Newsline for March 23, 2018




Be at peace with one another
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50).


NEWS
1) Leadership Team issues call to Christ-like discourse
2) Denominational ministries experience positive financial results in 2017
3) Office of Peacebuilding and Policy director signs letter on militarization of Middle East
4) Northern Plains District task force issues letter on child sexual abuse prevention

UPCOMING EVENTS
5) Junior high students invited to ‘Immerse!’ at Bethany Seminary

6) Brethren bits: Jobs, National Youth Sunday materials, conversation about “Black Panther,” CDS training, March for Our Lives breakfast, ACT NOW: Unite to End Racism, On Earth Peace endorses Poor People’s Campaign, “This Evil Thing,” Ventures Course on culture of call, more


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1) Leadership Team issues call to Christ-like discourse

The Leadership Team of the Church of the Brethren has issued a letter calling for Christ-like discourse at this time in the life of the church. The Leadership Team of the denomination includes the general secretary, the Annual Conference officers, a representative of the Council of District Executives, and the director of the Annual Conference office.

Here is the full text of the letter from the Leadership Team:

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We as the Leadership Team of the Church of the Brethren are painfully aware that the difference of opinion around Biblical authority and interpretation, particularly with regard to matters of sexuality, has led to deep divisions and brokenness within our denomination. In the face of that division we are seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we strive to find ways to help bring healing and wholeness in our life together.

We have received many letters and emails expressing deep concerns from all perspectives. Many of those have been respectful expressions of concerns and opinions. We encourage and welcome these expressions.  

We are aware, however, that in the debate among us some have expressed their concerns using harsh, unkind rhetoric, shaming, name-calling, and invalidation of the personhood of those with whom they disagree. This disrespectful and sometimes violent rhetoric is extremely hurtful to those it is directed toward and is destructive to us as a body of believers. This type of communication and behavior, often used to point out the spiritual failure of the other, is in itself a spiritual failure of the speaker to live as a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are aware that these harsh communications are being sent not only to leadership but also to individuals though emails, letters, and social media posts, bringing great pain to those individuals and their circles of support. These destructive communications need to stop. If you have written such communications, we encourage you to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with those who have been hurt by your actions.

We call all to a place of humility and repentance, seeking how we may grow more and more like Christ, who calls and empowers us to be in a place of love, respect, grace, and forgiveness for one another. Any expressions short of that will only deepen our struggle and will work against God’s purpose among us.

The Leadership Team acknowledges that we have a long journey before us, a journey that will have some difficult and painful passages as we move through a time of intentional discernment toward a compelling vision for our life together. Our repentance and collective commitment to love, respect, and forgive one another are keys necessary to open the door for the Holy Spirit’s work among us.

Praying for the peace of Christ amid our disagreement,

David A. Steele, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren
Samuel Kefas Sarpiya, moderator of Annual Conference
Donita J. Keister, moderator-elect of Annual Conference
James M. Beckwith, secretary of Annual Conference
David D. Shetler, district executive representative to the Leadership Team
Chris Douglas, Annual Conference director





2) Denominational ministries experience positive financial results in 2017

by Ed Woolf

Treasurer Brian Bultman and assistant treasurer Ed Woolf report to the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren in March 2018.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Treasurer Brian Bultman and assistant treasurer Ed Woolf report to the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren in March 2018.

Positive financial results for the Church of Brethren denominational ministries in 2017 include increased nets assets, positive investment returns, increased giving to core ministries, and increased giving to some restricted funds. Concerns include the continued use of designated funds to supplement income and a few self-funding ministries that sustained a net expense. 

The Church of the Brethren’s net assets increased by $6.6 million from 2016. The increase was due to positive investment returns and the sale of the Brethren Service Center upper campus in New Windsor, Md. Funds from the sale were used to create the BSC Quasi-Endowment, which supports long-term sustainability of denominational ministries, and the Faith in Action Fund, which will provide grants to Church of the Brethren congregations to fund outreach ministries that serve their communities.

