Newsline for July 8, 2017

Church of the Brethren Newsline
July 8, 2017

Delegates at prayer during Annual Conference 2017. Photo by Regina Holmes.

“For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).

1) New Annual Conference officers are consecrated
2) Mission and Ministry Board approves 2018 budget parameter, among other business
3) Congregational Life Ministries gives Intercultural Award, welcomes new members of Open Roof Fellowship
4) Minister’s Association hears from Lillian Daniel, discusses relating to ‘Nones’
5) Bethany and Brethren Academy luncheon senses ‘Spirit Moving’
6) Brethren Revival Fellowship dinner, insight session address inspiring questions
7) Insight session tells the story of the Solingen Brethren
8) Banning nuclear weapons, 122 governments take leadership where nuclear powers have failed

9) Brethren bits: Remembrances, jobs, new fellowships and congregations, listening sessions in Michigan, donations for webcasts, Snapchat at Annual Conference, Nigeria briefing, children’s books for Flint, appeal against escalation on the Korean peninsula, more


Quote of the week:

“We’re working toward a compelling vision in the life of our church, asking, ‘What are those pieces we can claim as a church that align with our core Brethren values such as service and peace and community?’”

— Church of the Brethren general secretary David Steele, quoted in a report on international and ecumenical guests at the Mennonite Church USA Convention and Future Church Summit this week in Orlando, Fla. Steele attended with Annual Conference moderator Samuel Sarpiya and Conference director Chris Douglas. Mennonite news noted that the Brethren leaders were there as observers and to “walk alongside their spiritual cousins.” Steele commented on the Future Church Summit as “an opportunity to explore how we might engage the Church of the Brethren in a similar kind of conversation.” Find the Mennonite report at .


A note to readers: Over the summer, Newsline will go to an every-other-week schedule to allow for vacation time for staff. Please continue to send news tips and submissions to the editor at .


1) New Annual Conference officers are consecrated

The service held on the last day of Annual Conference 2017 consecrated new leadership for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference: (kneeling, from left) secretary James Beckwith, moderator Samuel Sarpiya, and moderator-elect Donita Keister. Photo by Glenn Riegel.

by Frank Ramirez

A contingent of family, friends, and church representatives gathered on the stage during the closing worship of the 2017 Annual Conference for the consecration of new leadership. The service consecrated Samuel Sarpiya as Annual Conference moderator, Donita Keister as moderator-elect, and James Beckwith for a second term as Conference secretary. Sarpiya will preside over the 2018 Annual Conference.

Carol Scheppard, moderator of the 2017 Conference, offered a prayer: “Remember who you are: a blessed child of God chosen for this work…. Let the power of your faith be a rock to you.”

“As I take this charge,” Sarpiya reflected, “I am remembering in the Church of the Brethren our faith is in action. It is not in celebrity or from fame or our wealth. Our faithful work is the ethical showing up day by day, shoulder to shoulder.”

In his brief remarks, he added, “Our theme for 2018 is ‘Living Parables,’ based on Matthew 9:35-38.”

He continued, “Let us proclaim the good news of the kingdom” as Jesus did. “When he [Jesus] saw the crowd he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless…. Jesus’ life provides the template…. Remember we are called to be living parables.”

General secretary David Steele concluded the short service in prayer.

2) Mission and Ministry Board approves 2018 budget parameter, among other business

The Mission and Ministry Board in pre-Annual Conference meetings. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

by Frances Townsend

The Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren has approved a $5,192,000 budget parameter for its Core Ministries in 2018, which is the same as the current 2017 budget. On June 28 in its pre-Annual Conference meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich., the board also heard a report on the sale of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., among other business.

Giving from congregations and individuals is projected to provide $2,585,000 toward the Core Ministries budget in 2018, the board heard from Brian Bultman, chief financial officer. The rest of the support for the budget is projected to come from draws on savings and other funds, such as bequests.

Salary and benefit costs in the new budget will rise slightly due to a 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment for personnel. Costs for medical insurance premiums are also projected to increase.

In an update on the sale of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center, the board learned that a quasi-endowment created with a portion of the proceeds from the sale will provide up to $512,000 for the Core Ministries budget in 2018.

Discussion noted that the Brethren Service Center property was subsidized for years by the Core Ministries budget, and now some of the accumulated assets will be put to work in current ministry projects. If that money were not used in 2018, church ministries and personnel would have to be cut significantly, the board heard.

The board also noted that the $512,000 is part of budget “patches” approved a year ago, which gave the board time to lay the ground work for a capital campaign. There was an acknowledgment that draws beyond 2018 are not sustainable.

At its March board meeting, the board had allocated percentages of the anticipated property sale to several funds. A designated fund for upkeep of the historic Brethren property at Germantown, Pa.–where the denomination owns the church, parsonage, and cemetery–receives $100,000 to help support major work at this site. Thirty percent of the remainder of the sale proceeds, totaling $1,584,809, is being put into a new Brethren Faith in Action Fund. Seventy percent, or $3,692,697, is going into the quasi-endowment fund.

