Newsline for July 5, 2006

“Train yourself in godliness….” — 1 Timothy 4:7b


1) ‘Doing Church Business,’ Iraq war, divestment head Annual Conference business agenda.
2) Conference chooses James Beckwith as moderator for 2008.
3) Answers are received to questions about sexuality and ministry.


4) Julie Garber is selected as editor of ‘Brethren Life and Thought.’
5) Bethany Seminary announces search for new president.


6) Training event at National Older Adult Conference is open to all pastors.

For daily coverage of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, go to

1) ‘Doing Church Business,’ Iraq war, divestment head Annual Conference business agenda.

A very full business agenda faced the delegate body at the 2006 Annual Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 1-5. The business sessions were chaired by moderator Ronald D. Beachley, executive minister of Western Pennsylvania District. Moderator-elect Belita Mitchell assisted.

Doing Church Business:
The report of the study committee on Doing Church Business was referred to the Program Feasibility Study Committee of Annual Conference. The paper’s recommendations have potential to make significant changes in the format of the Conference and the way delegates address business.

“There is a clear need for significant change in order to enhance and model a discerning Christian community and the reign of God,” the paper said.

“We recognize the complexity of this undertaking,” said committee member Matt Guynn, who asked delegates to recognize the capacity for creativity in doing Conference business. The committee’s presentation of the paper highlighted several of its key recommendations and explained some of the thinking behind them.

Many who spoke to the paper affirmed its intent, but concerns were raised about implementation and cost. Delegates in 2007 will address the paper in light of the feasibility study, and will take up the paper at the point at which the motion to refer was made.

In a moment of confusion on the Conference floor, a re-count of a vote on the motion to refer had to be taken because the count of a previous vote–in which the motion was declared to have failed–was greater than the total number of delegates. However, a re-count by paper ballot approved the motion to refer.

Resolution on an End to the War in Iraq:
A resolution from the General Board calling for an end to the war in Iraq was adopted by the Annual Conference. It petitions for the troops to be brought home from Iraq, and calls on the global community to implement a nonviolent plan to bring peace and security there.

“As disciples of Christ and members of one of the three historic peace churches, we cannot ignore the death, destruction, and violence in the war in Iraq,” it says.

At the microphones to support the resolution were family members of soldiers either currently in Iraq or returned from Iraq.

“Let them come home. We want our children back home,” pleaded a mother, from Atlantic Northeast District.

A Navy veteran of the first Iraq war echoed the sentiment. “I say it’s time to bring our men and women home.”

A sizeable minority voted against the resolution. Some people said that bringing the news of the decision home to their congregations would be an unwelcome task.

“I realized I will take some heat. Brother moderator, you will too,” said William Waugh, Standing Committee member from Western Pennsylvania, who presented the recommendation to adopt the paper.

Standing Committee’s recommendation included a hope that all Brethren agencies and congregations will publicize the resolution.

Resolution on Divestment:
The Conference expressed appreciation for “Resolution: Divestment from Companies Selling Products Used as Weapons in Israel and Palestine,” and thanked Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) for its efforts to dialogue with the Caterpillar Corporation.

The delegates urged “Brethren agencies and individuals and other people of faith to review their own investments and refrain from investing in businesses that profit from war and violence, and to give faithful witness to Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace in financial matters as in all other matters.”

The resolution asked BBT in particular to divest from the Caterpillar Corporation “and any other company that sells products that are used routinely as weapons of destruction or death in Israel and Palestine.”

Since the resolution was made, the stocks at issue have been sold by BBT’s fund managers simply as a financial decision. BBT no longer owns stock in Caterpillar.

BBT’s initial approach to the issue was not to divest but to use the shares that it held to speak to Caterpillar, BBT president Wil Nolen told the Conference. Referring to Caterpillar’s D9 bulldozers made to military specifications, Nolen told the body that “our approach was to directly inquire of Caterpillar how this…conforms with their own Worldwide Code of Conduct.”