Congregational giving to core ministries remained level for the third year in a row with a total of $2,025,864, only 2.1 percent behind 2016. Individual giving to Core Ministries increased $60,885 for a total of $547,905, up 12.5 percent from 2016. Combined giving (from congregations and individuals) to Core Ministries increased $18,261, or 0.7 percent, for a total of $2,573,769. Core Ministries finished with a $196,930 net surplus. Income exceeded budget by $41,156 and staff were able to hold expenses below budget by $155,774.

Giving to the Emergency Disaster Fund totaled $2,317,258, up 31.1 percent from 2016. Increase in giving to the Emergency Disaster Fund was primarily due to the generous outpouring of support for the 2017 Hurricane Response. The Global Food Initiative Fund and Emerging Global Mission Fund both received fewer gifts than in 2016, totaling $198,245 and $6,560, respectively. Beginning in 2017, contributions to restricted funds included a Ministry Enablement Contribution of 9 percent to help cover costs associated with carrying out the intended purpose of the gift.

Combined giving for all denominational ministries totaled $6,052,179, down only 0.1 percent from 2016. Congregations gave a total of $4,346,724, up 9.2 percent from 2016, and individuals gave a total of $1,705,455, down 18 percent from 2016. Both total number of donors and total number of gifts increased from 2016.

Self-funding ministries rely on sales of goods, registrations, and services for income. Brethren Press finished the year with a net deficit of $70,769. Sales were $59,077 behind budget, due largely to delayed release of the “Inglenook Desserts” cookbook. The Material Resources program experienced a $18,196 net deficit, primarily due to the internal evaluation of a partner contract which resulted in limited income. Conference Office ended the year with a net surplus of $25,334.

Church of the Brethren staff and the Mission and Ministry Board are sincerely grateful for the continued generosity of our donors. All denominational ministries rely on the faithful support from our donors to carry out the Church of the Brethren’s mission and programs.

The above amounts were provided prior to completion of the 2017 audit. Complete financial information will be available in the Church of the Brethren, Inc., audit report, to be published in June 2018.

-- Ed Woolf is assistant treasurer and Gift Operations manager for the Church of the Brethren.



3) Office of Peacebuilding and Policy director signs letter on militarization of Middle East

Nathan Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C., was one of the ecumenical leaders to sign a letter on the militarization of the Middle East. Some 15 Christian leaders signed the letter, dated March 14, that was sent to members of Congress.

The letter expressed concern about increasing US arms sales and military aid to Middle Eastern nations, citing a record-high amount of arms sales approved in 2017, doubling that of the previous year. “Of these approved sales, $52 billion were to countries in the Middle East,” the letter noted.

“These sales are lucrative for US defense corporations, and purportedly promote US security interests, but they come at a steep cost,” the letter said, in part. “As a result of our organizations’ long-term relationships and engagement throughout the Middle East, and our longstanding commitment to justice, peace, and security for all, we know all too well the price that the people--especially civilians--have paid and continue to pay for the ongoing conflicts that are fueled by these arms sales. In Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Israel, Libya, and elsewhere, thousands of civilians have died with countless more wounded.”

Here is the full text of the letter:


March 14, 2018

Members of Congress,

As Christian denominations and faith-based organizations working in and concerned about the Middle East, we write to express our serious concern regarding increasing U.S. arms sales and military aid to the Middle East.

In Fiscal Year 2017 the amount of U.S. arms sales approved worldwide was a record-high $75.9 billion, doubling that of the previous year.1 Of these approved sales, $52 billion were to countries in the Middle East.2 A Congressional Research Service report notes that “the United States is the single largest arms supplier to the Middle East and has been for decades.”

