Newsline for July 14, 2018




Proclaiming the good news - Annual Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya preaches for the opening worship of the 2018 Conference
Photo by Glenn Riegel

“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them” (Matthew 9:35-36a).



ANNUAL CONFERENCE OVERVIEW
1) Task of seeking a ‘compelling vision’ is begun with conversation among Conference-goers


2) Delegates affirm the ecumenical and interfaith work of the church


3) ‘Creation Care: Faith into Action’ recommendations are adopted


4) Conference adopts new vision for a global Church of the Brethren


5) ‘Vitality and Viability’ report focuses on providing resources for renewed vitality

The head table at the 2018 Annual Conference: (from left) moderator-elect Donita Keister, moderator Samuel Sarpiya, and secretary James Beckwith.
Photo by Regina Holmes

The head table at the 2018 Annual Conference: (from left) moderator-elect Donita Keister, moderator Samuel Sarpiya, and secretary James Beckwith.

6) Changes to the Church of the Brethren bylaws are approved, among other business


7) Paul Mundey to serve as moderator-elect of Annual Conference, among other elections and appointments


8) Standing Committee discusses Michigan District situation


9) Annual Conference welcomes new projects, fellowships, and congregations


10) ‘Witness to the Host City’ aids women in rehabilitation treatment, and their children


11) Annual Conference by the numbers, and more from Cincinnati

NEWS
12) Vietnam initiative focuses on babies with Retinopathy of Prematurity

13) Brethren bits: Remembrance, personnel, jobs, Camp Swatara’s 75th, Pinecrest’s 125th, Indian Creek’s peace pole, World Week of Peace in Palestine and Israel, Playback Social Entrepreneurs®, Brethren write “September Mourn” about Dunker church at Antietam, more


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Young adults meet with Doris Abdullah, the Church of the Brethren representative to the UN. Abdullah hosted a booth in the exhibit hall focused on the problem of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.
Photo by Laura Brown

Young adults meet with Doris Abdullah, the Church of the Brethren representative to the UN. Abdullah hosted a booth in the exhibit hall focused on the problem of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

Quotes of the Conference:

“God is counting on us to be the hope in a society that seems to be going down the drain.... To go out and simply and peacefully live out the call--Brethren, that is our charge.”
-- Moderator Samuel Sarpiya, preaching the opening sermon of the 2018 Annual Conference

“For the families not together today, we pray for them.... One day, we’re going to be one family together.”
-- Cesia Salcedo leading the delegate body in prayer, in Spanish and English. She was invited by the moderator to offer prayer for the immigration situation at the start of one of the Conference business sessions.

“A parable is something cast alongside the truth, tossed out for better understanding.... Truth served up in the form of a story.”
-- Friday’s Bible study leader Dana Cassell, explaining that Greek words for “toss” and “alongside” put together are translated in English as “parable.”

“Worship begins when our hearts are in the right place, and when our hearts are in the right place worship never ends.”
-- Rosanna Eller McFadden preaching on the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector from Luke 18 for the Friday evening worship service .

Nigerian women share in the insight session about Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN) and the Church of the Brethren. They were part of a group of EYN members who participated in the Cincinnati Conference from BEST, a Nigeria organization of business people who support the church's evangelism efforts.
Photo by Donna Parcell

Nigerian women share in the insight session about Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN) and the Church of the Brethren. They were part of a group of EYN members who participated in the Cincinnati Conference from BEST, a Nigeria organization of business people who support the church's evangelism efforts.

“The theme [of the 2019 Annual Conference] will be ‘Proclaim Christ, Reclaim Passion.’ I invite us to proclaim the one in whom we live and move and have our being...returning to our first love as his bride, the church.”
-- Donita Keister, 2019 moderator, announcing the theme for Greensboro, N.C., next year. The scripture theme will be 2 Corinthians 5:17-18.

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For full coverage of Annual Conference 2018, go to www.brethren.org/ac/2018/coverage . This index page offers links to the news reports, photo albums, Conference Journal, webcasts, selected sermon texts, worship bulletins, and more.

Our thanks to the news team that provided this coverage including volunteers Laura Brown, Allie Dulabaum, Karen Garrett, Keith Hollenberg, Regina Holmes, Donna Parcell, Alyssa Parker, Frank Ramirez, Glenn Riegel, Frances Townsend. Communications staff who contributed include web staff Jan Fischer Bachman and Russ Otto; and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services. Contact cobnews@brethren.org .

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Compelling Vision process begins
Photo by Glenn Riegel






1) Task of seeking a ‘compelling vision’ is begun with conversation among Conference-goers

The 2017 Annual Conference set the church to the task of framing a “compelling vision” for how the entire denomination will continue the work of Jesus together, by adopting a recommendation from the Leadership Team and the Council of District Executives.

Since then, a Compelling Vision Working Group was formed, and then a Compelling Vision Process Team was named to plan and implement the process the denomination will go through in order to discern a compelling vision. (See the Newsline reports at www.brethren.org/news/2018/compelling-vision-process-team.html and www.brethren.org/news/2018/compelling-vision-team-lays-out-road-map.html .)

The visioning process the group has designed started at this year’s Annual Conference, involving both the delegates and the non-delegates who were present during two sections of the business sessions this week. The process will continue denomination-wide through the 2019 Annual Conference, with events in districts, input from boards and staff of agencies, and conversation with youth at National Youth Conference, among others.

The recommendation to move forward with the described process was adopted by the delegate body this week, including a recommendation to set aside new business items at the 2019 Annual Conference. The recommendation is that new business be set aside so that next year’s Conference may devote most of its time to the Compelling Vision Process. This required a two-thirds majority vote as a major departure from practice, and the “yes” votes came to more than 80 percent.

As the report states, the Compelling Vision Process “is intended to move us beyond our conversations, debates, and official statements into the experience of vision and purpose as we proclaim and serve Christ together.” The report also states, “While we cannot anticipate how God will work through a body of believers seeking God’s vision, we can answer that such a vision can only be anchored in Jesus Christ.” A guiding statement for the process invites, “Join us in reclaiming a new passion for Christ and helping set a course for our future as the Church of the Brethren serving Him in our communities and in the world!”

The process as experienced at this Annual Conference involves small groups in deep conversation and sharing. Ground rules for discussion were posted on cards at each table, called “Guidelines for Sacred Sharing.” The guidelines encouraged transparency, not naming names, not attempting to convince others, listening and pausing during conversation, not attempting to “fix” or “rescue” others, using “I” statements, and more.

Table talk questions were designed to help people bring to mind how their faith has shaped their lives and may shape their future choices. In addition, each person received a paper to write down their own responses to the questions, and those were collected by the committee for compilation and analysis. Other information sought on paper was demographic--gender, ethnicity, age, and district.

The first question the table groups were asked to discuss was, “What compels you to follow Jesus?” Other follow-up questions included “What are one or two values that you think we who are participating in this process share?” “What are the themes you see emerging?” “Why is it important for God’s people to have a vision?” “What can make a vision for the Church of the Brethren compelling?” “What about developing a compelling vision gives you hope?” And finally, “What question do you hope someone asks you during the Compelling Vision process?”

For more information about the Compelling Vision Process, a FAQ sheet on the process, and contact information for the process team, go to www.brethren.org/ac/compelling-vision.html .

-- Frances Townsend contributed this report.





Delegates line up at the microphones to speak to the paper outlining a
Photo by Glenn Riegel

Delegates line up at the microphones to speak to the paper outlining a "Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century."

2) Delegates affirm the ecumenical and interfaith work of the church

The 2018 Conference approved “Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century,” and in doing so reaffirmed the historical identity of the Church of the Brethren as a denomination active in ecumenical work and in relationship with other Christian bodies. The paper also calls the church to build and nurture positive interfaith relationships.

