Newsline for Jan. 8, 2016




A poinsettia plant, with text from Amos 5
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice” (Amos 5:14-15a).


1) Preachers are announced for Annual Conference 2016
2) CDS volunteers work in Oregon over holidays, deploy to area flooded by Mississippi
3) Global Mission and Service worker honored in Vietnam
4) Vietnam blind school holds training with slogan ‘Understanding Eliminates Darkness’
5) WCC leaders express concern over situation on the Korean peninsula
6) Update is available for Church of the Brethren ‘Manual of Organization and Polity’
7) Sustaining Ministerial Excellence Advanced Seminar brings together cohort of camp leaders

PERSONNEL
8) Don Knieriem resigns as database administrator for Church of the Brethren

UPCOMING EVENTS
9) Registration opens for church planting event in May
10) Brethren Academy announces upcoming courses
11) ‘Heart of Anabaptism’ webinars continue in 2016

12) Brethren bits: Correction, remembrance, updates on district leadership, BBT seeks member services representative among other job openings including searches for executives in Atlantic Southeast and Missouri/Arkansas Districts, situation for COs after military opens combat to women, Ministry Summer Service applications are due, registration opens for NYAC, more


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Quote of the week:

“Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As followers of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding non-violent alternatives and to learning how to make peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society and between nations.”

-- Core Conviction #7 of the Anabaptist Network in the UK. One of the four webinars announced in the “Heart of Anabaptism” series for 2016 focuses on this core conviction. Find more information below and at www.brethren.org/webcasts .
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The preachers for Annual Conference 2016: (top from left) Andy Murray, Kurt Borgmann, Dennis Webb, (bottom from left) Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Eric Brubaker.

The preachers for Annual Conference 2016: (top from left) Andy Murray, Kurt Borgmann, Dennis Webb, (bottom from left) Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Eric Brubaker.

1) Preachers are announced for Annual Conference 2016

The line-up of preachers for the 2016 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren has been announced. The Annual Conference takes place at the Koury Convention Center and Sheraton Hotel in Greensboro, N.C., on June 29-July 3. Registration opens online on Feb. 17 for both delegates and nondelegates. The Conference theme is “Carry the Light” (John 1:1-5).

Preaching the opening sermon will be Annual Conference moderator Andy Murray. He will speak on Wednesday evening, June 29. Murray is retired from the faculty of Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., where he was founding director of the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies and also served as a college professor, administrator, and chaplain. He is a member of Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, and is well known in Brethren circles as a popular singer and songwriter.

Kurt Borgmann, pastor of Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., will preach for the Thursday evening service on June 30.

Dennis Webb, pastor of Naperville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, and a member of the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board, will bring the message on Friday evening, July 1.

Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., will preach on Saturday evening, July 2.

Preaching for the Sunday morning service and the closing event of the Conference is J. Eric Brubaker, who is an ordained minister serving at Middle Creek Church of the Brethren in Lititz, Pa.

For more information about the 2016 Annual Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac .

Children's Disaster Services volunteers care for children evacuated from an apartment building threatened by landslides in Oregon, over the week between Christmas 2015 and New Year's.
Photo courtesy of CDS

Children's Disaster Services volunteers care for children evacuated from an apartment building threatened by landslides in Oregon, over the week between Christmas 2015 and New Year's.

2) CDS volunteers work in Oregon over holidays, deploy to area flooded by Mississippi

Volunteers from Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), a program of the Church of the Brethren and its Brethren Disaster Ministries, were deployed to a Red Cross shelter in Oregon City, Ore., after an apartment building was evacuated. The evacuation was carried out because of concerns about landslides in the aftermath of strong storms on the Pacific coast.

More recently, CDS was put on alert that childcare is needed in areas along the Mississippi River affected by flooding. “We are deploying a team of six CDS volunteers Monday and Tuesday of next week (Jan. 11-12) to a MARC, Multi Agency Resource Center, in Pacific, Mo., in response to the floods,” reported associate director Kathleen Fry-Miller.

Since 1980 Children’s Disaster Services has been meeting the needs of children by setting up child care centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers across the nation. Specially trained to respond to traumatized children, CDS volunteers provide a calm, safe, and reassuring presence in the midst of the chaos created by disasters.

The Red Cross in the Cascades Region communicated a need for childcare for families evacuated from the apartment building, noting that there were several children at the shelter. Although the shelter population was in flux through the time of the CDS response, from Dec. 26-31, the volunteers cared for a total of 45 children. Carol Elms was project manager, leading a team of six CDS volunteers.

A Facebook post by CDS expressed gratitude for volunteers willing to set aside their own holiday plans: “The holidays are a time of celebration and get-togethers with family and friends for many people. However, this Christmas, many people across the United States were affected by winter weather, mudslides, flooding, and other disasters. We are especially grateful for volunteers in Oregon and Washington States that responded to a call to set up a child care center in Oregon City, December 26. Thank you to everyone who responded and were willing to serve during such a meaningful season for so many!”

For more information about the work of CDS go to www.childrensdisasterservices.org .

Grace Mishler received an award for her work in Vietnam where she serves people with disabilities and is part of a university social work program.

Grace Mishler received an award for her work in Vietnam where she serves people with disabilities and is part of a university social work program.

