Newsline for December 10, 2016

“For a child has been born for us…and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford


1) Creation Care Study Committee invites responses to survey
2) World Council of Churches issues statement on climate justice
3) Bethany is among ‘Seminaries That Change the World’
4) Multicultural tour to the Holy Land is a success


5) National Youth Cabinet is named for 2017-18
6) Bethany Seminary fills positions in admissions and student services


7) ‘Art for Nigeria’: Nigeria has given me much, I hope to give some back

8) Brethren bits: Correction, Clergy Tax Seminar, congregations support their Muslim neighbors, “Practical Peacemaking Tips” from N. Ohio District, special Christmas events, ecumenical Christian leader detained and deported from Israel, and more

Quote of the week:

“In the rush of the season, it can feel impossible to sit still, to watch and wait, to savor the anticipation of the coming Christ…. We anticipate an earth-shattering event. A divine incarnation. A rupture in time itself. A cosmic moment of salvation. No gift buying or cookie baking will ever live up to the immense meaning contained in the birth of the Christ.”

— Dana Cassell in a reflection published in the December issue of “Messenger,” the Church of the Brethren magazine. Read the full reflection, titled “A Simple Season,” in Messenger Online at .

The Conference Office reminds congregations and districts that there will be no early registration for their Annual Conference delegates in January as in years past. Both delegate and non-delegate registration will open online on the same day, Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Annual Conference will be held in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 28 to July 2. More information can be found at .


1) Creation Care Study Committee invites responses to survey

The Creation Care Study Committee was created at the 2016 Annual Conference in response to a query that challenges us to respond more fully to two resolutions on climate change (1991 and 2001). Our charge is to catalyze action, particularly in relation to transitioning to renewable energy and reducing fossil fuel* usage (


“Risk Hope” is the theme for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in 2017


Our committee believes that action should occur on the denominational, congregational, and individual levels. We are currently in conversation with relevant agencies of the denomination to determine the best course of action. However, at the congregational and individual levels, we feel we need a better understanding of your hopes and limitations, as well a better understanding of what resources may be valuable to you. After we have some insights from this survey, we will work toward making those resources available.

Please take a few minutes to fill out this short survey at . We won’t publish any information about an individual person or congregation without direct permission. All reported data will be summarized and anonymous.

Thank you for your time and thoughts,

Sharon Yohn, Stone Church of the Brethren, Huntingdon, Pa.
Duane Deardorff, Peace Covenant Church of the Brethren, Durham, N.C.
Laura Dell-Haro, Holmesville (Neb.) Church of the Brethren

*Fossil fuels include energy sources such as heating oil, gasoline, coal, natural gas, as well as electricity generated from these sources. Renewable energy sources include wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass (such as firewood), as well as electricity generated from these sources.



2) World Council of Churches issues statement on climate justice

The World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee issued a statement on climate justice during a recent meeting held in Shanghai and Nanjing, China, in mid-November. The statement starts off with scripture, quoting a text from Psalm 24:1-2, and continues with expressions of support for the Paris Agreement and the ratification process that came into legal effect in early November.

The WCC statement follows in full:

Statement on Climate Justice

“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 24:1-2).

On Nov. 4, 2016, the Agreement adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 (COP 21) came into legal effect, after a rapid ratification process in which both China and the United States of America joined. The Paris Agreement commits countries to keeping the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, making every effort to limit the rise to the lower threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Under the terms of the agreement, developed countries shall support developing countries to adapt and grow in a clean and sustainable way, and to further develop ways of addressing loss and damage, including non-economic losses.

These were outcomes for which the World Council of Churches with its member churches, the ACT Alliance, Christian World Communions and many other faith-based and civil society organizations have long advocated. We acknowledge in particular the pioneering role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in advocating on climate change and the environment since 1981. The Paris Agreement was widely welcomed and celebrated by the international community and civil society. The WCC especially welcomes the fact that this agreement better reflects a justice-oriented perspective on addressing the climate crisis, offering a long-awaited sign of hope to those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

As the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan in 2013 observed, victims of climate change are the new face of the poor, the widow and the stranger that are especially loved and cared for by God. The 10th Assembly called on WCC member churches and ecumenical organizations to insist that their respective governments look beyond national interests in order to be responsible towards God’s creation and our common future, and to urge them to safeguard and promote the basic human rights of those who are threatened by the effects of climate change.