The lower campus of the property in New Windsor continues as the Brethren Service Center. Offices there have been renovated and more than 20 people remain employed at various departments and agencies. The facility houses Brethren Disaster Ministries, Material Resources, and other staff of the Church of the Brethren, as well as office space for On Earth Peace and the SERRV distribution center. SERRV International has signed a three-year lease for the space.

In other business

The board gave staff permission to explore hiring a consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study to determine if and how to launch a major fundraising effort. If the board gives approval to move forward, at its fall meeting when a recommendation is brought by staff, such a campaign may put the denomination on a more sustainable financial footing so that patching budget holes with one-time draws on special funds will not be necessary.

Congregational Life Ministries presented awards and citations. Two congregations received citations from the Disabilities Ministry, and director Debbie Eisenbise welcomed them to the Open Roof Fellowship: Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren and York Center Church of the Brethren, both in Illinois and Wisconsin District. Don and Belita Mitchell received the Revelation 7:9 Award from the Intercultural Ministry, in recognition of their time, passion, and energy given for many years to make the Church of the Brethren an intercultural church. Most recently, they have offered intercultural leadership in Atlantic Northeast District.

International guests were introduced from Church of the Brethren bodies in the Great Lakes region of Africa, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Spain, and the Dominican Republic. The international guests who were at Annual Conference included EYN leaders from Nigeria Joel and Salamatu Billi, Daniel and Abigail Mbaya, and Markus Gamache, along with “self-sponsored” Nigerian guests Hauwa Zoaka and Adamu Malik. Attending from Rwanda was Etienne Nsanzimana. From Haiti, guests included Haitian church leaders Jean Bily Telfort and Vildor Archange. From the Dominican Republic, attendees representing the Dominican church were Gustavo Lendi Bueno and Besaida Diny Encarnacion. Spanish Brethren leaders included Santos Terrero Feliz and Ruch Matos Vargas. The First District Church of the Brethren in India was represented by Ramesh Makwan and Ravindra Patel.

The board thanked three members who are completing their term of service: (from left) J. Trent Smith, Don Fitzkee, who has been serving as chair, and Donita Keister. Photo by David Steele.

The guests shared greetings and some gave brief reports. The representative of the church in Rwanda reported that the country now has four congregations of the Church of the Brethren. No leaders were present from the church in the Democratic Republic of Congo because of difficulty in obtaining visas. A representative of the India Brethren expressed gratitude for the connection with American Brethren, and great concern for increasing anti-Christian activity in India. The EYN presidents brought greetings from the Nigerian Brethren, and thanks for the recent donation of two new tractors. The president of the church in Spain shared information about a goal to work across Europe. The Spanish Brethren recently opened a church plant in London, and have a dream to complete the circle back to their Brethren roots and plant a church in Germany.

The board thanked three members who are completing their terms of service: Don Fitzkee, who has been serving as chair, J. Trent Smith, and Donita Keister.

In a reorganization meeting, the board chose new members for its executive committee: Carl Fike, Jonathan Prater, and Dennis Webb. They will serve with chair Connie Burk Davis and chair-elect Patrick Starkey.

3) Congregational Life Ministries gives Intercultural Award, welcomes new members of Open Roof Fellowship

Congregational Life Ministries gave awards and citations during the Mission and Ministry Board’s pre-Annual Conference meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Revelation 7:9 Award from the Intercultural Ministry was given to Don and Belita Mitchell. Citations to congregations joining the Open Roof Fellowship were given to two congregations in Illinois: Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren and York Center Church of the Brethren, represented by their respective pastors Katie Shaw Thompson and Christy Waltersdorff.

Revelation 7:9 Award

Don and Belita Mitchell (at center and at right) with the Revelation 7:9 Award received from the Church of the Brethren’s Intercultural Ministries. Giving the award on behalf of Congregational Life Ministries was Josh Brockway (at left), who was present for Intercultural Ministries director Gimbiya Kettering who could not be at Annual Conference this year. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

Don and Belita Mitchell of First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg, Pa., were honored with the Revelation 7:9 Award from the Intercultural Ministry. The award recognizes their years of service to the Church of the Brethren, and the time, energy, and enthusiasm that they have given to intercultural ministries over the years.

Don V. Mitchell has been serving as director of Church Development and Evangelism for Atlantic Northeast District, and currently serves on the New Church Development Advisory Committee of the Church of the Brethren denomination. He chairs the Brethren Community Ministries. In past positions with the district, he has served on the Witness Commission. In Pacific Southwest District, he chaired the New Church Planting Mission Commission. An accomplished musician, he has traveled across the denomination on many Urban Peace Tours sponsored by the former Church of the Brethren Office of Witness. He is a native of Chicago, Ill., and a graduate of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where the couple met. The Mitchells relocated to southern California, where they resided for over 31 years before moving to Pennsylvania. They are the parents of four adult children (one deceased) and four grandchildren. The Mitchells came to Pennsylvania at the end of 2003, when Belita accepted the call to serve as senior pastor of Harrisburg First Church.

