Newsline for May 20, 2015

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

1) Church of the Brethren general secretary attends EYN Annual Conference

2) EYN Church of the Brethren General Church Council (Majalisa) issues communique

3) Commencement celebrated at Bethany Theological Seminary

4) CDS volunteers serve children and families affected by tornados in Oklahoma

5) Churches partner to support trash day in Pomona

6) Special speakers, unique events, continuing education opportunities, family fun highlight Annual Conference 2015

7) General Secretary’s Luncheon in 2015 continues a focus on higher education

8) BVS announces Partners in Service Awards for 2015

9) Mountain Meadows Song and Story Fest is hosted by Camp Wilbur Stover in Idaho

10) Message of the presidents of the World Council of Churches at Pentecost 2015

11) Re: Targeted lethal drones program

12) #SendItBack on International Conscientious Objectors Day: Michael Himlie’s example

13) Brethren bits: Nigerian summer tour, Young Adult Conference, PAG volunteers, Benton Rhoades Peacemaker Scholarships, Dupont youth honored, Thelma and Hurley Couchman labyrinth, Shenandoah Disaster Ministries Auction, more.

Quote of the week:

“Pray for the peace of the world. The Prince of Peace sends us forth to testify to what we have seen and heard in the upper room, to become in the public sphere what we heard and experienced during Pentecost, to be a blessing in and for God’s beloved and broken world.”

— From the Message of the presidents of the World Council of Churches at Pentecost 2015. Find the full message below and posted online at the WCC website. The WCC Pentecost message and a short peace video for Pentecost 2015 is available at .

1) Church of the Brethren general secretary attends EYN Annual Conference

By Carl and Roxane Hill

Photo by Dauda Gava Andrawus
The ordination service at the 2015 Majalisa or annual meeting of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger traveled to Nigeria on May 3-11 to attend the Majalisa of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Noffsinger was billed as the guest speaker for EYN’s 68th annual meeting. Roxane and Carl Hill, co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, accompanied the general secretary to Nigeria and were also given an opportunity to share before this large gathering.

In other news from Nigeria, yesterday a suicide bomber attacked the Garkida market as reported by “Sahara Reporters,” a website bringing reports from a Nigerian-African perspective. The bomb killed nine people. Garkida was the location of the Church of the Brethren Mission headquarters in Nigeria for several decades. The report said the bombing signals a renewal of violence by the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram, at a time when Nigerian authorities are claiming victory in many parts of the northeast. See .

Noffsinger addresses Majalisa

During the gathering of almost 1,000 pastors and delegates Noffsinger addressed the Majalisa crowd twice. He encouraged members of the church in Nigeria by assuring them that they have not been forgotten by their sister church in America.

After one of his talks, Noffsinger held a feetwashing ceremony. This was a powerful display of servant leadership and humility. To make it even more meaningful, members of the audience were brought forward to receive the first washings. The six Americans present took part in this ceremony, and all were emotionally moved by being allowed to participate in this mutual display of love and service.

Noffsinger, who also attended last year’s Majalisa, noted the difference in the mood from one year to the next. “Last year the attendees had a sort of shocked expression on their faces. The proceedings were constantly being interrupted by announcements of tragedy–news of a pastor being killed or abducted or a village being overrun by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. There was no joy at last year’s Majalisa.

Photo courtesy of Carl & Roxane Hill
Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger (left) with EYN president Samuel Dali (right) during Noffsinger’s visit to Nigeria for the Majalisa or annual meeting of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria.

“This year the mood is completely different,” he commented. “There is true worship going on. People are lifting their voices to God. Laughter can be heard throughout the hall. Real fellowship is being experienced and there appears to be hope for the future, where last year there was only despair.”

Because so many of the churches of EYN have been damaged or destroyed, this year’s Majalisa conducted an ordination service for new pastors. The current ordained ministers, including EYN president Dr. Samuel Dali, gathered around the candidates, laying hands on them and commissioning them for the work ahead. All this is part of the EYN and Church of the Brethren plan to strengthen the church in Nigeria.

Americans help distribute relief goods

Besides attending the Majalisa, Noffsinger, the Hills, and two American Brethren volunteers who have been serving in Nigeria–Peggy Gish and Donna Parcell–helped with a food distribution under the direction of Dr. Rebecca Dali. Her nonprofit humanitarian organization CCEPI (Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives) is one of the organizations partially funded by Brethren funds raised in America. About 350 families were given relief supplies through this effort.

All the American volunteers for CCEPI worked a full day, but the satisfaction of being a helper outweighed any tiredness on their part. Said Noffsinger, speaking for all who were privileged to assist in this project, said, “I’m tired, but it’s a good tired. I wish we could do more.”

The Church of the Brethren general secretary did many other things while he was in Nigeria. Every day was filled with meetings and opportunities to meet new friends and rekindle older relationships.

Noffsinger’s nephew Jon Andrews also joined the trip to Nigeria, and had an opportunity to travel to Chibok with Rebecca Dali and staff from CCEPI. He is father of Preston Andrews, a boy who led an effort at his elementary school in Ohio to raise funds to aid the families of the schoolgirls abducted from Chibok. Andrews’ church community, which is not Brethren, helped raise money to support his trip to Nigeria, and the risky visit to Chibok where he was reported to be one of the first Americans to visit Chibok since the abductions. View a Nigeria television report on their visit to Chibok at .

Photo courtesy of CCEPI
American Brethren volunteer their help with a distribution of relief goods. The distribution by the nonprofit humanitarian organization CCEPI–the Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives–was led by CCEPI founder and director Rebecca Dali (fourth from left).

Remember Nigeria in prayer

The people of Nigeria are so hospitable and their warm reception of Noffsinger and his crew will not soon be forgotten. The church in Nigeria has repeatedly expressed appreciation and gratitude for the support of their church family in the United States. “Please convey to the American Brethren our profound thanks for their support and prayers,” said EYN president Samuel Dali.

Let us continue to pray for peace for these wonderful people.

— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Church of the Brethren’s Nigeria Crisis Response, a cooperative effort with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Find out more at .

2) EYN Church of the Brethren General Church Council (Majalisa) issues communique

The following communique from the 68th General Church Council (Majalisa) of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) was issued by the Majalisa meeting from May 5-8 at the new Annex Headquarters of EYN in central Nigeria. It was provided for publication in Newsline by Daniel Yusufu C. Mbaya:

Photo courtesy of Carl & Roxane Hill
Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger with a sign advertising EYN’s 2015 Majalisa or annual meeting.

The General Church Council [of EYN] is the highest decision making body of the church which meets annually to discuss masters affecting the church. The membership of the council includes among others but not limited to, the National Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, all ordained ministers, legal advisers, Local Church Council delegates, district officers, heads of departments and institutions.