Members of the ecumenical delegation (convened jointly by WCC and ACT Alliance) attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakesh, Nov. 7-18, 2016, (COP 22), called for COP 22 to translate the hope generated by the Paris Agreement into higher ambitions and concrete actions–noting that thus far the nationally determined commitments (NDCs) fall far short of what is needed to prevent the global temperature rise exceeding 2 degrees Celsius, let alone the more ambitious 1.5 degrees Celsius target. The ecumenical delegation also called for countries to initiate a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy including by ending fossil fuel subsidies and boosting investments in renewable energies, and for wealthier industrialized countries to support poorer developing countries in this transition through finance and technology transfer.

It was also in Marrakesh, 15 years ago during the COP 7 meeting, that the WCC organized a groundbreaking Colloquium on Islamic and Christian Perspectives on Environment and Climate Change. In that gathering, Christians and Muslims affirmed that “faith communities unite to make peace with the Earth.” Since then interfaith dialogue and cooperation in response to the challenge of climate change have grown, contributing to the momentum that resulted in the Paris Agreement.

The WCC executive committee, meeting in Nanjing, China, Nov. 17-23, 2016:

Reiterates the urgent concerns of churches around the world in relation to climate change and its adverse effects on the whole of creation, especially on vulnerable poor and indigenous communities, the irreversible ecological degradation and loss of biodiversity, the increased risk of social and political tensions, conflict and displacement in a climate-constrained world, and the moral imperative of fossil fuel divestment and of investing in a low-carbon path to realizing economic, social and ecological wellbeing and sustainability for the whole creation.

Reaffirms the central importance of continuing ecumenical advocacy and action for climate justice in the framework of the pilgrimage of justice and peace, and intensified interfaith cooperation for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Acknowledges and welcomes the example offered by the government of China in its ratification of the Paris Agreement and in leading the world in investing in development of renewable energy.

Encourages the government of China to show further global leadership by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement commitments.

Calls on all states to fulfil the commitments of the Paris Agreement, through local, national and international action and cooperation, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to stop deforestation, to ensure that the global temperature rise does not exceed 2 degrees Celsius (striving for the lower target of 1.5 degrees Celsius), and to increase investment in renewable energy technologies in order to achieve the target of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Calls especially on rich industrialized countries to scale up support (including through technology transfer) and to fulfill the commitment to mobilize $100 billion per year for climate change mitigation and adaptation from 2020.

Expresses concern at the pledge by US President-elect Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and calls on the US government to maintain and fulfil the commitments entailed in its ratification of this essential agreement.

Expresses support for the work of the WCC ecological and economic justice (EEJ) programme to develop theological and educational activities on sustainable alternatives for poverty reduction and ecological justice (SAPREJ), underlining the necessity of changed lifestyles in order to address the root causes of climate injustice.

Notes that climate change is already having adverse consequences on the very foundations of peoples’ sustenance: water and food, and therefore affirms the work of the WCC’s Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) leading the WCC to becoming a “Blue Community” (recognizing water as a human right, saying “No” to the sale of bottled water where tap water is safe to drink, and promoting publicly financed, owned and operated water and sewerage services), and of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) Food for Life campaign promoting food justice, the human right to food, and sustainable agro-ecological food production.


3) Bethany is among ‘Seminaries That Change the World’

By Jenny Williams

Photo courtesy of Bethany Seminary
Bethany Seminary student Jonathan Stauffer

For the second consecutive year, the Center for Faith and Service at McCormick Theological Seminary has named Bethany Theological Seminary to “Seminaries That Change the World.” The program recognizes schools that demonstrate innovation in theological education, investing in students and programs that uphold community service and social justice.

Examples of investment in these values are scholarships, integration of service and justice into the curriculum, and opportunities for community-based learning. To be selected, Bethany provided information about work-study positions at community service agencies held by students, ministry formation placements at nonprofits, and alumni/ae who are integrating faith and service in their work. Bethany offers a Church Service Covenant Grant to students who intend to engage in a ministerial vocation, and the seminary community has taken steps to create multicultural awareness and engagement on campus. Bethany courses such as Just Peace and Ecological Theology and Christian Responsibility intentionally explore current social issues, and Bethany students have great flexibility to create a customized academic path that integrates faith and service.

