Newsline for November 18, 2016

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ … ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31).

Photo by Mandy Garcia


1) Christ the King Sunday letter calls the denomination to renewed discipleship
2) Leadership Team and CODE leaders express thanks for prayer support
3) Workcamp constructs church for displaced Nigerians
4) Office of Public Witness sponsors congressional briefing on Nigeria
5) EYN president urges churches to be strong in faith with endurance
6) On Earth Peace board holds fall meeting


7) Webinars to focus on urban and church planting ministries


8) ‘The Disturbances’ tells of Christians saving lives during 1966 genocide in Nigeria

9) Brethren bits


Quote of the week:

“Under the reign of Christ, we are raised up from the roots of our sin, lifted from fear, grief, and anger, to take part in God’s ongoing reconciliation of all things. In Christ we are restored to the loving embrace of God and we are reconciled one to another.”

Annual Conference moderator Carol A. Scheppard and general secretary David A. Steele, in a letter sent to each of the Church of the Brethren districts this week. See the first item below or go directly to .


1) Christ the King Sunday letter calls the denomination to renewed discipleship

A letter has been written to the Church of the Brethren by Annual Conference moderator Carol Scheppard and general secretary David Steele, calling the church and its members to renewed discipleship to Jesus Christ on Christ the King Sunday, Nov. 20. The last Sunday of the church year, before the start of Advent, is called “Christ the King” or “Reign of Christ” Sunday and invites Christians to be reminded–before a season of waiting–of whom we await.

Here is the full text of the letter that has been sent to each district in the denomination:

Christ the King Sunday

November 20, 2016

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

This Sunday is the last of the church year and is called Christ the King Sunday. Since the season of Pentecost the scripture passages of the lectionary have followed Jesus’ teaching and ministry. Now, on this last Sunday, we return to the theme that was proclaimed over Jesus as an infant–he is the savior of all nations. And as Mary proclaimed so boldly, he is the one to feed the hungry, care for the weak, and bring down the proud.

This year has been a difficult one, both within the church and in the culture around us. Within the church we have grieved the loss of leaders and the loss of community amidst contentious decisions. We have lived as faithful disciples as best we could, and yet at times we have failed to live up to Christ’s prayer that we may be one. At the same time, the culture around us has been mired in violence, fear, and hatred. This year in particular the electoral process has introduced an unparalleled rhetoric that sought to divide the nation in the name of victory.

On this last Sunday of the church year, we invite each one of us as disciples of Christ to return to our baptismal confession–Jesus is Lord!

As we once again proclaim the reign of Christ in all things, we come to know that our fear, grief, and anger are all rooted in our sinful nature. Yet, in proclaiming the Lordship of Christ we celebrate the very grace of Christ’s reign. As we read in Colossians, through Christ “God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).

Under the reign of Christ, we are raised up from the roots of our sin, lifted from fear, grief, and anger, to take part in God’s ongoing reconciliation of all things. In Christ we are restored to the loving embrace of God and we are reconciled one to another.

To proclaim to the world that Jesus is Lord is not a head in the sand avoidance of the realities of sin around us, but rather a call to another way of living in the world. When we live as followers of the Christ King we seek the welfare of those on the margins, we advocate and protect the lives of the vulnerable, and we seek the well being of our neighbors. To say Jesus is Lord is a political statement, a truth made plain in all the prayers and lives of the martyrs. Yet, it is a political proclamation that sends us into the world as participants in God’s reconciling love.

On this coming Sunday, we invite all Brethren to renew their baptismal confession by asking the three profound questions that have been a part of our practice of the Lord’s Supper:

Are you in right relationship with God as you professed upon your baptism?

     Are you in right relationship with your sisters and brothers in Christ?

     Are you in right relationship with your neighbor?

Upon searching our hearts through these questions, we invite Brethren around the country to create spaces of hospitality and conversation with others. We hope that each of us will step beyond our church doors and seek out those in need, whether they are living from paycheck to paycheck or are in fear for their own safety. We ask that each of us build relationships with our neighbors and actively take part in the important work already underway in our communities to support people on the margins. For we know that as citizens of the Kingdom of God the greatest commandment is to love God with our whole selves, and that the second is like it, that we love our neighbors as ourselves.

