Newsline for July 16, 2014

“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).

NATIONAL YOUTH CONFERENCE 2014
1) District youth visit and tour General Offices on their way to NYC
2) ‘Called by Christ: Blessed for the Journey Together’ theme shapes NYC 2014

OTHER NEWS
3) Annual Conference makes changes to ‘Special Response’ process for strongly controversial issues
4) Nigerian Brethren write petition to United Nations
5) EYN president represents Brethren at World Council of Churches Central Committee
6) Anabaptist Disabilities Network seeks stories of supportive care in congregations
7) Dean of Bethany Seminary speaks to international meeting

8) Brethren bits: Remembrance, personnel notes, update on Conference blood drive, Bridgewater awards, survey gives input on new minister’s manual, and more.


Quote of the week:

“Seventy years ago today, on July 14, 1944, 65 ‘seagoing cowboys’ boarded a ship in Mobile, Ala., along with some unusual passengers: 17 heifers. This voyage lasted eight days and ended in Castañer, P.R., where hungry families were awaiting the arrival of the animals that held so much promise. It was the first shipment of the newly formed Heifer Project (now Heifer International), and those animals helped to curb severe milk shortages in the island nation…. Since that day the gifts of cattle, pigs, goats and other livestock have gone on to change the lives of 20.7 million families, or 105.1 million people, in more than 125 countries.”

— Monday’s blog post from Heifer International, which got its start as the Church of the Brethren program Heifer Project. Dan West, then on the denominational staff, came up with the idea of sharing live animals with people in places of need around the world and persuaded a group of Brethren farmers in Indiana to donate the first stock. See the blog post at www.heifer.org/join-the-conversation/blog/2014/July/70-years-ago-today.html?msource=SOXXF14FB0003&sid=social_20140715_27824256 .


NYC 2014 starts Saturday! Go to www.brethren.org/news/2014/nyc2014 to follow National Youth Conference in Fort Collins, Colo., from July 19-24. This NYC news index page will feature links to photo albums, news stories, the NYC app, and more. The NYC Twitter stream is found via #cobnyc. A review of NYC will appear in the next issue of Newsline on July 29.


NATIONAL YOUTH CONFERENCE 2014

1) District youth visit and tour General Offices on their way to NYC

Brethren youth from across the country are making their way to National Youth Conference in Colorado this week–by bus, van, car, and airplane. Several busloads from five different districts visited and toured the Church of the Brethren General Offices on their way to NYC.

NYC starts Saturday, July 19, on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Follow NYC at www.brethren.org/news/2014/nyc2014 where visitors will find photo albums, news stories, and more posted from Fort Collins throughout the conference, and the NYC app for smartphones. The NYC Twitter stream is found via #cobnyc.

Visiting the General Offices this week were some 39 youth and advisors from Atlantic Northeast District on Monday, July 14; 70 youth and advisors from Middle Pennsylvania District and Western Pennsylvania District on Tuesday, July 15; and today close to 100 youth and advisors from Shenandoah District, and some 113 youth and advisors from Virlina District.

2) ‘Called by Christ: Blessed for the Journey Together’ theme shapes NYC 2014

The 2014 National Youth Conference planning has been shaped by the theme from Ephesians 4:1-7, “Called by Christ: Blessed for the Journey Together.” The theme was chosen by the National Youth Cabinet, working with Youth and Young Adult Ministry director Becky Ullom Naugle and the three NYC coordinators Katie Cummings, Tim Heishman, and Sarah Neher.

The conference, described by organizers as “a week-long faith formation extravaganza” is held by the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries every four years. All youth who have completed ninth grade through one year of college (at the time of NYC) are eligible to attend, along with their adult advisors. This year more than 2,000 people are expected.

The NYC theme song, “Blessed for the Journey,” can be previewed via a link at www.brethren.org/yya/nyc . The song was commissioned for the 2014 NYC with text and music by Seth Hendricks of Mutual Kumquat.

Daily themes and schedule

Each day of NYC will feature morning and evening worship services focused on a daily theme. The daily schedule also includes morning devotions, required small group meetings that include each youth and advisor, afternoon workshops, recreation options, and late night activities. On several days, youth may choose to spend the afternoon hiking in the Rocky Mountains or taking part in service projects to aid the local community:

— On the opening day, Saturday, July 19, the day’s theme “Right Now” will inform the evening worship service and message to be brought by Samuel Sarpiya, a Church of the Brethren pastor and church planter from Rockford, Ill. Saturday’s events start with registration and a picnic supper, and close with late night activities including a swing dance.

— On Sunday, July 20, the daily theme “Called” is the subject for the youth speech contest winners who will give the morning message in worship: NYC Speech Contest. Alison Helfrich of Bradford, Ohio, from Oakland Church of the Brethren in Southern Ohio District; Katelyn Young of Lititz, Pa., from Ephrata Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District; and Laura Ritchey of Martinsburg, Pa., from Woodbury Church of the Brethren in Middle Pennsylvania District. Rodger Nishioka, who holds the Benton Family Chair in Christian education and is an associate professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga., will preach for evening worship. The Sunday morning offering is Hygiene Kits for Church World Service. The Sunday evening offering will be received for the Haiti Medical Project of the Church of the Brethren. Sunday will open with a 5K around the CSU campus, includes a first-ever NYC “Brethren Block Party” in the afternoon, and closes with a late-night Mutual Kumquat concert.