3) Global Mission and Service worker honored in Vietnam

On Nov. 8, 2015, Grace Mishler, a Church of the Brethren member and a Global Mission and Service worker in Ho Chi Minh City, was honored for her work with disabled persons by Vietnamese government officials. Selected individuals from the southern region of Vietnam were recognized for their contributions to the disabled community including blind and partially sighted persons, the area of Mishler’s expertise.

Since Sept. 2000, Mishler has been working with the Department of Sociology and Social Work at Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, where she consults with the staff and provides educational and eye care support for students with visual impairment. Additionally, she facilitates services, monitors, and provides support at the Thien An and Nhat Hong Blind Schools with specified project development including a Student Eye Care Project and International Cane Awareness Day.

At the Disability Conference held by the Disabilities Federation Association of Vietnam, she was awarded a Medal of Honor, two certificates of  “excellent activities in caring and supporting persons with disabilities within the frame time of 2011-2015,” and a bouquet of flowers in appreciation for her many contributions to disabled persons in Ho Chi Minh City.

Mishler was nominated by Thien An Blind School for the awards. The certificates she received included a certificate from the Ho Chi Minh Association for Protection of People with Disabilities and Orphans, and another from the Vietnam Fatherland Front Socialist Republic Peoples’ Committee of Ho Chi Minh City.

To know more about the work of Grace Mishler and Global Mission and Service in Vietnam, go to www.brethren.org/partners/vietnam . Find a a 26 minute documentary about Mishler from Hanoi VCT-10, titled “The Silent American,” at www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMQHiX-Qk_k .
                                                                        

Sociology students with Grace Mishler, during a training at Thien An Blind School in Vietnam. The students are blindfolded as they learn to understand the experience of those living with disabilities.
Photo by My Huyen

Sociology students with Grace Mishler, during a training at Thien An Blind School in Vietnam. The students are blindfolded as they learn to understand the experience of those living with disabilities.

4) Vietnam blind school holds training with slogan ‘Understanding Eliminates Darkness’

By Nguyen Thi My Huyen

On Nov. 18, 2015, Thien An Blind School of Ho Chi Minn City, Vietnam, hosted a one-day training for 30 sociology students as a part of Service Learning at the University of Humanities and Social Sciences. Participating in this training day were Grace Mishler, a Church of the Brethren member who serves in Vietnam with Global Mission and Service; her program assistant Nguyen Xuan; and program trainee Nguyen Thi My Huyen.

Through this workshop training, students gained knowledge about blindness. The dean of the Department of Sociology supports Service Learning to educate students in how to approach marginalized persons in the society. Mishler provided the network link to make this Service Learning happen. The LIN Center of Ho Chi Minh City provided support money to Thien An School in the effort of raising the social awareness of students with visual disabilities. The instruction followed the Hadley School for the Blind in the USA.

The headmaster of the school was the primary trainer and instructor. He is blind and had a powerful way of transforming blindness into a spiritual connection between the training group and Thien An Blind students. He gave a wonderful, meaningful, practical presentation. 

The headmaster taught seven steps in adapting to losing vision, the causes of losing vision, and how to communicate with blind people. He shared some examples of perceptions, cultural beliefs, and misunderstandings about blindness, which made many students realize how much they did not know before attending this training.

The participants also were required to write a two-page, self-reflective journal for their sociology class. Below are some reflections from students, about what they felt after the training. Overall, it was a fantastic experience for them.

For many students, having lunch in the dark was the most interesting part of the training day. The dishes were put on the trays according to the structure of 12-3-6-9 positions on a clock. The participants were instructed about the locations of the food, so that they knew how to visualize it. “It was the most unforgettable meal ever in my life,” reflected Thi Huyen (Class K18 - USSH). “I couldn't eat all of the food in my tray because it was so hard to eat without knowing where the food was located, even though we were instructed before the meal.”

Another student reflected, “The room seemed to be ten times bigger because it was just too dark. I found fear in each step I made. And when somebody held my hand and led me to the dining room, I felt so safe and extremely happy” (Hoang Minh Tri of Class K18 - USSH).

Thien An Blind School students sing a welcoming song for the visiting class of university students. Thien An's welcoming song included these words:
Photo by My Huyen

Thien An Blind School students sing a welcoming song for the visiting class of university students. Thien An's welcoming song included these words: "In our own home, the sadness disappeared. In our home, happiness is doubled. Because we cry, we laugh with all of our hearts. We share love and our own lives. Thien An--our own home forever..."

“I was scared,” wrote another. ‘It was simply scared of falling, scared of getting hurt. But I always knew that I still can see again after this training. My fear was not even comparable to the fear of blind people knowing the loss of their body parts and they will live their whole life without light. But looking at what blind people do, we all know that they can live their lives as normal as sighted people do and accomplish great things. I really admire the strength of those people” (Bui Thi Thu of Class K18 - USSH).

Braille training and practice: Six magic dots

The students were introduced to the Braille system, from basics to details. Then they played a game of translating poems from Braille to Vietnamese, and the opposite. Because Braille is not easy for beginners, they translated the poems to different meanings, which allowed them to have so much fun with the game.

“The game has brought valuable lessons for students on how to use the Braille system and feel the initial difficulties of the visually impaired students,” said a quote from a reflection book report from the Pandora group of Class K18 - USSH.

“After the training day, I have learned a lot for myself about blindness, and it changed the way I see people with physical difficulties,” reflected Minh Tri of Class K18 - USSH. “They are born with blindness, not that they are blinded, and we are all equal as human being. I see myself as a lucky one to be born as an able-bodied person. [That] does not mean that blind people are unlucky. I feel the necessity to be more responsible to my own self and society.”

