Newsline for July 5, 2016




“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:3b-5).

Candles at Annual Conference 2016, with the text from John 1:5
photo by Glenn Riegel

A REVIEW OF THE 2016 ANNUAL CONFERENCE
1) Delegates refer ‘Query: Same Sex Weddings’ to Leadership Team and CODE
2) Annual Conference names new leadership, Samuel Sarpiya chosen moderator-elect
3) Study committee to work in consultation with BBT on financial, investment concerns related to care for creation
4) Delegate body refers queries regarding On Earth Peace, living together
5) Greensboro’s Civil Rights Museum offers learning opportunity for Brethren
6) Open Roof Fellowship welcomes six new churches
7) Minister’s Association hears from speaker Fr. John Dear on ‘Walking Toward Peace’
8) ‘Witness to the Host City’ collections support two organizations in Greensboro
9) Annual Conference by the numbers
10) Annual Conference bits and pieces

11) Former Bethany Seminary president Wayne L. Miller passes away


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Quotes of the week:

“Light of the world, into our darkness come... Let heaven’s will on earth be done.”
-- The song written by Annual Conference music coordinator Shawn Kirchner, which was sung at the start of each worship service during a procession of lights.

Moderator Andy Murray (right) presiding over the 2016 Annual Conference. Also shown is Annual Conference secretary James Beckwith, among other volunteers who are at the head table during the business sessions in order to help the Conference officers lead the delegate body.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

Moderator Andy Murray (right) presiding over the 2016 Annual Conference. Also shown is Annual Conference secretary James Beckwith, among other volunteers who are at the head table during the business sessions in order to help the Conference officers lead the delegate body.

“We are dealing with a God of impossibilities. When we thought that there was no road he created a road for us. When we thought there was no hope he gave us hope. When we thought that Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria [EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria] had come to an end, he told us he was creating a new church.”
-- Dauda Gava, provost of EYN’s Kulp Bible College, who brought greetings from the Nigerian Brethren and gave the Conference an update on the status of EYN, which has suffered persecution and violence at the hands of Boko Haram. He thanked the Church of the Brethren for its support to EYN, saying, “You people are awesome!”

“I am so happy to be here with my mother church.”
-- Suely Inhauser, to the pre-Conference meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board, as she was introduced as a country coordinator for Igreja da Irmandade, the Church of the Brethren in Brazil.

“There will be no lines for the Brethren at the microphones in heaven.”
-- A line from, and the title of, a song by Annual Conference moderator Andy Murray. He sang it at the close of Conference business, having promised some people that he would sing it for the delegates but only if business finished early, and no one tried to amend an amendment.

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Shawn Kirchner is music coordinator for the 2016 Conference
Photo by Glenn Riegel

Shawn Kirchner is music coordinator for the 2016 Conference

Onsite reporting from the 2016 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren held this past week at Koury Convention Center and Sheraton in Greensboro, N.C., was made possible by the volunteer and staff news team: writers Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Tyler Roebuck, Monica McFadden; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown; Conference Journal editor Eddie Edmonds; web manager Jan Fischer Bachman; web staff Russ Otto; and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

Find the Annual Conference 2016 news index page at www.brethren.org/ac2016 . This page features links to news, photo albums, webcasts, and more. A two-page Wrap Up of the Conference in full color pdf format will be linked on this index page when it becomes available, as a help for delegates reporting to congregations and for bulletin inserts, church newsletters, and bulletin boards.

Wrap-up videos are available from Brethren Press. The Annual Conference 2016 Wrap-Up DVD with highlights of events in Greensboro, created by videographer David Sollenberger, costs $29.95 plus shipping. The Annual Conference 2016 Sermons DVD is available for $24.95 plus shipping. Call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712.

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1) Delegates refer ‘Query: Same Sex Weddings’ to Leadership Team and CODE

By Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Delegates to the 2016 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren have referred the concerns of “Query: Same Sex Weddings” to the Leadership Team of the Church of the Brethren in consultation with the Council of District Executives (CODE). The vote to refer the query was close to unanimous.

The query from West Marva District asked the Conference to consider the question, “How shall districts respond when credentialed ministers and/or congregations conduct or participate in same sex weddings?” Find a link to the full text of the query at www.brethren.org/ac/2016/business .

One of the long lines at the microphones during deliberations on 'Query: Same Sex Weddings'
Photo by Glenn Riegel

One of the long lines at the microphones during deliberations on 'Query: Same Sex Weddings'

Deliberation on the query went on for several days, starting in the pre-Conference meetings of the Standing Committee of district delegates, and continuing in the Conference business sessions where a spirited and, for the most part, thoughtful discussion was held with the whole delegate body.

The Standing Committee voted by a narrow margin for a response that included recommendations of a controversial nature, among them that “the districts shall respond with discipline, not with allowances based on personal conscience. The consequence for officiating or providing leadership at a same sex wedding is the termination of the ministry credential of the one officiating or providing leadership at a same sex wedding. This shall be for a period of one year, pending review by the district ministerial leadership team.”

Before the Conference could take up the Standing Committee recommendation, it had to take a vote to accept a query related to human sexuality as an item of business, because the 2011 Annual Conference had decided “to continue deeper conversations concerning human sexuality outside of the query process.”