— Monday’s theme “Struggle” will be addressed by the morning worship presenter Ted Swartz of Ted & Co., a Mennonite comedy troupe, and evening preacher Kathy Escobar, co-pastor of the Refuge, a mission center and Christian community in North Denver. The Monday morning offering will collect canned food for the Larimer County food bank to help meet the needs of people in Fort Collins and surrounding area. The Monday evening offering will benefit the NYC Scholarship Fund for international and intercultural youth. Also on Monday: the first mountain hiking trips, and the first afternoon of service projects, as well as a performance of Ted Swartz’s most recent production “Laugher as Sacred Space.”

— The theme “Claim” sets the stage for worship on Tuesday led in the morning by Bethany Seminary student Jennifer Quijano, who serves as youth and worship director at Cedar Grove Church of the Brethren in Ohio, and led in the evening by Katie Shaw Thompson who pastors at Ivester Church of the Brethren in Grundy Center, Iowa, and helps lead Camp Pine Lake in Northern Plains District. Late night activities include a camp fire, pizza with a Brethren higher education group, and an international worship experience.

— Wednesday’s theme, “Live,” will offer food for thought as Leah J. Hileman, pastor of Lake View Christian Fellowship in Southern Pennsylvania District, preaches in the morning, and Jarrod McKenna makes a return visit to NYC as guest speaker for the evening service. He is a teaching pastor at Westcity Church in Australia and he and his family live with 17 recently arrived refugees at First Home Project modeling Christian Hospitality. He also serves as World Vision Australia’s national advisor for Youth, Faith, and Activism. On Earth Peace sponsors an evening peace vigil, just prior to worship. A concert by the Rend Collective, described as “an eclectic group of multi-instrumentalists from Northern Ireland,” will be a highlight of the last night of NYC.

— NYC closes with the theme, “Journey,” as youth gather for the final worship service, then pack up to head back home. Bethany Seminary president Jeff Carter is the morning preacher.

For onsite coverage from NYC 2014 go to www.brethren.org/news/2014/nyc2014 .

OTHER NEWS

3) Annual Conference makes changes to ‘Special Response’ process for strongly controversial issues

Photo by Regina Holmes
Delegates engage in community building at the round tables that are now standard seating for the Annual Conference business sessions.

The 2014 Annual Conference approved revisions and amendments to the “Special Response” process for strongly controversial issues, during business sessions at the Church of the Brethren annual meeting held in Columbus, Ohio, on July 2-6.

The revision to the document was proposed by the Standing Committee of district delegates. The revision adapts the process in a number of ways including requiring training for facilitators of district hearings, limiting time for open floor dialogue, and no suspension of Roberts Rules of Order, among others.

One amendment made from the floor and passed by the delegate body added scientific materials to the list of study materials provided to the denomination in the event the process is used again. The “Special Response” process was used a few years ago when the Church of the Brethren engaged in a discussion of human sexuality.

For full coverage of the 2014 Annual Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac2014 . Go to BrethrenPress.com or call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712 to purchase the Wrap-Up DVD for $29.95 and the Sermons DVD for $24.95 (shipping and handling will be added to these prices). An Annual Conference Wrap Up in pdf format is free to download and print from www.brethren.org/ac/2014/documents/wrap-up.pdf . This two-page piece highlights the main business decisions and statistics in a easy-to-digest form designed for delegate reports to congregations and districts and for inclusion in church bulletins and newsletters.

4) Nigerian Brethren write petition to United Nations

Samuel Dante Dali, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has written a petition to the United Nations. The two documents–a letter and a review of the situation of violence in Nigeria–concern “what is happening to us in Nigeria,” Dali wrote in a cover note to Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer, to whom he copied the petition. “Thanks again for your love for Nigeria and assistance,” Dali wrote.

Wittmeyer and Roy Winter, associate executive of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, plan a trip to Nigeria in August to assist EYN to design a crisis management plan.

Petition to the UN

The petition to the United Nations includes a letter signed by EYN president Samuel Dali, accompanied by a lengthy document titled “Report on the Genocide of Christians in North Eastern Nigeria: The Time to Act is Now.”

“I am appealing to the international community to show solidarity with a section of humanity that is threatened to being eradicated from the face of the earth,” the letter said, in part. “These are people, women and men, youth and children who are being slaughtered, abducted, enslaved, and reduced to sexual objects. These have the right to peacefully live and enjoy their freedom of belief, and the right to live with dignity in their land in Northern Nigeria, and neighboring countries. To be precise, these are innocent people who have been harassed, intimidated and many of whom are murdered….

“We plead with the United Nation as foremost international organization to put all its effort and influence to assist the government of Nigeria stop the current murderous carnage, a crime against humanity.”

Find the full text of the petition below.

Another EYN church burned

The Vanguard newspaper of Nigeria reported on July 14, at AllAfrica.com, that “gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram sect invaded Dille Village in Askira-Uba Local Government Area of Borno State and opened fire on residents, setting ablaze three churches, including the Church of Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), as well as, shops and residential buildings.”

