Newsline for Feb. 15, 2014

“Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).

Quote of the week:
“Anyone who seeks God with a contrite spirit and an open heart may draw near to God and receive grace and wisdom for the life of discipleship.”

— Duane Grady in his introduction to the new Lenten devotional from Brethren Press, “Real Rest: Devotions for Ash Wednesday Through Easter.” Grady has authored this pocket-size paperback devotional book, suitable for individual use and for congregations to provide to their members. Cost is $2.75 per copy. For more information, go to or call the Brethren Press order line at 800-441-3712.

1) Annual Conference 2014 will celebrate courageous discipleship
2) Pre-Conference events include Ministers’ Association, Congregational Vitality Workshops
3) Bidding process brings Annual Conference back to Ohio and California
4) On Earth Peace seeks volunteers for Ministers of Reconciliation team at Annual Conference

5) Court decision on properties is celebrated by First District Church of the Brethren in India
6) WCC shares hopes for peace in Syria with members of Syrian opposition
7) National Christian leaders oppose mass incarceration
8) EYN ministers hold annual conference

9) Young adults to study Jeremiah 29:11 at YAC
10) Webinars on ‘Generative Leadership’ offered by Congregational Life Ministries with partners in the UK

11) Brethren bits: New hire at Brethren Service Center, youth ministry director completes certificate, #NYC, last chance for youth speech and music contest entries, registration deadlines for events at Bethany, WCC condemns military use of drones, notes from congregations and districts, and more.


1) Annual Conference 2014 will celebrate courageous discipleship

General registration opens Feb. 26 at 12 noon (central time) for the 2014 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren in Columbus, Ohio, on July 2-6. The theme, “Live as Courageous Disciples,” is from the New Testament letter to the Philippians. Events take place at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

The Conference will be led by moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman assisted by moderator-elect David Steele and secretary James Beckwith. Also on the Program and Arrangements Committee are Cindy Laprade Lattimer, Shawn Flory Replogle, and Christy Waltersdorff. Conference office staff are director Chris Douglas and assistant Jon Kobel. Site coordinators are Burt and Helen Wolf. Find a list of preachers, worship leaders, musicians, choir directors, age group activity leaders, and more of the volunteers who make Annual Conference possible at .

A preview of the 2014 Conference follows below. Find more detailed information and the registration link that will go live Feb. 26, at .

A family friendly focus

Photo by Glenn Riegel.

Conference planners have focused on family friendly activities, in particular events on Saturday evening–the last night of the Conference–that are for all ages. A concert will bring to the Conference stage three groups who will be enjoyed by adults and children: Blue Bird Revival Band, Community of Song, and Mutual Kumquat. In addition, intergenerational activities are being planned with help from the Outdoor Ministries Association.

“We are hoping that families within driving distance who can’t come for the whole Conference will at least join us for the weekend,” said Conference director Chris Douglas. “Saturday night is planned to give exciting options for them, along with Exhibit Hall. And then at the closing worship on Sunday morning we hope to draw a lot more Conference-goers.”

Saturday evening’s intergenerational activities include “Get Real: Living as Courageous Disciples!” an event featuring biblical and modern-day stories of courageous disciples, as a way to explore the Annual Conference theme with camp-type activities. Participants will choose from games, arts and crafts, a sing-a-long, a book nook, nature exploration, personal challenges, dramatic storytelling, word puzzles, movies, and more.

The three music groups that headline Saturday evening’s concert will provide something for everyone. Performing from 7-7:30 p.m. is Blue Bird Revival, a high-energy gospel band featuring new versions of traditional hymns, as well as their own down-home combination of country, bluegrass, ragtime, and gospel. Community of Song will perform from 7:45-8:15 p.m., a 10-member Church of the Brethren male ensemble from Southern Ohio and South-Central Indiana Districts that for eight years has been singing a variety of religious music including early American, contemporary, spirituals, and gospel. Mutual Kumquat closes out the concert from 8:30-9 p.m., a popular Brethren band that has performed at Annual Conference, National Youth Conference, National Older Adult Conference, Song and Story Fest, and many regional youth conferences and district conferences and Brethren related colleges. The group formed in 2000 as students at Manchester College and since then has travelled across the country with an eclectic sound and a positive message and unique combination of danceable rhythms, stick-in-your-head melodies, rich harmonies, and poignant, uplifting, and humorous lyrics.

Registration fees

To register for the full Conference, adult nondelegates will pay $105 using the online registration process (open from Feb. 26 through June 3). The daily rate for adults is $35. Young adults post-high school to age 21 will pay only $30 to attend the full Conference, or a daily rate of $10. Children age high school and younger do not pay a fee to register, but fees for age group activities still apply. Children and youth must register in order to attend. All registration fees increase significantly after June 3, at which time online registration closes and participants must register on-site in Columbus.

Courtesy of Experience Columbus

Hotels and lodging

The conference hotels are the Hyatt Regency Columbus, the Crowne Plaza Columbus Downtown, Drury Inn and Suites Columbus Downtown, Red Roof Inn Columbus Downtown–all of which are either part of the convention center or connected by a covered walkway or within a block distant. Hotel reservations open at the same time as online registration, on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 12 noon (central). Find more information about the Conference hotels at . Information about camping and RV park options also is posted at .


The Conference opens on Wednesday, July 2, with evening worship starting at 6:50 p.m. Hearings on Conference business will be held Wednesday after worship.

On Thursday, July 3, and Friday, July 4, worship services take place in the evening. On Saturday, July 5, worship is in the morning at 8:30 a.m.

Business sessions are Thursday through Saturday in the morning and afternoon. On Thursday and Friday business begins with Bible study, and is scheduled from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 2-4:30 p.m. On Saturday, business is scheduled from 10:15-11:30 a.m. and 2-4:30 p.m.

Saturday evening will offer a variety of activities for the whole family, including music concerts and intergenerational activities from 7-9 p.m.