The Standing Committee recommendations required a two-thirds majority vote to be adopted by the Conference. After several hours of deliberation, with many people speaking, and long lines at the microphones, the recommendations failed to gain a two-thirds majority.

At that point, the query was on the floor for an answer from the Conference as an item of new business. A motion to return the query to the originating district was made by Chris Bowman of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren, immediately before the day’s business session ended.

When business resumed the next day, Bowman withdrew his motion in deference to Bob Kettering of Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, who made the motion that finally succeeded in gaining the support of the Conference. Bowman and Kettering deferred to each other and shared time at the microphone to explain that they had consulted together about their shared concern that the denomination find a way forward.

Concerns raised by the query will not “go away” without being addressed properly and with the guidance of trusted church leaders, Bowman said. Discussion about this query over the past several days revealed much misinformation in the church, he noted, and emphasized a need that “these issues are dealt with carefully.”

Kettering stated his concern that the Church of the Brethren is “in a quagmire” regarding the question raised by the query, and that the motion to refer will help the church find the guidance that is desired.

The Leadership Team of the denomination is made up of the Annual Conference officers--moderator, moderator-elect, and secretary--and the general secretary of the Church of the Brethren.

The Conference has asked the Leadership Team and CODE “to bring clarity and guidance concerning the authority of Annual Conference and districts regarding the accountability of ministers, congregations, and districts, bringing recommendations to the 2017 Annual Conference.”

For the latest Brethren news go to the main Newsline page

A series of news reports is available for readers who want to follow the flow of deliberation on this query over the course of the Conference week:

June 27, “Standing Committee makes response to Query: Same Sex Weddings” www.brethren.org/news/2016/standing-committee-responds-query-same-sex-weddings.html

June 30, “Delegates open business floor to ‘Query: Same Sex Weddings,’ among other business” www.brethren.org/news/2016/delegates-open-business-floor-to-query.html

July 1, “Standing Committee recommendation on ‘Query: Same Sex Weddings’ fails to gain two-thirds majority” www.brethren.org/news/2016/standing-committee-recommendation-fails.html

July 2, “Delegates refer ‘Query: Same Sex Weddings’ to Leadership Team and CODE” www.brethren.org/news/2016/delegates-refer-query-to-leadership-team-code.html




2) Annual Conference names new leadership, Samuel Sarpiya chosen moderator-elect

The consecration of a new moderator and moderator-elect: Carol Scheppard who will lead the 2017 Conference, and moderator-elect Samuel Sarpiya who will preside over the 2018 annual meeting.
Photo by Laura Brown

The consecration of a new moderator and moderator-elect: Carol Scheppard who will lead the 2017 Conference, and moderator-elect Samuel Sarpiya who will preside over the 2018 annual meeting.

In election results, Samuel Kefas Sarpiya was chosen as moderator-elect. He will serve alongside moderator Carol Scheppard at the 2017 Annual Conference, and will be moderator of the 2018 Conference.

Sarpiya, who was born in Nigeria, is pastor of Rockford (Ill.) Community Church of the Brethren and co-founder of the Center for Nonviolence and Conflict Transformation in Rockford. He has worked as a church planter and community organizer, and is passionate about the connection between peacemaking and the gospel of Jesus Christ. He received early training in the principles of Kingian nonviolence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and has drawn from Jesus’ teaching on nonviolence and peace in his work as a pastor. He has impacted the Rockford school systems, has done training for the Rockford police department’s command staff and management in nonviolent principles, and has partnered with Nigerian Brethren and Brethren in the United States in developing a mobile library for use among several camps hosting internally displaced persons across Nigeria. Previously, beginning in 1994, he worked with Urban Frontiers Mission and Youth with a Mission, serving as a missionary around the world. He is a graduate of the University of Jos, Nigeria, earning a degree in social work. He graduated from Bethany Theological Seminary with a master of divinity in conflict transformation. Currently he is a doctoral candidate in semiotics and future studies at George Fox University in Portland Ore.


Following are election results for other positions:

Program and Arrangements Committee: John Shafer of Oakton (Va.) Church of the Brethren.

Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee: Raymond Flagg of Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren

Mission and Ministry Board, Area 3: Marcus Harden of Miami (Fla.) First Church of the Brethren; Area 4: Luci Landes of Messiah Church of the Brethren in Kansas City, Mo.; Area 5: Thomas Dowdy of Imperial Heights Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles, Calif.

Bethany Theological Seminary, representing the laity: Miller Davis of Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren; representing the colleges: Mark A. Clapper of Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren

Brethren Benefit Trust board: David L. Shissler of Hershey (Pa.) Spring Creek Church of the Brethren

On Earth Peace board: Beverly Sayers Eikenberry of Manchester Church of the Brethren in N. Manchester, Ind.