“In doing so, we strengthen a history of service and missions, disaster response and relief ministries, and peace witness--nationally and globally,” the statement said. “These relationships further our understanding of opportunities for mission and ministry, and they instill a cooperative readiness to act upon needs and areas of common concern when they arise.”

The statement is intended to guide the church’s ecumenical and interfaith witness in a time of increased religious diversity in the US and around the world, brought by a committee established as part of a recommendation in 2012 from the former Interchurch Relations Study Committee.

“Brethren in the US need to take up the task of loving our neighbors whatever religion they hold,” chair Tim Speicher said as he introduced the paper, citing Ephesians 4:4-6 and other scriptures. This message about Christian responsibility to love was strengthened by Elizabeth Bidgood-Enders, another member of the committee, who told the Conference, “We are called to love God and love our neighbors without qualifiers as to who those neighbors are.”

In addition to guidance, scripture, and historical foundations, the paper offers ideas for commitments and activities to help the Church of the Brethren at all levels--individual, congregational, district, and denominational--extend love, caring, and service to neighbors of varying backgrounds and beliefs. Speicher noted the benefits of such involvement, even for small or struggling congregations, saying many “find that their faith is enriched and strengthened because of having to engage with other people.”

The paper received vigorous attention from the delegate body, including a time of “table talk” and questions from the microphones. Many speakers supported the committee’s work and echoed the paper’s urging toward more opportunities to witness ecumenically and carry out service across faith boundaries in the name of Christ, with peacemaking seen as one outcome of such work. Others questioned interfaith activity as appropriate for the church, and spoke their concerns that such interactions compromise the Christian faith.

An amendment attempting to strike references to interfaith activity failed. An amendment was adopted that replaced the phrase “children of God” at one point in the paper with the phrase “all people are created by and precious to God.” The amender cited the use of the deleted phrase by Mormons and other groups.

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford contributed this report.





The new creation care web site is displayed at Annual Conference during a business session in which the delegates adopted the recommendations of the paper Creation Care: Faith in Action.
Photo by Regina Holmes

The new creation care web site is displayed at Annual Conference during a business session in which the delegates adopted the recommendations of the paper Creation Care: Faith in Action.

3) ‘Creation Care: Faith into Action’ recommendations are adopted

In 2016, a Creation Care study committee was authorized in response to a query on continuing the study of our Christian responsibility to care for God’s creation. Their report, titled “Creation Care: Faith into Action,” includes a list of recommendations that have been adopted by the 2018 Annual Conference.

Committee chair Sharon Yohn shared the process the committee used and the rationale for the recommendations, stating that care for our brothers and sisters is part of our calling in Christ. She noted that climate change has the potential to cause great harm to people both in our country and around the world. Reducing fossil fuel use may help avoid that harm. Pollution is a more immediate harm that also can be reduced.

The committee did three things. They pulled together many helpful resources on energy use and conversion to other types of energy that are posted on the Church of the Brethren website at www.brethren.org/creationcare . They developed a new Brethren Creation Care Network, a team of volunteers who will be coordinated by the Office of Public Witness. And they developed a list of recommendations for moving from fossil fuel to renewable energy, with recommendations for all levels of the church--denomination, districts, congregations, and individuals. The recommendations were the part of the report that was up for a vote, and were open to amendment.

Discussion began with table talk among the delegates, focusing on the questions, “In what practical ways do you see your congregation responding to the findings and recommendations of this report? How can you personally respond?”

Some amendments were made that revised the recommendations. One amendment added a new point, to “continue to consider how district and denominational investments impact climate change.” Asked to respond to this proposed amendment, Yohn responded that the committee had considered recommending divestment but also understood that sometimes ownership of stock in a corporation allows a voice that may drive change in how the corporation does business. The amendment was adopted, with wording that would allow investors to do what works best to accomplish their goals.

Another amendment dealt with concerns about whether the recommendations would be binding or merely advisory. It added the word “suggested” to revised one sentence to read: “While it is not feasible in our current society to immediately stop using all fossil fuels, here is a simple list of suggested actions that start moving us in that direction.”

A third amendment added a point at the beginning of a list of recommendations for congregations, suggesting that they “carefully and prayerfully consider energy use and how it may be reduced.”

After a time of additional comment from the microphones, the recommendations were adopted as revised.

-- Frances Townsend contributed this report.





Cliff Kindy was one of the delegates expressing excitement for the new vision for a global Church of the Brethren
Photo by Glenn Riegel

Cliff Kindy was one of the delegates expressing excitement for the new vision for a global Church of the Brethren

4) Conference adopts new vision for a global Church of the Brethren

Annual Conference on July 7 adopted the paper, “Vision for a Global Church of the Brethren.” This document was brought by the Mission and Ministry Board at the initiative of staff of Global Mission and Service, and has been in process for some time. Those involved in its development include the Mission Advisory Committee and church leaders from several countries.

Impetus came from a disconnect between polity and practice said Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service, presenting the paper to the delegates. A mandate for a global church is present in previous Annual Conference statements, but those call for international districts rather than the independent Church of the Brethren denominations that have developed over recent decades.

Currently, Church of the Brethren denominations are established--or are in process of forming--in the US, India, Nigeria, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Spain, the Great Lakes region of Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi), and Venezuela.

The new vision is for a global Church of the Brethren that brings together these denominations “as a union of autonomous bodies, a spiritual community bound together by a common passion to be followers of Christ, a common New Testament theology of peace and service, and a common commitment to be in relationship with one another.”

Adoption of the document by Annual Conference does not create a global Church of the Brethren as a separate, formal entity, Wittmeyer explained in response to questions. What it does is open the possibility for invitations to all Church of the Brethren denominations to come together to consider participating in an informal global church structure, and each denomination will have to make its own decision to join in, he said. The way denominations relate to each other in such a structure will have to be “teased out,” he told the delegates.

Although Conference approval is just a first step toward an informal structure for a global Church of the Brethren, it has potential to significantly change the relationship of the US church to the other Church of the Brethren denominations around the world. If a global Church of the Brethren does result, it may prompt American Brethren to reconsider the place of their own denomination in the world.

Find the full document at www.brethren.org/ac/2018/business/NB/NB-3-Vision-for-a-Global-Church-of-the-Brethren.pdf .

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford contributed this report.





The 2018 Annual Conference business session
Photo by Glenn Riegel

The 2018 Annual Conference business session

5) ‘Vitality and Viability’ report focuses on providing resources for renewed vitality

The report titled “Vitality and Viability” and its recommendations were adopted by the 2018 Annual Conference. The study committee that brought this report was formed to address concerns raised at the 2015 Annual Conference, which returned a query about district structure but assigned to this committee the broader topic of viability within congregations, districts, and the denomination.

Larry Dentler reported on behalf of the committee, beginning by describing the difficulties in keeping the committee itself staffed. The group experienced resignations and job transitions requiring personnel changes, and the unexpected death of Mary Jo Flory Steury, who was the senior staffer named to the committee.

The committee did not address the original query’s concern about the viability of district structure, partly because committee member Sonja Griffith, as the district executive named to the group to bring the concerns of small districts, felt a small membership district may succeed in being vital and viable. The committee also felt that structural issues were the domain of a different group, so they focused on vitality.

In addressing vitality, the report begins with two confessions. One is that the denomination is “in the midst of significant polarities” concerning human sexuality and differing approaches to scripture. The other confession is that some congregations may leave the denomination because of their deeply held beliefs. The report states that vitality in this context means formation of a gracious and amicable process for congregations to leave the denomination. The report also stated an understanding that the scope and authority of Annual Conference will need to be clarified.