These sales are lucrative for U.S. defense corporations, and purportedly promote U.S. security interests, but they come at a steep cost. As a result of our organizations’ long-term relationships and engagement throughout the Middle East, and our longstanding commitment to justice, peace, and security for all, we know all too well the price that the people--especially civilians--have paid and continue to pay for the ongoing conflicts that are fueled by these arms sales.

In Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Israel, Libya and elsewhere, thousands of civilians have died with countless more wounded. More people are displaced worldwide than at any other time since World War II. Basic infrastructure such as roads, water and electrical systems have been destroyed and young people are growing up with trauma and fear. Sadly, these conditions, coupled with the high volume of weapons that will remain long after a conflict ends, will lead to instability and insecurity for generations to come. No amount of corporate profits or so-called “security interests” can possibly be worth this.

The United States provides more than $8.5 billion in military and security assistance to the Middle East and North Africa, with most of it going to Israel, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan.3 Among these countries, peace treaties already exist between Israel and Egypt, and Israel and Jordan. U.S. assistance to this small geographical region represents more than half of all U.S. military assistance worldwide. Countries such as Israel and Saudi Arabia already rank among the highest spenders worldwide per capita on their militaries,4 and Israel is not only a recipient of U.S. military aid but is also an arms exporter.

We firmly believe that stability and long-term security in the Middle East will only come about when the United States and other countries move away from a militarized approach and the profits that come from perpetual conflict. In the meantime, and at a minimum, we strongly recommend the following steps:

-- Immediately suspend U.S. arms sales to those countries not in compliance with international humanitarian law. The Foreign Assistance Act (Section 502B), Arms Export Control Act and Presidential Policy Directive (PPD-27)5 already provide some limitations on arms sales related to human rights concerns but stop short of full conditionality.

-- Fully enforce existing human rights conditions (“Leahy law”) for U.S. military assistance to all recipient governments. This will require increased funding and capacity to robustly carry out the vetting process.

-- Strengthen and expand end-use monitoring. The Foreign Assistance Act (Section 505) requires nations receiving defense articles and defense services to “permit continuous observation andreview by, and furnish necessary information to, representatives of the United States Government with regard to the use of such articles or related training or other defense service.”

-- Oppose the transfer of oversight of the export of small arms and ammunition from the United States Munitions List to the less-restrictive Commerce Control List. This change would decrease transparency and make it much more difficult to enforce human rights conditionality.6

-- Ratify and fully abide by the terms of the Arms Trade Treaty. The treaty, which entered into force in 2014, establishes international standards for regulation of trade in conventional weapons. It is vital that the United States, as the world’s largest arms exporter, join the treaty.

The continued provision of military aid and arms to the countries of the Middle East, it has been clear, does not result in greater peace, but rather greater conflict, casualties, and loss of life. The U.S. has not advanced its own security or interests through military aid or arms sales.

More than 50 years ago, Congress enacted the Arms Control and Disarmament Act, which says that, “An ultimate goal of the United States is a world which is free from the scourge of war and the dangers and burdens of armaments; in which the use of force has been subordinated to the rule of law; and in which international adjustments to a changing world are achieved peacefully.” We urge you to do all that you can to make this vision a reality.

Sincerely,

Joyce Ajlouny, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
J Ron Byler, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
Sister Patricia Chappell, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey, Director of Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists
Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, The United Methodist Church
Marie Dennis, Co-President, Pax Christi International
Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Nathan Hosler, Director, Office of Public Witness, Church of the Brethren
Rev. Julia Brown Karimu, Co-Executive, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Gerry Lee, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Rev. Dr. James Moos, Co-Executive Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Don Poest, Interim General Secretary, Reformed Church in America

1 www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2017/09/13/us-clears-record-total-for-arms-sales-in-fy17

2 “Arms Sales in the Middle East: Trends and Analytical Perspectives for U.S. Policy,” Clayton Thomas, Congressional Research Service, October 11, 2017.