The news came from people who had fled the attack, who said that the attackers were heavily armed, and that the attack was still ongoing. The Nigerian Air Force sent fighter jets to repel the attackers, the newspaper said.

Nigerian Brethren in the news in the US

After her presentations at Annual Conference, Rebecca Dali spoke at several Church of the Brethren locations before flying back to Nigeria this week. While in Iowa, her presentations were covered by the WFC Courier of Waterloo and KWWL TV Channel 7. Find those reports at  http://wcfcourier.com/news/local/nigerian-talks-of-religious-war-kidnapped-girls/article_fb122dd5-b9b0-565a-9fc1-b422c9c34886.html and www.kwwl.com/story/26001089/2014/07/11/nigerian-woman-speaks-out-about-terrorists-groups-in-nigeria .

Also in the news was a visit to the Peter Becker Community in Pennsylvania by EYN member Ali Abbas Apagu, who also had attended the Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio. “According to Apagu, the support from members of the Church of the Brethren in the United States has been ‘overwhelming,’”said The Reporter News of Landale, Pa. “The event was opened with a time for prayer before Apagu spoke about the recent violence against Christians in Nigeria by the Boko Haram insurgent group. After a question and answer segment, the members of Peter Becker Community gathered around Apagu and prayed for Nigeria.” Read the full report at www.thereporteronline.com/general-news/20140711/nigerian-church-of-the-brethren-member-visits-peter-becker-community-speaks-about-violence-power-of-prayer .

Full text of the petition to the United Nations

To the Secretary General of the United Nations
The United Nations Security Council
The General Assembly of the United Nations

Dear Sir or Madam and honorable members of the United Nations

On behalf of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, in humility and tears, I am appealing to the honorable members of the United Nations, who, I believe are deeply concerned about the peace of the world and the rights of every human being. We would like to draw your attention to the magnitude of the damage and the threat of murderous actions of Boko Haram against members of our community and other Christians in Northern Nigeria.

Since the beginning of the Boko Haram terrorist activities in 2009: the perennial killings of people, the destruction of properties and the kidnapping of women, church leaders, and school girls have increased to potentially leading to a genocide of Christians in Northern Nigeria in general and in particular, the members of our community.

As I am writing this appeal, there are 1,941 houses and properties that belong to our members that have been burnt, Now, 2,679 members of our community including women and children have been displaced from their ancestral native lands. These people have now lost their houses and properties. They are living homeless, with their women and children, without food and clean water. They camp under trees to find shelter and live as refuges either in Cameroon or in other states within the country. These displaced people who are mostly farmers cannot go and work on their farm this year. Those who have attempted to go back to their farm are either killed or chased away. Also, over 35,000 of their children cannot go to school, which means, the future for such children is in danger of being lost.

It is in light of these that I am appealing to the international community to show solidarity with a section of humanity that is threatened to being eradicated from the face of the earth. These are people, women and men, youth and children who are being slaughtered, abducted, enslaved, and reduced to sexual objects. These have the right to peacefully live and enjoy their freedom of belief, and the right to live with dignity in their land in Northern Nigeria, and neighboring countries. To be precise, these are innocent people who have been harassed, intimidated and many of whom are murdered. The latest horror that partly mobilized the international community has been the abduction of more than two hundred girls. This tragedy severally hit our community in that Boko Haram has kidnapped 178 girls who belong to our community, including a pregnant wife of one of our pastors and three of her children. Hence, we plead with the United Nation as foremost international organization to put all its effort and influence to assist the government of Nigeria stop the current murderous carnage, a crime against humanity.

Yours faithfully
REV. Dr. Samuel Dante Dali
The President of the Church of the Brethren

To the Secretary General of the United Nations,
The United Nations Security Council
The General Assembly of the United Nations.

A Report on the Genocide of Christians in North Eastern Nigeria: The Time to Act is Now.

Understanding the Undergirding Issues of the Current Crisis and the Religious Cleaning that is Perpetrated.

“There is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land.” Euripides, 431 BC,

With the above statement from one of the famous Greek philosophers I make this special appeal to you men and women of peace.

Presently, Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group together with al-Qaeda terrorists groups from North Africa are plotting to wipe Nigerian Christians out of the face of the earth from their native land.

As I am presenting this petition, there is every probability that some Christians are being slaughtered in North Eastern Nigeria right now. There is every probability too that a church or the houses of Christians in North Eastern Nigeria are burnt or destroyed right now.

This is the harrowing situations Christians in Northern Nigeria and particularly the North East sub-region have found themselves in as it is in the present day Nigeria in the hands of the Islamic terrorist group called Boko Haram.

On behalf of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (The EYN Church), I, as president, present this petition.

The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria is one of the worst affected Churches and if not the worst affected by the Boko Haram terrorists activities in Nigeria.

The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria has 550,000 baptised communicant members and over five million worshippers on each service day every Sunday.

It is worth mentioning that the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria is the largest national body of Church of the Brethren in the world.

It has its Headquarters in Mubi Adamawa State Nigeria which is amongst the three states where the Boko Haram atrocities is most devastating.

The records available as at the time of compiling this presentation on the 9th of June 2014 show that the Church incurred the following lost and damages.

