“And the Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14).
1) Queries address same-sex marriage, On Earth Peace, life together in the church, Creation care
2) District terminates ordination of pastor who performed same-sex marriage
3) EYN president Samuel Dali addresses Nigerian nation in Christmas message
4) EYN choir tour proves ‘phenomenally successful’
5) BBT Board increases benevolent grant levels
6) Pacific Southwest District Conference meets on the theme of ‘Justice’
7) New Ventures session offer opportunity for story of grief, healing
8) Brethren bits
Quote of the week:
“‘Then Joseph got up, took the child and his Mother by night, and went to Egypt’ (Matthew 2:14). The meaning of Christmas and Epiphany is incomplete if we forget the Refugees…. May the blessings of Christmas be yours, and may they be yours to share.”
— The message in the 2015 Christmas card from the World Council of Churches. Find the complete WCC Christmas message, audio and video, at www.oikoumene.org/christmas .
1) Queries address same-sex marriage, On Earth Peace, life together in the church, Creation care
Five queries have been acted on by district conferences this year and received by the officers of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, for consideration in 2016 by the Standing Committee and/or the Annual Conference. The Standing Committee of district delegates makes recommendations about the business items that will be presented to the Conference.
The queries are from West Marva District, “Query: Same-Sex Weddings” and “Query: On Earth Peace Reportability/Accountability to Annual Conference”; from Southeastern District, “Query: Viability of On Earth Peace as an Agency of the Church of the Brethren”; from Pacific Southwest District, “Query: Living as Christ Calls”; and from Illinois and Wisconsin District, “Continuing the Study of Our Christian Responsibility to Care for God’s Creation.”
Because the 2011 Annual Conference decided “to continue deeper conversations concerning human sexuality outside of the query process,” the Conference officers have determined that they will ask Standing Committee to first decide whether to recommend that the delegate body reopen the query process to discussion of a topic related to human sexuality. Only if the delegate body decides that it is time to open up the topic again through the query process, can a recommendation regarding the query on same-sex marriage be considered.
The queries follow in full:
Illinois and Wisconsin District Query: Continuing the Study of Our Christian Responsibility to Care for God’s Creation
Whereas: two statements issued by the General Board of the Church of the Brethren–“Resolution on Global Warming and Atmospheric Degradation” (1991), and “Resolution on Global Warming/Climate Change” (2001)–calling on staff to give priority to the issue of the earth’s climate and thereby provide models and educational resources for congregations, institutions, and members to study the issues and take responsible actions, have had only modest impact on our congregations, communities, states, and nation;
Whereas: we in the United States are among the nations with the greatest consumption of nonrenewable sources such as fossil fuels, and our own leadership is not responding with sufficient urgency to stem this inevitable crisis for the earth and its people;
Whereas: reductions to greenhouse gas concentrations from our dependence on fossil fuels can occur through socially responsible investments and community projects.
Whereas: there are renewable energy sources and energy efficient methods that do not produce greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane which are contributing to the warming of the earth’s ecosystem;
Whereas: God who created the Earth along with the heavens called it good, and continues to love all of creation–(Genesis 1, Psalm 24, John 3:16-17, Jonah 3:8, 4:11 and others)–God commissioned us to be caretakers of all his earthly creation: plants, animals, seas, skies, and ecological systems, as well as all our neighbors (Genesis 2:15);
Whereas: to value God’s creation, the scriptures teach us we must be mindful of over-consumption, to seek justice for the weak and powerless, reflect God’s light to the world (Leviticus 25; the Book of Ruth; Luke 18:18ff; 12:13-31; Matthew 5-7; and others); and
Whereas: showing care for God’s gift of the earth and its inhabitants may well be a most effective way to bring the Gospel to our neighbors;
Therefore: We, the Polo (Ill.) Church of the Brethren gathered in Council on May 2, 2015, petition the Annual Conference through the Illinois/Wisconsin District Conference meeting at Peoria, Ill., November 6-7, 2015: What can we, the Church of the Brethren through our denomination, districts, and related agencies, do to promote and model creation care? What ways can we support and extend our knowledge of renewable energy production with our financial investments and involvement in community projects to reduce our contributions to greenhouse gas concentrations, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels?
— Bill Hare, Moderator; Evelyn Bowman, Church Clerk
Action of the Illinois/Wisconsin District Leadership Team:
At its August 1, 2015, meeting, the Leadership Team approved the “Query: Continuing the Study of Our Christian Responsibility to Care for God’s Creation” for consideration by the Annual Conference meeting in 2016 at Greensboro, North Carolina.
— Amanda Rahn, District Leadership Team Chair; Carol Novak, Acting District Leadership Team Secretary
Action of the Illinois/Wisconsin District Conference:
Approved by action of the Illinois/Wisconsin District Conference meeting at the First Church of the Brethren, Peoria, IL, on November 7, 2015.
