Newsline for June 3, 2009

“O Lord…how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1).

1) Church of the Brethren Yearbook reports 2008 membership loss.
2) Christian Citizenship Seminar studies modern-day slavery.
3) New Orleans ecumenical blitz build wins award.
4) Twelve arrested for civil disobedience at gun store are acquitted.
5) Bethel Ministries aids men leaving incarceration in Idaho.
6) Brethren bits: Personnel, job opening, congregational news, more.

7) Elsie Koehn begins as district executive minister for Southern Plains.

New at www.brethren.org is a photo album from the National Council of Churches Governing Board meeting hosted by the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on May 18-19. Go to www.brethren.org and click on “News” to find a link to this online photo album.
cobnews@brethren.org for information about how to subscribe or unsubscribe to Newsline. For more Church of the Brethren news go to www.brethren.org and click on “News.”

1) Church of the Brethren Yearbook reports 2008 membership loss.

Church of the Brethren membership in the US and Puerto Rico dropped below 125,000 for the first time since the 1920s, according to 2008 data from the “Church of the Brethren Yearbook.”

The denomination’s membership stood at 124,408 at the end of 2008, according to data reported by congregations. The total number of congregations in the church also hit a landmark, dipping by seven to 999. There are also 50 fellowships and projects, an increase of one from the previous year.

Sixteen districts reported net decreases in membership in 2008; seven reported increases. Hardest hit were districts in the Midwest and the Plains, where every district except Michigan reported a decline.

Districts with the largest percentage decreases were Southern Plains (17.1 percent), Oregon/Washington (7.8 percent), Southern Pennsylvania (5.6 percent), and Western Plains (5.3 percent). The largest numerical decreases were in Southern Pennsylvania (a net loss of 391 members) and Western Pennsylvania (down 182 members).

Interestingly, several of the denomination’s smallest districts were among those reporting gains. Missouri/Arkansas (up 1.6 percent, to 564 members), Idaho (up 1 percent, to 598 members), and Michigan (up 1.7 percent, to 1,347 members) all saw slight increases. Other districts with membership gains were Pacific Southwest (1.7 percent), Southeastern (1.3 percent), Atlantic Southeast (0.5 percent), and Middle Pennsylvania (0.2 percent). Pacific Southwest, with a net gain of 42 members, had the largest numerical growth.

The overall denominational decline of 1.24 percent is similar to that of the past few years and continues a trend dating to the early 1960s. Most “mainline” denominations in the United States have been experiencing similar trends over that period. Studies have attributed the decline to growing secularism, a growth in independent churches, and changes in ways membership is recorded, among other factors.

Total reported average weekly worship attendance fell by more than 2,000 from the year before, to 59,084, but the number of baptisms in 2008 jumped sharply to 1,714, up 334 from the previous year and the highest number since 2004. Giving to most agencies and programs declined.

Updated Yearbook figures are based on data provided by congregations that turn in statistical reports. In 2008, 66.2 percent of the congregations reported; this is similar to most recent years, providing a consistent means for comparing statistics. About 64 percent reported in 2007.

The Yearbook also lists contact information and statistics for congregations, districts, and agencies of the denomination, as well as related Brethren organizations. The 2009 edition is available from Brethren Press; to order call 800-441-3712.

— Walt Wiltschek is editor of the Church of the Brethren’s “Messenger” magazine.

2) Christian Citizenship Seminar studies modern-day slavery.

This year’s Church of the Brethren Christian Citizenship Seminar, held April 25-30 in New York and Washington, D.C., drew 94 senior high youth and advisors from 10 states to study the eye-opening realities of modern-day slavery. The issue came before the full church last summer, when delegates to the 2008 Annual Conference overwhelmingly approved a statement to “reaffirm our denomination’s historic opposition to slavery.”

Anna Speicher, a Church of the Brethren member who has written a dissertation on the abolition movement, reviewed that history for the seminar participants–and said all that good work is only a beginning. “You’re already way ahead of the game right now. You know it’s not over,” said Speicher, who is also director of the Gather ‘Round curriculum for Brethren Press and Mennonite Publishing Network.

Speicher noted that while slavery is illegal in every country worldwide, it is often underground and thus hard to see. It exists in many forms and under many different names, such as debt bondage, human trafficking, sex trafficking, and forced labor. It can be found in many places including the United States, where an estimated 14,500-plus slaves are trafficked in each year.

