Newsline Special for May 22, 2006

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” — Ephesians 2:19


1) Cross Cultural Celebration reflects on the household of God.
2) Celebración Intercultural refleja la casa de Dios.
3) Brethren in Puerto Rico ask for prayer for island’s financial crisis.
4) Brazilian Brethren in Sao Paulo state affected by gang uprising.
5) Brethren Witness/Washington Office calls for action on immigration, agricultural employment.

Information about how to subscribe or unsubscribe to the Church of the Brethren Newsline appears at the bottom of this e-mail. For more Church of the Brethren news, go to www.brethren.org, click on “News” to find a news feature, more “Brethren bits,” links to Brethren in the news, and links to the General Board’s photo albums and the Newsline archive. The page is updated as close to daily as possible.

1) Cross Cultural Celebration reflects on the household of God.

Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren hosted the denomination’s annual Cross Cultural Consultation and Celebration May 4-7. The surrounding countryside, with its plain people and rich farmland, offered vivid reminders of the Pennsylvania Dutch heritage as more than 140 Brethren met to offer a new, intercultural model of church.

“Built Together: The Household of God,” from Ephesians 2:17-22, provided the theme for the event. “This is the way church should happen,” commented James Washington Sr., pastor of Faith Center Fellowship Church of the Brethren, who attended from Whitehouse, Texas. “I pray that we learn…that the world is beautiful because it has color.”

Brethren from African-American, Hispanic, Dominican, Mexican, Indian, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, Anglo, and other heritages attended from across the US and Puerto Rico. Worship featured scripture reading, prayer, and singing in many languages including English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, French, German, Russian, Portuguese, and Gujarati–a language of India. Praise music got the congregation to its feet, and contemplative hymns called on the Spirit’s presence, led by bands, musicians, and choirs from many different congregations. A new music group of African-American and Anglo Brethren made its debut at the consultation, led by Washington.

A message about the importance of taking personal responsibility for racism was given by keynote speaker Ken Quick, chair of the Pastoral Theology Department at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, Md., and John Gordon, a medical professional and seminary student. Quick and Gordon spoke at a worship service focused on confession. Telling his family’s history of slave ownership, Quick said, “I have to first of all apologize for the horrors that my family perpetrated. I owe debt.” Gordon followed with a confession of his own from the African-American perspective, the story of how he awoke to his own racism when his daughter began to date a white man. Gordon’s reading of a pledge to live an anti-racist life was followed by an invitation for the congregation to receive communion.

Larry Brumfield, a licensed minister and member of Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren, spoke for the closing worship. He called the church to an “honest moment” to “acknowledge that some of our behaviors and some of our biases do not reflect the behavior that God would have…in the body of Christ.” Issuing a challenge to pastors to preach against racism from the pulpit, Brumfield said, “We have to place the issues of importance in front of our people. The church is responsible for giving light, and we are responsible for taking action on what that light exposes.” He added, “Do you know how successful we would be if we attacked this problem as a unified church of God? God will bless us for our courage and honor us for our obedience to the scripture.”

The meeting also included an intercultural youth event–a first for the Church of the Brethren, organizers said. Some 20 youth from several different congregations held an overnight at the Lancaster church, and then led a morning worship service followed by times for discussion of issues. A youth panel presented two topics for open discussion during the worship: the pros and cons of tradition in the church, and alternative lifestyles including homosexuality. The panel elicited numerous responses from the adults present, who expressed a wide variety of points of view. The youth closed the discussion with their own statements about unity. “We need to accept everyone no matter what issues they come to the church with, we need to be loving,” said Serenity, of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren. “I think we can have unity and press on with Christ at our center,” said Laina, of Cocalico Church of the Brethren in Denver, Pa.

The consultation also received a presentation on the disaster work of the denomination, a report from the Intercultural Study Committee of Annual Conference, and a report from a January event in Baltimore, Md., that gathered church leaders to talk about how to deal with racism. The Intercultural Study Committee reviewed the interim report that it will bring to Annual Conference this year (www.brethren.org/ac/desmoines/business_old.pdf, pp 215-234).

Discussion and testimony throughout the consultation reflected the ups and downs of cross cultural ministries. Participants spent much time reflecting on the barriers to inclusion and the continued existence of racism in the Church of the Brethren, pointing to several particular issues including lack of diversity on denominational and district staff, rigid structure of Annual Conference, lack of interest in intercultural issues from Anglo pastors, lack of Brethren resources in Spanish, difficulty of ministry training for ethnic minority pastors, and lack of relationship between Brethren congregations of different ethnic or cultural backgrounds.