Boko Haram terrorists have killed 517 members of the Church. Find attached the names of the murdered Church members.

Six district church council have been closed down and 52 local churches have been burnt down and their properties looted or destroyed completely.

1,941 houses and properties of members have been burnt.

Boko Haram has kidnapped 178 members of the Church.

2, 679 members including their women and children have been displaced from their ancestral native lands.

These people who lost their houses and properties are now living homeless, with their women and children without food and good water.

These displaced people who are mostly farmers cannot go and work on their farm this year, as those who attempted are either killed or chased away from the farm.

Over 35,000 of their children cannot go school.

I make haste to state here that because of the rural nature of our Churches and poor communication facilities, this report is the one from semi-urban and urban Churches.

Find attached as an appendix the summary of killing and destruction done to the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria by Boko Haram Islamic terrorists.

Killings and destructions have not all been reported.

What is highly disturbing about all this genocide on Christians is that it is in connivance with some well placed political and Islamic leaders within and outside of Nigeria.

The ongoing pandemic genocide by the Boko Haram Islamic terrorists’ ethnic and religiously motivated violence, burning of and destruction of churches and Christian homes is a crime against humanity which the UN must act to address urgently before it will be worse than Rwanda and Darfur put together.

The carnage by Boko Haram Islamic terrorists is exacerbated by spurious reports being carried by Hausa language services of foreign media like the BBC Hausa, VOA Hausa, Radio France International Hausa and the Germany DW radio Hausa services.  As I present this petition, life in North Eastern Nigeria has descended into unimaginable, uncontrolled bloodshed.

Images flowing out of the country paint a scene of unprecedented carnage. The photographs attached below are a clear proof of why the UN must intervene now.

Let me quote from a well publicised article by Gary K. Busch, author and political analyst. “The genocide by Boko Haram on Northern Christians is purely for political power. In 2010, when it became apparent that Goodluck Jonathan would contest in 2011, Alhaji Lawal Kaita a leading political figure in the North had warned that should Jonathan contest and win in 2011 Nigeria would be made ungovernable. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was more poetic.  Jonathan’s National Security Adviser then, General Gusau resigned to contest against him. All northern contestants banded together to support Atiku Abubakar. At their political party “PDP” Convention of December 2010 when it was obvious that delegates were rooting for Jonathan, Atiku Abubukar,a contestant at a political forum quoted Frantz Fanon saying “those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.”

These are the precursor statements to the post-election violence that took place in 2011 even before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) finished announcing the results of the Presidential Election of that year. Those violent incidents that claimed the lives of hundreds in Bauchi, Maiduguri, Gombe, Yola, Kano, Minna and Kaduna have not abated in the guise of Boko Haram.

“The jihadists fighting for Boko Haram are said to have been trained in eight different countries namely Sudan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Egypt and the Niger Republic. They travelled as a group and received basic and advanced training. As proof of the success of their training they sport a mark (tattoo) showing proficiency. The mark is in the form of a sword held in a hand. Those who went through the training regard it as the ‘license to kill for Allah’. They included Ali Baba Nur, Asari Dokubo, Mohammed Yusuf, Salisu Maigari, Danlami Abubakar, Ali Qaqa, Maigari Haliru and Asabe Dantala.”

It is true that the duty to prevent and halt genocide and mass atrocities lies first and foremost with each individual State, but the international community has a role that cannot be blocked by the invocation of sovereignty. Sovereignty no longer exclusively protects States from foreign interference; it is a charge of responsibility where States are accountable for the welfare of their people. This principle is enshrined in article 1 of the Genocide Convention and embodied in the principle of “sovereignty as responsibility” and in the concept of the Responsibility to Protect.
As it is now, the Nigerian state has not succeeded to overcome this serious challenge to its mandate to protect all the people of Nigeria specially the Christians living in the North East sub-region of Nigeria.

There are reports that the Nigeria armed forces and other security organisations may have been compromised and that they have been infiltrated by Boko Haram elements.

Many reports have that the Nigerian military commanders have been known to divulge troop movement and locations to Boko Haram that has always led to the troops being ambushed by the Boko Haram fighters. In fact that led to mutiny recently in one of the military barracks. We still count of the government protection of all its citizens. We are Nigerian citizens.

Our requests as a Church are as follows:

We earnestly appeal to the Nigerian government to protect its citizens particularly the Christians in the North East from mass murder by Boko Haram Islamic terrorists. Given the scope of this religious cleansing, across states, we urge the UN to come under the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) on humanitarian grounds

1. To protect us from total annihilation by Boko Haram.

2.To arrest the genocide on Christians in North Eastern Nigeria in particular and Northern Nigeria in general, we seek the immediate deployment of UN peace keeping and peace enforcement troops in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe until peace is permanently returned.

3. I urge the General Assembly of the UN under the Article 111, which prevents the genocide on any group, should allow the world powers to use drones to track and take out all the Boko Haram terrorists’ camps in Sambisa forest in Nigeria and wherever they are located in West and Central African regions.

4. Since the Nigerian government has failed in its primary responsibility to protect its citizens in North Eastern Nigeria, the UN should declare the above three state as a UN territory as it did in the Darfur region of Sudan.