3 https://securityassistance.org/middle-east-and-north-africa

4 www.sipri.org/databases/milex

5 https://fas.org/irp/offdocs/ppd/ppd-27.html

6 www.defensenews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/09/25/five-dangers-of-giving-the-commerce-department-oversight-of-firearms-exports-commentary





4) Northern Plains District task force issues letter on child sexual abuse prevention

A Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Task Force in Northern Plains District has issued a letter after Randy Johnson, former pastor at Dallas Center Church of the Brethren, was charged with abuse of his adopted daughter. On March 2 he received suspended prison sentences for child endangerment and indecent exposure, and has been placed on probation.

The following letter was published in the district newsletter and website at https://mailchi.mp/a643b9983bba/district-news-announcements#Article 12:

Dear Friends,
 
On January 12, Randy Johnson, former pastor at Dallas Center Church of the Brethren, agreed to a plea bargain regarding child sexual abuse charges, thus avoiding a trial. Sentencing is scheduled for early March.

As a District Task Force charged with heightening our awareness of, and response to, child sexual abuse, we grieve the reality of harm done to the child victim, to other family members, to the Dallas Center congregation, their community, and to the wider Church of the Brethren. We recognize that this erodes trust in the integrity of all pastors, making their difficult work even harder. It affects how people view the Church of the Brethren, and may reinforce negative feelings towards all communities of faith and their leaders. Finally, situations like this often trigger painful memories for survivors, reopening past wounds of abuse and betrayal.

We cannot change what has happened. However, we can use this as an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the wellbeing of children and vulnerable people among us. We can work harder to make our buildings and programs safer and better designed for prevention and care. We can train our pastors, education workers, counselors, parents, and all church members to recognize potential problems and initiate helpful interventions. We can deepen our understanding about Biblical and theological resources that challenge abusive power.  We can believe children when they tell us of harm, and reach out with care to those who carry burdens of past abuse.

Many pastors in our district participated in our appeal to preach about child abuse in January. If your congregation missed this, the month of April, with its focus upon child abuse awareness and prevention, offers another opportunity for this emphasis. Our plan as a Task Force is to gather and make these sermons available as a resource and collective act of accountability, education, and hope.

In anticipation of a safer, more aware and just church, we offer this prayer:

Gracious and Loving God,

We come to you with heavy hearts for the harm that has been committed, trust betrayed, and vulnerability violated. We pray for all of those whose lives have been diminished by the pain of abuse; may they find peace in your presence, and courage to face each day with dignity and strength.

In this time of challenge, we give thanks for systems of justice and law that seek accountability and protection of the most vulnerable among us. Guide us, we pray, as we seek to do our part to be trustworthy communities of compassion, reconciliation, and safety.

We offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, who understands and heals. Amen.   

Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Task Force:
Rhonda Pittman Gingrich
Dave Kerkove
Sarah Mason
Paul Shaver
Carol Wise





5) Junior high students invited to ‘Immerse!’ at Bethany Seminary

by Jenny Williams

"Immerse!" at Bethany Seminary

Students who have completed grades 6-8 are invited to experience ‘Immerse!’ this summer at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. Scheduled for June 21-26, this faith immersion event will help make church history come alive, from the early Christians to the early Brethren, and provide a safe space to share both learning and social time with peers.

In learning sessions, the youth will engage with Bethany professors and have many opportunities to ask questions. The book of James will be explored through the context of the early church, and timely topics from peace and justice to science fiction will take on new dimensions. The students will take stories of Brethren history from the classroom to the Brethren Heritage Center in Greenville, Ohio, for a more visual, concrete encounter with the various Brethren traditions that trace their heritage to Schwarzenau, Germany. All will be presented in ways that demonstrate the relevance of the subject matter for the lives of young people today.

During shared worship times, the group will experience lectio divina, participate in devotions, and attend Happy Corner Church of the Brethren. To balance it all, down time will include games, outdoor recreation, swimming, good food, personal time, and the chance to build new relationships.