Other speakers addressing the seminar included Roni Hong, herself a victim of slavery in India as a child; Lariza Garzon, who works with undocumented farmworkers in Florida; staff from the World Council of Churches US Conference and the National Council of Churches, who organized a conference on modern-day slavery last year and adopted a resolution; and staff from advocacy organizations Free the Slaves and Global Centurion.

Youth carried their stories and experiences to Capitol Hill during the second half of the seminar. Some groups were able to meet their representatives or senators personally, while others raised the issues with aides–particularly urging full funding for the recently renewed Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Worship and debriefing times during the week offered additional outlets to process the heavy topic.

Participants were encouraged to take the issue back with them, brainstorming ideas for speaking up and taking action after they returned home. “We’re beginning to make progress, but there’s so much more to be done,” said Laura Lederer, vice president of Global Centurion. “I’m more hopeful now that I’ve been before. There’s a new human rights movement springing up all around the world.”

The Christian Citizenship Seminar is sponsored annually, except in National Youth Conference years, by the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry; go to the youth ministry page at http://www.brethren.org for details. An article on the 2009 seminar will be in the June issue of “Messenger.”

— Walt Wiltschek is editor of the Church of the Brethren’s “Messenger” magazine.

3) New Orleans ecumenical blitz build wins award.

Paint is barely dry on the homes it helped rebuild in the New Orleans neighborhood of Little Woods, but already the “Neighborhood: New Orleans” project has garnered a national award for New York-based humanitarian agency Church World Service (CWS). The project recently carried out a four-week ecumenical “blitz build” to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, contributed to by Brethren Disaster Ministries staff and volunteers.

National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster chose to honor Neighborhood: New Orleans with its 2009 Innovative Program of the Year Award, presented at the National VOAD annual conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

National VOAD is a coalition of nonprofit organizations that respond to disasters as part of their overall mission. “We are deeply honored to be selected by our peers for this outstanding award,” CWS Emergency Response director Donna Derr said. “To be honored for this project in its first-ever installment reaffirms our philosophy that working together we accomplish more.”

Neighborhood: New Orleans was the first national ecumenical volunteer effort in New Orleans, using revolving teams from 10 different member agencies of CWS, working side by side. More than 500 people from 27 US states and Canada came to New Orleans as volunteers with

one of the project partners: Brethren Disaster Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Lutheran Disaster Response, Mennonite Disaster Service, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America Global Mission, the United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Committee on Relief.

CWS worked with its local partner, the Crescent Alliance Recovery Effort (CARE) to identify a neighborhood in New Orleans where recovery from Hurricane Katrina has been sparse. “We wanted to work in an area where, by working together under one banner, we could return families home and accelerate a whole neighborhood’s recovery,” Derr said.

A neighborhood of mixed incomes and races, Little Woods began as a fishing camp along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. Hurricane Katrina forced water into the neighborhood, where it sat, as high as the roofline, for days. The water eventually drained, and families have recovered intermittently ever since. Some homeowners are waiting on assistance to come through Louisiana’s labyrinthine Road Home program. Others are in dispute with insurers or federal agencies. More than a few find themselves like Gloria Mouton, who was defrauded out of most of her recovery funds by unscrupulous contractors.

On May 13, Mouton, a grandmother and community volunteer, was led into her nearly-rebuilt home by a New Orleans brass band and a parade of dignitaries and volunteers celebrating the project.

“It’s a beautiful thing to know that these people in the world will give from their busy schedules to help someone like me,” Mouton said. “It just sends a warm feeling in my body every time I walk into this house and see the progress they made.”

— This article is taken from Church World Service releases by Matt Hackworth, Lesley Crosson, and Jan Dragin.

4) Twelve arrested for civil disobedience at gun store are acquitted.

The 12 people who were arrested for civil disobedience at a notorious gun store in Philadelphia during the Heeding God’s Call peace church gathering in January have been acquitted. The trial took place in a Philadelphia court on May 26.

Among those arrested were two members of the Church of the Brethren, Phil Jones and Mimi Copp. The Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board helped to support the legal defense for Jones, who at the time of the arrest was serving as director of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office.