In other business:

  • The delegate body welcomed and adopted a resolution on “Commitment of Accessibility and Inclusion” from the Association of Brethren Caregivers. Although a 1994 Annual Conference resolution urged Church of the Brethren congregations and institutions to become accessible to the disabled, many congregations have not yet done so. The resolution urges “each congregation, agency, institution, facility and gathering” in the denomination to recommit to becoming fully accessible and including every person in its ministry. The resolution states that the barriers are not only architectural, but also “attitudes that reflect a lack of sensitivity or understanding, which deny persons with disabilities the right to a life of dignity and respect.” Several people spoke at the microphones, sharing their stories of disability and how their churches have embraced them as persons or how they have been challenged in their efforts to participate in the church.
  • Delegates approved the concerns of a query on “Call to Stewardship Education” and referred it to the General Board.
  • The General Board’s resolution on “A Call to Reduce Global Poverty and Hunger,” was adopted by the Conference without discussion. It calls on Brethren to pursue the Millennium Development Goals developed by the United Nations in 2000, including universal primary education, reduction of child mortality, improvement in maternal health, care for the environment, combating infectious diseases, and empowerment of women. The resolution closes, “Through prayer, study, and concrete action, let us resolve to act so that those who know extreme poverty and hunger might enter more fully into the abundance of God’s love.”
  • The direction of revisions of the Articles of Organization of Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) were affirmed. Among other things, the revisions allow BBT to provide more services to Brethren Medical Plan participants and add language to acknowledge BBT’s recently taking on oversight of the Church of the Brethren Credit Union. The revisions also balance representation on the BBT board from different constituent groups. Proposed language to allow BBT to solicit donations and seek grants and other funding was withdrawn by the BBT board before Standing Committee recommended the revisions to Annual Conference. Standing Committee had expressed unease with the sentence’s introduction of a new ability for BBT to seek funding sources beyond fees, perceiving that to open the agency to possible conflicts of interest and privacy violations as BBT may have access to donor lists of other Brethren agencies that use its services.
  • The Conference approved a 4.2 percent cost of living increase for 2007 for the minimum pastoral salary table, at the recommendation of the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee.
  • Reports were received from the five Annual Conference agencies: Association of Brethren Caregivers, the Brethren Benefit Trust, Bethany Theological Seminary, the General Board, and On Earth Peace; delegates also received a report of the denomination’s activities in ministry to the poor, following up on a previous Annual Conference action; an interim report from the Review and Evaluation Committee; an interim report from the 300th Anniversary Committee. One-year extensions for the Brethren Medical Plan Study Committee and the Intercultural Study Committee were approved after the body received interim reports from the two committees. Other reports included the Brethren representatives to the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches, and the Committee on Interchurch Relations.
  • The delegates welcomed six new fellowships: Christ Connections Community Fellowship of Oswego, Ill.; Faithful Servants Fellowship of Frederick, Md.; Family Faith Fellowship of Enid, Okla.; Journeys Way Ministries Fellowship of Fairhope, Pa.; Naples (Fla.) Haitian Fellowship; and Ramey Flats Fellowship of Clintwood, Va.
  • Delegates also got a taste of “Together: Conversations on Being the Church,” a study process being carried out across the denomination this year. Business sessions included four half-hour segments for small group conversation using the Together study guide available from Brethren Press. Together conversations will continue in regional and district gatherings.
  • The Program and Arrangements Commitee announced that the 2011 Conference will be held in Grand Rapids, Mich. The dates will be July 2-6, 2011.


2) Conference chooses James Beckwith as moderator for 2008.

Topping election results from the 2006 Annual Conference was the choice of James M. Beckwith, pastor of Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, as moderator-elect. Beckwith will serve as moderator of the 2008 Annual Conference that will include a celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Brethren movement.

Other election results include:

  • Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee: Scott L. Duffey of Westminster, Md.
  • Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee: Philip Hershey of Quarryville, Pa.
  • Committee on Interchurch Relations: Rene Quintanilla of Fresno, Calif.
  • Association of Brethren Caregivers: Vernne Wetzel Greiner of Mechanicsburg, Pa.;Dave Fouts of Maysville, W.Va. Nominees to the ABC board were affirmed: William Cave of Palmyra, Pa.; Gayle Hunter Sheller of Hillsboro, Ore.; Tamela Kiser of Dayton, Va.; John Kinsel of Beavercreek, Ohio.
  • Bethany Theological Seminary, representing colleges: Jonathan Frye of McPherson, Kan.; representing laity: Rex M. Miller of Milford, Ind.
  • Brethren Benefit Trust: Eunice Culp of Goshen, Ind. A nominee for the board of Brethren Benefit Trust was affirmed: Harry S. Rhodes of Roanoke (Va.) Central Church of the Brethren.
  • General Board, at large: Hector E. Perez-Borges of Bayamon, P.R. District nominees to the General Board were confirmed: David Bollinger, Atlantic Southeast District; Barbra S. Davis, Missouri and Arkansas District; and Kenneth Geisewite, Southern Pennsylvania District.
  • On Earth Peace: Madalyn Metzger of Bristol, Ind. Nominees for the board of On Earth Peace were affirmed: Verdena Lee of Living Peace Church of the Brethren, Columbus, Ohio; and Phil Miller of Ivester Church of the Brethren, Grundy Center, Iowa.