The theme of the conference was “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). The speech of the president titled “The road to a better future” gave an overview of the troubled years the church is passing through due to the Boko Haram tsunami of death and misery that mostly affected the EYN churches in the north east.

He said the church lost 278 Local Church Councils out of the total 457, and 1,390 Local Church Branches out of 2,280. In all 1,674 worship centers were completely destroyed.

The president deeply appreciated the immense support from the congregation, the management, the founding fathers of the Church of the Brethren Mission in America, Mission 21, and Mennonite Central Committee for standing firmly with total commitment to EYN at such a difficult time.

The dastardly acts of the Boko Haram led to the displacement of over seven hundred thousand (700,000) members of the church and forced the headquarters to relocate temporarily to Plateau State.

The church was further frustrated by the states and federal government’s inability to respond to the plight of the displaced. Due to the foregoing, situational strategies and structures have been developed by the leadership.

In tandem with the Church of the Brethren (America) and Mission 21, the EYN Church Management has taken her destiny in its hands to forge ahead to reposition, rebuild, and transform the church for the future while providing leadership on the path of its vision, infusing confidence engendered by unshaken belief and faith in the work encouraging the congregation.

Transformational institutions such as the establishment of a micro finance bank, Brethren legacy foundation, formation of faith-based cooperative societies, and Disaster Management Team are in progress and have been put in place.

Photo courtesy of Carl and Roxane Hill
Stan Noffsinger preaches for the 2015 EYN Majalisa. At right is his nephew, Jon Andrews, who accompanied Noffsinger and Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors Carl and Roxane Hill on the visit to Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

The conference resolved to construct rescue centers which could be called Brethren villages in  Nasarawa State and in Taraba State for the purpose of re-settling the displaced persons, which contain schools and hospitals and can be used for the above purposes when people are back to their homelands.

The peace heritage of the church is still the only way consistent with the gospel of which we uphold.

The proposed take off of the Brethren University to be located at Kwarhi, Mararaban Mubi in Adamawa State to be pursued vigorously. Steering Committee to be appointed by the NEC.

Due to the traumatic experiences of the church and to show the love and concern of Jesus over his church to victims of insurgency, in a spirit of solidarity to the displaced, the General Elections of the church are put on hold until 2016.

That the out-going [Nigerian] government is to sustain the momentum of the counter-insurgency and ensure the rescue of the abducted Chibok girls as well as other abducted citizens. The victim support fund should be released with immediate effect for the resettlement of the returning internally displaced persons.

The in-coming government should tackle corruption head on and govern all the citizens devoid of religious and tribal bias.

All tiers of government should create job opportunities to our teeming youth to reduce youth restiveness.

The media to always serve as the voice of the voiceless by being unbiased in their reportage of happenings, and to encourage investigative journalism.

The peace of the Lord be upon all people. Jesus is Lord.

— For more information about the Nigeria Crisis Response undertaken cooperatively by the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, go to .

3) Commencement celebrated at Bethany Theological Seminary

Photo courtesy of Bethany Seminary
Graduates pose for a group picture at Bethany Seminary’s 2015 commencement: Standing: Nick Patler, M.A. (Staunton, Va.); Steven Lowe, M.Div. (Keymar, Md.); Eric Landram, M.Div. (Waynesboro, Va.); Nathan Hollenberg, M.Div. (Broadway, Va.); Samuel Sarpiya, M.Div. (Rockford, Ill.); Paul Shaver, M.Div. (Staunton, Va.). Seated: Patricia Mitchell, M.Div. (Franklin, N.H.); Jennifer Scarr, M.Div. (Pomona, Calif.); Britnee Harbaugh, M.Div. (Keedysville, Md.); Tanya Willis-Robinson, M.Div. (Indianapolis, Ind.); Tara Shepherd, M.Div. (Bent Mountain, Va.); Karen Cassell, M.Div. (Roanoke, Va.); Beth Middleton, CATS (Boones Mill, Va.); Kim Ebersole, CATS (Elgin, Ill.); Richard Propes, CATS (Indianapolis, Ind.) In absentia: Kenneth Frantz, MDiv (Fleming, Colo.); Paul Stutzman, CATS (Winston-Salem, N.C.); Warren Wade, CATS (Bloomington, Ind.).

By Jenny Williams

Bethany Theological Seminary graduates, family, and friends gathered with the seminary community on Saturday, May 9, for commencement events. Eighteen graduates, the second largest class in seventeen years, were honored with master of divinity and master of arts degrees and Certificates of Achievement in Theological Studies (CATS). The graduates were charged to seek personal spiritual fulfillment and to be wells of living water for a hurting world.

The class was led by the faculty in an outdoor procession around Nicarry Chapel, entering the chapel as organist Jonathan Emmons played the opening hymn. President Jeff Carter welcomed guests and commended the achievements of the graduates: “I give thanks for our students…intellectually curious, deeply compassionate, and eyes wide open to the world around them.” He also recognized the service of the faculty, whose teaching, speaking, and ministry have taken the Bethany presence across the country and around the world.

Lynn Myers, chair of the board of trustees, brought congratulations on their behalf and encouraged the graduates to help others explore the call to ministry by sharing their experience at Bethany.

Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, a master of divinity graduate of Bethany, delivered the commencement address, “Wells of Living Water,” based on Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Noting that water is both a physical and spiritual resource in scripture, she explored multiple themes of this encounter: breaking down gender, racial, and cultural barriers; unconditional acceptance; receptivity to transformation; uninhibited witness. Jesus models genuine worship by bringing the woman and her community into closer relationship with God and each other–“kingdom living, individual and corporate, that is shaped by and reflects the character of God.”

Gingrich has served the Church of the Brethren and the wider church in multiple roles. Following four years in congregational ministry, she directed the ecumenical Resource Center for Churches in her resident state of Minnesota. Currently she is a member of the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee for the Church of the Brethren. On the district level, she has been board chair for Northern Plains and will be district moderator for 2015-16. She completed two terms as a Bethany trustee in 2014 and has taught courses for Bethany and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. She earned a doctor of ministry degree from United in April 2015.

As is tradition, the graduating class planned and led a worship service Saturday afternoon. The theme was transformation, which was reflected in the music, scripture reading, and spoken reflections by members of the class. Britnee Harbaugh, Richard Propes, Steven Lowe, and Tara Shepherd shared personal stories of change through seminary and life experiences. Members of the faculty anointed each graduate and offered a spoken blessing. The service concluded with a choral number by graduates, friends, and family. Heather Landram, Kyle Remnant, and Jenny Williams also served as musicians during the weekend’s events.

Both the commencement ceremony and worship service are available for viewing at .

— Jenny Williams is director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind.

Photo courtesy of CDS
CDS volunteer Donna Savage cares for children in Oklahoma City, after tornados and flooding affected the area.