“Anti-racism work needs to be a commitment of the Annual Conference agencies at the top level,” said one participant who had been at the Baltimore meeting. “Without that commitment, there will not be funding, and there will not be follow through.”

Inclusion of all people in the church “was important enough for Jesus to pray about it,” said pastor Rodney D. Smalls of First Church of the Brethren, Baltimore. He said that after the January meeting, his congregation expressed disappointment because they had heard enough talk, and not seen enough action, he said.

Participants also expressed enthusiasm and love for the denomination. “This is the best year in our denomination of the Church of the Brethren. We are going to be used to ignite the earth!” said Joseph Craddock of Germantown Church of the Brethren in Philadelphia. “Don’t be discouraged, the barriers are coming down,” said Rene Quintanilla, a pastor from Fresno, Calif. “The Spirit is leading.”

The Steering Committee for Cross Cultural Ministries planned the event including Barbara Date, Thomas Dowdy, Renel Exceus, Sonja Griffith, Robert Jackson, Alice Martin-Adkins, Marisel Olivencia, Gilbert Romero, Dennis Webb, with Duane Grady as staff support from the General Board’s Congregational Life Teams. Area congregations hosted many participants in their homes, and also provided meals for the consultation.

The next Cross Cultural Consultation and Celebration is planned for April 19-22, 2007, at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

For more about cross cultural ministries go to www.brethren.org/genbd/clm/clt/CrossCultural.html. For photos from the event, go to www.brethren.org, click on “Photo Journal.”


2) Celebración Intercultural refleja la casa de Dios.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania. La Iglesia de los Hermanos (Church of the Brethren) fué anfitriona de la Consulta y Celebración Intercultural anual que se llevó a cabo Mayo 4-7. El lugar de la reunión, rodeado de campos, gente sencilla y tierra de cultivo, nos recordó la herencia de los Holandeses de Pennsylvania durante esta reunion en donde mas de 140 Brethren se reunieron y desarrollaron un nuevo modelo de iglesia.

El tema del evento fué “Construidos Juntos: La Casa de Dios,” de Efesios 2:17-22. Asi es como debería ser la iglesia, dijo el pastor James Washington Sr., de la Iglesia Faith Center Fellowship Church of the Brethren, de Whitehouse, Texas, quien atendió la reunion. “Oro para que aprendamos… que el mundo es bello porque tiene color.”

Asistieron el evento personas Brethren de herencia Afro-Americana, Hispanos, Dominicanos, Mexicanos, Indios, Haitianos, de Jamaica, Anglos, y otros de todo Estados Unidos y Puerto Rico. Los servicios de adoración incluyeron lectura del evangelio, oraciones, y cánticos en muchas lenguas incluyendo Inglés, Español, Creole de Haiti, Francés, Alemán, Ruso, Portugues, y Gujarati – una lengua de la India. La música de alabanza hizo que los congregantes se pararan, y los himnos de contemplación llamaron la presencia del Espíritu, guiados por bandas de musica, musicos, y coros de diferentes congregaciones. Un grupo nuevo de musicos Africo-Americanos y Anglos Brethren hicieron su debut durante la Consulta, la cual fué dirigida por Washington.

El orador principal, Ken Quick, Jefe del Departamento de Teología del Seminario Capital Bible en Lanham, Md, y John Gordon, un profesionista médico y seminarista, dieron un mensaje de la importancia de tomar responsabilidad personal por el racismo. Quick y Gordon fueron oradores durante el servicio de adoración con enfoque en la confesión. Quick, al narrar la historia de que su familia tenia esclavos dijo, “primeramente quiero pedir disculpas por los horrores que mi familia cometió. Yo tomo responsabilidad por todo eso.” En seguida, Gordon confesó como el se dio cuenta de su propio racismo desde su perspectiva de Afro-Americano cuando su hija empezo a salir con un hombre blanco. Gordon leyó una promesa para vivir una vida sin racismo y despues invitó a la congregación a recibir comunión.

Larry Brumfield, de la Church of the Brethren en Westminster (Md), fué el orador durante el servicio de clausura. El pidió a la iglesia a que “seamos honestos por un momento” y que “reconozcamos que algunas de nuestras actitudes y perjuicios no reflejan la actitud que dios tendría… en el cuerpo de Cristo.” Brumfield retó a los pastores a predicar desde el púlpito en contra del racismo y dijo, “Tenemos que poner los asuntos importantes enfrente de nuestra gente. La iglesia es responsable por dar luz, y nosotros somos responsables de tomar acción en lo que esa luz revele.” Luego agregó, “Saben cuanto éxito tendríamos si atacáramos este problema como una iglesla de Dios unida? Dios nos bendiciría por nuestro valor y nos honraría por nuestra obediencia a las Escrituras.”