Sunday morning worship on July 6 at 8:30-10:30 a.m. will close the Conference.

On each day, Conference-goers may participate in a wide range of additional activities such as insight sessions on topics of interest; catered meal events (tickets may be purchased along with Conference registration); age group activities for early childhood through elementary grades, junior and senior high youth, and young adults; activities for singles; support groups; the Conference exhibit hall; and more.

In addition to Bible study, singing, games, and other daily activities, special age group activities include:

— For the elementary ages: presentations by Yurtfolk and the New Community Project, mobile interactive science booths provided by Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry, and trips to the Columbus Zoo.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford Members of Mutual Kumquat at the Manchester University luncheon, with campus minister Walt Wiltschek. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

— For the junior high: presentations by Yurtfolk and New Community Project as well as local fair trade and international crafts store Global Gallery, a puppet workshop, mobile interactive science booths provided by Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry, a trip to the Columbus Zoo, and a chance to hang out with Mutual Kumquat after the Saturday evening concert.

— For the senior high: presentations by the National Youth Conference coordinators, workcamp coordinators, On Earth Peace, the New Community Project, and the Brethren colleges; a chance to attend the Brethren Volunteer Service luncheon and one of the Brethren college luncheons; a local service project; trips to the Columbus Zoo, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, and the Center of Science and Industry; and hanging out with Mutual Kumquat.

— For the young adults: outings to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, game and movie nights, a special chance to get to know the music and ministry of BlueBird Revival and founder Josh Copp, and a service project to “Pack a Sack” for the homeless for distribution by the Columbus Community Shelter Board/YMCA/YWCA in cooperation with the Sawmill Interfaith Community Care Group, which includes Living Peace Church of the Brethren.

Age group activity fees range from a small daily fee for early childhood, to $65 (going up to $90 onsite) for the full Conference for elementary ages, to $85 ($100 onsite) for junior and senior high. For activity fees for young adults and singles see the activity listings at .

Tour historic German Village

A tour of the Germany Village, a historic district in Columbus just 10 minutes from the downtown, is offered on Saturday, July 5, from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Because the tour conflicts with a business session, it is offered to nondelegates only. The guided tour will start at the visitor center at the German Village Meeting Haus, with an award-winning video offering an excellent historical overview of the area. Each visitor receives a map and guide highlighting area shops and restaurants, and will be guided through the brick streets lined with quaint homes, gardens, shops, galleries, and restaurants. Afterward, the group will spend time shopping and have a chance to eat in one of the authentic German restaurants. Ken Kreider, retired professor and Brethren historian, will accompany the tour, give introductory comments and information about the background of the Brethren movement into Ohio and the major Brethren bodies in the area. Cost is $10 and includes bus transportation, guided tour, and visitor guide/map.

Photo by Glenn Riegel.

Conference choir

“O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” (Psalm 95:1) is the theme scripture for the 2014 Conference Choir. “I extend the invitation to sing uplifting songs of praise and worship,” said Joy Brubaker, choir director, in an invitation to singers. The choir will sing five numbers during Conference worship services. Rehearsals are held daily after the afternoon business session until 5:45 p.m.

Quilting bee

Congregations are invited to send finished quilt blocks for the Annual Conference Quilting Bee sponsored by the Associate for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren. Finished 8 and 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch blocks must be constructed according to the instructions. All quilt blocks should be postmarked by May 15, and mailed with a dollar donation (make checks payable to AACB) to offset the cost of quilting materials. Quilt tops are assembled prior to the Conference and quilted onsite in the Exhibit Hall. The completed quilts and wall hangings are auctioned with proceeds benefiting hunger relief. See .

5K Fitness Challenge sponsored by BBT

Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) is sponsoring the 5K Fitness Challenge, a walk/run held early morning of July 5, and open to all ages. Start time is 6:30 a.m. The event will be held approximately three miles from the convention center at Franklin Park Conservatory. Participants provide their own transportation to the park. Completed registration forms with check payable to Brethren Benefit Trust must be received by May 23 for the early-bird fee of $20 ($25 after that date). Families of four or more may register for $60. Go to .

Tour Bethany Seminary on the way to Conference

Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., right off I-70 west of the Indiana-Ohio state line, is offering tours for Conference-goers to stop on their to or from the Annual Conference. “As you take a break from the road, we’ll give you a tour of the Bethany Center and introduce you to the Bethany community of today,” said an announcement. Tours will be offered July 1 and 2 and 7, Sunday, July 6, after 1 p.m. Contact Monica Rice at 800-287-8822 or For directions, go to
about/directions . For information on lodging, restaurants, and local places of
interest, go to .


Much of what takes place at Annual Conference is supported by the many volunteers who give their time. Volunteers are sought for the following areas: registration, ticket sales, information, packet stuffing, ushering, tellers, hospitality/greeters, early childhood care and assistance with other age group activities, and first aid. Sign up at .

2) Pre-Conference events include Ministers’ Association, Congregational Vitality Workshops

Two ministry training events head the meetings that precede the 2014 Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio: the Ministers’ Association, and Congregational Vitality Workshops. Other regular annual meetings held prior to the Conference include the Standing Committee of district delegates, the Mission and Ministry Board, and the Council of District Executives, among others.

Ministers theme is ‘Preaching the Lively Word’

The Ministers’ Association pre-Conference event is Tuesday, July 1, through Wednesday, July 2, at the Columbus convention center. “Preaching the Lively Word: Text and Context in Today’s Pulpit” is the theme, with leadership by Thomas G. Long.

Long is the Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. He has previously taught preaching at Princeton, Columbia, and Erskine seminaries. He is the author of numerous books and articles on preaching and worship as well as biblical commentaries on Matthew, Hebrews, and the Pastoral Epistles. He served as senior homiletics editor of “The New Interpreter’s Bible,” and is an editor-at-large for “The Christian Century.” His latest books are “Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral” (2009), “Preaching from Memory to Hope” (2009), “What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith” (2011), and “The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care” (2013, with Thomas Lynch). Emory University awarded him the Emory Williams Award for teaching excellence in 2011.