Heeding God’s Call marked the beginning of a new faith-based initiative against gun violence and illegal weapons in America’s cities. Those arrested were part of a campaign to pressure Colosimo’s Gun Center to sign a Code of Conduct for Responsible Gun Dealers, and followed several weeks of discussion between the gun shop owner and local religious leaders. The defendants include community advocates from Camden, N.J., and Philadelphia, ordained Christian clergy from three denominations, and a Jewish rabbi.

“Tuesday (May 26) was a most amazingly wonderful day–for Heeding God’s Call and for the gun violence prevention movement. Human and Divine justice came together in a miraculous and inspiring way,” said Therese Miller of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), who served as gathering director for Heeding God’s Call.

In an e-mail report, Miller said that the “Heeding God’s Call 12” were acquitted of all charges “to the joy of the 300 supporters who packed the courtroom, spilled out into the hallway for the morning prayer service, and participated in the midday rally.” To mark the occasion of the trial, supporters strung 350 t-shirts around Dilworth Plaza in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall, each shirt pinned with a paper heart naming a local gunshot victim.

Miller added that the trial received much positive attention in the press, including the following available online: www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20090527_Judge_acquits_gun_protesters.html , www.philly.com/inquirer/columnists/monica_yant_kinney/
, and www.newsofdelawarecounty.com/WebApp/appmanager/JRC/SingleWeekly;!-1640719862?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=pg_wk_article&r21.pgpath=/NDC/Home&r21.content=/NDC/Home/

Heeding God’s Call witnesses continue on the sidewalk in front of Colosimo’s at 9th and Spring Garden in Philadelphia on Saturdays from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., and on Mondays from 4-6 p.m.

5) Bethel Ministries aids men leaving incarceration in Idaho.

Bethel Ministries, a nonprofit organization and faith-based program located in Boise, Idaho, was established to help men leaving incarceration to change their lives to become law-abiding, productive members of society. The ministry is connected with Mountain View Church of the Brethren in Boise, and pastor David McKellip serves as director of ministry for the program.

Others involved in administering the program include a volunteer Board of Directors, and staff consisting of executive director Rob Lee, and assistant executive director Chris Roberts.

Bethel provides transitional homes where the men reside in a family-type setting. During their 6-to12-month stay, the men are matched with mentors, obtain employment, attend a structured program of life-skill classes, and participate in group and individual counseling.

Bethel Ministries was established in 2001. The program was founded to recognize the importance of developing an ongoing relationship with Christ Jesus in each person and to help men who, having great obstacles to overcome, desire the kind of help necessary to make a new life.

Those involved with Bethel believe that such new Christians need support from each other, the church, and the greater community if they are truly going to change their lives and stay out of prison. Bethel sees that the men need jobs, making of new friends, learning from educational programs, and following proper leadership in order to build a whole new way of living.

Staff spend considerable time interviewing and assessing potential Bethel candidates at prison facilities throughout Idaho. Staff also oversee the operations of the transitional homes, and meet regularly with Bethel residents to resolve problems. Staff are aided by a Leadership Council consisting of residents who are the housing coordinators and assistant coordinators, the director of ministry, and the executive director.

The first Bethel residence was a miracle of God in that while looking for a house to serve as a transitional home, a simple street sign, “Bethel,” was an inspiration. The word Bethel means “House of God,” and driving further down the street, a “for rent” sign was in plain view. The house owner was more than helpful in getting Bethel Ministries off the ground.

To this day, miracles from God have abounded. Over the years, three additional transition homes were added in order to accommodate more men into Bethel’s program. With four homes, Bethel has capacity for 32 residents.

Bethel has received awards for it unique program. Today, more than 100 men have come through this ministry. Graduates are flourishing as they successfully continue in a new way of living with hope for their future. The ministry has well over a 90 percent success rate in graduates who have not returned to prison.

With the major economic problems faced in Idaho, however, finances continue to be a major challenge. Bethel is generally primarily funded by the men in the program. A lack of jobs locally makes it very difficult for parolees to obtain employment. In 2008, Bethel suffered from financial shortfalls much of the year, but the Lord provided just enough funds to keep solvent. Much of the year the executive director could only be paid part-time.

The board made a decision in April to close one home if the number of residents did not increase above 24 by its May 21 meeting. In May, the board voted to keep the fourth home open at least as long as the budget will support it and the number of men in the program justify it. The Lord has recently provided 26 men for the program, and three homes can only accommodate 24 men. To help with funding shortfalls, Bethel is planning fundraising projects this summer and fall.