La reunión también incluyó un evento intercultural para jovenes el cual de acuerdo a los organizadores fué el primero de la Church of the Brethren. Alrededor de 20 jovenes de diferentes congregaciones pasaron la noche en la Iglesia de Lancaster, y por la mañana tuvieron un servicio de adoración, seguido por una discusion de varios asuntos. Durante el servicio, un panel de jovenes presentó dos tópicos para discusión: los pros y contras de la tradición de la iglesia, y los estilos de vida alternativos, incluyendo la homosexualidad. El panel recibió muchas respuestas de adultos presentes, quienes expresaron una gran variedad de puntos de vista. Los jovenes cerraron la discusión con su propia afirmación acerca de la unidad. “Necesitamos aceptar a todos sin importar que problemas traen a la iglesia, necesitamos amarlos,” dijo Serenity, de la Iglesia de First Harrisburg. “Yo creo que podemos tener unidad y poner presión con Cristo en el centro.” dijo Lena, de Cocalico Church of the Brethren en Denver, PA.

La consulta también recibió una presentación del trabajo que la denominación hace con desastres, un reporte del Estudio Multicultural de la Conferencia Anual, y un reporte de un evento en Enero en Baltimore, Md. que atrajo a líderes de la iglesia para hablar de que hacer con al racismo. El Comité de Estudio Intercultural revisó el reporte interino que se presentará a la Conferencia Anual este año (www.brethren.org/ac/desmoines/business_old.pdf, pp 215-234).

Las altas y bajas de los ministerios interculturales fueron reflejados en la discusión y testimonios durante la Consulta. Los participantes pasaron mucho tiempo reflejando en las barreras para inclusión y la existencia contínua de racismo en la Church of the Brethren, mencionando varios ejemplos en particular, como la falta de diversidad en el personal a nivel distrito, la estructura rígida de la Conferencia Anual, la falta de interés en asuntos interculturales de parte de pastores Anglos, la falta de recursos Brethren en Español, la dificultad de entrenamiento para el ministerio para pastores minoritarios, y la falta de relaciones entre congregaciones Brethren de diferentes culturas.

Un participante que estuvo en la junta de Baltimore dijo que “El trabajo para combatir el racismo necesita ser un compromiso de la Conferencia Anual al nivel mas alto.” “Sin ese cometido no habrá fondos y no se hará nada para dar seguimiento.”

La inclusividad de todas las personas en la iglesia “fué suficiente importante para que Jesús orara” dijo el pastor Rodney D. Smalls de First Church of the Brethren en Baltimore. El dijo que después de la junta de enero, su congregación expresó desaliento porque hubo muchas palabras pero no suficiente acción.”

Los participantes también expresaron entusiasmo y amor por la denominación. Joseph Craddock de la Church of the Brethren Germantown en Philadelphia dijo “Este es el mejor año para nuestra denominación, la Iglesia de los Hermanos. Seremos usados para prender la tierra!”. René Quintanilla, pastor de Fresno, Calif. dijo “No se desanimen, las barreras están cayendo. El Espíritu nos está guiando”.

El Comité de Ministerios Multiculturales que planeó éste evento incluyó a Barbara Date, Thomas Dowdy, Renel Exceus, Sonja Griffith, Robert Jackson, Alice Martin-Adkins, Marisel Olivencia, Gilbert Romero, Dennis Webb, y Duane Grady de la Junta General, departamento de Vida Congregacional como empleado de apoyo.

La próxima Consulta y Celebración Intercultural fué planeada para Abril 19-22 de 2007, en el Centro Brethren en New Windsor, Md. Para más información acerca de ministerios interculturales vaya a www.brethren.org.genbd/clm/clt/CrossCultural.html. Para ver fotos del evento, vaya a www.brethren.org y haga click en “Photo Journal.”

(Translation: Maria-Elena Rangel)


3) Brethren in Puerto Rico ask for prayer for island’s financial crisis.

Brethren from Puerto Rico who were at the Church of the Brethren’s Cross Cultural Consultation and Celebration in Pennsylvania May 4-7, asked fellow participants to pray for the island during a serious financial crisis. On May 1 nearly 100,000 government employees including teachers and others were temporarily laid off as the Puerto Rican government ran out of money.

The “New York Times” reported Saturday, May 20, that government workers were back on the job May 15, after a special commission was appointed to create a plan to resolve the crisis, and evangelical and Roman Catholic religious leaders stepped in to influence the situation (see http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/20/opinion/20montero.html).

At least two Brethren members at the consultation in Pennsylvania were among those not receiving a paycheck, according to Jaime Diaz, who issued the call for prayer. He added that the financial crisis has been affecting his own family. Diaz is pastor of Castañer Church of the Brethren and a member of the Church of the Brethren General Board.