Belita D. Mitchell, a former moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, is currently lead pastor of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren. She previously served in pastoral roles at Imperial Heights Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles, Calif. She served in the highest elected position in the denomination, making history as the first Black American female to be Annual Conference moderator. She presided over the 2007 Annual Conference held in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a second-career minister, having retired from a Fortune 100 company with 30 years experience. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and fulfilled her ministry training requirements through the Training in Ministry program, which included study at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. She is a certified trainer in the Prevention of Clergy Sexual Misconduct, and is passionate for the cause of Christ in an urban, multi-ethnic setting.

Open Roof Fellowship citations

The Open Roof Fellowship is made up of congregations that have made a commitment to follow the gospel in reaching out to and ministering with persons of all abilities. By joining the fellowship, congregations name and claim their intention to create community that honors the gifts of all people.

In 2004, the Association of Brethren Caregivers established the “Open Roof Award” to lift up as examples those who were engaged in this intentional ministry. The story in Mark 2: 3-4 gave the inspiration for this award, in which “some people came, bringing to Jesus a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him.” This legacy of the Association of Brethren Caregivers lives on in the Disabilities Ministry, now housed in the Church of the Brethren’s Congregational Life Ministries. Debbie Eisenbise serves as staff person for the ministry, and Rebekah Flores is the denominational disabilities advocate and served as a disabilities ombudsman at this Annual Conference.

Pastors of the two congregations that joined the Open Roof Fellowship this year pose for a picture with Congregational Life Ministries and Disabilities Ministry staff: (from left) Katie Shaw Thompson, pastor of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill.; Christy Waltersdorff, pastor of York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill.; Debbie Eisenbise, director Intergenerational Ministries, who is the Congregational Life Ministries staff for the Disability Ministry; and Rebekah Flores, denominational disabilities advocate who served as a disabilities ombudsman at this Annual Conference. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

The Highland Avenue Church has made building accessibility a priority so that not only the worship spaces, but also classrooms and the fellowship hall are welcoming to people of all physical abilities. The congregation is continually re-evaluating members’ needs and working to educate the congregation to pay attention to what can make congregational life accessible, such as how microphones are used during worship. Attention is now being given to making sure that Sunday school classrooms provide for the needs of everyone to learn and grow, including engaging a variety of learning styles and addressing behavioral needs. Leadership is trained to be sensitive to various needs and abilities, and developing and utilizing various gifts in the service of the congregation. Recently, a member with an intellectual disability wanted to preach and leadership provided a way for him to do this through a dialogue sermon. He also shared his love of playing the drums during that worship service, to the delight of the congregation, who got to know him better that day. This ministry emphasis has had a positive effect on new members, who have shared with the pastor their joy in seeing the wide variety of people in the congregation and how respectful and caring members are toward one another.

York Center is a congregation that has not only worked to make sure all members are accommodated and welcome, regardless of varying abilities and conditions, but is an evangelist for this ministry as well. Last year, the congregation voted unanimously to host the Parables Community in their building. The Parables Community, a ministry for families with children with special needs, was welcomed into the Open Roof Fellowship last year. For many years, York Center has worked to maintain and expand accessibility in the building and congregation. A wheelchair is always accessible by the outside door of the church. In the sanctuary, instead of removing pews to make room for wheelchairs and walkers, the seat of a pew has been removed allowing those sitting there in arm chairs or wheel chairs to join in worship and feel totally included in the congregation. Most families in the congregation have a connection with someone with a disability. Twenty-one years ago, a child with Down Syndrome was born to members of the congregation. He has grown up loved and encouraged by the congregation, welcomed and integrated into all aspects of church life. He participated fully in the membership class and was baptized as a teenager.

Applications to join the Open Roof Fellowship are ongoing. All congregations with active disabilities ministries are invited to join, go to . “We’ve already received our first application for 2018 from the Center Church of the Brethren in Louisville, Ohio!” said Eisenbise.

4) Minister’s Association hears from Lillian Daniel, discusses relating to ‘Nones’

Table talk at the 2017 Minister’s Association pre-Conference gathering. Photo by Keith Hollenberg.

by Gene Hollenberg

“In the age of the new atheists we have to figure out how to talk about why religion matters without sounding like jerks. Between burning in hell, and anything goes, there is a lot we can talk about,” said Lillian Daniel, presenter for the Minister’s Association pre-Conference continuing education event.

Daniel is author of the book “Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To.” In three sessions, she shared research about the four types of people who no longer identify with any religion. Through her metaphors, anecdotes, and experiences she encouraged churches to begin telling their stories of faith.

