Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Newsline: July 8, 2014


Revision to Ministerial Leadership polity is adopted by Annual Conference

Photo by Regina Holmes

Associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury (at podium) speaks to the Annual Conference delegate body during its deliberations on the revision to Ministerial Leadership Polity. On the large screen is the motion to adopt the document, which was carried out with a two-thirds majority vote.
The revision to Ministerial Leadership Polity today was adopted by Annual Conference, gaining the two-thirds majority vote it needed. With its adoption, several changes will be taking effect in January 2015.

Among those changes is establishment of a  new, additional category of set-apart ministry: the commissioned minister. These ministers will be called, trained and commissioned to serve one particular congregation or ministry setting. With training that does not need to be as rigorous as for an ordained minister, it is expected to be a helpful option for leaders of small congregations who do not have the time and finances to pursue a seminary education.

A second change the paper makes to existing polity is that more guidelines are laid out for community participation during all parts of a minister’s calling, training, and ongoing life.  Mentors, small groups of people supporting licensed ministers, and ongoing peer groups called cohort groups for ordained clergy, are all described in the guidelines.

One goal of the paper is to provide more uniformity among the districts in credentialing. However, some flexibility is also part of the design. For example, the category of lay speaker is no longer an official position in the denomination, and has not been since the last revision to ministerial polity, but districts may decide to continue to list lay speakers. However, there will no longer be a listing of lay speakers in denominational records.

The length and complexity of the paper proved challenging to some delegates, especially those unfamiliar with the ministerial credentialing process currently in use. The process of licensing was a topic of much discussion. This paper places a 10-year time limit on being licensed. One metaphor used by a speaker compared licensing to a hallway, not a destination, saying that a licensed minister should be encouraged to complete their training.

The paper has been in development for some seven years in total. In 2012 the document was brought to the floor of Annual Conference for a first reading. Last year the document was brought for adoption, but Annual Conference returned it to the Mission and Ministry Board with instruction to address concerns raised by the Standing Committee of district delegates. The concerns fell into several areas including the need to address plural non-salaried ministry, to be in conversation with leaders from ethnically diverse congregations to take into account how the paper will affect ministers in their context, and to adjust requirements regarding calling cohorts. Revisions based on those suggestions have been incorporated into the document.

Staff and committees that have worked on the revision include associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury and Dana Cassell, working with the Ministry Advisory Council. Input on the paper was received from a number of groups including the Council of District Executives and the Mission and Ministry Board.

Find the document as presented to and adopted by Annual Conference at www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/business-items/2014-ub1-revision-to-ministerial-leadership-polity.pdf.

-- Frances Townsend provided this report.

Source: 7/8/2014 Newsline

Revision of 1996 Ethics for Congregations paper is approved by the delegates

Photo by Glenn Riegel

Delegates speak at the microphones
For the past few years Congregational Life Ministries staff member Joshua Brockway has been developing a revision of the 1996 Ethics for Congregations paper, as requested by the study committee initially appointed to answer the Query: Guidelines for Implementation of the Congregational Ethics Paper. Brockway is director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship for the Church of the Brethren. The final version of the polity came before the delegate body at this year’s Conference and was adopted.

A number of concerns were expressed as the delegate body deliberated over the document, some with great emotion. Some speakers worried about the legal implications of the document. There were concerns about creating layers of bureaucracy and red tape.

One delegate wondered what would be the result if a congregation refused to do the requisite self-study and paperwork and was assured that coercive action would not be taken, and that the matter would be in the hands of the district.

Another rose to explain that his congregation had already worked through most of the paperwork and that it was neither onerous nor difficult.

Brockway emphasized that the polity was designed to address those issues with legal implications, usually matters involving finances, and to draw lines that held congregations accountable yet left the door open to reconciliation.

Sections of the document outline scriptural visions of the church, talk about the church and its relationships including relationships within the congregation and with pastors and staff, and sexual improprieties. A section titled “Practices of Awareness, Assessment, and Accountability” advises congregations on self assessment and how occasions of misconduct may be addressed. A code of ethics also is included in the paper.

The paper was passed in two sections. The first, involving a change in polity, was adopted with a two-thirds majority vote. The second, involving implementation of the polity, passed by a simple majority.

Find the Congregational Ethics Polity at www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/business-items/2014-ub2-congregational-ethics-paper.pdf.

-- Frank Ramirez provided this report.

Query on Climate Change is returned, Conference declares the church is not of one mind on the issue

Photo by Glenn Riegel

Timekeeper Stafford Frederick raises a yellow paddle to signal that a speaker's time is nearly up. As it became clear Saturday that the Conference would not be able to deal with all the business in the time still available, the Conference suspended rules in order to shorten a speaker's time at the microphone.
The response to the query on Guidance for Responding to the Changing of Earth’s Climate was defeated in a close vote, and the query was returned to the district and congregation where it originated. The response had been formulated by staff of the Office of Public Witness working with a study committee appointed by that office.