4) CDS volunteers serve children and families affected by tornados in Oklahoma

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) set up a children’s center in a Multi Agency Resource Center in Oklahoma City, Okla., this past weekend, in response to the tornados and floods in the area. CDS is a part of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Since 1980, CDS has been meeting the needs of children by setting up child care centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers across the nation. The program works with the American Red Cross and FEMA to set up child care centers after disasters.

“Thank you to our Children’s Disaster Services team in Oklahoma City last week-end: Nancy McDougall, Myrna Jones, and Donna Savage! And to the children and families that shared of themselves, even in the midst of their own difficult circumstances,” wrote CDS associate director Kathleen Fry-Miller in a Facebook post about the response.

On Saturday, May 16, the CDS volunteers served 15 children. On Sunday, May 17, the group cared for 15 children. Nancy McDougall served as the project manager.

For more information about CDS and to find out how to volunteer, go to .

5) Churches partner to support trash day in Pomona

Photo courtesy of Pomona Fellowship Church
A volunteer hands out water as the Pomona Fellowship and Cristo Scion congregations of the Church of the Brethren partnered with the City of Pomona, Calif., to clean up the town on May 9, 2015.

The Pomona Fellowship and Cristo Scion congregations of the Church of the Brethren partnered with the City of Pomona, Calif., to clean up the town on May 9. Who could know what this day would hold even with all the explanations given ahead of time? It became everything and more than we thought it would be.

Once a year the City of Pomona sets up a local collection site and invites all residents to bring house and yard wastes for disposal without the cost they would have incurred if they had gone to the local dump. For the past four years Pomona Fellowship Church of the Brethren has donated the parking lot for this project. This year Cristo Scion worked alongside with Pomona Fellowship to distribute water to the community and crew. In addition, individual members of both congregations spent time speaking to individuals on various topics including church services and the soccer field.

The first city vehicle arrived at 6 a.m. and set up the oil station. By noon they had collected 18 drums of oil and 35 oil filters. Soon after 6 a.m. came the first of the e-waste crew and they were constantly busy loading the two extremely large collection trucks with televisions, computers, and other e-waste. Then started the constant arrival of the trucks with the dump bins. As one bin was filled a truck removed it and replaced it with an empty bin. At noon when the project ended, 18 bins were carted away.

We did not keep total accounting on the number of vehicles that came to be unloaded but most times during the day the traffic was backed up out of the parking lot, and down the street for more than a block. But the wait was not long for anyone, and during the day it was estimated by city employees that there were more than 100 vehicles per hour. Some vehicles were seen in line five times with full loads. Notably, one resident came in a U-Haul truck twice, one rode a bicycle pulling a cart, and even one person dragged a child’s wagon.

Many thanks to all who volunteered for the day: Linda Lovelace and Jessie Marsiglio of the Service and Outreach Commission; Allison Sampson with Eli and Cooper who were our most enthusiastic workers; Jerry Davis; pastor David Flores and members of Cristo Scion. Since we did not use a sign-in sheet some names may have been omitted inadvertently, and we apologize for any lapse.

— This report was provided to Newsline by Jessie Marsiglio.


6) Special speakers, unique events, continuing education opportunities, family fun highlight Annual Conference 2015

Planning for Annual Conference 2015 in Tampa, Fla., on July 11-15, is in place and the Conference officers and staff are highlighting the number of special speakers, unique events, continuing education opportunities, and possibilities for church fellowship and family fun offered at this Conference. The Conference centers on the theme “Abide in My Love… and Bear Fruit” (John 15:9-17). David A. Steele, district executive of Middle Pennsylvania District, will preside as moderator, assisted by moderator-elect Andy Murray and secretary James Beckwith. Chris Douglas is the Conference director.

Online registration for the Conference closes on June 10, after which registration will be open onsite in Tampa prior to the start of the Conference.

Special speakers and international guests

Logo design by Debbie Noffsinger
Logo for Annual Conference 2015

Christian musician and composer Ken Medema joins up with Ted Swartz of Ted & Co., a drama and comedy troupe, to perform together on Sunday night, July 12. The two will lead “Heart to Heart: A Reflection in Drama and Music.” Medema and Swartz have been popular presenters at previous Annual Conferences, National Youth Conferences, and various other Church of the Brethren events and venues. Medema also will perform an original song to accompany a video about the Nigeria crisis during the Sunday morning worship service.

Well known spiritual writer Joyce Rupp, who is a member of the Servants of Mary religious community and author of 22 award-winning books on spiritual growth, will lead the pre-Conference Ministers’ Association continuing education event. The theme is “Delving Deeply into Compassion.” The event is for ministers in the Church of the Brethren, and begins the evening of Friday, July 10, and continues through the day on Saturday, July 11. Find out more at .

Alex Awad will present “A Palestinian Perspective of the Middle East: A Personal Narrative” at the Global Mission and Service dinner on Monday, July 13, at 5 p.m. He pastors East Jerusalem Baptist Church and is dean of students at Bethlehem Bible College where he directs the Shepherd Society, an organization that assists struggling Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Two Nigerian Brethren groups are among international guests expected to join the Brethren in Tampa: BEST, a group of business professionals, and the EYN Women’s Fellowship (ZME) Choir. President Dr. Samuel Dali and Rebecca Dali will attend the Conference to represent Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

Also from Africa, David Niyonzima, director of THARS (Trauma, Healing, And Reconciliation Services) in Bujumbura, Burundi, will be attending along with Etienne Nsanzimana of the Evangelical Friends Church in Rwanda.

The Haitian Church of the Brethren will send Vildor Archange, who works with the community development team in Haiti, and possibly other Haitian guests will receive visas.

Sunday worship webcast

Congregations that want to join in and worship along with the Annual Conference Sunday morning service on July 12 may do so via a live webcast. Worship planners are hoping to keep the service to 65 minutes in order to facilitate congregational participation.

Rodger Nishioka, professor of Christian Education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia and one of the speakers for National Youth Conference last summer, will bring a message titled “Embody a New Community…Among Us.”

The EYN Women’s Fellowship (ZME) Choir will sing, and during the offering Ken Medema will perform an original song composed to accompany a video about the crisis in Nigeria, which was taped by David Sollenberger last fall.

A bulletin will be posted in advance at and will include hymn numbers from “Hymnal: A Worship Book,” the hymnal published jointly by Brethren Press and MennoMedia.

Find out more about joining in the live webcast at .

New and unique events

A free ice cream social for all Conference participants helps open the Conference after the conclusion of worship on Saturday evening, July 11.

A reception in honor of Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger will be held on Tuesday, July 14, from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., offered by the Mission and Ministry Board. The reception is open to all Conference-goers and will include opportunities to bring greetings to Noffsinger, who is to conclude his service as general secretary by July 2016.

