Newsline for May 31, 2012

Quote of the week:

“Every single one of us can stand an increase of faith.”

–Leah Hileman, preaching at the New Church Planting Conference. She is pastor of A Life in Christ Church of the Brethren in Cape Coral, Fla. Find a photo album from the conference at .

“I (Paul) planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

1) New Church Planting Conference emphasizes love for God, and others.
2) BBT Board approves new funds for BFI clients and charts a course for Pension Plan.
3) June 4 is the last day of operation of New Windsor Conference Center.
4) Gather ’Round co-sponsors conference on children and youth.
5) Global Food Crisis Fund gives first round of grants for 2012.

6) On Earth Peace announces Bill Scheurer as new executive director.

7) National Young Adult Conference takes place in mid-June.
8) Pre-registration remains open for Ministers’ Association event.
9) Brethren Volunteer Service holds summer orientation unit.

10) Brethren bits: Correction, personnel, Annual Conference deadline, church anniversaries, and much much more.


1) New Church Planting Conference emphasizes love for God, and others.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Throughout the New Church Planting Conference, artist and church planter Dave Weiss illustrated the themes for worship. Shown here, his painting made during the opening worship service, which also illustrates the overall theme of the conference: “Plant Generously, Reap Bountifully.”

On May 16-19 about 120 people–including seminary and academy students–gathered at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., for the 2012 New Church Planting Conference. The event is held every other year, sponsored by the New Church Development Advisory Committee and Congregational Life Ministries.

With the theme “Plant Generously, Reap Bountifully,” the conference was a training event for church planters and district leaders, while also offering a chance to celebrate the wide variety of new church plants across the denomination.

Church planters were recognized and received laying on of hands and prayer for their ministries. At the same time, the conference also included members of house churches as well as people who are simply interested in a movement for new congregations of Brethren.

Speakers emphasize knowing the heart of God

Keynote speakers Tom Johnston and Mike Chong Perkinson of the Praxis Center for Church Development, are successful church planters and pastors as well as consultants and coaches for denominations doing church and leadership development.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The two keynote speakers for the conference (from left)–Mike Chong Perkinson and Tom Johnston–are founders and senior developer and executive director, respectively, of the Praxis Center for Church Development. Their work entails training and coaching church planters and serving as consultants for church revitalization.

The Praxis Center looks at Jesus as the model for building the church, Perkinson told the group. The speakers called on Brethren to consider basing church development in Jesus and how he understood church, and to let go of acculturated ways of thinking about what church should be.

The highlight of church should be Christ, not great music or scintillating preaching, Perkinson said. This leads away from assessing the health and wellbeing of churches through statistics like attendance, to assessing the church’s identity in relationship with God. “Church planters, be released from the numbers game!” Johnston said.

It also leads away from an emphasis on right belief to discipleship as a way of life, and makes family relationships a  priority alongside personal relationships with Christ. Perkinson told how he includes his daughters in his ministry, even at elementary school ages inviting them to help pray for a neighbor in need of healing, for example. The end result is that children and spouses of church leaders and other families in the church, are discipled and become devoted followers of Jesus too.

Among other basic principles for church, Perkinson and  Johnston presented what they call the “Irreducible Core” from Matthew 22 and 28: 1. Love God. 2. Love others. 3. As you go make disciples. As pastors seek to replicate Jesus’ understanding of church, and how best to express God’s love in the community, the church grows in the way families grow–through personal relationships, in which faith is shared. The process is longterm, the speakers said, but in story after story they told of seeing groups welcome new disciples through the sharing of God’s love.

Brethren are using a variety of models for new churches

The range of workshops at the New Church Planting Conference illustrate the variety of approaches Brethren are taking to plant new churches.

“Retro Yet Relevant” was the title of Kim Hill Smith’s workshop on house churches, for example. She is a founding member of Common Spirit Fellowship, a house church in Minneapolis. The house church movement harks back to a model familiar to Brethren since their beginnings 300 years ago, she said. Two more Common Spirit house churches have been started on the same model, one in North Manchester, Ind., and one in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Daniel D’Oleo gave a workshop on Renacer, a movement creating new Hispanic congregations in the Church of the Brethren. Renacer began in Leola, Pa. Over three years, two more Renacer churches have been planted in Roanoke and Floyd, Va.

Another model is campus ministry-based. Primarily occurring in Michigan, churches are emerging out of ministries with college and university students. Michigan District executive Nate Polzin is leading one of these, the Church in Drive in Saginaw.

Energy and a structure for new church planting is centered in districts with active New Church Development committees. including but not limited to Atlantic Northeast, Virlina, Shenandoah, and Northern Plains. In Atlantic Northeast District, for example, the styles and models for the current group of 12 new church plants is wide and various including Brethren Revival Fellowship groups, Spanish- and Arabic-speaking congregations, and an arts-based model for missional churches.

In the Church of the Brethren, districts are responsible to develop new congregations, while denominational staff take a supporting role. Congregational Life Ministries executive Jonathan Shively and his staff, with guidance from the denomination’s New Church Development Advisory Committee, offer support and encouragement for church planting and facilitate training opportunities and coaching for the districts. Recently the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board affirmed church planting as one of six directional goals for the Church of the Brethren.