— Dana McNeil, District Moderator; William Williams, District Clerk
West Marva District Query: Same-Sex Weddings
Whereas the 1983 Annual Conference position paper on Human Sexuality states, “Covenantal relationships between homosexual persons is an additional lifestyle option but, in the church’s search for a Christian understanding of human sexuality, this alternative is not acceptable,”
Whereas in 2011, the Annual Conference re-affirmed the 1983 Statement in its entirety, thereby clarifying that the understanding of the Church of the Brethren in regards to, covenantal relationships between homosexual persons, is unchanged,
Whereas the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that same sex marriage is a constitutional right in all fifty states,
Whereas there is uncertainty regarding the proper role of credentialed ministers and congregations in the Church of the Brethren where same sex weddings are concerned, it was felt that there was a need for guidance and clarity at the denominational level of the Church of the Brethren.
Therefore, the Mission and Ministry Board of the West Marva District petition Annual Conference through the West Marva District Conference, meeting at the Moorefield West Virginia Church of the Brethren, September 18-19, 2015, to consider “How shall districts respond when credentialed ministers and/or congregations conduct or participate in same sex weddings?”
West Marva District Query: On Earth Peace Reportability/Accountability to Annual Conference
Whereas the 1998 Annual Conference delegate body adopted the On Earth Peace Assembly Request for Reportability/Accountability to Annual Conference. Included in their request was a statement to: “commit itself to providing ministry that is within the scope of Annual Conference directives and congruent with articulated values of the Church of the Brethren.” On Earth Peace further stated, “If Annual Conference agency status is granted, the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference is now advised of On Earth Peace Assembly’s intent and commitment to work honorably, as a full program partner, to further build the institution of the Church of the Brethren and the peaceful kingdom of God here on earth as in heaven.”
Whereas during its 2011 fall meeting, the On Earth Peace board of directors issued the following statement of inclusion: We are troubled by attitudes and actions in the church, which exclude persons on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any other aspect of human identity. We believe God calls the church to welcome all persons into full participation in the life of the faith community.
Whereas the 2015 On Earth Peace flyer that accompanied the On Earth Peace report in the Annual Conference packet referenced the scripture, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, She has anointed me to…” referring to God as “She.” This same flyer includes a picture of a rainbow-scarved pastor and the concept of “Inclusion.”
Whereas the On Earth Peace website Ministers of Reconciliation page states “Ministers of Reconciliation are a diverse group of trained volunteers who serve the church by being present and attentive, ready to respond where confusion, conflict or negative emotions are causing a problem in the gathered body.” Yet, while the declared intent is to work through conflict and resolve disputes, On Earth Peace, since 2011, through reports, statements, and actions, has brought more tension than peace.
Therefore we the Bear Creek Church of the Brethren of Accident, Md., convened in congregational business meeting on August 9, 2015, petition the Annual Conference through the West Marva District Conference meeting at Moorefield, W.Va., September 18-19, 2015, to consider if it is the will of Annual Conference for On Earth Peace to remain an agency of the Church of the Brethren with reportability and accountability to Annual Conference.
— Joyce Lander, Church Board Chair; Linda Sanders, Church Clerk
Southeastern District Query: Viability of On Earth Peace as an Agency of the Church of the Brethren
Whereas: The Church of the Brethren is and has been a living peace church since 1708; and
Whereas: Ministries of peace, non-violence, and justice for all are a concern of the denomination; and
Whereas: Both the staff of the Church of the Brethren, Inc. and On Earth Peace seem to have overlapping responsibilities and ministries, and
Whereas: The recent actions of On Earth Peace, during the last three years, have brought more conflict in the denomination and reflect their unwillingness to follow Annual Conference mandates or directives; and
Whereas: The denomination’s diminishing membership and reduction of resources reflects the need for less structure and more efficient administration.
Therefore: We the Hawthorne Church of the Brethren, who met on July 19, 2015, petition the Southeastern District Church of the Brethren District Board to review and evaluate the question “Would the denomination be better served by dissolving On Earth Peace as an agency of Annual Conference and their responsibilities integrated into the general work of the staff of the Church of the Brethren, Inc.?”
— Ralph Stevens, Church Moderator; Martin Murr, Pastor
Action of the Southeastern District Church of the Brethren District Board:
At the Southeastern District Board Retreat that met on September 12, 2015 at Camp Carmel in Linville, N.C., the Southeastern District Board approved the “Query: Viability of On Earth Peace as an Agency of the Church of the Brethren” for consideration by a called Southeastern District Conference to be held on November 14, 2015.
— Stephen Abe, Southeastern District Board Chair; Mary June Sheets, Southeastern District Board Secretary
Action of the Called Southeastern District Conference:
At the Special Called Southeastern District Conference held on Saturday, November 14, 2015, the Conference Body voted to send accept and send the Query: “Viability of On Earth Peace as an Agency of the Church of the Brethren” to the Church of the Brethren Standing Committee for review and acceptance for the 2016 Annual Conference.
— Gary Benesh, 2016 Southeastern District Conference Moderator; Jane Collins, Substitute District Conference Clerk
Pacific Southwest District Query: Living as Christ Calls
Query from the La Verne Church of the Brethren to be submitted for consideration to the Pacific Southwest District during District Conference November, 2015.