Go to http://www.bethelministries.net/  for more information. We call on all Christians to pray that Bethel’s needs will be fulfilled by the Lord.

— Al Murrey serves as chair of the board of directors of Bethel Ministries.

6) Brethren bits: Personnel, job opening, congregational news, more.

— Audrey Hollenberg has begun work as one of the three National Youth Conference (NYC) coordinators in the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office. She will coordinate NYC along with Emily LaPrade and Matt Witkovsky. Hollenberg has completed her third year at Bridgewater (Va.) College and is taking a year out for this Brethren Volunteer Service assignment. She is from Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren.

— The Church of the Brethren seeks a director for Youth and Young Adult Ministries to fill a fulltime position at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., as part of a dynamic team of leaders in the office of Congregational Life Ministries. Responsibilities include leading the church in cultivating dynamic relationships with youth and young adults, developing creative responses to the challenges and opportunities of contemporary youth culture and its relationship to the Christian faith, planning and overseeing major denominational events for youth and young adults, working collaboratively as part of a denominational team to pursue a common vision, and serving as a mentor to volunteers and planning teams. The preferred candidate will demonstrate Christian character, commitment to the values and practices of the Church of the Brethren, a disciplined spiritual life, biblical rootedness, the flexibility to work collaboratively in a wide variety of contexts, experience in leading new initiatives, and the ability to follow an idea through from concept to implementation. The preferred candidate will have expertise in some combination of the following areas: junior high ministry, senior high ministry, young adult ministry, cultural trends, stages of faith development, faith and technology, service ministries, event planning, and congregational vitality. Communication skills and interpersonal competency are required. The selected candidate will work as part of a team, utilize a variety of computer and digital technologies, represent the Church of the Brethren, attend to self-care and continuing education, efficiently manage a complex workload, develop and manage a detailed budget, participate in regular processes of review and priority-setting, and understand this position as part of a larger vocational commitment. Applications will be received beginning June 3 and will be reviewed beginning June 17, with interviews commencing in late June and continuing until the position is filled. Qualified candidates are invited to request the application form and complete job description, submit a resume and letter of application, and to request three references to send letters of recommendation to the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; kkrog@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 258.

— Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger has signed on to an ecumenical letter to President Obama about peace in Israel and Palestine, at the invitation of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). The letter encourages the President’s vigorous leadership for peace on the occasion of his speech in Egypt on June 4. CMEP has worked with Ron Sider, a leader in the Evangelical community, and William Shaw, a leader from the historic African-American church tradition, in circulating the letter to a broad list of Christian traditions, according to a report from Warren Clark, executive director. The letter says, in part, “Mr. President, you have assumed office at one of the most critical moments in the long history of this conflict. While the international community and majorities of the Israeli and Palestinian people are all committed to a two-state solution as the only option for achieving peace and security, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. Continued settlement growth and expansion are rapidly diminishing any possibility for the creation of a viable Palestinian state. The targeting of Israeli civilians through ongoing rocket fire and the insistent rejection of Israel’s right to exist reinforce the destructive status quo…. Now is the time for immediate and bold American leadership.”

— The Church of the Brethren’s annual Stewardship Resource Packet has been distributed early this year in response to requests from congregations for resources be available before July. The packet was mailed to every congregation in late May. With a theme of “New Love, New Mercy,” based on Lamentations 3:21-24, the packet contains the 2009 “Giving” magazine, materials based on the fall campaign theme, and a sample of one bulletin insert. To receive sample copies of the remaining three inserts, contact Carol Bowman at cbowman@brethren.org or call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712.

— Upcoming courses from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership and the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center include “Distinctive Marks of the Brethren” June 11-14 taught by Kate Eisenbise at McPherson (Kan.) Church of the Brethren (contact academy@bethanyseminary.edu or 765-983-1824); “Introduction to Biblical Languages” June 8-Aug. 14 taught by Susan Jeffers online (contact academy@bethanyseminary.edu or 765-983-1824); “Micah and Isaiah” Sept. 11-12, Oct. 2-3, Oct. 23-24, and Nov. 6-7, with Robert Neff at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College (contact svmc@etown.edu or 717-361-1450); “Messages of Peace in the Old Testament,” on Sept. 16 with David Leiter at Elizabethtown College (contact svmc@etown.edu or 717-361-1450); “Passions of Youth, Practices of Christ” on Sept. 24-27 with Russell Haitch at Codorus Church of the Brethren in Dallastown, Pa. (contact academy@bethanyseminary.edu or 765-983-1824); “A Study of Judges” Sept. 28-Nov. 6 with Susan Jeffers online (contact academy@bethanyseminary.edu or 765-983-1824).