The report suggests engagement in an appreciative visioning process to unite the church around commonly held values, which is the direction being taken by the newly approved Compelling Vision Process. The report contains a number of resources to inspire and guide such a process. Several inspiring examples are given of congregations involved in vital and growing ministries, stories from a multicultural congregation in the United States, and several congregations beyond American borders.

The report encourages Bible study and prayer to be part of the process, with a call to renewal of baptismal vows, particularly those having to do with Jesus as the living word and scripture as the written word of God. Scripture texts and Bible studies are included as part of the report.

The Vitality and Viability committee recommended “that congregations and districts make use of the report and its resources for a renewal of relationships with our Lord and Savior and with each other.” They also recommended that the report and its resources be referred to the Compelling Vision Working Group for possible use in the visioning process.

During the delegate body’s discussion of the report, concerns were raised about the committee’s failure to address district structure. Another topic of discussion was the mention of creating an amicable process for churches to leave the denomination. Questions arose about whether this might be a change in polity but Annual Conference secretary James Beckwith replied that the report was not presented as new polity but as guidance for the spiritual life of the church.

Find the report at www.brethren.org/ac/2018/business/UB/UB-2-Vitality-and-Viability.pdf .

-- Frances Townsend contributed this report.





Brethren Benefit Trust president Nevin Dulabaum reports to the Conference
Photo by Nevin Dulabaum

Brethren Benefit Trust president Nevin Dulabaum reports to the Conference

6) Changes to the Church of the Brethren bylaws are approved, among other business

Amendments to the bylaws of the Church of the Brethren and two business items originally brought by Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) in 2017--and then deferred for a year--were approved by the 2018 Annual Conference. Also approved were business items related to the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee. A proposal for a denominational leadership gathering was turned down.


Business related to BBT

“Brethren Values Investing” was approved to amend BBT Articles of Incorporation to change terminology from “socially responsible investing” to “Brethren values investing.” Socially responsible is a term that may mean different things to different people. However, BBT has derived its investment screens by reviewing Annual Conference statements and applying those values, and for that reason in 2016 the BBT board approved using the term “Brethren values investing.”

“Polity for Electing Brethren Benefit Trust Board Directors” reduces from four to two the number of nominations needed for election of directors to the BBT board. It has been the practice for four nominees to be sought for a preliminary ballot that goes to Standing Committee, which winnows that number down to two nominees for each position for the final ballot. BBT is having increasing difficulty finding four nominees for each position, particularly since the nominees need to have very specific skill sets. In addition, BBT has been finding that nominees who are not elected may not be willing to be nominated again. The approved change reduces to two the number of nominees the BBT board has to bring. If no other nominees come through the regular nominating process, those two names will appear on the ballot.


Amendments to bylaws of the Church of the Brethren

The Conference adopted several amendments to the bylaws, as recommended by the Mission and Ministry Board in response to the 2017 Review and Evaluation Committee report. The amendments:

-- affirm the denominational Leadership Team’s responsibility to coordinate denominational envisioning, adding the following additional responsibility to “assume responsibility for how denominational vision shall be implemented, giving consideration to emphasizing a unified vision among denomination, districts, and congregations”;

-- clarify the function of the Leadership Team to give oversight to the Annual Conference Office and director, including “general oversight for Annual Conference, in consultation with the Annual Conference program and arrangements committee, and the Conference director; general oversight of Annual Conference budget in consultation with the board of directors; serve as executive committee for Annual Conference; participate in the hiring and periodic review of the Conference director at the invitation of the general secretary”;

-- add a district executive to the membership of the Leadership Team, to be appointed by the Council of District Executives, approved by Annual Conference, serving a three-year term;

-- change terminology including updating the name of Southern Ohio District to “Southern Ohio-Kentucky District,” using the term “closed sessions” in place of “executive sessions,” and  using the term “voting members” in place of “at large members” for Mission and Ministry Board members who serve with the chair and chair-elect on the executive committee of the board.


Business related to Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee

A change of polity was approved for how the district executive representative to the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee is named. It aligns polity with current practice, allowing the Council of District Executives to nominate the district executive representative.

Delegates also approved a 2 percent increase to the 2019 minimum cash salary table for pastors, at the recommendation of the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee.


Proposal for a denominational leadership gathering

The delegates did not approve a recommendation from last year’s Review and Evaluation Committee for a gathering of denominational leadership every three to five years. The action had been delayed for a year for a feasibility study. The Program Feasibility Committee reported to the 2018 Conference its findings that current structures provide enough collaboration and an additional leadership gathering is unnecessary and would represent an added expense.

-- Frances Townsend and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford contributed to this report.





The new moderator and moderator-elect are consecrated during the closing Sunday morning worship service. Donita Keister was consecrated as moderator and Paul Mundey as moderator-elect for the next year, to preside at the 2019 Annual Conference in Greensboro, N.C., next summer.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

The new moderator and moderator-elect are consecrated during the closing Sunday morning worship service. Donita Keister was consecrated as moderator and Paul Mundey as moderator-elect for the next year, to preside at the 2019 Annual Conference in Greensboro, N.C., next summer.

7) Paul Mundey to serve as moderator-elect of Annual Conference, among other elections and appointments

In election results, the Annual Conference chose Paul Mundey of Frederick, Md., as moderator-elect. He will serve as moderator-elect for one year, and then in 2020 he will serve as moderator of the Annual Conference.
 
Mundey is an ordained minister who is retired from a longterm pastorate at Frederick Church of the Brethren. Previously he served on the denominational staff in the areas of evangelism and church growth, and was a developer of Passing on the Promise. He also is a writer and a consultant, has served on the board of Bridgewater (Va.) College, and has been a speaker for Annual Conference and National Youth Conference as well as National Older Adult Conference. Recently, he was a visiting scholar at Princeton Seminary.

Following are more election results:

Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee: Emily Shonk Edwards of Nellysford, Va., and Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren

Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee: Deb Oskin of Columbus, Ohio, and Living Peace Church of the Brethren in Powell, Ohio

Mission and Ministry Board, Area 2: LaDonna Sanders Nkosi of Chicago, Ill., and the Gathering Chicago; Area 3: Carol Yeazell of Asheville, N.C., and HIS Way/Jesucristo el Camino Church of the Brethren in Hendersonville, N.C.

Bethany Seminary board of trustees, representing clergy: Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey of Hagerstown, Md., and Hagerstown Church of the Brethren; representing laity: Louis Harrell (incumbent) of Manassas, Va., and Manassas Church of the Brethren

Brethren Benefit Trust board of directors: Shelley Kontra of Lancaster, Pa., and Hempfield Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa.

On Earth Peace board: Jennifer Keeney Scarr of Trotwood, Ohio, and Trotwood Church of the Brethren


Board-elected and constituency-elected directors and trustees affirmed by and reported to the Conference:

Mission and Ministry Board: Joel Peña of Lancaster, Pa., and Alpha and Omega Church of the Brethren

Bethany Seminary board of trustees: Cathy Simmons Huffman of Rocky Mount, Va., and Germantown Brick Church of the Brethren; and Katherine Melhorn of Wichita, Kan., and Wichita First Church of the Brethren

Brethren Benefit Trust board of directors: Eunice Erb Culp of Goshen, Ind., and West Goshen Church of the Brethren; and Dennis W. Kingery of San Diego, Calif., and Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren


Nominated by the Annual Conference officers and affirmed by the Conference:

Leadership Team, district executive member: Cindy Sanders, district executive of Missouri and Arkansas District

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford contributed this report





Delegates vote during Standing Committee meetings
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Delegates vote during Standing Committee meetings

8) Standing Committee discusses Michigan District situation

Several unusual attempts to open the Standing Committee agenda to new business led to lengthy discussions of a situation in Michigan District and led to action to begin to address “gaps” in the Standing Committee appeals processes.