This query originally was adopted by the 2011 Annual Conference and referred to the Advocacy Office of the Global Mission Partnerships--now the Office of Public Witness--for a response. In 2012, the Conference received a report from the working group formed by the Advocacy Office and additional time to prepare a thorough answer was granted.

By 2013, a congregational study resource was developed and additional feedback was being collected from those using it. The Annual Conference received an interim report and granted another year to revise the study resource and prepare a statement on climate change to present to the 2014 Annual Conference for adoption.

On the business floor during this Annual Conference, much debate was heard, both for and against the statement. Some of those who spoke to the document doubted the validity of scientific conclusions on climate change, or expressed the opinion that global warming is not caused by human activity. Others said solutions such as restricting use of fossil fuels are harmful to those who earn their living through the coal and oil industries, and may harm the poor who cannot afford more expensive forms of energy. Other speakers were concerned about the church calling for support for political legislation for this kind of issue.

On the other side of the debate, a number of speakers supported the scientific consensus on climate change and expressed concerns about the detrimental effects of global warming on the worldwide human population, saying that it inevitably will lead to starvation and loss of land in poorer regions of the globe as sea levels rise. Speaking as a scientist herself, one speaker said that caring for the earth is a faith issue and biblical mandate.

An amendment that would have added fossil fuel production to the list of Socially Responsible Investing concerns for the denomination was turned down by the delegates.

After the motion to adopt the answer to the query failed, the moderator declared that the query had become a new item of business and turned to the delegate body for a motion to answer it.

The delegates adopted a motion to return the query to the originating district and congregation with gratitude, declaring that the church is not of one mind at this time.

-- Frances Townsend and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford provided this report.

Source: 7/8/2014 Newsline

Resolution supports Nigerian Brethren, invites worldwide community of Brethren to a week of fasting and prayer

A note to Conference attendees: The Office of the General Secretary has clarified that it is appropriate to identify Rebecca Dali and her association with the Brethren, and encourages the sharing of any photos and reports about her that appear in official Church of the Brethren publications such as the website Brethren.org, Newsline, and the denominational Facebook page.
“Messenger” editor Randy Miller provided this report

Annual Conference delegates voted Saturday in favor of a resolution indicating solidarity with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The resolution comes as the Nigerian Brethren endure turmoil in their country.

Among other things, it commits to a week of fasting and prayer on Aug. 17-24, and invites the worldwide community of the Brethren to join in that commitment.

The resolution was adopted by the Mission and Ministry Board on Wednesday, July 2, and was passed on to the Standing Committee of district delegates, which recommended its approval.

Photo by Glenn Riegel

Annual Conference moderator Nancy S. Heishman (left) greets EYN representative Rebecca Dali (right), with Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries.
The Saturday afternoon business session began with the reading of a letter from EYN president Samuel Dante Dali by his wife Rebecca Dali. “On behalf of EYN, I wish to express our appreciation for your concern over our situation here,” the letter read in part. “We have been struck down by the enemy, but not destroyed. We are hard pressed and persecuted, yet we still have Christ and are doing our Father’s business. Your prayers of support have been a source of encouragement for us, and show us that we are not alone in our suffering.”

Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer provided further detail about the conditions faced by Brethren in Nigeria. He and Roy Winter, associate executive director for Global Mission and Service and director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, are planning a visit to Nigeria in August to explore ways in which further assistance can be provided.

“This is going to be a long journey,” Winter said. “We can’t fix it all, but we can work and pray with our brothers and sisters there.”

While the resolution was before the delegates for consideration, an amendment was presented suggesting that, in addition to supporting EYN through prayer and fasting, individuals willing to present themselves as stand-ins in exchange for the abducted Chibok schoolgirls should be allowed to do so. Church of the Brethren member Cliff Kindy, who presented the amendment on behalf of himself and Christian Peacemaker Teams, said several persons already had expressed their willingness to do this.

Although they expressed appreciation for the courage and sacrifice evident in the offer, delegates voted down the amendment. With no further modifications, the resolution was accepted. Delegates and observers rose in a standing ovation in an expression of support for EYN.

Following is the full text of the resolution:

A Resolute Fast and Fervent Prayer: A Resolution Responding to Violence in Nigeria

“Christ is just like the human body--a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body.... If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other” (1 Corinthians 1:12a, 26-27, CEB).

I. Biblical vision of the church

The Apostle Paul wrote frequently of the bonds between communities of faith that bridge the miles between them. Our shared confession of Jesus Christ as Lord unites us, through the Holy Spirit, in a way unparalleled even by family or national ties (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12). This same Spirit, Paul reminds us, intercedes on our behalf when our own prayers become sighs too deep for words (Romans 8).

For the Brethren, the church as community is central to our life and faith. In testaments to mutuality, we have walked alongside one another in joy and loss, taking to heart the words of the letter to the Hebrews: “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured” (13:3).