Due to a generous grant, the only expense to attendees is a $25 registration fee and the cost of travel to and from Bethany. Registration is now open on the Bethany website. More information about ‘Immerse!’ is available through several channels:
-- www.bethanyseminary.edu/immerse/
-- www.facebook.com/groups/BethanySeminaryYouthEngagement/
-- Amy Beery, program director of youth engagement, beeryam@bethanyseminary.edu
-- 800-287-8822 or 317-418-6595.

-- Jenny Williams is director of communications for Bethany Theological Seminary.





6) Brethren bits


 "The Last March" at First Church of the Brethren in Chicago

First Church of the Brethren in Chicago, Illinois, and the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago are partnering with McCormick Theological Seminary to present “The Last March” at 7 p.m. on April 4. This will be an evening of spoken word, song, and discussion commemorating the final year of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. “National populist memories of Dr. King tend to neglect the challenges of justice he articulated toward the end of his life,” said an announcement. “The Last March” will feature Nanette Banks, Benjamin Reynolds, Johari Jabir, Benneth Lee, and other artists, clergy, scholars, and members of the community. The event will engage in contemplative reflection on the last year of Dr. King’s life, leading up to his final hours in Memphis, Tenn. The event is free and open to the public.

-- Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) seeks to fill two positions:
     A client manager for the Brethren Foundation. The primary function is to provide field presence and backup support for the director of the Brethren Foundation and the manager of Brethren Foundation Operations. This position will allow for increased capacity of servicing clients and will provide backup support for Foundation staff. The ideal candidate will have an undergraduate degree in business and a strong working knowledge of investments. The successful candidate may be required to obtain additional financial credentials. This position requires a person who enjoys working with people; is detail oriented and has the ability to prioritize workloads; is proficient with computer systems and applications; and possesses exceptional organizational skills. Impeccable follow-up abilities are a must. BBT seeks candidates with strong verbal and written communications skills, proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite, demonstrated track record of providing superior customer service, and a willingness and ability to expand knowledge and effectiveness through classes and workshops. Current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; current and active membership in a faith community is required.
     A retirement planning consultant. The primary function is to provide financial education and appropriate resources to members in our Pension Plan and Insurance Plans, aiding them in their goals to get them to and through retirement. Duties include creating and administering a financial planning program that empowers members in their retirement readiness preparations. Identifying and promoting appropriate financial planning tools (i.e. pension recordkeeping interface, Money Tree software, and other planning tools), while supporting participants in meeting their personal financial goals. The ideal candidate will have an undergraduate degree in business and a strong working knowledge of financial planning/investments. Additional designations will be required to obtain (i.e. CRPC or CFP). This position requires a person who enjoys working with people; is detail oriented and has the ability to prioritize workloads; proficient with computer systems and applications; and exceptional organizational skills. Impeccable follow-up abilities are a must. BBT seeks candidates with strong verbal and written communications skills, proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite, and a demonstrated track record of providing superior customer service and a willingness and ability to expand knowledge and effectiveness through classes and workshops. Current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; current and active membership in a faith community is required. This position requires some business travel.
     These are full-time, exempt positions based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Salary and benefits are competitive with organizations of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. Send a letter of interest, résumé, three professional references, and salary-range expectation to Donna March at 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, or dmarch@cobbt.org . For more information about Brethren Benefit Trust visit www.cobbt.org .

National Youth Conference 2018 logo

-- National Youth Sunday materials are now available online at www.brethren.org/yya/national-youth-sunday.html . The suggested Sunday for youth leadership in worship is May 6. The theme for this year is the National Youth Conference (NYC) theme, inspired by Colossians 3:12-15: “Bound Together: Clothed in Christ.” Materials include original worship resources such as prayers, calls to worship, invocations, scripture jams, a children’s story, music suggestions, and a sample sermon, among others.