The Standing Committee of district delegates met July 1-4 in Cincinnati, Ohio, prior to the 2018 Annual Conference. Meetings were presided over by Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya with moderator-elect Donita Keister and secretary James Beckwith.

Michigan

Among attempts to open the agenda to new business was a motion to recognize a proposed new district made up of seven churches that are seeking to leave the Michigan District. The moderator ruled the motion out of order.

However, a motion was adopted to open the agenda for discussion of the denominational Leadership Team’s decision not to recognize the seven churches as a new district. The Leadership Team includes the Annual Conference officers, the general secretary, a representative of the Council of District Executives, with the Conference director serving as staff.

Last year, Michigan District conference gave seven churches permission to leave the district and form a new district of the Church of the Brethren in the state (see www.brethren.org/news/2017/michigan-district-approves-motion-from-separating-churches.html ). Sarpiya explained to Standing Committee that the Leadership Team communicated to the seven congregations the problems with their proposal.

“Our polity, made especially binding by our bylaws, requires that districts be geographic districts,” he said. “We have no provision for forming a new district on the basis of specific statements of faith that must be agreed to by member congregations.... Our polity does not allow two districts to claim the same geographic area, nor does our polity allow for a district to form on the basis of congregational agreement to a specific statement of faith.”

The Leadership Team suggested avenues for action to the seven churches, in correspondence that took place over many months last fall and winter, but the group took up none of those options. The options included remaining in the district and finding ways to work things out despite theological differences, making an appeal to Standing Committee, and sending a query to Annual Conference to consider a change in denominational polity.

Standing Committee held an evening session on July 2 to discuss the Leadership Team’s decision. In advance, copies of the Leadership Team’s correspondence to the seven churches were distributed. Questions soon focused on how the seven churches responded to the Leadership Team and why they did not take up the invitation to make an appeal. Although two representatives from the seven churches were present in the gallery, the officers did not allow them to answer questions, citing Standing Committee rules limiting who may speak. The officers and other Standing Committee members knowledgeable of the situation also declined to speak on their behalf.

Eventually, a small delegation of Standing Committee members was authorized to speak with the two representatives in order to seek answers. The next day, the delegation reported its learnings, including that the group has a different interpretation of denominational polity, believes it meets the requirements to become a new district, and doubts that an appeal would bear fruit because appeals to Standing Committee only consider whether decision-making processes are followed correctly.

The matter was tabled to the morning of July 4, when Standing Committee adopted the following statement:

“Current Church of the Brethren polity and bylaws do not allow for districts to be formed on the basis of theological positions, nor do they allow for two districts to occupy the same geographic area. Therefore, the 2018 Standing Committee recommends that if the ‘Great Lakes District’ Steering Committee wishes to advance their stated goal of forming a new district, they should work with the Michigan District through the Michigan District Conference to bring a query to the Annual Conference to consider whether denominational polity should be changed.”

A motion was voted down that would have opened the agenda again to consider whether Standing Committee should create its own query.

Standing Committee delegates during a consultation with district executives
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Standing Committee delegates during a consultation with district executives

Appeals

The officers took advantage of some extra time in the meetings to initiate conversation about a “gap” in the Standing Committee appeals processes. Moderator-elect Keister identified this as “a matter on the radar for some years.”

Standing Committee has processes for appeals of decisions made by the Program and Arrangements Committee of Annual Conference and appeals of decisions made by districts, but not for appeals of decisions by other bodies.

Motions were approved to open the agenda again, and to form a committee to develop a process for appeals beyond those covered by current processes. A three-member committee was named to serve together with the officers to review the judicial role and appeals processes of Standing Committee beyond those currently covered. The three members named to this new “Review of Judicial Roles and Appeals Process Committee” are Jeff Rill of Atlantic Northeast District, Susan Chapman Starkey of Virlina District, and John Willoughby of Michigan District.

New business

Standing Committee also engaged in its usual business agenda, including recommending action on new business items to Annual Conference. As in its deliberations last year, the committee decided to require of itself a two-thirds vote for each recommendation it made to the Conference.

Recommendations from last year’s Standing Committee were retained for the new business items held over from 2017, recommending adoption of “Brethren Values Investing” (see www.brethren.org/ac/2018/business/NB/
NB-1-Brethren-Values-Investing.pdf ) and “Polity for Electing BBT Board Directors” (www.brethren.org/ac/2018/business/NB/
NB-2-Polity-for-Electing-BBT-Board-Directors.pdf ).

Standing Committee also recommended adoption of two additional items of new business, “Polity for Electing the District Executive Representative to the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee” (www.brethren.org/ac/2018/business/NB/
NB-4-Polity-for-Electing-the-DE-Repr-to-the-PCBAC.pdf ) and “Vision for a Global Church of the Brethren” (www.brethren.org/ac/2018/business/NB/
NB-3-Vision-for-a-Global-Church-of-the-Brethren.pdf ).

In other business

-- Southern Ohio District was recognized under its new name: Southern Ohio/Kentucky District.

-- The following were named to the Appeals Committee: Nick Beam of Southern Ohio/Kentucky District, Loren Rhodes of Middle Pennsylvania District, and Susan Chapman Starkey of Virlina District, with Steve Spire of Shenandoah District as first alternate and Grover Duling of West Marva District as second alternate.

-- Changes were made to a document of guidance on the role of members of Standing Committee. The officers proposed revisions to clarify and strengthen the understanding that Standing Committee members are responsible to the whole of the denomination, even though they are named to represent their districts. Revisions specifically addressed times of conflict, giving the advice for Standing Committee members to consult with district leaders and to be in contact with Annual Conference officers in conflict situations, and to respect all sides in reporting to their districts. Most of the revisions were adopted except one point that advised Standing Committee members against taking leadership in conflict situations or in movements within the church.

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford contributed this report.





New congregations received this recognition from Discipleship Ministries (formerly Congregational Life Ministries) during a breakfast held in their honor. The symbolism of a telescope and compass shares the denomination's prayer for God's guidance and light.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

New congregations received this recognition from Discipleship Ministries (formerly Congregational Life Ministries) during a breakfast held in their honor. The symbolism of a telescope and compass shares the denomination's prayer for God's guidance and light.

9) Annual Conference welcomes new projects, fellowships, and congregations

Ten new worshiping groups located in six districts across the denomination were welcomed by the 2018 Annual Conference. They include two new congregations, two new fellowships, and six new projects.

Pastors or other representatives of the new groups and their district executives were recognized during the first business session of the Conference, and a breakfast was held for them hosted by Discipleship Ministries (formerly Congregational Life Ministries).

The new groups are:

Congregations:

GraceWay Church of the Brethren, Dundalk, Md., in Mid-Atlantic District, led by pastor Yakubu Bakfwash

Iglesia Cristiana Renacer Church of the Brethren, Roanoke, Va., in Virlina District, led by pastor Daniel D’Oleo


Fellowships:

Iglesia del Buen Pastor (Church of the Good Shepherd), Blacksburg, Va., in Virlina District, led by pastors Raul and Lidia Gonzalez

Joyful Church Fellowship, Garrett, Pa., in Western Pennsylvania District, led by pastor Timothy Vaughn


Projects:

Centro Agape en Acción, Los Banos, Calif., in Pacific Southwest District, led by pastors Rigo and Margie Berumen

Church of the Table, Chicago, Ill., in Illinois and Wisconsin District, led by pastor Joshua Longbrake

Iglesia Cristiana Elohim, Las Vegas, Nev., in Pacific Southwest District, led by pastor Luz Roman

Nuevo Comienzo (New Beginning), St. Cloud, Fla., in Atlantic Southeast District, led by pastor Fausto Carrasco

Parables Community, Lombard, Ill., in Illinois and Wisconsin District, led by pastor Jeanne Davies

The Gathering Chicago, Chicago, Ill., in Illinois and Wisconsin District, led by pastor LaDonna Nkosi Sanders

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford contributed this report.