When we live from these two great commandments, we stand within the world as embodied witnesses to the reconciliation of Christ and we boldly proclaim that Jesus is Lord!

Carol A. Scheppard
Annual Conference Moderator
Church of the Brethren

David A. Steele
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

For more worship resources suitable for Christ the King Sunday, go to .


2) Leadership Team and CODE leaders express thanks for prayer support

A release from the Church of the Brethren Leadership Team and CODE

The Leadership Team of the Church of the Brethren and the executive committee of the Council of District Executives (CODE) met Nov. 1-2 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., and have expressed their gratitude for everyone who prayed with them during that time. The combined leadership experienced God’s presence and guidance and has begun to discern what they believe the Lord wants the church to say in response to the task assigned to them by Annual Conference.

This assignment began when the 2016 Annual Conference referred the concerns of the “Query: Same Sex Weddings” to the Leadership Team in consultation with CODE  “to bring clarity and guidance concerning the authority of Annual Conference and districts regarding the accountability of ministers, congregations, and districts, bringing recommendations to the 2017 Annual Conference.”

Much work remains to be done, and the group looks forward to its planned consultation with all of the district executives. Continuing prayer for the Leadership Team and CODE is requested, in prayer partnership with all our brothers and sisters across the spectrum of the Church of the Brethren, as together we seek to discern and to embody God’s purposes for this body of Christ.

The 2016-2017 Leadership Team of the Church of the Brethren:

David A. Steele, general secretary
Carol A. Scheppard, Annual Conference moderator
Samuel Kefas Sarpiya, Annual Conference moderator-elect
James M. Beckwith, Annual Conference secretary
Chris Douglas, Conference director, staff support

The executive committee of CODE:

Colleen Michael, chair
Kevin Kessler, vice chair
David Shetler, secretary
David Shumate, treasurer


3) Workcamp constructs church for displaced Nigerians

The first of a series of workcamps to rebuild churches has been taking place in Nigeria. The series is connected with the Nigeria Crisis Response, a joint effort of the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). At this workcamp, a group of nine Brethren from several different congregations have helped construct a church for displaced Nigerians.


Photo by Jay Wittmeyer
Participants construct a church for displaced Nigerians at the “Nigeria Nehemiah Workcamp.”


Among those joining the workcamp was Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren, who reported via Facebook: “The Nigerian Nehemiah workcamp, building a church building for families displaced from Chibok and Michika. After a worship service of welcome and praise, we leveled the floor and poured part of the foundation.”

The workcampers have served alongside Nigerian Brethren to build a new church in an area where many IDPs (Internally Displaced People) have re-settled. BEST, the Brethren Evangelical Support Trust related to EYN, has helped to sponsor the project and host.

Wittmeyer has posted a short video clip of the workcamp on his Facebook page. For information about upcoming Nigeria workcamps planned for 2017 go to


4) Office of Public Witness sponsors congressional briefing on Nigeria

By Sara White

This past Tuesday the Office of Public Witness along with members of the Nigeria working group and the Congressional African Staff Association hosted a briefing to discuss the food crisis in northeast Nigeria. Over 40 congressional staffers attended, packing the room.


Photo by Kyle Dietrich
The panel at the congressional briefing on food crisis in Nigeria.


The Office of Public Witness has been hearing reports of food crisis from organizations working in Nigeria throughout the Boko Haram crisis. Recently the office started receiving reports from staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) describing families struggling to get enough food due to inflation, disruptions in farming, and an inadequate humanitarian response. UNICEF reports that in Borno State alone, where many EYN members are located, there are “244,000 children who will suffer this year from severe acute malnutrition.” Former Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell is saying that “this [famine] may be the worst we’ve seen.”

The panel Tuesday included American professor Carl Levan, Lauren Blanchard with the Congressional Research Service, Lantana Abdullahi with Search for Common Ground, and Madeline Rose of Mercy Corps. They highlighted the need for increased attention on the ongoing humanitarian crisis, which is highly neglected by members of Congress. It is particularly important to shift the focus of conversation from defeating Boko Haram through military force, to building long-term peace and security through famine relief, economic development, and interfaith interactions.

Visit the Office of Public Witness’s facebook page  to see pictures of the briefing: . For ways to raise awareness and support brothers and sisters in Nigeria, read our most recent action alert at

— Sara White is a policy intern at the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C.