Following are board-elected and constituency-elected leaders who were affirmed:

Mission and Ministry Board: Diane Mason of Fairview Church of the Brethren in Northern Plains District

On Earth Peace board: Irvin R. Heishman of West Charleston Church of the Brethren in Southern Ohio District; Barbara Ann Rohrer of Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Western Plains District

Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees: Cathy Simmons Huffman of Germantown Brick Church of the Brethren in Virlina District; Louis Harrell Jr. of Manassas Church of the Brethren in Mid-Atlantic District; Karen O. Crim of Beavercreek Church of the Brethren in Southern Ohio District; David McFadden of Manchester Church of the Brethren in South Central Indiana District


Following are board appointments that were reported to the Conference:

Brethren Benefit Trust board: Eunice Culp of West Goshen Church of the Brethren in Northern Indiana District; Eric P. Kabler of Moxham Church of the Brethren in Western Pennsylvania District; Thomas B. McCracken of York First Church of the Brethren in Southern Pennsylvania District




3) Study committee to work in consultation with BBT on financial, investment concerns related to care for creation

Delegates vote on the creation care query by standing at their tables
Photo by Regina Holmes

Delegates vote on the creation care query by standing at their tables

By Frances Townsend

As a result of a query on caring for God’s creation, a study committee is to be formed. The delegates to Annual Conference voted to appoint the study committee in response to “Query: Continuing the Study of Our Christian Responsibility to Care for God’s Creation.” A vote of 57.6 percent supported the creation of the study. The vote required only a simply majority.

The three-member committee will be named by the Standing Committee of district delegates to Annual Conference. The study committee will work in consultation with Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) and other relevant agencies to develop educational resources and strategies to help Brethren make financial and investment decisions and get involved in community projects to reduce greenhouse gas and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Kevin Kessler, district executive of Illinois and Wisconsin District, presented the rationale for the query. He said Polo (Ill.) Church of the Brethren was disheartened by the 2014 Annual Conference decision not to adopt a study committee’s recommendations on “Guidance for Responding to the Changing of Earth’s Climate.” The congregation wanted to keep alive the most positive aspects of those recommendations and bring them back to Annual Conference.

John Willoughby presented the Standing Committee motion to accept the query and form a study committee, stating that the district delegates deemed the focus on financial investments to be sufficiently different from the previous query to be worthy of study.

The motion from Standing Committee to make this a joint effort of study committee and Brethren Benefit Trust was amended at BBT’s behest, to reduce the agency’s involvement because its mission is to implement church policy, not create it.

Comments from the floor affirmed the need for good stewardship of creation, although some speakers were concerned that the church should channel its funds and energy into other issues, particularly spreading the gospel.




4) Delegate body refers queries regarding On Earth Peace, living together

Review and Evaluation Committee chair Tim Harvey speaks to the delegate body about the referral of queries regarding On Earth Peace.
Photo by Regina Holmes

Review and Evaluation Committee chair Tim Harvey speaks to the delegate body about the referral of queries regarding On Earth Peace.

By Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

On the final afternoon of the 2016 Annual Conference, delegates dealt with the last of the queries still on the business agenda: two queries having to do with On Earth Peace’s agency status and accountability to Annual Conference, and a query titled “Living Together as Christ Calls.” Find links to the full texts of these queries online at www.brethren.org/ac/2016/business .

Queries about On Earth Peace are referred to Review and Evaluation Committee

The queries regarding On Earth Peace, one from West Marva District and one from Southeastern District, were combined in one response. The delegate body adopted the recommendation from the Standing Committee of district delegates, after some time of conversation at the microphones.

The Conference referred the two queries to the Review and Evaluation Committee for its consideration, “recognizing that the Review and Evaluation Committee has the responsibility to consider the balance and unity of denominational agencies.”

During the Standing Committee’s deliberations, the recommendation to refer came after a motion made by the Southeastern District delegate was defeated, that would have recommended “On Earth Peace shall no longer continue as an agency of the Church of the Brethren.”

Every decade a Review and Evaluation Committee is elected to review and evaluate Church of the Brethren organization, structure, and function. Its mandate includes a wide ranging list of things to look into, such as how well church agencies collaborate, what level of interest church members have in denominational program, how denominational program connects with goals and programs of districts, among others. Members are Tim Harvey, chair, from Virlina District; Ben S. Barlow, Shenandoah District; Leah J. Hileman, Atlantic Northeast District; Robert D. Kettering, Atlantic Northeast District; and David Shumate, Virlina District. The group brought an interim report this year and will complete its work in 2017.

‘Query: Living Together as Christ Calls’ is referred to Mission and Ministry Board

The delegate body adopted the recommendation of Standing Committee on “Query: Living Together as Christ Calls,” and referred the query to the Mission and Ministry Board, which is the board of the Church of the Brethren denomination and directs the work of the denominational staff. The query came from Pacific Southwest District and La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren.

Conversation in the Standing Committee expressed strong support for the query’s call for the Church of the Brethren to work on the tensions being expressed across the church at this time, and to work on developing strategies to aid the church in “treating one another in a truly Christ-like manner.”




5) Greensboro’s Civil Rights Museum offers learning opportunity for Brethren

Brethren gather in front of Greensboro's International Civil Rights Center and Museum, located in an old Woolworth's store that was the site of an important sit-in of the Civil Rights Movement.
Photo by Regina Holmes

Brethren gather in front of Greensboro's International Civil Rights Center and Museum, located in an old Woolworth's store that was the site of an important sit-in of the Civil Rights Movement.

By Frank Ramirez

According to the Christian folk song, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.” There were certainly many bright lights shining in the darkness during the epic Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s.

The spark lit by four young college students who started the famous sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown Greensboro on Feb. 1, 1960, set off a chain reaction across the country. Directly emulating Martin Luther King Jr.’s example of nonviolence, Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain, and Joseph McNeil each took a seat at the segregated lunch counter and asked to be served a cup of coffee.