She shared her belief that many of the people who check “None,” when asked about religion, are truly hungry for real testimony about the value of Christianity. “‘Nones’ are looking for a community of faith, not doctrines that divide,” asserted Daniel.

Participants were encouraged to discuss this point and share their thoughts with the group. Ken Gibble told of a neighbor who demonstrated interest in welcoming diverse people, but when Gibble shared that his church is of the same mind, the neighbor brushed it off.

Daniel responded that it may take some work to overcome the negative perception of Christianity, which may be perpetuated by the media and often seems to get most of the air time.

Another participant, Mary Cline Detrick, stated that we must be careful about the language we use, but we have to call out those who have distorted the message of the church.

There is a false dichotomy that has been created by two extreme factions of Christianity, Daniel said. On one side, there is a rigid and prescribed belief system that must be followed for people to live in God’s grace. On the other side, there is a willingness to accept all beliefs as equally important and valid. Neither of these is reasonable, nor reality, according to Daniel.

Lillian Daniel at the Minister’s Association. Photo by Keith Hollenberg.

“We need to have powerful and difficult conversations,” she said. She asserted that Jesus did not prescribe a list of rules, but rather talked about actions and attitudes. At the same time, she said, “Whatever people believe is not always ok. It may not be what Jesus taught.”

The officers of the Minister’s Association used the story of the woman at the well from John 4 to lay a foundation of worship. Daniel used the exchange between the woman and Jesus to illustrate how churches need to reasonably, rigorously, and really relate to those who are searching for meaningful faith. She noted that Jesus answered the woman’s questions, met her where she was, listened to her, and then made a valuable offer to her: a complete and fulfilled life.

In conversation with participants, many said they were anxious to read Daniel’s book, and some indicated that they were particularly energized by the discussion of political and theological polarization because it reflects the reality of their churches. One minister shared that she appreciated a metaphor Daniel used, that the church needs to be the sandpaper in our culture–the image of creating some friction and yet refining and challenging people, like a master carpenter finishing a creation with a gentle touch. Another minister felt that the discussions added depth to the belief that the church needs to reach out to all.

The officers of the Minister’s Association ended the pre-Conference program with a service of communion, a tangible testimony in the spirit of the sessions’ challenge.For more onsite coverage of Annual Conference go to .

The news coverage of Annual Conference 2017 is made possible through the work of the volunteer news team: Frank Ramirez, Conference Journal editor; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown, Allie Dulabaum; writers Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Gene Hollenberg; with web staff Jan Fischer Bachman and Russ Otto, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services. Wendy McFadden, publisher. Contact

5) Bethany and Brethren Academy luncheon senses ‘Spirit Moving’

Bethany President Jeff Carter, addressing the audience at an afternoon concert given by Ken Medema and sponsored by the seminary. The concert was part of a Friday afternoon “Jubilee” time for refreshment and relaxation. Photo by Glenn Riegel.

by Frank Ramirez

Faculty, staff, and graduates of Bethany Theological Seminary and the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership were joined by others at an Annual Conference luncheon. The theme of “Spirit Moving” was expressed succinctly when seminary president Jeff Carter noted that, thanks to what he called “our Anabaptist/Pietist vision, he said, “The world needs us.” Because of this, Carter said of the seminary’s reach: “It is broad. It is deep. It is moving.”

Despite Bethany’s small size, it is continuing in an era when other seminaries are closing. While the seminary remains vital, Carter said, “We are a mustard seed among tall cedars. Rather than cower, we’re stepping out in faith. We are making the very best decisions as we listen to the Spirit.”

Acknowledging that there is an enrollment shortage, Carter pointed to the Pills and Pathways program that allows students to gain a theological education without incurring further debt. In another new program, the seminary also is preparing to break ground on a technological center in Nigeria, which is expected to be up and running by January 2018.

“We’re managing. We’re on an adventure. We’re stepping forward in faith,” Carter told the luncheon.

The group also heard a reflection from Erin Matteson, who graduated from Bethany Seminary with a master of divinity degree in 1993 and recently concluded nearly 25 years in ministry. She traced the influences in and outside of the Church of the Brethren that led to her transition out of pastoral ministry and into spiritual direction.

Matteson has transitioned into a full-time ministry in what she calls the “art and practice” of spiritual direction. “Discernment is a cloth of many colors,” she said, describing the various threads of experience with reference to diverse authors ranging from Frederick Buechner to Parker J. Palmer and E.E. Cummings, and Brethren writers and thinkers including Warren Groff, Glenn Mitchell, and Nancy Faus Mullen.

6) Brethren Revival Fellowship dinner, insight session address inspiring questions

The BRF held several events at the 2017 Annual Conference including this lunch where moderator-elect Samuel Sarpiya spoke. Photo by Glenn Riegel.

by Karen Garrett

The Brethren Revival Fellowship hosted several events during the 2017 Annual Conference, including an annual dinner on Saturday evening, July 1, and an insight session focused on the Conference theme, among other events that included a BRF luncheon on Friday, June 30, with Annual Conference moderator-elect Samuel Sarpiya. Both the dinner and the insight session addressed inspiring questions.