-- Nguyen Thi My Huyen is a trainee serving with Grace Mishler and the Global Mission and Service project in Vietnam, which works with people living with disabilities. Mi Huyen recently spent a year in a Service Learning experience with Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, under the leadership of Dr. Peg McFarland and college's School of Social Work.

5) WCC leaders express concern over situation on the Korean peninsula

From a World Council of Churches release

Following the recent nuclear test conducted by North Korea, the World Council of Churches (WCC) is calling on all parties involved in the current situation on the Korean peninsula--especially South Korea, North Korea, the US, Japan, and China--to “invest in initiatives to reduce tensions, to promote dialogue, and to encourage negotiations for an end to the suspended state of war, and for peaceful co-existence on the Korean peninsula, rather than measures that increase the risk of catastrophic conflict,” according to WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit.

“As a global fellowship of churches committed to a pilgrimage of justice and peace, we seek hope-inspiring alternatives to the deadly cycle of provocation and military confrontation,” he stressed.

For more than 30 years the World Council of Churches has been engaged in opening doors for encounter and dialogue between North and South Koreans, and in promoting international ecumenical accompaniment of this relationship. The WCC’s 10th Assembly--held in Busan, Republic of Korea, in 2013--affirmed that: “It is our prayer that the vision and dream of all Koreans, their common aspiration for healing, reconciliation, peace, and reunification may be fulfilled.” But, as described by Peter Prove, director of the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), “more than 70 years after the division of the peninsula, Korean people continue to be separated by the most highly militarized confrontation in the world. The vision and dream of peace is threatened by any and all measures that heighten rather than reduce tensions in this dangerous situation.”

Tveit observed, “The WCC also has a long history of principled opposition to nuclear arms, and supports the recent ‘humanitarian initiative’ towards a global legal ban on such unconscionable weapons of mass destruction.”

In the context of the Korean peninsula, the threat of nuclear conflict jeopardizes the lives and future not only of the people of the peninsula but of the wider region and the globe.

“Therefore,” stressed Tveit, “the WCC condemns initiatives to scale up the destructive potential of nuclear weapons on or in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula,” noting that WCC governing bodies repeatedly have called for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, for the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of all nuclear weapons in northeast Asia, and for a global humanitarian ban on nuclear weapons.

“We note with dismay and great concern,” added CCIA director Prove, “that current or envisaged responses to the recent nuclear test by North Korea do not lead in the direction of de-escalation and dialogue. Such troubling responses include today’s resumption of loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts by South Korea, the possible strengthening of economic sanctions, and increased international military presence (including nuclear-armed forces) in the region.”

General secretary Tveit stressed that “provocation does not offer a path to peace. In this situation, dialogue is more important and more urgently required than ever. I invite all churches and all people of good will to pray with and for the people of both Koreas, and to redouble our efforts for peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula and throughout the world.”

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 345 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 550 million Christians in over 120 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of the Brethren is a founding member of the WCC.

6) Update is available for Church of the Brethren ‘Manual of Organization and Polity’

By James M. Beckwith

The Church of the Brethren “Manual of Organization and Polity” has been updated to incorporate polity decisions adopted by Annual Conference since the last edition of the manual, and to review and update endnotes to ensure that the manual reflects as much as possible the exact wording of the Annual Conference decisions which established or updated the polity. Go to www.brethren.org/ac/ppg to find the updated files. 

An effort has been made in the endnotes to identify the few statements in the manual that are not polity--i.e., statements that describe organizational patterns or standard practices which have not been defined by Annual Conference polity decisions. Those who use the manual are urged to consult the endnotes.

Each chapter file now has a title page with bookmark hyperlinks to help users move easily to and from that chapter’s sections. The Preface in the Overview file explains further changes. Significant changes have been made to update the Conference Rules in Chapter 1 and to identify in Chapter 2 that each Annual Conference agency has its own history and guidelines for its status as an official Annual Conference agency.
 
The Leadership Team of the denomination, which includes the general secretary and the Annual Conference officers, is responsible for interpreting denominational polity and has reviewed all of the updating, together with Chris Douglas, director of the Conference Office. The Leadership Team celebrates the completion of this work and acknowledges with gratitude the efforts of all who have worked on the manual over the years. It is good to have the manual up to date as the official guide by which the church seeks to live out its purpose at Annual Conference: to unite, strengthen, and equip the Church of the Brethren to follow Jesus together.
 
-- James M. Beckwith serves as Annual Conference secretary.

The first cohort in the SMEAS (Sustaining Ministerial Excellence Advanced Seminar) was a group of camp leaders: (from left) Tara Hornbacker, Bethany Seminary professor; Joel Ballew of Camp Swatara, Karen Neff of Camp Ithiel (on screen), Jerri Heiser Wenger of Camp Blue Diamond, Barbara Wise Lewczak of Camp Pine Lake, Linetta Ballew of Camp Swatara. and Wallace Cole of Camp Carmel.
Photo by Julie Hostetter

The first cohort in the SMEAS (Sustaining Ministerial Excellence Advanced Seminar) was a group of camp leaders: (from left) Tara Hornbacker, Bethany Seminary professor; Joel Ballew of Camp Swatara, Karen Neff of Camp Ithiel (on screen), Jerri Heiser Wenger of Camp Blue Diamond, Barbara Wise Lewczak of Camp Pine Lake, Linetta Ballew of Camp Swatara. and Wallace Cole of Camp Carmel.