In a reorganization meeting, the General Board chose a new executive committee: Jeff Neuman Lee, chair; Tim Harvey, vice chair; Vickie Samland; Angie L. Yoder; Dale Minnich; Ken Wenger.

The board of Brethren Benefit Trust also chose 2006-07 officers: Harry Rhodes, chair; Jan Bratton, vice chair; Wilfred E. Nolen, secretary; Darryl Deardorff, treasurer. The BBT board’s Budget and Audit Review committee includes Steve Mason, Carol Ann Jackson Greenwood, Brenda Reish, Dave Gerber. The Investment Committee includes Jan Bratton, Harry Rhodes, Gail Habecker, Eric Kabler. The Nominating Committee includes Ken Holderread, Donna Forbes Steiner, John Braun. The Succession Committee includes Harry Rhodes, Jan Bratton, Gail Habecker.


3) Answers are received to questions about sexuality and ministry.

The Annual Conference Council reported answers to questions raised by Michigan District’s 2003 query, “Clarification of Confusion.” That query followed the previous year’s Conference action declaring it “inappropriate” to license or ordain individuals “engaging in homosexual practice.”

The answers note that the 2002 action was a policy decision that was based on polity, which “requires that ordination be reserved for those who will support the actions of Annual Conference.” The council said the action did not change the 1983 Statement on Human Sexuality, and that present polity for licensing and ordination is sufficient.

This year’s answers follow an initial response from the council in 2003, that “no one known to be engaging in homosexual practices will be licensed or ordained in the Church of the Brethren.”

After receiving a report of the answers in pre-Conference meetings, the Standing Committee of district delegates requested copies and directed that the response be distributed also to the delegate body. Jim Hardenbrook as chair of the Annual Conference Council read the answers to the delegate body. The item was received as a report, without time given for discussion or questions.

The concerns of the query had been referred to the council by Annual Conference in 2003. The first response from the council in 2003 added that, “specific structural and theological issues will be answered later.” Since then, Hardenbrook said, the council’s response also has included visits of council members to Michigan District, other meetings with district leaders, work on the issues in other settings including by staff of the General Board’s Ministry Office and the Council of District Executives, and a listening session at the 2004 Annual Conference.

The Standing Committee discussion ranged over a variety of issues including whether the letter should be shared at all with the Annual Conference delegates. “The query came from Michigan, but Michigan isn’t the only district that holds these concerns,” said John Willoughby, Michigan representative to Standing Committee. “I’m confused by the fact that we’d handle this one differently, other than the fact that we just want this to go away,” he said later in the discussion. “I think that the Annual Conference as a whole needs to hear the answer.”

Annual Conference did not request a report back from the council when it referred the query in 2003, according to Annual Conference secretary Fred Swartz. Many Standing Committee delegates expressed the understanding that the council’s answers close the issue.

Other issues raised in the Standing Committee discussion included the unusual nature of the response to this query, that it is the first query to be referred for an answer to the Annual Conference Council, whether the council’s answer is subject to approval by Annual Conference, whether the answer should be treated as an unfinished item of business, whether Standing Committee should give a verbal report to the Conference delegates or include the letter as a written document in the delegate packets, and whether Standing Committee would include the Michigan District response in its report.

Some spoke of the newness of the Annual Conference Council itself, which as Hardenbrook told the Standing Committee, has only been in existence for five years. The role of the council is still being clarified, said 2006 Annual Conference moderator Ronald Beachley. “This is new territory,” Beachley said, adding that the council was not sure how to report on its action. As the first query to be referred to the council, “the answer to this query has been different from the beginning,” said Hardenbrook.