Session one on July 1 from 6-9 p.m. is titled “Disruption, Enchantment, and Wisdom: The Emerging Languages of Preaching.” Session two on July 2 from 9-11:45 a.m. is titled “The Churches at the Four Corners: Insights on Preaching from the New Testament Churches.” Session three on July 2 from 1-3:45 p.m. is titled “Puzzles, Riddles, and Paradoxes: Preaching and the Parables of Jesus.”

This event includes continuing education units for ordained ministers. The deadline to register is June 15. Find more information and register at .

Congregational Vitality Workshops

The Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries is offering two Congregational Vitality Workshops prior to Annual Conference. On Wednesday, July 2, at 9 a.m.-12 noon will be a workshop on the topic “Restoring Hope: Transforming Lives and Congregations”; at 1:30-4:30 p.m. a workshop will be held on the topic “The Role of Congregations in Mental Health.”

“Restoring Hope: Transforming Lives and Congregations” will address the question, What does the future look like to you, family members, friends, and the congregation you attend? Hope is the ability to see a future that is life-giving. Unfortunately, many people feel weighed down by scarcity and grief. Practical resources will be shared for helping people rediscover hope. Christian people with hope transform congregations creating vital communities of faith.

“The Role of Congregations in Mental Health” will take a look at the number of people, one in four adults or nearly 30,000 members of our faith tradition, who will experience some type of mental illness during their lifetimes. This workshop will present ways that faith communities and people engaged in mental health recovery can work together to educate communities about mental illness, and equip them to develop supporting, caring responses through relationships and practices that facilitate recovery. The Church of the Brethren’s new partnership with ADNet, the Anabaptist Disabilities Network, will be introduced and information shared about how church members and congregations can participate.

Registration deadline is June 23. Cost is $15 per person for one workshop, $25 per person to attend both workshops. Lunch is on your own. For a registration form and more information go to .

3) Bidding process brings Annual Conference back to Ohio and California

The Conference office has announced the locations for upcoming Annual Conferences. In 2018 the annual meeting of the Church of the Brethren will return to Cincinnati, Ohio, where it has been held in previous decades; and in 2019 the event returns to the Town and Country Resort in San Diego, Calif., where it was held in 2009.

Other upcoming locations already have been announced: Tampa, Fla., in 2015; Greensboro, N.C., in 2016; and Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2017.

The Town and Country Resort in San Diego, Calif., will again be a site for Annual Conference in 2019. Joel Brumbaugh-Cayford.

Conference director Chris Douglas explained that the bidding process for Conference locations has allowed for a choice of best prices for convention centers and hotels, among other expenses. The 2012 Annual Conference made a decision to no longer require a mandated geographical rotation to certain areas of the country, as part of a number of actions intended to help revitalize the annual meeting.

The Conference decision in 2012 releases planners from polity approved in 2007 that required a strict geographical rotation covering the entire US. Instead, under the new recommendation, the Annual Conference may be rotated among a handful of locations that “maximize sound fiscal stewardship for Annual Conference and attendees.”

The previous way of settling on locations by geographical rotation was thought to ensure good participation by Brethren from across the country. However, Douglas explained, in practice it meant only a few cities in some regions could bid for the event. “You take away the competition factor,” she said. The end result, ironically, was higher costs and less incentive for families to attend.

Distance is another factor that used to play in to costs but is not nearly so important anymore, because the cost of airfares no longer relate to actual miles traveled, but rather to factors such as the size of the airport or whether it is a carrier’s hub.

In addition to costs and expenses, the Program and Arrangements Committee takes many other things into account when deciding on locations for Annual Conference, Douglas said. These include the type of meeting facilities in the city, how easy it is to travel to the location, and the number of Brethren living in the area, among others.

The bidding process encourages every city to do its best job in terms of prices, and as more cities are invited to bid, the Conference office is discovering that locations where the meeting has been held in recent years are very competitive. Hence the return to Town and Country in San Diego, and to the convention center in Grand Rapids, which hosted the 2011 Conference.

Douglas shared that after Town and Country was defeated by Cincinnati’s bid for the 2018 Annual Conference, it came back with a more competitive bid for the 2019 meeting that will provide significant savings for Conference-goers, especially larger families: free breakfast, free parking, free wifi, a significantly lower room rate than was charged in 2009, and more.

“We would have never gotten that kind of bid if we had been limited in our geographical area,” said Douglas. “And we want to encourage Brethren from the east to travel out west and experience it. People really loved the setting in San Diego in 2009, there were so many positive comments about Town and Country. So begin your planning now to go to San Diego in 2019!

“I will still try to find some geographic rotation, and I am committed to looking for locations west and east of the Mississippi that offer an opportunity to the whole church for a meaningful Conference,” Douglas assured. “However, we receive lower prices when we are not mandated to only receive bids from one area of the country each year.”

One of the MoR observers on duty at the 2011 Annual Conference. For some years, the Ministry of Reconciliation (MoR) has provided observers as a resource for participants in the Conference business sessions. This year, the ministry also is helping to provide teams of trained volunteers who will be available to be called on as needed throughout the Annual Conference venue.
One of the MoR observers on duty at the 2011 Annual Conference. For some years, the Ministry of Reconciliation (MoR) has provided observers as a resource for participants in the Conference business sessions. This year, the ministry also is helping to provide teams of trained volunteers who will be available to be called on as needed throughout the Annual Conference venue. Photo by Regina Holmes.

“Already planning to attend the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference? Are you hearing a call to a ministry of presence and reconciliation?” asks an invitation from On Earth Peace. The Ministry of Reconciliation (MoR) is seeking members for a team to serve at the Conference. “Please prayerfully consider whether you or someone you know might be gifted to this ministry.”