What does it mean to be ‘all-in’ for Jesus?

The annual dinner is a time of fellowship, food, and inspiration for the BRF. The fellowship’s moderator, Eric Brubaker, reminded the gathered body that BRF is revivalist, not separatist. The BRF endeavors to influence the Church of the Brethren through publications, meetings, and actions.

An octet of youth from Blue River Church of the Brethren in South/Central Indiana District opened the dinner program with three a cappella hymns. Craig Smith presented the message titled “The ALL-IN Church.” Smith asked what it means to be “all-in” for Jesus, and gave three answers:

1. Go: Jesus tells us to go, not to sit in the pew and wait for people to come. Churches too often fail to reach out to the community around them. Smith cautioned that we do not change our message about Jesus and salvation, rather we might need to change some methods.

2. Glow: we need to be a glowing church shining Christ’s light to all. People like to go to a church where people are excited to be there. People are watching us. They want to know that Jesus is the real deal.

3. Grow: we need to be a growing church. Growing does not mean adding people to the pews, it means growing the church of Christ. A living church will be a growing church, because every living thing is intended to grow. If it does not grow, it dies.

Don’t grumble about the new person sitting in “your pew.” Scoot over and make room for those God brings to your church!

Is there hope in the midst of turmoil?

A different question prompted discussion at an insight session led by the BRF and sponsored by Atlantic Northeast District: In the midst of turmoil, is there any hope? This insight session offered a BRF response to the Annual Conference theme, “Risk Hope.”

Carl Brubaker of Mohler Church of the Brethren, and a member of the BRF Steering Committee, shared an examination of the biblical guidance for finding hope in today’s chaos. He began by defining hope. The following quote–his paraphrase of something he heard or read–is worth considering: Hope is an indispensable quality of life for people of faith, as much as air is critical to breathing. This theme ran through his presentation.

The word hope is used more frequently in scripture than the word turmoil, Brubaker said. He sees three areas of turmoil in our current culture: 1. political rhetoric that seems to lead to a sense of turmoil; 2. morality that seems to be in free fall as many structures, such as the family structure, is breaking down, which leads to turmoil and to more of us living in fear as the world seems to be more dangerous; and 3. spiritual weakness, as the church loses–or perhaps ignores–the importance of speaking on spiritual matters. In addition, Brubaker reminded the session that scripture assures us that turmoil will increase.

To leave his hearers with some hope, Brubaker shared five points to remember: 1. God is still in control and on the throne, and we have a purpose as we serve him; 2. God’s word is trustworthy and true, the final authority in matters of faith and practice; 3. God’s people are still called to obedience, and turmoil is not an excuse to disobey God’s word; 4. God calls us to love others, friends, those with whom we disagree, and even our enemies; 5. God is not finished with the church, and we do not know the future. As a denomination, we may be in for an interesting ride, but regardless, God’s obedient church will survive.

God calls us to be a witness and share with others the hope that lies within us.

7) Insight session tells the story of the Solingen Brethren

by Karen Garrett

Six Brethren were arrested 300 years ago in Solingen, Germany. What was their crime? In 1716, the six men, ages 22 to 33, had been baptized as adults. This crime was a capital offense, the punishment could be execution. The six men were first marched to Dusseldorf for interrogation. It is said they sang hymns as they walked to their imprisonment.

The German authorities wanted to be fair. They sent priests and ministers from the state churches to speak with the six men, to persuade them to recant, denounce their re-baptism, and at least attend a state church once a year. For Johann Lobach, Johann Fredrick Henckels, Gottfried Luther Setius, Wilhelm Knepper, Wilhelm Grahe, and Jakob Grahe, recanting was not an option. For them, attending such an apostate church even one Sunday would violate their faith. They chose instead to face torture and even death.

The six were eventually marched on a three-day journey to a fortress in the town of Juelich. The journey began with the six accompanied by 44 guards. Soon 24 guards departed. The Brethren were peacefully marching to Juelich. The group eventually spread, with much space between guards and prisoners, but the six men did not consider running away. They wanted to use the opportunity to make a good witness of their faith. They wanted to stay together as brothers. Indeed, if one had escaped, it would have been very difficult for the other five. People living along the way encouraged the men to keep their faith. Their goal of being witnesses was being accomplished.

They also witnessed their faith to other prisoners and guards at Juelich. They worked their hard labor without complaint, endured the living quarters filled with rats, lice, and fleas, and sang songs. One used his “free time” to write numerous hymns. Their Bibles had been confiscated, so they were not able to read scripture but they could “sing” scripture, until they were forbidden to sing. They also carved buttons out of wood to sell, which provided them money to purchase food to supplement the bread they were given.

