Newsline for August 25, 2011

“…for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.” (2 Timothy 1:12b)

1) Sept. 11 resources available
2) New Church of the Brethren staff structure announced
3) BBT continues to maintain investment-grade holdings
4) Brethren Disaster Ministries reports on East Coast earthquake
5) Minister’s Association Officers annual fall retreat held 

6) Pension director called to serve as BBT’s chief operating and compliance officer

7) National Older Adult Conference begins Labor Day
8) International Day of Prayer for Peace
9) Back to school with the Deacon Ministry
10) Brethren Bits: Remembrance, Resources and More

1) Sept. 11 resources available

The Church of the Brethren has prepared worship and study resources to help congregations reflect on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Three study guides that can be used individually or as a series have been written by staff members Josh Brockway and Jordan Blevins. They are accompanied by a guide for interfaith dialog and a bibliography of books and other study materials.

The worship resources have been written by Chris Montgomery, pastor of the Drexel Hill (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, and Brockway.

The resources are posted on the Church of the Brethren website under the theme “The way of peace,” from Luke 1:78-79—the same theme used for resources posted 10 years ago.

2) New Church of the Brethren staff structure announced

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger has unveiled a new management structure for denominational staff. The changes respond to a strategic plan approved last fall by the Mission and Ministry Board, and are a first step toward a significant budget reduction for 2012.

The board held off on reducing the Core Ministries budget during the past two years so it could complete its work on the strategic plan. The parameter approved for the 2012 budget is $638,000 lower than the 2011 budget. Those reductions will include employee layoffs, which will be announced at the end of September.

The gap is caused by a combination of declining contributions from congregations and individuals, and increasing costs for health insurance and other expenses. Employee pay, which was frozen in 2010 and 2011, will have a cost-of-living increase of 3 percent in 2012.

The new organizational chart streamlines the executive structure from eight people to five (the general secretary, an associate general secretary, and three executive directors). The three executive areas are Global Mission and Service, Congregational Life, and Organizational Services. The chart depicts the new structure, but does not yet indicate staffing levels.

3) BBT continues to maintain investment-grade holdings, despite U.S. credit rating downgrade

In the wake of Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S.’ credit rating in early August, Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust sent a letter to Pension Plan members and Foundation clients assuring them that their investments continue to be in higher-rated securities, and that the portfolios are being carefully monitored during these uncertain times.

The Investment Guidelines — documents that outline the duties and regulations that BBT expects its investment managers to fulfill — state that all bond funds, except the High Yield Bond Fund, shall invest in securities that are investment-grade (the credit rating is BBB- or higher by Standard & Poor’s or Baa3 or higher by Moody’s). An investment-grade bond possesses a strong capacity to meet its financial commitment. The Aug. 12 letter notes, “Despite S&P’s actions, our investment managers continue to be in compliance with our Investment Guidelines and our holdings maintain investment-grade status.”

The release provided an overview of the investment manager review process that BBT staff members and their consultants undertake each quarter, which includes verification that investment managers are adhering to BBT’s and BFI’s Investment Guidelines.

“Investment Guidelines are designed to protect the assets of our members and clients, especially during these stressful times,” the letter states. “We maintain well-diversified portfolios with the goal of insulating the portfolios from the effects of substantial losses in any single security or sector of the market. Policies and procedures designed to oversee the execution of Investment Guidelines are ensuring efforts to properly fulfill our fiduciary responsibility in the management of these assets, and we will take appropriate action as necessary.”

Brethren Pension Plan members should contact Scott Douglas, director, with any questions they have about their investment allocations. Steve Mason, director of BFI, can be contacted by clients who have accounts with Brethren Foundation.

Visit to read the letters sent to BBT members and BFI clients.

4) Brethren Disaster Ministries reports on East Coast earthquake

The Brethren Service Center (BSC) in New Windsor, Md. was slightly shaken but not damaged by the 5.8 earthquake centered in Virginia at 1:51 p.m. on August 23. BSC employees headed for safety in doorways as buildings on campus shook and the ground rumbled for several seconds.

Shortly after the incident, upon learning that the epicenter was located in central Virginia, Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM) staff in New Windsor called the Virlina and Shenandoah District offices in Virginia to check on their wellbeing. Staff at both locations indicated that they felt the tremors fairly strongly but were unharmed.

Sandy Kinsey, administrative assistant for the Shenandoah District, reported that there is damage in Charlottesville, about 27 mi. west of the epicenter. BDM has offered assistance with any needs that arise as a result of the disaster.

BDM staff also spoke with project leaders at the Pulaski, Va. tornado recovery project and was assured that everyone there was alright.

Zach Wolgemuth, BDM associate director, was on a conference call with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) when the quake hit. FEMA personnel in Washington, DC “dropped off the line only to return a few minutes later and inform us they needed to evacuate,” he said.

