Newsline for Dec. 5, 2015

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the water” (Psalm 24:1).

1) EDF grants support rebuilding project in Colorado, PAG in Honduras
2) Outdoor Ministries Association retreat considers ‘Seeds of Change’
3) Bread for the World issues annual hunger report
4) Christians gather amid UN talks to pray for Creation at Notre Dame in Paris

5) John Ballinger resigns from leadership of Northern Ohio District
6) Paynes resign as co-executives for Southeastern District

7) Racial injustice and mass incarceration will be focus of CCS 2016

8) Brethren bits

Quotes of the week:

“The political leaders of the world are speaking like preachers. May they continue as believers.” 
— Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), as he attended the opening sessions of the UN climate talks in Paris (COP21). Tveit took part in an interfaith panel promoted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, focused on theological reflections concerning the crisis of humanity in relation to nature, climate, and human compassion. “This is a moment of truth, of recognizing that something is wrong and needs to change,” Tveit said, referring to what he perceived as a common message of hope in the world leaders’ speeches at the opening of COP21. Find the full WCC release at . A WCC Executive Committee statement on the Climate Change Conference is at .

“The lives of brothers and sisters around the country continue to be disrupted by oppression, poverty, racism, and violence. And in the case of Jamar Clark–ended. The protestors in Minneapolis were paying attention and came out to raise the national awareness about what happened–of the disturbing patterns that continue to happen around the country. They are protesting to raise the awareness of people like me–caught up in our own lives but who would also want to know, who want to be the type of person who pays attention and cares.”
— Gimbiya Kettering, director of Intercultural Ministries for the Church of the Brethren and a member of the Congregational Life Ministries staff, in a recent blogpost. Read the full post in the “Continuing Together” blog series, at .

Photo by FEMA/Steve Zumwalt
A glimpse of the destruction caused by massive flooding in Colorado.

1) EDF grants support rebuilding project in Colorado, PAG in Honduras

The Brethren Disaster Ministries staff have directed two recent grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to support continued rebuilding work at a project site in Colorado, and a response by PAG to flooding in Honduras.


An allocation of $45,000 continues a Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project in northeast Colorado following flooding caused by heavy rains in September 2013. Brethren Disaster Ministries set up housing in a host church in Greeley, in Weld County, Colo., in early May 2015 and started repair projects by the middle of May. In August the housing site moved to First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Loveland, which is more centrally located to current job sites.

The Long Term Recovery group (LTRG) in Weld County called Weld Recovers, closed at the end of October, leaving Brethren Disaster Ministries to work almost exclusively in Larimer County. In October, the Larimer County LTRG reported that they have had a total of 550 cases and that they are three-fourths of the way complete, leaving plenty of recovery work to be done in Colorado, said the grant request.

Previous EDF grants to this project were given in April and July, totaling $60,000. Funds underwrite the operational expenses related to volunteer support, including housing, food, and travel expenses incurred on site, as well as volunteer training, tools, and equipment needed for rebuilding and repair.


An allocation of $5,000 supports a Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG) response to severe flooding in Siguatepeque, Honduras. Flooding caused by heavy rains on Oct. 16 destroyed or greatly affected the houses of more than 720 families. PAG has provided direct relief to 156 families, and emotional and spiritual counseling to more than 30 people. The EDF grant supports PAG’s response and the longer term recovery efforts, including the distribution of medications, acquisition of land, and construction of new houses.

For more information about the Emergency Disaster Fund go to .

Photo by Debbie Eisenbise
A participant at the OMA retreat enjoys the animals at the Shepherd’s Spring Heifer Global Village.

2) Outdoor Ministries Association retreat considers ‘Seeds of Change’

By Debbie Eisenbise

Every year in mid-November, those engaged and interested in Church of the Brethren outdoor ministries gather for a conference and retreat. Camp managers, administrators, program coordinators, board members, and those who love and support outdoor ministries come together for a week of sharing, learning, and enjoying each other’s company, and of course, the great outdoors.

