren.org .
  • In recent news from Nigeria, the town of Garkida has suffered a major attack by the Boko Haram insurgents. Garkida was the place where Church of the Brethren mission began in Nigeria, when mission founders H. Stover Kulp and Albert D. Helser settled there in March 1923  with assistance from three Nigerian men: Garba from Zaria, John from the Igbo tribe in the southeast, and translator Mr. Danboyi of the Pabir people. For more than 50 years Garkida served as the headquarters of the Church of the Brethren Mission in Nigeria and in addition to churches was the location of a hospital and a world-renowned leprosarium, and schools including a mechanics school. Staff liaison Markus Gamache of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) reports by e-mail that the town is not under Boko Haram control although the situation is unclear. Some people who fled Garkida have taken refuge in central Nigeria, he reports, but others are still in hiding in the area. He writes, in part: “Garkida was attacked and most people run away. Many were also killed. As I am writing this mail there is no BH in town of Garkida based on some report but people are afraid to go back.... There is confusion always when it comes to BH attack. We are not sure of any continuity in Garkida at the moment. Places like Hong and Gombi are said to be reclaimed back only few agreed to go back. Mubi recapture is not very clear yet. Most of the information are not showing the true picture of safety.... Thanks a lot for all your prayers and concern.”
  • “We express our disappointment with the international community that with over 11,000 persons killed and over one million displaced, the international community has refused to notice the pogrom on northern Nigerian Christians. Rather they have shifted their attention and resources only to Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and Afghanistan, as if those killed in Nigeria are not human beings,” said a statement coming out of a meeting of Christians in northern Nigeria, hosted in the city of Jos by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). “This Day” newspaper reported on the meeting along with a statement from a former Commonwealth Secretary-General in Nigeria who spoke about the need for all religions to treat one another with mutual respect. The statement from the Christian gathering came out of a meeting of some 2,000 people displaced from northern Nigerian states. Speakers at that meeting included the chair of the Christian Association of Nigeria North Central Zone Youth wing. He quoted the following figures regarding Nigerian Christians affected by the insurgent violence: more than 11,000 Christians killed including 8,000 members of EYN; over 700,000 members of EYN, mostly women and children, displaced among 1.56 million Nigerians displaced. “The Christian body therefore called on the United Nations to intervene and declare the North-eastern Nigeria its territory without further delay and send in peacekeeping troops to secure the lives of the remaining traumatised people,” the article concluded. Read the full article, dated Nov. 19, at www.thisdaylive.com/articles/power-sharing-religious-extremism-responsible-for-boko-haram-says-anyaoku/194494 .
  • A ruling has been issued by the Indiana Court of Appeals in a dispute over a church property in Roann, Ind. “We received word on Nov. 17 that the Indiana Court of Appeals issued their opinion, rejecting our arguments on appeal with regard to the dispute with the Walk By Faith Community Church in Roann,” said an update from Beth Sollenberger, district executive minister of South Central Indiana District, in the December issue of the district newsletter. “I believe it is important to remember that the purpose of the appeal had far more to do with understanding our polity than with regaining the property,” she wrote. “As we all know, polity is generally most called upon in times of disagreement--this round of court appeal was primarily to discern whether or not our polity would stand up in a court process. In this instance, polity did not prevail. Our experience will be valuable as we work together to discern what makes useful polity for us as a denomination. Please keep the Roann Church of the Brethren in your prayers as we continue forward in faith.”
  • Western Plains District has issued a "Save the Dates" notice of an upcoming leadership training evening in Great Bend, Kan. The event on Feb. 9-10, 2015, will feature leadership from Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.
  • Among the notable actions taken at the 2014 district conference in Shenandoah District was the receiving of an offering of more then $4,500 to aid emergency relief efforts in Nigeria, according to the district newsletter. The offering will go toward the matching challenge issued by the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board, so that amount will be matched to “boost the response to more than $9,000,” the newsletter noted.
  • The Living Gift Market held at Timbercrest, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in North Manchester, Ind., on Nov. 15 “raised a whopping $22,000 for Heifer International!” reports South Central Indiana District. “Thanks to all those who participated.”
  • The 2014 Heifer Global Village season at Shepherd’s Spring camp and outdoor ministry center near Sharpsburg, Md., “saw over 1,000 participants come from all over the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic United States to discover a little bit more about what life might be like for those less fortunate living in the US and around the world,” said a report in the Mid-Atlantic District newsletter. “We gladly welcomed the new addition of Alpacas to our livestock crew, which serve as valuable teachers in explaining Heifer International’s goal to end hunger and poverty through the gift of livestock.” For more information about the Heifer Global Village go to www.shepherdsspring.org/heifer.php .
  • An Advent/Christmas Spiritual Disciplines folder on the theme “Proclaim: For There Is Born to You a Savior Who is Christ the Lord” is available from the Springs of Living Water church renewal initiative, suitable for individual and congregational use. The folder is available on the Springs website under the “Springs” button. Using Sunday and daily lectionary texts, the folder follows the Brethren Press bulletin series. “A suggested prayer pattern has a Lectio reading of scripture along with use of a devotional guide which tells of others living the faith,” said an announcement from Springs leader David Young. “On the insert, persons can select the next spiritual discipline to which they feel God is inviting them during this Advent/Christmas season.” Young reports the creativity of congregations in using the folders is spreading. In one example from Kansas, churches will be using the folders with their congregations, pastors will write a daily devotional guide following the lectionary, and donations for the use of the devotional will be sent to the migrant ministries at Garden City, Kan. As an extension of the Uniontown Church of the Brethren, pastored by Vince Cable who has written study questions for the folders, copies continue to be sent to the  Fayette County prison south of Pittsburgh, Pa. Find the current folder at www.churchrenewalservant.org or contact davidyoung@churchrenewalservant.org .
  • Two key ecumenical organizations in which the Church of the Brethren participates--the National Council of Churches (NCC) and Church World Service (CWS)--celebrate President Obama's “Immigrant Accountability Executive Action,” according to press releases. “The National Council of Churches welcomes President Obama’s announcement of new steps on immigration,” said the NCC release. “The President's proposals will make life better for millions of immigrants who are exploited and live in fear of deportation. Still, less than half of the undocumented immigrants living in the US will benefit from the changes announced by the President.” The NCC has long stood for the rights of immigrants, the release notes, citing NCC statements from 1952, when the organization stated its concern for displaced people in the aftermath of World War II, along with subsequent statements on immigration made in 1962, 1981, 2008, and most recently 2010 when the NCC called for action on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. CWS “welcomes President Obama's decision to offer millions of US undocumented community members the opportunity to apply for temporary relief from deportation,” said a release from that church-based humanitarian organization. “Our immigration system has been broken for far too long,” said CWS president and CEO John L. McCullough in the CWS release. “The president has the full constitutional authority, and a moral obligation to keep families together and stop needless deportations. We applaud his historic leadership and we urge all members of Congress to support the implementation of this executive action. We celebrate alongside millions of our immigrant brothers and sisters who will be able to shed the fear of deportation and live anew. But we also remember the millions who are still in need of relief. As people of faith, we believe in the dignity of all people, in the unity of all families, and in the power of redemption, and that the implementation of this executive action should reflect those values.” Read the full CWS release at www.cwsglobal.org/newsroom/news-releases/cws-celebrates-president-obamas-action.html.
Source: 11/25/2014 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 Jeff Boshart, Monroe Good, Kendra Harbeck, Nathan Hosler, Pat Marsh, Nancy Miner, Dale Minnich, Frances Townsend, Elizabeth Ullery, Paul Ullom-Minnich, Jay Wittmeyer, Ed Woolf, David Young, Jane Yount, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Newsline: November 18, 2014


