Newsline for February 1, 2006

“The Lord is my chosen portion….” — Psalm 16:5a


1) General Board reports record funding figures for 2005.
2) Video shows missing peacemakers alive in Iraq.
3) Intercultural Study Committee develops web log.
4) Bethany board increases tuition, prepares for accreditation renewal.
5) Walk Across America makes change in scheduling church visits.
6) Disaster Child Care releases 2005 figures, announces trainings.
7) Committee on Interchurch Relations issues call for nominations.
8) Children’s book illustrator Raschka receives Caldecott Medal.
9) Brethren bits: Remembrance, Annual Conference, and more.


10) Scott Douglas resigns from ABC staff.
11) Boshart appointed General Board director of Sudan initiative.

For more Church of the Brethren news, go to, click on “News” to find a news feature, more “Brethren bits,” links to Brethren in the news, and links to photo albums and the Newsline archive. The page is updated each business day whenever possible.

1) General Board reports record funding figures for 2005.

In preliminary year-end funding figures, the Church of the Brethren General Board has reported record funding for 2005. The figures came from pre-audit reports of cumulative donations received from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2005. Donations of more than $3.6 million to the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) almost equalled donations to the board’s Core Ministries Fund, which exceeded $3.7 million in giving received from individuals and congregations.

“The remarkable giving to EDF has added $2 million new dollars in giving to General Board ministries, and that must be celebrated,” said Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the board. Comparable figures from 2004 reveal “the generosity of the Brethren,” Noffsinger said. In 2004 the EDF received giving of less than a million dollars, totaling $838,037. Giving to the Core Ministries Fund was slightly higher the previous year, totaling $3,829,879 in 2004.

The EDF provides grants to support disaster relief work carried out by Brethren Disaster Response, Disaster Child Care, Church World Service, longterm disaster recovery groups, and refugee services.

The Core Ministries Fund supports much of the work of the board’s program units that are not self-funded, including Congregational Life Ministries, the Youth and Young Adult Office, Global Mission Partnerships, and Brethren Volunteer Service among others.

In other pre-audit year-end totals, other funds of the General Board also fared well in 2005: the Global Food Crisis Fund received giving of more than $295,000 (as compared to $290,820 in 2004); the Emerging Mission Fund received donations of more than $75,000 (as compared to $42,788 in 2004).

A complete audited financial report for the General Board will be available this summer with the board’s 2005 Annual Report.

2) Video shows missing peacemakers alive in Iraq.

A video shown by Al Jazeera television on Jan. 28 showed four Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) members alive in Iraq, but included a renewed death threat if the US does not release its prisoners in Iraq.

CPT has its roots in the Historic Peace Churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker) and is an ecumenical violence-reduction program that places teams of trained peacemakers in areas of lethal conflict. It has been present in Iraq since Oct. 2002, providing humanitarian aid in the form of training and human rights documentation.

The four peacemakers–Tom Fox, 54, from Clearbrook, Va.; Norman Kember, 74, from London, England; James Loney, 41, from Toronto, Canada; and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, from Montreal, Canada–have been missing since Nov. 26. A videotape in November claimed that the CPT volunteers had been taken hostage by a previously unknown group called Swords of Righteousness Brigades. Since December, when the group issued a deadline for the US to release all prisoners in Iraq or the peacemakers would be killed, nothing further had been heard from the four men.

“We are so grateful and heartened to see James, Harmeet, Norman, and Tom alive on the videotape dated Jan. 21,” said a release from CPT. “This news is an answer to our prayers. We continue to hope and pray for their release.”

“All of us in Christian Peacemaker Teams remain very disturbed by the abduction of our teammates,” the release continued. “We pray that those who hold them will host them with the grace that so many of us in CPT have received as guests in Iraq. James, Harmeet, Norman, and Tom are peace workers who have not collaborated with the occupation of Iraq and who have worked for justice for all Iraqis, especially those detained.”

Church of the Brethren leaders, the Brethren Witness/Washington Office, and On Earth Peace have made statements calling for the release of the peacemakers (see and, joining other religious groups and leaders around the world including Palestinian and Iraqi Muslim leaders along with the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches in the US. Some Church of the Brethren congregations and groups also have held prayer vigils for the peacemakers.

“The first pictures since last November of the Christian peacemakers held captive in Iraq shows the four men looking haggard and gaunt,” the National Council of Churches (NCC) said in a press release. “Friends of the prisoners continue to reflect on the irony that the shadowy kidnappers selected these devout peace advocates and open critics of the Iraq war to make their point.”