The Church of the Brethren Outdoor Ministries Association (OMA) organizes and sponsors this event. Each year it is held at a different camp or conference center. This year’s OMA Conference and Retreat was held from Nov. 15-19 at Shepherd’s Spring Outdoor Ministry and Retreat Center in Sharpsburg, Md. The theme for the week was “Seeds of Change: Multicultural Diversity and Stewardship in Outdoor Ministry.”

More than 60 people attended from throughout the country representing over two-thirds of our Brethren camps. Ann Cornell, Shepherd’s Spring administrator and chair of the 2015 Retreat Committee, commented, “This is where camps come together to talk about their work and connect with the wider church, and where the wider church comes to learn about the ministries of the camps.”

Phillip Lilienthal, founder of Global Camps Africa, an organization dedicated to helping AIDS-affected youth in South Africa, gave two keynote addresses. In June 2013, Lilenthal was awarded the prestigious Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service by the Peace Corps. Staff at Shepherd’s Spring came to know of his efforts and contributed to his ministry through a summer camp offering. He talked about camp offering opportunities for education, inspiration, and transformation, and challenged Brethren camps to reach out beyond their borders.

Shepherd’s Spring itself is an example of a local camp making global connections having partnered with Heifer Project International to establish a Heifer Global Village on site. This offers hundreds of children from throughout the region an opportunity to learn what it is like to live in a village in Guatemala, Mozambique, Thailand, or Kenya, or a home in impoverished Appalachia, or a tent in a refugee camp. In addition to the traditional homes constructed on site, Shepherd’s Spring cultivates a large garden of crops from those areas, and raises livestock: chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, rabbits, and alpacas. Tours of the Global Village, and a field trip to local Harper’s Ferry and the Antietam Civil War Battlefield, with a time of worship in the Dunker Church there, were highlights of the retreat.

Photo courtesy of Debbie Eisenbise
The group that attended the 2015 retreat of the Outdoor Ministries Association. The retreat was held at Shepherd’s Spring.


Other opportunities included workshops, crafts, worship, and a folk concert featuring local musicians. An additional keynote address shared by Congregational Life Ministry staff Debbie Eisenbise and Gimbiya Kettering, led to a lively discussion about what both camps and congregations have to gain through developing a closer, deeper relationship based on shared values and an appreciation of diverse gifts and views.

The Outdoor Ministries Association held their annual meeting, affirming leadership for the group, discussing opportunities to engage the wider church at Annual Conference, honoring long-time volunteers and staff, and hearing progress reports on projects funded through Environmental Grants.

All Church of the Brethren camps and congregations are invited to join the Outdoor Ministries Association. OMA members are encouraged to study and live out the recommendations offered in the 1991 Annual Conference Paper: “Creation: Called to Care.” Environmental Grants are made available to members to help fund local projects. Congregations and camps have used these grants to create worm composting bins, an open-air green house, organic community gardens, environmental study trails, and more.

Next year’s Outdoor Ministries Association Conference and Retreat is scheduled for Nov. 13-17, 2016, and will be hosted at Camp Ithiel in Gotha, Fla.

— Debbie Eisenbise is director of Intergenerational Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, serving on the staff of Congregational Life Ministries. For more about the denomination’s Outdoor Ministries Association go to .

Photo by Katie Furrow
The Bread for the World press conference that introduced the organization’s annual hunger report for 2016 was held in Washington, D.C. Office of Public Witness staff attended in support of the work Bread for the World is doing on the issue of hunger.

3) Bread for the World issues annual hunger report

By Katie Furrow

On Nov. 23, members of the faith community, the press, and the government came together in Washington, D.C., for the release of Bread for the World’s 2016 Hunger Report. During this event, panels of medical professionals, leaders of government agencies, and activists who have experienced hunger firsthand spoke on the report’s theme: “The Nourishing Effect: Ending Hunger, Improving Health, Reducing Inequality.” Staff from the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness was present to support the work of Bread for the World.