Prior to the start of the Conference, Congregational Life Ministries offers two new workshops led by staff member Stan Dueck on topics related to grief and healing: “Clearing Your Grief and Bereavement” is on Saturday morning, July 11, from 9 a.m.-12 noon; and “The Circle of Care: Being a Dynamic, Caring Congregation” is that afternoon from 1:30-4:30 p.m.

Congregational Life Ministries is combining its annual dinner with the Intercultural Ministries meal event this year. The speaker will be Richard Zapata, a pastor and moderator-elect of Pacific Southwest District, on the topic, “Unidos por una sola palabra.”

A Dolphin Tour is offered for non-delegates on Monday, July 13, with three options for times to take the tour by boat. Find out more at .

Witness to the Host City

This year’s Witness to the Host City supports Metropolitan Ministries, a faith-based organization serving poor and homeless families in four Florida counties. The mission is to “care for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless in our community through services that alleviate suffering, promote dignity and instill self-sufficiency–as an expression of the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ.”

According to the Conference Office, “the ministry serves 69,000 meals and goes through 16,500 diapers every month. It operates Miracle Place, transitional housing for 100 families including 250 children. The scope of the work also includes offering financial services, employment skills, classes and counseling, and spiritual development to name just a few. All in all, over 25,000 families get help each year from Metropolitan Ministries.”

Conference-goers are invited to bring items to donate to this work. Find a list of most-needed items at . Donations will be collected at the start of Sunday morning worship and will be presented to Metropolitan Ministries on Tuesday afternoon of the Conference. For more about Metropolitan Ministries see .


The following new business items will be presented to the 2015 delegate body:
— Amendments to the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren, Inc.
— Amendments to Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) Articles of Organization
— Polity Change Proposal from Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT)
— Interpretation of Polity Regarding Agency Financial Reports
— Mandate for the 2015-2017 Review and Evaluation Committee
— Query: Future District Structure
— Resolution on Christian Minority Communities

Reports will be received from the Annual Conference agencies–the Church of the Brethren, On Earth Peace, Bethany Theological Seminary, and Brethren Benefit Trust–and from the Program and Arrangements Committee and the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee. Ecumenical organizations to which the denomination relates also will report to the delegate body including the World Council of Churches, National Council of Churches, and Christian Churches Together in the USA.

Business sessions will include presentation of the 2015 ballot and elections to fill church leadership positions. There are no items of unfinished business at Annual Conference this year.

A full listing of business with links to the text of each item is at . A business briefing video featuring moderator David Steele and secretary Jim Beckwith is viewable at .

In other Conference news

Continuing education opportunities: Many of the presentations at the Conference including a number of insight sessions, workshops, meal events, and pre-Conference events offer continuing education credit for ministers. Consult schedule and activities listings at .

Ride the Streetcar: A half-price deal is offered to Conference-goers who want an easy and affordable way to get around downtown Tampa, as well as the historic Ybor City and Channel District. To claim the half-price fare on the streetcar, Conference-goers will need to wear their name tags and purchase their tickets at the Ticket Vending Machines.

AC App: An Annual Conference app is available for the 2015 Conference, created by Church of the Brethren website staff. With the app, users of mobile devices may plan their Conference with a customized schedule, integrate iCal and Google Calendars and add Conference events to personal planners, stay updated with push notifications, navigate around the Conference and to local attractions with maps of the Tampa Convention Center and Marriott meeting rooms and an area map, view profiles of speakers and exhibitors, and stay informed with news and Twitter updates. A device running iOS 6 and higher or Android 2.3 and higher is required to download the app. More information is at .

Volunteers needed: There is a desperate need for volunteers to help with children’s activities at the 2015 Conference. “Anyone who is willing to volunteer for a session or a day or whatever they can give to help our children” should contact the Conference Office at or sign up online at .

For more detailed information about the schedule and events at the 2015 Annual Conference go to .

7) General Secretary’s Luncheon in 2015 continues a focus on higher education

By Karen Garrett and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

A General Secretary’s dinner at last year’s Annual Conference was the first in a series to engage educators in topics of importance to the church and society. The events have the overarching goal to work at the church’s relationship with the Brethren-related institutions of higher education: Bridgewater College in Virginia, Elizabethtown College and Juniata College in Pennsylvania, the University of La Verne in California, McPherson College in Kansas, Manchester University and Bethany Theological Seminary in Indiana.

At the 2015 Annual Conference, University of La Verne provost Jonathan Reed will speak about “Who Was Jesus? First Century Archaeology for 21st Century Theology” at the General Secretary’s Luncheon with Higher Education on Monday, July 13, at 12 noon. Tickets for the meal event in Tampa, Fla., are $25 and may be purchased online as part of Conference registration at .

Photo by Glenn Riegel
Conrad L. Kanagy, Elizabethtown College professor of Sociology, was the speaker for last year’s General Secretary’s Dinner, the first in the series to engage educators in topics of importance to the church and society.

2014 meal focused on global study of Mennonites

Conrad L. Kanagy, Elizabethtown College professor of Sociology, was the speaker for last year’s dinner, the first in the series. His presentation, “Tearing Down and Building Up: The Work of the Spirit and the Global Church,” reported on an ongoing study of Mennonite churches in the US, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

There are a growing number of Christians in the global South, he noted, in contrast to the churches in the US where membership is declining. Kanagy and other sociologists have been studying Anabaptist churches to look for patterns than shed light on these trends.

Statistics from the study lead to some interesting observations. The Anabaptist (Mennonite) churches in the global South have:
— a generous percentage of members who are of childbearing age, which helps with their growth,
— a high retention rate of young people, who are interested in missions,
— a high percentage of members who have been in the church five years or less, which means they are active at recruiting new members,
— a theology that includes a call to separation from the broader culture,
— leadership that is largely bi-vocational and voluntary.

In contrast the Anabaptist churches (Mennonite) in the US show evidence of being aging congregations, with most members well past childbearing age, those who have been members for many years, and most congregations hiring formally trained leadership. There also is evidence that churches in the US have assimilated into the surrounding culture to the point that they have in effect “disappeared” into that society.

Kanagy displayed graphs providing a clear visual image of the difference between the churches in the US and the churches in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Some of this data is included in the book “Winds of the Spirit,” of which Kanagy is one of the authors. However, the study is ongoing, with a full report expected to be ready for the Mennonite General Conference in 2015.

Questions during the discussion time that followed Kanagy’s presentation revealed one impact of the data, and an irony given the context: pastors in the global South focus on learning the Bible stories rather than receiving formal training in theology, in contrast to the missions of the colleges, universities, and seminary represented by those in attendance.

— Karen Garrett provided the report from the 2014 General Secretary’s Dinner, as a member of the news team for the 2014 Annual Conference.