National Council of Churches governing board issues statement from Ferguson

As Missouri governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency yesterday in anticipation of the imminent indictment, or lack thereof, of officer Darren Wilson, the National Council of Churches (NCC) gathered in St. Louis for a meeting of its governing board. The atmosphere was tense in the room as the governor's order to ready the National Guard came during a panel discussion featuring four pastors and community leaders from Ferguson, Mo.

Photo courtesy of Stan Noffsinger

General secretary Stan Noffsinger (second from left) was among National Council of Churches leaders in Ferguson, Mo., for meetings this week. Here he is shown with other NCC governing board members joining the line of demonstrators as Ferguson awaited word from grand jury proceedings on the possible indictment of a police officer in a shooting last summer.
Today members of the NCC board including Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, stood on the line with demonstrators in Ferguson as they awaited news from the grand jury proceedings. Also today, the NCC issued a statement from Ferguson, which was read publicly before a media audience at Wellspring United Methodist Church.

Quoting from Isaiah 58:12, the statement said, in part: “We are in partnership with pastors and congregations who are preaching, seeking justice, and providing pastoral care in Ferguson's churches in the midst of the current tensions. We celebrate the long-standing presence of members and leaders of this community that care for, and have cared for, the welfare of their congregations and the community at large....

“Love of God and neighbor motivates us to seek justice and fairness for everyone. We wish to see a society in which young people ‘not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character’ (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). This vision is jeopardized by issues that revolve around mass incarceration. The trend toward privatization of prisons creates monetary incentives for incarcerating people for minor crimes, the vast majority of which are young black men. The national militarization of local policing increases the likelihood of grave injustice. Time and time again we are witnessing the use of lethal force against unarmed persons....” (See the full text of the NCC statement below.)

Noffsinger comments on experience in Ferguson

The media imagery of violent protest “is not what I experienced today,” Noffsinger reported this afternoon by telephone. “There is a real high level of anxiety whether the officer is indicted or not, but it looks like any of our cities at the moment. But listening to church leaders and talking with demonstrators the tensions are real and the potential for violence is just under the surface.”

He said his experience in Ferguson has enhanced the call of scripture for the church to move outside of its walls and be active in the neighborhood. “This event has drawn the churches in Ferguson out into the neighborhood,” he said. “Why aren’t we out there listening to the youth in our cities, about the abuse of force and the militarization of police? The church is called out of its four walls into the neighborhood.

“No matter what the outcome is,” Noffsinger said, referring to the grand jury case, “the way forward for us is to accompany the oppressed.”

NCC board hears from Ferguson church leaders

The speakers at the NCC governing board meeting yesterday were Traci Blackmon, pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ, Florissant, Mo.; James Clark of Better Family Life; David Greenhaw, president of Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis; and Willis Johnson, pastor of Wellspring Church, Ferguson, Mo.

Each of these leaders has played a key role in the unfolding events in Ferguson, and all have affiliations with the National Council of Churches (NCC) and its member denominations. The panelists gave a variety of perspectives on the role of the church in Ferguson and other places where systemic injustice occurs.

Roy Medley of the American Baptist Churches in the USA, and chair of the NCC governing board, introduced the speakers. “Regardless of the color of our skin, we all have skin in this game,” he said.

Blackmon welcomed the out-of-town visitors. “There are no outsiders in the pursuit of justice,” she said. As she reflected on the violence many fear if officer Darren Wilson is not indicted by the grand jury, she said, “My prayer is that there is no violence, because violence never wins.”

Clark, a key leader working to build peaceful relations, gave the most alarming assessment. He spoke of a “new era,” one in which injustices in the “urban core” will be responded to differently than in the past. “The new era started on August 9th. And young men are armed to the teeth,” he warned the church leaders. “And their mentality is very anti-establishment.”

