Newsline Special: Church board recognizes Spanish Brethren, issues resolution against drone warfare




"Put out into the deep water, and let down your nets for a catch" (Luke 5:4b).

MISSION AND MINISTRY BOARD SPRING MEETING
1) Church of the Brethren in Spain receives recognition from denominational board.
2) Brethren board issues resolution against drone warfare.
3) Response on equitable board representation will go to Annual Conference.
4) Board sees new congregational survey tool, names at-large member, among other business.
5) BMC representatives and MMB executive committee discuss concerns.

 

 Quote of the week:
“Where in your life are you washing your nets? ... Where have you been working hard and results just aren’t in? ... Chances are that somewhere nearby is the still small voice of Jesus saying, ‘Let’s take the boat out for a spin.’ 
Go. Go beyond. Press. Catch. Experience. Follow. Live.”

-- Mission and Ministry Board chair Ben Barlow giving the Sunday morning message for the spring board meeting, speaking on Luke 5:1-11. A video of his message is posted online at www.brethren.org/video .

 Chair of the board Ben Barlow led the Mission and Ministry Board's spring meeting
Board chair Ben Barlow (above) led the
Mission and Ministry Board spring meeting

 

1) Church of the Brethren in Spain receives recognition from denominational board.

Spanish Brethren wave flags
Photo by Tim Harvey
Brethren in Spain wave the flag of Spain during a dance. The occasion was a visit by past Annual Conference moderator Tim Harvey in 2012.

Recognizing the Church of the Brethren in Spain--and passing on to Annual Conference a recommendation for that body to recognize the fledgling Spanish church, was a key action of the Mission and Ministry Board at its March 8-11 meeting at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

The recommendation to recognize the Church of the Brethren in Spain came from the Mission and Ministries Planning Council, and was presented by Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer.

Nuevo Amanecer Church of the Brethren and Atlantic Northeast District made the initial proposal, following the establishment of congregations in Spain by Brethren immigrants from the Dominican Republic. Nuevo Amanecer pastor Fausto Carrasco has been a key leader in the development of the Brethren congregations in Spain.

Wittmeyer informed the board that there are several congregations of Brethren in Spain, located in Madrid and in an area on the northwest coast. Each of the congregations includes an average of 50-70 participants. Those involved with the Brethren congregations in Spain include native-born Spanish citizens as well as immigrants from the DR and a number of other countries. Congregations have been able to register locally but not corporately as a denomination to this point. The recognition from the US church will support their effort to do so.

The board is recommending to the delegates of Annual Conference that the congregations in Spain be recognized as “being part of the global Church of the Brethren community” and that Global Mission and Service staff be encouraged to nurture the relationship with Spanish Brethren, seeking to encourage efforts toward independence and self-governance.

The recommendation adds, in part: “We recognize the dangers of financially supporting new mission projects in ways that can unintentionally discourage local initiative and foster an unhealthy dependence on outside funding, limiting its growth and development. Therefore we seek to partner in ways that affirm, respect, and challenge the development of the spiritual and material resources already present in the mission, while offering spiritual, fraternal, and leadership development support.”

Many board members expressed excitement about the development, while noting the need to work at ensuring that the new Spanish body does not fall into the trap of financial dependence on the US church. Noted chair Ben Barlow, the action is “not that we are taking the Brethren movement back to Europe, but receiving Brethren there!”

Staff from the Peace Witness Ministry present a resolution against drone warfare
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Staff of the Peace Witness Ministry present a resolution against drone warfare to the Mission and Ministry Board in March, (from right) Nathan Hosler, director of Peace Witness Ministry, and Bryan Hanger, advocacy assistant and Brethren Volunteer Service worker.

2) Brethren board issues resolution against drone warfare.

A Resolution Against Drone Warfare was issued by the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board on March 10. Proposed by the denomination’s Peace Witness Ministry based in Washington, D.C., the resolution will be sent on to the 2013 Annual Conference for its consideration in early July.