8) BVS announces Partners in Service Awards for 2015

By Dan McFadden

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) is pleased to announce the 2015 Partners in Service Award. Three congregations will share this award, which will be presented at the BVS luncheon on Monday, July 13, at the Annual Conference in Tampa, Fla. The Partners in Service Award is presented each year to an individual, group, or organization that has shown an exceptional commitment to the work of sharing God’s love through acts of service.

Cincinnati (Ohio) Church of the Brethren, Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., and Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland, Ore., will share the award for 2015. These congregations will be recognized for their commitment to partnering with BVS in hosting intentional community houses within their communities. These congregations have supported volunteers and hosted a community house where volunteers commit to living together and serving at BVS projects in the area.

The Cincinnati and Highland Avenue Churches hosted the first BVS community houses starting in 2009, followed by Peace Church in 2010.

This is the tenth year of the Partners in Service Award. Past recipients are:

2014: Walt Wiltschek, Manchester University
2013: Healing Farms: CooperRiis (N.C.), Gould Farm (Mass.), and Hopewell (Ohio).
2012: EIRENE, the German community development agency that sends volunteers to BVS each year and which the Church of the Brethren helped start in 1957
2011: World Friendship Center, Hiroshima, Japan
2010: Grace Lefever, Sonnewald Natural Foods, Spring Grove, Pa.
2009: Outdoor Ministry Association of the Church of the Brethren
2008: Washington (D.C.) City Church of the Brethren
2007: Trees for Life, Wichita, Kan.
2006: Community Church of the Brethren, Hutchinson, Kan.

Find out more about BVS at .

— Dan McFadden is director of Brethren Volunteer Service.


9) Mountain Meadows Song and Story Fest is hosted by Camp Wilbur Stover in Idaho

Camp Wilbur Stover

The 2015 Mountain Meadows Song and Story Fest on the theme, “Moving in Time With…” is planned for July 26-Aug. 1 at Camp Wilbur Stover, New Meadows, Idaho. Song and Story Fest is an annual intergenerational family camp featuring Brethren musicians and storytellers, co-sponsored by On Earth Peace. This is the 19th summer in a row for Song and Story Fest.

“The universe, our world, and life itself are always in motion,” said an invitation to the camp. “As people of faith, we seek to sort out the movement of God in our time and space. We want to enjoy and celebrate that movement as well as to join in amplifying it. At the Fest, through music and stories and community, we open ourselves to the holy so that our life and work and struggles move more in time with the energizing Spirit of Life. Join us as we invite the Lord of the Dance to lead us all, wherever we may be, as we move in time with….”

Storytellers and workshop leaders include Heidi Beck, Matt Guynn, Jonathan Hunter, John Jones, Lee Krähenbühl, and Jim Lehman. Musicians include Louise Brodie, Jeffrey Faus and Jenny Stover-Brown, Bill Jolliff, Steve Kinzie, Shawn Kirchner, Peg Lehman, Mike Stern, and Mutual Kumquat: Chris Good, Seth Hendricks, Ethan Setiawan, David Hupp.

The experience is for all ages, and both single persons and families will enjoy the combination of performance and participation in a relaxed camp setting, said the invitation. The schedule includes intergenerational gatherings, worship, workshops for adults, children, and youth, family and recreation time, story swaps, music-making, campfires, and concerts or a folk dance.

Registration includes all meals, on-site facilities, and leadership. Children 5 and under are welcome at no charge. Registration for adults is $300, teens $200, and children 6-12 $150, with a maximum total fee per family of $850. Daily fees also are available. Registrations made after June 15 should add a 10 percent late fee.

Register at . Call Darlene Johnson at the On Earth Peace office at 410-635-8704 for registration questions. For additional information or program questions or if you need financial help to attend, contact director Ken Kline Smeltzer at 814-571-0495 or 814-466-6491 or .


10) Message of the presidents of the World Council of Churches at Pentecost 2015

Dear brothers and sisters in faith, in this season, we recall these words from Hebrew Scripture: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, Peace be within you” (Psalm 122:6-8).

And, from the New Testament: “And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1).

“God of life, lead us to justice and peace” was the theme of the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (Busan, Republic of Korea, Oct. 30–Nov. 8, 2013). At that gathering the WCC called us to join all people of good will on a pilgrimage of justice and peace.

The world can offer peace only in empty words, saying “Peace, peace, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). Without peace, can there be justice? Without justice, can there be peace? Too often, we pursue justice at the expense of peace, and peace at the expense of justice. Shalom is more than just an expression for simply greeting each other. When we say to each other: “The peace of the Lord be with you,” we are indeed wishing each other contentment, completeness, wholeness, wellbeing, health, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquillity, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, as well as the absence of agitation or discord. Our peace, our Shalom, had been fully paid by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross on Calvary.

This frees all who believe in Christ to speak out when peace is pursued but justice is neglected, or the search for justice gets caught in a spiral of violence. As the ancient words of the Psalmist bear witness still, the status of Jerusalem continues to be the most difficult issue for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. As long as the occupation continues, Jerusalem is not at peace. The holy places for Jews, Christians, and Muslims are still far from becoming signs of peace and reconciliation among the different communities.

The Acts of the Apostles tell us: “And when the day of Pentecost [ten hemeran tes pentekostes] had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). The day called “Pentecost” is named after the Greek word pentekostos, which means “fiftieth” and refers to the “Feast of Weeks” 50 days after Passover and Easter. The first followers of Jesus were all in one place…. Not only the apostles, but the 120 disciples, men and women, were together praying and waiting upon the risen Christ. The Greek word signifies that they were all of one mind. Then, suddenly a mighty sound (Greek, pneuma) filled the house. The wind was a physical manifestation of the presence of the Holy Spirit. All those present were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in the languages of all the different countries from which devoted Jews had come up in larger numbers to attend Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit is given by God as a gift of faith to all those who believe in the risen Christ. Christians through all the ages continue to participate in the internal transformation that Pentecost symbolizes. On Pentecost morning, Peter stepped out of the upper room where the disciples had been gathered to declare publicly that God had raised this Jesus to life and that they were all witnesses to it. Christ has risen! He has risen indeed! Our savior conquered sin and death and the grave. Peter proclaimed the saving gift of Jesus Christ to the world (Acts 2:1-41). He went into the public arena to proclaim that Jesus is indeed the Prince of Peace (Sar shalom).

For two millennia, Christians have been celebrating the “church’s birthday”–as the feast of Pentecost is often called–and have been engaged in the public sphere, proclaiming Jesus as Lord of all. We are conscious of the fact that this, in the past, often was combined with a spirit of superiority without respect for the dignity of all human beings regardless of religion, race, gender, or ethnic belonging. This kind of arrogance was not of the Holy Spirit manifested at Pentecost, the Spirit of Christ who overcomes the dividing walls of enmity and affirms the rich diversity of all life. The Spirit of Pentecost calls us on the way of justice and peace as disciples following Christ and joining fellow pilgrims.