Whereas the Church of the Brethren, which has no creed but the New Testament, is made up of a breadth of theological understandings and cultural identities,
Whereas some Church of the Brethren congregations see themselves reflected in the church body, while others find themselves marginalized,
Whereas some in our denomination are comfortable with living out our history as a predominately white church, others are calling for a systematic institutional shift to address a lack of intercultural inclusion,
Whereas the 2015 Supreme Court decision on Marriage Equality has been a source of support for some Church of the Brethren congregations, and raised concerns for others,
Whereas some in our denomination see the role of women in church leadership as a call from God, and others see that call as acting against the will of God,
Whereas the inspiration of the Bible for some is seen as contextual and for others is seen as inerrant,
Whereas discussions on issues such as human sexuality, climate change, military drones, and denominational name have threatened to divide our denomination,
Whereas we all want to continue the work of Jesus through His call to the Great Commission, and His call to love the Lord our God, and our neighbor as ourselves, and His call to care for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned,
Whereas the 2008 paper entitled Resolution Urging Forbearance calls us to respect differences and embrace our commitment to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ,
Whereas the 2012 Standing Committee’s paper entitled A Way Forward calls us to “develop ways that the church can be intentional and systematic in working to address and eliminate ridicule, bullying, hatefulness, and bigotry toward all persons,”
Whereas we continue to adopt statements at the denominational level calling us to treat each other with Christian respect amidst our differences, in practice we continue to act in ways that are not respectful, peace-minded, or loving toward one another,
Therefore, we the members of the La Verne Church of the Brethren, gathered in council meeting on August 16, 2015, petition the Annual Conference through the Pacific Southwest District Conference to appoint a committee to address the roots of our tension and develop strategies that will aid us in treating one other in a truly Christ-like manner.
2) District terminates ordination of pastor who performed same-sex marriage
On Dec. 10 the Shenandoah District Leadership Team “terminated with possibility of reinstatement” the ordination of Chris Zepp, associate pastor of Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren. This action was taken at the recommendation of the district’s Ministerial Leadership Team, after Zepp officiated at a same-sex marriage.
This is the first time that a Church of the Brethren district has revoked a minister’s ordination since the Supreme Court decision that extended same-sex marriage to all 50 states. This action comes during a period of time, in the latter half of 2015, in which several district conferences have held conversations, adopted resolutions, or passed queries that have something to do with same-sex marriage or sexuality (see the Newsline reports at www.brethren.org/news/2015/southeastern-district-begins-query-process.html and www.brethren.org/news/2015/districts-take-action-on-same-sex-marriage.html .)
Zepp serves at the Bridgewater Church alongside senior pastor Jeff Carr. In May, the congregation empowered its ministers to perform any legal marriages, and later that month Zepp officiated at a same-sex marriage. Since then the congregation’s leadership has been in dialogue with the district leadership about that decision. This week the congregation’s Board of Administration issued a statement that said, in part, “our congregation will continue to employ Pastor Chris and will honor and expect all functions of pastoral ministry.”
Zepp has served in several leadership roles in the denomination including as vice chair and then as chair of the Ministers Association, and as a member of the worship planning team for the 2013 Annual Conference. He is a 2007 graduate of Bethany Theological Seminary, where he earned a master of divinity degree with distinction for his academic work in biblical studies.
3) EYN president Samuel Dali addresses Nigerian nation in Christmas message
By Carl Hill
Samuel Dante Dali, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), addressed the nation of Nigeria from the capital city of Abuja as part of a national Christmas celebration. Dr. Dali spoke to the country in a televised address on Sunday, Dec. 13, from the National Christian Center. The theme of his presentation was, “We Thank Thee, O Lord.”
Following is a summary of the televised speech. Dr. Dali has attended Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., and holds a doctorate from the University of Birmingham in England. This past summer he and his wife Rebecca Dali visited the United States with an EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir and other members of EYN, and attended the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Tampa, Fla. He continues to be grateful to Church of the Brethren for all that the American Brethren are doing for Nigeria and the church there.
A summary of the EYN president’s speech
During his talk, Dr. Dali recounted the loss suffered by EYN during the past several years at the hands of Boko Haram. More than 1,600 EYN churches have been destroyed or abandoned, more than 8,000 EYN members have lost their lives, and countless women and girls as well as men and boys have been kidnapped, including the schoolgirls from Chibok.
Dr. Dali said that all these things that have happened have greatly impacted life in northeast Nigeria. But he said he did not intend just to dwell on the misfortune of the church and the people he leads. Instead, Dr. Dali said the real reason he wanted to speak before all the people of Nigeria is to thank God.
After all, he said, it is Christmas, a time to celebrate the birth of Christ into this world. As part of his personal celebration for the season, Dr. Dali focused on four common events that capture the significance of the Christmas celebration: Christmas as a social event, Christmas as a commercial event, a Christmas message to political leaders, and Christmas and the message of salvation for the world.