During one of his workshops, Shively discussed the problems and possibilities inherent in a structure that decentralizes the work and places most responsibility at the local level. Issues include how Brethren can give recognition and support to new church plants across district lines, the fact that opportunities for planting may be greatest in districts with less resources, and related funding questions for the denomination as a whole.

Facilitating access to effective assessment, training, and coaching for church planters has become a focus for the denominational support to districts where church planting is becoming most successful. Denominational staff also are providing opportunities to celebrate the hard work and struggle that goes into new church planting.

For more about church planting

For more information about the Praxis Center for Church Development go to and . For more about church planting in the Church of the Brethren go to or contact . A photo album from the New Church Planting Conference is at .

The conference received an offering of $829 to the Emerging Global Missions Fund to support church planting. More about the fund and an opportunity to give online is at .

Opportunities to celebrate and learn more about church planting are coming up in July at Annual Conference in St. Louis, Mo. New fellowships and congregations will be welcomed at the beginning of the first business session on July 8. Later that afternoon, a reception for new fellowships and congregations will be held from 4-6 p.m., and a 9 p.m. insight session will address “New Churches: Stories and Strategies.” On July 9 a church planter networking session will be held at 9 p.m. On July 10 another 9 p.m. networking session will discuss the emergent and missional church. Go to .

The July/August issue of “Messenger” magazine will include a cluster of articles on new church planting. To subscribe, go to .

2) BBT Board approves new funds for BFI clients and charts a course for Pension Plan.

Returning the Brethren Pension Plan’s Retirement Benefits Fund to fully funded status and approving five new tactical fund options for Brethren Foundation’s organizational clients were the primary focuses of the Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) Board of Directors meeting on April 21-22 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

The board also spent time approving lists of defense-related companies that will be kept out of BBT investments, evaluating the performance of the board, receiving an unqualified opinion from the organization’s auditor, and recognizing departing and nominated board members during the weekend-long meeting. But the Pension Plan’s Retirement Benefits Fund (RBF) was the primary focus of the board’s attention.

“Many pension plans across the country have experienced hardships in recent years,” said Nevin Dulabaum, president of BBT. “We’re not immune to those challenges. But we are steadfastly working to strengthen the RBF so that it can meet its obligations for the lifetimes of all current and future annuitants.”

The two-day assembly was preceded by several meetings of the board and its committees. A board conference call was held on Feb. 26, which allowed BBT board and staff members to review departmental reports and routine business. The Governance Committee met with Dulabaum in Lancaster, Pa., on April 12; the Property and Compliance task team met in Elgin on April 19; and the board’s Investment, Budget and Audit Review, and Governance Committees each met in Elgin on April 20.

Three studies offer insight and possible paths for the RBF

Since the recent economic crisis of 2008 and 2009 left the Pension Plan’s RBF at 68.5 percent funded as of Dec. 31, 2008, BBT’s highest priority has been to return that fund–which pays out all Pension Plan annuitants’ monthly benefits–to fully funded status.

Scott Douglas, director of Employee Benefits, led the board through reports from three studies that analyzed key components of Brethren Pension Plan. Although they were separate studies, their goals were the same–to provide information that will help safeguard the Brethren Pension Plan and the RBF for years to come.

One study was reviewed ahead of the full board meeting by the Investment Committee; prepared by investment consulting firm Marquette Associates, the study examined different economic and investment scenarios for returning the RBF to fully funded status. Based on these projections, it could take a decade or more to achieve this goal. Factors that contribute to the RBF’s funding status include the fluctuations of the investment markets, the number of new annuitants, the mortality experience of Pension Plan members, the spousal options that are selected, and the conversion rate used to determine how much money each annuitant will receive as a lifetime benefit.

Another study examined the mortality assumptions that BBT uses in its calculations of annuity payments. Human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt put together a review of BBT’s current mortality assumptions and concluded that while the mortality table BBT uses is on target, it would be appropriate to switch to a different table in the future. The report made several other suggestions that the board’s Pension Plan task force will review at its next meeting.

A study commissioned each year by BBT examined the funded status of the RBF. The report indicated that as of Dec. 31, 2011, the RBF was 78 percent funded–meaning that for each dollar it must pay out to annuitants, it has 78 cents available. This is a 10 percent increase over its low, but it indicates that the task force’s work is not complete.

Tactical investments added to Foundation’s fund options

In response to requests from several current and prospective organizational clients, Brethren Foundation staff members have worked with the BFI Board and investment and client service counsel to develop a way to offer five goal-oriented investment choices. These new funds are composed of multiple BFI funds and are monitored by an investment adviser.

The five tactical funds are named after the purpose each is intended to serve–Aggressive Growth, Growth, Income and Growth, Income, and Conservative. The asset allocation of each of these funds will be evaluated on a regular basis, and changes will be made within an asset range defined by the BBT board. These changes will be made based on perceived opportunities within the capital markets. These funds will be available to all organizational clients for an additional fee.

“We’re pleased to be able to offer Foundation clients a way to simplify their allocation process,” said Steve Mason, director of BFI. “These five tactical funds will allow our clients greater ease in directing their investments toward specific goals.”

