David A. Steele has been named general secretary-elect of the Church of the Brethren by the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board. His appointment was announced yesterday, May 23, at a specially called meeting at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.
“I am humbled to be called,” Steele said. “It is a privilege to serve.” He added, “obviously it is a daunting call in some respects, given the currents in the life of the church, but it’s an exciting call. I look forward to the opportunity of serving in this capacity.”
Steele currently is district executive minister of the Church of the Brethren’s Middle Pennsylvania District, a position he has held since 2005. His start date as general secretary will be Sept. 1.
The afternoon meeting included time for worship and discernment, an interview, and conversation with Steele as candidate. It was led by board chair Don Fitzkee and chair-elect Connie Burk Davis, who chaired the search committee. The search committee also included board members Jerry Crouse, Jonathan Prater, and Patrick Starkey, and Belita Mitchell and Pam Reist from the church at large.
General secretary-elect brings extensive experience of church leadership
Steele is an ordained minister who has held numerous leadership positions in the Church of the Brethren, including in 2015 serving in the highest elected position in the denomination as moderator of Annual Conference.
He has been a leader in the Council of District Executives, where he has been treasurer and has twice been a member of the Ministry Advisory Council 2009-11 and 2013-14.
Since 2005 he has been a board member for the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center based at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Since 2009 he has been a board member of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, and in 2012-14 served as the council’s vice president.
His leadership in youth ministry has included coordinating music for National Youth Conference (NYC) in 1994 and coordinating worship for NYC in 2006 and 2010. He was an adult advisor for the National Youth Cabinet in 2002. He was involved in leadership of National Junior High Conference in 2009 and 2011 on the planning team and as a worship coordinator.
Steele also brings experience in outdoor ministry. For two summers, in 1989 and 1990, he was program director at Camp Blue Diamond near Petersburg, Pa., where he also was a board member 1998-2003 and board chair 1999-2003.
He has spent 13 years in the pastoral ministry in congregations in Pennsylvania and California. From 1996-2005 he served at Martinsburg (Pa.) Memorial Church of the Brethren, where he began as pastor of youth ministries and then, with the departure of the senior pastor, assumed full pastoral responsibilities. Previously, from 1992-96, he was pastor of Bakersfield (Calif.) Church of the Brethren.
He is a 1986 graduate of McPherson (Kan.) College where he earned a bachelor of arts in religion and philosophy. In 1992 he completed a master of divinity degree at Bethany Theological Seminary, the Church of the Brethren’s graduate school of theology.
Steele will be introduced at Annual Conference
Steele will be formally introduced to the denomination as general secretary-elect on July 1, at the Annual Conference in Greensboro, N.C., during the morning business session. An opportunity to meet and greet the general secretary-elect will follow over the lunch break.
For the next three months, Steele will close out his work with Middle Pennsylvania District and will collaborate with interim general secretary Dale Minnich to make a smooth transition in denominational leadership.
Beginning on Sept. 1, he will work out of the Church of the Brethren General Offices and will be moving to Elgin, Ill. Initially his family will not move from their home in Martinsburg, Pa.
A prayer for the general secretary
At the close of yesterday’s meeting, Annual Conference moderator Andy Murray led a prayer for Steele, as board and search committee stood with bowed heads. “The Lord bless you with the humility you need,” he prayed, “and make you able for all you are called to do.”
Murray also prayed for the general secretary-elect to receive gifts from God, and invoked the memory of the first Brethren who were baptized in the Eder River in Schwarzenau, Germany, in 1708. He prayed for Steele to receive “the face of service,” “a spirit of thoughtfulness, kindness, faithfulness,” and “the peace that passes understanding, the peace that overcomes fear, the peace of the eight brothers and sisters who took the walk to the Eder River.”