Christmas as a Social Event: The Christmas season is a time for family and good friends to be together. We know this tradition in the United States and we can come to understand the commonality we share with Nigerians, which, for them, includes the exchange of gifts. Because of the wonderful feelings that go along with the social aspects of Christmas, Dr. Dali said, “We thank thee, O Lord.”
Christmas as a Commercial Event: Next, Dr. Dali recounted the fact that Christmastime is a commercial event. The world, he said, took its cue from the wise men who came to pay tribute to the new King. They brought expensive gifts, and this tradition is followed all over the world at this time of year. He used the United States as an example of the commercial aspects of Christmas–we will spend more than $3.5 billion this year on Christmas! But, he pointed out if we are really to honor the Messiah and become part of the Kingdom of God we must share our wealth with the poor and needy. He said one way the rich can thank God is to remember the poor and needy and come to their aid.
A Message to Political Leaders: Dr. Dali reminded his listeners that Christmas is the celebration of God sending his son into the world. The first to hear the message were the political rulers of Judah back in the seventh century BCE. When King Ahaz and his kingdom were threatened by a huge Assyrian invasion force, he was ready to give up. But the prophet Isaiah appeared and gave him a message of hope. Even today those words are part of many Christmas celebrations: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Dali reminded the rulers of today that no human can take the place of God. The only answer to the political turmoil faced by Nigeria–or any nation–comes through Jesus Christ, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Dali acknowledged the mistakes that have been made by his government in the past, but despite these errors he praised God that many are still counted among the living. For that he said, “We thank thee, O Lord.”
Salvation for the World: Lastly, Dali emphasized the coming of Jesus as God’s method of saving all creation from the ravages brought on by sin. Christmas is the celebration of God’s saving love, God’s gift of salvation, and God’s presence with us in all our life experiences. When Christ came into the world 2,000 years ago, the world was characterized by ignorance, superstition, greed, hatred, and hypocrisy. Purity was a forgotten value and morality was neglected. People had no thoughts of God, and lived their lives as they thought best. The human condition has not changed in all the passing years. Men and women everywhere need the transforming presence and influence of Jesus in their lives. There can be no “peace” on earth or real “joy” in human hearts apart from the Spirit of Jesus Christ living in them. And only Christ can transform the human heart, and free us from corruption, so that we become morally just and peace loving people. In conclusion, Dr. Dali again praised God and said, “We thank Thee, O Lord,” wishing all a happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.
— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren, acooperative effort with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). For more about the Nigeria Crisis Response go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .
4) EYN choir tour proves ‘phenomenally successful’
By Suzanne Schaudel and Monroe Good
Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.” “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances!” Jesus said, “Surely I will be with you always.”
This update on the EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir and BEST tour has been prepared by the secretary and chair of the EYN Visit Planning Committee from Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and Atlantic Northeast District. The EYN 2015 Fraternal Visit turned out to be a phenomenally successful “God event.” It strengthened the bond of Christian love and fellowship between EYN (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria) and the Church of the Brethren more than any other experience in recent years.
Two groups, one from EYN and one from the Church of the Brethren, sponsored and organized the visit. Te EYN BEST group, Brethren Evangelism Support Trust, a nonprofit group that supports EYN ministries, paid for all travel preparation costs and their own round-trip flights to the US. Lancaster Church of the Brethren appointed the 2015 EYN Visit Planning Committee. The committee is grateful for BEST and the Lancaster Church. We thank and praise God for their sponsorship.
Noteworthy facts about the EYN 2015 visit:
— 27 days in the US
— 5,500 miles traveled through 14 church districts
— 17 days touring with the choir presenting 1 to 3 appreciation concerts each day
— 27 EYN women sang in the choir
— 30-plus full or abbreviated concerts were given in 22 congregations, 6 retirement communities, 1 camp, and at Annual Conference
— 5 of the BEST visitors traveled to 2 districts to share the EYN story.
When the planning committee first started work, they planned for about 30 EYN brothers and sisters. Later we learned that more than 50 were able to get their visas to enter the US. At this point the committee knew that something big was about to happen. We felt God’s Spirit was at work directing the endeavor. The committee continued the work believing the words of Jesus, “With God all things are possible.”
The committee started the planning without a budget. As word spread about the visit, some funds gradually came in. Since the EYN group was so large, we estimated $65,000 would be needed to take care of the expenses. Knowing the Church of the Brethren, we believed funds would become available.
In addition to Monroe Good, who traveled on the bus with the Nigerian visitors, we called two former missionaries–Carol Waggy and Carol Mason–to serve as escorts. Their presence and compassionate leadership made the long bus tour such a success.
At every stop on the EYN choir tour, Church of the Brethren sisters and brothers were waiting to give a warm and heartfelt welcome, and to extend gracious hospitality. They provided meals and overnight accommodations, and also gave generously to cover the expenses of the tour.
Visits to the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and to Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind., and attending Annual Conference were high points for the EYN delegation. Most of them had never seen the General Offices or the seminary, and half had never attended Annual Conference.