The board approved the addition of these five new funds to BFI’s 16 existing funds.

Lists of Defense-related companies used to screen investments approved by the Board

To honor the Church of the Brethren’s historic peace stance, BBT creates two lists each year of US Department of Defense contractors that either earned 10 percent or more of their income from defense contracts or hold one of the top 25 defense contracts issued to publicly traded companies. Companies that fall into these categories in the Department of Defense’s previous fiscal year are then prohibited from being included in any of BBT’s or BFI’s actively managed portfolios. The board approved the lists created for use in 2012 during Saturday’s session. These lists are available for review at

IR+M retained for another three years of investment management

Representatives of Income Research and Management (IR+M) presented a report to the Investment Committee during its meeting on Friday. IR+M is an investment management firm based in Boston that has been serving BBT as a fixed income manager since June 1995. After hearing the Committee’s recommendation to retain IR+M, the BBT board voted to retain the firm for another term. For the three-year period ending March 31, IR+M had a return of 10.2 percent for its Brethren Pension Plan portfolio, compared with the benchmark, Barclays Capital US Government/Credit Bond Index, which returned 7.1 percent in that same period. Each manager is reviewed every three years by the Investment Committee.

Orientation and governance session helped undergird the Board’s mission

To strengthen the performance and focus of the BBT board, Saturday’s morning session was dedicated to a time of board evaluation. The members discussed what it means to serve on the BBT board, and it reviewed an updated orientation and resource guide for new board members. This exercise was led by the Governance Committee, which has recently expanded its focus to include selecting BBT board nominees, orienting new members, pairing those new members with mentors from the board, and evaluating board members individually and collectively.

“We have an important mission–to provide BBT with solid leadership and support,” said Karen O. Crim, BBT board chairwoman. “As a board, we need to ensure that we are performing our duty to BBT’s members and clients effectively.”

In other news

An unqualified audit opinion of BBT’s financial reports, including Brethren Benefit Trust Inc. and Brethren Foundation Inc., was reviewed by the Budget and Audit Review Committee. Craig Resch, a partner at auditing firm Legacy Professionals, presented an overview of the audited financial statements. Board members then met with Resch in closed session. The audited financials were approved by the committee and the board.

Three positions on the BBT board are up for election or appointment this year, and the Governance Committee reviewed for the board the status of all three positions. One will be filled by Annual Conference election; the nominees for this slot are Eric Kabler of Johnstown, Pa., and Karen Pacheco of North Miami Beach, Fla. Pension Plan members have elected Tom McCracken of York, Pa., to represent the Fellowship of Brethren Homes for a four-year term. The BBT board in November had indicated it would appoint Ann Quay Davis of Covina, Calif., to serve another term on the board. Both appointments will be submitted for affirmation by Annual Conference delegates this summer.

The board and staff bid farewell and offered thanks to two departing board members–Jack Grim of East Berlin, Pa., who was previously elected by Annual Conference, and Michael Leiter of Boonsboro, Md., who was chosen to replace Carol Davis as the representative of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes in April 2010.

Upcoming BBT board meetings in 2012 will take place at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on Aug. 4-5 and at the General Offices and Pinecrest Community, a Brethren-affiliated retirement center in Mount Morris, Ill., on Nov. 17-18.

— Brian Solem is coordinator of publications for Brethren Benefit Trust.

3) June 4 is the last day of operation of New Windsor Conference Center.

Photo by Randy Miller

The New Windsor Conference Center on the campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., ceases operation as of June 4. After this week’s chapel service at the denomination’s General Offices, staff called for prayer for those leaving employment with the Conference Center and expressed thanks for their work for the church.

The three regular fulltime employees who conclude their service with the church once the Conference Center closes are Ella Patterson, Fay Reese, and Rita Taylor. Other employees who have been working at the Conference Center on a temporary and/or part-time basis are Sheila Becker, Kenneth Bryant, Janet Comings, Nathan Gibson, Vira Knights, Ridge Millberry, Virginia Ryan, Joseph Wade, Charlotte Willis, and David Zaruba.

The decision to cease Conference Center operations was made by the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board at its Fall 2011 meeting. The board determined that “operating the New Windsor Conference Center is not in alignment with the directional goals of our strategic plan and not financially sustainable” (find the original Newsline report, which includes financial background for the decision, at ).

The board’s decision is not about the Brethren Service Center property as a whole nor the ministries that continue there including Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, Material Resources, On Earth Peace, SERRV, IMA World Health, and the Mid-Atlantic District Office.

The center is making provisions to meet continuing needs to provide hospitality for volunteers who serve at the Material Resources program, IMA World Health, and SERRV. The center will transition Zigler Hall to become the Zigler Hospitality Center, initially keeping open several guest rooms and the kitchen and dining facilities to accommodate volunteer groups as needed. Cori Hahn will serve as hospitality coordinator and Walter Trail will manage the kitchen and dining facilities. Other possible uses for the buildings of Old Main and Windsor Hall are being explored.

4) Gather ’Round co-sponsors conference on children and youth.