A youth service project sorts and packs up donations to First Step Home in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Witness to the Host City for the 2018 Annual Conference.
Photo by Allie Dulabaum

A youth service project sorts and packs up donations to First Step Home in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Witness to the Host City for the 2018 Annual Conference.


10) ‘Witness to the Host City’ aids women in rehabilitation treatment, and their children

Witness to the Host City is an acknowledgment each year in which Annual Conference comes together to give back to a special organization in the host city. This year’s recipient is First Step Home, a women’s rehabilitation facility that allows women to receive treatment while still having custody of their children.

Founded by Anne Bennett and Mary Ann Heekin, this agency has been helping women and their families since 1993. The facility includes numerous services for both women and children, to help these families get back on their feet. Not only that, First Step Home has an open-lock policy that allows their members to leave and enter freely, helping them to choose a new and healthy lifestyle. These traits of the rehabilitation center are unique compared to other facilities.

Cincinnati Church of the Brethren has a pre-existing relationship to First Step Home. Margo Spence, president and CEO of First Step Home, refers to the Cincinnati church as their “guardian angels.” This established relationship was one of the reasons Annual Conference chose this organization for the 2018 Witness to the Host City. Chris Douglas, Annual Conference director, said that she and her team picked First Step Home also because it is the only rehab organization that allows women with addictions to stay with their children. Commonly in such facilities, women are separated from their children while receiving treatment, and the children are placed in the foster system.

Conference participants were asked to bring basic necessities to donate to First Step Home such as diapers, soap, underwear, towels, and socks, as well as donations in either money or gift cards. Large piles of items were brought and collected during Wednesday and Thursday of Annual Conference. On Friday, the senior high youth activity was to sort the donations and organize them to be sent to First Step Home as a service project.

During the Friday business session, after Margo Spence thanked the denomination for its support, it was announced that the amount of money donated was $4,872.05. In addition, 867 gift cards brought the total monetary donations to $9,492.75.

In a historical note, the last time Annual Conference was in Cincinnati in 1996, the Witness to the Host City was a “blitz build” of 3 Habitat for Humanity houses in 10 days. Millard Fuller, who was then the president of Habitat, attended an Annual Conference luncheon where he thanked the Brethren construction workers and the denomination for its service.

-- Allie Dulabaum contributed this report.





Junior highs experience prayer stations
Photo by Keith Hollenberg

Junior highs experience prayer stations

11) Annual Conference by the numbers, and more from Cincinnati

-- For complete coverage of Annual Conference 2018 see www.brethren.org/ac/2018/coverage . This index page offers links to news reports, photo albums, the “Conference Journal,” webcasts, selected sermon texts, worship bulletins, and more. Some highlights of the additional coverage available online:

     Photo albums covering all the major events of the Conference as well as most of the additional activities and areas like the Exhibit Hall give a broad holistic picture of this year’s annual meeting of the Brethren, see www.bluemelon.com/churchofthebrethren/
annualconference2018
.

     Reviews of selected insight sessions, meal programs, and other events include:

     “Candlelight vigil prays for separated families” at www.brethren.org/news/2018/
candlelight-vigil-prays-for-separated-families.html

     “A road to freedom,” a reflection on the experience of visiting the Underground Railroad center in Cincinnati at www.brethren.org/news/2018/
a-road-to-freedom.html

     “Bethany Seminary unveils new logo, recognizes Tara Hornbacker’s retirement” at www.brethren.org/news/2018/
bethany-seminary-unveils-logo.html

     “Elephants, faith, and focus: Notes from the Almuerzo” at www.brethren.org/news/2018/
elephants-faith-and-focus.html
 

     “Poetry is something you discover” at www.brethren.org/news/2018/
poetry-is-something-you-discover.html

     “A BRF leader reflects on how a divided house can stand” at www.brethren.org/news/2018/
brf-leader-reflects-on-divided-house.html
 

     “World War I and the Church of the Brethren” at www.brethren.org/news/2018/
world-war-i-and-the-church-of.html

     The daily “Conference Journal” news sheet that was handed out on paper with the worship bulletins is available online in pdf format, links are at www.brethren.org/ac/2018/coverage .

     Recordings of the webcasts of worship services and business sessions are still able to viewed at www.brethren.org/ac/2018/webcasts .

Intercultural Ministries director Gimbiya Kettering and her daughter at the Families Belong Together candlelight vigil on July 4, during the 2018 Annual Conference
Photo by Glenn Riegel

Intercultural Ministries director Gimbiya Kettering and her daughter at the Families Belong Together candlelight vigil on July 4, during the 2018 Annual Conference

-- By the numbers:

     2,233 people registered for the 2018 Annual Conference including 673 delegates (667 were present onsite) and 1,560 nondelegates.

     2,088 people attended the opening worship service of the Conference on Wednesday evening, July 4, topping the attendance figures for the week. Some 1,631 people were in worship on Thursday, 1,475 on Friday, 1,304 on Saturday, and 1,173 in the closing worship service on Sunday morning.

     $60,223.80 was received in offerings including $14,774 on Wednesday for the Nigeria Crisis Response, $13,157.03 on Thursday to support Church of the Brethren Core Ministries, $14,773 on Friday for disaster relief in Puerto Rico, $8,755.52 on Saturday for ministry among the Batwa (Pygmy) communities in the Great Lakes region of Africa, and $8,764.25 on Sunday to help pay for Spanish translation for Annual Conference--both written translation of documents and the live translation that is offered during the event.

     $9,492.75 was donated in the form of cash, checks, and gift cards to benefit First Step Home, the recipient of this year’s Witness to the Host City. This total does not include the donations of goods and items such as diapers for use by the organization that serves women and children in Cincinnati.

     $8,100 was raised for world hunger by the quilt auction of the Association for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren, where 8 quilts and quilted wall hangings were sold--some twice over.

     $2,102 was raised for the Ministry Assistance Fund by the Minister’s Association.

     159 total pints were received by the blood drive, including 85 on Thursday and 74 on Friday

-- “The Not-so-big Church” is the title of a video section of the annual Church of the Brethren report this year. Presented in cartoon format, the video shows an illustrator drawing the story of the “Not-so-big Church” that had big ideas, and how those ideas have played out in the past year. The big ideas of this “not-so-big” Church of the Brethren include Children’s Disaster Services, disaster aid to Puerto Rico, the church’s growth in Spain and the Great Lakes region of Africa, and much more. View the video in the “feature box” at www.brethren.org .

-- Bethany Theological Seminary unveiled a new logo and tag line at its annual luncheon July 6, during the 2018 Annual Conference. The event also recognized recent graduates of the seminary and the Brethren Academy, and heard a presentation from retiring professor Tara Hornbacker. President Jeff Carter gave a preview of the full report he would give to the delegate body that afternoon including an introduction to the new logo. The logo’s image of a book opening, with the colors yellow and green added to Bethany blue, point to the unfolding of knowledge, hope, and growth that come from education. The logo is a visual of the new Bethany tag line, “...so that the world flourishes.” The tag line is designed to be placed at the end of a phrase such as “Practicing conflict transformation... so that the world flourishes,” or “Living a Spirit-filled life... so that the world flourishes.”