5) EYN president urges churches to be strong in faith with endurance

By Zakariya Musa

Joel S. Billi, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), is calling on members to be strong with endurance in times of hardship. He said this in a sermon during the granting of church autonomy to the Lumba congregation on Sunday, Nov. 13. This is the sixth granting of church autonomy by the present EYN administration, and is to a church established from EYN’s LCC (Local Church Council) Mararaba church in the DCC [district of] Hildi.


Photo by Zakariya Musa, courtesy of EYN
EYN leaders and church members gather in the destroyed auditorium of the LCC Gulak congregation.


EYN leaders also have been continuing their “Sympathy, Reconciliation and Encouragement Tour” and in early November visited Gulak in Madagali Local Government of Adamawa State. Billi and his entourage was received by a crowd of followers who cued up some kilometers away from LCC Gulak, singing praises to God, dancing in appreciation for the day.

The president in a sermon encouraged Christians to reconcile with everyone, quoting from the Bible, “God reconciled us to himself…” through Christ Jesus. He charged all to live in harmony, sharing what we have with those that don’t have. “Don’t point fingers at anybody. Let’s forgive those who miss calculate their target,” he said. “God has made us sons of peace.”

He appreciated Christians in the area for their faith in the face of insurgency and thanked the security agents in an area. He called on the members to appreciate security agents with anything they can afford as they work to restore peace and order among the communities. He also informed the gathering of the 21 Chibok school girls recent release, [saying they were] “very strong in their faith.”

EYN has four District Church Councils (DCCs) in the area–Madagali, Gulak, Wagga, and Mildlu–where some still can’t sleep in their homes. They gathered at the destroyed Local Church Council along with their members, though some could not come for security reasons and distance.

The DCC secretaries presented their situation to the leadership as follows:

— DCC Gulak: 14 pastors, 29 churches burnt, 70 houses burnt, 127 people killed, 44 people abducted and 7 missing, 29 LCCs/LCBs.

— DCC Mildlu: 15 pastors, 9 churches burnt, 11 houses burnt, 69 people killed, 26 people abducted including 7- and 9-year-old girls, 14 LCCs/LCBs.

— DCC Wagga: 13 pastors, 14 LCCs/LCBs.

— DCC Madagali: 11 pastors, 4 churches and an LCB burnt, 30 people killed, 4 people abducted.

DCC Gulak reported that 40 percent of church members have returned. They enumerated their key needs as food, health services, and more security. Some pastors don’t get salaries [but] continue with evangelism despite the hardship.

“Mildlu was attacked more than eight times from May to August 2016,” the DCC secretary reported. Many have fallen and died. DCC Mildlu thanked EYN for food assistance through the Disaster Relief Ministry. Pastors are working day and night [they said].

A member from LCC Wagga and DCC Wagga reported that 300 to 400 members meet every Sunday for worship. Some of the churches in Ghabala and Wagga had holy Communion with 244 and 200 communicant members. Further up the mountain, they said they have hosted other LCCs throughout the insurgency period.

One speaker gave a testimony that their church was not burnt and asked for more prayer for protection.

The EYN general secretary informed the audience that as a result of the tour, which enabled the EYN president to talk to HE Kashim Shettima, the Borno State government has formed a committee to rebuild churches in southern Borno. “Abin mamaki Musulmi na gina Ekklesiya,” meaning, “What a surprise! Muslims building churches.”

The EYN vice president at the end of the occasion applauded Christians for their courage to return home. “This is your land where shall we go again,” he said.

Special prayers were offered for the country, the church leadership, the traumatized, and those that lost their relatives.

In other news from EYN

The denomination’s Integrated Community Based Development Program (ICBDP) organized a three-day workshop for facilitators of a Church and Community Mobilization Process whose activities are sponsored by the Tear Fund, UK.

According to director James T. Mamza, the event comes as a result of some workshops attended by the department staff who will now “stepdown” the knowledge to the CCMP facilitators. Mamza praised the achievement. “We have met the target of 60 co-facilitators that we have proposed to train,” he said. One of the topics treated on the first day of the workshop was a Contingency Planning Process on Emergency Preparedness.

Zakariya Musa serves on the communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).