Johnson joined Greenhaw in calling the church to be active in communities at risk for violence and injustice.

The NCC meeting reconvened today, Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 11 a.m. at Wellspring United Methodist Church in Ferguson where the NCC statement was presented to the media. The full text of the statement follows:

NCC Statement on Ferguson

We live in the hope expressed by the prophet Isaiah:

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
   you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
   the restorer of streets to live in (Isaiah 58:12).

The National Council of Churches is a fellowship of Christian communions that seeks justice for all and stands with all those who are oppressed. We are in partnership with pastors and congregations who are preaching, seeking justice, and providing pastoral care in Ferguson's churches in the midst of the current tensions. We celebrate the long-standing presence of members and leaders of this community that care for, and have cared for, the welfare of their congregations and the community at large. We are led by their love and by their stories and counsel. We are also inspired by the young people who, in their quest for justice, are embodying a faith and courage that we find to be an example to our churches.

We join the community of Ferguson, and all of those who seek justice and fairness for all people. We applaud those who practice the very best in Christian tradition by responding through prayer and nonviolent, peaceful action, and we join with other faith traditions who urge the same. It is our hope that the city and its citizens, churches, law enforcement officials, justice-seekers, and media, will all be shepherded by the teaching of Jesus to love God and to “love your neighbor as yourself."

Love of God and neighbor motivates us to seek justice and fairness for everyone. We wish to see a society in which young people “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). This vision is jeopardized by issues that revolve around mass incarceration. The trend toward privatization of prisons creates monetary incentives for incarcerating people for minor crimes, the vast majority of which are young black men. The national militarization of local policing increases the likelihood of grave injustice. Time and time again we are witnessing the use of lethal force against unarmed persons.

Loving neighbor does not include exploiting others. We call those who exploit emotions surrounding this grand jury action in ways that bring further division to consider their motivations and act compassionately. We urge all parties, in all things, to be guided by the words of the apostle Paul, that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things” (Galatians 5:22-23). Where the Spirit of God is, God motivates us to live this way.

Peace is not merely the absence of conflict; it is also the presence of justice. Peace is found in the ability to dialogue, to see each others’ side, and to come to a point where relationships are transformed from those of conflict to conversation. The bridge between justice and peace is mercy and grace, and as people of faith, we affirm this bridge, and that the Church, its pastors, and its members, must be those who proclaim it.

In the weeks that will follow these days of anger, indignation, and accusation, we call for peace--one full of robust love that utilizes our best qualities as human beings. We call on the member communions of the National Council of Churches in Ferguson to stand in solidarity with the community to stand in solidarity with the community to seek liberty and justice for all.

-- A release from Steven D. Martin, director of Communications and Development for the National Council of Churches, contributed to this report.

Source: 11/18/2014 Newsline

In addition to constant prayer, funds are needed in Nigeria

Photo by David Sollenberger

A crowd of displaced people gather to receive bags of maize (corn) and other relief goods in a distribution at an EYN church in Jos, Nigeria. Help for funding this food distribution came from the Church of the Brethren in the United States. Staff of Rebecca Dali's nonprofit aid group CCEPI purchased and prepared the sacks of grain and other materials that included buckets, mats, and blankets.
By David Sollenberger

The following is the script from a short video report on the Nigeria crisis by Church of the Brethren videographer David Sollenberger. He returned last week from a reporting trip to Nigeria on behalf of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service. In the video, this script is interspersed with brief interviews not quoted here. View the video at www.brethren.org or on YouTube at http://youtu.be/T_Y9hlxuBfo:

The women’s choir at one of the EYN churches in Jos, one of the relatively few congregations in the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria still holding regular worship services. Two months ago, there were an estimated 96,000 EYN members who had fled their homes, and become essentially refugees in their own country. With the attack in late October by the terrorist group Boko Haram on Kwari, the community where the EYN headquarters and Kulp Bible College are located, that number increased dramatically. The attack began early in the morning and people left everything behind, dodging bullets and fleeing into the bush….

Many people ended up walking some 20 miles through the mountains to safety in Cameroon, many others are staying with relatives and friends in the Yola area, and others in large resettlement camps. Many of them have found their way to the relatively safe regions of Abuja and Jos but are homeless, bringing only the clothes they had on when they fled.

Photo by David Sollenberger

This woman and her baby were two of the people who received sacks of grain distributed to the crowd of displaced people who gathered at an EYN church in Jos, Nigeria
EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache and his wife opened their home in Jos to almost 50 people, who had nowhere else to go. Other EYN members in the Yola, Jos, and Abuja areas are doing the same….

The people standing here at the Jos church on Sunday are those who are displaced, who have fled the violence in their home communities, but wanted to worship with other EYN members on this Sunday.

EYN leadership has re-located to Jos, and is trying to provide housing for EYN leadership and for pastors whose churches have either been burned or whose communities have been evacuated. Eight pastors and over 3,000 EYN members so far have been killed by Boko Haram. EYN leadership is consulting with Carl and Roxane Hill, who had been the most recent American teachers at Kulp Bible College, who left this past May. They will be key figures in the assistance efforts of the Church of the Brethren in the US.

Many EYN members who don’t have relatives in the safe zones are staying in resettlement camps, like this one set up by a mission group in Jos called Stefanos Foundation. Others have been moved to relocation sites like this one near Abuja, which is one of the few open to both Muslims and Christians. Muslims who have not embraced the radical jihadist position of Boko Haram are also being killed, and many of them, like Ibriham Ali and the nine members of his family, have fled the towns now occupied by Boko Haram.