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

The resolution calls districts, congregations, and individual members of the church to study the issue in relation to the Brethren history of peacemaking, to care for the victims of drone violence, and to encourage all church-related institutions to follow denominational practices for socially responsible investing.

It calls on the President and Congress of the United States to halt the use of drones and calls on Congress to hold the President accountable for the administration’s use of drones and to institute legitimate oversight of their deployment. “We will no longer tolerate secretive ‘kill lists,’ and the decision-making process in the matter of armed drones must be made public,” the resolution says, “so that the lethal actions of government may be properly understood and judged.”

The full text of the resolution:

Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board
Resolution against Drone Warfare

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them..... Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”
(Romans 12:14, 17-21).

The Church of the Brethren follows the teaching and example of Jesus Christ, whose willingness to die was unaccompanied by a willingness to kill. In line with our Brethren heritage, we believe “that war or any participation in war is wrong and entirely incompatible with the spirit, example and teachings of Jesus Christ,” (1918 Statement of Special Conference of the Church of the Brethren to the Churches and the Drafted Brethren) and that all “war is sin…[and that we] cannot encourage, engage in, or willingly profit from armed conflict at home or abroad.  We cannot in the event of war, accept military service or support the military machine in any capacity,” (1934 Annual Conference Resolution on Peace and Goodwill). We seek to live this belief through working for peace in our communities and opposing violence in all forms.

The Church of the Brethren has consistently opposed the use of lethal force and has encouraged measures to support the wellbeing and security of all people. We are troubled by the quickly expanding use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. These drones are being used for surveillance and remote killing of people.

In our opposition to all types of war, the Church of the Brethren has spoken out specifically against covert warfare (1988 Annual Conference Statement on “Covert Operations and Covert War”). Drone warfare embodies the fundamental problems that covert warfare entails. The process for determining who is targeted by drones, and why, is decided by a small group of government officials who are not accountable to Congress or the American people for their actions. The names of people who are considered targets for drone warfare have been assembled on what are described as “kill lists.”

Drones are being used as weapons in many areas where the United States is not officially at war, such as Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. In some cases, such countries have given the U.S. their blessing to use drones, but then have concealed the fact that it is the United States carrying out these strikes. Concealment of covert activities generates confusion, results in the deaths of countless targeted people and bystanders, and undermines international law and cooperation.
 
The Church of the Brethren has stated that peace can be achieved only by the unity of all humanity (1991 Annual Conference statement on “Peacemaking: The Calling of God’s People in History”). Drone warfare inherently disrupts the path toward this unity for which we pray and work. To act remotely shields the American people from the horror and discord of war. Though machines carry out the final action of these missions, U.S. citizens may not excuse or disconnect themselves from the lethal consequences of these decisions.

All killing mocks the God who creates and gives life. Jesus, as the Word incarnate, came to dwell among us (John 1:14) in order to reconcile humanity to God and bring about peace and healing. In contrast, our government’s expanding use of armed drones distances the decisions to use lethal force from the communities in which these deadly strikes take place. We find the efforts of the United States to distance the act of killing from the site of violence to be in direct conflict to the witness of Christ Jesus.

Therefore, be it resolved that the Church of the Brethren and its members shall:

1. Call our districts, congregations, and individual members to study this issue in relation to our Brethren history of peacemaking and our biblical understanding of peace, so that Brethren may continue to be dynamic and prophetic peacemakers in a world riddled with violent behavior. We covenant together to care for the victims of this violence, as well as those who are not recognizing the consequences of their participation in this form of violence.

2. Encourage our institutions, congregations, and individuals to pray and work for peace, to follow denominational practices for socially responsible investing, and to support organizations that use nonviolent means to promote stability, justice, and peace across the world. 1

3. Call upon the President and Congress to halt the use of drones in places both foreign and domestic. As followers of Jesus we are called to be a radical witness for peace, and we must reject a deadly and destructive campaign that has killed and wounded many people and created a climate of fear. Additionally, even by the government’s standards and goals, this is failing to produce stability or progress toward peace. 
 
