Brethren Bits for December 10, 2016

Correction: The photo of workcampers building a new church for an IDP camp in Nigeria, in the report by Jay Wittmeyer in Newsline on Dec. 3, appeared with a incorrect credit line. The photograph was taken by Donna Parcell.

The Clergy Tax Seminar 2017 sponsored by the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry, and Bethany Theological Seminary is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The registration deadline is Jan. 20. Students, pastors, and other church leaders are invited to attend either in person at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., or online. Ministers may earn .3 continuing education units. Sessions will cover tax law for clergy, changes for 2016 (the most current tax year to file), and detailed assistance as to how to correctly file the various forms and schedules that pertain to clergy, including housing allowances, self-employment, W-2s clergy reductions, etc. Cost is $30 per person. Current Bethany, TRIM, EFSM, SeBAH, and Earlham School of Religion students may attend at no cost, although registration is still required. Leadership is provided by Deb Oskin, EA, NTPI Fellow, who has been doing clergy tax returns since 1989. For more information go to

La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren members have concluded two weeks of vigiling and accompaniment support to students at a nearby Islamic Center and school, after the center received a threatening, anonymous letter. Mauri Flora, a member of the church’s Peace and Justice Commission who was one of the organizers of the effort. Today marked the last morning of accompanying children as they arrived at the school, and the last afternoon vigil as the Muslim congregation completed their Friday afternoon prayers. In addition to the members of La Verne Church, the effort was supported by people involved in Move On and by Pilgrim Place of Claremont.

A group of church leaders are promising to fight against hate speech in Carlisle, Pa., including Church of the Brethren minister Marla Bieber Abe. A report in The Sentinel newspaper said that the group formed after Holly Hoffman, diaconal minister at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, “reached out to a group of pastors early in November to organize a meeting where a joint statement could be drawn up denouncing hate speech and informing those violated that there was support for them within the borough.” She told the paper, “The church owes it to the world to make a statement against any violence or hatred.” The group formed as the Carlisle Borough Council was scheduled to consider a proposed non-discrimination ordinance. Find the full newspaper article at

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has written a letter of support and encouragement to a mosque in Harrisburg that has received one of the threatening, anonymous letters that have been sent to various mosques and Islamic centers around the country. “It was with profound sadness that we heard the news of a hateful letter to your community of faith. Such vitriolic speech has no place in a civilized society, and is not acceptable,” the church’s letter said, in part. “Please know that even though we hold some different religious beliefs and celebrate different traditions, you are not alone.” Marla Bieber Abe reports that some members from Mechanicsburg Church of the Brethren also have been volunteering at the mosque, serving as protectors for the Muslim community there. Find a newspaper report about the Elizabethtown Church’s response, published by Lancaster Online at

Northern Ohio District is publicizing a new series of “Practical Peacemaking Tips” from Linda Fry, the district’s Peace/Conciliation Advocate. The tips are available from the website

Churches of the Brethren in Pennsylvania have been making home-baked cookies for distribution by the Carlisle Truck Stop Ministry during the holiday season. This is an annual ministry offering the gift of cookies as a gesture of love and support to truckers and other travelers who pass through the truck stop in Carlisle, Pa.

Alternative Christmas giving suggestions is the topic for the December episode of “Brethren Voices,” the monthly community television program produced by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren. “These alternative ideas were designed to give some real meaning to that Christmas Spirit providing life-changing assistance to another person or family who is dealing with hurricane devastation or the lack of opportunity that we all take for granted,” said an announcement from producer Ed Groff. “This program features Brethren Disaster Ministries, the Nigeria Crisis Fund, as well as the special fund, ‘Give a Girl a Chance,’ of the New Community Project…. One person can make a big difference, during this Christmas Season.” In January, Brethren Voices will feature Matt Guynn of On Earth Peace in an episode titled, “Creating Dignity for All,” presenting the issue of systemic racism in this country. Other upcoming episodes will feature Arlington Church of the Brethren’s use of social media to reach out to the local community, and the trip by a group from Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren to Nigeria to assist members of EYN congregations. Brethren Voices may be viewed online at and on community access stations around the country.

— In an unprecedented move against the leadership of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the ecumenical movement, WCC associate general secretary Isabel Apawo Phiri was apprehended, interrogated, and deported from Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel. In a statement issued on Dec. 6 the WCC said it “deeply regrets the Israeli antagonism against the WCC’s initiatives for peace with justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.” Phiri was travelling to attend consultations with church leaders in Jerusalem on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), one of the many programs and activities supported by the WCC globally. Noting that Phiri was the only African member of the WCC staff delegation, and the only one denied entry, the WCC has instructed its legal representatives to immediately lodge an appeal against “this patently unjust and discriminatory action against Phiri.” Read the full release from the WCC at



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