At this point, EYN leadership is considering building temporary housing in several areas, including this large piece of land owned by EYN near a school that closed several years ago. Already 20 families are staying in these classrooms, 8 to 10 to a room, with many more on their way here.

Photo by David Sollenberger

A man and child at one of the relocation sites for displaced people, sites that are being created with leadership from EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache as part of the cooperative relief effort of EYN, Brethren Disaster Ministries, and Global Mission and Service.
Food is another desperate need of the displaced people. Grants from the Nigeria Crisis Fund in the US helped provide food for many EYN members and assistance to displaced persons, but those initial grants are gone.

Rebecca Dali, the wife of EYN President Samuel Dali, and the woman who visited the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference last summer, turned almost $16,000 dollars worth of Brethren funds into food and emergency supplies, which were given out to families in some of the resettlement areas. A distribution at the EYN church in Jos resulted in far more people needing food and supplies than she was able to provide….

So far the Church of the Brethren in the US has provided more than $320,000 worth of relief for our sister church in Nigeria, including contributions from the EYN Compassion Fund, but much more is needed.

In addition to constant prayer for the safety of both EYN members and their Muslim neighbors who have also fled, funds are needed to build homes for displaced families, for clean water and sanitation, sleeping mats and mosquito nets, food for those displaced, and support for families who are housing the displaced people…

All money is being channeled through the Nigeria Crisis Fund…and all individual donations are being matched by the denominational funds ear marked by the Mission and Ministry Board at their October meeting.

The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria has been displaced by violence, but indeed they have not been abandoned.  Their deep faith in God and commitment to each other sustains them.  But now is clearly an opportunity for their brothers and sisters in the U.S. to walk with them, to share their burdens, for as it says in first Corinthians, when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer, and when one part is honored, we all rejoice.

Send contributions to: The Nigeria Crisis Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; or donate at www.brethren.org.

-- David Sollenberger is a Church of the Brethren videographer. This script accompanies a short video report on the crisis in Nigeria, with footage from Sollenberger’s recent reporting trip to Nigeria on behalf of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service. View the video at www.brethren.org or posted on YouTube at http://youtu.be/T_Y9hlxuBfo. Find an album of Sollenberger’s photographs of displaced people and the relief effort in Nigeria at www.bluemelon.com/churchofthebrethren/nigeriacrisisreliefeffort.

Source: 11/18/2014 Newsline

Court rules to ‘vacate’ clergy housing allowance case

“We have good news to share!” said an update from Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) about a court case that had the potential to seriously affect the tax status of clergy housing allowances. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the clergy housing allowance case brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. is to be vacated (eliminated) and remanded (sent back) to the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin with instructions to dismiss the case. The court ruled that the plaintiffs have no standing to bring a complaint.

The case would have affected ministers in three states--Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana--but could have set precedent for the rest of the nation.

“While we celebrate the good news of the 7th Circuit Court’s ruling to dismiss the case brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., we do want to emphasize that the ruling to dismiss was based on the procedural ground of standing,” said a statement from Scott W. Douglas, BBT director of Employee Benefits.

The following excerpt from the court’s decision summarizes this point:

“The plaintiffs here argue that they have standing because they were denied a benefit (a tax exemption for their employer-provided housing allowance) that is conditioned on religious affiliation. This argument fails, however, for a simple reason: the plaintiffs were never denied the parsonage exemption because they never asked for it. Without a request, there can be no denial. And absent any personal denial of a benefit, the plaintiffs’ claim amounts to nothing more than a generalized grievance about § 107(2)’s unconstitutionality, which does not support standing.”

Douglas added, “We will continue to monitor this situation and keep you informed as long as there is a possibility that the FFRF will continue to bring legal challenges to the clergy housing allowance.”

An amicus curiae brief in the case had been filed by the Church Alliance--a coalition of the chief executive officers of 38 denominational benefit programs including BBT. Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger and associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury, who is executive of the denomination’s Ministry Office, had signed on in support of the brief. BBT president Nevin Dulabaum is the denomination’s representative on the Church Alliance.

The name of the case is Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., et al. v. Jacob Lew, et al. (FFRF v. Lew). The US government had appealed a decision by Judge Barbara Crabb, US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (November 2013), that Code §107(2) is unconstitutional. Code §107(2), commonly called “clergy housing exclusion” or “clergy housing allowance,” excludes from income taxation the cash compensation provided to “ministers of the gospel” (clergy) toward the cost of their housing.

This section of the IRS code essentially excludes the value of clergy-owned housing from income taxation. It is related to Code §107(1), which excludes from a minister’s taxable income the value of church-provided housing (commonly called a parsonage, vicarage, or manse).

The Church Alliance brief focused on the jurisprudential history of permitted legislative accommodations of religion arguing that Code §107(2) is a constitutionally permitted accommodation of religion when viewed in the context of Code §107(1), the parsonage exclusion, and Code §119, which excludes employer-provided housing from employees’ incomes in numerous secular circumstances.

Source: 11/18/2014 Newsline

Communication informs about new IRS rule on pre-tax health insurance premium contributions for pastors, church workers

A communication with important information about how churches report their pastors’ (and lay employees’) income with regard to health insurance premiums is being sent to each Church of the Brethren congregation. The joint letter is from Mary Jo Flory-Steury, associate general secretary of the Church of the Brethren and executive of the Ministry Office, and Scott W. Douglas, BBT director of Employee Benefits. An additional letter from Douglas gives information about IRS rules for Section 105 HRA pre-tax insurance contributions.

Pastors and church workers who have their premium paid at least in part by the church but who are not in a bona fide church group health plan no longer can claim a pre-tax benefit on those payments, explained BBT president Nevin Dulabaum. “The IRS quietly changed the ruling for 2014 and we don’t believe that many pastors are aware of it,” Dulabaum said. “We fear that they’re going to prepare their taxes in April and find that they have several thousand dollars tax liability.”