The report and panelists highlighted the undeniable connection between health and diet.  According to the report, approximately 46 million Americans received SNAP benefits (formerly Food Stamps) in 2014. At the same time, nearly $160 billion was spent on food insecurity-related health care such hospitalizations for diabetes complications. Despite living in households where there is frequently uncertainty of when or where the next meal will be, many SNAP recipients struggle with obesity, blood sugar difficulties, and other health problems due to the poor quality of cheap food they are able to purchase in greater quantities.

Panelist Dawn Pierce, who received SNAP benefits for 14 months after being laid off from her job, recalled how she could purchase more foods like instant noodles and microwave dinners for less money than the nutritious foods she and her son needed to be healthy. She understood that it was not an ideal situation, but she also knew that the cheap meals were what would help her to stretch her benefits further each month.

While many strides have been made to improve health and make feeding programs more accessible to larger numbers of people, there is still more to be done. With the help of federal and local programs, more children could receive meals during the summer, families could learn about making healthy food choices, and more.

Congress is currently debating appropriations for the federal budget, and this includes deciding how much funding hunger-based programs will receive in 2016. Through Bread for the World, the Office of Public Witness encourages you to write to your members of Congress to ask them to support strong funding for these programs, which ensure that everyone has access to the food they need.

Those who are interested in reading the report in full can find it online at .

As part of growing effort to engage the denomination in issues of hunger and food security, the Office of Public Witness is working to partner with Bread for the World to share an annual Offering of Letters and other resources to connect churches and individuals with their policymakers around important legislation. To learn more about what the Office of Public Witness is doing, and how to become involved, contact .

— Katie Furrow is a legislative associate and a Brethren Volunteer Service worker at the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C.

4) Christians gather amid UN talks to pray for Creation at Notre Dame in Paris

By Stephen Brown

Hundreds of people from many nations and confessions, among them pastors, priests, laity, nuns, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals, joined in a service for God’s Creation at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris during the United Nations climate conference (COP 21) being held in the city.

“It is our moral obligation to engage actively in favor of creation,” said (Orthodox) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in a message read to the congregation at the service on Dec. 3. “It is not too late to act, but we cannot allow ourselves to put off until tomorrow what we can do today.”

Bartholomew, often described as the “green patriarch” because of his support for environmental issues, had been scheduled to be present in person at the service, but his visit to France was postponed.

Instead, the patriarch’s message was read by Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France. He is one of the three co-presidents of the Council of Christian Churches in France (CECEF) which organized the service, alongside Roman Catholic Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille and François Clavairoly, president of the Protestant Federation of France.

In his message, Patriarch Bartholomew urged the development of an “ecological spirituality” to encourage a conversion towards a radical change in lifestyle.

The ecumenical service opened with a procession of lay people, young and old, and of clergy and church leaders from France and beyond, garbed in white, black, red, and purple robes. They included Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris, WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit, Archbishop Antje Jackelen, primate of the Church of Sweden, who read the lesson, and Brother Alois, prior of the Taizé Community.

Welcoming the congregation to the cathedral, Cardinal Vingt-Trois underlined the need for Christians “to assume our share of responsibility for the life of our common home.” On the walls of the 13th-century cathedral, worshipers could see a display of  large tapestries, “Ode to Creation,” on display to mark the UN conference. Music was provided by three choirs–the resident choir of Notre Dame, the Greek Orthodox cathedral choir, and a Malagasy Protestant choir. Objects symbolizing God’s Creation–a cotton and a linen cloth, silverware, pottery, olive oil, a musical instrument, a paper folded boat–were brought forward during the service.

“We are aware that creation is a gift entrusted to us and that we are all responsible to future generations for the whole inhabited earth,” said Yeb Sano, the Philippines’ climate negotiator turned campaigner, as the worshipers rose when the final object, a model globe, was presented.

Inviting the congregation to prayer, WCC general secretary Tveit spoke of the “moment of truth” facing the world.

In a message read out during the service, the CECEF urged political and economic leaders “to take the decisions necessary to limit warming to 2 degrees so that the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters and future generations do not suffer more.”

