8) Brethren bits: Remembrance, personnel notes, district conference dates, anniversaries, disaster ministries, Nobel Prize, coming events, camp and college news, and more news by, for, and about Brethren.
Quote of the week:
“World Communion Sunday reminds us that Christ calls us to a table where the welcome is wide. He offers us a space with bread and wine in abundance to give solace to our sorrow and to stir our joy. Even as Christ invites us to this table, he does not mean for us to linger here forever. He gives us sustenance in order to send us forth, carrying a space of welcome within us, called to offer it to those we meet: one more, and one more, and one more …”
— author Jan Richardson of “The Painted Prayerbook.” This Sunday is World Communion Sunday, when many Church of the Brethren congregations will take part in the love feast.
Items on same-sex marriage are receiving attention at several district conferences this fall, with agenda items seeking to formalize district policies following the actions of the 2017 Annual Conference that affirmed the role of districts in handling manners of ministerial conduct.
Atlantic Northeast District meets this weekend at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, and delegates there will consider the proposed district “Policy on Same-Sex Marriage.” It outlines a “Response Process for a Minister Who Performs a Same-Gender Marriage” and specifies steps to be taken for first and subsequent violations by those who perform such a union, with “immediate termination” of ministry credentials for a second offense.
The Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren in August requested that the item be withdrawn from consideration, saying that adoption of the policy would leave the congregation “caught between the district mandate and our understanding of the call of Christ.” The district responded to Elizabethtown’s request, saying, “We recognize that the decisions we make as the Body of Christ are to be made very carefully, knowing that they will impact all of our lives.”
The Ambler (Pa.) congregation has also since expressed concerns. Pastor Enten Eller sent a letter to the district with the opinion that adoption of the proposed policy would “directly violate the 2008 resolution of Annual Conference, ‘Urging Forbearance.’” He also said it “undermines the denomination-wide Compelling Vision Process at the very time that we are trying to pull together.” The congregation’s executive committee also sent a letter asking district leadership to “prayerfully reconsider proposing this policy.”
The official board of the Chiques congregation (Manheim, Pa.), meanwhile, has sent to district congregations a proposed amendment that would strengthen the language of the proposed policy further, recommending sanctions not just for ministers who perform same-sex weddings, but for any minister who “promotes and accepts the practice of homosexuality as a lifestyle that is approved by God.”
Northern Ohio District recently adopted a policy similar to the one proposed by Atlantic Northeast when delegates met in August at Dupont (Ohio) Church of the Brethren. District board chair Tom Zuercher said that “Resolution on Same-Sex Weddings” was intended to bring “clarity for Northern Ohio.” The resolution passed with 86 percent voting in favor.
Adapted from a similar 2015 resolution in Shenandoah District, it reaffirms the 1983 Annual Conference statement on “Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective,” states that the “practice of homosexuality is not acceptable,” prohibits district ministers from performing same-sex marriages, and prohibits the use of any district property or congregation for same-sex marriages, while reaffirming “a commitment to extend Christ-like comfort and grace to LGBT persons.”
Clergy who perform a same-sex wedding would be “referred to the District Ministerial Commission as a matter of ministerial misconduct.” The consequence is suspension of ministry credentials, “with continued conversation and review with the Ministerial Commission in consultation with the District Executive.”
Delegates in Western Pennsylvania District, which holds its conference Oct. 20 at Camp Harmony (Hooversville, Pa.), will consider a similar policy, “Resolution on Biblical Marriage.” It does not specify credentialing consequences for those who violate the resolution that district ministers “will officiate only at the celebration of marriages that are between one man and one woman,” but it does state that the district “will consider for its slate of offices only persons who uphold the teachings of the Bible on human sexuality and the Western Pennsylvania District’s affirmations on human sexuality.”
Several other districts, including Southeastern and West Marva, have also taken up the issue and passed resolutions and policies in recent years.
In other district conference news:
- Delegates at the West Marva District conference, held Sept. 21-22 at Moorefield (W.Va.) Church of the Brethren, approved congregational status for the Hanging Rock Fellowship (Augusta, W.Va.) and approved disorganization of the RoughRun Church of the Brethren (Petersburg, W.Va.). Sherri Ziler was called as moderator-elect.
- At the Missouri Arkansas District conference, held Sept. 14-15, delegates voted to amend the constitution to define district boundaries as follows: “The boundaries of the District of Missouri Arkansas Church of the Brethren include all the Church of the Brethren congregations and fellowships which meet within the area of the states of Missouri and Arkansas.” Paul Landes was called as moderator-elect.