-- Brethren are invited by the Intercultural Ministries to an online conversation about the “Black Panther” film. The event takes place Thursday, March 29, at 1 p.m. (Eastern time). Join via video at https://redbooth.com/vc/e32c17ebab699ba7 . Join via phone by dialing +1 415 762 9988 (meeting ID is 604705231, no participant ID is required). Why join the conversation? asked an announcement. “Because this movie is a cultural phenomena,” it answered. “Because no one believed a movie starring an African American cast could become an international blockbuster. Because it has sparked many interesting conversations about race in the United States. Because comic books draw on Judeo-Christan images of the chosen people and messiah characters. Because you have a stash of mint-condition comic books and never thought you would get to brag on a denominational conference call. Because you went and watched the movie--more than once. Because no one else in your congregation is talking about it. Because you want to be part of a multicultural conversation about this movie.” Also available is a short survey, that may be found on the webpage with the announcement at http://support.brethren.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=37246.0&dlv_id=45353 . For questions or feedback, contact Intercultural Ministries director Gimbiya Kettering at gkettering@brethren.org .

-- Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has announced a training to take place on May 11-12 in Chicago, Ill. The event will take place at St. Josaphat School at 2245 North Southport Avenue. Participants will receive training to become CDS volunteers who aid children and families after disaster strikes. The local contact is Melissa Ockerman, 614-226-9664 or melissa.ockerman@depaul.edu . For more information see www.brethren.org/cds .

-- A March For Our Lives Breakfast Gathering on Saturday, March 24, is co-hosted by the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy and the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Washington Office. The breakfast starts at 9:30 a.m. at Washington City Church of the Brethren, 337 North Carolina Ave. SE, in Washington, D.C. Those attending the March for Our Lives event against gun violence are invited to start their day at the Brethren and Mennonite morning gathering. Go to the Facebook event page www.facebook.com/events/1915849375100605 .

-- An “ACT NOW: Unite to End Racism” rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is scheduled for April 4, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy of the Church of the Brethren is volunteering at the event, encouraging Church of the Brethren congregations to attend, and working to provide hospitality/coordination for Church of the Brethren march participants. On Tuesday evening, April 3, an ecumenical worship service will be held. On Wednesday morning, April 4, a silent prayer walk will proceed to the National Mall, culminating in an interfaith prayer service preceding the 9 a.m. anti-racism rally. Thursday, April 5 is slated for advocacy and action efforts in the nation’s capital. “Fifty years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Memphis, Tenn., to support 1,300 striking sanitation workers battling deadly working conditions, low wages and white supremacy,” said an announcement of the rally. “The night before he was murdered standing on a hotel balcony on April 4, 1968, he told them, ‘We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through.” The event is being held with several ecumenical partners including the National Council of Churches (NCC) and several of its 38 member communions. Next week, the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy will be sending out an Action Alert about the rally with more information.

-- On Earth Peace has endorsed the “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival” and is inviting congregations to join with the campaign’s efforts in their own states. The Poor People’s Campaign is reigniting an effort to bring people who are poor and disenfranchised together as happened in the months before the assassination of the Martin Luther King Jr. On the upcoming of the 50th anniversary of King’s death, the organizers are commemorating that work. At least 40 states have groups now organizing as part of the campaign. The campaign’s core principles are founded in nonviolence, power to the disenfranchised, justice, building a “Peace Economy,” organizing in local communities and more. On Earth Peace staff member Matt Guynn is co-chair for Nonviolent Moral Fusion direct action training and strategy in the state of Oregon. He shares, “The Poor People’s Campaign is a call for moral revival--a time for those of us in church communities to re-examine what we’re willing to do for justice, as an expression of our faith commitment. This is an opportunity for so many of us in faith communities and people of good will to put our values into action.” On Earth Peace is inviting congregations to get involved in the Poor People’s Campaign in their own states. Sign up at https://poorpeoplescampaign.org . Contact On Earth Peace to let the staff know of congregational involvement in the campaign with an email to racialjustice@onearthpeace.org . Alyssa Parker is serving as an intern with On Earth Peace on this effort.