7) Sustaining Ministerial Excellence Advanced Seminar brings together cohort of camp leaders

By Julie Hostetter

The first retreat for the SMEAS (Sustaining Ministerial Excellence Advanced Seminar) Camp Leaders Cohort took place Nov. 19-21, 2015, at Shepherd’s Spring Outdoor Ministry and Retreat Center in Mid-Atlantic District. Participants had completed their annual Outdoor Ministries Association Retreat and stayed onsite for this new continuing education program.

Content for SMEAS includes components from the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Vital Pastors and Advanced Foundations for Church Leadership tracks administered by the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership and the Advanced Pastoral Seminar offered by Bethany Seminary in the past.

Participants will meet bi-annually for two years to:
-- integrate the spiritual, academic, emotional, relational, and physical components of a healthy lifestyle,
-- develop a greater self-understanding of themselves and their ministries,
-- re-examine the church and its mission in today’s culture,
-- explore theological topics through presentations and dialogue with seminary faculty, denominational leaders, and seminar members,
-- participate in community with other ministers,
-- create strategies for personal and professional change.

Between in-person sessions, the camp leaders will interact via Moodle and Skype.

A SMEAS cohort for bi-vocational pastors is being formed now. Contact Julie Hostetter, executive director of the Brethren Academy, at hosteju@bethanyseminary.edu or 800-287-8822 ext. 1820 for information and to register for this continuing education program.  

-- Julie Hostetter is executive director of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, which is jointly affiliated with the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind.

Don Knieriem

Don Knieriem

PERSONNEL

8) Don Knieriem resigns as database administrator for Church of the Brethren

Don Knieriem has tendered his resignation as database administrator for the Church of the Brethren. His last day of work at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill., will be Jan. 20.

He has been employed with the Church of the Brethren since Nov. 2011, when he was hired as a data analyst and registration specialist. The position evolved into web programmer and data analyst by Aug. 2013. In April 2015 he transitioned to the salaried position of database administrator.

Previously, Knieriem’s service to the church also included volunteer terms with Brethren Volunteer Service. He spent time as a BVSer serving with Brethren Disaster Ministries, and then volunteered for two years in the BVS office in Elgin, Ill.

UPCOMING EVENTS

2016 new church planting conference logo

9) Registration opens for church planting event in May

Registration is now open for the new church development conference, @HIM #Hope #Imagination #Mission, scheduled for May 19-21 in Richmond, Ind. The conference will feature Efrem Smith and Mandy Smith as keynote speakers, and will be marked by passionate worship, informative workshops, valuable networking, and prayerful support.

The event is for church planters, anyone considering becoming a church planter, planting teams, and leaders eager to explore a vision of the church that includes vital established congregations and dynamic emerging mission points. The conference is sponsored by the Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren and hosted by Bethany Theological Seminary.

Register by April 15 to take advantage of early registration discounts. Workshop proposals also are being accepted, with a Feb. 29 submission deadline.

For more information and online registration go to www.brethren.org/churchplanting .

10) Brethren Academy announces upcoming courses

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership has announced is upcoming course schedule. Courses are open to students in TRIM (Training in Ministry) and EFSM (Education for Shared Ministry) as well as pastors and all interested persons.

While students will continue to be accepted into courses beyond the registration deadline, on that date the academy determines whether there are enough students to offer a course. Many courses have required pre-course readings, so students need to allow enough time to complete reading prior to the start of the course. Students are requested not to purchase texts or make travel plans until the registration deadline has passed, and a course confirmation is received.

To register for courses, contact academy@bethanyseminary.edu or 765-983-1824. Register for courses noted “SVMC” through the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, forms are at www.etown.edu/svmc or contact svmc@etown.edu or 717-361-1450.

“Church of the Brethren Polity and Practice,” a weekend intensive at McPherson (Kan.) College with instructor Jim Tomlonson, held from March 10-13. The registration deadline is Feb. 10.

“Chronicles,” an online course with instructor Steve Schweitzer, is held from April 4-May 27. The registration deadline is March 4.

“Walking to Peace,” an Annual Conference directed independent study unit (DISU) with Father John Dear and instructor Debbie Roberts, will be held June 28-29 in Greensboro, N.C. The registration deadline is May 28.

“Neighboring Faiths: A Christian-Muslim Encounter in the US,” (SVMC), is a weekend intensive held at Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren with instructor George Pickens, from Aug. 11-13. The registration deadline is July 11.

“Church of the Brethren History,” an online course with instructor Denise Kettering-Lane, is offered from Sept. 5-Oct. 28. The registration deadline is Aug. 5.

“Introduction to Theology,” an online course with instructor Nate Inglis, is offered Oct. 10-Dec. 2. The registration deadline is Sept. 10.

“Introduction to Old Testament,” an online course with instructor Matt Boersma, is offered on Oct. 16-Dec. 10. The registration deadline is Sept. 16.

“Faith and Finances,” a weekend intensive with instructor Beryl Jantzi, is held in November (final dates to be announced). The registration deadline will be in October.

11) ‘Heart of Anabaptism’ webinars continue in 2016

Four new webinars continue the theme, “The Heart of Anabaptism,” in 2016, announces the Congregational Life Ministies staff. The webinar presenters will explore the core convictions of the Anabaptist Network in the United Kingdom.
 