Annual Conference Ministers of Reconciliation team

Annual Conference was and will be a unique challenge for peacemakers, notes the announcement from On Earth Peace. Building healthy relationships at Annual Conference requires managing social change, resolving conflicts, navigating family system dynamics, learning about cultural differences, respecting different understandings of scripture, all at the same time. These complexities create a powerful opportunity for God to work through us in ways we can’t always anticipate or see.

The work of the Annual Conference MoR team is varied and diverse. Last year, members talked with people who were concerned about queries, the voting process, decisions of Annual Conference, table facilitation, decisions of staff, security, decisions of Annual Conference officers, unauthorized placement of materials, difficult questions at booths, and rude comments that had been overheard.

The team talked with people having interpersonal conflicts magnified by the pressures of Annual Conference, personal conflicts at home, and congregational conflicts. The team also helped people find rooms and lost objects, played with children, and served the youth.

Contact MoR director Leslie Frye at or 620-755-3940 by March 15 to express interest in this opportunity. For more details go to .


5) Court decision on properties is celebrated by First District Church of the Brethren in India

The Supreme Court in India has made a decision in a decades-long bitter court battle over ownership and control of former Brethren mission properties, following an early 1970s merger with the Church of North India (CNI) that included the former mission of the Church of the Brethren.

The court decision of Sept. 30, 2013–Civil Appeal Case #8801, Malavia Vs. Gameti–ruled that the First District Church of the Brethren in India continues as the legal successor of the Church of the Brethren mission and is vested with its properties. The ruling states that it does not hold that the resolution for unification to establish the Church of North India resulted in the dissolution of the First District Church of the Brethren and, de facto, all properties transfer to CNI.

Church of the Brethren denominational staff in the US including the general secretary and executive director of Global Mission and Service have stayed in touch with leadership of CNI and leadership of First District Church of the Brethren as the court issued its ruling and as the church properties move into the control of First District and its congregations.

General secretary Stan Noffsinger has expressed a desire to leaders of the First District Church of the Brethren to meet later this spring to encourage continued efforts at reconciliation between the two communions as the properties case comes to an end.

Ankleswar Church in India, one of the church buildings affected by the Supreme Court decision in a decades-long dispute over former Brethren mission properties.
Ankleswar Church in India, one of the church buildings affected by the Supreme Court decision in a decades-long dispute over former Brethren mission properties. Jay Wittmeyer.

History of the dispute

The Church of the Brethren is a founding member of the CNI and has been in close relationship with the unified church, which included participating in the 40th anniversary celebration. While the Church of the Brethren helped establish CNI in the 1970s, a number of individuals decided to remain outside of that unification process and continued to worship as First District Church of the Brethren India.

Ownership of the properties, including church buildings of local congregations as well as schools and other mission institutions, was disputed since 1978, when a lawsuit challenging CNI ownership was first brought. The case was mired in the courts for many years, eventually coming to the country’s Supreme Court.

Through the years, the American church was aware of ongoing tensions in its former mission area and tried to follow the prolonged litigation process that ensued without participating in it or influencing it. However, the Church of the Brethren in the US has been involved as the organization required to nominate trustees to steward properties during the legal dispute.

In 2003, Annual Conference made a decision to seek a relationship with both bodies, after the American denomination had related in an official capacity solely to CNI for more than 30 years. Brethren in the US have tried to relate to both church communions equally. American Brethren have sent delegations to India in efforts to maintain relationships and have sponsored attempts at reconciliation and mediation between the parties to the dispute.

“We rejoice that the vision for unity that gathered the members and congregations of six denominations, including the congregations arising from the Church of the Brethren mission in India, and which formed the Church of North India (CNI) in 1970, has provided a strong church framework for most of the participants,” the Annual Conference statement of 2003 said, in part. “We also recognize that this framework has not been suitable for many of the former Church of the Brethren members…. The US Church of the Brethren mourns the division that has emerged…. We seek forgiveness for instances during this period where either action or inaction by the US church was hurtful or divisive for either body. We believe that the churches in India have primary responsibility for resolving the issues of name, property, and resolution of the conflicts that plague them” ( ).

First District Church of the Brethren celebrates ruling

One result of the court decision has been to restore most of the church buildings to the possession of local Brethren congregations, said a report to the Global Mission and Service office from a leader in First District Church of the Brethren. In practice, up to the time of the ruling many of the local church buildings under dispute had been shared with CNI congregations.

First District Church of the Brethren in India “has been freed from the shackles of conflict, controversy, and uncertainty,” said the report. “Our church will henceforth move ahead independently and unfettered as the body of Christ following the Brethren principles of peace and harmony.

“To mark this historic occasion…a thanksgiving meeting was organized at Valsad followed by a community luncheon. Representatives from different Brethren churches participated in these celebrations. And a rally was taken out through the City of Valsad as a part of these celebrations.”

The Church of North India congregation at Ankleswar held a special service and gathering of the historically Brethren congregations of CNI in the area to welcome Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer during a visit in 2009. At the time, CNI was marking the beginning of its 40th anniversary year. Shown here, women and girls prepare to dance for the celebration.
The Church of North India congregation at Ankleswar held a special service and gathering of the historically Brethren congregations of CNI in the area to welcome Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer during a visit in 2009. At the time, CNI was marking the beginning of its 40th anniversary year. Shown here, women and girls prepare to dance for the celebration. Jay Wittmeyer.

CNI experiences adverse effects from ruling

“After Supreme Court order, Church of North India on the verge of falling apart,” was the headline of a DNA India news report in late November. Reporter Ashutosh Shukla wrote that the Supreme Court order “stated that CNI cannot have any authority over one of five Protestant denominations over which it holds sway. Based on this order, another denomination will approach the state to pull away from the CNI.”

When CNI was formed in 1970 it merged four other Protestant denominations in addition to the Church of the Brethren, and the court decision may put all of those mergers at risk, the news report indicated.