They were refused, so they peacefully sat at the counter until closing. In the weeks and months that followed, other students joined them, taking turns to ensure that their peaceful protest continued. When the college term ended, local high school students and others helped continue the protest until Woolworth’s and other businesses integrated their services.

In the meantime, the movement spread by word of mouth and through newspaper reports, until there were nonviolent sit-ins conducted at lunch counters across the country. In some instances the nonviolent efforts were met with violence, but in the long run the movement was successful.

That Greensboro lunch counter is preserved in its original position as one of the major exhibits at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, which is located in the Woolworth’s building. The museum offers a guided tour that allows visitors to see photographs and artifacts illustrating the larger struggle for Civil Rights. Not a few of the exhibits are disturbing, including a gallery of shame in which photographs of lynchings are paired with photographs of celebrating white mobs who are not at all ashamed at being present and photographed. There are many exhibits that demonstrate how racism and prejudice reigned in American society, as well as the stories of many African-Americans who transcended that racism.

The museum is a reminder that casual racism--embedded in stereotypes, jokes, and attitudes still held by many people in our society, and violent racism--typified by the nine murders at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last year, are very much alive in our world. A visit to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, only a few minutes’ drive from the Koury Convention Center where the 2016 Annual Conference met, was an important reminder of where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and how far there is still to go.




6) Open Roof Fellowship welcomes six new churches

Representatives of the new congregations in the Open Roof Fellowship are recognized at the meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board in advance of the 2016 Annual Conference.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Representatives of the new congregations in the Open Roof Fellowship are recognized at the meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board in advance of the 2016 Annual Conference.

By Tyler Roebuck

Six churches were welcomed into the Open Roof Fellowship at the Mission and Ministry Board meeting in advance of Annual Conference. The fellowship recognizes Church of the Brethren congregations that have made great strides in becoming more accessible to people with disabilities. Debbie Eisenbise, director of Intergenerational Ministries on the Congregational Life Ministries staff, introduced the new member churches.
 
The Open Roof Fellowship has grown out of the former Open Roof Award, which began acknowledging congregations in 2004. Foundationally, the award was inspired by scripture from Mark 2:3-4: “Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when whey could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.”

This year, six congregations from across the denomination join the 19 churches that make up the fellowship: Spring Creek Church of the Brethren and Mt. Wilson Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District, Parables Community in Illinois/Wisconsin District, Spruce Run Church of the Brethren in Virlina District, Luray Church of the Brethren in Shenandoah District, and Union Center Church of the Brethren in Northern Indiana District.

As part of the fellowship, these churches receive a copy of the book “Circles of Love,” published by the Anabaptist Disabilities Network, of which the Church of the Brethren is a member. The book features stories of congregations that have broadened their welcome to include persons with various abilities.

Spring Creek Church of the Brethren

At the Mission and Ministry Board meeting, Spring Creek was commended for their efforts with these words: “Spring Creek Church of the Brethren made initial renovations ten years ago to provide physical accessibility to their building. These also increased building use by the wider community and over time have led to more local outreach. With a current emphasis on reaching out to children, the congregation is now making program adjustments to welcome those with special needs.”

The most unique change the congregation has made is with large screen TVs. “We put up large screen TVs in the sanctuary, and people use them instead of the large print bulletins because they see them better,” said Dennis Garrison, pastor at Spring Creek.

Mission and Ministry Board chair Don Fitzkee greets new members of Open Roof Fellowship
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Mission and Ministry Board chair Don Fitzkee greets new members of Open Roof Fellowship

Mt. Wilson Church of the Brethren

Mount Wilson was commended with these words: “Mount Wilson’s journey began with making their building accessible for one woman in a wheelchair. Today, there are others who have mobility impairments, who likewise are able to fully participate because the building is accessible to them. Along the way, various adjustments have been made so that those with limited abilities can continue to worship, teach Sunday school, sing in the choir and attend church functions.”

Kathy Flory, one such member, comments: “Our church is small but mighty with lots of willing, hard-workers, and this is how with God’s help we get so much accomplished.”

Jim Eikenberry, co-pastor with his wife Sue, told a story about one of the members: “Walt [Flory] shared that one Sunday, someone saw him struggling with the bathroom door. By the next Sunday, the men of the church had installed electric buttons on the bathroom door so he could use it.”
 
Parables Community

Parables Community was commended for its efforts: “A new congregation, Parables Community brings together adults and children with special needs, their families and caregivers, creating an inclusive, welcoming and participatory environment which includes multi-sensory learning, visual aids for non-readers, and a quiet space for those who might become over-stimulated. Children and adults share their gifts serving as greeters, readers, singers, music makers, prayer leaders, and ultimately teachers as all ‘celebrate together in thanksgiving and hope.’ Members reach out to the wider community through service projects including trips to the local food-bank.”

Jeanne Davies, pastor of Parables Community, says, “We are very relaxed about social norms. For example, once while I was leading a reflection, a member walked up and wandered around the chancel because there was something that interested him up there, and his parents did not have to worry about getting him. So long as you are not causing harm, you are okay here.”

The most rewarding part, to Davies, is in the spirit of worship. “The spirit when we worship together is very warm and comforting,” she said. “They [church members of varying abilities] really are teaching us how to worship, because when they lead, it is very spiritual.”