We as a Church urge the Security Council to invoked R2P for the deployment of the above measures to protect Christians in North Eastern Nigeria.

We note that the Security Council of the UN has invoked the R2P in a number of resolutions: three times in 2006, once in 2009, six times in 2011, twice in 2012, seven times in 2013 and at least four times in 2014.

The Human Rights Council has also invoked R2P in a number of resolutions, most recently on the situations in Syria.

Today, “our world continues to be confronted with different challenges of global reach and impact,” including poverty and hunger; unemployment; myriad impacts of climate change; armed conflicts; and emerging security threats such as transnational organized crime, terrorism, piracy and human trafficking of which terrorism by this Boko Haram is the most deadly because it has spread into Cameroon, Chad and Central African Republic.

“Collectively, we must continue to take concerted action to address these challenges. This is what has made the United Nations a strong, unique and indispensable organization.

The world cannot sit by as whole towns and cities are depopulated by grotesque bloodletting and unprecedented murder by Boko Haram.

North east Nigeria requires the world’s long-term commitment to end the bloodshed, secure peace and facilitate inclusive dialogue, and to recover its landscape from what can only be described as catastrophic destruction.

Boko Haram massacre of Christians in North east Nigeria is a perfect example of a major tragedy occurring in front of our eyes with no one taking decisive action to stop this tragedy once and for all. Our protection has not been secured par local, regional or federal leaders. The killings continue.

We trust that prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, are an intrinsic part of your noble mandate. To bring about in conformity with the principles of justice and international law…”Article One UN Charter” will ultimately benefit all people groups.

The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria strongly calls on United Nations and its members to heed to the demands of the endangered remaining population in the North east of Nigeria now. Indifference and staying silent in the face of tragedy that has befallen the Christians in North Eastern Nigeria is not an option for this great assembly.

To arrest the genocide on Christians in North Eastern Nigeria in particular and Northern Nigeria in general, we once more seek the immediate deployment of UN peace keeping and peace enforcement troops  in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe until peace is permanently returned.

Since the efforts of the Nigerian government has as yet resulted in stopping the massacre, abductions, sufferings, and predicament of Christians, we call upon the UN as an International organization to intervene. Because one of the primary responsibilities of the Nigerian government, that of protecting all its citizens has not yet been secured, (It may even become necessary for the UN to declare the above three state as a UN territory as it did in the Darfur region of Sudan.

We urge the United Nations and in a concerted effort with the Western democratic nations to act quickly as they have done in Syria, Iraq and even Darfur region of Sudan. To neglect the suffering Christians of North Eastern Nigeria at the mercy of the Boko haram Islamic terrorists who have brutally ransacked all the Christian communities from their native land is not an option.

The worst hit is our Church, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN Church), which has its Headquarters in Mubi, Adamawa State Nigeria.

It is true that there are many conflicts going on globally at the moment but the pogrom by Boko Haram and the Northern Nigeria states government deserve a special attention to starve the complete annihilation and extermination of the remaining Christian population.

As at the last count, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria has lost 750 Churches to the attack of the Islamic terrorists group Boko Haram.

This august assembly has enough grounds to intervene in the situation in North Eastern Nigeria.

This august assembly must not wait until 800,000 innocent people like in Rwanda are killed before they will intervene. Now is the time to take action to prevent this catastrophe in North Eastern Nigeria which has actually spread to the Republic of Cameroun, Chad and some part of Central African Republic from escalating beyond control.

I thank you for your time.

Long Live the United Nations General Assembly.

Thank You,

Reverend (Dr) Samuel D. Dali
President
Church of the Brethren in Nigeria.

5) EYN president represents Brethren at World Council of Churches Central Committee

Photo by Peter Williams/WCC
World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 2014

EYN president Samuel Dante Dali represented the world community of the Church of the Brethren at the recent Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Dali, whose own national body Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, is a member denomination of the WCC, attended as proxy for Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger.

Noffsinger was one of those elected to the WCC Central Committee by the WCC 10th Assembly in November 2013, but was not able to attend because the meeting coincided with the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

The Central Committee serves as the chief governing body of the WCC until the next assembly, meeting every two years. The committee consists of 150 members from all global regions and is responsible for carrying out the policies adopted by the WCC 10th Assembly, reviewing and supervising WCC programs, and the budget of the council.

Churches to continue their “pilgrimage of justice and peace” in the world

At the opening of the Central Committee meeting July 2-9, the moderator Dr. Agnes Abuom reflected on the significance of the theme “pilgrimage of justice and peace,” which is based on a call issued by the WCC Assembly.

The final message from the WCC 10th Assembly states, “We intend to move together. Challenged by our experiences in Busan, we challenge all people of good will to engage their God-given gifts in transforming actions. This Assembly calls you to join us in pilgrimage.”

Emerging concerns for the global Church

Renewal of churches’ commitment towards Christian unity as well as solidarity with churches in conflict situations remained in focus during the meeting. Countries where churches’ work for justice and peace is being prioritized include the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Nigeria, Syria, and Israel and Palestine. Strategies were also developed on how to promote churches’ work for the reunification of the Korean peninsula.