II. The struggle of our sisters and brothers

The circumstances in Nigeria have come to the attention of the world, and to our attention as Brethren. Sisters and brothers of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) suffer kidnappings, bombings, mass killings, and burning of churches and homes. Despite the global awareness, the violence has continued at an alarming rate.

EYN leaders have asked for fasting and prayer for the plight of the church and the people of Nigeria.

Aware that sisters and brothers in Nigeria are not the only ones facing violence on a daily basis, we include in our prayers those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Syria, and other places where people face threats that few in the United States have known in their lifetime.

III. The resolve of the church

Grieving with each new word from Nigeria, we as the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren resolve to walk with our sisters and brothers in Christ by entering a season of fasting and prayer. We commit ourselves to the practices of lament, prayer, fasting, and bearing witness.

In lament we turn to the rich tradition of our faith witnessed to by the Psalms. We bring to God the realities of evil and violence, knowing that they bear no resemblance to the ways of God.

In prayer we intercede for our sisters and brothers, asking God for protection, justice, and peace. We give thanks for their profound witness as they strive for the well-being of their families and communities, seeking to embody the peace so graciously given through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the one who calls us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Thus, we pray also for the perpetrators of violence, for the softening of hearts and for right relationships among neighbors.

In fasting we let go of a little in order to accompany those who are losing so much, and stand before God with them. We name our longing for the day when life overcomes death, justice and peace meet, and love drives out fear.

In bearing witness we share the stories of our sisters and brothers, bringing atrocities to light, confident in our faith that the Good News of Jesus Christ is indeed light in a world covered in darkness.

We commit a week of the summer to spend significant amounts of time in fasting and prayer, beginning Sunday, August 17, through Sunday, August 24. We invite the worldwide community of the Church of the Brethren and our sister churches in Nigeria, India, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Brazil, and Spain, as well as Brethren groups with which we are in conversation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other friends and believers, to join in this commitment. May we be the body of Christ together as we pray and fast for peace and reconciliation.

We further resolve to partner with EYN and ecumenical international relief and development agencies to offer support as requested and directed by the leadership of the Nigerian Brethren.

“The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b, NRSV).

References and resources

A history and timeline of the Church of the Brethren Mission in Nigeria, out of which EYN has grown, are posted online at www.brethren.org/nigeriahistory.

The EYN website www.eynchurchonline.org offers information about the ministries of the Nigerian Brethren.

Current Church of the Brethren news from Nigeria is updated regularly at www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/news.html.

Just peace and just policing: An Annual Conference resolution of 2003, “Call for a Living Peace Church,” calls the whole church to be a peace church that serves Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace; www.brethren.org/ac/statements/2003livingpeace.html. An Annual Conference statement of 1996, “Nonviolence and Humanitarian Intervention,” offers a Brethren point of view on international intervention in situations of violence; www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1996nonviolence.html. Documents on just peace from the World Council of Churches include “Statement on the Way of Just Peace” at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/assembly/2013-busan/adopted-documents-statements/the-way-of-just-peace and “An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace” at www.overcomingviolence.org/fileadmin/dov/files/iepc/resources/ECJustPeace_English.pdf.

Sex trafficking and slavery: An Annual Conference “Resolution on Slavery in the 21st Century” was adopted in 2008; www.brethren.org/ac/statements/2008-resolution-on-slavery.html. A related Study and Action Guide is at www.brethren.org/advocacy/moderndayslavery.html.

Nigeria and peacemaking in Africa: Are There Limits to Pacifism? by Musa Mambula outlines challenges for peacemaking in Nigeria. Seeking Peace in Africa (ed. Donald Miller et al) collects presentations from a peace church meeting in Africa in 2004. The DVD of that meeting, Watu Wa Amani, is available from Brethren Press. Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria by former Brethren mission teachers Gerald and Lois Neher, is a detailed history and anthropological study of the Chibok people, also available from Brethren Press.

Source: 7/8/2014 Newsline

Delegates maintain current structure of Mission and Ministry Board; defer to 2015 other decisions on board bylaws, BBT articles, agency financial reports

Photo by Glenn Riegel

Becky Ball-Miller, chair of the Mission and Ministry Board, speaks to the delegate body
This year's recommendation by the Mission and Ministry Board responding to a query about equitable representation on the board, was adopted. The content of the recommendation was unusually simple--to maintain the current structure of the Mission and Ministry Board with no changes to how members are chosen.

At the close of business on Saturday afternoon, July 5, three business items having to do with agency bylaws and articles of organization as well as financial reporting had not yet been dealt with. The three items were deferred for inclusion on the 2015 Conference agenda: Amendments to the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren Inc., Amendments to Brethren Benefit Trust Articles of Organization, and Interpretation of Polity Regarding Agency Financial Reports, which was an item added to the Conference agenda by Standing Committee.