6) On Earth Peace board holds fall meeting

From an On Earth Peace release

The On Earth Peace board and staff met together on Oct. 6-8 and were hosted by West Charleston Church of the Brethren near Tipp City, Ohio. On Earth Peace board members Carla Gillespie and co-pastor Irv Heishman hosted the meeting with the expectation that a congregation that welcomes diversity in its midst, with Spanish and English speakers, would be a welcoming place for all members of the On Earth Peace board and especially welcoming to persons of color.

On Earth Peace welcomed two new board members: Bev Eikenberry from North Manchester, Ind., and Erin Gratz of La Verne, Calif. The board also welcomed Lamar Gibson, new development director, as well as the Anti-Racism Transformation Team co-chairs Heidi Gross from Chicago, Ill., and Amaha Sellassie from Dayton, Ohio.

The On Earth Peace board and staff welcomed Tim Harvey and Leah Hileman of the Review and Evaluation Committee as they engaged in conversation about two queries that came to the committee from the delegates at the 2016 Annual Conference in Greensboro, N.C. The two groups engaged in a process that allowed for a richer and deeper conversation, grounded in their common heritage as Brethren with Anabaptist and Pietist roots.

Other On Earth Peace business included discussion of a potential query to Annual Conference in 2017, a regularly scheduled executive director review, and a process to begin clarifying On Earth Peace’s mission and vision.



7) Webinars to focus on urban and church planting ministries

The next two webinars offered through the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries are based on the Crucibles Course offered by the Anabaptist Network, UK. The webinars will focus on urban and church planting-based ministries.

A webinar titled “Post-Everything” will be led by Stuart Murray Williams on Thursday, Dec. 15, from 2:30-3:30 p.m. (Eastern time).

A webinar titled “Augmented Margins: Living Hopefully in Expanding Times,” will be presented by Juliet Kilpin on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, from 2:30-3:30 p.m. (Eastern time).

These webinars are jointly sponsored by the Church of the Brethren with the Anabaptist Network, UK and the Centre for Anabaptism (Bristol Baptist College). Visit in order to link to the webinars. For questions contact Stan Dueck, director of Transforming Practices on the Congregational Life Ministries staff, at 800-323-8039 ext. 343, 717-368-0404, or



8) ‘The Disturbances’ tells of Christians saving lives during 1966 genocide in Nigeria

Photo courtesy of BHLA
Roger Ingold is one of the missionaries featured in ‘The Disturbances’

“The Disturbances” is a new feature-length documentary film telling the story of how Christian missionaries and Nigerian pastors helped intervene in violence in northern Nigeria in 1966, during a time of tribal genocide that preceded the Biafra War. Among missionaries from several denominations, Church of the Brethren mission workers are featured including Roger Ingold, who was Nigeria field secretary at the time. Children of Brethren mission families also were interviewed for the film., a division of the Baptist Center for Ethics, produced the film. Robert Parham and Cliff Vaughn were the documentary producers.

“It is an untold story that is finally getting its due on its 50th anniversary,” said a release. “Thousands of people, mostly Igbos and Easterners, were brutally killed in a few days in the fall of 1966 in northern Nigeria. The death toll would have been higher if Christian missionaries and Nigerian pastors had not taken action to save lives. Their heroic work has been unknown, primarily because those involved never spoke about what happened–using veiled language and euphemisms, such as ‘the disturbances,’ in public reports and statements.”

Those interviewed for the project included missionaries and missionary children from the Assemblies of God, Christian Reformed Church, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Southern Baptist Convention, Sudan Interior Mission, and Sudan United Mission, as well as the Church of the Brethren.

The release noted that “the producers conducted more than two dozen on-camera interviews, acquired nearly 2,500 documents, slides, and photographs, obtained several hours of missionary home movies, worked with roughly a dozen different denominational, educational, and filmic archives, and talked to scores of other witnesses.”

For more information visit or visit the film’s Facebook page and Twitter page.


9) Brethren bits

South/Central Indiana District has shared a photo by Tina Rieman, “capturing this glorious reflection on the back door of the district office. May we all reflect God’s glory so well!”