To tax or not to tax

The joint communication from the Ministry Office and BBT began with the question, “To tax or not to tax--how should premiums for a pastor’s individual medical insurance be handled?”

“If your church is purchasing medical insurance for any of its employees, please read this letter carefully,” the communication said, in part. “Starting in 2014 the new healthcare legislation known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now requires employers, in certain situations, to report the cost of providing medical insurance for employees as regular income to those employees.

“Who is impacted by this change? Those employers who purchase an individual medical insurance policy directly for their employee(s) or reimburse their employee(s) for the cost of an individual medical insurance policy must now report the money spent for this coverage as regular income paid to the employee(s). Please note: If your church provides medical insurance through a group plan, there is no change to the way that expense is treated for tax purposes.”

HRA not a solution for pre-tax insurance premium purchase

“We have received several inquiries regarding the possibility of purchasing individual health insurance policies through a Section 105 HRA, creating a pre-tax status for this income,” Douglas added in his letter. “Please be aware that unless an employer provides group medical insurance, the money used to purchase individual medical insurance must be reported as earned (taxable) income to the employee.”

An HRA is not a solution for avoiding the tax consequences of the Affordable Care Act market reforms, and using this method could result in heavy fines, the letter warns.

Douglas noted that legal counsel has offered this information in regard to the subject of pre-tax insurance contributions:

On May 13, 2014, the IRS issued a Question and Answer “Q&A” document reiterating that employers are prohibited from reimbursing employees on a pre-tax basis for premiums employees pay for individual health insurance policies, either in or outside the Exchange/Marketplace. The Q&A cited IRS Notice 2013-54 and PPACA market reforms. The IRS Q&A does not prohibit employers from increasing employees’ compensation so they can purchase individual health insurance policies. For more information go to www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Employer-Health-Care-Arrangements.

IRS Notice 2013-54 states the following, clearly indicating that an HRA may not be used to purchase medical insurance for employees from the individual insurance market on a “pre-tax” basis: “...(a) for purposes of the annual dollar limit prohibition, an employer-sponsored HRA cannot be integrated with individual market coverage or with individual policies provided under an employer payment plan, and, therefore, an HRA used to purchase coverage on the individual market under these arrangements will fail to comply with the annual dollar limit prohibition....”

“While BBT does not advise clients, we strongly discourage you from using an HRA arrangement to purchase medical insurance for purposes of pre-tax benefits,” Douglas wrote.

Chart of IRS rules for tax on health insurance premium payments, part 1
Chart showing IRS rule on tax on health insurance premium payments, part 2

Source: 11/18/2014 Newsline

Congregational Life Ministries offers webinars on ‘Just Friendship’ and ‘Youth Work after Christendom’

Congregational Life Ministries is a co-sponsor of two webinars scheduled for this week: on Wednesday, Nov. 19, Anthony Grinnell will present a webinar related to ministry and evangelism and justice titled “Just Friendship”; and on Thursday, Nov. 20, Nigel Pimlott is the presenter of a webinar on the topic “Youth Work after Christendom-Revisited.” Both webinars start at 2:30 p.m. (eastern time). The latter webinar is one in a series by authors of published or forthcoming books in the popular “After Christendom” series, presented by the Church of the Brethren, the Center for Anabaptist Studies at Bristol Baptist College in the UK, the Anabaptist Network, and the Mennonite Trust.

“Youth Work after Christendom-Revisited” addresses the significant transformation undergone by ministry with young people, and the emergence of a post-Christendom, missional narrative, despite the fact that for many churches it is still about getting young people into church on a Sunday. This webinar will consider models of mission with young people based upon symbiosis, social justice and explorations of new uncharted waters. Nigel Pimlott is passionate about ministry with young people. He is author of youth ministry resources and a number of books, including ‘Youth Worker After Christendom and ‘Embracing the Passion.’

“Just Friendship” will discuss the nature of the relationships we seek to build with people in low-income areas and will explore how the virtues of justice and hope may be expressed within these relationships. Grinnell is involved in developing initiatives across the city of Leeds, in the United Kingdom, that seek to address poverty and inequality, is helping to establish Leeds Citizens, and is a project manager for the Leeds Poverty Truth Challenge.

The webinars are free, and ministers may earn 0.1 continuing education credit for attending the event. Register for webinars at www.brethren.org/webcasts. For more information contact Stan Dueck, director for Transforming Practices for the Church of the Brethren, at sdueck@brethren.org.

Source: 11/18/2014 Newsline

On Earth Peace to host informational webinar on Anti-Racism Transformation Team

2013 Young Adult Activities image, 132x139
By Marie Benner-Rhoades

On Earth Peace invites interested individuals to participate in an informational webinar to learn more about the organization’s Anti-Racism Transformation Team.

The webinar, scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 8 p.m. (eastern time), will provide a brief analysis of institutional racism, short history of the organization’s journey to eliminate racism, introduction to the purpose of the Anti-Racism Transformation Team, and opportunities for webinar participants to ask questions about the team’s upcoming formation and work. For login information, contact Marie Benner-Rhoades at MRhoades@OnEarthPeace.org.

On Earth Peace is currently accepting applications for a new institutional Anti-Racism Transformation Team, which will lead and hold On Earth Peace accountable for dismantling racism within the organization. Individuals who are deeply committed to the mission and ministry of On Earth Peace and its desire to become an anti-racist institution are encouraged to apply on or before Jan. 15, 2015. Applications and other information about the Anti-Racism Transformation Team are available at www.OnEarthPeace.org/ARTT. Additional questions may be directed by email to ARTT@onearthpeace.org.