Current structure of Mission and Ministry Board is maintained

The original query was formulated in 2011, expressing a concern that parts of the country with low populations of Brethren were over-represented on the board, and that higher population areas were under-represented. The 2012 Conference adopted a recommendation to send the issue to the Mission and Ministry Board to formulate a change.

In 2013, Annual Conference was presented with a new plan of board member selection, but after reflection and discussion the delegate body decided not to adopt it. Instead, the query was returned to the Mission and Ministry Board.

Table talk among the delegates last year garnered many written suggestions and opinions. The Mission and Ministry Board used that important delegate feedback, as well as the speeches from the microphones, as they developed the recommendation to make no changes to the selection process for board members.

However, during discussion on the Conference floor this year the same concerns for proportional representation which prompted the original query continued to be raised. Mission and Ministry Board chair Becky Ball-Miller showed charts illustrating how the current composition of the board compares to percentages of population in the different areas of the denomination, and also percentages of giving and of giving per capita.

She reiterated that every board member, no matter where they are from or how they are elected, represents the entire denomination, not just their own geographical area or district.

Ball-Miller also pointed out that the delegate body of Annual Conference as well as Standing Committee are more directly representational of population and it is those bodies that make policy, while the Mission and Ministry Board’s task is to implement Annual Conference decisions and see that the work of the denomination is carried out.

She reported to the Conference that the Mission and Ministry Board has done its best to answer the concerns of the query and sincerely believes the current structure works.

-- Frances Townsend provided this report.

Source: 7/8/2014 Newsline

Andy Murray chosen as moderator-elect, among other election results and appointments

Andy Murray has been chosen as moderator-elect of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, in an election of new denominational leadership. He will serve as moderator-elect for next year’s Annual Conference, and as moderator for the 2016 Conference.

Murray is a member of Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa. He is a retired minister, chaplain, college professor and administrator. He was founding director of the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College. His involvements in peace and conflict studies have included service on the United Nations/International Association of University Presidents’ Commission on Arms Control and Disarmament Education, service as director of the International Seminar on Arms Control and Disarmament, service on the UNESCO/IAUP Planning Team “The Role of Higher Education in Promoting a Culture of Peace” roundtable for UNESCO World Conference on High Education, and more.

However, Murray is best known to Brethren as a singer and songwriter who along with his wife Terry performs songs such as “Sister Anna Beauty Queen” and the National Youth Conference theme song “Goodbye Still Night.” Their album “Summertime Children” recently was re-released.

Photo by Regina Holmes
Table 67 poses for a group photo
Other election results

Rhonda Pittman Gingrich of Minneapolis, Minn., was elected to the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee.

Eric Bishop of Pomona, Calif., was chosen as a Bethany Theological Seminary trustee, colleges.

Carla Gillespie of Dayton, Ohio, was elected to the On Earth Peace board.

Dennis Kingery of Centennial, Colo., was elected to the Brethren Benefit Trust board.

David K. Shumate of Roanoke, Va., was elected to the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee.

Agency appointments confirmed by Conference

A number of appointments to agency boards were confirmed by the Annual Conference. The appointments were made to the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board, and to the boards of Bethany Theological Seminary, Brethren Benefit Trust, and On Earth Peace.

Mission and Ministry Board:

Susan Liller of New Carlisle, Ohio, was elected by the board to a five-year term ending in 2019.

Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees:

Brian T. Flory of Fort Wayne, Ind., was elected by the seminary’s Alumni/ae Association to a five-year term;

S. Philip Stover of Quinter, Kan., was elected by the board of trustees to a five-year term at-large; and

Lowell David Witkovsky of Huntingdon, Pa.,  was elected by the board of trustees to a five-year term at-large.

Brethren Benefit Trust Board:

Timothy A. McElwee of North Manchester, Ind., was elected by the Pension Plan members to a four-year term; and

Wayne T. Scott of Harrisburg, Pa., was elected by the board to a four-year term.

On Earth Peace Board:

Barbara Avent of Denver, Colo., was elected to fill an unexpired four-year term by the On Earth Peace constituents; and

Caitlin Rebecca Haynes of Baltimore, Md., was elected to a five-year term by the On Earth Peace constituents.

Source: 7/8/2014 Newsline

Rebecca Dali interviewed by Columbus' NBC4, leads insight sessions on Nigeria

A note to Conference attendees: The Office of the General Secretary has clarified that it is appropriate to identify Rebecca Dali and her association with the Brethren, and encourages the sharing of any photos and reports about her that appear in official Church of the Brethren publications such as the website Brethren.org, Newsline, and the denominational Facebook page.
Rebecca Dali was interviewed by Columbus’ NBC Channel 4. Reporter Ted Hart interviewed her just prior to a special insight session on Nigeria that Dali led over the lunch hour on Friday, July 4. She also presented an insight session on Nigeria the following Saturday evening.