The hard labor and working conditions broke their health. Brethren in the area visited them, which brought encouragement. When Lobach became ill, his mother came to nurse him back to health. However, she also became ill and died in Juelich.

This story was shared in an insight session presented by Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, and sponsored by the Brethren Historical Committee. The session brought a sobering challenge: Would I stand strong in my faith, if I faced such persecution today?

In the United States, we can hardly imagine such persecution. Our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, on the other hand, do face such persecution regularly. Dear God, help us deepen our faith and resolve to stand firm in love and obedience to your commands.

8) Banning nuclear weapons, 122 governments take leadership where nuclear powers have failed

A release from the World Council of Churches

ICAN campaigners in New York’s Central Park during a break in the nuclear ban negotiations at the United Nations. Photo: ICAN, courtesy of the WCC.

Nuclear weapons have always been seen as deeply immoral. Now, after years of work, 122 government have adopted a treaty that makes them completely illegal. The July 7 decision at the United Nations bans the manufacture, possession and use of nuclear weapons and provides pathways for their eventual elimination. World Council of Churches’ members are among the many groups and governments working towards this new international law for the past six years and more.

“I welcome this treaty with great thanksgiving. It is designed to protect all countries and the planet that is our home. It could ultimately save millions of lives,” said WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit. “The WCC called for this very treaty at its Assembly in South Korea in 2013. We vowed there to live in ways that protect life and creation, not in fear, protected by nuclear weapons.”

The new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons recognizes that “the catastrophic consequences” of nuclear weapons “cannot be adequately addressed, transcend national boundaries, pose grave implications for human survival,” and are the responsibility of all states.

The nine countries with nuclear weapons and 30 countries that seek shelter in US nuclear deterrence boycotted the month-long treaty negotiations and largely opposed years of preparatory work.

“The treaty, and the process which led to it, has finally taken the international debate over nuclear weapons beyond the narrow, self-serving perspectives of military strategy and political influence to the wider domain of humanitarian principle and fundamental ethics, where the moral imperative against nuclear weapons is clear and categorical,” said WCC International Affairs director Peter Prove.

The nuclear ban treaty requires that states provide assistance to victims of nuclear weapons use and testing, and requires environmental remediation for areas contaminated by radiation.

“This historic achievement acknowledges the unconscionable suffering of those affected by nuclear weapons use and testing. The treaty sets a course to ensures that nuclear weapons will never be used under any circumstances,” said Emily Welty, vice moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. “It has been an honor for World Council of Churches to accompany the process and to highlight the voices of the hibakusha and indigenous groups who cry out for justice.”

Welty, other members of the CCIA, and members of the Ecumenical Peace Advocacy Network of the WCC have advocated for the negotiations and for specific human-centered provisions in the treaty, of which there are many.

The treaty calls special attention, for example, to the “disproportionate impact” of ionizing radiation on women and girls, based on long-neglected evidence gathered in the Marshall Islands and other territories used for nuclear tests.

“This treaty is anticipated to have an impact on all states, whether they join immediately or not, by stigmatising nuclear weapons and making the continued maintenance, development, and possession of nuclear weapons unacceptable,” the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons declared. ICAN is playing a key role in the ban process. It has over 400 partner organizations including the WCC.

The treaty puts nuclear weapons in the same category as other indiscriminate, inhumane weapons such as chemical weapons and biological weapons, anti-personnel landmines, and cluster munitions. It ends a peculiar exception–that the worst weapon of mass destruction, is the only weapon of mass destruction not expressly prohibited. It therefore fills a gap in the law createdand sustained by the ways in which nuclear powers have used their international power and influence.

“Recent events that have seen North Korea testing such weapons of mass destruction have for me starkly brought our campaign and advocacy against these weapons into sharp focus,” said CCIA commissioner Masimba Kuchera of Zimbabwe, who was in New York to lobby for a strong treaty. “Even those who have stockpiled nuclear weapons are afraid that someone may pull the trigger first. Having no country own these weapons is the best insurance that no one from a country big or small will ever have to fear such irreversible destruction. Christianity and indeed all faiths are premised on loving one another.”

“Churches now have a fine opportunity to help with the next step,” the WCC general secretary said. “We can all urge our governments to sign and ratify the treaty and then to see that it is implemented.

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness, and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 348 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, and other churches representing more than 550 million Christians in over 120 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of the Brethren is a founding member.

9) Brethren bits

The church collected 76 boxes of books for the community of Flint, Mich.,” reported the Workcamp Ministry of the Church of the Brethren, in a Facebook post this week. “We are estimating around 2,500 books! The church can do a lot of good things when we come together!” Workcampers spent a day distributing the books at a local festival in Flint.