Spruce Run Church of the Brethren

Spruce Run was commended with these words: “Spruce Run Church of the Brethren initially installed a ramp for accessibility in 1998. With growth and the passing of time, the congregation is now facing the need to repair and shore that up, along with the need to renovate facility bathrooms. While in the process of raising funds, the congregation is heroically taking matters into their own hands physically assisting their most vulnerable aging members so that they can attend worship and participate in church activities.”

Lorrie Broyles, the delegate from Spruce Run, believes the biggest reward comes from multigenerational worshippers. “We have had four to five generations worshiping together and it is a blessing.”

Luray Church of the Brethren

At the board meeting, Luray was commended for their efforts: “The Luray Church of the Brethren makes it possible for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to fully participate in worship and Christian education, share their talents through music and serve through visitation ministries. Various accommodations have been made to assist those with physical limitations, including modifying worship so less standing is required.”

“It was a slow movement toward all being able to participate,” said Chris Riley, delegate from Luray. “Several pastors ago, we had a pastor with a son with disabilities, and that opened the path to enable all to worship with us.”

Union Center Church of the Brethren

“We have several people who have been interested in working with special needs,” said Donna Lantis, a member at Union Center. The church started its movement toward inclusion by installing an elevator, handicapped accessible restrooms, and flattening several stairs near building entrances into ramps.

Lantis’ favorite story is of two boys with social difficulties who wanted to be baptized, but were afraid of having water on their faces. “The pastor tried to come up with a way to make it happen,” she said. “He filled the baptismal part way, so the boys were wading in water, and used a basin and covered their faces with a towel so they could not get any on their faces.”

One of the boys is now in the choir and brings a smile to everyone’s face as he joyfully sings along.




7) Minister’s Association hears from speaker Fr. John Dear on ‘Walking Toward Peace’

John Dear wows the Ministers Association
Photo by Keith Hollenberg

John Dear wows the Ministers Association

By Del Keeney

Participants in this year’s Church of the Brethren Minister’s Association were privileged to receive the teaching and story telling of Fr. John Dear, a Jesuit priest, author, and activist for nonviolence. John (who preferred that we call him that and not “father dear”) came to speak with the Brethren with the strong conviction to affirm who we are as a living peace church, and to challenge us to step further into that calling.

His presentation, “Walking Toward Peace,” was based in large part on his book titled “The Non-Violent Life,” one of some 30 books he has written related to nonviolence and peacemaking. Each participant received a copy of this resource.

He described his task with us to be a cheerleader, calling us to take our peacemaking heritage “a step further” in our own lives as pastors. In our culture and society, he candidly stated, “we are experts in violence.” To counter that, we need to consciously choose to be nonviolent in our responses to situations and to each other. 

The compelling question that pervaded his presentations was, “Where are you on the road to peace?” He spoke of this path as a journey for the followers of Jesus, and offered his particular challenge to pastors through these three commitments:
-- To be perfectly nonviolent to oneself
-- To have a ridiculous commitment to nonviolence toward all people and all of creation
-- To have one foot in the global grassroots movement of nonviolence.

Fr. John Dear’s story itself is a profound testimony of the road to peace. As a young man, he found himself challenged by the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. In the Chapel of the Beatitudes in Galilee, confronted with the words of Jesus emblazoned on every wall, he had the compelling sense that Jesus was serious about peacemaking and nonviolence. His days of learning and experience of nonviolent civil disobedience with Daniel Berrigan shaped him powerfully. His journey could be summarized as a response to Berrigan’s answer about how to proceed on this path of peace. Berrigan told him, “All you have to do is to make your story fit into the peacemaking story of Jesus.” In his current work in a parish in New Mexico, he continues to challenge the pervasive powers of violence with a persistent activism of nonviolence.

Guiding his testimony is the core conviction that our work as followers of Jesus is to promote the reign of God as Jesus did. He reiterated the consistent actions and words of Jesus, from the gospel accounts, that addressed the violence of his world and culture with nonviolent responses.  While a departure for many of us from traditional interpretations of the Eucharist and the cross, he reminded us that the Eucharist or Communion is the new covenant of nonviolence, and that Jesus’ last words to the church (his followers) before his crucifixion were “put away your swords,” and the testimony of the cross is that “violence stops here.”

His prophetic perspective challenged pastoral leaders to stand up against what he calls the “anti-reign” of God, exemplified in the pervasive culture of violence that often uses the language of peace to describe its conduct. Drawing on the testimonies of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and the Berrigan brothers, he reminded us of the power of unconditional and sacrificial love.

Through exploration of the Beatitudes and Luke 10, he compelled us to see our calling in Jesus’ work of nonviolence, to be public but not political in our nonviolent activity aware that our citizenship is in the kingdom of God, and to remember that we ourselves are “recovering addicts of violence” and need to address the violence toward and within ourselves as we work on nonviolent responses to our culture.

Jokingly describing his many incarcerations, he made us aware that being a follower of the nonviolent Jesus has serious implications. Sprinkled throughout his presentations was the reminder that we as peacemakers are a part of the prophetic community. As such, we are called to be people of hope, which in the words of King “is the final refusal to give up.”

-- Del Keeney pastors Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.




8) ‘Witness to the Host City’ collections support two organizations in Greensboro

Items collected for Backpack Beginnings
photo by Regina Holmes

Items collected for Backpack Beginnings

By Monica McFadden

Throughout the week of the 2016 Annual Conference, the annual “Witness to the Host City” collections took place to support two organizations local to Greensboro, N.C. A collection of hygiene items was held for Backpack Beginnings, and there was a collection of clothing for the Encore! Boutique Thrift Store, which is part of Step Up Greensboro.