Photo by Wendy McFadden
Brethren Press’s Jeff Lennard (right) chats with Brian McLaren about Gather ‘Round at the conference on Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity. The conference was held in Washington, D.C., on May 7-10 with co-sponsorship from the Gather ‘Round curriculum.

An innovative conference on ministry with children and youth drew well over 400 people from across North America and from several other countries.

“Whatever our faith tradition, wherever we live, we are united in shared convictions that the vitality of the church depends on children and youth and that young people are dear to God’s heart,” said Dave Csinos, founder and chief planner of the conference, called “Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity” (CYNKC).

The conference was held May 7-10 in Washington, D.C. Keynote speakers were Brian McLaren, John Westerhoff, Almeda Wright, and Ivy Beckwith. Some 55 others made short presentations and led workshops.

One of the co-sponsors was Gather ’Round, the Sunday school curriculum co-published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia. Staff members Anna Speicher and Rose Stutzman led a workshop on “Sunday School that Doesn’t Have All the Answers.” At the Gather ’Round booth, all preview packs were taken before the conference ended.

Speicher was gratified by the interest shown by participants. “People are hungry for the Anabaptist-Pietist message of our curriculum,” she observed.

Those attending represented a range of Christian churches and organizations, including the Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Church Canada, and Mennonite Church USA.

“As the church increasingly finds itself on the margins of our culture, we must rethink what it means to do faith formation,” said Josh Brockway, director of spiritual life and discipleship for the Church of the Brethren. “A gathering like Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity gives ministers and leaders a chance to share their experiences, explore emerging trends, and seek ways to minister faithfully in changing times.”

— Wendy McFadden is publisher of Brethren Press.

5) Global Food Crisis Fund gives first round of grants for 2012.

A first round of grants for 2012 has been announced by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF). Totaling $23,500, the grants have supported work toward food security in the Sahel region of northern Africa, Haiti, and Honduras.

The GFCF has given $5,000 this year for a total of $35,000 since 2009 for wells and food programs to NAGARTA, a nonprofit organization in Niger. Niger is in the Sahel region of Africa situated just south of the Sahara desert and continuing southward into the savanna regions that cross the entire continent, touching numerous countries. International aid agencies predict a coming famine as poor rainfall last year and this are endangering crop and livestock farmers. NAGARTA recently reported that since November they have completed 10 wells and trained community committees on proper installation and maintenance of wells.

Another grant of $3,000 was given to an initiative in Burkina Faso from the Church of the Brethren Foods Resource Bank (FRB) account. The church is involved in the FRB through the Global Food Crisis Fund. Along with other FRB partners, this project of the Office of Development of Evangelical Churches in Burkina Faso works with farmers involved with agroforestry, sesame production, and supplemental nutrition programs.

Also in April, a $3,000 grant was sent to L’Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) for a pond project in the village of Aux Plaines on the island of La Tortue. The pond is used for watering livestock in the dry season. This is a second grant toward an effort that includes many local Brethren. The plan is to stabilize the sides of the pond. Animals will still have access while allowing for other possible uses of the pond. Last spring, a group from McPherson (Kan.) College spent one week on the island.

In early April, a grant of $12,500 was given to Proyecto Aldea Global in Honduras. PAG’s executive director Chet Thomas shared the following: “The Church of the Brethren has provided financial support to set up more than 200 family businesses over the past several years, that has provided a small economic miracle to the lives of these families. Currently we have families which have started with one small female pig and today have over 80 pigs in different stages of growth.” Thomas’s home church is Maple Spring Church of the Brethren in Hollsopple, Pa.

A new GFCF Review Panel is named

Along with a new manager–Jeff Boshart, who served most recently as Haiti response coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries–the Global Food Crisis Fund also has a new Review Panel which helps make decisions about grants. The five members are:

Merle Crouse of St. Cloud, Fla., who brings experience as a sea-going cowboy with Heifer Project, former district executive, and former denominational staff in Turkey, Germany, and Ecuador, and with the General Board’s World Ministries and Parish Ministries. He is on the ministerial team of New Covenant Church of the Brethren in Gotha, Fla.

Jeff Graybill whose family farm is located near Manheim, Pa., works with Penn State Extension providing educational programming in Lancaster County with special interest in nutrient management and no-till cropping systems. He holds degrees in Agronomy from Penn State and Cornell University and has participated in workcamps in Nigeria and Kentucky.

Beth Gunzel of York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., who previously worked in the Dominican Republic as consultant to the microfinance project funded by the GFCF. She holds degrees in Social Work and Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois and is an employment training manager at Growing Home, Inc., in Chicago.

Gretchen Sarpiya, originally from Genadendal, South Africa, and currently a church planter in Rockford, Ill., alongside her husband Samuel. As a discipleship trainer director, she worked in many African countries during her 16 years with Youth With a Mission.

Jim Schmidt, who farms over 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans near Polo, Ill., and attends Polo Church of the Brethren. He has a degree in Agronomy from the University of Illinois. Along with his wife Karen he has partnered with three other congregations and local business people who are now in their eighth year of having a Growing Project with the Foods Resource Bank.

For more about the Global Food Crisis Fund go to .


6) On Earth Peace announces Bill Scheurer as new executive director.