Illinois and Wisconsin District staff report via Facebook that Canton (Ill.) Church of the Brethren and its members are okay following a large gas explosion in the downtown area of Canton. One person was killed and more than 10 injured in the explosion that has shut down the center of the city and closed all the businesses in the area. “There was a gas explosion in Canton last night that happened about 3 1/2 blocks away from the Canton COB,” the district’s post said. “No damage to the meetinghouse and all of our folks are okay. Many buildings in the downtown area sustained damage, a few near the explosion site with heavy damage. Many broken windows…. Canton is a community that has weathered difficulties throughout its history (a tornado in 1975, major fires, economic downturns) and has remained resilient. With prayers and strength, I’m confident the city will bounce back again. Please pray for the family who lost a loved one, emergency personnel, business people, and all who are assisting in any way.”

Remembrance: Raymond Begitschke, 93, died on Nov. 2 at the Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights, Ill. He worked as a an offset stripper and camera operator for Brethren Press from January 1971 through December 1986. Services were planned for Nov. 17 at Glueckert Funeral Home in Arlington Heights. The full obituary is posted at .

Nicole and Jason Hoover, who are members of Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren and are from Mifflinburg, Pa., are beginning a term of service in the Dominican Republic. They will work with Iglesia de los Hermanos (the Church of the Brethren in the DR) on behalf of the Global Mission and Service of the Church of the Brethren. The Hoovers will support the Dominican church in the areas of church growth and outreach, service, and reconciliation, and are helping the church to strengthen its voice of Anabaptism and peace. They also will assist in various educational and agricultural activities of the church. The couple and their children are moving to the DR this week. Said a prayer request from the Global Mission and Service office: “Pray for God’s peace in this time of transition and settling in. Pray for the Spirit’s guiding in making connections and building relationships.”

SERRV honored retiring staff Bob Chase, Susan Chase, and Barbara Fogle at an annual recognition dinner of employees and board members on Nov. 10 at the Brethren Service Center, New Windsor, Md. Bob Chase is in his 27th year as president of SERRV, a nonprofit founded by the Church of the Brethren following World War II. SERRV’s mission is to eradicate poverty by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide.

Brethren Woods is looking to hire a Peace and Justice director. “Do you have plans for summer 2017?” said an announcement. “The Peace and Justice director is a summer-long position that will teach daily classes to campers about the peace tradition of the Historic Peace Churches (Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers), offer biblical and theological bases for Christian peacemaking on an age-appropriate level, and teach practical conflict resolution skills.” Qualified applicants will have a working knowledge of all of the above, experience working with children and youth, and gifts in teaching. When not teaching classes, the Peace and Justice director will be an integral part of the camp community, working to build relationships, and assisting the program directors and assistant program directors in implementing all camp activities. The position will begin in late May and run through the end of July. Salary for this position will take the candidate’s level of education and experience into account. Brethren Woods seeks to continually diversify its staff. Persons of color are highly encouraged to apply. Fill out an application at .


Photo by Mary Geisler
Twins are among the children in a shelter in North Carolina who have been cared for by Children’s Disaster Services following Hurricane Matthew.


Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has completed its work in North Carolina following Hurricane Matthew, after serving children and families in a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center and Red Cross shelters for a couple of weeks. CDS left NC this past Sunday, having seen a total of 146 children. They set up child care centers in four different locations throughout the time they were there, with a total of 15 volunteers participating in the response. Here’s a reflection from one of the volunteers, Jane Lindberg: “As always, it was a pleasure to work with my CDS teammates and serve the families we were able to. I think what I will remember most was one particular little fellow who had been through some pretty traumatic circumstances and lost the things that his mom said mattered most to him (favorite blanket, toy etc.), not to mention his home. He was initially very frightened when he separated from his grandmother and mother (I’m sure he feared that he might lose them too) and they had to come back many times to reassure him they were still in the building. But then he began to play and recapture the joy of being a child. It seemed to me that seeing him play and laugh became a true blessing to the adults who loved him as well. I am grateful for the opportunity to share in this caring ministry.” For more about the work of Children’s Disaster Services go to .

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 .

A partner organization in the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren and EYN has begun working with the United Nations to train committees on IDP camp coordination and management. “The Center for  Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives (CCEPI) has been mandated by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to train 1,500 camps committees on camp coordination and camp management in 27 Camps in Borno State,” reports CCEPI leader and EYN member Rebecca Dali. “Some of the places are highly risky and dangerous places we have to go by plane UN Air services, some by military escorts,” she added in a short e-mail note to Church of the Brethren staff. “We need your prayers…. Eight of us will be going to the camps.”