4) Julie Garber is selected as editor of ‘Brethren Life and Thought.’

Julie Lynne Garber of North Manchester, Ind., received a unanimous vote of affirmation as the new editor of “Brethren Life and Thought,” at the Brethren Journal Association meeting at Annual Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 3.

Garber is currently director of Plowshares at Manchester College and also has served the college as associate dean for Academic Affairs, and assistant to the academic dean. In other service to the church, she was editor of books and curriculum for Brethren Press.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Manchester College, a master of theology degree from Bethany Theological Seminary, and a master’s degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School.

With Plowshares Garber has administered a multi-million dollar grant to strengthen peace studies. As Brethren Press editor she was instrumental in producing several key curriculum series, as well as editing seminal volumes such as “Fruit of the Vine,” by the late Donald F. Durnbaugh, and “A Cup of Cold Water: The Story of Brethren Service,” by J. Kenneth Kreider.

“Brethren Life and Thought” is an academic journal jointly published by Bethany Theological Seminary and the Brethren Journal Association in the interests of the Church of the Brethren. Garber’s appointment was recommended by the Journal Association Advisory Board.

5) Bethany Seminary announces search for new president.

The Board of Trustees of Bethany Theological Seminary and its Presidential Search Committee invite inquiries, nominations, and applications for the position of president, succeeding Eugene F. Roop.

Roop is retiring after 15 years of leadership at the seminary located in Richmond, Ind. The new president will assume office in July 2007.

The seminary seeks a president who carries knowledge of theological education, a passion for teaching and research, and a deep love for the church, bringing a directed vision for Bethany’s future. He or she should possess a Ph.D., D.Min., or other earned terminal degree, and strong skills in administration, communication, cooperative leadership, and fundraising, as well as the ability to engage others in effective planning and implementation of priorities.

Founded in 1905, Bethany is a graduate school and academy that seeks to prepare people for Christian ministry, and to educate those called as Christian leaders and scholars. Bethany’s educational program bears witness to the beliefs, heritage, and practices of the Church of the Brethren in the context of the whole Christian tradition. Set in partnership with Earlham School of Religion and the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, Bethany embodies ecumenical cooperation in the Anabaptist tradition and innovation in programming, curriculum design, and economic stewardship. Bethany is fully accredited by the American Association of Theological Schools in the US and Canada and by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Bethany Theological Seminary is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Review of applications will begin this summer and will continue until an appointment is made. Interested individuals should provide a letter outlining their interest in and qualification for the position, a curriculum vita, and the names and contact information for five references.

Applications and nominations may be submitted electronically or by mail to Dr. Carol A. Scheppard, Chairperson, Presidential Search Committee, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Rd. W., Richmond, Indiana 47374-4019;

For more information about Bethany Theological Seminary, visit


6) Training event at National Older Adult Conference is open to all pastors.

Pastors are encouraged to attend the Older Adult Ministry Training Event to be held during the National Older Adult Conference (NOAC), Sept. 4-8 at Lake Junaluska Assembly in North Carolina. Both events are sponsored by the Association of Brethren Caregivers (ABC).

Clergy will receive continuing education credit (10 contact hours or 1 continuing education unit) for attending the training event. Pastors also may want to bring interested people from their congregations to the training event, which is open to anyone who would like to attend, regardless of whether the attendee is an “older adult” or not, ABC said.

This year’s training event features Richard Gentzler, a Methodist pioneer and “guru” of older adult ministry. The training event also will feature four workshops to help congregations relate and minister to older adults: “Spiritual Challenges and Blessings of Aging,” “Liturgies of Healing Transformations: Marking Life Transitions in Community,” “Advance Directives,” and “Support Groups for Older Adults.”

Registration costs $180 per person, which also enables the participant to attend any portion of NOAC. To register for the training event, and for information about transportation, lodging, and meals, see the NOAC brochure or request one from the ABC office by calling 800-323-8039.


To receive Newsline by e-mail or to unsubscribe, go to Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Contact the editor at or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Mary Dulabaum, Wendy McFadden, Frank Ramirez, and Frances Townsend contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with the next regularly scheduled Newsline set for July 19; other special issues may be sent as needed. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Newsline is available and archived at, click on “News.” For more Church of the Brethren news and features, go to and click on “News,” or subscribe to Messenger magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.