The total expenses for the tour came to $65,306.22. The good news is that donations came to $87,512.78. The amount of $21,206.56 was given to the Nigeria Crisis Fund. Our committee rejoices and praises God for the generosity of the Church of the Brethren and its congregations.
We believe that this event was a high point for both EYN and the Church of the Brethren, and that it strengthened our relationships and understanding of each other. We believe the blessings of the 27 days of sharing and fellowship will challenge us to be more faithful followers of Jesus as we live and witness for Christ in our world.
The following was shared by one of the Nigerian leaders in the group:
“For one month, 60 people from different backgrounds, high and low, rich and poor, stayed together, dined together, praised together, worshiped together, and ate together, and there was no day of quarrel, dull or sad moments, no one fell sick. Rather it was sharing, jokes, and laughter. The Lord is faithful. He endows with spiritual and physical strength, for despite the crowded and rigorous schedule, the women were never weary or tired (Isaiah 40:31). Our Mighty Father is faithful and awesome.
“Everywhere the group went after performances there was mixed feelings of tears and joy. Tears because of the destruction meted by human to fellow human beings, the insurgency (Boko Haram) story in the northeast of Nigeria where the Church of the Brethren suffered colossal human and material losses, joy of being together and sharing in the love of Christ….
“We are also grateful to all Church of the Brethren churches that hosted us and the various families that opened the doors of their homes and showed us love, as we heard the women testify. God bless you.”
— Monroe Good served as chair of the EYN Visit Planning Committee and Suzanne Schaudel served as secretary to the committee.
5) BBT Board increases benevolent grant levels
From a Brethren Benefit Trust release
Pastors and church workers within the Church of the Brethren who are in severe financial need could soon qualify for a little more assistance.
During its November meeting, the Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) Board approved a staff recommendation to increase by 10 percent both the amount of grants allocated through the Church Workers’ Assistance Plan, and how much a person or family can earn and still qualify for a grant. The increases were made as a catch-up provision because these levels have not been increased in a few years. In addition to approving the two increases, the board also approved increasing an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) to the grants and the qualifying earnings amount to help keep up with inflation. That COLA will be set annually by Annual Conference’s Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee.
Additionally, three housing allowance resolutions were approved by the board, allowing pastors receiving BBT retirement benefits, Church Workers’ Assistance Plan grant monies, or BBT disability compensation, to designate 100 percent of this income as part of their housing allowance in 2016.
Staff also gave an update on BBT’s ongoing feasibility study on medical insurance for pastors. A progress report on the initiative will be given in early February, following BBT’s meeting with the Council of District Executives in late January.
During the meeting, the board also dealt with three investment items, approving a new three-year term for Ponder Asset Management, BBT’s short-term manager; and affirmed its action taken in the fall to hire Numeric Asset Management as the new large cap core domestic stock manager, and Capstone as BBT’s new large cap core domestic index manager.
The board also:
— Passed its 2016 balanced budget, with expenses of $4.5 million.
— Approved a streamlined meeting schedule for the future, with the April and November meetings taking place on Thursday through Saturday, and a half-day summer meeting held at the conclusion of Annual Conference.
— Heard a recap from BBT president Nevin Dulabaum and board members Eunice Culp and Wayne Scott, who attended the BoardSource annual convention in New Orleans. BoardSource is a not-for-profit that assists not-for-profit organizations with governance and operations issues. The three gained insights on risk management, the value of mentoring, dealing with conflict, the importance of the work of the audit committee, and the interaction of the CEO with the board.
— Welcomed Donna Rhodes and Eunice Culp as new members of the board. They succeeded Tim McElwee and Craig Smith, respectively.
— Jean Bednar of the Brethren Benefit Trust communications staff provided this release.
6) Pacific Southwest District Conference meets on the theme of ‘Justice’
By Don Shankster
Brethren from Arizona and California gathered the second weekend of November for the 52nd District Conference of the Pacific Southwest District in La Verne, Calif. Eric Bishop was this year’s moderator, choosing the theme of “Justice: Called to Be Just Christians” from Matthew 5 and 25.
Eric’s story itself is a study in justice, or the lack of justice. Growing up in the Los Angeles area, he was in the middle of the riots following the acquittal of officers in the Rodney King beatings. He has first-hand experience of profiling as he was repeatedly pulled over to be asked if he stole the car he was driving. And now we continue to see a media storm over the injustice of systems that continue to profile young people of color.
The week of district conference saw the resignation of the president of the University of Missouri because of a persistent turning of the eye away from racial taunts and violence against students on campus. So at the district conference there were sessions on justice, challenges to pick up the righteous path of Jesus to bring justice into our communities today, sessions on cultural differences, and how to bridge those.
Pastors and church leaders were offered a session before the conference under the leadership of Jeffrey Jones titled “Facing Decline, Finding Hope: New Possibilities for Faithful Churches.” Jones advocates facing the reality of the culture around us, the reality of church life, and then asking new questions. The old questions and measures of success are no longer viable. Instead of attempting to bring revival in the same old ways that don’t work, we are to go deeper into our faith, and engage the Holy Spirit in finding direction for our churches.