For more about Christian Peacemaker Teams see

3) Intercultural Study Committee develops web log.

The Intercultural Study Committee formed by the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference has developed a web log in an effort to foster discussion of its investigative work on intercultural issues in the Church of the Brethren.

The study committee was elected at the 2004 Annual Conference in Charleston as a result of two queries, “Becoming a Multi-Ethnic Church,” brought by Atlantic Southeast District; and “The Need for Cross-Cultural Ministries,” from Oregon-Washington District. The queries referred to scripture in calling for action “to bring us into conformity with the biblical vision of a church from every nation, tribe, people, and language, united in worship before the throne of God” (Isaiah 56:6-7; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 15:9; 2 Corinthians 13:12; Revelation 7:9).

The committee continues to work on two of its five tasks, in a report from recorder Nadine L Monn. The group is working on an intercultural ministries progress report format for Annual Conference through 2010, and on action recommendations for the denomination, districts, congregations, and church members. Interested church members can visit the web log to see updates from the committee’s work and to comment on them.

Additions also have been made to the committee’s portion of the Annual Conference website, including a questionnaire for member input on action recommendations, a diversity survey that was circulated to all of the district executive ministers, and a table of previous Annual Conference recommendations adopted since 1989.

“Please be in prayer for the denomination as we work together to realize the Revelation 7:9 vision,” Monn said. “The committee members request prayer for them as they write their 2006 Annual Conference report.”

Committee members are Asha Solanky, chair; Nadine L. Monn, recorder; Darla Kay Bowman Deardorff; Ruben DeOleo; Thomas Dowdy; Neemita Pandya; Gilbert Romero; and Glenn Hatfield, ex-officio representative of the American Baptist Churches USA.

To visit the Intercultural Study Committee’s portion of the Annual Conference website go to To visit the web log go to

4) Bethany board increases tuition, prepares for accreditation renewal.

The Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees gathered for a semi-annual meeting Oct. 28-30, 2005. The trustees approved a tuition increase, heard of progress in preparing for the seminary’s accreditation renewal, celebrated an initial goal achieved by a fundraising campaign, approved sabbaticals for faculty, and welcomed new board members.

The board approved a recommendation from the Student and Business Affairs Committee for a 4.96 percent tuition increase effective in the 2006-07 academic year. The board also approved a student profile for the graduate programs, a working document that will be used by administration to set policy regarding financial aid and admissions efforts. Review of the financial aid program is a component of the seminary’s “coherence in the graduate program” strategic initiative. The Recruitment and Student Development Committee reported that 24 students were admitted to the graduate school this fall.

The Academic Affairs Committee gave a progress report on self-study preparations and strategic initiatives for the accreditation review in the fall of 2006. The self-study based on 10 standards prescribed by the Association of Theological Schools will be presented to the board in the spring.

A report also was received of revisions to the course structure of Connections, the seminary’s distributed education program, from Dan Ulrich, associate professor of New Testament Studies and director of Distributed Education; and also reviewed a report from the first Connections student cohort about the group’s experience in the program.

Recommendations for faculty sabbaticals in 2006 were approved including a Dec. 2006-April 2007 sabbatical for Stephen Breck Reid, academic dean; a spring 2006 sabbatical for Tara Hornbacker, associate professor of Ministry Formation; and a fall 2006 sabbatical for Ulrich, in anticipation of his return to fulltime teaching following.

The Institutional Advancement Committee heard that the seminary has achieved its initial goal for a fundraising campaign titled “Inspired by the Spirit–Educating for Ministry.” The campaign received gifts and commitments totaling more than $15,700,000. In other financial reports, the Audit Committee reported that once again Bethany has received an unqualified report–the highest commendation possible–from its auditors for the 2004-05 fiscal year. The Investment Committee has developed criteria for evaluating the seminary’s investment managers, with guidelines that conform more closely to the benchmarks of each.

Bethany teaching faculty reported on their participation in the Lexington Seminar supported by Lilly Endowment, Inc., and sponsored by Lexington Theological Seminary. The seminar is focused on theological teaching for the churches’ ministries, and seeks to support faculty, president, and dean working together on an issue critical for the institution. Criteria for selection include demonstrated academic integrity and excellence, a faculty and administration committed to working together to improve teaching and learning for the ministries of the church, and stability needed to implement a project that will have an effect on on the way the institution carries out its mission. Bethany is one of 35 seminaries participating.

The board welcomed new members John David Bowman of Lititz, Pa.; and Paul Wampler of Manassas, Va.; as well as Lisa Hazen of Wichita, Kan., and Jim Hardenbrook of Nampa, Idaho, who were unable to attend the meeting.