— Remembrances (more information about life accomplishments and memorial services for some of the following people will be shared in upcoming issues of Newsline):

The “Conference Journal” during the 2017 Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., “noted with sadness the passing of two venerated Brethren matriarchs”:
Elsa Groff, 94, passed away June 25. She was a nurse at the Brethren hospital in Castañer, Puerto Rico, from its founding and for many years afterwards. Jaime Diaz, pastor of Castañer Church of the Brethren, said, “I always told her she is the Mother Teresa of the church in Puerto Rico.”
Florence Daté Smith died June 26 in Eugene, Ore. She was a survivor of the Japanese-American internment camps, and was interned at Topaz from 1943-45. She was one of the early members of the Global Women’s Project board, was a Church of the Brethren representative to the National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and took part in the Historic Peace Churches teachers exchange with the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima, Japan. While a member of York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., she served as director of education for the congregation. While attending Springfield Church of the Brethren, she was a member on the Brethren Community Services Board.

Shantilal P. Bhagat, who served on the denominational staff for many years, died on Friday, July 7. His children were with him at Hillcrest, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in La Verne, Calif., as he was declining, reported Pacific Southwest District executive minister Russ Matteson. Last year, he was honored with the Revelation 7:9 award from the denomination’s Intercultural Ministries. Originally from India, where he worked with the church for 16 years at the Rural Service Center in Anklesvar, he came to the United States to take a position in Elgin, Ill., in 1968. He served with the former General Board for more than 30 years in a variety of roles including coordinator of Social Services for the Foreign Mission Commission, Community Development consultant, Asia representative, United Nations representative, Global Justice consultant, Education/Economic Justice consultant, staff and then director of Eco-Justice and Rural/Small Church Concerns. From 1988-97 he wrote three books, many articles, and several education/resource packets. In 1995, he was honored by the Black Church Committee in appreciation for his editing the resources “Racism and the Church, Overcoming the Idolatry,” and “Now is the Time to Heal Our Racial Brokenness.”

Ray Tritt, a former Church of the Brethren mission worker in Nigeria, passed away on June 28. He served in Nigeria from 1960-63, supervising the construction of hospitals, schools, and other buildings. He brought work experience gained when he served in Brethren Volunteer Service in Kassell, Germany, in 1953-55. There he helped to build Brethren Haus, a hostel and a center for relief operations in Germany during the years following World War II, and a key place in the development of the Brethren Service effort in Europe. A memorial service celebrating his life is planned for Saturday, July 8, at Westminster Presbyterian Church in DeKalb, Ill. A full obituary is online at .

Beth Glick-Rieman, 94, died at home in Ellsworth, Maine, on May 13. She had been an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and from 1975-78 served on the denominational staff as Person Awareness coordinator, a position created to develop programing to sensitize groups and individuals about the issues of the roles of men and women, equality, and personhood. She was born Elizabeth Cline Glick on Oct. 2, 1922, to Effie Iwilla Evers Glick and John Titus Glick, in Timberville, Va. Her father was a minister in the Church of the Brethren, and a farmer. She was a graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in Music Education. She became a public school music teacher and organist in Somerset County, Pa., where she met and married Glenn Walker Rieman in 1947. She went on to earn a master’s degree in Religious Education, and then a doctor of ministry from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. She started her own consulting company, Human Empowerment In Religion and Society (HEIRS), and worked as a consultant in California and other areas of the west coast. Her volunteer service to the Church of the Brethren included a term as representative to the World Council of Churches. As a lifelong pacifist, she marched with the Peace People movement in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. She is survived by children Jill Christine Rieman Klingler of Cincinnati, Ohio; Marta Elizabeth Clayton Rieman of Ellsworth, Maine; and Eric Glick Rieman of Berkeley, Calif.; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Two children died before her, Peggy Ruth Rieman (age 19), and Linnea Rieman (stillborn at term). Memorial services will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Ellsworth on Saturday, July 8, and at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley in Kensington, Calif., on Saturday, Sept. 30.

— The Church of the Brethren seeks a full-time packer for Material Resources at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The packer folds quilts and blankets, opens cartons, fills tables with materials as needed, and assists with unloading when requested. The packer also works with volunteer groups, answers the doorbell, receives donations, and acts as a backup packer for other programs. Required skills and knowledge include the ability to handle a variety of tasks accurately and efficiently, comprehension of product codes and other detailed information, working compatibly and cooperatively with co-workers and volunteers. Must be able to lift 50 pounds, and have the ability to work with minimal supervision. The preferred candidate will have a high school diploma or equivalent, or equivalent experience. Applications will be received beginning immediately and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Qualified candidates are invited to request the application form by contacting: Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 367; . The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

— Timbercrest Senior Living Community ( seeks an executive director to lead its 300 resident retirement community in North Manchester, Ind. The community is one of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes and is Church of the Brethren affiliated. The community has 200 employees serving residents across the  following unit profile: 65 healthcare beds, 142 licensed residential care apartments, 79 entrance fee neighborhood homes, and 16 market rate rental homes. The executive director reports to a 14-member board of directors and provides oversight to an $11 million annual budget. Preferred candidates will have a master’s degree, be eligible for NHA licensure in Indiana, have 7 to 10 years of not-for-profit senior leadership experience, be comfortable in the board room, have a passion for serving older adults, be a Christian who is active in a faith community, hold an appreciation for the Anabaptist faith tradition, and demonstrate a commitment to living in the Midwest. Contact Kirk Stiffney with Stiffney Group at 574-537-8736 or .