Instead of asking, “How do we bring them in?” Jones suggests asking, “How do we send them out?” Instead of “What should the pastor do?” ask, “What is our congregation’s shared ministry?” Instead of “What’s our vision?” ask, “What is God up to and how do we get on board?” Instead of “What are we doing to save people?” we ask, “What are we doing to make the reign of God more present in this time and place?”
During the sessions and worship we heard stories of churches finding ways to act justly in their communities–for example, making “softball” packets to pass out to the homeless, with toothpaste, toothbrush, socks, and more.
The conference worked with a query titled “Living Together as Christ Calls,” that seeks to get at the roots of the tension between members of the church. The delegates decided to accept it and send it on to Annual Conference for consideration this next summer.
The 2016 Pacific Southwest District Conference will be held at Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren with John Price as moderator. Sara Haldeman-Scarr was elected as moderator-elect, to serve as moderator in 2017.
— Don Shankster is pastor of Papago Buttes Church of the Brethren in Scottsdale, Ariz., in Pacific Southwest District.
7) New Ventures session offer opportunity for story of grief, healing
The newest offering in the Ventures sessions hosted at McPherson (Kan.) College comes up on Jan. 16, titled “The Road We Travel…a Journey Shared.” Deb and Dale Ziegler will share about their journey of loss, grief, and healing since September 2012 when their 19-year-old son–a college student at McPherson–was killed while riding his bicycle.
On Saturday, Jan. 16, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, the Zieglers will give a presentation about the loss of their son, Paul, who was a person full of life, ideas, and a passionate desire for peace. His last text before his ride read, “I’m going on a bike ride to be with God.” His parents will remind participants that sometimes on the journey of loss, grief, and healing, we walk alone–and at other times we have companions. Ventures participants will hear their story of grace extended, and grace received, and resources they have found to be helpful along the way.
The fee for attending the Ventures classes recently changed from a $15 registration fee, to a donation. Participants can register to attend the event at www.mcpherson.edu/ventures for a donation. Continuing education credit is not available for this course.
8) Brethren bits
— Atlantic Southeast District seeks a district executive minister to serve in a half-time position (100 hours of work per month) available June 1, 2016. The cistrict comprises 17 congregations and 2 fellowships in Florida. The district is culturally, ethnically, and theologically diverse. Its congregations are rural, suburban, and urban. The district has a strong interest in new church development and church renewal. The preferred candidate is a spiritually wise pastoral leader who offers inspiration and works collaboratively to envision the work of the district. Responsibilities include to serve as the administrator of the board of the district, facilitating and giving general oversight to the planning and implementation of its ministries as directed by District Conference and the District Board, and providing linkages to congregations, the Church of the Brethren, and Annual Conference agencies; assist congregations and pastors with placement; facilitate and encourage the calling and credentialing of persons to set-apart ministry; build and strengthen relationships with congregations and pastors; use mediation skills to work with congregations in conflict; promote unity in the district. Qualifications include a clear commitment to Jesus Christ demonstrated by a vibrant spiritual life with a commitment to New Testament values and to Church of the Brethren faith and heritage; membership in the Church of the Brethren required; ordination preferred; bachelor’s degree required, master of divinity degree or beyond preferred; pastoral experience preferred; strong relational, communication, mediation, and conflict resolution skills; strong administrative and organizational skills; competence with technology and ability to work in virtual office; passion for mission and ministry of the church with an appreciation for cultural diversity; bi-lingual preferred; flexibility in working with staff, volunteer, pastoral and lay leadership. Apply by sending a letter of interest and a resume via e-mail to OfficeofMinistry@brethren.org . Applicants are requested to contact three or four persons who are willing to provide a letter of reference. Upon receipt of the resume the individual will be sent a candidate profile that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. The application deadline is Feb. 14, 2016.
— Missouri and Arkansas District seeks a district executive minister for a part-time (20 hours per week) available Jan. 1, 2016. The district comprises 13 congregations and is culturally and theologically diverse. Its congregations are rural and urban. The district’s mission is to challenge and equip congregations to discover anew and live God’s grace, spirit and love. The preferred candidate is a person with dedication to Christ and the Church with good interpersonal and organizational skills. Responsibilities include pastoral placement; pastoral support; communications; relating to the District Leadership Team; managing office functions; professional growth; and leadership development. Qualifications include a clear commitment to Jesus Christ; membership in the Church of the Brethren; ordination preferred; pastoral experience preferred; strong relational, communication and conflict resolution skills; administrative and organizational skills; comfortable with modern technology. Apply by sending a letter of interest and a resume via e-mail to OfficeofMinistry@brethren.org . Applicants are requested to contact three or four people who are willing to provide a letter of reference. Upon receipt of the resume the individual will be sent a candidate profile that must be completed and returned before the application is considered complete. The application deadline is Feb. 15, 2016.