Bethany Seminary president Jeff Carter wore a tie displaying the new logo when he reported to the Conference
Photo by Glenn Riegel

Bethany Seminary president Jeff Carter wore a tie displaying the new logo when he reported to the Conference

-- Recognitions and awards were given during the Mission and Ministry Board meeting. The Bittersweet Gospel Band received the Revelation 7:9 Award from Intercultural Ministries. Present to receive the award were current and past members of the band including Gilbert Romero, Scott Duffey, Leah Hileman, David Sollenberger, Andy Duffey, and Thomas Dowdy. Three congregations received Open Roof recognition by Discipleship Ministries (formerly Congregational Life Ministries) staff Stan Dueck and disabilities advocate Rebekah Flores: Columbia City (Ind.) Church of the Brethren, Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren, and Snake Spring Valley (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

-- International guests were recognized and introduced by Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer. They included guests from Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and the Church of the Brethren in Venezuela. Guests from EYN included president Joel Billi and his wife, Salamatu Billi; Yuguda Mdurvwa, director of EYN’s Disaster Response Ministry; and EYN liaison officer Markus Gamache and his wife, Janada Markus. Guests from Iglesia de los Hermanos Venezuela (ASIGLEH) included Jose Ramon and Anna Peña, who were accompanied by their son Joel Peña, who pastors in Lancaster, Pa. Jose Ramon Peña serves as spiritual advisor and a pastoral leader for ASIGLEH.

-- Clergywomen: save this date! At the Clergywomen’s Breakfast, the “Quinquennial Church of the Brethren Clergywomen’s Retreat” was announced for Jan. 6-9, 2020. The retreat for ordained, licensed, and commissioned women ministers will be held at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Ariz., as “a time of spiritual renewal, refreshment, and precious time with sisters in ministry.” Mandy Smith, pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati, will be the speaker.

-- The SERRV store returned to Annual Conference this year, after Conference-goers missed the opportunity to purchase the organization’s fair trade goods that offer fair compensation to craftspeople and chocolate, tea, and coffee farmers around the world. The store this year was offered on a consignment basis, run by Northern Ohio District volunteers with leadership from pastor Tina Hunt. Purchases had a doubly good purpose--a percentage of the money from each item purchased was contributed to the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

The top finishers in the BBT Fitness Challenge 5K were female and male walkers and male and female runners (with their times): Susan Fox (40:42), Don Shankster (35:56), Matthew Muthler (18:48), and Karen Stutzman (25:03).
Photo by Glenn Riegel

The top finishers in the BBT Fitness Challenge 5K were female and male walkers and male and female runners (with their times): Susan Fox (40:42), Don Shankster (35:56), Matthew Muthler (18:48), and Karen Stutzman (25:03).

-- The Annual Conference news team celebrated Regina Holmes’ 20th year on the team as a volunteer photographer. She has served under several different news directors over the years, and has spent countless hours in Conference business sessions and worship services working to get just the right pictures of church leaders in action. View her photos and those taken by the group of talented photographers who documented the Conference this year in Cincinnati at www.bluemelon.com/churchofthebrethren/
annualconference2018
.

-- See you in Greensboro! Don’t forget to head east, not west for Annual Conference next year at Koury Convention Center and Sheraton Hotel in Greensboro, N.C. Dates are July 3-7, 2019.

Clergywomen's Breakfast group celebrates 60 years of women's full ordination to the ministry.
Photo by Regina Holmes

Clergywomen's Breakfast group celebrates 60 years of women's full ordination to the ministry.

This baby, shown in a photograph taken in November 2017, was the first of the ROP infants in the new initiative with Children Hospital 1: Eye Unit. The photo was taken by Doan Thanh, ROP Project Manager, who had fundraising resource links that mobilized the first in-kind contributors to the project.
Photo by Doan Thanh

This baby, shown in a photograph taken in November 2017, was the first of the ROP infants in the new initiative with Children Hospital 1: Eye Unit. The photo was taken by Doan Thanh, ROP Project Manager, who had fundraising resource links that mobilized the first in-kind contributors to the project.

12) Vietnam initiative focuses on babies with Retinopathy of Prematurity

by Grace Mishler
 
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Dec. 10, 2015: Global Mission and Service worker Grace Mishler receives an urgent email from the American Eye Center medical director: “We need your help to find donors.... Within 10 days Baby Hoa will go blind with Retinopathy of Prematurity. Baby needs immediate surgery.”  
 
The medical director, familiar with my work in case management services with blind students, asked me to meet with the family and provide social work support services. The parents’ funds were limited. They had traveled to eight medical hospitals in Vietnam. None were equipped to do the surgery. The parents were told to go to Thailand or Singapore. 
 
Within days of this urgent request, I and other collaborative partners learned that the only Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) surgeon in Vietnam was just then being coordinated. In 2015, Dr. J.D. Ferwerda, retina specialist, worked at American Eye Center and initiated an agreement with French Vietnamese International Hospital-South Saigon to do ROP surgeries. Soon after, Dr. Ferwerda established the European Eye Center-Ho Chi Minh City. In September 2017, the collaborative partners became Children Hospital 1-European Eye Center, French Vietnamese International Hospital-Ho Chi Minh City, and our ROP Social Work Team.

This meant that families did have an option within the country to cut cost. However, most ROP families could not afford even the in-country rate of between $4,000-6,000, and most poor families did not have private social insurance. Moreover, the surgery must be coordinated and completed within three or four days of a Stage 4a or 4b ROP diagnosis. The urgency of handling a four-day preparation for surgery puts tremendous pressure on parents, social work case management teams, collaborative partners, donors, and extended families’ support systems.

Statistically, the mortality rate of premature babies is drastically decreasing as Vietnam’s health care system develops, especially in regard to heart and lungs, and so there is a spike in the number of ROP babies living. The infrastructure to support ROP babies with early intervention, detection, and treatment intervention to avoid Stage 4a and 4b lags, especially in rural areas’ neo-natal intensive care units. ROP is an avoidable blindness, but by the time parents bring their infants to Ho Chi Minh City Pediatric 1 Hospital, it is too late. The child is either blind, or surgery is needed.

Thus far, in Vietnam, the major cause of infant blindness is ROP and already blind schools in Vietnam are noticing students’ low vision or blindness is related to ROP. Therefore, doctors and nurses can only inform the parents that their infant is blind or will be in time. Parents leave in shock, and feel the extra socio-educational-economic burden.

In 2017, I organized a small, funded project initiative with the Eye Unit of Pediatric Hospital 1 in Ho Chi Minh City. The initiative was supported by Shultz ROP Crisis Fund through Global Mission and Service, and by Ben Harvey, Our Fellow Man Alliance of Tapai, as well as by other collaborative partners joining in from business sectors, foundations, individual donors, and two key NGOs based in Vietnam.

Our goals are to 1) promote early intervention with the use of a retina photo imaging camera; 2) provide ROP Social Work services by offering a twice-a-week parent support group; 3) ensure that poor families with ROP infants are not left behind if their infant needs surgery; 4) build up human capacity through training, volunteer work, and awareness-raising with young parents or future parents about the complexities related to ROP. If surgery occurs, the baby will need a contact lens, followed by glasses with straps, later removal of silicon oil, and finally, the implant of a permanent lens once the eye is fully developed.
 
Since September 2017, we have interviewed 600 families and had 18 surgeries. We have two full-time social workers. One is a medical social worker based at the eye unit and the other is a social work project manager who coordinates services and advocates for ROP families, including families whose infants are already blind. The social worker ensures that they receive monthly disabilities coverage and are referred to a government blind school that provides once-a-month, two-day training on how to raise a blind child.
 