Hart reported that Dali regularly travels to Chibok, the place where hundreds of schoolgirls were abducted by the Boko Haram insurgents, to meet with the parents at considerable risk to herself. “A lot of people are afraid to go to Chibok to see them,” Dali told the reporter, “but I took it upon myself that at least every two weeks, I will go and visit them.”

Find the NBC4 interview at www.nbc4i.com/story/25944040/church-has-ties-to-nigerian-kidnap-victims.

Nigeria insight session

At the noon insight session on Nigeria, Dali spoke about her work and the work of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) to aid those affected by violence.

Rebecca Dali is interviewed by Columbus' NBC Channel 4She gave updated figures on the suffering of the Nigerian Brethren, although she warned that these numbers may have grown even in the few days she has been away from Nigeria: since 2006 more than 1,500 EYN members have been killed including pastors and their family members, more than 100 churches have been burned, five district church councils in the Gwoza area have been closed because of the violence, more than 8,500 homes of church members have been burned, and more than 150,000 people have been displaced.

She added, “Many pastors have been killed and some are without jobs” because of the need to flee. Other pastors and their wives and children have been abducted.

Part of Dali’s work with the Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives (CCEPI) is to sit down with those who have lost family members to Boko Haram, record their stories, and collect photos of the losses they have suffered including photos of the dead bodies and burned homes and businesses.

Dali has spoken with schoolgirls who have escaped and returned home, still only a small number of the total number of girls kidnapped from Chibok. Those who have managed to escape told her about the abuses the abducted girls have suffered, including gang rape and mutilation.

Her PowerPoint presentation included graphic photos of human bodies killed in horrific ways--fathers, mothers, children. Along with her frank discussion of the suffering of the abducted schoolgirls, the pictures brought many in the room to tears. Dali herself broke down into tears at the end of her presentation.

A time of prayer and the laying on of hands for Rebecca Dali closed the insight session, led by general secretary Stan Noffsinger.

Dali spoke to the delegate body at the start of the business session, Saturday, July 5, when cards of encouragement were collected to send to the Nigerian Brethren from the US church. Find the report from the section of Saturday’s business focused on Nigeria at www.brethren.org/news/2014/delegates-adopt-nigeria-resolution.html.

Source: 7/8/2014 Newsline

Three new fellowships are welcomed into the denomination

Photo by Glenn Riegel

Hanging Rock Church in W. Marva District is one of three new fellowships
Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries, led the welcome of three new fellowships into the denomination as one of the first items of Annual Conference business.

Proclaiming it “a joy,” Shively began by introducing Roya Stern of Common Spirit, a house church in Grand Rapids, Mich. The church was founded after the Grand Rapids Annual Conference in 2011 when Joanna Willoughby took seriously the encouragement to “just do it.” Weekly potlucks were held to create “a substantial Brethren presence in the city.” By the second year a house church was founded on Sunday evenings, allowing members of the new fellowship to attend traditional worship at other churches in the morning. On Oct. 27, 2013, the church celebrated its first two baptisms. Thirteen more people joined a week later. There are now 15 members with 20 people regularly attending. The goal is to be “a progressive Christian presence in Grand Rapids.”

Hanging Rock Church of the Brethren in West Marva District began when Bob and Brenda Combs supported a community toy drive, and then realized that “this is a good place for a church.” The church had its Grand Opening in February of 2013 with more than 50 people in attendance. The fellowship is self-supporting, and actively supports a food pantry, helps poorer individuals pay bills, and also aided a family that suffered significant losses to a fire. The congregation supports a visitation ministry in the community and also does hospital visits. In June 2013, a baptism service was held at the Combs home at North River, W.Va., and 10 church members were baptized. They now have 58 active members. According to the church’s statement of faith, “We Speak the Word, Share His Grace, and Strive to Light the Way to Christ.”

Iglesia De Los Hermanos “Remanente de Salvación” in Morovis, Puerto Rico, in Atlantic Southeast District, was founded by a group that moved from Vega Baja Church of the Brethren including Maria Otero, Jose Calleja, Kathy Diaz, Judex Diaz, and Nancy Irizarry. The major challenge has been to help the community overcome poverty and witchcraft. The congregation has delivered several people from witchcraft and has connected people through baptism to the church. They run a small group for single mothers, many of whom are the victims of domestic violence and abuse, also providing them with group therapy. Mario Otero serves as pastor.

-- Frank Ramirez provided this report, with contributions from Jonathan Shively.

Source: 7/8/2014 Newsline

Standing Committee denies support to On Earth Peace ‘Statement of Inclusion’ but commits to ‘walk in love together’

The Standing Committee of delegates from the Church of the Brethren’s 23 districts has made a statement regarding the On Earth Peace “Statement of Inclusion.” The Standing Committee statement responded to the report of a second delegation that met with On Earth Peace leadership.

Two Standing Committee delegations have attempted to gain resolution of concerns that the “Statement of Inclusion” is inconsistent with Annual Conference decisions affirming the 1983 paper "Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective,” and denominational polity regarding ordination.