And so we trust:

The triune God will grant us peace in the prospect of death and the future world; peace amidst the storms and tempests of life. Beloved, pray for peace, prosperity, and the blessing of God not only for Israel, not only for Jerusalem, but for the peace of the whole world; not only for your church, denomination, neighborhood, or country, but pray for peace in Israel Palestine, for peace in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, Afghanistan, Burma-Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Colombia, and Mexico. More than 10,000 people are being killed annually in on-going armed conflicts across the globe. Pray for the peace of our world. Peace is a matter of life and death for those people who are yearning for it. Pray for the peace of the world. The Prince of Peace sends us forth to testify to what we have seen and heard in the upper room, to become in the public sphere what we heard and experienced during Pentecost, to be a blessing in and for God’s beloved and broken world.

May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with us all.

The presidents of the World Council of Churches:
— Rev. Dr Mary-Anne Plaatjies van Huffel, Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa
— Rev. Prof. Dr Sang Chang, Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea
— Archbishop Anders Wejryd, Church of Sweden
— Rev. Gloria Nohemy Ulloa Alvarado, Presbyterian Church in Colombia
— Bishop Mark MacDonald, Anglican Church of Canada
— Rev. Dr Mele’ana Puloka, Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga
— H.B. John X, Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East
— H.H. Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians

— The Church of the Brethren is a member and a founding communion of the WCC. The full WCC Pentecost message and a short peace video for Pentecost 2015 is posted at

11) Re: Targeted lethal drones program

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger and On Earth Peace executive director Bill Scheurer are among a number of American faith leaders to sign a letter to President Obama expressing “grave concerns” about the United States’ lethal drones policy. The letter follows on the recent drone strike killing of US citizen Warren Weinstein. The letter was put together by an interfaith working group on drones that includes staff of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness.

The letter follows in full:

President Barack Obama
The Office of the President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

May 15, 2015


As senior leaders of our respective denominations and faith groups, we write to express our grave concerns about America’s lethal drones policy. The recent news of US citizen Warren Weinstein’s inadvertent death by drone strike is disturbing and shows the deadly risks of drone warfare.

As people of faith, we share common values from our diverse traditions which broaden our concerns beyond national security objectives and national borders. We believe in the intrinsic value of all humanity and creation, compelling us to work for the common good of all people through the principles of love, mercy, just peace, solidarity, human dignity, restorative justice, and reconciliation. The US practice of utilizing unmanned aircraft for targeted killings is contrary to shared values, which guide us, our faith communities, and most Americans.

Our concerns center first on the thousands of deaths, both intended and unintended, that have resulted from lethal drones technology. Despite the prevailing notion that drones are precise, the recent tragedy involving the death of a US citizen demonstrates this is not the case. Indeed, such tragedies seem to happen frequently. Because the US government rarely acknowledges its drone strikes or reports the intended and unintended deaths, our best knowledge of victims come from non-governmental organizations and journalists. The estimates of widespread casualties are devastating and morally unacceptable to us.

Additionally, the depravation of due process to citizen targets and the Administration’s unaccountable creation and control of a secret “kill list” are alarming to us, and counter to our notions of human dignity, participatory processes, and rule of law.

A second cause of concern for us as faith leaders is the secrecy and lack of accountability that surrounds these targeted drone strikes. The power to decide who will live and who will die has become lodged squarely in the Administration’s hands with the wide-ranging 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. With that unchecked power, the Administration has secretly selected targets and conducted strikes without publicly disclosing these activities, explaining their basis of legality, reporting who was killed, or if unintended victims were compensated. This unaccountability prevents the public and their elected representatives from having the ability to meaningfully oppose the policies or fully understand what is being done in our name.

A final concern is our firm belief that drone strikes do not make us safer, but instead lead to perpetual destructive conflict and extremism. Rather than simply taking the place of human bodies in a conflict, drones actually expand conflict by taking us into combat where we otherwise would not go. They enable reliance on warfare as the first resort.

This ever-growing warfare has increased fear in communities, aided recruitment of extremist groups and failed to eradicate terror or bring about security. Effectively combatting extremism requires nonviolent, creative strategies, including sustainable humanitarian and development assistance, and policies and programs that address the political, economic and social exclusion that fuel radicalization. Several organizations, many of them religious, are pursuing such strategies around the world. These efforts deserve more attention and support, but resources instead are consumed by the endless drones war.

We join together as leaders of faith communities to urge a halt to lethal drone strikes, accountability for past strikes, and a negotiated agreement holding the international community to the same standards.

cc: United States House of Representatives, United States Senate


Bill Sheurer, Executive Director, On Earth Peace
Carole Collins, Director of Finance and Operations, Alliance of Baptists
Diane Randall, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director, Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America
Gerry G. Lee, Executive Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
J Ron Byler, US Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee
Jim Higginbotham, Co-Moderator, Disciples Peace Fellowship
Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches
Joan Diefenbach, Executive Director, NJ Council of Churches
Kavneet Singh, Secretary General, American Sikh Council (Formerly World Sikh Council–America Region)
Mark C. Johnson, Executive Director, Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches, USA; Chairperson, National Council of Churches of Christ, USA
Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston, Director, Disciples Justice Action Network
Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Rabbi, Beyt Tikkun Synagogue; Editor, Tikkun Magazine; Chair, Network of Spiritual Progressives
Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Ph.D., Director, Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives; Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Sandra Sorensen, Director of Washington Office, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ
Scott Wright, Director, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Shan Cretin, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Sr. Patricia J. Chappell, Executive Director, PAX Christi USA
Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren
The Rev. Sandra Strauss, Director of Advocacy and Ecumenical Outreach, Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Very Rev. Carl Chudy, SX, Provincial Superior, Xaverian Missionaries in US
Very Rev. James J. Greenfield, OSFS, President, Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Very Rev. Michael Duggan, MM, US Regional Superior, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers

*Denominations listed for affiliation purposes only

— This letter was contributed to Newsline by Bryan Hanger, advocacy associate at the Office of Public Witness. For more about the work of the Office of Public Witness, go to .