— Children’s Aid Society (CAS), a ministry of Southern Pennsylvania District of the Church of the Brethren, seeks an executive director to lead an organization committed to helping children and their families build stronger, healthier lives through compassionate and professional services. Headquartered in New Oxford, Pa., approximately 30 miles south of Harrisburg, CAS provides a wide array of services through its three locations; Frances Leiter Center in Chambersburg, Lehman Center in York, and Nicarry Center in New Oxford. Services include a crisis nursery, art and play therapy for children and adolescents, crisis hotline, family advocacy, parent support groups, and referral services. Serving more than 600 children and 3,296 adults annually, this 103-year-old ministry offers an exciting opportunity for a passionate leader to continue building the ministry. The position reports to a board of directors and has responsibility for a $1.5 million budget and 40 employees. Qualified candidates will have the following: a bachelor’s degree with preference for a master’s degree, desire to work in a faith-based setting, executive experience related to budgeting/team building/constituent development, and appreciation for the Church of the Brethren tradition. Interested persons should contact Kirk Stiffney with MHS Consulting at 574-537-8736 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
— The Church of the Brethren is seeking an individual to fill a full-time hourly position of Brethren Press customer service/inventory and systems specialist. The customer service/inventory and systems specialist is part of the Brethren Press team and reports to the Director of Brethren Press Marketing and Sales. Major responsibilities include providing purchasing and inventory control functions, maintaining order systems, customer service and maintaining a thorough knowledge of products offered by Brethren Press. Additional responsibilities include answering the customer service phone line and processing orders, maintaining inventory levels and providing sales and marketing support services. Required skills and knowledge include skilled competency in Microsoft Office component applications including Outlook, Word, and Excel and the ability to comprehend new and existing systems and operate efficiently within them; ability to work on a team, handle multiple simultaneous projects, and meet deadlines; excellent customer service attitude and the ability to work within a religious setting. Training or experience in sales and customer service, inventory management and accounting and point-of-sale, inventory, website and customer database systems is required for this position. A high school diploma or equivalent is required and some college is preferred. This position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Applications will be received beginning immediately and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Qualified candidates are invited to request the application form by contacting: Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; email@example.com . The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
— Workcamp registration opens online on Jan. 7, at 7 p.m. (central time). Find the registration link at www.brethren.org/workcamps . Also at this website are sample registration pages to help guide the registration process. A list of the 2016 Church of the Brethren summer workcamps for junior high youth, senior high youth, young adults, the We Are Able group, and intergenerational groups may be found at www.brethren.org/workcamps/schedule .
— The Global Mission and Service office has requested prayer for the African nation of Burundi. “Continue to lift up the people of Burundi as violence continues to escalate,” said the prayer request. The request cited alarming trends, including opposition members attacking the military barracks in the capital city of Bujumbura, and government soldiers and police retaliating with home invasions and executions. Close to 100 people lost their lives. “Pray that leaders at all levels may seek peace and justice rather than personal gain and power,” said the request.
— The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) have joined in expressing grave concern for the people of Burundi. The African nation is experiencing a situation of extreme tension and escalating human rights violations. The political crisis in Burundi “has latterly been marked by brutal violence, targeted attacks, extrajudicial killings, severe oppression and the incitement of communal tensions,” said the joint statement. ”We appeal to the government and political leadership of Burundi to step back from the path of violence onto the path of peace.” The statement also calls for “responsible leadership that does not tolerate complicity in the killings and other serious violations now so obviously prevalent in the country…. In this Advent season, in which we await the nativity of the Christ Child, the Prince of Peace, we pray that all those who now espouse violence and division in Burundi will learn and pursue the things that make for peace in this wounded land.”
— Iglesia de los Hermanos, the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic, held a pastors’ retreat on Dec. 18-20 on the theme of “Challenge in the Call” (Daniel 3 and Acts 9). Leaders of the Dominican church expected about 100 participants to attend.
— Lybrook Community Ministries, a Church of the Brethren ministry and a Brethren Volunteer Service project site serving the Navajo reservation in New Mexico, now has a website at www.lcmmission.org . The website is to provide news of the ministry’s work and needs.
— After more than 90 years of ministry, Waterford Church of the Brethren in Pacific Southwest District will close in January 2016. The district newsletter invited all who had been a part of the life of the Waterford congregation and others from throughout the district to join in a celebration of the church’s ministry, including a worship service and reflections on the ministry of the congregation throughout its life. A reception followed, with additional time for visiting and sharing.
— Pomona (Calif.) Fellowship Church of the Brethren is planning a fellowship trip to Nigeria to meet, talk, and worship with sisters and brothers in Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). “The purpose of this trip is a time to show solidarity with EYN as well as to see first hand what is happening, and draw attention to their plight when we return home,” said an announcement. The trip is planned for April 20-May 6, 2016, with an approximate cost of $3,000. Contact Pomona Fellowship at firstname.lastname@example.org or 909-629-2548.