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) is looking for a program executive for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation to facilitate reflection and action on dialogue and cooperation with other religions, especially with Islam and Judaism. The deadline for applications is July 30. Find a full description of the position opening and more information at .

— The 2017 Annual Conference received two new fellowships and three new congregations into the denomination. The new fellowships are the Lost and Found Church in Michigan District, and the Wildwood Gathering in Pacific Northwest District. The new congregations are Iglesia de Cristo Sion in Pomona, Calif., in Pacific Southwest District, and two congregations in Michigan District, Common Spirit Church of the Brethren in Grand Rapids, and the Church in Drive Church of the Brethren based out of the Standing in the Gap Ministry at Saginaw Valley State University.

National Older Adult Conference is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, when “Inspiration 2017″ takes place Sept. 4-8 in Lake Junaluska, N.C. The early bird registration discount ends July 20. First timers also get a registration discount. Go to or call 800-323-8039 ext. 306.

— Church of the Brethren general secretary David Steele is holding listening sessions in Michigan District, as follows: at the Church in Drive on Wednesday, July 19, at 7 p.m.; and at Hope Church of the Brethren on Thursday, July 20, at 7 p.m.

— So far, online donations received from viewers of the Annual Conference webcasts have totaled $2,755. The donations were received from 44 “entities” (people and/or churches). In addition, three churches each sent in $100 by check in support of the webcasts.

— A Snapchat filter created for the Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., was viewed 3,773 times and was used in 134 total snaps, according to the denomination’s web staff. “Those could be individual users or the same user using the filter multiple times,” the staff explained. “A view is defined as when a somebody views a snap that uses the filter. The filter was swiped over 1,000 times. A swipe is defined as a user seeing the filter as an option when creating a snap.”

— Legislators are invited to a Nigeria Briefing in Washington, D.C., organized by the Church of the Brethren’s  Office of Public Witness, along with the Nigeria Working Group. In an Action Alert, Brethren across the country are asked to contact their senators and representatives to urge them to attend the special congressional briefing that is planned for Tuesday, July 11, from 3-4:30 p.m. in the Russell Senate Office Building, Room 188. “Thank you all for your prayers and action over the last few years as our brothers and sisters in Nigeria have faced famine, kidnappings, destruction of churches and homes, and violence,” said the Action Alert, in part. “The situation in Nigeria deserves to be at the forefront of humanitarian and foreign aid policy-makers’ minds. The work done through the Church of the Brethren Nigeria Crisis Fund and other programs has been incredible, but as we continue this work, it is essential that we partner with more legislators, organizations, and individuals who care deeply about the issue and can make a meaningful difference in policy.” The briefing is intended for policy makers and their staff to gain background knowledge on local solutions, US policy, and interfaith organizing happening in regards to Nigeria. For a sample letter that church members may use to encourage their senators and representatives to attend the briefing, go to .

— The World Council of Churches is reiterating its urgent appeal, issued by its Executive Committee in June, for “all states engaged in the perilously escalating military confrontation in the [Korean] region to refrain from further escalation and to pursue instead initiatives to reduce tensions and to create a window for new dialogue initiatives.” The appeal was first issued by the WCC Executive Committee in June. The reportedly successful intercontinental ballistic missile test by North Korea on July 4, and the joint US-South Korean ballistic missile drills it provoked, have raised tensions in the region to a dangerously new high, according to Peter Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. Noted Prove, “confrontation by military or other means carries far higher risks of conflict–with catastrophic consequences for all people of the peninsula and the region–than prospects of leading to peace. A sustainable peace, and the peaceful de-nuclearization of the region, cannot be achieved through mutual provocation, but only through dialogue. In this particularly dangerous moment, self-restraint is indeed all that separates armistice and war. We call on all parties to beware of this perilous threshold.” Find a full WCC statement on the escalating tensions in the Korean peninsula at .

The news coverage of Annual Conference 2017 is made possible through the work of the volunteer news team: Frank Ramirez, Conference Journal editor; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown, Allie Dulabaum; writers Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Gene Hollenberg; with web staff Jan Fischer Bachman and Russ Otto, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services. Wendy McFadden, publisher. Additional contributors to this issue of Newsline include David Steele, Brian Bultman, Nancy Miner, Debbie Eisenbise, Shamek Cardona, Kendra Harbeck, Jan Fischer Bachman, Russ Otto, Ralph McFadden. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Over the summer, Newsline will go to an every-other-week schedule, to allow for vacation time for staff. Please continue to send news tips and submissions to the editor at .

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