“This opposition that is brewing among the denominations of the CNI has put a question mark over its very existence,” DNA India reported.

The Supreme Court decision “also settled the issue about following of a faith,” the DNA India news piece added, quoting a section of the ruling that stated, “In the name of unification and merger, it is aimed that there is total control of not only properties and the churches but it will also have an ultimate effect of imposing particular faith or belief, which is not permissible.”

Bishop of the Gujarat Diocese of CNI, Silvans S. Christian, has written to Global Mission staff in the US that “CNI has been removed and have no place to worship the Almighty. Hence, they are meeting either in the open space or hiring the Hall or other premises. This situation, I surely believe, will compel you to bring out tears.”

At present, according to Christian, the CNI congregations of Valsad, Khergam, Vyara, Ankleswar, Umalla, Navsari, and Vali are facing a serious problem of finding a place to meet for worship.

Read the DNA India article at .

(Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service, contributed to this report.)

6) WCC shares hopes for peace in Syria with members of Syrian opposition

“The immediate end of the suffering of the people in Syria must now be the focus for all parties in the Geneva 2 talks,” World Council of Churches general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit said in a meeting today, Feb. 14, in Geneva, Switzerland, with members of the Syrian opposition. And “this includes all parties in the conflict,” he added.

Representatives of the Syrian opposition requested the meeting with Tveit after receiving a WCC message calling for an end to the conflict delivered to both sides of the Geneva 2 talks by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN representative leading the talks and the United Nations-Arab League joint representative for Syria.

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger was one of the American church leaders who took part in the ecumenical gathering that issued the message.

The message, which was given to Brahimi in mid-January before the talks, stresses the need for “immediate cessation of all armed confrontation and hostility within Syria” ensuring that “all vulnerable communities in Syria and refugees in neighbouring countries receive appropriate humanitarian assistance.” It urges “a comprehensive and inclusive process toward establishing a just peace and rebuilding Syria.”

Representatives from the Syrian opposition included Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Abdel-Hady al-Yaaqubi, Islamic scholar, Dr. Badr Jamous, vice-president of the Syrian National Coalition, Abdul-Ahad Steifo from the Assyrian Democratic Organization, Mohammad Farouk Tayfour, deputy leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Dr. Imad Eldin Rashid, president of the Syrian National Movement.

The group met for an hour and a half and then joined a press conference where Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Abdel-Hady al-Yaaqubi made a strong plea for the release of kidnapped Syrian religious and laypersons.

In the meeting Tveit invoked prayers for peace in Syria, saying that with concern for security of all Syrians, including Christians, Muslims, and people of different faiths “we hope for a ‘just peace’ in Syria, a vision to which the WCC is deeply committed”.

We as religious leaders have to carry the hope that miracles are possible and that there will be peace,” he said. “If we are not doing this, who will?”

Tveit said that “we must work together for a future for Syria, where equal rights, stability, democracy and freedom for religion and expression for all” can prevail.

The WCC and its member churches “believe we must work together as religious communities and leaders,” he said.

Ending conflict, contributing to peace process

In discussions with the WCC staff members, the representatives of Syrian opposition each shared their perspectives on the current challenges of the dialogue process, as well as efforts aimed at defusing the conflict.

Sheikh Mohammad Abdel-Hady al-Yaaqubi, in his response affirmed the role of religious leaders in supporting efforts for peace, stability and democracy in Syria.

He said that all communities, regardless of their religious affiliations in Syria have suffered.

Yaaqubi, along with others in the group, highlighted the significance of common heritage of both Muslims and Christians, which he said has historical roots spanned over centuries in Syria and the Middle East.

On behalf of the members of the group, he also strongly condemned the kidnapping of the nuns of the Ste Thecla Convent in Maaloula, and the two Orthodox bishops from Aleppo last year in Syria.

In a press conference following the meeting, Yaaqubi made a strong statement on the kidnappings, “calling upon all Islamic militants to immediately release all those who are unjustly detained against their will, especially the innocent bishops, nuns and monks”. He emphasized that this sort of activity does not reflect the values of Islam.

In April 2013 Archbishop Mar Yohanna Gregorios Ibrahim from the Syriac Orthodox Church and Archbishop Paul Yazigi from the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch were kidnapped near Aleppo while returning from a humanitarian mission. Later in December 2013, 12 nuns were also kidnapped.

During the press conference Tveit emphasized that the WCC condemns all violence perpetrated against the Syrian people, repeating that their suffering has to end.

Find the Statement to Geneva 2 talks from the WCC Ecumenical Consultation on Syria at .

7) National Christian leaders oppose mass incarceration

Christian leaders sat transfixed as Darren Ferguson, pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Far Rockaway, N.Y., told the story of his decline from adolescent years with promise to incarceration and God’s power to restore and redeem. On this night, the leaders were struck by one thing: Jesus loves the prisoner and he was one.

Christian Churches Together (CCT) represents the broadest coalition of church leaders in the United States, including several church “families”: Historic Protestant, Evangelical/Pentecostal, Catholic, Orthodox, and Historic Black Churches. They came together for the group’s annual meeting in Newark, N.J., Feb. 4-7.

Annual Conference moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman preached for a worship service led by the Brethren participants. Also in attendance were moderator-elect David Steele; general secretary Stan Noffsinger; Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden, president of CCT’s Historic Protestant group; and Office of Public Witness coordinator Nathan Hosler.

For the past six years, CCT has educated itself and taken action on issues of poverty, racial justice, and immigration reform. This year, the group furthered its commitment to these issues by engaging the issue of mass incarceration in the US.

The message was clear, from speakers that included formerly incarcerated faith leaders, a federal judge, a former prosecutor, a director of state corrections and a social worker, as well as the deliberation among CCT participants: Mass incarceration is not just an issue. It is first and foremost about people created in God’s image with lives, families, hopes, and dreams ensnared within a web of personal struggles and choices exacerbated by social conditions, laws, structures, and historic dehumanization of people of color.