The Church of the Brethren Annual Conference Office has announced speakers and other worship leadership for the 2019 Annual Conference, which will take place July 3-7 in Greensboro, North Carolina, with the theme “Proclaim Christ: Reclaim Passion.”
With the unique format of this year’s Conference, in which most business will be suspended so that delegates and others can engage in the “Compelling Vision” process, the worship schedule will differ from its typical format. Evening worship will be similar to previous years, but each day will also feature a morning worship service, with an abbreviated singing time and a shorter sermon, for a total service length of about half an hour.
Donita Keister, moderator of the 2019 Conference and associate pastor of Buffalo ValleyChurch of the Brethren in Mifflinburg, Pa., will speak at the opening worship service on Wednesday evening. Other evening worship speakers include Jonathan Prater of Rockingham, Va., on Thursday; Tim and Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey of Hagerstown, Md., on Friday; and Jeremy Ashworth of Peoria, Ariz., on Saturday.
Morning speakers include Brethren Press publisher Wendy McFadden of Elgin, Ill., on Thursday; Joel Peña of Lancaster, Pa., on Friday; and LaDonna Sanders Nkosi of Chicago on Saturday. Tim Harvey, of Roanoke, Va., will speak at the traditional closing worship on Sunday morning.
Members of this year’s worship planning team are Joel Gibbel of York, Pa.; Erin Matteson of Modesto, Calif.; and Cesia Morrison of Christiansburg, Va. Danielle Sommers of Lewisburg, Pa., will serve as music coordinator; Geneva Price of New Madison, Ohio, as choir director; Jonathan Emmons of Greensboro, N.C., as organist; Lucas Finet of Nokesville, Va., as pianist; and Karen Stutzman of Winston-Salem, N.C., as children’s choir director. Bethany Theological Seminary faculty member Dan Ulrich of Greenville, Ohio, will be the Bible study leader.
For more information on Annual Conference, visit www.brethren.org/ac.
The Church of the Brethren Emergency Disaster Fund has issued a major grant for the Nigeria Crisis Response and a smaller one to assist with tornado recovery efforts in Iowa.
A grant of $400,000 will cover Nigeria Crisis Response program expenses through February. The Nigerian crisis, now in its eighth year, continues to have a heavy impact on Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The Nigerian church is struggling financially but still growing, starting new churches in areas where displaced members have resettled.
The current response continues key ministries at a reduced level of funding due to reduced donations. About 70 percent of EYN members have now returned home, shifting program priorities to recovery activities that will help families become more self-supporting. The total proposed budget for 2018 is $700,000.
Primary focus areas of the response include repairing homes; peacebuilding work and trauma recovery; assistance with agriculture, education, food, and medical and home supplies; helping the EYN church recover; and travel and other expenses for US volunteers and staff.
Total EDF giving to the response since the initial grant in 2014 is now $4.7 million.
Elsewhere, a grant of $25,000 will support the response of the Iowa River Church of the Brethren as it responds to damage caused by an EF3 tornado in Marshalltown, Iowa, on July 19.
Many buildings in the town were affected, including an estimated 1,200-plus homes—a significant number of which were uninsured. A large immigrant population in the area has been particularly hard-hit.
The Iowa River congregation has been active since immediately after the disaster, providing support in a variety of ways, including debris removal, distribution of supplies, providing transportation, and hosting an out-of-town mission team. A Mission Outreach Committee is now focusing on short- and long-term recovery needs.
The EDF grant joins a $2,000 offering that was received at the Northern Plains District Conference. The gifts will allow the congregation to expand and extend its response.
The Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative (GFI) fund has made numerous recent grants to a variety of projects in the US, the Caribbean, Africa, and Latin America. The seven allocations made since mid-August total more than $42,000 in aid.
- A grant of $5,000 will help fund a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) position in racial justice in the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. The position will be jointly funded by the Global Mission and Service office and the office of the general secretary. The volunteer will spend time working with church-based community gardens and other Church of the Brethren food-related ministries in order to help identify and address issues of systemic racism and injustice and the land rights of indigenous people.
- A grant of $7,908 will provide additional support to farmers as part of long-term recovery efforts in Puerto Rico in the wake of last year’s Hurricane Maria. Funds will aid the purchase of citrus seedlings, banana seeds, fertilizer, and insecticide.
- A grant of $2,550 will cover costs of a mid-year evaluation by Klebert Exceus of an agriculture project in Haiti being funded by the Foods Resource Bank and run by Eglise des Freres d’Haiti (Church of the Brethren in Haiti). The Soil Conservation and Income Generation Project, which began on April 1, runs through March 31, 2019, with the option of renewal, pending results.