Photo by: courtesy of On Earth Peace

The On Earth Peace Board of Directors has announced the selection of Bill Scheurer as its new executive director. Scheurer will take over the role as previous executive director Bob Gross moves to other responsibilities within the organization. The selection was made after an extensive national search and selection process.

“We are very pleased to announce this appointment,” said Madalyn Metzger, On Earth Peace board chair. “Bill brings exceptional abilities and professional experiences to advance the mission and ministry of On Earth Peace in the years ahead.”

Scheurer’s resume includes over 35 years of experience and success in both the corporate and nonprofit arenas. Previously, he served as interim executive director of Beyond War, founded a number of successful start-up technology companies, and worked as an investment attorney. His peacebuilding activities include serving as a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation national council, running as a peace candidate for the United States Congress (establishing a new peace party ballot status), and serving as co-coordinator of the Peace Garden Project and as editor of the Peace Majority Report. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and a J.D. degree from the University at Buffalo. He resides in Lindenhurst, Ill.

“The Church of the Brethren and the other historic peace churches are longtime beacons in my life and calling, both as a peacebuilder and a follower of Jesus,” said Scheurer. “I am deeply grateful for the call from On Earth Peace to become part of this vital ministry for advancing justice and building peace in our communities and around the world.”

To the On Earth Peace community he said, “Words cannot say how much it means to me to receive this calling from On Earth Peace. As with faith, I hope to show my gratitude by my works. The entire arc of my life has bent toward such a ministry, and yet there is no calling without community. You have given me community, and with it the ministry that has been calling me for years. I rejoice and give thanks! Peace be with you.”

(This report is taken from an On Earth Peace release.)


7) National Young Adult Conference takes place in mid-June.

Online registration closes June 1 for the 2012 National Young Adult Conference of the Church of the Brethren. NYAC will be held June 18-22 at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville on the theme “Humble, Yet Bold: Being the Church” (Matthew 5:13-18). Young adults ages 18-35 who attend will have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of activities including daily worship and Bible studies, free time for fun activities and good conversation, service projects, and more.

The morning Bible studies and evening worship services will be webcast live and available to view online at .

“Talk Back Sessions” will give young adults an opportunity to meet leaders of the denomination including general secretary Stan Noffsinger and Annual Conference moderator Tim Harvey, as well as some of the NYAC speakers. “Coffee and Conversation” times will give participants a chance to learn more about specific organizations within the Church of the Brethren including Bethany Theological Seminary, Brethren Volunteer Service, the Office of Ministry, and On Earth Peace.

Service projects will be held with the Knoxville Area Rescue Mission and the Lost Sheep Ministry. Special offerings will support the Haiti Mobile Medical Clinic and “Christmas in July” at the John M. Reed Nursing Home, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Limestone, Tenn. Among the more informal evening activities are games including Frisbee, a movie night, praise and worship time, a campfire, and a talent show. The event also includes an opportunity for the whole conference to go rafting together.

The list of speakers and leaders includes Harvey and Noffsinger along with Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren pastor Greg Davidson Laszakovits, Bethany Seminary director of admission Tracy Stoddart Primozich, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship Josh Brockway, Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren Minister for Youth Formation Dana Cassell, Nate and Jenn Hosler who recently returned from serving with the church in Nigeria, pastor Joel Peña of Alpha and Omega Church of the Brethren in Lancaster, Pa., recent high school graduate and Happy Corner Church of the Brethren member Shelley West, and Angie Lahman, a licensed minister at Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren in Peoria, Ariz. Due to unforeseen circumstances guest speaker Paul Alexander is no longer able to be at NYAC.

Webcasting starts with evening worship on Monday, June 18, at 7:30-9 p.m. On Tuesday through Thursday, June 19-21, both the morning Bible studies at 9:30-10:30 a.m., and the evening worship services at 7-8 p.m., will be webcast. On June 22, the closing worship service will be webcast at 10:15-11:15 a.m. Go to to view webcasts.

Online registration also is at . Cost is  $375 which includes lodging, meals, and programming. A $100 deposit, non refundable, is due within two weeks of registering.

8) Pre-registration remains open for Ministers’ Association event.

Walter Brueggemann, well-known and sought after speaker, author, and biblical scholar, is the keynote speaker for the 2012 Ministers’ Association Pre-Conference Continuing Education Event.

The event takes place July 6-7 at the America’s Center Room 120, St. Louis, Mo., in advance of Annual Conference. The event begins Friday night at 6 p.m. and concludes Saturday afternoon at 3:35 p.m. Registration will be available beginning at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon.

The schedule includes: Session 1 (Friday night, 6 p.m.) “Food Fight 1–The Narrative of Greed”; Session 2 (Saturday morning, 9 a.m.) “Food Fight 2–The Narrative of Gratitude”; Session 3 (Saturday afternoon, 1 p.m.) “The Psalms–Script for a Counter-Culture.”

The organizers anticipate a large gathering so register soon to reserve a place at this exciting event. Go to for pre-registration for the Ministers’ Association event. Online registration closes June 15. After that date, registration will be available at the door at a higher cost. For more information contact Chris Zepp at 540-828-3711 or .

Online registration for the full Annual Conference is available until June 11 at .