-- First Church of the Brethren in Chicago, Illinois, and the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago are partnering with McCormick Theological Seminary to present “The Last March” at 7 p.m. on April 4. This will be an evening of spoken word, song, and discussion commemorating the final year of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. “National populist memories of Dr. King tend to neglect the challenges of justice he articulated toward the end of his life,” said an announcement. “The Last March” will feature Nanette Banks, Benjamin Reynolds, Johari Jabir, Benneth Lee, and other artists, clergy, scholars, and members of the community. The event will engage in contemplative reflection on the last year of Dr. King’s life, leading up to his final hours in Memphis, Tenn. The event is free and open to the public.

-- Manchester University will be holding an “MLK50 Bell Toll Service” on April 4, beginning at 6:30 p.m., on its campus in North Manchester, Ind. “Manchester joins campuses and churches across the nation and around the world in a solemn reflection marking the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr,” said an announcement. “At 7:05 p.m. local time, bells will ring 39 times to mark the number of years Dr. King dwelled on this Earth.”

This Evil Thing poster

-- Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., is hosting and co-sponsoring a performance of "This Evil Thing," a one-man play written and performed by Michael Mears. The performance is scheduled for April 13 at 7:30 p.m. Co-sponsors are Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) and the Center for Conscience and War. The play tells the story of English conscientious objectors during World War I. “‘This Evil Thing’ is the compelling, inspiring and rarely told story of the men who said no to war; and the men and women who supported them,” said an announcement, “involving a dizzying journey from a chapel in Yorkshire to the House of Commons; from an English country garden to a quarry in Aberdeen; from a cell in Richmond Castle to a firing squad in France. With military conscription still in force in many countries today, and prisoners of conscience still languishing in jails, the questions posed are as relevant and urgent as they were 100 years ago.” A free-will offering will be received.

-- Actor and playwright Michael Mears is also bringing his one-man play, “This Evil Thing,” to Manchester University on March 27, at 7 p.m. in Wine Recital Hall. The play about conscription of soldiers during World War I and the conscientious objectors who refused to take up arms, is free and open to the public. “Mears portrays a gallery of characters,” said a release from the college, “from conscientious objectors to army generals, from prime ministers to stretcher-bearers--with breathtaking physical and vocal dexterity. This critically acclaimed, original piece of storytelling uses verbatim testimonies and a multi-layered sound landscape. The lone actor uses just a few simple wooden props.” This program is brought to Manchester by the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, with support from the Timothy Wayne Rieman and Gwen Radebach Rieman Fund; the Office of Religious Life, with support from the Christian Leadership Endowment Fund, and the Peace Studies Institute.

-- Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Littleton, Colo., hosted an after school event on March 14 where “dozens of Heritage High School students crammed into the basement,” the “Littleton Independent” reported. The event was intended to help the gun violence walkout participants “to take their activism beyond schoolyard walkouts into actionable public policy. Pastor Gail Erisman-Valeta organized a meeting between walkout participants and adults who could help them further their goals.” Leadership came from former state Senator Linda Newell who taught a course in introducing bills to the legislature; Tom Mauser, father of Columbine massacre victim Daniel Mauser and a longtime gun control advocate, who held a roundtable discussion; and Jacob Sankara from north Denver's Conflict Center who presented anger-management and conflict-resolution resources, among others. “Gun violence touches every single life, and we believe in the sanctity of life,” Erisman-Valeta said. Find the article at http://littletonindependent.net/stories/walkout-participants-go-extracurricular,259507 .