Backpack Beginnings is a project that provides food, clothing, and comfort to children in need. This organization has grown to support over 4,000 children. Annual Conference attendees donated many items including notebooks, toothbrushes, and shampoo for the organization’s comfort backpacks. Cash and check donations added up to $2,793.

The Encore! Boutique Thrift Store is part of Step Up Greensboro, a program of First Presbyterian Church that works to provide professional clothing for those who have completed their job training program. “We’re a relationship-based program for individuals that are underprivileged, unemployed, often times without stable housing, [and] many have been incarcerated, and they come to us for job training,” said Tammy Tierney, store manager. “The clothing you donated--every single individual who comes through our program leaves with an interview suit.” On July 2, Step Up was presented with a check for $815, collected from Conference-goers, in addition to the clothing donations.

“I feel like I’m home,” Tierney told the delegate body. “My grandfather’s family were members of the Antioch Church of the Brethren,” she said. “The clothing and the dollars go a long way.... Thank you.”




9) Annual Conference by the numbers

The Conference stage
photo by Regina Holmes

The Conference stage

2,439 -- the registration total for the 2016 Annual Conference, including 704 delegates and 1,735 nondelegates

$68,516 -- the total received in offerings taken onsite during the Conference worship services. More offerings may have been made online during the webcasts of worship, and those gifts are not included in this total. Of this amount, $23,043.59 was given to the Nigeria Crisis Fund for use in the joint Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria); close to $26,000 was given to the denomination’s Core Ministries; and about $19,500 was given to fund the ministry of Annual Conference.

Preparing for worship
photo by Regina Holmes

Preparing for worship

8,753 -- the total number of people attending Conference worship services in person in Greensb oro, from Wednesday through Sunday. A final estimate of the number of people who participated in Conference worship as a “virtual” congregation via log-ins to the webcasts of worship is not yet available.

161 -- the number of people who participated in the Conference blood drive, donating an estimated total of 160 pints of blood. The American Red Cross reported that these donations will impact some 466 people, because about 3 people are impacted per pint. The Red Cross had issued a bulletin for the Greensboro area that the need for blood donations reached a crucial point, and elective surgeries were beginning to be delayed as a result.

$2,793.24 -- cash donations to the Backpack Beginnings program that aids schoolchildren in need in Greensboro, which was part of the Annual Conference “Witness to the Host City” this year. Also given was $815 in cash donations to the Encore Boutique, a thrift store that aids  participants in a job training program.

$10,050 -- the amount raised by the AACB Quilt Auction for world hunger relief. The annual quilt auction sponsored by the Association for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren also raised $877 in a silent auction of Nigerian dresses, and $2,000 given toward “Gifts of the Heart.”

$7,300-plus -- the amount raised for Heifer International during the Ted & Co. production of “12 Baskets and a Goat,” which was one of the activities available to Conference-goers during Friday’s “Jubilee Afternoon.” As of last report, donations continued to be received online to this effort.




10) Annual Conference bits and pieces

The children's choir
Photo by Glenn Riegel

The children's choir

-- A theme has been announced for the 2017 Annual Conference scheduled for Grand Rapids, Mich., on June 28-July 2, a Wednesday through Sunday schedule. After her consecration as moderator for 2017, and the consecration of moderator-elect Samuel Sarpiya, Carol Scheppard announced the theme she has chosen: “Risk Hope.” The scripture theme is from Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.” “He who has promised is faithful,” Scheppard affirmed, speaking to the Sunday morning congregation. “Our theme for the next Annual Conference is ‘Risk Hope.’ As we carry the light in the darkness , risk hope that the dawn will come! ...Risk hope for our denomination in the world.... Risk hope for the life of the light of Christ in our hearts.”

-- Receiving the report of the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee, the Conference approved a one percent increase to the 2017 Recommended Minimum Cash Salary Table for pastors.

-- Six new congregations and fellowships were welcomed into the denomination: New Beginnings Church of the Brethren, which was birthed by Chiques Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa., in Atlantic Northeast District; Jonah’s People in Northern Ohio District, which meets at a Church of the Brethren retirement community; Veritas, led by Ryan Braught, a church plant that has been underway for six years in Lancaster, Pa.; Betel International and Ministerio Uncion Apostolica, both in Southeastern District; and the Gospel Assembly, a predominantly Haitian pre-existing congregation that has been received into Atlantic Southeast District. The Conference also welcomed representatives from the Lybrook Mission and Tokahookaadi (N.M.) Church of the Brethren.

The first finishers of the 5K walk/run sponsored by BBT: (from left) Tyler Goss, Karen Stutzman, Liz Bidgood Enders, and Don Shankster.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

The first finishers of the 5K walk/run sponsored by BBT: (from left) Tyler Goss, Karen Stutzman, Liz Bidgood Enders, and Don Shankster.