For more information about Bethany Theological Seminary go to

5) Walk Across America makes change in scheduling of church visits.

“After over four years and 18,000 miles it is time for a change in the way scheduling has been handled,” said Don Vermilyea, in an announcement about the Walk Across America. Vermilyea is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker who began a ‘Walk Across America for Jesus Christ’ in Feb. 2002. He started walking in Tucson, Ariz., with the goal of walking to every Church of the Brethren congregation in the US.

After Feb. 12, Vermilyea is asking congregations to take the initiative in arranging for him to visit, by calling contact people who will be handling the scheduling of his church visits. Vermilyea said he is no longer able to make arrangements for congregational visits from the road, and will no longer take the initiative to call congregations that are on his route in order to arrange the visits.

He also announced a change in the name of the effort: “Chapter One of the ‘Walk Across America for Jesus Christ’ will end Feb. 12 in Jacksonville, Fla.,” he said. “The next day, Chapter Two will begin as the ‘Walk for Jesus’ from Florida to Michigan.”

Vermilyea plans to be in Southeastern District beginning in February. “Georgia, South Carolina, western North Carolina, western Virginia, and eastern Tennessee are next up,” he said, adding that he already has visited the Church of the Brethren congregations in Alabama, in the fall of 2005.

After Southeastern District, Vermilyea plans to traverse Kentucky and Indiana on the way to Michigan. Four other Church of the Brethren members will be his contact people for those states. Their names and phone numbers will be publicized while Vermilyea is completing the walk in Southeastern District.

Frank Thornton, a member of Fruitdale (Ala.) Church of the Brethren and former Southeastern District moderator, will be Vermilyea’s contact for the churches of Southeastern District. Congregations interested in hosting the Walk for Jesus are asked to call Thornton at 251-827-6337.

“If you or your congregation would like to host the Walk, please make direct phone contact with Frank” or one of the other four contact people who will be named for later parts of the walk, Vermilyea requested, asking that congregational representatives speak personally with the contact person named for their area. Thornton and the other contact people are familiar with the walk and will be able to answer most questions. “The schedule will fill in, thus timeliness is important on your part,” Vermilyea alerted congregations who are still on his route across the country.

For more information about the Walk for Jesus, and for stories and photos from Don Vermilyea’s experiences on the road, visit

6) Disaster Child Care releases 2005 figures, announces trainings.

Disaster Child Care (DCC) coordinator Helen Stonesifer has released year-end figures for the program, which is part of the Church of the Brethren General Board’s Emergency Response/Service Ministries. DCC trains volunteers to set up special child care centers in disaster locations to care for young children that have been affected by disaster.

The 2005 statistics “are quite impressive,” Stonesifer said, reporting that 148 volunteers served 1,372 days in 20 childcare centers, making 3,152 childcare contacts in the aftermath of four natural and human-caused disasters. “The value of this donated care is estimated at $192,628.80,” she said. In 2005, a total of 162 people were trained at 10 Level I Disaster Child Care Training Workshops held in Benton, Ark.; Victor, N.Y.; Paw Paw, Mich.; Roanoke, Va.; La Verne, Calif.; Mount Morris, Ill.; Norfolk, Neb.; Brook Park, Ohio; Sodus, N.Y.; and Farmington, Del. “Pending certification, these trainees will become a part of the DCC volunteer network that provides love, comfort, and support to children affected by disaster,” Stonesifer said.

Several more Level I Disaster Child Care Training Workshops will be offered in 2006. “Please encourage persons to attend whom you know are interested in being a part of this ministry to children,” Stonesifer said. Cost for each workshop is $45; $55 if less than three weeks prior to workshop; current volunteers may attend for $25.

Level 1 Volunteer Training Workshops are planned for Feb. 17-18 at Beaverton (Mich.) Church of the Brethren; Feb. 25-26 at LaMesa (Calif.) Seventh-Day Adventist Church; March 3-4 at Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren; March 10-11 at Montezuma Church of the Brethren in Dayton, Va.; March 17-18 at Indian Creek Church of the Brethren in Harleysville, Pa.; and April 28-29 at Deer Park United Methodist Church in Westminster, Md.

To register and for information about Level I Disaster Child Care Training Workshops, see For copies of the workshop brochure and registration form, call Diane Gosnell at 800-451-4407.

DCC volunteers who received training more than five years ago also are encouraged to participate in a training workshop “to brush up on your skills,” Stonesifer said. “Several procedures and policies have recently changed and we want you to know about them.”