Climate change, ecological and economic justice, and sharing of resources among the churches emerged as major topics during the six-day meeting. The current situation in Mosul, Iraq, was highlighted through a statement. The need for stronger engagement from youth in the ecumenical movement was stressed. A statement “Towards a Nuclear-free World” recommended ways for churches to work to end nuclear dangers and respond to the witness of those affected by continuing nuclear tragedies – from Hiroshima in 1945 to Fukushima in 2011 and beyond.

In his report, the WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit highlighted the significance of ecumenical, inter-religious, and ecclesiological dialogue, as well as Christian mission. He mentioned the need to enhance support for refugees and displaced peoples, as well as efforts from the churches in addressing issues related to HIV and AIDS. In pursuit of “justice and peace” Tveit encouraged a stronger participation in the churches from youth, women, as well as people with disabilities.

The Central Committee accepted an application from the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa to be re-admitted as a member within the WCC after having parted ways with the council due to fundamental disagreements on policy during the apartheid era. Applications from the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Blantyre Synod in Malawi, as well as from the Council of Baptist Churches in Northeast India, were also accepted. Action will be taken on these applications at the next Central Committee meeting in two years’ time.

As the members of the Central Committee returned to their home communities across the world, they will consider some key questions: What is a pilgrimage? What are justice and peace? Why a pilgrimage of justice and peace?

The answers will depend on the realities faced in a particular country or community, reflected Marianne Brekken of the Church of Norway. “We have been challenged by the realities we are facing in different contexts,” she said. “It was a hard reality to face and hear about how we can be a fellowship when we are in crisis. To hear about the situation in Nigeria is hard for me, coming from Norway. Through sharing, we are also walking together.”

Earlier in the meeting, WCC Central Committee members from areas challenged by conflict shared their stories with colleagues, bringing a new understanding to people who don’t often hear such firsthand accounts.

More about the WCC Central Committee meeting is at www.oikoumene.org/en/central-committee-2014 . Watch a video on the WCC Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace at www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmBH9TAkioc .

— This report includes sections of several press releases from the World Council of Churches.

6) Anabaptist Disabilities Network seeks stories of supportive care in congregations

Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADNet) is looking for stories of church congregations that are providing a congregational network of care for persons with significant disabilities and/or their families. Such care may include supporting their church participation, but goes beyond this to support aspects of daily living needs and/or participation in the wider community.

ADNet is collecting these stories with the goal of creating a sequel to their book, Supportive Care in the Congregation, that will tell the stories of congregations that have implemented something similar to the vision outlined in the book.

If you know of such a group who might be willing to share their stories, ADNet would like to know how to contact them. Stories can be shared anonymously in the book if those involved wish to protect privacy.  Contact ADNet at 574-343-1362 or adnet@adnetonline.org.

ADNet and the Church of the Brethren are partners in providing support and resources to individuals with disabilities, as well as their families and congregations.

— Donna Kline is director of Deacon Ministries for the Church of the Brethren

7) Dean of Bethany Seminary speaks to international meeting

Steven Schweitzer, academic dean at Bethany Theological Seminary, presented two professional research papers at the 2014 meeting of the International Society of Biblical Literature (ISBL), held July 6-10 at the University of Vienna in Austria.

The Society for Biblical Literature holds its international meeting in collaboration with the European Association of Biblical Studies (EABS) each summer on different continents, drawing more than 1000 participants from more than forty countries. As one of the largest gatherings of religious scholars in the world, it highlights current research, fosters networking and fellowship, and focuses on issues in the profession. The North American meeting of the Society for Biblical Literature, also open to members from around the world, occurs each November in conjunction with the American Academy of Religion.

Schweitzer’s first paper, “After Exile, under Empire: Utopian Concerns in Chronicles,” was presented on July 8 at the invitation of the Chronicles and Utopia Group of the EABS, based on his earlier publications and presentations. Beginning with his doctoral dissertation, Schweitzer has contended that Chronicles presents a vision for a “better alternative reality,” or utopia, that is set in Israel’s past rather than a documentation of historic reality.

Schweitzer is one of the first and strongest proponents for this approach to reading Chronicles, having published Reading Utopia in Chronicles, a revision of his dissertation, in 2007. His paper for the ISBL specifically examined how the writer of Chronicles dealt with two crises of Israel’s heritage in proclaiming his utopian vision: the exile of the Hebrews in Babylon under the Persian monarchs and the failure of the Davidic dynasty.

His personal interest in science fiction and the prevalence of theological themes found in that genre led Schweitzer to develop and teach the course Science Fiction and Theology at Bethany in the fall of 2013. When he discovered the existence of a Science Fiction and the Bible Group within the EABS, he submitted a proposal to present a second paper at this summer’s meeting, which was accepted. The paper entitled “Teaching Science Fiction and Theology: Reflections and Possibilities,” presented on July 9, was a reflection on the process of teaching the course.

Using a number of movie and television science fiction series, the class explored a wide variety of theological themes, such as the nature of humanity, construction and experience of the Divine, the problem of evil, and the quest for meaning. Students discussed how these examples relate to biblical texts that illustrate similar themes. Noting that science fiction has grown in influence and appeal within western culture, Schweitzer says that “the course was about how to ask theological questions of many aspects of our lives and the culture around us in intentional ways.”