5) Minister’s Association Officers annual fall retreat held

The Minister’s Association met in Elgin August 10-11, for their annual fall retreat. Members include Chris Zepp, Chair; Rebecca House, Treasurer; Dave Kerkove, Joel Kline, and Erin Matteson; with Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Executive Director of Ministry, serving as staff liaison to the group. The charter and purpose of The Minister’s Association is: “ to provide a forum for ministers to explore issues that affect their life and work;  to serve as an advocate voice for ministers in the denomination; to strengthen ties of individuals and the Minister’s Association with the wider church; to offer ministers continuing education opportunities.”

This group is responsible for planning the pre-Annual Conference professional growth event for ministers both licensed and ordained, and anyone else interested. As the group met, they adopted a new budget for 2012; recommitted to the fullness of their charter, looked at fresh ways to live that out through Annual Conference and District insight sessions, a new brochure, and more communication with local clergy groups and those newly out in ministry; began planning for the 2012 pre-Annual Conference event with Walter Brueggemann and brainstormed topics and leaders for future events.

The pre-Annual Conference event will be on July 6–7, 2012 in St. Louis, Mo.  Note: Change in start time – Friday, July 6 @ 6:00 p.m. Sessions will be held Friday evening, Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon. The event will conclude at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.  If there are questions or ideas to share, please contact Chris Zepp.

6) Pension director called to serve as BBT’s chief operating and compliance officer

Scott Douglas has accepted the newly created position of chief operating and compliance officer for Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust effective Jan. 1, 2012. Scott has agreed to assume the compliance officer responsibilities of the portfolio prior to his effective date of becoming COCO. Additionally, Scott will continue his duties as director of Brethren Pension Plan and Employee Financial Services until this position has been filled.

Scott has a rich career history that includes entrepreneurial business, pastoral and ministry assignments, and health care and financial services. He has served BBT as Pension Plan director since Jan. 1, 2009. He has shown a dedicated and passionate spirit for the denomination throughout the more than 15 years he has worked with Church of the Brethren-related organizations.

He received his Bachelor of Science in management/marketing with a minor in psychology from Purdue University. He also has a Master of Divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary and a Master of Social Work from Jane Adams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Scott is currently pursuing his certification as an Employee Benefits Specialist.

Scott and his wife are members of Highland Avenue (Ill.) Church of the Brethren and reside in Elgin, Ill.

7) National Older Adult Conference begins Labor Day; New Conference Bible Study Leader Announced

Photo provided by Family and Older Adult Ministry staff
Lani Wright is this year’s Bible study leader at NOAC.

In just a little over a week, nearly 900 older adults will gather for the 11th National Older Adult Conference (NOAC), held at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, September 5-9. It is not too late to register for this Church of the Brethren sponsored conference for adults age 50 and older. You may register online with a credit card at or call Kim Ebersole, NOAC coordinator, at (800) 323-8039 to have a registration brochure sent to you.

Lani Wright will lead the morning plenary Bible studies, sponsored by the Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust. Wright replaces Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, who is unable to attend for health reasons. An ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren, Wright specializes in eco-psychology (developing human ways of building a sustainable culture) and wellness groups at Oregon State Hospital with people recovering from mental illness and substance dependence. Wright was Project Editor for Generation Why Bible Studies for youth, and also helped staff the production of Hymnal: A Worship Book, Hymnal Supplement series, and edited the Hymnal Companion. Wright teaches online courses in worship for the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, and is a free-lance editor and writer. She lives in Cottage Grove, Oregon, with her husband and three daughters. Her three sessions at NOAC will explore the conference theme of passion, purpose, and a changing world, using chapter 14 of the Gospel of John.

Visit the NOAC website at for complete information about the conference, including the conference booklet and confirmation packet for registrants.

8) International Day of Prayer for Peace

Photo provided by On Earth Peace staff
A prayer vigil around a peace pole and candles. Congregations and communities around the world participate in the On Earth Peace campaign for the International Day of Prayer for Peace (IDPP).

On Earth Peace continues to invite congregations and community groups to recognize International Day of Prayer for Peace in their community by holding a public prayer event on or around September 21, focusing on community or global violence. A prayer service doesn’t heal everything that’s broken – but it is a great place to start reaching out, building relationship, and catalyzing your community. As of August 22, 81 congregations and community groups have registered with the campaign. This includes groups from 8 countries and 19 states. On Earth Peace organizers continue to seek a total of 200 groups to articipate in this event. Registration is free and online at Resources to assist with planning your event, as well as contact information for further On Earth Peace support, can also be found at this website.