— The New Church Development Advisory Committee has published a Monthly Prayer Card through May 2010, to help Brethren join in prayer for new mission points and new church starts throughout the denomination. The card was enclosed in both English and Spanish in a recent “Source” mailing that went to all Church of the Brethren congregations.

— On Earth Peace is calling on churches to join its campaign for the International Day of Prayer for Peace (IDOPP) on Sept. 21. A series of conference calls has been scheduled to share On Earth Peace’s vision, describe ways to be involved, and answer questions. Calls will be held June 4, from 1-2 p.m.; and June 16, from 7-8 p.m. (Eastern time). Go to http://idopp.onearthpeace.org/calls to register. Two more conference calls are planned for July or August to talk about the listening process that On Earth Peace is recommending for IDOPP participants, led by David Jehnsen, chair of the board of Every Church a Peace Church. This year, a special emphasis of the campaign is how the recession is affecting local communities. Churches have three ways to participate: through an observance, a vigil, or a listening initiative. Visit http://idopp.onearthpeace.org/details  to learn more about ways to be involved, or go to http://idopp.onearthpeace.org/idopp-2009-registration  to register as a participant. Direct specific questions about the campaign to idopp@onearthpeace.org . So far, 23 groups have registered to participate, reported coordinator Michael Colvin. “We are well on our way to having 40 registered participants by the beginning of Annual Conference.”

— The New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center dining services will host a “Grand Re-Opening of the Kitchen” on June 10 with a special lunch menu showcasing the new capabilities of its renovated dining services. The kitchen will be open for walk-through tours for visitors to see the improvements to the facility.

— The SERRV Store at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., is holding its Second Annual Sidewalk Sale on June 4-6. Specials include savings of 50 percent or more on a variety of items from vases to baskets, and sampling of Rooibos Iced Tea and Divine chocolate.

— Tony Campolo has been a guest speaker for the 125th anniversary celebration at York (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren. He is a well known American Baptist preacher and a past presenter at Annual Conference and National Youth Conferences of the Church of the Brethren.

— Christ the Servant Church of the Brethren in Cape Coral, Fla., is experiencing a complete makeover, according to the Atlantic Southeast District newsletter. The congregation, now known as “A Life in Christ” Church of the Brethren, is moving to a new building in downtown Cape Coral. The church has developed new mission and vision statements, a new website at http://www.havealifeinchrist.com/ , a Facebook group, and a MySpace page. Leah J. Hileman is pastor.

— As part of National Police Officers Week, a church service for active and retired law enforcement professionals was held at Stone Church of the Brethren in Buena Vista, Va., on May 3. The service remembered five officers from the community killed between 1921-1989.

— Family Faith Fellowship Church of the Brethren in Enid, Okla., was showcased during Enid Historic Preservation Month in May. The limestone church with a three-sided staged steeple was built in 1947 by the First Church of Christ and purchased by Family Faith Fellowship in 1995.

— The Annual Assembly of the Church of the Brethren in Puerto Rico takes place June 12-13.

— Western Plains District is calling for prayer for Lybrook Community Ministries, which serves the Tokahookaadi congregation and Native American community around Lybrook, N.M. The district’s Lybrook Vision Committee requested prayer “for the persons and work groups that will be coming to do needed repairs and upgrades to the property to make it more inviting for guests who seek the sense of God that can be found in this beautiful land.”

— Pinecrest Community, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Mount Morris, Ill., has been selected 2009 Business of the Year by the Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce. Pinecrest was noted for supporting education and being part of the education of medical students and nurses, involvement of employees in the community, and support for an area food pantry.