Schweitzer’s work in the field of Chronicles has also led to two recently published essays. As a former professor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Schweitzer was invited to contribute to a book honoring two leading Mennonite scholars from AMBS, Struggles for Shalom: Peace and Violence across the Testaments, published earlier this year. His essay “The Concept of Shalom in the Book of Chronicles” is his first exploration of the texts through the lens of shalom.

A second essay, “The Genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1-9: Purposes, Forms, and the Utopian Identity of Israel,” was invited by the editors of Chronicling the Chronicler: The Book of Chronicles and Early Second Temple Historiography, released in 2013. Based on a chapter in Schweitzer’s earlier book, the essay is a much broader treatment of genealogies in Chronicles than many other publications offer.

— Jenny Williams of the Bethany Theological Seminary communications provided this report.

8) Brethren bits

— Remembrance: Donald (Don) Link, 81, died on July 1. He and his wife Nancy served as Church of the Brethren mission workers in Nigeria from 1966-72, and also did volunteer service in the United States on a Navajo reservation. He was a faithful member of Lebanon Church of the Brethren in Shenandoah District, where a memorial service was held on July 7. His wife Nancy survives him. “Lift up prayers of comfort for the family and friends,” asked a remembrance in the district newsletter.

— Catherine (Cat) Gong has accepted the position of member services representative, employee benefits, with Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) in Elgin, Ill. She will begin her duties on July 28. She has been working as financial aid assistant/administrative support for Midwestern Career College in Chicago. She previously served in Brethren Volunteer Service and was coordinator for the Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry in 2012, and attends Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin. She holds a degree in sociology with minors in Italian and international studies from Pennsylvania State University. For more about the work of BBT go to www.brethrenbenefittrust.org .

— Update on Annual Conference Blood Drive: Brethren Disaster Ministries has provided a correction to the number of units of blood collected at the Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio, earlier this month: 150 is the correct number. The staff have shared the following thank you note from the Red Cross in Columbus: “Thank you all so much for such a successful blood drive at the Columbus Church of the Brethren Conference last week! It was so great to work with you all on this, and your passion and commitment were like no other. In an urgent need time period, and on a holiday time period your group came through in a BIG way! There were: 168 presenting donors, 150 units collected, including 11 double red cell donations. The number of patients’ lives potentially saved with these donations = 450!!!” The Brethren Disaster Ministries staff note that R. Jan Thompson started the first blood drive at Annual Conference in 1984 after driving in to Baltimore for the 1983 Conference and hearing a radio announcement about a need for blood donations in the community. Since then the largest Annual Conference blood drive took place a few years later in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the organizers set a goal of 500 units and received some 525, Thompson said.

— At the Bridgewater (Va.) College luncheon at the 2014 Annual Conference, Mary Jo Flory-Steury and Jennifer Jewell were presented the Merlin and Dorothy Faw Garber Award for Christian Service. Flory-Steury, a 1978 Bridgewater graduate, is associate general secretary and director of the Office of Ministry for the Church of the Brethren. Jewell, a 2014 graduate of Bridgewater from Luray, Va., is doing work in South Africa on behalf of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, reported the Shenandoah District newsletter.

— Production of a new minister’s manual for the Church of the Brethren is underway. Twenty one years after the publication of “For All Who Minister,” the task team working on a new manual is seeking input through an online survey. “This is your opportunity to join in the adventure and participate in the production process,” said an announcement from associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury. “Watch for additional ways to be involved including submitting a variety of worship resources.” Find the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/2MManual .

— The staff at Brethren Disaster Ministries have directed an allocation of $8,200 from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to respond to violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The ministry received an appeal for relief funds from Shalom Ministry of Reconciliation and Development following an attack on the town of Mutarule in the eastern part of the DRC, which killed 37 people and left over 100 injured. Shalom Ministries will focus on contributing to the improvement of food and social life for the population of Mutarule and building peace and reconciliation between ethnic groups there. The EDF grant will support aid for approximately 2,100 people, including the provision of emergency food, household supplies, and school supplies. For more about the Church of the Brethren Emergency Disaster Fund see www.brethren.org/edf .

Photo courtesy of CDS
The children and youth of Thornwell Home for Children in South Carolina recently voted to award Children’s Disaster Services with a gift of $222.16. “The children researched different organizations and choose recipients for their 2014 awards,” said a note from associate director Kathleen Fry-Miller. “One of the children had been a part of a CDS children’s center in disaster and wanted us to be on the list to receive a donation.” Children’s Disaster Services representative Sue Harmon was present to accept the gift. She said, “It was a sweet program on the steps of the church at the Children’s Home. Different children were given the envelopes with checks for the different entities, and when the director called out the organizations’ names and briefly explained what it was, the child with their check would step down and give the envelope to that representative.” For about the ministry of Children’s Disaster Services go to www.brethren.org/cds .

— Children’s Disaster Services staff Kathy Fry-Miller writes that “prayers and advocating for a compassionate response would be appreciated,” in response to the situation of more than 50,000 immigrant children refugees who have fled into the United States from Central America. Media reports have highlighted the cause of the influx of unaccompanied children as gang and criminal violence that is increasingly targeting children and families in Central America. “At this point Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services have been in touch with FEMA, the Red Cross, and Church World Service to offer assistance, but so far what we can provide is not where the greatest need is,” Fry-Miller wrote by e-mail today. “CDS is not anticipating being called out, but we are certainly willing, if services we can provide would match the need.”