Mark Pickens writes about his hopes for IDPP 2011 in Mechanicsburg, Pa:  “I believe strongly in the power and presence of peace in the world and the call for God’s people all over the world to faithfully commit to one another and to all of creation, the spirit of prayer and practice to be an active participation in the bringing forth of the fulfilled Kingdom of God to Earth–one where Peace will dwell within us as well as among us. My vision for the community is to grow as a community of welcoming individuals to the local strangers who dwell in our midst and to faithfully open ourselves up to service:  Serving Them, Our Neighbors; Serving God, Our Common Creator, and to be challenged to be humbly served ourselves by both. I would like to invite the local ecumenical ministerium and members from different local congregations, staff from Church World Service (CWS), individuals from the local Somali community, and finally, staff members and volunteers from a local social service ministry, New Hope Ministries.”

9) Back to school with the Deacon Ministry

As your children and grandchildren head back to class this fall, why not continue your own education and participate in a deacon workshop?

First on the schedule is a half-day session at the Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Virginia, on Saturday, September 24. This session is described as: “Difficult people, challenging needs. People doing well, who don’t ‘need’ a deacon. Crises, joys, and everything in between. Deacons are called to be present for all, to be God’s hands and feet, His eyes and ears. Join us to learn to listen and be present when deacon ministry is a joy as well as in times of challenge, when offering support is frustrating as well as when that support is welcomed.”

In October, join the deacons of the Quakertown (Pennsylvania) Church of the Brethren for a full day on Saturday, October 22, to explore the many things deacons are called to do, with workshops entitled “Listeners, caregivers, peacemakers, disciples, advocates….Deacons!”; “Called to listen…called to serve those suffering from grief and loss…called to be peacemakers”; and “Answering the call.”

The Lakeview Church of the Brethren (Brethren, Michigan) will host a full day of workshops on Saturday, November 12. The schedule is still under development, but visit for full registration information for this and all other sessions.

Questions? Contact Donna Kline Director, Deacon Ministries at, or 800-323-8039 ext. 304.

10) Brethren Bits: Remembrance, Resources and More

Dorris Murdock, missionary and author, died on June 20, 2011, after a long bout with cancer. Murdock was born August 3, 1927, in North Carolina to John and Blanche Murdock.  She graduated from McPherson College in 1948. That same year, she married Marvin Blough and went to Nigeria, West Africa, as a Church of the Brethren missionary.  Murdock wrote eight books. Journey into the Light chronicled her own crisis of divorce, and Storm of the Soul the story of her experience in Nigeria. Her last years were spent in Idaho City, Id.

–The Church of the Brethren Global Mission Partnerships hosted a luncheon at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on Thursday, August 25, sharing the story of the launch of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) in North Korea last fall.

Presenters were Robert and Linda Shank, volunteers who after completing two terms of teaching at PUST will return to the campus on August 29, and Joshua Song, who is president of a foundation related to PUST. Dr. Shank is dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences for PUST. Linda Shank is a teacher of English. The Shanks will reflect on their firsthand experiences and explain how American educators and institutions can participate in this new venture.

–Work Camp Volunteers -With gratitude for their service, the Church of the Brethren workcamp office bids farewell to volunteers Carol Fike and Clara Nelson, 2011 youth and young adult workcamp coordinators. Nelson is entering a school of veterinary medicine. Fike will continue to serve in the Youth and Young Adult Office as she coordinates National Young Adult Conference 2012.

The 2012 youth and young adult workcamp coordinators are Catherine Gong and Rachel Witkovsky, both from the Middle Pennsylvania District.  Gong is a recent graduate of Pennsylvania State University.  Witkovsky is a graduate of Elizabethtown College, and comes to us after a year of working in the theatre in New Hampshire.

Resources section from Basin & Towel now online. Subscribers to Basin & Towel, the magazine of Congregational Life Ministries, know that the ‘Resources’ section in each issue can be one of the most helpful, listing books, websites, and other materials relevant to the theme of that issue. Starting with the August issue (“The Technology Issue”), those resources are also available online for easy ‘linking’. All future issues also will offer this feature; and plans are underway to provide resources for all past issues online as well.

“Fear is Not the Answer: 9/11 Revisited” will be held on Sunday, September 11, 2011, beginning at 4:30 p.m. in Binns Park, 100 block of N. Queen Street in Lancaster, Pa.  Celeste Zappala, mother of the first Pennsylvania National Guard soldier killed in Iraq, and Michael Berg, father of a contractor also killed there, will headline this solemn remembrance of the links between 9/11 and war.  This public event will affirm the traditional American values of accountability, the rule of law, the protection of civil liberties and the pursuit of peace.  Musicians David Armstrong, Frances Miller, Jessica Smucker and Daryl Snider will perform.  Bring lawn chairs for seating.  Sponsored by Every Church a Peace Church, 1040 for Peace, and the Lancaster Coalition for Peace and Justice.

–A religion communicators group is calling for responsible discussion of faith groups in news coverage of 9/11’s 10th anniversary. The Religion Communicators Council urged journalists and bloggers to “pursue accuracy, respect and understanding of people of all faiths and faith communities.” The statement is in a resolution adopted Aug. 7, 2011 in Philadelphia by the board of governors for the 400-member interfaith council.

