Congregational Life Team Eliminated, Congregational Life Ministries to be Redesigned

Church of the Brethren Newsline
March 24, 2009

The Church of the Brethren is redesigning its Congregational Life Ministries and eliminating the Congregational Life Team. The action is part of a plan created by executive staff to respond to financial challenges facing the denomination and the decision of the Mission and Ministry Board to reduce the operating budget for core ministries by $505,000 this year.

The decision eliminates positions of Congregational Life Team members, effective April 6 (see staff announcements below). The plan outlines a new staff configuration with four director-level positions to be based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The four positions are Intercultural Ministries, Transforming Practices, Spiritual Life and Discipleship, and Youth and Young Adult Ministries.

Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries, acknowledged how difficult the decision has been to eliminate the Congregational Life Team, a program of the church in place since the beginning of 1998. “This is tough for the church, and we know it,” he said.

The redesign is intended to maintain vital ministries while still making staff reductions necessary to meet the reduction in budget, Shively said. “Our relationship and service to congregations is not going to go away,” he said. “It’s going to look different, and feel different, but we still have a commitment to congregations.”

The Congregational Life Team has worked for more than a decade to provide a bridge between the denomination and congregations across the US and Puerto Rico. The team has supported local church pastors and leaders as well as district staff and leaders; has helped congregations through coaching, consulting, and strategic visioning; and has resourced the church in a variety of areas including evangelism, church organization, Christian education, and intercultural ministry. Team members also have represented the Church of the Brethren through a variety of ecumenical assignments.

The original vision was for a Congregational Life Team of between 15 and 17 staff members, working in five geographic areas across the country. The current redesign of the program has become necessary “not because the CLT model was not working, but with the necessity to do ministry with less staff,” Shively said.

The two new director-level positions will emphasize building capacity for leadership in local congregations and districts. Staff will shift from point-of-service ministries in geographic areas to ministries that build up congregational leadership and develop networks to exchange services and resources throughout the denomination.

“The denomination’s role shifts from trying to address the wide range of specific, individualized needs to building intentional resource networks and increasing the capacity of disciples at all layers of the church’s life to lead one another effectively and faithfully,” Shively said.

The new director-level position for Transforming Practices will focus on helping leaders influence change, expand mission, cultivate evangelism, and assist the church through the process of transformation. A director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship will promote discipleship, resource spiritual formation, and facilitate understanding of congregational ethics guidelines.

In addition, former Congregational Life Team member Ruben Deoleo will continue on staff as director of Intercultural Ministries responsible for equipping the denomination toward its intercultural vision and commitments. Chris Douglas continues as director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, which provides leadership in understanding youth and young adult culture, trains the church for ministry with young people, and provides programmatic opportunities for youth and young adults.

For more information about the redesign of Congregational Life Ministries, contact executive director Jonathan Shively at or 800-323-8039.

Staff announcements

The Congregational Life Team is being eliminated from the program of the Church of the Brethren, effective April 6. Elimination of the positions of Congregational Life Team members is happening because of the economic recession and the budget reduction put in place by the Mission and Ministry Board at its recent meeting. Each person whose position is eliminated because of the budget reduction is receiving a three-month severance package of regular salary and benefits and outplacement services.

Stanley Dueck’s service as a Congregational Life Team member ends April 6. He has been serving in the position since June 14, 1999, when he was hired as Congregational Life Team staff for Area 1. He is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

During his tenure with the Congregational Life Team, Dueck has worked tirelessly as a strategic consultant for congregations, assisting them with vision and mission, reorganization, leadership development, and cultivating a healthy congregational environment. A strength of his work has been the ability to help congregations understand what is happening in the North American context through an evangelical Anabaptist perspective, and then to utilize that knowledge to connect to and express their faith history, journey, and mission. He also has served as a consultant for districts, camps, and not-for-profit entities related to the Church of the Brethren.

Jeff Glass’s service as a Congregational Life Team member ends April 6. He began serving in a half-time position as Congregational Life Team coordinator for Area 5 on Jan. 1, 1998. He has been a part of the dispersed Congregational Life Team staff since its inception more than 10 years ago. He is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

Glass’s work on the Congregational Life Team has included an emphasis on the complex cultural shifts of today, and efforts to find ways to embody the good news of Jesus Christ in culturally relevant ways. He has helped to encourage and support the emergent church movement among the Brethren, with media ministry and digital communication as special interests. He has helped develop videos and digital presentations, has helped congregations build an Internet presence, and encouraged the Church of the Brethren to make better use of technology. During his time on the team, he has worked to develop expertise in the Gallup Strengths rubric, and to further develop his skills for identifying and nurturing gifts through a doctor of ministry program.