Undergirding the project initiative is a Vietnamese “Mother Theresa” who scrambles to gather funds for families who need help. The money goes directly to French International Hospital. What is important in this story is that donors get to know the families’ plight. Educating the public about ROP has become an important process for local fundraising. In the near future, there is an initiative to share the stories of ROP families on a TV talk show. Parents’ voices are now being heard, unlike previously when they silently went home in shock and grief.
 
I have familiarity with the lack of systems to support people with disabilities. Since 2000, I have joined the Vietnamese people in a grassroots disabilities movement, especially in the area of inclusive education. Now, I am extending these efforts with health care systems. I continue to link National Vietnam University of Social Sciences and Humanities with community-based field work and research development. In addition, I have more than 40 years of social work experience and am uniquely qualified for this work because of my own blindness. My presence in learning how to cope with blindness brings hope to families.

I am pleased how the small seed money initiative with Childrens Hospital 1 Eye Unit provided an infrastructure to fill in the gaps of services. We are the first working model in Vietnam to respond to a public hospital eye unit to coordinate, network, and link ROP families to systems of care where hope, dignity, value, and worth are applied. Our working model is a team approach:  doctors, nurses, project director, project manager, ROP Senior Social Work advisor, and a medical social worker based at the hospital.

What gives me most joy and excitement, however, is witnessing first-hand Vietnamese people with compassionate, charitable hearts taking social responsibility in supporting families with short-falls of funds. The project initiative for social work case management services has become known among resource networks, and they see the value of our work and are interested in sustaining our efforts by investing in it. It is amazing to watch how ROP families are interacting, keeping contacted on Facebook, and giving tips on how to self-manage infants wearing contact lenses.

Our team approach with the eye units is sacred time, finding solutions with limited resources. These acts of kindness give hope in improving the quality of life and well-being that not only benefit the ROP babies and their parents, but society in general.

-- Grace Mishler works in Vietnam with support from Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service. Learn more about her work at www.brethren.org/global/vietnam .





Nigerian church leaders visited the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., earlier this week, during a time of rest and relaxation following their participation in Annual Conference. Shown from left: EYN liaison officer Markus Gamache and his wife, Janada Markus, and EYN president Joel Billi and his wife, Salamatu.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Nigerian church leaders visited the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., earlier this week, during a time of rest and relaxation following their participation in Annual Conference. Shown from left: EYN liaison officer Markus Gamache and his wife, Janada Markus, and EYN president Joel Billi and his wife, Salamatu.

13) Brethren bits

-- Remembrance: Shenandoah District is lifting up prayers following the death of Richard Harrison (Richi) Yowell, moderator of the 2018 district conference, a member of the district’s Shalom Team, and pastor of Mt. Olivet Church of the Brethren. “Brother Richi had been missing for several days before his body was located Saturday afternoon, July 7,” said a message from the district. “He was 48 years old. Pray for peace and comfort for his wife, Christal, and their children.... Pray for the Mt. Olivet congregation as it confronts the reality of the sudden loss of their shepherd. Pray for Shenandoah District leaders as they reach out with love and friendship to all who have been touched by this tragedy to help them move ahead in faith.” A celebration of life service will be held on Friday, July 20, at 10 a.m. at the Broadway (Va.) High School auditorium. Memorial gifts are received for Camp Brethren Woods.

-- Sherri Crowe has accepted the position of client manager for the Brethren Foundation, Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT), working at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. She will begin her duties on Aug. 6. She has worked as an investment advisor associate for more than eight years and has other relevant background to make her well-suited to this position, holding several designations and licenses including CRPC, APMA, Series 7 and 66, and Illinois Insurance. She and her family live in South Elgin and are members of Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Ill.

-- Everett Teetor has been hired as accounting assistant for Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT), as of July 23, serving at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. He has been serving BBT as an intern in the finance department since June 5, 2017. BBT is forecasting additional major transitions to internal/external operations that will directly affect the finance staffing, and so the intern role has been made into a regular full-time hourly position. Teetor graduated in 2017 from Beloit (Wis.) College with a degree in business economics and relevant course work in areas of finance and accounting. He is a member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin.

-- Staffing changes have been announced by Brethren Woods, a camp and outdoor ministry center near Keezletown, Va.
     Katie and Tim Heishman, program co-directors for three years, have accepted a call to co-pastor Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Dayton, Ohio. Both are ordained ministers and 2018 graduates of Bethany Theological Seminary. They will make the transition to Ohio in mid-September.
     Andrew Wenger, the camp’s maintenance director for three years, will leave at the end of October to join his father’s handyman business.

-- Among staffing changes at Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va.:
     Beth Heaton, guest services coordinator, is moving to Charlottesville, Va., as of July 1, joining her husband, Gary, who has been appointed senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville. “Since 2012, she has diligently served Camp Bethel guests with efficiency and extraordinary attention to detail. She also joyfully led ‘Nature Time with Beth’ for thousands of summer campers,” said an announcement. Send appreciative notes to Beth Heaton, 564 Bethel Road, Fincastle, VA 24090 or CampBethelOffice@gmail.com .
     Wesley Shrader is serving as interim food services coordinator at Camp Bethel. He served on the summer staff from 2010-2015 and on the summer kitchen staff in 2013. He is a 2013 graduate of Johnson & Wales University's culinary program in Charlotte, N.C., and most recently was banquets supervisor at Hotel Roanoke from 2014-2018.

-- Bethany Theological Seminary seeks an executive director of institutional advancement. As a senior administrator and primary fundraiser, this person will lead the seminary’s development efforts with creative and proven strategic approaches that will successfully position the seminary for the future as well as cultivate and deepen relationships with alumni, supporters, and friends in the Church of the Brethren. The new executive director of institutional advancement will join the seminary at a time of growth and innovation as the seminary expands program, institutes new initiatives for residential and distance learners, and continues to raise its profile in the Church of the Brethren and larger ecumenical community. Responsibilities include supervising institutional advancement staff and overseeing department operations; developing and implementing annual, major, and planned gift securement strategies; overseeing maintenance of donor records; overseeing communications including marketing, publications, and alumni relations; representing Bethany at conferences and in congregations, speaking and providing leadership as opportunities arise; envisioning new goals and methods for institutional advancement. A full position description is at www.bethanyseminary.edu/about/employment . Review of applications begins July 30 and will continue until an appointment is made. Send a letter of interest, a resume, and contact information for three references to Rev. Dr. Jeff Carter, President, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374-4019, or president@bethanyseminary.edu . For more information about Bethany visit www.bethanyseminary.edu . Bethany Theological Seminary’s policy prohibits discrimination in employment opportunities or practices with regard to race, gender, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, or religion.

-- Camp Bethel seeks a guest services and marketing coordinator to serve at the camp and outdoor ministry center near Fincastle, Va. Camp Bethel is accepting online applications for this full-time, year-round position. The application form and complete information are at www.CampBethelVirginia.org/jobs .

Camp Swatara's entrance in the 1940s and in the 2000s, in these side by side photographs celebrating the camp's history.
Photos courtesy of Camp Swatara

Camp Swatara's entrance in the 1940s and in the 2000s, in these side by side photographs celebrating the camp's history.

-- Camp Swatara in Bethel, Pa., is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2018 with the theme “Tell the Story--75 Years at the Base of Blue Mountain.” An anniversary celebration weekend is scheduled for Aug. 3-5, with the major events happening on Saturday, Aug. 4. Friday will feature “A Day in the Life of Camp” with morning classes, afternoon recreation options, and family-style meals for all ages. Saturday, Aug. 4, will be the main celebration day including a ticketed pancake breakfast in the family campground, a variety of morning activity options, food trucks/stands and decade dinner reunions for lunch, an afternoon program featuring speakers, songs, skits, staff panels, and more from throughout camp’s history, ticketed supper/dinner meals, and evening campfires. Sunday, Aug. 5, will conclude the weekend with worship in the family campground. Advanced registration is strongly encouraged. Day registration is free. Meal tickets can be purchased in advance with limited quantities available onsite. Weekend lodging and weekend packages including lodging and meals are available. Find out more and register online at www.campswatara.org .