— Roanoke (Va.) Area Ministries has received a check from CROP Walk representing this year’s local part of the Church World Service CROP Walk for Hunger in the amount of $5,000. A news report from the “Roanoke Times” noted that a number of Church of the Brethren congregations took part in the area’s CROP Walk including Central Church of the Brethren, First Church of the Brethren, Oak Grove Church of the Brethren, Peters Creek Church of the Brethren, Summerdean Church of the Brethren, and Williamson Road Church of the Brethren. The funds will enable RAM House to continue its mission of providing a clean safe shelter and a hot meal to those in need 365 days a year. Read the full article at www.roanoke.com/community/sosalem/roanoke-area-ministries-receives-check-from-crop-walk/article_d960c22c-d303-5461-abfa-59b7b7189184.html
— Fruitland (Idaho) Church of the Brethren hosted a presentation by Carl and Roxane Hill, co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, in early December. The Hills presented latest information about the effort in Nigeria to the Idaho District, meeting at the Fruitland Church. They were well received by those present and many in attendance decided to get personally involved in the relief work, said a report. Elementary student Cyrus Filmore is embarking on a campaign to bring awareness to both his church and his school.
— Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren was represented by Illana Naylor at a Unity in Community event Sunday, Dec. 13, at Dar Al Noor, the Muslim Association of Virginia, and VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement). Interfaith friends were invited to share a meal and a dialogue focusing upon Muslim and Christian perspectives of sacred peace, Naylor said in a brief report from the event. “Given the ongoing acts of violence from multiple sectors of society, our gathered friends prayed for peace, justice, and understanding by building relationships with our neighbors and becoming committed to one another’s safety,” she wrote. Naylor presented Taalibah Hassan, interfaith coordinator for Dar Al Noor, with the gift of a poinsettia from the Manassas Church.
— South/Central Indiana District is advertising a performance of “12 Baskets and a Goat,” the Ted & Co. production in cooperation with Heifer International and the Church of the Brethren. “Please mark your calendars: Friday, Feb. 26, the Program and Arrangements Committee is sponsoring Ted & Company’s new production…in Indianapolis,” said an announcement. “This district-wide event is an opportunity for us to have fun and fellowship together. Plan now to attend.”
— Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va., is showing off its new website, which features the camp’s 2016 schedule, and a new video on the camp’s YouTube channel. “With 1,209 campers during 7 summer camp weeks in 2015, did YOU make the video/slide show?” asks the announcement. “Watching gets us excited for Summer Camp 2016, ‘Not Afraid, Not Alone: Courage in Community!’” Find the Camp Bethel website at www.campbethelvirginia.org .
— “Letting the Light of Jesus Christ Shine Forth” is the title of the spiritual disciplines folder for the upcoming season of Epiphany or Season of Light, provided by the Springs of Living Water initiative in church vitality. The folder is for Jan. 10-Feb. 13, 2016, and offers daily scripture readings and a suggested prayer guide for daily prayer. The folder is for both individual and congregational use, to take up spiritual practices which lead to corporate spiritual growth. All can be coordinated with the Sunday worship service, and is coordinated with the Brethren Press bulletin series. Vince Cable, retired pastor of Uniontown Church of the Brethren, has worked in creating this disciplines folder and has written questions for individual or group Bible study. The Epiphany folder can be found on the Springs website at www.churchrenewalservant.org or e-mail email@example.com .
— An appeal to nations to ratify the “International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families” was issued by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), along with the Conference of European Churches (CEC) on the occasion of International Migrants’ Day on Dec. 18. “The convention was adopted 25 years ago today and provides the most comprehensive and coherent international instrument to protect the rights of migrants and their families. Yet it remains poorly ratified, particularly by migrant-receiving countries in Europe,” said a WCC release. “For years, churches across Europe have called on European governments and EU institutions to ratify this important convention,” remarked CEC general secretary Guy Liagre, “Yet no EU Member State has taken this step.” The convention recognizes the human rights of migrant workers and promotes their access to justice as well as to humane and lawful working and living conditions. It provides guidance on the elaboration of national migration policies and for international cooperation based on respect for human rights and the rule of law. It also sets out provisions to combat abuse and exploitation of migrant workers and members of their families throughout the migration process. “This is very significant for future stability for both vulnerable people and societies as a whole,” explained WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit.
— Dawn M. Blackman Sr. has been interviewed for the “Getting Personal” feature in the Champaign/Urbana, Ill., “News-Gazette.” Included is a videotaped interview as well as a printed feature article. Blackman recently was announced as one of the recipients of the 2015 Purpose Prize Fellow award from Encore.org for her achievements within the local community, including hosting a food pantry at Champaign Church of the Brethren and coordinating the community garden affiliated with the church. She is an associate minister at the Champaign Church, and also works part-time as a package handler at FedEx Ground. Find the full interview at www.news-gazette.com/living/2015-12-20/getting-personal-dawn-m-blackman-sr.html .
Contributors to this issue of Newsline include James Beckwith, Chris Douglas, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Monroe Good, Kendra Harbeck, Carl and Roxane Hill, Elsie Holderread, Russ Matteson, Stan Noffsinger, Don Shankster, David Young, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for Jan. 8, 2016.