This team is an outcome of On Earth Peace’s commitment to respond to personal and institutional manifestations of racism, by addressing racism within its own structure and culture. On Earth Peace recognizes the perpetuation of institutional racism and its ability to maintain unearned power and privilege through formal policies, practices, teachings, and decision-making--thereby excluding or limiting full participation in the organization by people of color. Through the creation of this team, On Earth Peace intends to effectively and credibly help its constituent peacebuilders end violence and war by addressing injustices and walking a path toward full ownership and participation by people of all racial identities.

On Earth Peace is a non-profit organization and agency of the Church of the Brethren, that helps individuals, congregations, communities, and other groups grow in peace through powerful programs of training and accompaniment. Its mission is to answer Jesus Christ’s call for peace and justice through its ministries; build thriving families, congregations and communities; and provide the skills, support, and spiritual foundation to face violence with active nonviolence. To learn more, visit www.onearthpeace.org.

-- Marie Benner-Rhoades is director of Youth and Emerging Adult Peace Formation for On Earth Peace.

Source: 11/18/2014 Newsline

How a concern becomes a value

By Nevin Dulabaum, president of Brethren Benefit Trust

One of the characteristics that distinguishes most of the funds managed by the Brethren Pension Plan and Brethren Foundation is that they are socially screened for Church of the Brethren values. That means that we do not invest in companies that generate 10 percent or more of their revenues in abortion, alcohol, defense, gambling, pornography, or tobacco. We also do not invest in the top 25 publically traded defense contractors. These screens all come from statements approved by Church of the Brethren Annual Conference delegates.

So what would it take to add another concern to the list of investment screens? This past summer, Church of the Brethren Annual Conference delegates, meeting in Columbus, Ohio, considered an amendment to an unfinished business item pertaining to climate change. The amendment proposed that Church of the Brethren-related investments “should cultivate renewable energy production and use, and should screen out entities that prolong climate-threatening dependency on fossil fuels.”

There is growing momentum for this kind of a ban. According to the “New York Times,” 180 philanthropies, religious organizations, pension funds, local governments, and hundreds of wealthy individual investors have pledged to divest themselves of assets tied to fossil fuel companies in recent years.

When asked whether the amendment would be supported by Brethren Foundation (and BBT), Steve Mason, BBT and BFI’s director of socially responsible investing, reported that it would be best for the topic to be filtered through the Annual Conference query process as its own item of business, rather than being tacked on as an amendment to an existing item of business. This stand-alone process would allow the topic of the amendment to go through a seasoned process of discernment.

What is a seasoned process of discernment? Or to reframe the question, what is the proper course if one would like BBT/BFI to consider adopting a new investment screen?

A query for any topic needs to be submitted to the Annual Conference as a new business item. Queries can come in one of three ways: They can begin as a congregational concern that is approved and sent to the respective district conference, where it also is approved and is then sent on to Annual Conference; they can be drafted and sent to Annual Conference by one of the official Annual Conference agencies (Church of the Brethren, Bethany Theological Seminary, On Earth Peace, or Brethren Benefit Trust); or there can be a motion made to establish a new item of business from the Annual Conference floor. With regard to investment screens, BBT’s practice is to follow Annual Conference statements; we refuse to initiate investment screens on our own.

Once a new business item is discussed by Annual Conference delegates, the usual outcome of that initial dialogue is for a study committee to be created to discern the feasibility of the proposal.

Why this approach? The creation of a study committee means that a group of individuals who have various perspectives on the subject are able to collectively give the issue a seasoned response. When addressing divestiture of fossil fuel-related investments, such a process could shape the scope of the business item, making sure recommendations are practicable and could lead to meaningful implementation.

Investment screens can be a tool organizations use to effectively state their social convictions without hurting their long-term investments. Do you believe BBT/BFI should omit a certain kind of investment? If so, we welcome the conversation but encourage you to filter your concern through the query process. We believe the outcome will yield the best results for both conveying Brethren values and being a realistic investment screen.

-- Nevin Dulabaum is president of the Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust.