On Earth Peace is an agency of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. Its “Statement of Inclusion” dates back to 2011, and has been the subject of a series of interactions with Standing Committee for the past three years. The conversation in this year’s Standing Committee meetings included On Earth Peace representatives Bill Scheurer, executive director, and Jordan Bles, board chair.

The Standing Committee action came at the close of its first full day of meetings prior to the 2014 Annual Columbus in Columbus, Ohio. Standing Committee was led by Annual Conference moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, assisted by moderator-elect David Steele, and Conference secretary James M. Beckwith.

photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Annual Conference moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman leads a conversation in Standing Committee, with representatives from On Earth Peace. Executive director Bill Scheurer and board chair Jordan Bles and a delegation of Standing Committee members reflected on recent meetings regarding the agency's "Statement of Inclusion."
Denial of support, affirmation of love

The Standing Committee statement was arrived at after much conversation and at times emotional debate, and the vote revealed a significant divide in the group. The following statement was adopted by a simple majority vote, with a minority of more than a quarter of members voting against it:
“Standing Committee does not support the 2011 Statement of Inclusion of On Earth Peace as an agency of the church, but we will continue to commit ourselves to walk in love together in the face of differing interpretations of scripture and Annual Conference statements and decisions.”
The “Statement of Inclusion” from the On Earth Peace board reads:
“We are troubled by attitudes and actions in the church, which exclude persons on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any other aspect of human identity. We believe God calls the church to welcome all persons into full participation in the life of the faith community.”
Series of interactions between Standing Committee and On Earth Peace

Moderator Nancy Heishman introduced a time of sharing of feelings about the interaction between the Standing Committee delegation and On Earth Peace, offering information about the series of interactions between the two groups and reviewing other relevant information as well as the activities of the most recent delegation.

Interactions that led to this year’s statement included, among others, two Standing Committee delegations that both reported good conversations with the agency’s board and staff but that did not gain resolution of the conflict.

As part of its effort, the second delegation held a conference call with the executive committee of On Earth Peace and the two groups jointly proposed that On Earth Peace add the following additional sentence to the statement of inclusion, from which much of the language of today’s Standing Committee statement was derived:
“We continue to commit ourselves to walk in love together with the denomination in the face of differing interpretations of scripture and Annual Conference statements and decisions.”
However, the sentence did not receive consensus support from the full board of On Earth Peace, which requested consultation about the sentence from several other groups in the denomination including the Open Table Cooperative, Womaen’s Caucus, Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests, the Brethren Revival Fellowship, and the liaison to the Council of District Executives.

Other interactions over the three years included a specially called session with Scheurer during 2013’s Standing Committee meetings, reported by Newsline at www.brethren.org/news/2013/ac2013news/standing-committee-special-session-with-oep.html, and in 2012 the Standing Committee statement of concern titled “A Way Forward” that said, in part, “trust in leadership has been broken” by three events--one being the “Statement of Inclusion.”

At that time Standing Committee urged On Earth Peace “to re-examine its statement of inclusion regarding ‘full participation’ so that it will be consistent with Annual Conference decisions regarding Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective [the 1983 Conference statement] and the polity regarding ordination.” Find “A Way Forward” in full at www.brethren.org/news/2012/ac2012-onsite-news/a-way-forward.html.

In other business

Standing Committee also held elections for its Nominating Committee and Appeals Committee.

The Nominating Committee includes: from the class of 2015, Joel Kline of Illinois/Wisconsin District, John Shelly of Southern Pennsylvania District, John Moyers of West Marva District, chair Roy McVey of Virlina; and from the class of 2016, Duane Grady of Northern Indiana District, Ellen Wile of Mid-Atlantic District, Jim Myer of Atlantic Northeast District, and Lou Kensinger of Middle Pennsylvania District.

The Appeals Committee for 2014-2015 includes David Crumrine of Middle Pennsylvania District, Larry O’Neill of Atlantic Northeast District, Ron Nicodemus of Northern Indiana District. First alternate is Edith Kieffaber of Northern Ohio District. Second alternate is Jim Benedict of Mid-Atlantic District.

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services, provided this report.

Source: 7/8/2014 Newsline

Mission and Ministry Board hears update on Nigeria, discusses finances, celebrates Open Roof Award and Ministry Summer Service

Photo by Randy Miller

International guests at the 2014 Annual Conference were introduced to the Mission and Ministry Board
At their Annual Conference meeting on Wednesday, July 2, Mission and Ministry Board members got acquainted with international visitors and received an update from Global Mission and Service director Jay Wittmeyer on conditions facing Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

They also celebrated this year’s Open Roof Award to congregations that are making strides in welcoming people with disabilities, were briefed on the denomination’s financial status, and heard a report on the Ministry Summer Service program.

Report on Nigeria

Wittmeyer, who visited Nigeria in April with general secretary Stan Noffsinger, said conditions there were going from bad to worse in many areas where EYN members reside, citing reports of fresh attacks near Chibok over the weekend.