-- An upcoming Ventures Course will focus on “Congregations Nurturing a Culture of Call: Why It Matters.” This is the April course offering of the Ventures in Christian Discipleship program at McPherson (Kan.) College. The interactive course will focus on the distinctive role congregations play in the calling and nurturing of ministerial leadership. Participants will hear testimonies of those who have answered the call--from biblical times to the present, and examples of congregations who have excelled in creating a climate for calling. The course will examine the new Ministerial Leadership (2014) paper, highlighting various components of “discerning the call” toward credentialed ministry, and will identify 10 practical ways congregations and districts can partner in the calling, training, and sustaining of qualified ministerial leaders for the local, district, and national ministry needs. The class will be held online Saturday, April 14, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon (central time). The instructor is Joe Detrick, who recently completed a term as interim director of ministry for the Church of the Brethren and is a former district executive. All classes are donation-based and continuing education credit is available for $10 per course. To learn more about Ventures and to register visit www.mcpherson.edu/ventures .

-- “Creating a Culture of Call” will be held at Camp Bethel in Virginia on April 20, 2-4 p.m. A preliminary event to the “Calling the Called” conference of Virlina and Shenandoah Districts, the workshop will be led by Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry. Churches will consider how they may maintain a steady focus of identifying, calling, and training pastoral leadership from within their own congregations. How many of our future church leaders are currently sitting in our pews? Cost is $10 per person, which will cover the cost of continuing education credit. For more information and for registration forms, visit www.virlina.org .

-- “Calling the Called: Discernment-Discipleship-Direction” is an event jointly organized by the Shenandoah and Virlina Districts as an intentional time away from the routine of life for persons to discern what it means to be called by God to the set-apart ministry. “Whether you are someone actively exploring the possibility of ministry or someone unsure of God’s calling this will be a helpful time of discernment and discovery,” said an announcement. “Come and hear personal call stories, come and wrestle with biblical call stories, come and learn about the process of entering the set-apart ministry in the Church of the Brethren. Come for worship and fellowship; come and discover what it means to be a people called by God.” The event begins at 5 p.m. April 20, through 4 p.m. April 21, at Camp Bethel in Virginia. Cost of registration is $50 per person, which includes lodging at Camp Bethel, meals, classes, and materials. Continuing education credits will be available for ordained ministers for an extra $10 fee. Information and registration forms are available at www.virlina.org .

-- In the latest episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast, Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred shares his interview with Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy of the Catholics Mobilizing Network(CMN). Learn more about how CMN is working to abolish the death penalty and hear thoughts on Christian advocacy in the political scene. Listen on the episode page at http://bit.ly/DPP_Episode53 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes at http://bit.ly/DPP_iTunes .

-- An “Introduction to Human Trafficking” has been written by Doris Abdullah, Church of the Brethren United Nations representative, and posted on the denominational blog at http://blog.brethren.org/2018/introduction-to-human-trafficking . The report begins with a story of one young girl who was trafficked, and then goes on to explore the topic in some depth. “The nurse looked at the face of the young girl wrapped from head to toe in white gauze and tape,” the post begins, “The chart listed her name as Jane Doe and her age of 12 /15 had a question mark beside it. The policewoman spoke up to say: ‘Lucky she is alive. We found her in a dumpster beside the highway.’ The above composite of a girl child found beaten and near death occurs all to frequently in rural areas, near small towns and cities around the world. Jane Doe is a victim of human trafficking and she can just as easily be found hospitalized in Cincinnati, Ohio, Lima, Peru, Tokyo, Japan, Melbourne, Australia, Jos, Nigeria, Bangkok, Thailand, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Ghouta, Syria or Moscow, Russia. Human Trafficking, also known as Modern Day Slavery, is a worldwide phenomenon.” Read more at http://blog.brethren.org/2018/introduction-to-human-trafficking .


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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 the 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 Doris Abdullah, Victoria Bateman, Jacob Crouse, Anne Gregory, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Nathan Hosler, Gimbiya Kettering, Donna March, Dan McFadden, Alyssa Parker, David Steele, Jenny Williams, Ed Woolf.

Go to www.brethren.org/Newsline to subscribe to the Church of the Brethren Newsline free e-mail news service and receive church news every week.