Mass incarceration is a destructive system of human control in which certain ethnic minorities experience inequitable interaction with the nation’s penal system. Current realities include:

— With only 5 percent of the world’s population, the US has 25 percent of the world’s imprisoned people (source: Sentencing Project).

— Incarceration rates have increased from 500,000 inmates in jail and prison in 1980 to more than 2.2 million in 2010 (Sentencing Project).

— For-profit prison companies commonly demand 90 percent occupancy from the states that contract with them (“Six Shocking Revelations About How Private Prisons Make Money,” by April M. Short on

— CCA and Geo Group, the nation’s two major private prison companies, “have had a hand in shaping and pushing for criminal justice policies such as mandatory minimum sentences that favor increased incarceration” (Public Interest Report, Sept. 2013).

— The “War on Drugs” dramatically increased the US prison population from 41,000 drug offenders in 1980 to half a million in 2010 (Sentencing Project).

— African-Americans make up 13 percent of the US population and use drugs at the same rates as people of other races, but represent 45 percent of those imprisoned for drug violations (Drug Policy Alliance Report).

— Criminal prosecutions of immigration suspects in federal court districts along the US southern border have increased by 1,475 percent over the last 20 years resulting in increased demand for prisons and detention centers to hold inmates (“War on Undocumented Immigrants Threatens to Swell US Prison Population,” by Chris Kirkham on Huffington Post and TRAC Reports).

— One in three Black men and one in six Latino men are likely to be imprisoned in their lifetime; only 1 in 17 white men will experience the inside of a jail or prison in his lifetime (Sentencing Project).

In light of these facts and others corroborated by the personal testimonies of several speakers, agreement among CCT’s leaders was palpable. The group declared:

“The church in the United States has a moral and ethical imperative to protect human dignity and must address the problem of mass incarceration in our nation.

“First, we recognize that the legacy of the dehumanization of people of color has borne lasting effects in current-day society. These effects are perhaps most acutely experienced by our African-American brothers and sisters who were deemed non-human ‘chattel’ by law in the days of antebellum slavery and whose human equality was challenged by the Jim Crow system of subjugation until passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 attempted to right it. We see the vestiges of these systems of human control in America’s current system of mass incarceration.

“Second, we recognize that these systems are not only affecting African-Americans. They are now impacting all people of color, the poor, the marginalized, and the immigrant in the United States. Latinos and other immigrants, in particular, are experiencing the brunt of increased detention rates in the midst of their struggle for immigration reform.

“Third, while there is a role for prisons to address violent offenses, we recognize that our nation’s justice system has lost the hope embodied by its historic vision to ‘correct’ and restore broken people back to society. As followers of Jesus Christ, we believe in the redemption and reconciliation of all things, rather than retribution. This includes the prisoner and broken systems. This is the essence of the gospel.”

As Christian leaders, CCT declared: “Mass incarceration must stop. We are challenging ourselves together with government and the nation to seize this moment when multiple forces are aligning toward positive action to correct the injustices within our ‘justice’ system.”

CCT is encouraging its member denominations and organizations to increase awareness, educate, and take action to oppose mass incarceration in the public square. CCT also committed to developing guiding principles for the church in its efforts.

(This report is taken from a release provided by Christian Churches Together.)

8) EYN ministers hold annual conference

By Zakariya Musa of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria

The Minister’s Annual Conference of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) opened the evening of Feb. 10 with worship sessions led by Bulus Danladi Jau. In their song during the session, the EYN Headquarters Church ZME (women’s choir) sang, “Nigeria is in confusion, as killings and burnings are going on. Why? God help us.”

EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, held its annual Ministers Conference this month, with about 700 pastors in attendance. Photo by Zakariya Musa.


A special prayer was offered for granting the participants yet another time to fellowship together despite the challenges of insecurity in the country. Requests were made for a safe conclusion of the meeting through Lawan Andimi, DCC Secretary in Abuja, and James Mamza, pastor in charge of EYN LCC Gombi No. 2. Prayers were offered for peace in Nigeria, Sudan, and their like, and for the healing of two pastors, said by Maina Mamman and Carl Hill, a Church of the Brethren missionary worker at Kulp Bible College.

During the session, preacher Haruna Y. Yaduma based his sermon on texts from 1 Peter 5:1-5 and Matthew 21:18-20, titled “The Shepherd.” He challenged the pastors to self-evaluation on whether they are shepherding and are fruitful in their ministerial work or not.

As part of the business at the conference, two pastors were welcomed as newly ordained ministers into the fellowship, namely Stephen Musa from LCC Federal Low-cost, Jimeta, the only one approved for ordination as a full minister during the 2013 annual conference; and Rev. Ennoson.

EYN president addresses the conference

Samuel Dante Dali, EYN president and chairman of the Ministers’ Council, in his welcome address thanked God for sustaining us to see 2014. The president said, “It was not easy to scale through 2013 especially in places…. As a result of the continuous attacks on Christians in these areas, EYN has suffered the most and we are still suffering. A total of 138 Local Church Councils and church branches were burnt. Over 400 of our members have also been killed while over 5,000 have fled to the Cameroun, Niger, and other neighboring countries. Also, countless of properties worth millions of Naira have been looted or destroyed.

“One of the significant questions to be answered in a situation like we are experiencing in northeastern Nigeria is, will the Church survive as a church in this era of persecution? Will the church workers, especially pastors, still feel called by God to go into all nations to proclaim the gospel? Will the church members continue to be faithful to God when the situation appears as if God has abandoned them? The answer to these questions is, we don’t know….

“In a period of persecution such as this we are experiencing, we must be able to lead our members to an authentic encounter with God or they will look somewhere else. We must encourage our members to be in daily link with God in order to get comfort and encouragement in their faith. The church is a place where God is expected to be present and it is our responsibility to make our members understand this.” (The text of president Dali’s full remarks follow below.)