The 17-member board called “for responsible discussion of religion and of all faith groups, seeking the understanding and acceptance of religious communities.”  The anniversary of the 2001 attacks could “bring about painful recollections of terrorism and its effects,” the resolution said. Rhetoric about the attacks “could become heated and distorted as it intermingles the religious identity of participants in those heinous acts,” the measure continued.

The council encourages communicators for faith groups to adhere to the highest ethical guidelines in presenting religious faith and values in public discourse.

–The Yahoo! group for Brethren Peace Fellowship has been reactivated. This moderated forum is at

Ann Behrens to serve as Chair of the Global Crises Intervention Commission. This unique response unit of the Word Federation of Music Therapy organization supports the needs of music therapists affected by or responding to crises-natural and human-made-across the world that result in trauma stress. The Global Crises Intervention Commission facilitates communication, coordinates services and training among music therapists, and maintains a collection of materials and resources to use during current or ongoing disasters and traumatic situations. Behrens teaches and supervises music therapy students while directing the music therapy program in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts of Elizabethtown College where she has taught since 1998.

Kansas Campus Compact has named two McPherson College professors as its first “Engaged Faculty Fellows,” granting them each $7,500 in support of service learning in their teaching and research.  Dr. Allan Ayella, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Becki Bowman, assistant professor of communication, were two of the three fellows named under the new program. In exchange for the grant, Dr. Ayella and Dr. Bowman will develop and introduce a course with a practical service learning component, collaborate with the other fellows in a research project, and act as advocates for service- learning and civic engagement in the community.

Dr. Bowman said she will be using the funds to modify a fall class at McPherson College on conflict communications. The class now will include a student service project developing a curriculum to teach elementary school students about conflict resolution.

Kansas Campus Compact is a coalition devoted to funding and facilitating service learning and civic engagement in its 12-member colleges and universities throughout Kansas, from community colleges to Regents institutions.

Bridgewater College hires vice president of institutional advancement.  Bruce D. Smith Jr., of West Chester, Pa., assumed his duties as vice president of institutional advancement at Bridgewater on August. 23. In leading the advancement team, Smith will build and strengthen the organization, develop strategies and contribute to the work of the President’s Council. Smith is a native of Swarthmore, Pa., who earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. In 1965 he joined the faculty at The Westtown School, a co-educational college-prep boarding school near Philadelphia.  In 1982, Smith left Westtown to design and implement hardware and software solutions using microprocessor technology. He also worked at The West Company, helping to design control and monitoring systems for the company’s machinery products division. Smith formed Genesis Machinery Products in 1996, where he served as president and director of technology.

–President Ruthann K. Johansen of Bethany Seminary has announced the hiring of Shaye M. Isaacs as the executive assistant to the president. She began her duties on August 23, 2011. A resident of Richmond, Indiana, Isaacs has worked with Wernle Youth & Family Treatment Center in Richmond since 2006, most recently as director of development. Her roles and responsibilities at Wernle included management, fund-raising, donor relations, public relations, agency referral and placement, and administrative support.

–Roy Unruh and Mildred Martens-Unruh have written a book Two Feet Apart at the Altar: Four Love Stories and Five People, which tells the story of how they have found guidance through tragedies with God’s love,   Their inspiration to complete the book came at the National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) in 2009 where there was a focus on sharing wisdom and leaving a legacy.  Unruh served on the Church of the Brethren General Board from 1999 to 2004.

— Four district conferences take place on Oct. 7-8: Atlantic Northeast District Conference at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College; Atlantic Southeast District Conference at Winter Park (Fla.) Church of the Brethren; Idaho District Conference at Community Church of the Brethren in Twin Falls, Idaho; and Mid-Atlantic District Conference at Hagerstown (Md.) Church of the Brethren.

Three district conferences are planned for the weekend of Oct. 14-15: Southern Ohio District Conference is at Eaton (Ohio) Church of the Brethren on Oct. 14-15; Middle Pennsylvania District Conference is at Carson Valley Church in Duncansville, Pa., on Oct. 14-15; and Western Pennsylvania District Conference is at Camp Harmony in Hooversville, Pa., on Oct. 15. This will be the 150th Middle Pennsylvania District Conference.

Contributors include. Adam Pracht, Jeanne Davies, Wendy McFadden, Brian Solem, Jane Yount Elton Ford, Chelsea Goss, Erin Matteson, Jenny Williams, Mary K. Heatwole, Christopher W. Zepp and Sue Snyder. This issue of Newsline is edited by Kathleen Campanella, director of partner and public relations at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Look for the next regularly scheduled issue on Sept. 7. Newsline is produced by the news services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at Newsline appears every other week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.

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