The liturgy included prayers for peace in France and other countries that have been recent targets of violence. “We commit to act and pray for peace together,” said CECEF co-president Clavairoly before the congregation shared a sign of peace with each other.

The service was the highpoint of the CECEF’s work on climate change and the environment in the months leading up to the UN conference. The order of service was shared in advance and used by groups across Europe and beyond for their own prayers.

Find a video of the “Célébration oecuménique,” the ecumenical prayers at Notre Dame Cathedral, at .

— Stephen Brown is a freelance journalist and communicator and president of the European region of the World Association for Christian Communication. The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness, and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 345 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, and other churches representing more than 550 million Christians in more than 120 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of the Brethren is a founding member.


5) John Ballinger resigns from leadership of Northern Ohio District

John Ballinger has announced his resignation as district executive minister of the Church of the Brethren’s Northern Ohio District, effective Feb. 13, 2016. He has served the district for almost 13 years, since Feb. 1, 2003.

Ballinger was licensed to the ministry on March 18, 1989, and ordained on March 11, 1995, at the Akron (Ohio) Eastwood Church of the Brethren. He is a graduate of Ohio Northern University and has a master of arts degree from Ashland Theological Seminary. He has participated in professional growth experiences at Ashland Theological Seminary, Bethany Theological Seminary, and the Moody Bible Institute.

He has served as a pastor in Ohio, is a registered pharmacist with the State of Ohio, served as adjunct faculty of Ashland Theological Seminary, and has participated in extensive training in leadership and management in both secular and church settings. He anticipates God’s leading and timing in re-entering pastoral ministry.


Russell and Deborah Payne

6) Paynes resign as co-executives for Southeastern District

Russell and Deborah Payne have announced their resignation as co-district executives of the Southeastern District, effective July 31, 2016. The Paynes began their ministry with the district on June 1, 2012.

Deborah Payne, an ordained minister, brought many years of experience in office and organizational management to district ministry. She previously served as executive director of Hope House of the Good Shepherd Inc. in Galax, Va. She also has served as a conference speaker, retreat leader, camp counselor, youth advisor, and provided pulpit supply. She is a 1999 graduate of Wytheville Community College with an AAS in Education, and a 2003 graduate of Bluefield College with a BS in Organizational Management and Development. She has completed the Three-Year Reading Course of the Christian Growth Institute.

Russell Payne, an ordained minister, brought 30 years of experience in ministry to district ministry. He previously served as a pastor in Virlina District, and also pastored churches in Tennessee and Indiana. He served as moderator of Virlina District, was a speaker at Southeastern District Conference, and a revival speaker in North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana, and West Virginia. He is a 1980 graduate of Steed College with an A.S. Degree in Business, a 1984 graduate of Graham Bible College, BBE, and has completed the Three-Year Reading Course of the Christian Growth Institute.


7) Racial injustice and mass incarceration will be focus of CCS 2016

The Christian Citizenship Seminar to be held next year on April 23-28, 2016, will focus on the theme, “Proclaiming Freedom: The Racial Injustice of Mass Incarceration.” The theme scripture is taken from Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.”

The CCS seminar is offered annually for high school age youth and their adult advisors, except in National Youth Conference years. It is sponsored by the Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Also involved in leadership of the event are staff of the Office of Public Witness. CSS provides high school aged students the chance to explore the relationship between faith and a particular political issue, and then act from a faith perspective regarding that issue.

“As disciples of Jesus, we need to take seriously scripture’s direction,” said an announcement. “In the past 30 years, our prison population has increased over 500 percent. Now there are over 2.4 million in American prisons, representing 25 percent of the total prisoners in the world, even though the United States represents 5 percent of the world’s total population. Additionally disturbing is the way the US criminal justice system disproportionately incarcerates people of color. If current trends continue, one in three African American men will spend time in prison.”

The 2016 event will begin on Saturday, April 23, at 2 p.m. in New York City, and will continue through 12 noon Thursday, April 28, in Washington, D.C. All high school youth and their adult advisors are eligible to attend. Churches are strongly encouraged to send an advisor with their youth, even if only one or two youth attend. Churches are required to send one advisor for every four youth. Registration will be limited to the first 100 participants, so early registration is encouraged.