Two topics chosen for teaching

Two topics were chosen for teaching at the conference, which had an attendance of about 700 EYN pastors from across Nigeria, Togo, and the Cameroun. The topics were “HIV/AIDS” presented by Emery Mpwate from Mission 21, and “The Pastor and Politics” presented by Andrew Haruna from Jos.

According to Mpwate, Mission 21 has made the HIV/AIDS program a priority. In sub-Saharan regions, he said, Christians are the most affected. He also drew the attention of the pastors to what he called “the problem” rather than HIV/AIDS. “Our real problem is not HIV/AIDS; our real problem is our sexual behavior…. We as a church don’t talk about sexuality which actually is part of us.” There is lack of sex education in the church, and churches are not contributing much to the program of HIV/AIDS.

Adding to Mpwate’s address, the EYN president said that the aim of bringing in an HIV/AIDS program is to know the status of EYN members on HIV/AIDS.

A medical doctor was introduced by the president to the gathering. He has started work as a contract officer at the EYN Dispensary. Dr. Zira Kumanda is a retired civil servant, who worked at the Teaching Hospital in Yola. While appreciating the offer to serve the church with his long experience, he said that a lot of people come from far places to the EYN Clinic. He therefore called for more staff, such as young doctors to help the people.

— Zakariya Musa is secretary of “Sabon Haske,” a publication of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria. To read the full text of president Samuel Dante Dali’s remarks, go to .


9) Young adults to study Jeremiah 29:11 at YAC

The Church of the Brethren Young Adult Conference (YAC) will be held May 23-25 at Camp Brethren Woods near Keezletown, Va. With the words from Jeremiah 29:11 as a focus, participants will address the theme “Coming Home: For I Know the Plans I Have for You.”

Speakers include Emily Shonk Edwards, Joel Gibbel, Kelsey Murray, and Marcus Harden. Music and worship leadership will be by Jessica Strawderman, Eric Landram, and Bethany Clark. The cost for the weekend (food, lodging, and programming) is $125. Scholarships are available from local churches and for those currently serving in Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS).

Registration is open online at . For more information or to request scholarship assistance, contact Becky Ullom Naugle in the Youth/Young Adult office at .

10) Webinars on ‘Generative Leadership’ offered by Congregational Life Ministries with partners in the UK

Two new webinars are being offered by Congregational Life Ministries and partners in the United Kingdom. The topic is “Generative Leadership.” Hosted by the Church of the Brethren, the webinars are organized together with Urban Expression, Bristol Baptist College, and BMS World Mission.

The webinars feature presenters Kerry Coke and Fran Beckett, Christian leaders actively involved in missional communities in the UK, and are a result of the cooperative effort between Congregational Life Ministries and organizations that network with Stuart Murray Williams to promote the vitality of Christian faith communities.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the webinar titled “Relational Leadership” will be led by Kerry Coke. Interested in developing a leadership culture that values relational behavior? The webinar explores ways of identifying and drawing out individual leadership potential in a multicultural and diverse context through relationships.

On Thursday, March 27, the webinar titled “Leading Teams–Positives, Pressures, and Potential” will be led by Fran Beckett. The webinar explores the role of leadership in building and leading effective teams. The presentation will include consideration of principles and practicalities of an
empowering leadership style, and how vulnerability as a team leader can have a positive impact.

Webinar dates and time are Feb. 25 and March 27 at 2:30-4 p.m. (Eastern time) or 7:30-9 p.m. in the UK

Ministers who attend the live webinar may earn .15 continuing education credit. Register and find out more at . For questions contact Stan Dueck at 800-323-8039 ext. 343 or .

11) Brethren bits

— Richard L. Moffitt of Glenville, Pa., has been hired as maintenance mechanic at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. He comes to the position with over 40 years of experience in the fields of HVACR, refrigeration, and plumbing. Most recently he was employed at First Class Mechanical in Westminster, Md., since 2012. He holds a State of Maryland HVACR Master License and has taken numerous HVACR and EPA courses.

Youth and Young Adult Ministries director Becky Ullom Naugle with her mentor Eric Heinekamp. She recently completed a 20-month Certificate in Youth and Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. The program includes various components such as learning retreats, online courses, the Princeton Youth Ministry Forums, a mentoring relationship, a professional leadership assessment, and a final project. Photo courtesy of Becky Ullom Naugle.

— Becky Ullom Naugle recently completed a 20-month Certificate in Youth and Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. The program is designed for leaders actively serving in youth ministry and includes various components such as learning retreats, online courses, the Princeton Youth Ministry Forums, a mentoring relationship, a professional leadership assessment, and a final project. Participants are grouped into cohorts; Naugle was a part of Cohort D with 24 ecumenical youth ministry colleagues from around the US and Canada. Her final project focused on integrating patterns of rest and renewal into ministry as a way to encourage long-term sustainability. “This program has given me an ecumenical peer network through which I can seek support, and gave me access to a wide variety of resources–including a local mentor!” she reported. “I felt honored to learn from distinguished theologians at the retreats and forums. I appreciated the program’s focus on practical ministry issues, and would highly recommend it to others who are seeking additional youth ministry formation.”

— Hashtag NYC! The National Youth Conference coordinators have posted a fun video overview of the upcoming youth conference via hashtags. NYC takes place in Colorado in July, find out more at . View the video at .

— In another note from the NYC office, this weekend is the last chance to send in entries to the National Youth Conference youth speech and music contests. Submit entries at . Entries are due by Sunday, Feb. 16.