9) Brethren Volunteer Service holds summer orientation unit.

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) announces the start of the 2012 Summer Orientation. To be held June 10-29 at the Brother David Darst Center in Chicago, Ill., this orientation will be the 297th unit for BVS and will consist of eight volunteers from across the US and Germany.

Three Church of the Brethren members will attend, and the remaining volunteers come from varied faith backgrounds, adding a healthy diversity to the group’s orientation experience. A highlight of the three weeks will be a simple living weekend stay at the Kindy Farm in North Manchester, Ind.

A BVS potluck is open to all those who are interested on Friday, June 15, at 6 p.m. at the Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill. Come with a dish to share to welcome the new BVS volunteers and to share your own experiences.

For more information contact the BVS office at 800-323-8039 ext. 384. As always your thoughts and prayers are welcome and needed. Please remember this new unit and the people they will touch during their year of service through BVS.

— Callie Surber is the Brethren Volunteer Service orientation coordinator.

10) Brethren bits.

— Correction: The Ministry Excellence Project referred to in the Newsline of May 16 is a joint program of both Church of the Brethren districts in Indiana under a grant from Lilly Endowment: Northern Indiana District and South Central Indiana District.

— The National Council of Churches (NCC) has elected a new transitional general secretary: nationally known change management consultant and active Congregational laywoman Peg Birk. She is president and CEO of Interim Solutions, Minneapolis, Minn., a former City Attorney of St. Paul, former adjunct faculty member of the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, and a former interim president for the Fund for Theological Education, among other positions. She is a member of Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, which is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. The transitional general secretary will be in place for 18 months to work with the NCC board and staff to seek a new vision and clarity of mission for the NCC, according to a release.

— Rebekah Houff has been named coordinator of outreach programs for Bethany Theological Seminary, to begin June 1. She is a 2012 graduate, having earned a master of divinity degree with an emphasis in youth and young adult ministry. In this one-year position, she works with Russell Haitch, associate professor of Christian education and director of the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults, to expand the institute’s current programs, explore implementation of pilot projects for future programs, and assess ways for Bethany to strengthen outreach in youth and young adult ministry. Her responsibilities include facilitation of educational opportunities for congregations, current Bethany students pursuing a youth and young adult ministry emphasis, and leaders in this ministry field, as well as events for youth and young adults themselves. A key responsibility is to plan and facilitate the 2013 Exploring Your Call, a 10-day seminar for high school students finishing the sophomore, junior, or senior year to consider how faith, vocation, and God’s call intersect in their lives. Exploring Your Call is held June 15-25 at the seminary campus in Richmond, Ind. Houff has previously served in the denomination’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry, coordinating national conferences and workcamps, and has provided youth ministry leadership in several districts and congregations.

— Francine Massie began May 22 as administrative assistant for the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, working out of the academy offices on the campus of Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind. She holds an associate’s degree in applied business from Bowling Green State University and has 20 years of experience in a variety of office settings. She has served as a marketing secretary at Friends Fellowship Community and a secretary at First Christian Church, both in Richmond, and as office manager/secretary at KC Creations in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Most recently she was an administrative assistant for the Area 7 Workforce Investment Board in Springfield, Ohio, where she coordinated support for the central office and 43 county sites.

— Sarah Long, a member of Grottoes (Va.) Church of the Brethren, has accepted the part-time position of financial secretary and clerical assistant in the Shenandoah District office. She began her work on May 7, succeeding Jennifer Rohrer, who is working in North Carolina.

— Brethren Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Lancaster, Pa., has announced that Bethany Seminary student Mary Alice Eller is its summer intern with the pastoral ministry.

— The 2013 national workcamp assistant coordinators will be Katie Cummings and Tricia Ziegler. Cummings is a recent graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College, where she majored in sociology and minored in peace studies. She comes from Shenandoah District. Ziegler, a 2011 graduate of Bridgewater College, hails from Atlantic Southeast District. She graduated with a biology major and has been pursuing a secondary teaching certificate this year. Both women will begin their work to plan the denomination’s 2013 workcamp season in August.

— Congregational Life Ministries is welcoming J. Curtis Dehmey as an intern this summer, serving at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Dehmey is a student at Lancaster (Pa.) Theological Seminary. He has already participated in the New Church Planting Conference and will attend National Young Adult Conference and Annual Conference, assisting in a variety of capacities.

— Brethren Disaster Ministries continues to seek skilled volunteer electricians to work in Minot, N.D., where flooding last year damaged or destroyed thousands of homes. A shortage of local licensed electricians has created a backlog of work that threatens to hinder the recovery. The need is immediate, with dozens of homes waiting for wiring to be completed before reconstruction can continue. Volunteers will work under the direction of the disaster recovery organization in Minot. Specific criteria for volunteer electricians: needed immediately and through the next several months; must have Journeyman’s or higher license; must be willing to serve for a minimum of two weeks. Through Brethren Disaster Ministries’ partnerships, selected individuals will be provided with round-trip transportation, food, and lodging. Call the Brethren Disaster Ministries office at 800-451-4407 or e-mail for details.