Red Hill Church of the Brethren in Virlina District celebrated the 50th anniversary of its sanctuary on Nov. 6. The celebration included a meal and the opening of a time capsule from 1966, according to a Facebook post from district executive minister David Shumate.

West York (Pa.) Church of the Brethren observed its 50th anniversary on Nov. 12-13. On Saturday there was a special evening of music led by former pastor Warren Eshbach. On Sunday the morning worship service included biblical teaching through music and mime by a drama ministry from Lancaster, Pa., and leadership by Eshbach along with current pastor Gregory Jones and a “ministerial son of the congregation,” Matthew Hershey.

Union Bridge (Md.) Church of the Brethren and the Joanne Grossnickle Scholarship committee has awarded scholarships to seven college students for the 2016-17 school year. According to the Carroll County Times, the scholarships were presented during a Sunday morning worship service in late summer. Recipients include Alan Bowman and Rachel McCuller, who are studying at Bridgewater (Va.) College; Hannah Himes, West Chester University; Taylor Hook, Messiah College; Zachary Plank, Penn College of Technology; Melinda Staub, Towson University; and Emily Zimmerman, Hood College. Scholarship recipients have graduated from area high schools or have membership or family ties to the congregation. The scholarships are awarded in memory of Joanne Grossnickle who “was killed in 1984 while working with an interdenominational task force dealing with violence against women,” the newspaper reported.

Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren hosted a spiritual renewal event over the weekend, titled “Seeking the First Kingdom,” according to “Americans are yearning for change, says the Rev. Jeff Carter, and that change goes deeper than a presidential election,” the news site reported, quoting the president of Bethany Seminary who was a keynote speaker for the gathering focused on ways to involve people in the church. “Political yearnings are one thing,” Carter said, “but they’re all based off of a deeper yearning. How do we (the church) provide answers?” Other speakers include Glenn Mitchell, director of training and programs at Oasis Ministries; John Zeswitz, executive vice president at Lancaster Bible College; Jamie Nace, director of children’s ministries at the Lancaster Church; Lee Barrett, professor of systematic theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary; and Michael Howes, youth pastor at the Lancaster Church. See the news report at .

John Barr, organist at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren, was commissioned by Emmert and Esther Bittinger to compose a choral anthem to raise awareness of the plight of the abducted schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria, reports Global Mission and Service. The piece featured in Bridgewater’s worship last week, with a bulletin cover of Chibok artwork by Brian Meyer of First Church of the Brethren in San Diego, Calif.

Stony Creek Church of the Brethren in Bellefontaine, Ohio, is supporting an effort by senior high member Brandi Motsinger, 17, to start a nonprofit called Wide Arms Security Blankets. Motsinger “is like many another busy Sidney High School senior,” says a report in the Sidney Daily News. “Here’s how she’s different from many another SHS senior: she spends as much as 15 hours per week running the nonprofit organization…. She collects blankets and funds for blankets to be donated to homeless shelters.” The newspaper reports that the idea came from a child Motsinger encountered while volunteering at a homeless shelter, who asked her for a blanket but there weren’t any available. “The disappointment in the child’s eyes and God’s tug on my heart founded Wide Arms Security Blankets,” Motsinger told the paper. Her church is serving as fiscal agent for the nonprofit, the legal entity for managing donations and expenses. Read the article at .

Martin Hutchinson, who pastors Community of Joy Church of the Brethren in Salisbury, Md., and is founder of Camden Community Gardens, was this year’s recipient of the WET Award for Environmental Advocacy from the Wicomico Environmental Trust. WET is a grassroots nonprofit that works to protect the scenic beauty and environmental health of Wicomico County and the Chesapeake Bay. The award was presented at the organization’s Annual Dinner and Environmental Advocacy and Stewardship Awards event in October.

The 2016 district conference season has come to a close, with the last two district conferences held by Virlina District on Nov. 11-12 in Roanoke, Va., and by Pacific Southwest District on Nov. 11-13 at Modesto (Calif.) Church of the Brethren.

Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community will hold its first ever pre-Christmas yard sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19. “Come for lots of holiday decorations in addition to quality yard sale items,” said the Shenandoah District announcement. Proceeds of the sale benefit local agencies including the Bridgewater Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad.