4) Brazilian Brethren in Sao Paulo state affected by gang uprising.

Igreja da Irmandade-Brasil (Church of the Brethren in Brazil) is requesting prayer following a wave of gang violence that has swept the state of Sao Paulo since last weekend. Sao Paulo is the country’s largest state. The violence that has targeted the police and banks, and has burned public transportation buses began May 12, according to the BBC, and included uprisings at some 70 prisons.

Marcos Inhauser, national director for the Brethren mission in Brazil, requested prayers “for the people to be safe and have more emotional control in this situation, and for the authorities to have wisdom in seeking a cease-fire” with the criminal organization called “First Command of the Capital” that has orchestrated what Inhauser called terrorist-like violence.

“We have many people living in a very scary area” near a prison in the city of Hortolandia, Inhauser said, reporting on the situation as he stopped at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on his way to speak at a church planting conference at Bethany Seminary. About 25 church members and their families live near the prison in Hortolandia, which is a center for the gang of guerrillas and criminals involved in drug traffic and other crimes, Inhauser said.

In the meantime, human rights activists have criticized the police for their violent response, which they say has killed at least 33 presumed gang members and put innocent civilians in danger, the “Christian Science Monitor” reported yesterday May 18. The Monitor said violent confrontations between the police and the criminal organization were continuing, and that more than 150 people have been killed including 40 police.

The criminal organization is the result of a government decision to put guerrillas in custody along with the criminal population, Inhauser said. A kind of criminal union resulted, with a very well structured administration that has orchestrated the attacks, he said. “Another thing that scares is the level of coordination that they have,” Inhauser said. For example, the violence is so well organized that members of the police force were attacked while off duty or at their homes.

The Sao Paulo area was brought to a standstill by the burnings of buses used for public transportation, shootings of policemen and civilians, fears of attacks on banks, and ensuing panic and mass traffic jams, Inhauser reported.

He added, “It was not an easy time to leave home.”


5) Brethren Witness/Washington Office calls for action on immigration, agricultural employment.

In an Action Alert issued May 19 by the Brethren Witness/Washington Office, Brethren are encouraged to contact their senators regarding the continuing debate over an immigration bill, and a related agricultural job opportunities bill that is linked to the immigration bill in the Senate. The Brethren Witness/Washington Office is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

The Senate has set a Memorial Day (May 29) deadline to pass immigration legislation, the alert said. “There is still time for senators to hear from you about passing a just and fair comprehensive immigration bill,” according to the alert. “Call or write your senators and tell them you want a comprehensive immigration bill that is fair to all people and that includes a guest worker program, a path to earned legalization, and is sensitive to family reunification.”

The alert included a call for support of an agriculture employment provision being debated as part of the immigration reform. The Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act of 2006, known as “AgJobs,” “is the carefully negotiated compromise between farm workers and agricultural employers,” the alert reported. “It provides a path to earned legalization for thousands of farm workers and reforms the current H2A guest worker program.” AgJobs is included in the major immigration bill currently in the Senate (Hagel-Martinez Bill S 2611). “Unfortunately, Senator Chambliss (R-Ga.) threatens to erode all the positive steps in AgJobs with negative amendments…including removing the earned legalization component and removing wage protections for H2A guest workers. When you call or write your senators, make sure to tell them that you support the AgJobs provisions and that you oppose Sen. Chambliss’ amendments.”

“This is the perfect opportunity to put our faith into action, to invoke the mandate of `welcoming the stranger,’” the alert said, citing an Annual Conference statement of 1982 on “Undocumented Persons and Refugees.” In it, the church stated that the US should “bring about a general amnesty for those people who once entered the United States as ‘undocumented aliens’ but have settled peacefully among their neighbors. These persons should be given legal status as quickly and simply as possible to assure that they will not be further exploited….” (For the full Annual Conference resolution go to http://www.brethren.org/ac/ac_statements/82Refugees.htm.)

To find contact information for your senators, and for more information about the Brethren Witness/Washington Office, go to www.brethren.org/genbd/WitnessWashOffice.html. Or contact the office at 800-785-3246 or washington_office_gb@brethren.org.


Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Regularly scheduled issues of Newsline appear every other Wednesday, with the next set to appear May 24; 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 www.brethren.org, click on “News.” For more Church of the Brethren news and features, go to www.brethren.org and click on “News,” or subscribe to Messenger magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247. To receive Newsline by e-mail or to unsubscribe, go to http://listserver.emountain.net/mailman/listinfo/newsline.

Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Church of the Brethren General Board News Services
1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120
800-323-8039 ext. 260


[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]