Photo by Jay Wittmeyer

— The church’s Global Mission and Service staff congratulate India Brethren member Vivek Solanky on his recent graduation from Bethany Theological Seminary. Solanky attended the seminary with support from the denomination’s Global Mission office, accompanied by his wife Shefali Solanky. He completed his studies at the campus in Richmond, Ind., with a master of arts degree with a concentration in Brethren Studies. His presentation was titled, “History of the Conflict Between the Church of the Brethren-India and Church of North India: A Possible Step Toward Conflict Resolution.” Solanky’s path to seminary began when he attended the Historic Peace Church meeting in Asia in 2007, where he became curious about peacemaking and was encouraged to pursue studies at Bethany by American Brethren leaders. He currently is applying to a doctor of ministry program to continue his theological studies in the United States.

— Jay A. Wittmeyer, executive director for Global Mission and Service, has been appointed as the Church of the Brethren representative to the Board of Directors of Heifer International. Wittmeyer will represent the founding denomination of Heifer, which began as the Church of the Brethren’s Heifer Project.

— Advance registration ends June 11 for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in St. Louis, Mo. The Annual Conference will be held July 7-11 at America’s Center in St. Louis. Both online registration and hotel reservations end Monday, June 11, at 10 p.m. (central time). The nondelegate registration fee of $105 per adult for the whole Conference goes up to $140 after June 11, when registration will only be available onsite. For advance registration go to .

— New at : Bethany Theological Seminary president Ruthann Knechel Johansen speaks of her hopes and dreams for the seminary as she enters her last year of the presidency. Johansen has announced her retirement effective July 1, 2013. Find the video clip at .

— The Brethren Historical Library and Archives has posted a list of used books for sale online at . The list includes more than 1,500 titles ranging from minutes of annual meetings, to histories of Brethren congregations and districts, to books of theology and biblical study, to old Brethren Press titles, and more. Contact the BHLA staff for more details, including pricing, at or 800-323-8039 ext. 368.

Photo by Robert and Linda Shank

— Harvey E. Good, professor of Biology emeritus at the University of La Verne, Calif., has been instrumental in providing a shipment of 20 boxes of scientific instruments and laboratory supplies to Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) in North Korea. The donated materials support the teaching effort of Robert and Linda Shank, Church of the Brethren members who serve on the PUST faculty with support from the church’s Global Mission and Service office. Robert Shank is dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences at PUST and reported that his students were “ecstatic” about the new opportunities they will receive through the donated supplies. He added that he and others on the faculty count on the new equipment sent by Good and the university “to provide the next step in stocking our labs and supporting grad student thesis research.” In his e-mail to announce that the shipment had left La Verne, Good wrote to the Shanks: “We sincerely hope that the donation of this equipment will in some small way will help to alleviate the famine and lack of nutrition in North Korea.”

— The denomination’s Deacon Ministry is offering a number of opportunities for congregations and church leaders to enhance their own deacon ministries. A series of deacon workshops is being planned for this fall, see the preliminary fall schedule at . There also are pre-Annual Conference events for deacons in St. Louis, Mo., in early July, register at or download a registration form from . Order a copy of the new “Deacon Manual” in two volumes from Brethren Press at or call in orders to 800-441-3712. The “Deacon Manual” will be available in July. Another resource is a bibliography used during deacon workshops, find it online at . Those who are interested in e-mail updates from the Deacon Ministry may sign up at .

— During the recent NATO meetings in Chicago the Red Cross asked Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) to put five teams of volunteers on “high alert,” according to associate director Judy Bezon. The request for five teams meant 20 volunteers had to be recruited. “I received many responses and the teams were placed on alert,” Bezon reported via e-mail. “One volunteer told me that she was available and would be staying with her daughter in the area, but there would not be any room for others as her daughter had planned for a long time to have a houseful of guests that would be protesting the NATO meetings. One man lived nearby, but would be in Pennsylvania (at the time). He said he considered that to be within driving distance and…offered to take his travel trailer to our work site for a place to get away for breaks and to house six volunteers if necessary…. I truly have phenomenally thoughtful and generous volunteers.”

— In more news from CDS, volunteers who served in Joplin, Mo., following last year’s devastating tornado were featured in an anniversary report on the disaster by WHSV TV in Harrisonburg, Va. Bob and Peggy Roach had traveled to Joplin from Fenix, Va., to help care for children who were affected. See the video clip at

— Bear Run Church of the Brethren in Mill Run, Pa., celebrated 90 years on March 25.

— Plumcreek Church of the Brethren in Shelocta, Pa., is having a 150th anniversary celebration and homecoming on June 3 with morning worship at 10:30 a.m., followed by a meal, and a 2 p.m. anniversary service. RSVP to or 724-354-4108.

— Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind., recently finished a project of creating 38 Clean Up Buckets for Church World Service (CWS). The disaster kids of give gallon buckets filled with cleaning supplies are warehoused and distributed through the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. “In all, we collected the materials for these buckets, one item per week, through Lent and finally finished, blessed them a few weeks ago and sent them off,” reports pastor Bradley Bohrer.