Cost for registration is $400 per person, which includes: event programming, lodging for five nights, two dinner meals–one in New York and one in Washington, transportation from New York to Washington. Each participant will need to bring additional money for other meals, sightseeing, personal expenses, and subway/taxi fares.

CCS registration is now open online at .

Image courtesy of Heifer International

“Goats have accents. Who knew?” says an e-mail from Ted & Co. highlighting the new tour of “12 Baskets and a Goat.” This joint effort by the Mennonite comedy troupe along with the Church of the Brethren is hosted by Brethren congregations and benefits Heifer International. A goal is to raise enough money at each event to purchase an Ark for Heifer, says Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer, who is the Church of the Brethren representative on the Heifer board. Wittmeyer is inviting churches to host the tour in their own areas of the country. Find the Ted & Co. e-mail at . More information about the tour and how to book a performance of “12 Baskets and a Goat” is at .


8) Brethren bits

— As of the new year, Diane Stroyeck will be working fulltime with Messenger magazine, as part of a rearrangement of some responsibilities within Brethren Press and communications. Previously, she had been working half-time with Messenger subscriptions, and half-time with Brethren Press in customer service. She also previously worked on subscriptions for “Basin and Towel.” She has been a Church of the Brethren employee for more than 12 years.

— Catherine Gong has tendered her resignation effective Feb. 29, 2016, as member services representative, Employee Benefits, at Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT). She has worked for BBT since July 28, 2014. “She has served the organization well in her position that was newly created,” said an announcement from BBT. “This news comes with sadness for BBT’s staff, but we wish God’s blessings to Catherine when she begins the next chapter of her life.”

— Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., has announced two new position openings.

Applicants are sought for the following new positions: executive director of Admissions and Student Services, and regional advancement officer.

Executive director of Admissions and Student Services: This is an opportunity for a creative professional to serve the seminary, helping to identify and encourage leaders to develop their gifts through graduate theological education. The executive director will be responsible for developing, implementing, and evaluating a dynamic recruitment strategy and leading the seminary’s Student Services Department–which includes recruitment, student development, financial aid, and student service–to implement the strategy. The executive director will represent the seminary at off-campus events related to recruitment and enrollment management, develop relationships and conduct interviews with prospective students, design creative presentations for small and large group settings, and meet with church and college constituents. The work will include significant travel to visit students and attend camps, conferences, and other events. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree; a master’s degree is preferred. Affinity with the values and mission of the seminary is required and an understanding of the Church of the Brethren, in the Anabaptist-Pietist tradition, is beneficial. Three to five years of professional experience in admissions or enrollment management with demonstrated success in the development, implementation, and evaluation of a recruitment strategy is required. Applicants should demonstrate strong persuasive oral and written communication skills, listening skills, organizational skills, the ability to help individuals discern their vocational calling, and the eagerness to work as part of a team. Experience in communications technology and multicultural recruitment is highly preferred. Application review will begin on Dec. 15 and will continue until an appointment is made. To apply please send a letter of interest, resume, and contact information for three references to or Rev. Dr. Jeff Carter, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374.