— Bread for the World is requesting prayer for the tens of thousands of immigrant children refugees, saying “this is a humanitarian crisis.” An e-mail alert from Bread for the World today highlighted the story of Emilio, a 16-year-old from Honduras. “The journey is dangerous, and some children die on the way, but conditions in his home country are so desperate that Emilio says he will try again,” the alert said. “Emilio is one of tens of thousands of children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador attempting to flee violence and extreme poverty. We as people of faith must act to address the root causes of this humanitarian crisis.” Bread for the World is requesting prayer for the children and their parents, and is encouraging people of faith to contact their congressional representatives to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border with “legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave. The Bible tells us that Jesus has a special concern for children who belong to the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14). Christians must speak up for children like Emilio.” The alert said that since October 2013, over 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed into the US, and by year’s end that number is expected to climb to between 70,000 and 90,000.

— The 2014 district conference season in the Church of the Brethren begins July 25-27 in Northern Ohio District, at the Myers Convocation Center at Ashland (Ohio) University, and in Western Plains District, at McPherson (Kan.) College and McPherson Church of the Brethren. Southeastern District holds its conference on July 27-29 at Mars Hill (N.C.) University.

— The Brethren Mission Fund, a ministry of the Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF), is contributing $2,500 to the EYN Compassion Fund of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The money will help support Nigerian Brethren who have lost a family member, home, or property to ongoing violence in Nigeria. An announcement from the Brethren Mission Fund newsletter noted that this is the second such contribution since the fall of 2013 when $3,000 was given. “Recently a Church of the Brethren in the West Marva District decided to channel some funds through the BMF to the EYN Compassion Fund. The BMF committee also decided to contribute some additional monies for this fund so that the total combined amount being sent to the EYN Compassion Fund at this time will be $2,500.” For more about this ministry of BRF go to www.brfwitness.org/?page_id=9 .

— “The Power of God” is the title of the latest spiritual disciplines folder from Springs of Living Water, a church renewal organization. The folder is provided for Bible study and meditation for the period of time following Annual Conference through Sept. 6. The folder offers daily scripture readings and questions for meditation, looking at 10 ways in which the power of God can come into lives and into the church to fulfill the mission to make disciples, said an announcement. The folder was created by Thomas Hanks, pastor of the yoked congregation of Friends Run and Smith Creek near Franklin, W.Va. Find it at www.churchrenewalservant.org or by e-mailing davidyoung@churchrenewalservant.org .

— Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has announced in a release that “generous donors have surpassed the original $110,000 goal for its Plowing and Planting Campaign, contributing $123,300,” despite trends showing a decline in non-profit giving. The campaign was launched to “plow under” the debt for CPT’s Chicago training center and office, and “plant” seeds of investment in supportive care for full-time team members, the release said.  “We’re thrilled to have such generous supporters who believe so deeply in the work of CPT,” said executive director, Sarah Thompson. The additional funds will allow CPT to provide in-person psychosocial care to CPT team members involved in active peacemaking in the current project areas of Iraqi Kurdistan, Colombia, Palestine, and alongside the First Nations in Canada. The organization currently has 21 full-time, 8 part-time stipend-eligible CPTers, and 156 reservists (CPT volunteers). Find out more at www.CPT.org .

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) has strongly condemned the violence in Gaza. In a July 10 release, the WCC condemned both the “attacks by the Israeli military on the civilian population in Gaza, as well as firing of rockets by militants from Gaza to Israel.” A statement by WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit said that “what is happening in Gaza now is not an isolated tragedy.” The failure of peace negotiations and the loss of prospects for a two-state solution to end occupation have led to this “unbearable and infernal cycle of violence and hatred that we are witnessing today,” Tveit said. “Without an end to the occupation, the cycle of violence will continue,” he said. In the statement, Tveit said that recent events in Israel and Palestine must be seen in the context of the occupation of Palestinian territories, which began in 1967. He added that calling for an end to the occupation and the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel has remained a long-term commitment of the WCC. Tveit urged the United Nations Security Council to demand an immediate end to all kinds of violence from all parties to the conflict and called on churches and religious leaders to “work together to transform the discourse of hatred and revenge that is spreading more and more in many circles in society into one that sees the other as neighbour and as equal brother and sister in the one Lord.”

— The “Brethren Voices” television program with Andy Murray, moderator-elect of Annual Conference, is now the featured program at www.youtube.com/Brethrenvoices . The July 2014 edition of this community television program from Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren features “A Conversation About Peacemaking” with Bob Gross and Melisa Grandison commemorating the 40th anniversary of On Earth Peace. For more information contact producer Ed Groff at groffprod1@msn.com .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jan Fischer Bachman, Deborah Brehm, Samuel Dante Dali, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Kathleen Fry-Miller, Donna Kline, Donna March, Nancy Miner, Randi Rowan, Howard Royer, R. Jan Thompson, Jenny Williams, Jay Wittmeyer, David Young, Jane Yount, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next issue of Newsline is scheduled for July 29.


Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org . 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 www.brethren.org/newsline .