- A grant of $2,815 covers the costs of a Soybean Value Chain project consultation that was held Sept. 15-23 in Nigeria, evaluating work on the project done to date.
- A grant of $10,000 will assist in the construction of a greenhouse for vegetable seedling production at Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG, Project Global Village) in Honduras. It will provide approximately 100 local farmers across 30 to 50 communities with access to quality vegetable plants in order to help diversify their farming production. It will also employ 10 to 15 women who will manage it as a business.
- An additional grant of $5,000 will support the promotion of indigenous food crops in Ecuador through a nonprofit organization (La Fundación Brethren y Unida / United and Brethren Foundation) that arose from Church of the Brethren work in Ecuador in the mid-20th century. A $3,000 grant was given last year to establish teaching and demonstration plots. The new grant will be used to purchase seeds, vegetables seedlings, and organic fertilizer, and fund community trainings and farmer’s markets.
- And an additional grant of $8,944 will continue support for farmer training in the African nation of Burundi through Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services (THARS). GFI has been supporting the project since 2015.
The Church of the Brethren Inc. has announced an opening for Manager of Buildings and Grounds at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill.
The full-time, salaried position is responsible for providing management of the General Offices buildings and grounds and other Church of the Brethren Inc.-owned properties in Elgin. Duties include providing maintenance schedules, capital planning, and purchases and managing warehouse operations, mail, supplies, equipment, and other services.
Applicants should have the knowledge and experience to plan and implement a vision for ongoing facilities needs and use of physical resources and to do budget development and management, and at least three years of administrative experience in building operation and facilities management.
A bachelor’s degree or equivalent is required. Applications will be received immediately and reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Interested applicants should send a resume’ to COBApply@brethren.org. For questions, call 800-323-8039, ext. 367.
The Church of the Brethren 2019 Christian Citizenship Seminar will be held April 27-May 2 in New York and Washington, D.C., with the theme “Creative Solutions to Violent Conflict Worldwide.”
The event, held annually except National Youth Conference years, is for high school youth and their advisors. Limited to 60 participants, the seminar “provides students the chance to explore the relationship between faith and a particular political issue, and then act from a faith perspective regarding that issue.”
Registration is $425 and includes lodging, two meals, mid-week transportation from New York to Washington, and all programming. Registration will open Dec. 3 at 12 p.m. Central Time. Further details are at www.brethren.org/ccs.
A variety of resources and a weekly call through November will provide ways for “Continuing Together the Conversation” and honoring Native American Heritage Month.
The project, being offered jointly by the Church of the Brethren’s Intercultural Ministries, the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, and the Global Food Initiative offers .6 CEUs for participants who attend all four calls (with a $10 fee payable after completion).
The calls will be weekly on Thursdays, 1-2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, beginning Nov. 1. The calls have the themes of Gathering (Nov. 1), Calling (Nov. 8), Forming (Nov. 15), Sending (Nov. 22), and Gathering once more to reflect after Thanksgiving (Nov. 29). The daily learning through the series will include readings, websites, and online video.
For more information or to RSVP, visit www.brethren.org/continuing-together.
In this issue: Remembrance, personnel notes, district conference dates, anniversaries, disaster ministries, Nobel Prize, coming events, camp and college news, and more.
— Marlin Heckman, University Librarian Emeritus at the University of La Verne (Calif.) and a former member of the Brethren Historical Committee and Annual Conference Standing Committee, died suddenly on Sept. 22. He was an alumnus of La Verne, Bethany Theological Seminary, and the Graduate Library School of the University ofChicago. A memorial service has been scheduled for Oct. 29.
— Linetta Alley Ballew has been named assistant director at Brethren Woods (Keezletown, Va.) effective Jan. 1. She will carry program and some administrative responsibilities as “part of a transitional leadership model.” Ballew, who had previously worked at Brethren Woods from 2003 to 2013, has most recently been co-administrator of Camp Swatara (Bethel, Pa.) with her husband, Joel. Brethren Woods also announced the hiring of Andy Myers as maintenance director effective Nov. 1.
— Karen Schroeder began as the new executive assistant to the president at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., on Oct. 1. She had previously served as administrative assistant to the academic dean at neighboring Earlham College.
— Marvin Greener, who had served as director of building and grounds at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., since February 2009 concluded his employment Sept. 27.
— The Church of the Brethren Mission & Ministry Board has announced opening for two sorters/packers of medical supplies and two new temporary full-time boxcar positions to unload train cars and trailers and do other warehouse duties at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. A high school diploma is desired. Interested applicants should send a resume’ to COBApply@brethren.org, or for further information contact Loretta Wolf at 410-635-8795 or email@example.com.