4. Call upon Congress to hold the President accountable for his administration’s past use of armed drones, and to control the future use of armed drones by instituting legitimate oversight of any deployment of drones by the military or the CIA. We will no longer tolerate secretive “kill lists,” and the decision-making process in the matter of armed drones must be made public so that the lethal actions of government may be properly understood and judged.

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.... Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27-28, 31).

Endnote 1.
-- Messenger 1/1/1972, page 5, http://archive.org/stream/messenger1972121121roye#page/n13/mode/2up

-- Minutes, Church of the Brethren General Board, Executive Committee 1/18/1972:  Proposed Answer to 1971 National Youth Conference Resolution on U.S. Savings Bond divestment.

-- Minutes, Church of the Brethren General Board, March 14-17, 1972, pages 4-6, V.2.) U.S. Bonds and Cash Flow Needs, and V.3) Investments.

-- Messenger, 5/1/1972, page 6 General Board investments, http://archive.org/stream/messenger1972121121roye#page/n263/mode/2up

-- Brethren Benefit Trust, Socially Responsible Investing (screening, Department of Defense lists, Positive Investment, Shareholder Action), www.brethrenbenefittrust.org/socially-responsible-investing


Action of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board:
“The Mission and Ministry Board at its meeting on Sunday March 10, 2013, adopted the Resolution against Drone Warfare, and forwards it to the 2013 Annual Conference for adoption.”


3) Response on equitable board representation will go to Annual Conference.

Home page image for Spring MMBA response to the query about equitable representation on the Mission Ministry Board, which came to Annual Conference from Southern Pennsylvania District and was referred to the board for action, will be on the business docket at the 2013 Conference.

The board recommended the following changes to the bylaws of the Church of the Brethren Inc., revising a section governing the number and geographic balance of the members of the board:

-- increasing from 10 to 11 the number of “directors” or board members to be elected by Annual Conference,

-- decreasing from 5 to 4 the number of at-large board members elected by the board and affirmed by the Conference,

-- changing from 2 to 3 the number of members elected by Conference who come from each of the three most populous areas of the denomination (Area 1, Area 2, and Area 3),

-- decreasing from 2 to 1 the number of members elected by Conference who come from each of the two least populous areas (Area 4 and Area 5), and

-- charging the nominating committee of Standing Committee with the task of ensuring a fair and equitable rotation of board members from among the districts in each area.

Board leaders also voiced an intention to identify members as “liaisons” to districts, and to schedule opportunities during Annual Conference for board members to make closer connections with districts.

The recommendation follows a number of conversations in the board and its executive committee, and a conference call of board leaders with leaders of Southern Pennsylvania District. The board heard a number of concerns about how its members are named, the rotation of members from the 23 church districts across the US, and a call for board members to more closely relate to districts. Another specific question posed by the district was about the procedure in the event a person moves from one area to another during a term on the board, and the resulting loss of district connection.

“I get completely the concern,” said board chair Ben Barlow. He added, however, that the board also has to ensure continuity and develop experience among its members. He gave the fictional example of a board member who heads up a key committee, and then loses a job and has to move as a result--in which case the board would not want to have to replace that member and lose that person’s level of experience and expertise from the board.

Discussion of the recommendation re-emphasized the understanding that board members are not considered to be representatives of the areas or districts from which they come, but represent the entire denomination.

Board members heard about learnings from a new congregational survey
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Board members heard about learnings from a new congregational survey, one of several new tools in development as part of the Vital Ministry Journey for congregations and districts. The survey tool was presented by Congregational Life executive Jonathan Shively and Stan Dueck, director of Transforming Practices.


4) Board sees new congregational survey tool, names at-large member, among other business.

Mission and Ministry Board members got a glimpse of a new congregational survey that will be part of the Vital Ministry Journey for churches and districts, named a new at-large member pending affirmation at Annual Conference, reviewed financial reports from 2012, and made a small change to the 2013 budget among other business at the spring meeting.