Regional advancement officer, eastern United States: This position is a critical link in the region for initiating and cultivating relationships with potential major donors (individuals, corporations, churches, and foundations) who have the capability of making significant financial contributions to the mission of Bethany Theological Seminary. The officer will work collaboratively with the executive director of Institutional Advancement to build an effective development strategy in the eastern region of the United States with a strong emphasis on major gifts. This person will identify new prospective donors, build and maintain strong relationships with existing Bethany major donors, and professionally and effectively ask for financial gifts to further the mission and program of the seminary. The officer is expected to travel to visit donors and attend events up to 85 percent of the time. This person will also participate in visits to Church of the Brethren district conferences and congregations on a regular basis as part of an overall strategy as well as seek out opportunities for new donor relationships in other communities. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree and two years of professional experience in fundraising and development with demonstrated success meeting advancement goals. Affinity with the values and mission of the seminary is required and an understanding of the Church of the Brethren, in the Anabaptist-Pietist tradition, is preferred. However, fundraising experience in nonprofit environments will also be considered. Applicants should demonstrate strong oral and written communication skills, listening skills, organizational skills, and the eagerness to work as part of a team. Understanding of the planned gift field is a plus. If this area of expertise is not already present in the candidate, the candidate will be expected to receive training in this area. Application review will begin in December 2015 and will continue until an appointment is made. To apply please send a letter of interest, resume, and contact information for three references to or Executive Director of Institutional Advancement, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374.
The seminary’s policy prohibits discrimination in employment opportunities or practices with regard to race, gender, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, or religion. Full position descriptions and application information are available at .

— Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) is seeking to fill the position of member services representative, Employee Benefits. This is a full-time hourly position based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The primary function is to perform the daily operations of the pension and insurance plans and provide plan information to staff and participants as requested. Duties include maintaining a working knowledge of all pension and insurance systems and products; serving as secondary customer service contact for Pension and Insurance; maintaining/processing daily operational work for Pension and Insurance; assisting with maintaining Pension Plan Summary Plan Description and Plan Highlights, as well as Legal Plan Document Supplements; and performing tasks for Church Workers Assistance Plan. The Member Services Representative for Employee Benefits may attend Annual Conference and Plan Sponsor meetings, as requested. The ideal candidate will have knowledge in employee benefits, including an understanding of pension and health and welfare plans. This position requires a person who is very detail oriented, with the ability to prioritize workloads; proficient with computer systems and applications; exceptional organizational and telephone skills; and, impeccable follow-up abilities are a must. The candidate must be able to interact effectively with customers to provide information in response to inquiries about products and services and to handle and resolve complaints. BBT is seeking candidates with strong verbal and written communications skills, proficiency in Microsoft Office, and a demonstrated track record of providing superior customer service and a willingness and ability to expand knowledge and effectiveness through classes, workshops, and pursuit of professional designations. Current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; current and active membership in a faith community is required. Salary and benefits are competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. Send a letter of interest, résumé, three professional references, and salary-range expectation to Donna March at 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, or . For more information about Brethren Benefit Trust, visit

— Shepherd’s Spring Outdoor Ministry Center in Sharpsburg, Md., is seeking a forward-thinking, energetic executive director with a proven track record of effectively leading a performance and outcomes-based organization and staff. The center, 220 acres of rolling, wooded land bordering Maryland’s Potomac River and historic C&O Canal, offers a variety of exciting programming and hospitality services which include Christian summer camping, a Road Scholar Adventures in Lifelong Learning program site, a Heifer Global Village experiential learning program, as well as functions as an active, year-round conference and retreat facility.  The executive director will serve as center administrator and leader providing managerial oversight of the various ministry programs, budget and finances, marketing, fundraising, staff and board development. This position will supervise and provide guidance to a diverse staff as well as implement and enforce policies and procedures which will maximize the effectiveness of the ministry. The qualified candidate will be a faithful Christian with a clear understanding and appreciation of the Church of the Brethren and have proven leadership, coaching, and relationship-management experience preferably in a faith-based outdoor ministry program.  Membership in the OMA, ACA, IACCA, or other appropriate professional organizations is desirable. Other required qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in a related field or equivalent experience in camp or retreat center administration plus a minimum of five years of management experience. For more information about the center, visit  . Send inquiries or requests for an application packet to .

— From the Annual Conference Office: There will be a change starting this coming year for congregations registering delegates for Annual Conference. Both delegate and non-delegate registrations will open on the same day, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. There will be no “early” delegate registration beginning in January as in the past. A letter with more registration details and information will be sent directly to all congregations in December. Anyone with questions can contact the Conference Office at or by calling 800-323-8039 ext. 365.