“When I first came on board in 2009, there had been attacks on churches in Nigeria,” Wittmeyer told board members. “There’s a long history of violence in Nigeria. But when Stan and I were there in April, it looked like an armed insurgency, even the beginnings of a civil war. The situation has shifted dramatically during my time in this office. In three states in northeast Nigeria, where EYN has most of its churches, 250,000 people have been displaced.”

Rebecca Dali, a leading member of EYN and wife of EYN president Samuel Dante Dali, was among the international visitors who spent time sharing their stories around tables with board members. Dali will be speaking about how EYN is coping with the surge of violence in Nigeria with various groups during and after Conference.

In addition to Dali, representatives from the Church of the Brethren in Brazil, as well as the Church of North India and the First District Church of the Brethren in India were in attendance.

“As we go forward, I feel the need for Brethren Disaster Ministries to be involved, because Nigeria is in crisis mode,” said Wittmeyer, who plans to return to Nigeria in August, along with Roy Winter, associate executive director for Global Mission and Service and director of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Financial report

Leanne Harnist, treasurer for the Church of the Brethren, briefed the board on the denomination’s finances. She reported that total giving was ahead of where the church was a year ago by 8 percent, but that giving to Core Ministries lagged behind, and that congregational giving had decreased in 2013 by about 3 percent. However, she said that she expected there to be an increase in individual contributions as the year progressed. Nevertheless, expectations are for a 2 percent decrease in 2015. She added that projections for the future indicate that expenses will outpace income.

“We need to be looking at this,” said board chair Becky Ball-Miller. “We can’t continue operating like this for much longer.”

Ministry Summer Service

Board member Pam Reist presented an overview of the Ministry Summer Service program, in which young Brethren are offered opportunities to try their hand at church leadership. After showing a short video, Reist introduced intern Lauren Seganos, who currently is serving at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, where Reist is a pastor.

“I’m really grateful for this program,” Seganos told the board. “The thing I love most about it is the intentional mentorship of us workers by church leaders. It draws upon our Brethren heritage in that regard. Young people who have come through this program before are now serving as leaders in the Church of the Brethren. So please continue to support MSS!”

Photo by Randy Miller

The 2014 Open Roof Award was presented to three congregations: South Waterloo (Iowa) Church of the Brethren, Lone Star Church of the Brethren in Lawrence, Kan., and Clover Creek Church of the Brethren in Martinsburg, Va.
Open Roof Award

Three congregations were acknowledged for their extra efforts to welcome persons with special needs into their congregations. Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries, presented the 2014 Open Roof Award to South Waterloo (Iowa) Church of the Brethren, Lone Star Church of the Brethren in Lawrence, Kan., and Clover Creek Church of the Brethren in Martinsburg, Pa.

In addition, Shively acknowledged and thanked Donna Kline, director of the Deacon Ministry, for her years of service to the denomination. Kline is retiring this summer.

South Waterloo Church of the Brethren has developed a relationship with Harmony House, a brain injury care facility in Waterloo, Iowa, providing gift bags to some of the residents, and space for outings and the annual fall dance. The church also “says yes” to its own members who live with disabilities, offering ways for them to serve in spite of their challenges, learning how to incorporate them into church activities. An elevator has been installed in the church building, and restrooms are ADA compliant. A pew in the sanctuary was removed to make room for those in wheelchairs, and ushers help those who use walkers.

Lone Star Church of the Brethren is a congregation that has struggled to achieve progress and is committed to keep moving forward. The conversation about physical improvements to make buildings accessible began there 40 years ago, and although over the four decades not all the things that were tried were that helpful, the church persisted. The church has been able to install an elevator. A child with Down Syndrome lights candles for morning worship. A young adult with cerebral palsy provides leadership in vacation bible school, leads prayer in church, and gives testimony. The congregation understands that providing opportunities for all to serve is often the best way to be of service.

At Clover Creek Church of the Brethren, offering physical accessibility is a work in progress, but the church provides large print bulletins and hearing enhancement devices, and has a new concrete front entrance ramp that eliminates steps. In 2009, the church started the John’s Way Medical Equipment Ministry to help people with disabilities and/or medical equipment needs. They take in used medical equipment, clean and repair it as necessary, and then give it away. A total of more than 2000 items have been provided for people in need, facilitated by a large warehouse space. This May on the 10-year anniversary of John’s Way, which was named after 19-year church member John Scott Baird who was born with a rare genetic disorder which made walking or speaking impossible, the church dedicated a new warehouse building for the ministry.

-- Randy Miller, Donna Kline, and Jonathan Shively contributed to this report.