The Center for Faith and Service promotes schools named to “Seminaries That Change the World” in various ways. For the second year, an online Advent calendar features daily reflections by students or alumni/ae from the seminaries. Jonathan Stauffer, a senior MA student at Bethany, wrote this year’s reflection for Dec. 4. Read his thoughts and more about him at .

Bethany’s partner school, Earlham School of Religion, is also among this year’s honorees. More information about “Seminaries That Change the World” and the class of 2016-17 is available at

— Jenny Williams is director of communications at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind.


4) Multicultural tour to the Holy Land is a success

By Daniel D’Oleo

Nineteen people enjoyed the opportunity to visit Israel while having fellowship, sharing meaningful scripture readings on biblical sites, and bringing scripture alive in their souls and minds. The trip was organized by the Renacer Hispanic Ministry under the leadership of Stafford Frederick and Daniel D’Oleo as a fundraising event to support the vision and ministry of the Renacer Hispanic Ministry.


Photo courtesy of Daniel D’Oleo
The group that participated in the multicultural tour of the Holy Land


The trip was a wonderful experience for those visiting the Holy Land for the first time. Being in the same cities and places where Jesus walked and developed his ministry was emotionally meaningful for many in the group. This was especially so for the six people who were baptized in the Jordan River, those who enjoyed the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, and those who experienced floating in the Dead Sea. Among the places visited: Capernaum, Canaan, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Caesarea, Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea, among others. Rain on the day of the visit to the Tomb of Jesus did not stop the group from sharing communion together on site.

Before going, there were concerns about security while visiting Israel. However, the group learned that the media has contributed to creating many unrealistic fears. The experience was a great one, and the group never felt in danger.

The makeup of the group was as follows: fifteen women and four men representing the USA, Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Chile, and Haiti, with the oldest person turning 80 this month. Throughout the trip, songs and hymns were sung in four languages: English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Hebrew.

The trip was deemed a success as lives were touched, multicultural relations strengthened, funds raised to bless and support a new church plant, memories built, and most importantly the name of God was glorified!

Income from the trip will be dedicated to supporting the vision of the Renacer Hispanic Ministry to encourage Latino church planting efforts in the United States. For more information about Renacer Hispanic Ministry go to the Ministerio Hispano Renacer Facebook page or call 540-892-8791.

— Daniel D’Oleo is a Church of the Brethren minister and a leader in the Renacer Hispanic Ministry.



5) National Youth Cabinet is named for 2017-18

The Church of the Brethren Youth and Young Adult Ministry has named a 2017-18 National Youth Cabinet. Members of the group are:

Hannah Buck from Mt. Wilson Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District

Erika Clary from Brownsville Church of the Brethren in Mid-Atlantic District

Emilie Deffenbaugh form Somerset Church of the Brethren in Western Pennsylvania District

Haley Dulabaum from Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Illinois and Wisconsin

Connor Ladd from Columbia City Church of the Brethren in Northern Indiana District

Trevor Haren from Ivester Church of the Brethren in Northern Plains District

Adult advisors to the cabinet are Carol Elmore from Virlina District and Nathan Hollenberg from Shenandoah District.

Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, will work with the cabinet to plan National Youth Conference 2018. NYC 2018 will take place July 21-26 in Ft. Collins, Colo.


For more about the Youth and Young Adult Ministry go to


6) Bethany Seminary fills positions in admissions and student services

By Jenny Williams

Photos courtesy of Bethany Seminary
New seminary staff Lori Current and Bailey Schroeder

Bethany Theological Seminary has filled the new position of executive director of admissions and student services with the hiring of Lori Current of Richmond, Ind. She comes to administration at the seminary from Indiana University East in Richmond, where she has held the position of assistant director of admissions.

In her six years with IUE, Current has focused on improving a partnership with community colleges, especially Ivy Tech in Richmond, and increasing the number of transfer students enrolling at the university in consecutive semesters. She has also helped solidify a contractual partnership with the Women’s Tennis Association and the Association of Tennis Professionals to assist transfer and online students who play professional tennis. She is a graduate of Taylor University.

