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.