— Richard Yowell, pastor of Cedar Run Church of the Brethren in Broadway, Va., is raising money for Special Olympics by demonstrating his block-breaking strength, according to the Shenandoah District newsletter. On June 6, at SunTrust Bank in Harrisonburg, Va., he will attempt to break six stacks of five patio blocks each in 30 seconds, as the Special Olympics torch arrives in Harrisonburg. Yowell also will join in the Special Olympics torch run.

— Milledgeville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a 3.16 mile run/walk on June 9 in place of the usual 5K. Think John 3:16. “While the event celebrates scripture, it promotes a healthy lifestyle,” said the Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter. Pastor Rick Koch is a devoted runner. Proceeds will send children to Camp Emmaus and support disaster relief.

— During the Pacific Southwest District Youth Retreat at Camp La Verne in April, the entire cast and crew of the “Grey’s Anatomy” television show was onsite filming the season finale. “It involves a plane crash,” reported district youth advisor Dawna Welch. “It was very exciting!” Camp La Verne is located at an altitude of 6,900 feet, in the mountains above San Bernardino, Calif. The show aired earlier this month on ABC.

— The Shenandoah District Disaster Ministries Auction has published preliminary results: estimated proceeds of $195,000 (with additional income anticipated), 1,121 diners served at the Friday evening oyster-ham dinner, 311 people enjoyed omelets and 197 chose pancakes at the Saturday morning breakfast, 219 people were served lunch on Saturday, the blood drive collected 27 units. “Thanks again to everyone for a great effort on behalf of Brethren Disaster Ministries!” said the district newsletter.

— McPherson (Kan.) College has given its annual Citation of Merit awards to alumni. This year’s recipients are Harold and Lynda Connell, Eldred Kingery, and John Ferrell. Since their retirement, the Connells have volunteered in a number of venues especially the Red Cross, Civitan, and Brethren Volunteer Service, and have given time on more than 95 national-scale disasters. Kingery is president and CEO of Calvin Community, a Presbyterian retirement community in Des Moines, Iowa, and has been a member of the McPherson College Board of Trustees and former staff at the Cedars, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in McPherson. Ferrell has been principal, registrar, dean of students, director of admissions and vice-president of advancement and admissions at Central Christian College, and was named “Hometown Hero” in 2002 by the McPherson County United Way and Chamber of Commerce.

— Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., has received a $1 million research grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to implement and integrate a Genomics Leadership Initiative into the curriculum. It combines and expands Juniata’s existing teaching and research in genomics with a developing curriculum designed to provide a solid foundation in the ethical, legal, and societal issues surrounding discoveries in genomics. Juniata is one of 47 colleges and universities nationwide to receive more than $50 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

— World Council of Churches general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit has condemned the violence in Syria. “I express my deep pain over the massacre of innocent people and especially children that took place last Sunday in Taldou village, in the area of Houla, near Homs, in Syria,” said Tveit in his recent statement. “We, as churches, cannot but condemn this inhumane act and manifest our feelings of solidarity with the families of the victims, mourning their beloved ones.” Tveit expressed grave concern over the cycle of violence that has been continuing in Syria for more than a year. Find the statement at .

– The “Brethren Voices” community television show produced by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren features Brethren author, historian, and storyteller Jim Lehman in the second of a two-program series this month. Lehman, a member at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., is author of “The Old Brethren” and a number of children’s books, among other writings. In “Brethren Voices” he discusses writing and storytelling and tells one his favorite stories about how Brethren Volunteer Service was begun by young adults at the 1948 Annual Conference. In June, “Brethren Voices” features the youth of Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren who were instrumental to the beginnings of the community’s Caring Cupboard. Contact producer Ed Groff at for copies. “Brethren Voice” is available for use as a Sunday school resource as well as for distribution on community access cable.

— Church of the Brethren ordained minister Sam Smith is in his eighth year of organizing a peace recruitment booth at the Cornerstone Music Festival, a summer Christian music festival held in Bushnell, Ill. The festival takes place July 2-7. Smith reports that “we need your help both financially and through your physical presence in running the booth. We’ve averaged 75 young people every year signing the ‘I Will Not Kill’ statement,” which is promoted through the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Contact Smith at 630-240-5039 or .

— Shawn Kirchner, pianist/organist/composer-in-residence at La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, has been named Swan Family Composer in Residence with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. “The Los Angeles Master Chorale has often presented Kirchner’s choral pieces in their concerts at LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, and commissioned his 2007 setting of the Pablo Neruda sonnet, Tu Voz and his most recent concert suite, Behold New Joy: Ancient Carols of Christmas,” said an announcement on the chorale website. A tenor with the chorale, Kirchner also sings regularly with the LA Philharmonic. His TV/film credits includes music director for the Church of the Brethren’s 2004 Christmas Eve Special on CBS, and singing on feature film soundtracks including “Avatar” and “Horton Hears a Who,” among others. He was music coordinator for several National Youth Conferences and has led music at Annual Conference.


Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jeff Boshart, Chris Douglas, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Ed Groff, Virginia Harness, Julie Hostetter, Herman Kauffman, Donna Kline, Debbie Noffsinger, Robert Shank, Jonathan Shively, Becky Ullom, John T. Wall, Jenny Williams, Jane Yount, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Look for the next regularly scheduled issue on June 13. 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. To unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences go to