Current is on the board of directors of the Indiana Transfer Council, sanctioned through the Commission of Higher Education. An active community businessperson and resident, she is membership chair of the Richmond Rotary Club, a past president of Helping Young Professionals Engage, and a 2015 recipient of Wayne County’s Outstanding Young Professional award.

Bailey Schroeder of Richmond, Ind., will be filling the position of administrative assistant for admissions and student services. Also from IUE, Schroeder has held the position of assistant director of admissions at the university for three years. In addition to managing recruitment from more than 25 high schools, she has provided leadership in the implementation of the computer database and maintenance of web pages for the admissions department. She is a graduate of Earlham College.

Both Current and Schroeder will begin at Bethany on Jan. 3, 2017.

— Jenny Williams is director of communications at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind.



7) ‘Art for Nigeria’: Nigeria has given me much, I hope to give some back

By Jonathan “Pogu” Ogburn


Artwork by Jonathan Ogburn
Art for Nigeria by Jonathan Ogburn (from left): #1, Bring Back Our Girls; #2, Harvest Time; #3, Play Time


On the night of April 14 and early morning of April 15 in 2014, militants of the terror group Boko Haram attacked the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok. The militants quickly overwhelmed the small paramilitary contingent based in Chibok and abducted around 276 high school-age girl students, most of whom were members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

I heard of this story soon after it happened via social media and it resonated with me, because to me Chibok is a place I once knew as a child. My parents, Howard and Carolee Ogburn, came to Nigeria as missionaries for the Church of the Brethren Mission (CBM) in 1963. I went to Nigeria at age 3 months. We moved to the small, remote town of Chibok soon after, with my three older sisters. There I was given the Chibok name Pogu, literally “boy with three older sisters.” We later moved to other northeastern Nigerian towns. My parents and I left Nigeria in 1984, having lived in Nigeria the whole time excepting furloughs stateside.

Although I left Nigeria many years ago the experience colored my life and I follow the news there closely. Starting around 2010, Boko Haram has ravaged the very area where I grew up. Every town and village I lived in or visited has been attacked multiple times: Lassa, Chibok, Kwarhi, Mubi, and Jos. Boko Haram has been accused of multiple massacres including in Gwoza in June 2014, and in Bama and Baga in 2015. As many as 30,000 to 100,000 people have been killed in this time period. Towns and villages in large swathes of three northeastern Nigerian states lie devastated. IDP camps are full of very poorly fed refugees who are so terrified of Boko Haram that the mere rumor of approaching fighters is enough to send people fleeing.

Artwork by Jonathan Ogburn
Art for Nigeria by Jonathan Ogburn (from left): #4, Shadouf in Burkina; #5, Camels in Mbalala, Northeast Nigeria; #6, Three Women Pounding Grain


Nigeria has given me so much, I hope to give back some to Nigeria. Using memories and sometimes old photos by CBM missionaries I have drawn pictures detailing life in remote, northeastern Nigeria. The drawings are colored using high quality Prismacolor markers.

The note cards are size 4 inches by 5 inches, are printed on quality textured linen paper, and cost $4 per card. Each comes with an envelope. Prints of the pictures are size 9 inches by 11 inches, printed on the same textured linen paper, and cost $20 each. Originals of the artwork also are for sale.

I pledge to donate half of any and all money earned to the Nigeria Crisis Fund, which has to date raised over $5 million for relief work in war-torn northeast Nigeria.

— Jon “Pogu” Ogburn grew up in Nigeria as the child of Church of the Brethren mission parents. Currently he lives in North Carolina, where he owns and operated a small home-repair business with an emphasis on fixing roof leaks. To place an “Art for Nigeria” order contact Jon Ogburn, 584 Oleander Ln., Sylva NC 28779.


Artwork by Jonathan Ogburn
Art for Nigeria by Jonathan Ogburn (from left): #7, Jafi Falls; #8, Ferry on the Yedzeram River; #9, Spinning Cotton into Thread



Artwork by Jonathan Ogburn
Art for Nigeria by Jonathan Ogburn (from left): #10 Laraba, Northeast Nigeria; #11, Wild Sunflowers; #12 Smooth Phlox



8) Brethren bits


— 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 .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Paige Butzlaff, Daniel D’Oleo, Ed Groff, Stan Noffsinger, Jon Ogburn, Linda Williams, Sharon Yohn, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for 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. 16.

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