12) #SendItBack on International Conscientious Objectors Day: Michael Himlie’s example

May 15 is International Conscientious Objectors Day. A day established in recognition of the long and storied history of conscientious objectors across the world. The Church of the Brethren was founded and built by people of conscience and we celebrate our tradition of conscience with a story from Brethren young adult Michael Himlie. Michael has carefully considered his beliefs and we support him in his journey of conscience and faith. Michael shares his story below. — Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness

“The official position of the Church of the Brethren is that all war is sin and that we seek the right of conscientious objection to all war. We seek no special privileges from our government. What we seek for ourselves, we seek for all–the right of individual conscience.”
–1970 Annual Conference Statement on War

Hi everyone! Michael Himlie here! In early April, 2015, I decided to further my stance on war, and not only maintain my position as a conscientious objector (CO), but also submit my draft card to the Selective Service System (SSS), personally considering myself “deregistered from the Selective Service System.” For those of you that are not as familiar with this, it is not possible to deregister, the SSS does not even file C/O claims during “peacetime.” When I sent in my draft card this is the letter that I sent with it:

To whom it may concern,

My name is Michael Himlie; I am from the Root River Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District. This letter explains my understanding of war, and because of my beliefs, why I cannot and will not promote the structural violence of the Armed Forces.

As a very young child I was taught that violence is wrong. Today I believe that every problem, threat, or issue can be resolved nonviolently, that war is a curable disease. The Church of the Brethren, the denomination to which I belong, is considered one of the three historic peace churches. In addition to being active in the denomination, my work with organizations such as Brethren Volunteer Service, Christian Peacemaker Teams, On Earth Peace, New Community Project, and more are further proof of my dedication to a non-conformist lifestyle. Furthermore, violence is simply not an option for me; peacemaking is the only way for me to get to where I wish to go. If I want to bring peace to this world I must first find peace within myself, which I cannot do if I belong to the Selective Service System.

A personal commitment and vocation of being a follower of Jesus does not allow for me to submit to a system of violence, where maiming human life is honored by millions. I will not. Being a follower of Jesus, I will not discriminate, I will love all. With this, I choose to submit my draft card (Selective Service System card) back to the United States of America, signifying that I am no longer a part of the Selective Service System. I will personally be following up, to make certain that my stances are understood and accepted.

In Peace,
Michael John Himlie

After submitting this letter to the SSS I received the following letter back from them with the enclosure of my draft card back to me:

National Headquarters I Arlington, Virginia 22209-2425

April 7, 2015

Mr. Michael J. Himlie
604 East College Avenue
North Manchester, Indiana 46962

Dear Mr. Himlie:

This responds to your letter postmarked April 2nd expressing your objection to war and promotion of “the structural violence of the Armed forces.” Thus, you enclose your Registration Acknowledgment Card and contend that “I am no longer a part of the Selective Service System.” I am returning your card because there is no authorization under the Military Selective Service Act to remove any man who has registered validly.

Virtually all men in the United States ages 18 through 25 are required by law to be registered with the Selective Service System, even though there has not been a draft since 1973 and none is contemplated in the foreseeable future, and even though they consider themselves a conscientious objector (CO). Registration is both a legal and civic responsibility.

Under the Military Selective Service Act, classification as a conscientious objector (CO) can only be made by a Selective Service Local Board; there is no provision for a self-designation. Further, classifications would only take place if a draft were underway because presently there are no active draft boards in existence nor claims for CO status being considered. In fact, the last draft ended over 41 years ago. However, upon reinstatement of a draft, all individuals who receive a notice to report for induction have an opportunity at that time to file a claim for reclassification, postponement, or exemption, to include CO status. But this opportunity to claim CO status only applies to men who are in our database, are called, and file the claim. Our boards are made up of individual volunteers who are nominated by the State Governor and appointed by the Director of Selective Service on behalf of the President. These uncompensated civilian men and women are from the area covered by the board and are reflective ethnically of the geographic region they serve. The document which describes all claims and the procedures to file for each, our Information for Registrants booklet, can be found at under publications and then under registration materials. Thank you for your observations.

Richard S. Flahavan
Associate Director of Public & Intergovernmental Affairs

The SSS had returned my draft card to me, assuring me that it is impossible to deregister from the SSS. I feel that it is only right that I send my draft card back to the SSS, encouraging them that they had made a mistake. That I really do not want my card and that I no longer need it, as I consider myself deregistered from the SSS. While this is my personal decision, I have been blessed with the support of On Earth Peace, the Office of Public Witness of the Church of the Brethren, and Dunker Punks Inc.

These actions will most likely never change how the Selective Service System works, but rather is to be more oriented towards building community among Brethren and friends who would like to join the movement in sending our draft cards in unity. I would also like to widen our community to those not submitted to the SSS, like women and those under 18 years of age, but would like to stand in solidarity with the Send It Back community. What I am asking is for you to consider sending your draft card back with me, increasing the number of cards sent in unity, every time the SSS sends our cards back to us, as they had sent mine back to me.

Above you can see a picture of my draft card, and yours probably looks similar. I would encourage and challenge all of you to consider how you can stand in solidarity with this project. I would encourage you even more to consider being in touch, sending in our draft cards together, assuring the SSS that we will not be silent, and we will not submit to a deeply rooted systemically violent practice. If you would like to learn more, and/or join the Send It Back community, please contact Michael Himlie at or 507-429-4243.

The SSS had returned my draft card to me, assuring me that it is impossible to deregister from the SSS. I am currently working on ways to strengthen this act of nonviolent protest on war, and would like your help! In the coming days I should have more information about how I intend to strengthen this stance, in reassurance of my decision to deregister from the SSS. May peace be with you, sisters and brothers! #?SendItBack

With much peace and love,
Michael Himlie

13) Brethren bits

— This summer’s tour by Nigerian Brethren groups BEST and the EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir is beginning to garner media attention. FlipSidePA published a notice about the concert at Nicarry Meetinghouse at Cross Keys Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in New Oxford, Pa., to take place on July 3 at 7 p.m. Find the notice at . In Elgin, Ill., the choir and BEST group will hold a public concert at a bandshell in Wing Park on June 26 at 7 p.m., under the title “Songs for Chibok.” A freewill offering will be taken to support the Nigeria Crisis Fund’s grants for education in northern Nigeria.

— Young adults from across the Church of the Brethren will be gathering on May 22-24 at Camp Swatara near Bethel, Pa., for Young Adult Conference 2015. The theme, “You Shall Go Out with Joy:  Transforming the World’s Thorns into Joyful Action!” is inspired by Isaiah 55:12-13. Find out more at at .

— Global Mission and Service is lifting up for prayer two volunteers serving with Proyecto Aldea Global (Project Global Village) in Honduras: Alan and Kay Bennett. The volunteers are requesting prayer for a water line project designed to provide the community of Magueyal with a year-long water supply for irrigation and household uses, “but identifying and fixing leaks has been a major challenge,” said the prayer request. “Please pray for diligence and the safety of the leak-repairing team, and for the patience of all the stakeholders.”

Photo courtesy of La Verne ChurchBenton Rhoades Peacemaker Scholarship winners receive award checks from La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren.