— The Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness signed on to a Nov. 30 letter to Senators and representatives in the US Congress, urging support for the United States refugee resettlement program. “The world is witnessing the largest refugee crisis since World War II,” the letter read. “More than 4 million Syrians have fled from their home country fleeing conflict and violence, and 12 million are displaced internally. At a time when the world needs humanitarian leadership, some are now calling for the suspension of the US refugee resettlement program or the imposition of restrictions on funding for Syrians and other groups of refugees. We oppose these proposals and believe they would jeopardize the United States’ moral leadership in the world. Syrian refugees are fleeing exactly the kind of terror that unfolded on the streets of Paris.” The letter continued, in part, “Refugees are the most thoroughly vetted group of people who come to the United States. Security screenings are rigorous and involve the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defense, and multiple intelligence agencies. Department of Homeland Security officials interview each refugee to determine whether they meet the refugee definition and whether they are admissible to the United States. Refugees undergo a series of biometric and investigatory background checks, including collection and analysis of personal data, fingerprints, photographs, and other background information, all of which is checked against government databases. The entire process typically takes more than two years and often much more before the refugee would arrive in the US. In addition the Administration is already taking steps, with its existing authority, to increase the capacity of its security and screening procedures for refugees. There is no need for Congress to impose additional restrictions or security measures…. To turn our back on refugees would be to betray our nation’s core values. It would send a demoralizing and dangerous message to the world that the United States makes judgments about people based on the country they come from and their religion.”

— A Nigerian Brethren member of the Mubi congregation of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) is interviewed in a recent PBS News Hour report, “Civilians are caught in the middle of the war against Boko Haram.” The show is one in a week-long series on the topic “Nigeria: Pain and Promise.” Special correspondent Nick Schifrin reports from northeast Nigeria with producer and cameraman Zach Fannin on the Nigerian government’s attempts to wipe out the militant group. View the report and find a transcript at .

— Arlington (Va.) Church of the Brethren has announced a new ministry, working with the Dunker Punks movement to produce Dunker Punks Podcasts. “We began talking to Emmet Eldred and a few others about our idea of reaching out to youth and young adults who are most familiar with podcasts. They are our target audience,” reports pastor Nancy Fitzgerald. “The podcast is inspired by the Dunker Punks movement to encourage and inspire all ages, Brethren and neighbors alike, to emulate Jesus. We see folks popping in their ear buds as they walk the dog, head to class, or fold the laundry, spreading the ‘Mustard Seed Revolution’ as they go. We hope to reach youth and young adults who may have moved away from their home church, are away at school, or feel alienated by the atmosphere of the ‘Christianity’ they see around them.” Arlington’s social media minister Suzanne Lay co-hosts along with Fitzgerald, and does the production and editing. Jacob Crouse of Mutual Kumquat has written original music for the podcast. The first podcast in the series is available at and is available in the iTunes podcast store for free. Other Church of the Brethren podcasts are available at .

— Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren is part of a new coalition in the city that has taken on the challenge to slow the AIDS epidemic. “As part of World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, the nascent coalition will gather and invite public support,” reports the Frederick News Post. “The group has formed to align with national health goals set by President Barack Obama. The county reports about 15 new HIV cases a year, has approximately 300 people living with HIV who know it, and another estimated 50 or 60 who do not know it, Debbie Anne, AIDS certified nurse with the health department, estimated.” The Frederick Church hosts the next meeting of the Frederick HIV/AIDS Coalition at 7 p.m. Dec. 15. Read the full report in the Frederick News Post at .

— Camp Eder’s 5th Annual Celebration of the Birth of Christ and Christmas Tree Festival is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 11, Saturday, Dec. 12, and Sunday, Dec. 13, from 5-8:30 p.m. The Christmas Tree Festival is free to attend and focused on celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ with a Christmas Tree Decorating Contest, cookies and hot beverages, Christmas carols at the campfire, and a candle-lit reading of the Nativity story.