Among changes for volunteers is a request for a head-and-shoulders photograph, required for picture identification badges, as well as a criminal background check as part of the volunteer certification process. All certified child care volunteers who were trained prior to 2000 are now being requested to send in a photograph and to obtain a criminal background check. Volunteers who already have a criminal background check on file in the DCC office may disregard this request. A criminal background check form can be downloaded from the DCC website at or call Diane Gosnell at 800-451-4407 ext. 3.

7) Committee on Interchurch Relations issues call for nominations.

The Committee on Interchurch Relations (CIR) has issued a call for stories as nominations for the 2006 Ecumenical Citation. The 2006 citation will be given to a congregation of the Church of the Brethren. CIR is a joint committee of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and the General Board.

The CIR’s focus this year is on congregations working at ecumenical relationships, which include interfaith ecumenism. In keeping with the goals of the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV), a program of the World Council of Churches, the committee has announced that “the search is on for Church of the Brethren congregations that are involved in ecumenical, including interfaith, peacemaking.”

“At a time when tensions are elevated between different religions and groups around the world, there are congregations who are reaching out, each in their own way, to bridge the gap and be the embodiment of Christ amid hatred and misunderstanding,” the committee said in its call for stories.

Previous congregational recipients of the citation include Imperial Heights Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles, Calif.; Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Easton (Md.) Church of the Brethren. The 2006 citation will be presented at CIR’s Ecumenical Luncheon at Annual Conference in July.

Nominations may be submitted online at, type in keyword: CIR/Ecumenical. Deadline for nominations is March 15.

8) Children’s book illustrator Raschka receives Caldecott Medal.

The 2006 Caldecott Medal for the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children has been awarded to “The Hello, Goodbye Window,” illustrated by Chris Raschka and written by Norton Juster (Michael di Capua Books, an imprint of Hyperion Books for Children). The Caldecott Medal is awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children, American Library Association (ALA).

Raschka is a son of Hedda Durnbaugh and Donald F. Durnbaugh, the “dean of Brethren historians” who passed away in August last year. He also has illustrated several books published by Brethren Press.

About “The Hello, Goodbye Window,” the Caldecott website says, “In this sunny portrait of familial love, a little girl tells us about her everyday experiences visiting her grandparents’ house. Raschka’s style resembles the spontaneous drawings of children, perfectly mirroring the guileless young narrator’s exuberant voice.” Gratia Banta, chair of the award committee, said, “With a few energetic lines, Raschka suggests a world filled with affection and humor.”

Brethren Press books illustrated by Raschka include “Benjamin Brody’s Backyard Bag” by Phyllis Vos Wezeman and Colleen Allsburg Wiessner, a children’s book about homelessness (1991, available for $15 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712 or go to; “R and R: A Story of Two Alphabets,” written and illustrated by Raschka (1990, currently out of print); and “This I Remember” by George Dolnikowski, a memoir by the Russian-born professor emeritus at Juniata College (1994).

Raschka also illustrated two children’s books written by Church of the Brethren member Jim Lehman and published by his Brotherstone Publishers: “The Owl and the Tuba” (1991) and “The Saga of Shakespeare Pintlewood and the Great Silver Fountain Pen” (1990).

For more about the Caldecott Medal see For more about Brethren Press and an online catalogue see