Duane Grady’s service as a Congregational Life Team member ends April 6. He has been a part of the dispersed Congregational Life Team staff since its inception. He began as half-time Congregational Life Team coordinator for Area 2 on Jan. 1, 1998, and later also took on the position of coordinator for Area 4. For some years, he concurrently served part-time in pastoral ministry in Indiana with his wife, Bev. He is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

During his tenure with the team, Grady helped lead and shape the church’s cross cultural ministries emphasis, and coordinated the annual Cross Cultural Consultation and Celebration for several years, as well as several cross-cultural music tours by Brethren groups. He has incorporated into his work a commitment to expand the diversity of the church and has modeled in his personal and professional relationships a vision of the multicultural reality of God’s world. He also has filled an informal role as “team provocateur,” asking tough questions and not settling for simple answers. He has applied a servant’s heart, missional passion, and immersion in scripture to the work of helping churches explore new ways of being in Christ, and has worked tirelessly to nurture healthy relationships between church leaders and congregations.

Steven W. Gregory’s service as a Congregational Life Team member ends April 6. He began work part-time as Congregational Life Team staff for Area 5 on Jan. 1, 2000, at the same time serving part-time as district executive for Oregon and Washington District. He is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

During his tenure, Gregory has worked at building relationships and developing leadership in Area 5. His personable nature, spiritual rootedness, and thoughtful engagement have defined his ministry. He has worked collaboratively with districts and staff colleagues to plan and promote learning events such as a recent racism awareness tour by the musical group “Best Friends.” He has displayed skill in relating to people and congregations across the theological spectrum. Also, he has a strong interest in church planting, and has spent his sabbatical visiting new church plants in the Church of the Brethren, gathering their stories, and drawing wisdom from their experiences.

Janice Glass King’s service as a Congregational Life Team member ends April 6. She has been a part of the dispersed Congregational Life Team staff since its inception. She began as part-time Congregational Life Team coordinator for Area 1 on Dec. 1, 1997. On Jan. 1, 1998, the position was increased to fulltime. She is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

During her tenure, King worked to support congregations and districts in the areas of Christian nurture, Christian education, women’s ministry, youth ministry, congregational consulting and resourcing, and leadership development. She served as liaison to the Association of the Arts in the Church of the Brethren (AACB), coordinated and oversaw completion of the Growing Faithful Disciples project, and served on the Advisory Board for “Giving Magazine” through the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. For a period of time, she also was part-time chaplain at the Village at Morrison’s Cove in Martinsburg, Pa., providing an opportunity to use her studies in gerontology. During her time with the team, she completed a Spiritual Formation program through Oasis Ministries and incorporated what she had learned from that program into her work. She has worked out of a deep spiritual center, applying artistic and organizational skills to all aspects of her ministry.

Carol E.O. Mason’s service as a Congregational Life Team member ends April 6. She began as Congregational Life Team coordinator for Area 3 on Dec. 5, 2005. Prior to her service with the Congregational Life Team, she also had served the Church of the Brethren as a mission worker in Nigeria. She is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

During her tenure with the church, Mason has applied her creativity, adaptability, and passion for the church and its mission to help congregations improve their Christian education programs, strengthen their evangelism and outreach, practice creative worship, and build healthy systems through Natural Church Development. She has served on a group working with the Gather ’Round curriculum and on the editorial group for “Seed Packet,” the Church of the Brethren’s Christian education newsletter. She has been a frequent presenter at Annual Conference and other conferences. Her recognition of the relational culture of the Brethren has served her well in forming working relationships with congregations, districts, and her Church of the Brethren colleagues.

Carol L. Yeazell’s service as a Congregational Life Team member ends April 6. She has been a part of the dispersed Congregational Life Team staff since its inception. Her service with the team started on Jan. 15, 1998, when she began a dual position as part-time Congregational Life Team staff for Area 3 and part-time district executive for Atlantic Southeast District. For seven months in 2005 she served as coordinator for Area 3, and from Jan. 2007-July 2008 was interim director of the Congregational Life Team. She is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

Yeazell’s commitment to prayer and healing, coupled with her organizational and leadership skills, have contributed to working with congregations in transition. During her tenure, she has cultivated the cross-cultural ministry of the denomination, using her bilingual skills in Spanish and English. She has served as liaison to the Hispanic communities in the US and Puerto Rico, where she also has worked with theological education, and has a passion for ministry in the Haitian community. Her passion for church planting has included a successful effort to help plant an intercultural church in Hendersonville, N.C., supporting this initiative along with her husband, Gene. The couple also operate a retreat/Sabbath house for those who need refreshment in body, mind, and spirit.

Ruben Deoleo’s half-time service as a Congregational Life Team member ends April 6, but he continues on the Church of the Brethren staff in a newly expanded fulltime position as director of Intercultural Ministry in the Congregational Life Ministries area. He began serving as Congregational Life Team staff for Area 2 and for Intercultural Ministries on Nov. 12, 2007.