— Several faculty at Church of the Brethren colleges have received honors recently. Three Juniata College faculty members have received honors: Norm Siems, Woolford Professor of Physics, received the 20th annual Beachley Award for Distinguished Academic Service; James Roney, I.H. Brumbaugh Professor of Russian, was named 42nd recipient of the Beachley Award for Distinguished Teaching; and James Tuten, associate professor of History, received the Henry and Joan Gibbel Award for Distinguished Teaching. At McPherson (Kan.) College, assistant professor of education Shay Maclin was named Advisor of the Year at the KNEA-SP Spring Representative Assembly in Emporia, Kan., nominated by sophomore education major Jenni Birdsall, Teachers of Tomorrow president. In addition to Maclin’s award, the Teachers of Tomorrow chapter at McPherson received recognition as “Outstanding Chapter.”

— The June edition of “Brethren Voices” features an interview with Annual Conference moderator David K. Shumate in a third annual “Meet the Moderator” program. Shumate and Annual Conference secretary Fred Swartz present the site of this year’s Conference in San Diego, and discuss the items of new business. Closing minutes of the show include the song, “When Love Leaves,” written by Brethren musician and composer Shawn Kirchner in honor of past moderator Chuck Boyer. The July edition of “Brethren Voices” will include an interview with Kirchner. “Brethren Voices” is a community television program offered by Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland, Ore., and produced by Ed Groff. Congregations may purchase copies for use in their own communities, contact groffprod1@msn.com or 360-256-8550.

— This is the third summer that Emily Young of First Church of the Brethren in Harrisonburg, Va., is serving as a Solidarity Worker in Sudan through the New Community Project, a Brethren-related nonprofit. Director David Radcliff reports that three solidarity workers have begun their summer service in Nimule, Sudan: Young as team leader; Christian Kochon of Marlton, N.J.; and Adella Barrett of Lynchburg, Va. The group is hosted by the Girl Child Development and Education Committee, through whom the project also gives grants for girls’ education and women’s development, and in cooperation with the Sudan Council of Churches. Radcliff also reported that the project recently transferred a donation of $10,000 to the Girl Child Committee for educational scholarships and women’s tailoring and gardening projects, on top of $24,000 already sent to Sudan this year for these programs as well as a reforestation effort. A Learning Tour to Sudan is planned for Jan. 2011. Visit http://www.newcommunityproject.org/ for more.

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) marked the International Day of Conscientious Objection on May 15 by releasing results of a study showing a global trend to better recognize conscientious objection, but also showing that those who exercise it are often discriminated against or sent to prison. “Korea, Israel, and the United States are examples of countries where conscientious objection may put people through a tough time,” said a release. “South Korea has the largest number of imprisoned conscientious objectors in the world–about 700 each year…. Most of them are Jehovah’s Witnesses who do not get any support from most local churches.” In Israel, the report said, “the army not only recruits young men, but also women at the age of 17. It takes much courage to refuse, and those who do often face a first prison term when they are still teenagers…. Many of those who refuse are not against the army in general, but against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. They also condemn the recent war in Gaza.” War resisters from the US are finding sanctuary in Canada, the report said. “Most of these are soldiers who joined the army as volunteers, but now refuse to serve the armed forces as a consequence to their experiences in Iraq, which have made them feel that this war was morally wrong. Since selective objection to a certain war is not legally recognized in the United States, the war resisters flee to Canada with their families and ask for refugee status. They are nevertheless often faced with the threat of deportation and subsequent imprisonment in the US.”

— A new book about modern-day slavery is recommended by Church of the Brethren staff who are working on the issue. “The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today” by Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter is the result of a three-year project looking into slavery across America, and thinking about how the country can fulfill its promise of liberty and become slave free. Purchase this hardcover volume from Brethren Press for $24.95 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712.

7) Elsie Koehn begins as district executive minister for Southern Plains.

Elsie Koehn on May 15 began work as district executive minister for the Church of the Brethren’s Southern Plains District. She has pastored Pleasant Plains Church of the Brethren in Aline, Okla., for some 16 years, since 1993. She served as moderator for Southern Plains District 2007-08, and has represented the district on the Standing Committee of Annual Conference.

New contact information for the district office has been issued: Southern Plains District, 9212 Stonegate, Midwest City, OK 73130; Ekoehn9112@att.net or 405-736-0980.

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, cobnews@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Carol Bowman, Ed Groff, Cindy Kinnamon, Karin L. Krog, Margie Paris, David Radcliff, Carmen Rubio, John Wall contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for June 17. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. For more Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

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