-- Camp Bethel is announcing two upcoming events in August:
     The Camp Bethel Benefit Gold Tournament and Banquet takes place Aug. 22. Golfers and sponsors are needed for the tournament held at Botetourt Golf Club in Virginia. Tee off time is 12:45 p.m. The cost of $70 per person includes green fees, cart, and dinner at the camp near Fincastle, Va.. Go to www.CampBethelVirginia.org/golf .
     The Camp Bethel PEP 5k run/walk is Aug. 25. An announcement described it as “our newest fundraiser for ‘the PEPPIEST gang around!’” The $32.50 entry fee includes a race t-shirt, pre- and-post-race snacks, fully stocked water/aid stations, prizes, and fun. Registration is from 7-7:45 a.m., with an 8 a.m. start. Sponsor packages are available. For more information go to www.CampBethelVirginia.org/5K .

-- Pinecrest Community in Mt. Morris, Ill., will host a daylong celebration of its 125th anniversary on Saturday, Aug. 11, beginning at 10 a.m. Events include addresses at the Pinecrest Grove Community Center by Illinois and Wisconsin District executive Kevin Kessler and Leading Age Illinois president Karen Messer, a pulled-pork luncheon, music performances throughout the day, children's activities including bounce houses, a petting zoo, and crafts, and an ice cream social at the gazebo beside Pinecrest Village. “This celebration is our way of thanking you for supporting the ministry of Pinecrest through the years,” said CEO Ferol Labash.

-- Knobley Church of the Brethren children and youth presented some special donation boxes to local libraries recently. The church is located in New Creek, W.Va. The small wood and glass houses were presented to four county libraries during a meeting of the Mineral County Commission, reports the “Mineral Daily News Tribune.” Find the story and a photo at www.newstribune.info/news/20180629/libraries-grateful-to-community .

-- Indian Creek Church of the Brethren in Harleysville, Pa., dedicated its new Peace Pole on Sunday, June 24. “Lord, make us instruments of your peace,” the congregation sang, as reported in an online piece from “The Reporter” newspaper. “Move us to light flames of fire against the darkness of war, and to build bridges across the chasms of hate,” they said in a responsive prayer. “This is a completion that merits celebration, but it really is a beginning,” pastor Mark Baliles told the paper. Find the article and photos at www.thereporteronline.com/article/RO/20180626/NEWS/180629872 .

-- On the latest episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast, Dana Cassell interviews members of Umstead Park United Church of Christ of Raleigh, N.C., who are providing sanctuary for an undocumented immigrant with an active deportation order. The Dunker Punks Podcast is an audio show created by more than a dozen Brethren young adults across the country. Listen at http://bit.ly/DPP_Episode61 or subscribe on iTunes at http://bit.ly/DPP_iTunes .

-- The World Council of Churches (WCC) is inviting participation in the World Week of Peace in Palestine and Israel on Sept. 16-23. This year’s theme is “Youth and Children: Raising Hope and Making Change.” Held the third week of September each year, the World Week of Peace unites Christian witness in peaceful actions around the world to promote a just peace in Palestine and Israel. “We remind world leaders, as well as the public, about a sad, unsolved--and in some ways forgotten--situation, which benefits neither Israelis nor Palestinians,” wrote WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit. “Youth and children are the ones who suffer the most in conflicts and under occupation. Today, too many children in Palestinian territories grow up in fear, poverty and hopelessness, caused by more than 50 years of occupation. Too many youngsters lack access to proper education and can’t find decent work.” During this week, which includes the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, organizations, congregations, and people of faith are encouraged to bear a common witness by participating in worship services, educational events, and acts of support in favor of a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis.

-- Susan Baumel, who attends Arlington (Va.) Church of the Brethren and is founder and executive producer of Voyage® Productions, has been involved in the creation of a new ongoing program for PBS television stations titled “Playback Social Entrepreneurs®.” A release described the program as “the first broadcast television program of its kind, focused entirely on issues of socially responsible business.” The show also is aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The premiere episode that has been released this month includes segments on healthcare, ride-sharing and wheelchair accessibility problems faced by the disabled--especially seniors, and a separately trademarked segment “Player Power®” profiling Hollywood producer and social entrepreneur Jeff Skoll. Find out more and see clips of the first episode at www.voyageproductions.org or go to www.playbacktv.org .

-- Rebecca Brazaitis, a sophomore at Morgantown (W.Va.) High School, and Morgantown Church of the Brethren made it into the news earlier this week after Brazaitis brought the “Never Again” movement to her hometown. On July 11, West Virginia Public Broadcasting published a report on her efforts against gun violence including organizing a town hall panel at the Church of the Brethren in Morgantown in April. “Panelists included Morgantown student, Emma Gray, the Monongalia County Schools Extended Day director, Julia Hamilton, and local police officer, Sergeant Dave Wilfong,” the report said. “They discussed issues related to guns and school safety.” The report added, “Brazaitis  passionately wants to change gun laws and school safety from the ground up, starting in her own neighborhood.” Read the full article at www.wvpublic.org/post/how-one-morgantown-student-brought-neveragain-movement-wva#stream/0 .

-- Roy Pfaltzgraff Jr. of Haxtun, Colo., has been interviewed by the “Holyoke Enterprise,” in an article published online. Pfaltzgraff, who grew up in Nigeria as the son of Church of the Brethren mission workers, told the story of how he learned agricultural practices upon his return to the United States by working on a cross-country harvesting crew in the 1960s. Read the interview at www.holyokeenterprise.com/ag-business/harvest-brings-back-memories-pfaltzgraff .

-- Jeffrey Clouser, director of music ministries at Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, has written an article for the UCC Musicians Association journal “Worship, Music, and Ministry” titled “Capable Leadership for the Church’s Music Ministry.” He addresses the role of a director of music in a congregation, and the ways that skilled people who fill such a role may enhance the church’s mission, values, and theology. At Palmyra, Clouser facilitates the choral, handbell, and praise team programs, participates in planning worship, and organizes special musical events. He is in the Master’s of Church Music degree program at Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. “The mission of the Palmyra Church of the Brethren is to invite, welcome, nurture, disciple, equip, empower, and inspire all persons to live and to serve in the way of Jesus,” he writes. “I can’t think of a better way to do this than through leading the church’s song.”

-- An interview with one of the authors of the new book, “September Mourn: The Dunker church of Antietam Battlefield,” has been published by “The Herald Mail.” Alann Schmidt speaks about how he and co-author Terry Barkley, former archivist at the Brethren Historical Library and Archives of the Church of the Brethren, came to write a book about the small church building around which the battle swirled--one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Schmidt is a pastor and a former park ranger at Antietam National Battlefield. Find the interview at www.heraldmailmedia.com/life/pa-author-shines-a-light-on-dunker-church-of-antietam/article_9c90327e-b06c-5db1-95f5-c3748782c554.html . The book may be purchased through Brethren Press, call 800-441-3712.


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Newsline is the e-mail news service of the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Please send news tips and submissions to editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren, at cobnews@brethren.org . Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Linetta Ballew, Susan Baumel, Laura Brown, Jeffrey Clouser, Allie Dulabaum, Karen Garrett, Keith Hollenberg, Regina Holmes, Donna March, Grace Mishler, Donna Parcell, Alyssa Parker, Frank Ramirez, Glenn Riegel, Howard Royer, Kevin Schatz, Frances Townsend, Jenny Williams.

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