Webinar dates and times and themes follow:

Thursday, Jan. 14, 2:30 p.m. (eastern time): “The Church’s Witness at its Best.” An announcement explained the focus of this webinar: “The frequent association of the church with status, wealth, and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness. We are committed to vulnerability and to exploring ways of being good news to the poor, powerless, and persecuted, aware that such discipleship may attract opposition, resulting in suffering and sometimes ultimately martyrdom.” Presenter Juliet Kilpin helps coordinate Urban Expression, an urban mission agency pioneering creative and relevant forms of church in inner cities in the UK. She has been an urban mission advocate and activist for almost 25 years, and is also a freelance consultant and trainer.

Thursday, Feb. 11, 2:30 p.m. (eastern time): “Spirituality and Economics.” This webinar will address the network’s Core Conviction #6, “Spirituality and economics are inter-connected. In an individualist and consumerist culture and a world where economic injustice is rife, we are committed to finding ways of living simply, sharing generously, caring for creation and working for justice.” Presenter Joanna (Jo) Frew lives and works in a house of hospitality that she and her partner run for destitute asylum seekers. For many years, she worked with the SPEAK Network on social justice campaigns and is now active in nonviolent direct action against an arms fair and Trident renewal in the UK. She holds a doctorate in the history of the British Empire in India.

Thursday, March 31, 2:30 p.m. (eastern time): “Jesus and God’s Revelation.” This event addressed Core Conviction #2, “Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. We are committed to a Jesus-centered approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which we read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.” Presenter Dennis Edwards is senior pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, Minn., and is an Anabaptist scholar and practitioner, pioneer of racial reconciliation and multi-ethnic ministry, and an urban church planter. He has planted two urban, multi-ethnic churches, one in Brooklyn, N.Y., and one in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, April 28, 2:30 p.m. (eastern time): “Peace, the Heart of the Gospel.” This event addresses Core Conviction #7, “Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As followers of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding non-violent alternatives and to learning how to make peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society and between nations.” Presenters Mark and Mary Hurst pastor Avalon Baptist Peace Memorial Church and are pastoral workers for the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand. Together they have led peacemaking workshops and been involved in peace activism since the late 1970s. Both are graduates of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary with degrees in Peace Studies and Christian Formation.

Each webinar is 60 minutes in length and consist of a presentation and discussion. Recordings of these webinars are available following the event at the Church of the Brethren website. For more information go to www.brethren.org/webcasts . To join the webinar on the day of the event, click on the link at http://brethren.adobeconnect.com/transformation . There is no charge for the webinars. Continuing education credit of .1 is available to ministers through the Brethren Academy for those who attend the live event. The webinars are sponsored by the Church of the Brethren, Urban Expression UK, Center for Anabaptist Studies, Bristol Baptist College, and Mennonite Trust.

12) Brethren bits

Oakley Brick Church of the Brethren located between Decatur and Cerro Gordo, Ill., is working to pull together again after having lost the roof of the church building in a storm in late December. The church building also suffered severe flooding from rainfall. A report from the local newspaper noted that the congregation had experienced something similar in 1982 when the then 100 year old church had its roof ripped off by a tornado. However, this time the blow may be “mortal,” the news report warns, although the spirit of the congregation remains strong according to the pastor and volunteers who came out to help clean up. Volunteers who helped salvage items from the building included Tyler Morganthaler, a great-great-great-great-grandson of founder Leonard Blickenstaff, representing the seventh generation of his family to belong to the church. Read the full news report from the Herald and Review at http://herald-review.com/news/local/oakley-brick-church-of-the-brethren-pulls-together-again/article_e47692e8-b209-5b16-a864-c4679baa40f5.html .

-- Correction: Newsline reported an incorrect amount given to the Nigeria Crisis Fund after last summer’s tour by the Women’s Fellowship Choir of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The correct amount was $22,206.56.

M.M. Gameti (at right) posed for a picture with then-Annual Conference moderator David Steele, during Steele's visit to the church in India. This picture originally was captioned,
Photo by Jay Wittmeyer

M.M. Gameti (at right) posed for a picture with then-Annual Conference moderator David Steele, during Steele's visit to the church in India. This picture originally was captioned, "Two moderators," because at the time Gameti was serving as moderator of the First District Church of the Brethren in India.

-- Remembrance: Makanlal Mangaldas Gameti, 102, a leader, elder, and ordained minister in the First District Church of the Brethren in India, recently passed away. He was a member of the Vyara congregation and served as a faithful trustee on several Brethren trusts in India. A remembrance and call to prayer from the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service office noted that “he was instrumental in procuring the legal status of the First District as the legal successor to the Church of the Brethren in India. Pray for comfort for family and friends as they mourn his death.”

-- The Office of Ministry has shared the following updates about district leadership:
     The Shenandoah District Leadership Team has welcomed back district executive minister John Jantzi, effective Jan. 1. Jantzi has completed a two-month Special Circumstance Leave and plans to ease back into his executive duties through the winter.
     The Atlantic Southeast District Board has selected Victoria Ehret as interim district executive beginning Jan. 1. Here is new contact information for the district office: 7360 Ulmerton Road, #13C, Largo, Fl. 33771; 727-709-0603.
     The Missouri Arkansas District Leadership Team has selected Paul Landes to be interim district executive beginning Jan. 1. The contact information for the district office: 11911 E 62nd St, Kansas City, MO 64133; 816-231-1347 or 816-419-8902; Moark.district23@gmail.com .
     The Northern Ohio District Board has selected Kris Hawk to be interim district executive beginning Feb. 14. The District Office contact information remains the same.

-- Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) is seeking to fill the position of member services representative, Employee Benefits. This is a full-time hourly position based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The primary function is to perform the daily operations of the pension and insurance plans and provide plan information to staff and participants as requested. Duties include maintaining a working knowledge of all pension and insurance systems and products; serving as secondary customer service contact for Pension and Insurance; maintaining/processing daily operational work for Pension and Insurance; assisting with maintaining Pension Plan Summary Plan Description and Plan Highlights, as well as Legal Plan Document Supplements; and performing tasks for Church Workers Assistance Plan. The Member Services Representative for Employee Benefits may attend Annual Conference and Plan Sponsor meetings, as requested. The ideal candidate will have knowledge in employee benefits, including an understanding of pension and health and welfare plans. This position requires a person who is very detail oriented, with the ability to prioritize workloads; proficient with computer systems and applications; exceptional organizational and telephone skills; and, impeccable follow-up abilities are a must. The candidate must be able to interact effectively with customers to provide information in response to inquiries about products and services and to handle and resolve complaints. BBT is seeking candidates with strong verbal and written communications skills, proficiency in Microsoft Office, and a demonstrated track record of providing superior customer service and a willingness and ability to expand knowledge and effectiveness through classes, workshops, and pursuit of professional designations. Current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; current and active membership in a faith community is required. Salary and benefits are competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. Send a letter of interest, résumé, three professional references, and salary-range expectation to Donna March at 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, or dmarch@cobbt.org . For more information about BBT, visit www.brethrenbenefittrust.org .
 
-- The Church of the Brethren is seeking an individual to fill a full-time salaried position of database administrator. The database administrator is part of the Organizational Resources team and reports to the director of Information Technology. Major responsibilities include planning, coordinating, testing and implementing changes to computer databases; running routine processes related to databases including data sync, merging, and purging; working with various organizational databases and reconciliation of discrepancies caused by flow of information; assisting with or managing website-related projects; generating various reports, assisting users, serving as backup to the manager of Information Technology when he/she is absent. Required skills and knowledge include skilled competency in database management and queries, communication and problem solving skills, ability to tend to multiple projects, orientation toward details and customer service, ability to maintain confidentiality. Computer software and database experience is required. An associate’s degree or equivalent experience is required. A bachelor’s degree is preferred. The following experience is helpful: Raiser’s Edge or other Customer Relationship (CRM) system, Convio or other web-building solution experience, and/or Crystal Reports. This position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Applications will be received immediately and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Qualified candidates are invited to request the application form by contacting the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; humanresources@brethren.org . The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

-- Atlantic Southeast District seeks a district executive minister for a half-time position (100 hours of work per month) available June 1. The district includes 17 congregations and 2 fellowships in Florida, and is culturally, ethnically, and theologically diverse. Its congregations are rural, suburban, and urban. The district has a strong interest in new church development and church renewal. The preferred candidate is a spiritually wise pastoral leader who offers inspiration and works collaboratively to envision the work of the district. Responsibilities include to serve as administrator of the board of the district, facilitating and giving general oversight to the planning and implementation of ministries as directed by District Conference and the District Board, and providing linkages to congregations, the Church of the Brethren, and Annual Conference agencies; assist congregations and pastors with placement; facilitate and encourage the calling and credentialing of persons to set-apart ministry; build and strengthen relationships with congregations and pastors; use mediation skills to work with congregations in conflict; promote unity in the district. Qualifications include a clear commitment to Jesus Christ demonstrated by a vibrant spiritual life with a commitment to New Testament values and to Church of the Brethren faith and heritage; membership in the Church of the Brethren required with ordination and pastoral experience preferred; a bachelor’s degree required, master of divinity degree or beyond preferred; strong relational, communication, mediation, and conflict resolution skills; strong administrative and organizational skills; competence with technology and ability to work in a “virtual office”; passion for the mission and ministry of the church, with an appreciation for cultural diversity; bi-lingual preferred; flexibility in working with staff, volunteer, pastoral, and lay leadership. Apply by sending a letter of interest and a resume via e-mail to OfficeofMinistry@brethren.org and contact three or four people who are willing to provide a letter of reference. Upon receipt of a resume the applicant will be sent a candidate profile that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. The application deadline is Feb. 14.

-- Missouri and Arkansas District seeks a district executive minister to serve in a part-time (20 hours per week) position. The district is made up of 13 congregations in Missouri and Arkansas, and is culturally and theologically diverse. Its congregations are rural and urban. The district’s mission is to challenge and equip congregations to discover anew and live God’s grace, spirit, and love. The preferred candidate is a person with dedication to Christ and the church, and with good interpersonal and organizational skills. Responsibilities include pastoral placement and support, communications, relating to the District Leadership Team, managing office functions, professional growth, and leadership development. Qualifications include a clear commitment to Jesus Christ, membership in the Church of the Brethren, with ordination and pastoral experience preferred; strong relational, communication, and conflict resolution skills; administrative and organizational skills; and comfort with modern technology. Apply by sending a letter of interest and a resume via e-mail to OfficeofMinistry@brethren.org and contact three or four people who are willing to provide a letter of reference. Upon receipt of a resume the applicant will be sent a candidate profile that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. The application deadline is Feb. 15.