-- Preliminary learnings from a congregational survey that will be a resource for those participating in the Vital Ministry Journey were presented by Congregational Life Ministries executive director Jonathan Shively and Stan Dueck, director of Transforming Practices. The survey will help congregations do self assessment, as they work toward vitality and renewal. Congregational Life Ministries staff had invited some members of the board to help test the instrument. It is one of several Vital Ministry Journey resources that are being developed and will be announced as they become available. Also in the works are resources for spiritual gifts discernment and worship, each involving Bible study and a “triads” small group process for use in congregations. For more information go to www.brethren.org/congregationallife/vmj .

-- The denominational budget revision for 2013 is to cover planning expenses incurred this year for the National Youth Conference (NYC) to be held next year. Almost $75,000 of anticipated expenses will be paid out of NYC reserves that have accumulated from previous years.

-- Connie Burk Davis of Westminster, Md., was named to fill an at-large position on the Mission and Ministry Board, pending affirmation from Annual Conference.

-- The board is requesting an amendment to the bylaws of the corporation to enlarge the number of at-large executive committee members to three from two, who will serve on the executive committee alongside the chair and vice chair. Continuing on the committee as ex-officio members are the general secretary and the Annual Conference moderator. This action is intended to increase communication lines between the executive committee and the full board.

-- The board approved the 2012 Annual Report that will be presented to Annual Conference.

Roy Winter gives a final report of the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries in Haiti
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Roy Winter gives a final report of the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries in Haiti, where more than 100 homes have been built and other programs have cared for those affected by the 2010 earthquake and the storms and hurricanes that have hit the island in recent years.

-- A digital version of “Messenger” magazine that soon will be available as a bonus for print subscribers debuted at this board meeting. Editor Randy Miller and publisher Wendy McFadden displayed the digital magazine, to oohs and aahs from board members who expressed enthusiasm for the development.

-- Among reports received: a final report on the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries in Haiti, a report from leaders who attended the annual meeting of Christian Churches Together (CCT) highlighting the need to focus on immigration, a report from a delegation that went to Israel and Palestine with an American Baptist group, followed up by a report from John and Joyce Cassel who served in Israel and Palestine for three months with EAPPI, an accompaniment program of the World Council of Churches.

-- Find a link to the photo album of the Mission and Ministry Board’s spring meeting at www.brethren.org/album . View two video clips from the meeting, including the Sunday morning message given by board chair Ben Barlow and the recommendation to recognize the Church of the Brethren in Spain, at www.brethren.org/video .


5) BMC representatives and MMB executive committee discuss concerns.

Representatives of the Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Interests (BMC) and the executive committee of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board (MMB) met for about four hours on Monday, Feb. 4, at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

The purpose of the gathering was to begin dialogue about past difficulties in working together (most recently in relation to the process surrounding a proposed Brethren Volunteer Service placement within BMC) and ways the groups might work together in the future.
        
Representing BMC were: Katie Hochstedler; board president; Mia Miller, vice-president; Todd Steele; Susan Boyer; and executive director Carol Wise.

Representing the MMB were: Ben Barlow, board chair; Becky Ball-Miller, chair-elect; Andy Hamilton; Brian Messler; Don Fitzkee; Pam Reist; Annual Conference moderator Bob Krouse; and Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger.

Carol Rose, co-director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, facilitated the meeting. Rose led the group in a time of opening worship and invited participants to share hopes and expectations for the meeting. Significant time was devoted to reconstructing a timeline of events that may have contributed to misunderstanding.

While there was insufficient time to engage in a full restorative process, it was evident that both groups were willing to continue the conversation

Participants expressed their appreciation for the conversation and for the leadership provided by Carol Rose.     
    
No specific actions resulted from the meeting, and no further meetings have been scheduled.


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Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren, is the editor of Newsline. Look for the next regularly scheduled issue on March 20. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. Newsline appears every other week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences go to www.brethren.org/newsline.

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