— La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren awarded $1,500 in scholarships to 6 high school students out of the 40 entries for the Benton Rhoades Peacemaker Scholarships. All of the local high schools were invited to submit entries, reported a release from the church. A committee of the Peace and Justice Commission reviewed the 40 entries and selected 6 winners: Hanna Isidoro, a senior at Pomona High School, for an essay; Ariana Mendez, a senior at Pomona High School, for an essay; Angela Gonzalez, a senior at Ganesha High School, for an essay; Jessica Estrada, a senior at Pomona High School, for a painting; Celestina Martinez, a sophomore at Village Academy High School, for art work; and Joseph Orozco, a senior at Pomona High School, for an essay. Each has received a check for $250. Presentations were made at the eighth annual Festival for the Arts held at the La Verne Church. The winning artwork and some of the essays are being displayed at the church. For additional information, contact the church or Maurice Flora at .

— Three members of Dupont (Ohio) Church of the Brethren who are all Continental High School seniors earned Honor Graduate recognition recently, and were listed among other classmates by the Continental ENews. Cody Etter, president of the FFA and a member of the National Honor Society also is president of church youth board and has been involved in several volunteer activities including canned food drives, Habitat for Humanity, and the Salvation Army at Christmas time. Derek Foy is an honor graduate who attended a mission trip to Joplin, Mo., and is involved in several volunteer activities including the Red Cross drive, his church’s food pantry, the local animal shelter, and Meadows of Kalida church services. Christina Sarka participated in varsity soccer in which she received the PCL Scholar Athlete award, is a Project MORE mentor and a blood donor for the American Red Cross, and has been active in Relay for Life and a community clean-up day. Find the full article at .

— The “Modesto Bee” newspaper in California reports that “come May 31, the term ‘spiritual journey’ will take on additional meaning for members of the Church of the Brethren in west Modesto. Member volunteers are putting the finishing touches on a labyrinth they will dedicate that day.” The labyrinth was donated by the Couchman family in memory of Thelma and Hurley Couchman. Find the full report and a picture of the new labyrinth at .

— Snake Spring Valley Church of the Brethren in Middle Pennsylvania District is planning “An Evening of Worship and Song” with Annual Conference moderator-elect Andy Murray. The event is planned for Aug. 14.

— “Another great weekend!” said a Shenandoah District e-mail sharing early results for the district’s 2015 Disaster Ministries Auction. “The 23rd annual Shenandoah District Disaster Ministries Auction is now history–and has some great early results to report. Receipts for Friday and Saturday totaled $177,052 plus $32,050 from the livestock sale. This does not include miscellaneous income such as golf tournament fees, oyster purchases, etc. And, of course, all bills are not paid yet either–but it’s looking good for a very successful 2015 auction to support Brethren Disaster Ministries.” The district reported at least 1,050 oyster/ham dinners consumed,  “with great enjoyment,” as well as 445 breakfasts and 170 plate lunches. The district also thanked all the people who clear the fairgrounds of the remnants of the auction and pack supplies “to get a start on 2016!” Find a report and video about the auction from WHSV-TV at .

— Camp Mardela in Denton, Md., is planning a Birdwatchers Retreat as a new, three-day event from Sept. 18-20. An announcement said the event will take participants to Cape May, N.J., in a trip led by experienced birders Doug and Sally Ruby. “Mark the date and watch for more details to follow!” said the announcement.

— As Bridgewater (Va.) College’s graduating seniors and their families celebrated on the campus mall Saturday, May 16, Dr. Phillip C. Stone urged the 361 graduates to retain, nurture, and strengthen their core values, reported a release from the college. Stone, a practicing attorney with the Stone Law Group, is a 1965 graduate of Bridgewater who served as the college’s president from 1994-2010. His address, “Missing Pieces,” noted that the process of developing one’s life and character is like building a mosaic one piece at a time, the release said. “Our lives constitute a mosaic which will be built over a lifetime,” Stone said. “At the end of life, there will likely be pieces still missing from our mosaic, things undone, errors made and failures of one sort or another. Missing pieces will not unduly detract from the mosaics of our lives if the missing pieces are not from the core of our mosaic.” The core, he continued, is made up of fundamental values without which the mosaic can never be truly beautiful and complete. Stone said that integrity, empathy for others, loyalty, accountability, and humility are among those most fundamental values, and that if any of those are missing in the core of life’s mosaic, it fails entirely. “All the pieces surrounding the absent spots cannot compensate for pieces missing from the core,” he said. Among the 361 students, 78 earned bachelor of arts degrees and 242 earned bachelor of science degrees. Eighteen graduated summa cum laude–the top academic honor which requires students to achieve at least a 3.9 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. Thirty-six earned magna cum laude honors–a 3.7 or better average. Cum laude honors, requiring a 3.4 grade point average, were earned by 54 graduates.

— On Saturday, May 16, Elizabethtown (Pa.) College celebrated its 112th Commencement. The graduating class boasted 79 earning master of science degrees, 125 bachelor of arts degrees, 279 bachelor of science degrees, 15 bachelor of music degrees, and 14 bachelor’s degrees in social work, said a release from the college. Also held May 16 was commencement for the Elizabethtown College School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS). The school graduated 178 students with 40 earning a master of business administration, 111 bachelor’s degrees, and 27 associate degrees.

— The New Community Project, a Brethren-related nonprofit organization, is offering intergenerational Learning Tours to Africa, Asia, the Arctic, and Latin America. The trips increase awareness of the challenges facing God’s creation and the people of the world while building relationships with the communities visited. Tours will go to the Ecuadorian Amazon on June 12-21, to Honduras on July 16-25, to Denali/Kenai Fjords in Alaska on July 29-Aug. 6, and to Arctic Village, Alaska, on Aug. 7-16. Contact director David Radcliff at or visit .

— An online petition in support of South Korean conscientious objectors (COs) has been posted by Amnesty International. Many of the COs in South Korea are Mennonites, Church of the Brethren staff learned at the World Council of Churches Assembly held in Busan, South Korea, in late 2013. The Amnesty petition site notes that South Korea is “the world’s top jailer of conscientious objectors” and that the nation “imprisons more people for their conscientious objection than the rest of the world put together. The country has held at least 10,000 conscientious objectors in prison since 2000 for their refusal of military service, the largest number in the world.” In South Korea there is no legal provision for alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors, and military service is compulsory for all young men. COs who object face imprisonment, life-long criminal records, and the social stigma of being “unpatriotic.” Find the Amnesty petition and more information at .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Charles Culbertson, Chris Douglas, Maurice Flora, Kathleen Fry-Miller, Karen Garrett, Dauda Gava, Bryan Hanger, Kendra Harbeck, Mary Kay Heatwole, Carl and Roxane Hill, Michael Himlie, Jessie Marsiglio, Daniel Yusufu C. Mbaya, Dan McFadden, Stan Noffsinger, Ken Kline Smeltzer, Sarandon Smith, Jenny Williams, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for May 26. 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.

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