-- The US military has announced that combat positions will be opened to women, and Brethren Volunteer Service director Dan McFadden is monitoring the situation in conjunction with the Center on Conscience and War and in communication with the Selective Service System. The military’s move has implications for women being required to register for the draft at some future time. At the moment only men age 18-26 are required to register. Congressional legislation would be necessary to require women to register, McFadden reported. “Young women in the Church of the Brethren who identify as conscientious objectors should begin to think ahead and be aware that documenting their personal peace stance may be necessary,” said McFadden. More information and a curriculum on conscientious objection, which includes help for documenting a personal peace stance, is available free online at www.brethren.org/CO .

-- The Church of the Brethren is seeking to fill the position of 2016 Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) intern. The purpose of the BHLA intern program is to develop interest in vocations related to archives and libraries and/or Brethren history. The program will provide the intern with work assignments in the Brethren Historical Library and Archives and with opportunities to develop professional contacts. Work assignments will include processing archival materials, writing descriptive inventories, preparing books for cataloging, responding to reference requests, and assisting researchers in the library. Professional contacts may include attending archival and library conferences and workshops, visits to libraries and archives in the Chicago area, and participation in a Brethren Historical Committee meeting. BHLA is the official repository for Church of the Brethren publications and records. The collection consists of over 10,000 volumes, over 3,500 linear feet of manuscripts and records, over 40,000 photographs, plus videos, films, DVDs, and recordings. BHLA is located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The rerm of service is one year, beginning June 2016 (preferred). Compensation includes housing, a stipend of $540 every two weeks, and health insurance. A graduate student is preferred, or an undergraduate with at least two years of college. Requirements include interest in history and/or library and archival work; willingness to work with detail; accurate word processing skills; ability to lift 30 pound boxes. Request an application packet by contacting the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; humanresources@brethren.org; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. All submissions must be completed by April 1.

-- Applications for Ministry Summer Service 2016 are due this Friday, Jan. 8. MSS is an internship program which challenges Church of the Brethren college students to consider where God may be calling them. Similarly, MSS challenges Brethren mentors and host sites to consider how God is moving within their ministry settings. During the summer, interns spend one week in orientation and go on to work at their host sites for nine weeks, developing their leadership skills and exploring a call to ministry. Host congregations and their leaders are challenged to meet the deep hunger of the world around them, including the hunger for new and fresh leaders. For more information or to apply, visit www.brethren.org/mss or contact Becky Ullom Naugle at 847-429-4385 or bullomnaugle@brethren.org .

-- Registration for National Young Adult Conference (NYAC) 2016 is open online at www.brethren.org/nyac . NYAC will take place May 27-30 on the campus of Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind. Based on Colossians 3:12-17, the theme will be “Creating Harmony.” Early bird registration, which is available during the month of January only, is $200. Regular registration is $250. Scholarships are available through April. Registration includes food, lodging, and programming. “Make plans to attend today...and register!” said an invitation from the office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

-- “Mark your calendar for the 2016 Clergy Tax Seminar,” said an invitation from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. The annual tax seminar for clergy will be held on Monday, Feb. 29. Students, pastors, and other church leaders are invited to attend. Participants may attend either in person at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., or online. Sessions will cover tax law for clergy, changes for 2015 (the most current tax year to file), and detailed assistance as to how to correctly file the various forms and schedules that pertain to clergy (including housing allowances, self-employment, W-2s clergy reductions, etc.). The seminar schedule includes a morning session from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (eastern time) which offers .3 continuing education credit for live (in person or online) attendance; and an afternoon session from 2-4 p.m. (eastern). Leadership is provided by Deb Oskin, EA, NTPI Fellow, who has been doing clergy tax returns since 1989 when her husband became pastor of a small Church of the Brethren congregation. During her 12 years with H&R Block (2000-2011), she achieved their highest level of expertise certification (master tax adviser) and teaching certification (certified advanced instructor), and has earned the status of enrolled agent with the IRS (qualified to represent clients to the IRS). She currently operates her own independent tax service specializing in clergy taxes. Sponsors include the Brethren Academy, the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry, and Bethany Theological Seminary. Registration is $30 per person, with registration fees for Bethany and TRIM/EFSM/SeBAH students fully subsidized (free). Contact Academy@bethanyseminary.edu or 800-287-8822 ext. 1824 for additional information.

-- Two upcoming Interfaith Conferences on Drone Warfare are receiving support from the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. The conferences are a project of the Peace Action Education Fund in cooperation with the Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare. The conferences are planned for early in 2016: the first will be held on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 10, in Coral Springs, Fla.; and the second will be on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 3, at the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. “These are the second and third of at least six interfaith regional events on drone warfare being organized as a follow-up to the Princeton Seminary National Conference in January 2015,” said an announcement. Find a flyer and more information at http://interfaithdronenetwork.org .
 
-- The latest Action Alert from the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Public Witness highlights this spring’s Ecumenical Advocacy Days as an opportunity to put faith into action. “Want to put your faith into action?” the alert said. “Lift your voice with the Office of Public Witness on April 15-18, 2016, as we gather to promote justice and peace at Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2016 (EAD). EAD invites Christians from all over the country to come to Washington, D.C., to lend a Christian voice to important matters in public policy. Together we will explore the theme ‘Lift Every Voice! Racism, Class, and Power’ in workshops over the weekend to learn how racism and privilege affect society. Participants will then visit members of Congress to advocate for just legislation.” Visit www.AdvocacyDays.org for more information and to register. If the cost is prohibitive, contact Jesse Winter at the Office of Public Witness at jwinter@brethren.org to learn about scholarship opportunities.