Source: 11/18/2014 Newsline

Brethren bits

  • The Church of the Brethren is seeking a chief financial officer (CFO) and executive director of Organizational Resources. This full-time salaried position is located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and reports to the General Secretary. The chief financial officer oversees all aspects of the organization's finance and asset management, organizational resources, and acts as corporate treasurer as appointed by the Mission and Ministry Board. Additional responsibilities include supervision of the operations of Information Services, and property/asset management of the Brethren Service Center located in New Windsor, Md. Requirements include a commitment to operating out of the Church of the Brethren vision, mission, and core values; dedication to denominational and ecumenical objectives; an understanding and appreciation of Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; integrity; excellent financial management skills; and confidentiality. A bachelor's degree in economics/finance/accountancy with at least a second class honors degree and a master's degree in Business Administration or Accounting or CPA are required, as well as 10 years or more of significant proven financial and administrative experience in the areas of finance, accounting, management, planning, and supervision. Active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred. Applications will be accepted immediately and reviewed until the position is filled. Application packets are available by contacting Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60142; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; humanresources@brethren.org .
  • The Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADNet), a small non-profit, is hiring a half-time director. ADNet is dedicated to transforming faith communities and individuals with disabilities by full inclusion in the body of Christ. Roles include focusing on donor development, overseeing office and staff, guiding organizational communications, and relating to the board of directors. For more information and job description see the web site www.adnetonline.org . Send a resume to becky.gascho@gmail.com . The Church of the Brethren is a sponsoring partner of ADNet.
  • Registration opens Dec. 1 for Christian Citizenship Seminar 2015, an event for senior high youth and their adult advisors sponsored by the Church of the Brethren Youth and Young Adult Ministry on April 18-23 in New York City and Washington, D.C. The seminar’s study of US immigration will be guided by the theme scripture from Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Space is limited to 100 people so early registration is advised. Cost is $400. For more information and a downloadable brochure, go to www.brethren.org/ccs .
  • Youth at Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., have started a Dunker Punks Café. “Don’t buy your morning coffee on the way to church. The Dunker Punk Café fills your caffeine needs!” said an announcement in the church newsletter. Staffed by the High School Youth group, freewill donations will be accepted, “but the coffee is still free!” said the announcement.
  • The “Peace, Pies, and Prophets” event at Gettysburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren was a great success, according to the Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter. The event raised $3,555 to support Christian Peacemaker Teams and Gettysburg CARES.
  • Mario Martinez from Rios de Agua Viva, a new fellowship in Asheville, N.C., in Southeastern District, will be the guest speaker for a Thanksgiving service at Iglesia Jesucristo El Camino/His Way Church of the Brethren on Nov. 30 at 3 p.m. A potluck meal will follow the service.
  • The Carlisle Truck Stop Ministry of Southern Pennsylvania District received about $17,000 at its Fall Banquet hosted by New Fairview Church of the Brethren, according to a report from chaplain Dan Lehigh in the district newsletter. Drop off dates for donations of Christmas cookies for the ministry’s annual truck stop cookie give-away have been set: Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, 8, and 15. The drop off location is the ministry’s trailer at the Petro Truck Stop, 1201 Harrisburg Pike, Carlisle, Pa.
  • Dates for the 2015 Meat Canning Project of Southern Pennsylvania District and Mid-Atlantic District have been set: April 6-9, with labeling on April 10. A 10-minute DVD about the project is available from the Southern Pennsylvania District office, call 717-624-8636.
  • In Jan. 2015, Elizabethtown (Pa.) College School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) will offer Health Care Administration, a new online bachelor of science degree program focusing on the health care industry's regulations, policies, and management, as well as the human and social issues impacting the industry. “The Health Care Administration curriculum, taught by working experts in the field, is delivered in a five-week accelerated online format, providing working adults with flexible options to fit education into their lives,” said a release from the college. “The program blends theory, design, management and practice of health care into a comprehensive learning program, emphasizing ethics, fiscal responsibility, technological solutions, critical thinking, and communication skills in the health care environment.” Prospective students interested in learning about the program can visit www.etowndegrees.com or call 800-877-2694.
  • The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has warned in a release that thousands of Nigerians are escaping the deadly threat posed by the terrorist group Boko Haram and fleeing into neighboring Cameroon. The agency cites Cameroonian claims that some 13,000 Nigerian refugees crossed over from Nigeria after Boko Haram attacked and captured the town of Mubi in late October. However the UNHCR also reported that most of the recent 13,000 refugees had already returned to Nigeria with the city of Yola, the capital of Adamawa State, as their destination. "The vast majority of them are women and children," the press release observed. However, Cameroon has suffered repeated cross-border attacks by Boko Haram as well. The UN reported that “the Minawao refugee camp, for instance, is hosting 16,282 refugees, with the population having nearly tripled in size in the past two months.... The current camp capacity is estimated at 35,000 people and further expansions are underway to accommodate the refugees already registered for transfer from the border, as well as possible additional new arrivals.” The report added that more than 100,000 Nigerians have spilled over into Niger's Diffa region since the beginning of 2014, while Cameroon is currently hosting some 44,000 Nigerian refugees, and another 2,700 have fled to Chad. Meanwhile, an estimated 650,000 people remain internally displaced in Nigeria due to the insurgency. Read the UN News Service report on AllAfrica.com at http://allafrica.com/stories/201411121221.html .
  • The Legislative Initiative Against the Death Penalty (LIADP) based in Loysville, Pa., is sponsoring an essay contest for high school seniors, as announced in the Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter. The grand prize is a $1,000 scholarship, with two $100 awards for runners up, to help pay college expenses in the coming year. The goal is to encourage students to learn about the death penalty and to write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper or a magazine published by a religious body. Letters and scholarship applications are due between Jan. 15 and Jan. 30, 2015. The students will be celebrated at a dinner in Mechanicsburg, Pa., on April 14. Find submission directions on page 8 of the Dec./Jan. issue of the Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter at www.cob-net.org/church/sopa/newsletter.pdf .
  • Each year Warren and Theresa Eshbach share their extensive model train display to benefit the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), a ministry of Southern Pennsylvania District. The CAS mission is to help children and their families build stronger, healthier lives through compassionate, professional services. It operates the Lehman Center in York County, Nicarry Center in Adams County, and Frances Leiter Center in Franklin County, Pa. “Bring your kids and grandkids and witness their expressions of wonderment, as this display comes to life!” said an announcement in the Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter. The train schedule is Nov. 28 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Nov. 29 at 3 p.m.; Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.; and Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. Call 717-292-4803 to schedule a visit to the display at the Eshbach home in Dover, Pa.
Source: 11/18/2014 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 Jean Bednar, Marie Benner-Rhoades, Loyce Swartz Borgmann, Deborah Brehm, Scott Douglas, Stan Dueck, Nevin Dulabaum, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Elizabeth Harvey, M. Colette Nies, Jonathan Shively, David Sollenberger, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Newsline: November 12, 2014


Quote of the Week

“Still many people in the bush and unaccounted for....”