-- International guests from Nigeria, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil attended the 2016 Annual Conference. From Brazil: Marcos and Suely Inhauser, national directors for the Brazilian Church of the Brethren. From the DR: Richard Mendieta, president, and Gustavo Lendi Bueno, treasurer, from the Dominican Church of the Brethren. From Haiti: Jean Altenor, a mobile clinic coordinator for the Haiti Medical Project, and Vildor Archange, director for Clean Water Projects and Community Health. From Nigeria: Joel Billi, the newly elected president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria); Dauda Gava, president of EYN’s Kulp Bible College; Markus Gamache, EYN staff liaison; and several from EYN’s BEST group including Kumai Amos Yohanna who works with the Nigerian government’s National Christian Pilgrim Commission, Peter Kevin who has served as mayor of the city of Mubi, and Becky Gadzama who with her husband has worked to help and host a number of the Chibok schoolgirls who escaped from their Boko Haram captors, among others.

-- Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) declared June 30 to be a day of prayer and fasting for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. Zakariya Musa of the EYN communications staff reported by e-mail that Daniel Mbaya, EYN general secretary, asked all the DCC [church district] secretaries, heads of programs, and institutions to a one-day fasting and prayer for the Church of the Brethren in the US. “The Leadership of EYN with loud voice call on all Pastors, Reverends, and the entire members of EYN to a one day fasting and prayers. God to guide them in the 2016 annual conference,” Mbaya said. “Having stood by us in our moments of trials of financial and through prayers, we need to stand by them through prayers at this crucial conference.”

Junior highs enjoy making queries
Photo by Keith Hollenberg

Junior highs enjoy making queries

-- General secretary-elect David Steele was introduced to the Annual Conference by Mission and Ministry Board chair Don Fitzkee during the Church of the Brethren report. Fitzkee outlined the broad range of ministry experience and administrative gifts that suit Steele to the job, including experience as Annual Conference moderator, district executive, pastor, and camp leader. Steele will begin as general secretary on Sept. 1. The Conference also applauded the work of interim general secretary Dale Minnich, who together with Fitzkee presented the report of denominational ministries. Fitzkee thanked Minnich, saying the interim post had been envisioned as a “caretaker” role, which developed into much more after the untimely death of associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury, and other unexpected staff changes. Minnich was described as an “unflappable presence” who has quietly prepared the way for the new general secretary. Steele told the Conference that he is humbled by the call to leadership and the opportunity to serve the denomination. He stressed his understanding of the need to build community and the hope that we embrace more fully what it means to be community together.

-- Shawn Kirchner, Mutual Kumquat, and Andy and Terry Murray performed in a hymn sing and concert sponsored by Bethany Theological Seminary, after worship on the first evening of the Conference. The Guilford Ballroom at the Koury Convention Center was packed with Brethren eager to sing their hearts out and hear the work of these fine musicians.

-- “We are the mustard seed among tall cedars!” So spoke Jeff Carter, president of Bethany Theological Seminary, at the school’s breakfast event. The centerpiece of his presentation was the new “International Scholar in Residence” initiative, which is intended to benefit the Bethany community as well as the church at large. Introducing the first international scholar, Musa Mambula of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), Carter said, “We can learn from the story of EYN and also provide education programs for the church in Nigeria.” One of Mambula’s tasks will be to serve as a mentor to the EYN students who will be able to take real-time theological courses through Bethany’s Technology Room. That room has already helped create community among students scattered across the four time zones of the United States. It is expected to do the same with Nigerian and American students. “The Lord has been so good and gracious to the church of the Brethren in Nigeria,” said Mambula. He recounted the mission and partnership story of the two denominations, and spoke about his hopes for “distance learning.”

-- At the Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) luncheon, director of BVS Dan McFadden and European coordinator Kristen Flory presented the annual “Partners in Service Award” to L’Arche Ireland and Northern Ireland.

-- At the Congregational Life Ministries and Intercultural Dinner, former denominational staff member Shantilal Bhagat was honored with the Revelation 7:9 Award. Now in his early 90s and living in La Verne, Calif., Bhagat is originally from India where he worked with the Church of the Brethren for 16 years at the Rural Service Center in Anklesvar. He came to the United States in 1968 to take a position at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. He served with the former General Board of the denomination for over 30 years, in a variety of roles including as coordinator of social services for the Foreign Mission Commission, as community development representative, as Asia representative, as representative to the United Nations, and more. He wrote three books during his career, and made a focus on small church concerns, environmental concerns, and racism important parts of his ministry.

Joy the cow meets a young Conference-goer
Photo by Keith Hollenberg

Joy the cow meets a young Conference-goer

-- Church World Service (CWS) president and CEO John McCullough brought an award to the Annual Conference this year, with help from two Church of the Brethren members who are active with the organization--Dennis Metzger and Jordan Bles. McCullough presented the CWS “Founder’s Award for 70 Years of Help and Hope” to the Church of the Brethren in recognition of the Brethren history of helping to found CWS some 70 years ago, and for having given significant leadership and support to CWS in the years since.

-- For the first time, Congregational Life Ministries and the Disabilities Ministry have sponsored a Disabilities Ombudsman at Annual Conference. Rebekah Flores of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., provided support for those with physical and/or intellectual disabilities, a listening presence for caregivers, and information and advocacy to make the Conference a worthwhile and beneficial experience for all. Flores serves as an Anabaptist Disabilities Network field associate.