-- The University of La Verne, Calif., will host senior high youth and their advisors from Church of the Brethren congregations in Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington over the weekend of Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 15-17, for a Western Regional Youth Conference. “During our time together we will take a look at the world we live in, ask big questions, explore our values, and dream about another way of living as the beloved community,” said an announcement. The weekend will include worship, workshop sessions, interacting with a scripture wall, music, videos, recreation, and opportunities for creative expression. The cost of $45 covers all meals and snacks. Leaders include Matt Guynn, program director for Nonviolent Social Change for On Earth Peace; Zandra Wagoner, university chaplain; Richard Rose, professor of Religion and Philosoph; and Eric Bishop, vice president of Chaffey College and outgoing Pacific Southwest District moderator. “Please be in prayer for this event,” requested the announcement.

-- “Thank you for your Christmas donations!” said the newsletter of Covington (Wash.) Community Church of the Brethren, where 25 soccer balls were donated to World Relief as gifts for newly-arrived refugee children over the holidays. Additionally, the newsletter reported, more than 120 pair of socks and leggings and some 40 personal hygiene items were donated to local homeless ministries.

-- Camp Swatara in Pennsylvania is hosting a “Come to the Well” event connected with the Springs of Living Water initiative for church vitality, on Jan. 11-12. The two days of “Come to the Well” are designed as “spiritually restoring days” for pastors and other church leaders, said an announcement from Springs leader David Young. Leaders for the two days include Bethany Seminary professor Dan Ulrich, who will speak on Lukan Texts for Lenten preaching; forester and wildlife artist Dan Christ who will lead and Sabbath Nature Walk; Leon Yoder who will lead vespers; as well as Young and Father Joe Currie, a Jesuit retreat leader and former India missionary, who will present the second day as a spiritual discernment retreat. Atlantic Northeast District is a partner in the event. For more information go to the Springs of Living Water website at www.churchrenewalservant.org or call David Young at 717-615-4515.

-- New Community Project has launched a “...But Not Forgotten...” campaign in Nepal, aiming to raise $29,000 to support the work of partner Shakti Samuha, an organization begun two decades ago by formerly trafficked women. The effort is in response to last spring's earthquake in Nepal which left the economy in ruins, and young women even more vulnerable to sex trafficking than previously. “Girls found themselves at a higher risk of being sent to India, the Gulf States, or even East Asia as traffickers preyed on families seeking income from any available source,” said an announcement from David Radcliff, director of the New Community Project. Programs to be funded include keeping young girls in school, helping formerly trafficked girls return to school or receive vocational training, providing microloans and small livestock to help communities rebound, and rebuilding one of hundreds of schools destroyed by the quake. Radcliff reports that many individuals and congregations have supported the campaign, and two Facebook fundraisers initiated by young adults have raised over $3,000. By the end of 2015, the grant was sent. An NCP Learning Tour will travel to Nepal from Jan. 11-22 to visit communities affected by the earthquake and observe the overall work of Shakti Samuha. For more information contact Radcliff at ncp@newcommunityproject.org .

-- The January program of “Brethren Voices” features Bonnie and Ken Kline Smeltzer speaking about the dangers that took their daughter's life, in the hopes of helping others be saved from a heroin death. Elizabeth Kline Smeltzer died of an unintentional heroin overdose in Jan. 2014. She was nearly 22 years old, and had been an occasional user of heroin who had previously completed a month-long residential drug treatment program. “The Journey Continues: Save at Least One Person from a Heroin Death” is the title of the January “Brethren Voices,” a community television show produced by Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland, Ore., hosted by Brent Carlson with Ed Groff as producer. Bonnie and Ken Kline Smeltzer are both ministers in the Church of the Brethren and have served as pastors for several congregations. Ken is the director of the annual Song and Story Fest gatherings. Bonnie serves as pastor of University Baptist and Brethren Church in State College, Pa.  Their journey with the Church of the Brethren has not always been easy, but the Kline Smeltzers did not want their daughter's problem to be a secret, hoping to help people learn of the dangers, said an announcement of the program from Ed Groff. “Young people need to know that you cannot play around with this stuff,” Ken Kline Smeltzer told Brethren Voices. Copies of the program can be obtained by contacting Groffprod1@msn.com .

-- Angela Finet, pastor at Nokesville Church of the Brethren in Virginia, was one of several church pastors interviewed for an article in the “Prince William Living” magazine of Manassas, Va., about how Christians celebrate Christmas. “Christmas is a celebration of God’s love being made real in the person of  Jesus. It’s a reminder that God is active in our world, and invites us to be part of continuing to make God’s love real through our example and service,” Finet told the magazine. Find the full article at http://princewilliamliving.com/2015/11/christmas-christian .

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Contributors to this issue of Newsline include James Beckwith, Jean Bednar, Deborah Brehm, Chris Douglas, Stan Dueck, Debbie Eisenbise, Angela Finet, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Kathy Fry-Miller, Ed Groff, Kendra Harbeck, Kristen Hoffman, Nate Hosler, Julie Hostetter, Nguyen Thi My Huyen, Jon Kobel, Fran Massie, Dan McFadden, Grace Mishler, Becky Ullom Naugle, Stan Noffsinger, Jonathan Shively, Jay Wittmeyer, David Young, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for Jan. 15.

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