-- Brethren videographer David Sollenberger, who returns this week from a reporting trip to Nigeria. Along with Carl and Roxane Hill, who have been mission workers and teachers at Kulp Bible College (KBC), and staff liaison Markus Gamache of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), Sollenberger has visited camps of displaced people and observed food distributions that are part of the crisis response effort of EYN, Global Mission and Service, and Brethren Disaster Ministries. In a brief e-mail to the Global Mission and Service Office, he reported there are “still many people in the bush and unaccounted for” since insurgents took the EYN headquarters and nearby city of Mubi in late October. More from his trip to Nigeria will be shared as it becomes available.

Sollenberger took the above photo at an inter-religious relocation site which is welcoming both Christians and Muslims, one of the relocation sites for internally displaced people organized with leadership from EYN staff and funding help from American Brethren.

Source: 11/12/2014 Newsline

Global Food Crisis-funded project in Nigeria is lost along with EYN headquarters compound

An agriculture project of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) which has received funding from the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF), has been lost in the overtaking of EYN headquarters by Boko Haram insurgents.

The manager of the project reported the loss in an e-mail to Jeffrey S. Boshart, who manages the GFCF for the Church of the Brethren. His e-mail told the story of how he and his family fled from Boko Haram, taking with them Bible college students and children from other families. (See excerpts from his e-mail below. Identifying names and locations have been omitted as a measure of protection for the manager and his family).

In more news from Nigeria, EYN president Samuel Dante Dali was one of the Nigerian Christian leaders who signed a joint statement on the Boko Haram insurgency. As reported by Nigerian news the statement said, in part, “The Christian leaders are worried over the recent takeover of six local governments in Adamawa State namely; Madagali, Michika, Mubi North, Mubi South, and parts of Hong and Maiha Local Governments by the insurgents. We are also worried that the Christians are been systematically eliminated by members of the Boko Haram Islamic extremists. We are forced to believe that the whole attack is a deliberate plan to exterminate Christians living in the affected areas.” Read the report on the statement from the “Premium Times” at www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/170999-boko-haram-suspend-all-political-activities-christian-leaders-tell-jonathan-others.html.

Photo by Jay Wittmeyer

The manager of the agriculture project poses with supplies, during a happier time at the headquarters of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
Agriculture project raised chickens

“Almost defying belief, right up until the EYN headquarters were overrun, and despite ever increasing violence in the area, the staff of EYN’s Rural Development Program (RDP) agriculture division continued to operate a successful poultry project supplying eggs to local vendors who would in turn sell eggs to villages across the region,” reported Boshart.

RDP's staff provided agricultural services such as the sale of fertilizers and seeds, and training for farmers in the region. The program, officially titled the EYN Integrated Community Based Development Programme (ICBDP) Rural Development Agriculture Department, had received GFCF grants totaling $50,000 in 2012-2014.

“They were known for the quality of their products and filled a niche in the region that in other parts of the world would be filled by either government agencies or private enterprise,” Boshart noted.

The manager of the RDP agricultural work shared in his e-mail how staff continued to return daily to care for the flock until the day of the attack on the EYN headquarters. Now the RDP staff are dispersed and consumed with caring for their own families. Under the current circumstances, the agriculture and community development work of RDP will be superseded by the need to feed and shelter displaced people.

“I know this is just one of many many stories,” Boshart said. “Speaking for the members of the GFCF Review Panel, I wish to extend my prayers and sympathy for the loss of loved ones, farms, personal property, as well as the loss of this service ministry within the life of the EYN church,” Boshart said. “We stand ready to respond to requests for assistance to rebuild and reshape this ministry when the time comes.”

Excerpts from the e-mail report:
Dear Bro. Jeff,

I really thank God almighty for hearing from you this difficult period, it is expected that I should be feeding you with information about our situation at EYN headquarters from time to time, but unfortunately it has became very difficult for me. Since first week of September, precisely since on the 8th we have not been stable in the office because we were also displaced from the headquarters, we can only came in and stay to feed our birds and attend to our clients in not more than one hour time, then we run to hide, we are coming from refugees in nearby villages. We tried by all means...to see that we worked well up to this moment where things became worst on the 28th of Oct.... We narrowly escaped death from gun shots. But never the less, the two projects (poultry egg production and fertilizer) we are working on were very successful, until this time where everything was captured by the insurgents and we lost everything except the amounts we have in our bank account.... I am now in tears as am writing you this message presently. Just as I told you we narrowly escaped gun shots and death, I was even separated from family that day. And it took the grace of God that I found them, I escaped and saved the lives of 36 people.... They are students from KBC and their village was also captured and therefore no place to go, they were forced with tears to follow me and I stayed with them for 13 good days...I could not run and leave them behind.... Yesterday I relocated my family to [another state]; my family size now is presently 10 in number including 3 children who were separated from their parents since September. Besides this entire situation my wife is seven months pregnant and she was now frightened from the gun shots. We are seriously in a difficult situation because we could not take anything to eat, the two vehicles I have were occupied with KBC students’ children. I could not force them to get down from the car but rather I have to escaped with them leaving everything behind. Then how do we feed and how do we survive? The children with me now are crying morning and evening thinking that they are finished. But God is really with us and shows us his mercies.... All my staff as well EYN headquarters staff were scattered everywhere, some are still in the bush with their families. My staff were scattered and have no help, all we have was spent on farms and now we leave the produce behind which are no longer ours.... Jeff, we desperately need your intensive prayers, because we Christians have no land to stay in the north or shall we relocate ourselves to the south? Could Nigerian government recapture back those areas from the terrorists for us to go back and have peace? God shall have mercy on us.... I will get back to you soon as to our next plan in regard to RDP projects. I will keep in touch with you. And looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks and Blessings to you and Bro. Jay [Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service].

Manager, Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria Integrated Community Based Development Programme-Rural Development Agriculture Department
For more about the ministry of the Global Food Crisis Fund go to www.brethren.org/gfcf.

Source: 11/12/2014 Newsline