— The National Council of Churches Governing Board has issued a statement, “Keep Our Elections Free from Hateful Rhetoric.” Citing Proverbs 16:24, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body,” the statement “calls on all candidates for office to refrain from utilizing speech that reflects hatred of others and results in the division of society as a way to promote their candidacies.” The statement continues, in part, “We similarly call on media outlets covering the candidates and their campaigns, debates, and addresses to exercise care not to sensationalize such rhetoric at a time when we should be lifting up our best values, living out the democratic process.” The statement expressed particular concern about hostile rhetoric, which denigrates immigrants and casts suspicion on religious minorities, as well as demeaning rhetoric based on race and gender. The statement adds, “We express our deep concern about language of requiring a religious test for public office as deeply prejudicial and contrary to the founding principles of our Republic…. We have become critically aware of how our own language has contributed to the divisions in this country. We ask the candidates to engage in the same kind of self-reflection, to speak to our highest common ideals, and to work together with those who elect them to form a more just society.”

— “Please take a moment to watch the two 2015 tribute videos created for the 3rd Annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence,” says an invitation from the Newtown Foundation. Find the 2015 Tribute Video: Part One and Part Two featuring photos submitted by direct relatives of victims of gun violence at and . “While we mourn the loss of a mother, an Iraq War veteran and a police officer who were shot and killed in a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs…we face yet another senseless shooting in San Bernardino,” said the invitation. “Our heavy hearts go out to all the families of the victims, survivors, first responders, and the community of San Bernardino. We know too well what their community is going through at this moment.” Dec. 14 marks the 3rd anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. Families and advocates from the Newtown area and families of victims and survivors of gun violence from 19 states will be traveling to Washington, D.C., for the 3rd Annual National Vigil to #EndGunViolence at St Marks Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill. The National Vigil is planned for Dec. 9, starting at 7 p.m. To reserve a seat go to . “For those who cannot join us in Washington, D.C., we invite you to attend one of the 265 nationwide events to honor all victims of gun violence and to learn more about what you can do to #EndGunViolence in our nation,” said the invitation. “Thoughts and prayers are not enough!” Find a local vigil or an event at .

— Peggy Faw Gish, a Church of the Brethren peace activist who has served as a volunteer with the Nigeria Crisis Response, will speak on Boko Haram at Goshen (Ind.) College on Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. The Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism and College Mennonite Church will host a lecture by Gish titled “Learning to Love Boko Haram: A Nigerian Peace Church Responds.” The lecture will take place in the College Mennonite Church sanctuary on the campus of Goshen College. Gish will share stories and insights based on her work among the Nigerian Brethren and their search for nonviolent responses in a context of intense persecution.

— Shawn Kirchner, a musician and composer and member of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, has several original settings of Christmas carols featured on a new album by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. In a recent Facebook post he shared that “this new Christmas album has special Church of the Brethren connections–with several tracks (“Brightest and Best,” “Lo How a Rose,” and “Bring a Torch”) that originated with the CBS Christmas Eve special” produced by the Church of the Brethren in 2004. More information about the Los Angeles Master Chorale Festival of Carols Album is at .

— A workcamp in Honduras will be led by Camp Emmaus’ Bill Hare on Jan. 7-17. The workcamp will be constructing housing in a small village midway between Tegucigalpa, the capital, and the southern border. The project marks the 12th workcamp that Hare has organized and directed in Honduras.

— Jack Tevis has been named Carroll County Maryland person of the year for his community based philanthropy. He is a member of Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren and has served the denomination on the former Brethren Service Center Ministry Options Committee. “He took over the family business as a third-generation owner of S.H. Tevis & Son, Inc., which was founded in 1932. The business has grown to include a variety of enterprises such as Tevis Oil, Tevis Energy, Tevis Propane, Jiffy Mart, Modern Comfort Systems, Modern Comfort Security Systems and Tevis Real Estate,” the Carroll Magazine reported. Find the report online at .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jan Fischer Bachman, Stephen Brown, Debbie Eisenbise, Nancy Fitzgerald, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Katie Furrow, Donna March, Steven D. Martin, Nancy Miner, Jenny Williams, Roy Winter, 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 . 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 Dec. 11.

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