-- The junior high group at Annual Conference adopted its own queries, after being led in a query-writing session and mock business session by former Annual Conference moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman. The group also created its own Standing Committee, and acted on three queries related to creation care. “Query: Better Re-using of Earth’s Resources” and “Query: Reducing Pesticide Use” were both approved by the junior high “delegate body,” while “Query: Helping Persons Affected by Climate Change” was not approved. The moderator did not keep a record of vote counts. Standing Committee members were Miriam Erbaugh, Isaac Kraenbring, Molly Stover-Brown, Noah Jones, Kyle Yenser, and Sean Therrien. “It was a great experience,” Heishman said.

-- A heifer named Joy visited the Brethren Press bookstore, with help from Church of the Brethren friends in Indiana and elsewhere. Bringing a heifer to Annual Conference this year was a part of an effort to share the story of Heifer Project’s seagoing cowboys who took livestock across the ocean to aid war-ravaged Europe after World War II. The new Brethren Press book "Seagoing Cowboy" by Peggy Reiff Miller is an illustrated children's book that shares the story with the next generation.

-- A gift of $10 million is the largest ever given to the University of La Verne (ULV) in La Verne, Calif., according to news of the gift shared with the ULV Luncheon at Annual Conference. The gift is from the La Fetra family, and the university is naming La Fetra College of Education in honor of the family’s support. In more news from ULV, the university’s 125th anniversary will include a celebration next March honoring 125 individuals who have played significant roles in ULV’s history.

-- Global Mission executive Jay Wittmeyer shared news of the sudden death of Freny Elie, the general secretary of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti). Freny, who was only about 40 years old, leaves behind his wife and four children. He was an ordained minister and pastor of the congregation in Cap Haitien. He had been a key leader for the Haitian Brethren since the time of the 2010 earthquake, and had participated in training to help church members and others heal from the trauma of that catastrophe. “He was such a brilliant theologian,” Wittmeyer said. “It’s really sad, sad news,”

The preachers for Annual Conference 2016: (top left) moderator Andy Murray, Wednesday evening; (top right) Dennis Webb, pastor of Naperville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, Friday evening; (bottom left) Kurt Borgmann, pastor of Manchester Church of the Brethren in N. Manchester, Ind., Thursday evening; (bottom center) Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary, Saturday evening; and (bottom right) Eric Brubaker, a minister at Middle Creek Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District, Sunday morning. Photos are by Glenn Riegel and Regina Holmes.  Annual Conference moderator Andy Murray preaches the opening sermon  Dennis Webb of Naperville Church of the Brethren preaches for the Friday evening service of the 2016 Conference
Kurt Borgmann of Manchester Church of the Brethren preaches the Thursday evening sermon at Annual Conference 2016  Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm of the Bethany Seminary faculty preaches the Saturday sermon for Annual Conference 2016  Eric Brubaker of Middle Creek Church of the Brethren preaches the closing sermon of the 2016 Conference




11) Former Bethany Seminary president Wayne L. Miller passes away

Wayne L. Miller

Wayne L. Miller

Wayne Lowell Miller, 91, who was for many years a leader in the Church of the Brethren, passed away on June 24 at the Courtyards, Brethren Village, in Lancaster, Pa. Throughout a lengthy career of service to the church he held academic and leadership positions at four Church of the Brethren-related colleges and universities--Manchester, McPherson, Elizabethtown, and La Verne--and was president of Bethany Theological Seminary, the Church of the Brethren’s graduate school of theology.

He was an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and his career included pastoring four Church of the Brethren congregations as well as a Methodist congregation.

He held a bachelor’s degree from Manchester College, now Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind.; a master’s degree from Purdue University; a bachelor of divinity degree from Bethany Seminary; and a doctorate in oral communication from the University of Southern California.

As a college administrator, he served as campus minister of McPherson (Kan.) College from 1964-67; dean of faculty and executive vice president of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College from 1967-75; and dean of the college and vice president of the University of La Verne, Calif., from 1975-80. In addition, from 1980-89 he was president of Woodbury University in southern California, which is not a Church of the Brethren-related school.

Miller postponed his retirement to serve at Bethany Seminary. He was president of Bethany from 1989-92 during a time when the seminary campus was located in Lombard, Ill. It is now located in Richmond, Ind.

Miller was born in Wabash County, Ind., the son of Russell Lowell Miller and Elvah Ogden Miller. He was the husband of Gwendolyn Studebaker Miller, to whom he was married for almost 69 years.

He is survived by his wife; children Kevin Lowell Miller of York County, Pa.; Christopher Wayne Miller of Lancaster, Pa.; Teresa Anne (Miller) Craighead of Ithaca, N.Y.; and Sara Lee (Miller) Miller of Modesto, Calif.; grandsons; and a great granddaughter.

A memorial service will be held at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren at 11 a.m. on July 18, with a luncheon to follow. Interment will be at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in North Manchester, Ind., at a time of the family’s choosing. Memorial gifts are received to Bethany Theological Seminary for the Wayne and Gwen Miller Scholarship Fund, and to the Good Samaritan Fund of Brethren Village.


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Contributors to this issue of Newsline include the Annual Conference 2016 news team: writers Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Tyler Roebuck, Monica McFadden; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown; Conference Journal editor Eddie Edmonds; web manager Jan Fischer Bachman; web staff Russ Otto; and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford. Additional contributors include Teresa Miller Craighead, Nevin Dulabaum, Debbie Eisenbise, Kendra Harbeck, and Del Keeney. Contact Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren, 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 postponed until July 22, to allow for staff vacations.

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