Manchester University will host a presentation by Anthony Ray Hinton, who was falsely accused and convicted of murder and spent nearly 30 years on death row in Alabama before being exonerated and released in 2015. He will speak Dec. 6 at the university in N. Manchester, Ind., according to a release. “His release, covered at the time by the Washington Post, New York Times and all of the major networks, was the subject of a CBS News ‘60 Minutes’ presentation,” the release said. “Hinton will be introduced at Manchester by Sia Sanneh, a senior attorney at the Equal Justice Initiative, which secured his release after tireless efforts over more than 12 years of litigation. According to the EJI website, Hinton was convicted based solely on the assertion that a gun taken from his mother’s house was used in two killings and a third uncharged crime. No bullets used to commit those crimes, however, were a match to that gun. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction and he was released following a new trial.” Related events on campus will explore racial bias in the justice system, leading up to Hinton’s talk at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6, in Cordier Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public, sponsored by the Jon Livingston Mock Memorial Lectureship and the Office of Academic Resources.

The Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs  at Christian Theological Seminary provide funds to congregations to support renewal leaves for their pastors. Congregations may apply for grants of up to $50,000 to underwrite a renewal program for their pastor and for the pastor’s family, with up to $15,000 of those funds available to the congregation to help cover costs for ministerial supply while the pastor is away. There is no cost to the congregations or the pastors to apply; the grants represent the endowment’s continued investment in renewing the health and vitality of American Christian congregations. Find out more at .

Religion News Service is reporting newly released data from the FBI showing “spikes in anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic incidents” in the United States. “Though Jews remain the most frequent victims in America of hate crimes based on religion, the number of incidents against Muslims surged in 2015, according to newly released data from the FBI,” the article said. “Hate crimes against Muslims spiked 67 percent from 2014 to 2015. That represents 257 anti-Muslim incidents. Robert McCaw, government affairs director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the jump in anti-Muslim incidents continues to rise and even accelerated after the Nov. 8 election. The FBI data show 664 incidents against Jews and Jewish institutions motivated by anti-Semitism–an increase of about 9 percent.” Find the full RNS report at .

A new Jewish-Muslim alliance has formed to work against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, according to Religion News Service. On Nov. 14 the American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America Monday launched a new group called the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. “Though Jewish and Muslim groups have cooperated before, the size and influence of these two particular groups–and the prominence of the people who have joined the council–marks a milestone in Jewish-Muslim relations,” the RNS report said. Read more at .

The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs “has raised the alarm that more Nigerians may be displaced in the coming days as a result of the resurgence of Boko Haram,” according to an article published on OCHA humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria Peter Lundberg is quoted as saying that up to 1.8 million people remain displaced across the six states of northeast Nigeria, and that the dry season will see an increase in the number of attacks on civilians. “Data provided by OCHA shows that 338 Boko Haram related incidents have been recorded this year alone in the north-east with at least, 2,553 fatalities recorded within same period.” Find the full article at .

Improved inter-Korean relations and peace on the Korean peninsula were the focus of a conference attended by 58 people from churches and related organizations from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and 11 other countries, according to a release from the World Council of Churches (WCC), which organized the meeting. The group met in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China, from Nov. 14-16 as the International Ecumenical Conference on a Peace Treaty for the Korean Peninsula. The meeting was hosted by the Hong Kong Christian Council. In a communique, participants reaffirmed the WCC 10th Assembly statement that “it is the right time to begin a new process towards a comprehensive peace treaty that will replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement.” The communique said, in part: “The absence of a formal end to the Korean War still colours and obstructs inter-Korean relations today, and encourages the escalating arms race and militarization of the peninsula and region. The DPRK has repeatedly called for a peace treaty, but the USA has rejected such calls. Progress towards a peace treaty is needed now, in order to interrupt the spiralling cycle of mutual antagonism, confrontation, and militarization, to reduce tensions and build trust, to ensure the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Korean peninsula, and to promote an environment in which current issues in inter-Korean relations can be addressed and, God willing, resolved.” Find the communique at .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jeff Boshart, Anne Gregory, Kendra Harbeck, Roxane Hill, Kristen Hoffman, Nancy Miner, Zakariya Musa, Carol A. Scheppard, David A. Steele, Sara White, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, 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. Newsline will not appear during Thanksgiving week. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for Dec. 2.

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