— Registration deadlines for upcoming events at Bethany Theological Seminary have been announced, including the deadline for the early registration discount for the Presidential Forum on April 4-5 at the campus in Richmond, Ind.; and closing of online registration for the junior high event Immerse! on June 12-17 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and Explore Your Call (EYC) for senior highs in advance of National Youth Conference on July 15-19. Junior high youth having completed 7th, 8th, or 9th grades have one more month to register for Immerse!, the seminary’s junior high Bible immersion and Brethren history program; online registration closes March 14. Go to . The EYC online application deadline is March 31; go to . EYC will be held July 15-19 at Colorado State University immediately preceding National Youth Conference. Rising juniors and seniors in high school may attend this free, grant-funded discernment program. For more information about Immerse! or EYC contact Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs, at or 765-983-1809. Those who wish to receive a discount rate for the Presidential Forum have until midnight Feb. 15 to register (registration at the regular rate will remain open). The forum on “Living Love Feast” will be April 4-5 on the Bethany campus. For information and to register, go to .

— Arvada (Colo.) Mennonite/Spirit of Joy Fellowship Church of the Brethren is celebrating its transformation into Living Light of Peace Church with a special worship service on Sunday, March 30, at 3 p.m. This time of worship also includes installation of Jeni Hiett Umble as pastor, said an announcement from Western Plains District. A reception will follow.

— Imperial Heights Community Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles received this year’s Energy Efficiency Participation Award from Edison International. “By replacing more than 80 incandescent lamps and fixtures with energy-efficient linear fluorescents, the church was able to reduce its energy consumption and lower its energy bills,” said a release. Read the Edison International post at .

— Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren will host John Barr in an organ recital at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 23, in a fundraiser for the Leupold Foundation of Colfax, N.C. The foundation is devoted to preserving the culture of the pipe organ and is a resource for organ music. The recital will consist exclusively of organ music published by Wayne Leupold Editions, including selections that demonstrate the organ for various age groups. Included will be “Tune Factory,” based on traditional rounds suitable for pre-school and elementary students, said an announcement. Parents with young children are invited. Donations will be accepted at the door. Barr is organist at Bridgewater Church of the Brethren and professor emeritus of organ and piano at Bridgewater College.

— First Church of the Brethren in Chicago and the Renew Now players will present a dramatic reading of “Project Unspeakable,” a new play about the 1960s assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy. The play is performed on Feb. 29 at 6 p.m. at First Church, 425 S. Central Park Blvd., Chicago. Inspired by James Douglass’ book, “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters,” the script by playwright Court Dorsey “breaks the silence that continues to surround the four unspeakable assassinations,” said a release. “The words and stories of courageous people who refused to be silenced by intimidation are timely encouragement to witnesses of ongoing crimes of unspeakable scope and devastation. Twelve readers from Chicago communities, representing a breadth of experience in neighborhood and international work for justice and peace, will breathe life into their witness.” The reading is free and open to the public.  Free will donations will be accepted. For further information, see or contact Duane Ediger at 312-523-9955.  For background on the script see .

— Shenandoah District received several designs for the District NYC T-Shirt Design Contest for youth going to National Youth Conference. The district e-newsletter announced the winner is Sally Hotchkiss from Linville Creek Church of the Brethren. View some of the great t-shirts worn at the last NYC in 2010 at .

— The Caving Adventure Day sponsored by Brethren Woods, a camp and outdoor ministries center in Shenandoah District, will be led by Derek Young of Harrisonburg (Va.) First Church of the Brethren. The date is Feb. 22, registrations are due today, Feb. 14. More information is available at .

— “Tensions mount in the early months of 1864 as the Civil War impacts homes and farms in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia,” says an invitation to dinner events at the John Kline Homestead in Broadway, Va. “Experience a family’s struggle as they converse around a family-style meal in the John Kline house.” For reservations, call 540-896-5001, or e-mail . Cost is $40. Groups are welcome. Seating is limited to 32.

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— Attorney Peter Goldberger from Ardmore, Pa., will speak on “Religious Conscience, the Law, and Taxes that Support Perpetual War” at a free public meeting on Saturday, March 15, 9-11 a.m.,  at the Friends Meeting House in Lancaster, Pa. Goldberger has been a counselor and defender of conscientious objectors for 38 years since graduating from Yale Law School. For more information about this event sponsored by, contact Titus Peachey at 717-859-1151.

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee has condemned the military use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), saying that they pose “serious threats to humanity” and the “right to life” while setting “dangerous precedents in inter-state relations.” A release states that these concerns were expressed by the WCC in a statement issued by its Executive Committee on Feb. 12, when the committee was meeting in Bossey, Switzerland. The statement adds that UAV technology is permitting countries like the “United States of America, Israel, Russia and the United Kingdom, to move towards systems that would give full combat autonomy to machines.” The statement calls governments to “respect and recognize the duty to protect the right to life of their subjects and oppose the violation of human rights. The use of UAVs, first made operational in the Balkans war, has subsequently escalated in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia and most recently in Pakistan.” The statement calls the international community to “oppose the unlawful policies and practices, particularly of US drone strikes in Pakistan.” It also urges the “US government to ensure justice for victims of unlawful drone strikes, including family members of the victims of unlawful killings” and to provide effective access to remedies, especially restitution, compensation to families of civilians killed or injured and adequate protection for their rehabilitation. Read the full statement at .

— Rick Polhamus of Pleasant Hill (Ohio) Church of the Brethren was honored for his work with Christian Peacemaker Teams and On Earth Peace on Jan. 18, during the Nobel Peace Prize Luncheon of the Dayton International Peace Museum. He received a Peace Hero Award from the peace museum, which was founded by Ralph and Christine Dull of Lower Miami Church of the Brethren.

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Chris Douglas, Duane Ediger, Kendra Flory, Leslie Frye, Tim Heishman, Jon Kobel, Zakariya Musa, Becky Ullom Naugle, Stan Noffsinger, Harold A. Penner, Rick Polhamus, Paul Roth, Les Shenefelt, Jenny Williams, Jay Wittmeyer, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is planned for Feb. 21. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at . Newsline appears at the end of every 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 .

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