The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contact to receive Newsline by e-mail or to submit news to the editor at For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

Brethren in the News

“Joseph Kosek Will Lecture on Radical Christian Pacifists on March 25 at Library of Congress,” Library of Congress (March 6, 2009). Joseph Kip Kosek, assistant professor at George Washington University and a member of Oakton Church of the Brethren, will discuss the impact of radical Christian pacifists on American democratic theory and practice, at the Library of Congress on March 25 beginning at 4 p.m. He is the author of “Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy” and a former fellow of the Library’s John W. Kluge Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Obituary: Annabel F. Bullen, Palladium-Item, Richmond, Ind. (March 22, 2009). Annabel F. Bullen, 84, of Eaton, Ohio, died on March 20 in her home at the Suites of Greenbriar. She was a member of Eaton Church of the Brethren. She had worked at the Preble County Department of Health for several years and was an active member of the Miami Valley Hospital School of Nursing Alumni. She was preceded in death by her husband of 44 years, James E. Bullen, in 1993.

“Ben’s Bells : ‘Ultimate giver’ treats everyone with love,” Arizona Daily Star (March 21, 2009). The recipient of this week’s Ben’s Bell is Dotty Ledner, who’s been visiting lonely nursing home patients for decades, on top of all the work she does for her church, raising six children on her own, and doting on her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. About three years ago, she began attending Tucson (Ariz.) Church of the Brethren. “God is so good to me,” she said.

“Wyomissing zoners grant variance for church sign,” Reading (Pa.) Eagle (March 20, 2009). The Wyomissing (Pa.) Zoning Hearing Board has granted two variances to Wyomissing Church of the Brethren for a new sign. The congregation is constructing a new church on its property.

“Franklin County milk makers shaking,” Roanoke (Va.) Times (March 20, 2009). Laird Bowman, a member of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Franklin County, Va., is featured in this newspaper article about the difficulties facing dairy farmers. No matter what happens, the sixth generation dairy farmer of Bowmont Farms says he’s not going anywhere. The 800-acre farm nestled between Boones Mill and Callaway has been in his family since 1839.

“Lenten luncheons unite Mount Airy churches in faith,” Business Gazette, Gaithersburg, Md. (March 19, 2009). Some Mount Airy churches are celebrating together every Tuesday afternoon of Lent with food and a devotional. The tradition has been going on for more than 23 years. Wallace “Bud” Lusk, former pastor at Mount Airy Full Gospel Church and current assistant at Locust Grove Church of the Brethren, was one of the pastors who helped start it.

“Pennsylvania Germans Focus of Festival,” Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News (March 19, 2009). On Saturday, March 21, the 14th Annual Pennsylvania German Heritage Festival will be held at Harrisburg (Pa.) Area Community College/Lebanon campus. Organized since its inception by James A. Dibert, adjunct professor of history and director of the Pennsylvania German Studies Program, the day-long event kicks off at 9 a.m. with a series of speakers, displays by craftsmen, music, and ethnic food. The Brethren Heritage Singers will perform at noon–an eight-member group from the Elizabethtown area singing in the traditional style of the Church of the Brethren.

“Myersville woman spends year helping abused children,” Frederick (Md.) News-Post (March 18, 2009). While caring for abused and neglected children, Chelsea Spade has learned compassion for their parents. She is volunteering for a year at Casa de Esperanza de los Ninos in Houston, through Brethren Volunteer Service. She attended the Grossnickle Church of the Brethren growing up and has performed service activities through her church.

“A story of hope for the Swords: Couple is back together at Brethren Village,” Lancaster (Pa.) New Era (March 16, 2009). Gene and Barbara Swords are back together in their Brethren Village apartment, after a year of living apart. Gene Swords spent months recovering in the hospital, then rehabbing at Brethren Village’s health-care center, after a stroke. The Swords, now 80, met as opera-loving teenagers at a church camp, ended up at Elizabethtown College, and both retired from long careers with the Lampeter-Strasburg School District. For many years, they performed with the Lancaster Opera Co.

“ACRS Monday Morning Story-Telling Breakfast,” Eastern Mennonite University (March 15, 2009). The Anabaptist Center at Eastern Mennonite University has started a new “story-telling” series that includes the Church of the Brethren. Yesterday’s presentation, on March 16, featured Earle Fike sharing his life story. Fike has dedicated his life to the ministry of the Church of the Brethren. A colleague unequivocally calls him “the dean of Brethren pastors.”

Obituary: Garnetta R. Miller, News Leader, Staunton, Va. (March 10, 2009). Garnetta Jean Reamer Miller, 85, of Weyers Cave, Va., died on March 9 at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. She was a member of Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren and Dorcas Circle of the Church. Her husband of 63 year, Loren J. Miller, survives her.

“Woman, 110, known for sharp mind and humor,” Dayton (Ohio) Daily News (March 9, 2009). Sylvia Utz celebrated her 110th birthday on March 9 at the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio. She told the newspaper that her earliest memory is of members of her church, Pitsburg Church of the Brethren in Arcanum, Ohio, picnicking on the present-day grounds of the Brethren Retirement Community with orphans and senior citizens. She figures she was 6 or 7. The newspaper reported that only 1 in 5 million people lives to age 110.

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