Source: 7/8/2014 Newsline

Annual Conference bits and pieces

Photo by Justin Hollenberg

Fishing was one of the 14 stations at the intergenerational activities
  • The 2014 Conference, by the numbers: 2,524 total registration including 719 delegates and 1,805 nondelegates, 115 units of blood collected by the Conference Blood Drive from 123 presenting donors with the help of 26 volunteers, $5,100 raised for hunger at the Quilt Auction of the Association for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren (AACB), 514 downloads of the new Annual Conference app, and 20,875 diapers collected by the Witness to the Host City service project for a YMCA/YWCA shelter in Columbus. Also received in the offering of goods for the shelter: 1,750 hygiene kits and “more socks than we can count.” 
  • Results of the Brethren Benefit Trust Fitness Challenge, an early morning five-kilometer walk/run at a park a few miles from the Greater Columbus Convention Center: in the runner category, male and female first participants over the finish line were Nathan Hosler and Christy Crouse; in the walker category, male and female first participants over the finish line were Don Shankster and Bev Anspaugh.
    Photo by Keith Hollenberg

    A cheeerful giver!
  • Among groups choosing new leadership at this Annual Conference were the Council of District Executives (CODE) and the Ministers’ Association. CODE named an executive committee that includes Ron Beachley as chair, Kevin Kessler as vice chair, Emma Jean Woodard as secretary, and David Steele as treasurer. Serving on the Ministers’ Association executive committee are Erin Matteson as chair, Christina Singh as first vice chair, Eric Anspaugh as second vice chair, Stephen Hershberger as secretary, and Tim Sollenberger-Morphew as treasurer.
  • International guests who attended the Conference were introduced as the first morning of work wound down for the delegates. Introducing the group was Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service. Alexandre Gonçalves and Gislaine Reginaldo were welcomed together. They are from Brazil and are a part of the community at Bethany Theological Seminary. Darryl Sankey was welcomed as a representative of First District of the Church of the Brethren in India. Also welcomed from India were Silvans S. Christian, Bishop of Gujarat, and Sanjiukuma Christian, from Valsad, both representing the Church of North India. In a time when the hearts and prayers of Brethren are centered upon Nigeria, the delegates warmly greeted Rebecca Dali from Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Also from Nigeria, guests representing the Brethren Evangelism Support Trust (BEST) were Dr. Njidda Oadzama and Apagu Ali Abbas. The applause for all the international guests was warm and heartfelt.
Photo by Randy Miller

Dorothy Brandt Davis and Sarah Davis pose with Nell, a life-size version of the drawing of John Kline's horse from their children's book "Middle Man." The book, celebrating its 50th anniversary of publication, tells the story of Civil War era Brethren elder and martyr for peace John Kline.
  • Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) gave its annual Partners in Service Award to Manchester University campus minister Walt Wiltschek, who also gave the presentation for the BVS luncheon on the topic, “Worth Remembering.”
  • The 2014 Manchester Church-University Service Award was presented to leaving Manchester University president Jo Young Switzer at the university’s luncheon. “It felt important, as we reflect on Jo’s decade-long tenure as president and her work at Manchester before that, to honor her for the work she has done in helping to keep the connections between Manchester and the Church of the Brethren alive and vital,” said an announcement of the award, which listed hallmarks of her legacy as Manchester’s first female president: a 25 percent growth in enrollment, a new Doctor of Pharmacy program on a new campus in Fort Wayne, a $100 million “Students First!” campaign, several new buildings on the Manchester campus including a new Academic Center, Science Center, and Union that now bears her name. The award especially noted her “commitment to draw education and faith together.”
Photo courtesy of Alysson Wittmeyer

Youth enjoy a trip to the Columbus zoo
  • The Outdoor Ministries Association honored two volunteers and two staff at its Annual Conference luncheon: Dean Dohner and Jim Oren, both from Camp Woodland Altars, received the Volunteer of the Year Award; Paul Witkovsky from Camp Blue Diamond, and Ann Cornell from Shepherd’s Spring Outdoor Ministry Center, were recognized as Staff of the Year.
  • This year, 2014, marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Civil War-era Brethren elder and martyr for peace John Kline. It also is the 50th anniversary of the publication of “Middle Man,” the beloved Brethren Press illustrated children’s book about Kline by Dorothy Brandt Davis and her children. John Kline, portrayed by Nate Hosler of the Office of Public Witness, and Kline’s horse Nell, personified by a life size version of the colorful drawing of Nell from “Middle Man,” both were on stage for the Church of the Brethren live report to the delegates. Later that day, Nell was spotted in the Exhibit Hall posing for photos with Dorothy Brandt Davis and daughter Sarah Davis.
Source: 7/8/2014 Newsline


Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. The Annual Conference News Team included photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Justin Hollenberg, and Alysson Wittmeyer; writers Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Eddie Edmonds, and Britnee Harbaugh; web staff Jan Fischer Bachman, Don Knieriem, and Russ Otto; communications staff Wendy McFadden, who is publisher of Brethren Press, Mandy Garcia of donor communications, “Messenger” editor Randy Miller, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services, who served as editor for the team.