9) Brethren bits: Remembrance, Annual Conference, and more.
  • “The Church of the Brethren extends its condolences to the Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King Jr. family at the loss of this extraordinary leader in civil rights activism,” said Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren General Board. Coretta Scott King died Tuesday, Jan. 31, following a stroke in Aug. 2005. She was “an individual determined to bring about a better world in which all of us will live together as equals. We will certainly miss her leadership and her example,” Noffsinger said. Other Christian leaders worldwide joined President Bush and political figures in remembering King this week. The president of the National Council of Churches USA, Michael E. Livingston, said that “she was an unwavering advocate of civil and human rights and a champion of nonviolence. Her strength and fortitude are to be admired and emulated. We will forever be grateful for the legacy that she leaves behind.” The World Council of Churches issued a tribute from general secretary Samuel Kobia, “Coretta Scott King was an extraordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life during an extraordinary time…. After Dr. King’s assassination, Mrs King became a leader in the movement for nonviolent social change, insisting that Dr. King’s legacy not be forgotten.”
  • The Annual Conference Council, charged with the responsibility for maintaining Annual Conference polity, has completed a revision of the “Manual of Organization and Polity” that is current with Annual Conference decisions to date. This revision of the 2001 edition is available on the Annual Conference website at, click on the “Polity, Policies, and Guidelines” tab. This revision is an interim version of the polity manual that will be updated again following reviews by some Annual Conference agencies and upon adoption in 2007 of the report of the Review and Evaluation Committee.
  • Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) is publicizing its Older Adult Program providing volunteer opportunities for older adult volunteers. “We ask you to bring your lifetime of experience and values of faith into volunteering,” said an announcement from BVS. While older adults are welcome in any of the orientation units offered throughout the year, BVS provides a special orientation unit for older adults age 50 years and older. This unit is offered this spring in New Windsor, Md., April 24-May 5. The deadline to complete the application process is March 12. The Older Adult program is slightly different from the customary BVS experience in a few ways, including a shorter orientation period–10 days compared to the usual three weeks; older adults are not required to take an assignment immediately following orientation; older adults are asked to commit to a six-month term of service with the option of extending their term; and the date to begin service is negotiable depending on the needs of the volunteer and the project. Contact the BVS office for more information at 800-323-8039 or visit for a bulletin insert about the program.
  • Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren and member James Groff are producing a half-hour community television program each month, shown on Channel 21 in Portland, and on Channel 11 in Portland and Vancouver, Wash. The effort began in July 2005. “The format is ‘magazine style’ with stories about things which Peace Church is involved,” said Groff. “It’s one way to let the community know who we are and what we stand for.” Featured stories have highlighted Camp Myrtlewood, Christian Peacemaker Teams, a local emergency food program, and being an open and affirming congregation. The February program will feature the Song and Story Fest family camp sponsored by On Earth Peace and others.
  • The view has changed at the Pinecrest Community campus in Mount Morris, Ill., according to a press release from the Church of the Brethren retirement community. Passers-by can now see into 20 acres of construction work preparing for a $15 million development to be called Pinecrest Grove. The layout will contain 42 single and duplex cottages. A $3.5-million Community Center will offer a pharmacy, bank, general store, restaurant, a wellness area with exercise classes, and a 200-seat theater. “Pinecrest is happy to open up this building for such a wide array of uses,” said CEO Carol Davis. “It’s great when we can give back a little to the folks who have always been so generous to us over the 112 years this campus has existed.”
10) Scott Douglas resigns from ABC staff.

Scott Douglas has resigned as director of Older Adult Ministries of the Association of Brethren Caregivers (ABC), effective June 2006. He joined ABC in 1998 as director of resources.

During his eight years with ABC, Douglas has served as the organization’s conference coordinator, planning and overseeing five National Older Adult Conferences (NOAC), four Caring Ministries Assemblies, and three regional deacon ministry training events.

During his tenure, Douglas served as program staff for several ABC ministries including Denominational Deacon Ministry, Family Life Ministry, Lafiya: A Whole-Person Health Ministry, and the Older Adult Ministry. For the last two years, Douglas’ assignment has been as staff for the Older Adult Ministry. He has worked with volunteer members of the Older Adult Ministry Cabinet to raise awareness about the need for an intentional ministry by, for, and with older adults within the Church of the Brethren.

“Scott has been instrumental in sharing with the wider church an understanding of what the caring ministries mean for the denomination today and a theology that supports God’s promise and hope for abundant life for all people,” said Kathy Reid, executive director for ABC.

Douglas plans to complete a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Illinois, in order to pursue a career in clinical social work as a counseling therapist.

11) Boshart appointed General Board director of Sudan initiative.

Jeff Boshart has accepted the new position of director for the General Board’s new Sudan Initiative, beginning Jan. 30. He brings a strong background in community development and agricultural knowledge to the position. He and his wife, Peggy, served as economic community development coordinators in the Dominican Republic from 2001-04 through the General Board.

Boshart is a graduate of Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and environmental science. He also holds a Master’s degree in international agriculture and rural development from Cornell University. In 1992-94, and again from 1998-2000, he worked with Educational Concern for Hunger Organization Inc. (ECHO) in Nigeria, and then in Haiti in agricultural community development and as an intern coordinator.

Boshart and his family currently live in Pennsylvania but will relocate at a later date. Boshart will work out of the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, on every other Wednesday with other editions as needed. Mary Dulabaum, Lerry Fogle, Mary Lou Garrison, James Groff, Jon Kobel, Nadine Monn, Marcia Shetler, Helen Stonesifer, and Don Vermilyea contributed to this report. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail or to unsubscribe, write or call 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Newsline is available and archived at, click on “News.” For more news and features, subscribe to Messenger magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.


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