— In the wake of Hurricane Florence, Church World Service responded by sending 11 shipments to North Carolina and one to South Carolina, consisting of clean-up buckets, hygiene kits, blankets, and toothpaste. Most Church of the Brethren congregations are located in the western part of the state and were spared damage. Brethren Disaster Ministries work continues in the region. A robust 2019 schedule for volunteer teams in the Carolinas has been created.
— District disaster coordinators (DDC’s) and disaster project leaders (DPL’s) of Brethren Disaster Ministries will hold a leadership conference Oct. 30-Nov. 2 at Camp Swatara (Bethel, Pa.) for worship, networking, training, and fellowship.
—The Brethren Disaster Relief Auction held Sept. 21-22 in Lebanon, Pa., has announced an estimated preliminary total of $420,306 raised for disaster ministries. That includes $33,000 from quilts, $34,000 in food sales, $10,000 from baked goods, more than $110,000 in contributions and donations (including an earlier bequest), and $25,000 in matching funds. Several auction items were sold multiple times. The auction, billed as “the largest of its type in the world,” began in 1977. It is held in cooperation with Atlantic Northeast and Southern Pennsylvania districts.
— Several districts are holding their district conferences this weekend or in coming weeks. They include: Atlantic Northeast, Oct. 5-6 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College; Idaho/Western Montana, Oct. 5-6 at Bowmont Church of the Brethren, Nampa, Idaho; Mid-Atlantic, Oct. 12-13 at Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren; Middle Pennsylvania, Oct. 12-13 at Roaring Spring (Pa.) Church of the Brethren; Southern Ohio/Kentucky, Oct. 19-20 at Salem Church of the Brethren, Englewood, Ohio; and Western Pennsylvania, Oct. 20 at Camp Harmony, Hooversville, Pa.
— Green Tree Church of the Brethren (Oaks, Pa.) has constructed and opened a “blessing box,” according to an article in “The Mercury” of Exton, Pa. The cabinet contains non-perishable food and home and hygiene supplies for anyone to take what they need and leave what they can.
— Akron (Ohio) Springfield Church of the Brethren celebrated its 150th anniversary Sept. 29-30 with a hymn sing, anniversary cake, a history skit, and a guest sermon by Bethany Theological Seminary president Jeff Carter.
— Charlottesville (Va.) Church of the Brethren on Sept. 30 held a homecoming service celebrating 60 years since the fellowship was officially recognized as a church.
— Brethren Woods (Keezletown, Va.) held a surprise party on Sept. 30 honoring director Doug Phillips for 35 years of service at the camp to date. About 75 people attended the celebration.
— Camp Bethel (Fincastle, Va.) will hold its annual Heritage Day this Saturday, Oct. 6. The day includes food, crafts, activities, exhibit and event booths, fishing, and more.
— Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren, is doing a “Circuit Ride” of Northern Plains District churches Oct. 6-9. He will share on the theme “Fellowship in the Gospel of Christ,” looking at the life cycle of missions work. Congregations on the tour include English River, Fairview, Pickwick Community (Ottumwa), and Prairie City.
— USAID recently awarded $6 million to the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research (also known as the Soybean Innovation Lab, SIL) at the University of Illinois. The project operates in 17 countries, including a partnership with the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
— This year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their work related to human rights and ending sexual violence. Mukwege, a surgeon, has worked extensively in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He has partnered with the work of IMA World Health in the DRC and has done advocacy work in the United States for IMA, according to Church of the Brethren associate executive director Roy Winter. The Church of the Brethren is a long-time partner of IMA, which for many years was based at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.
— Nominations for the Church of the Brethren National Youth Cabinet are due Oct. 15. Forms are available at www.brethren.org/yya/resources.html.
— National Junior High Sunday is Nov. 4. The theme is “Abundant Life in Jesus,” based on John 10:10. Look for worship resources at www.brethren.org/jrhighsunday.
— Bethany Theological Seminary has created resources for congregations to observe “Bethany Sunday” on Oct. 21. Visit https://bethanyseminary.edu/events-resources/publications-online/bethany-sunday-resources/.
— The 2019 Brethren Prayer & Worship Summit, “Praying for the Vision,” has been scheduled for March 29-30 in Harrisonburg, Va. The event will focus on worship, prayer, and development of the “Compelling Vision” for the Church of the Brethren. The website, www.brethrenprayersummit.com, will open soon for registration.
— Annual Conference moderator-elect Paul Mundey will lead “The Why and How of Kingdom Building an Evangelism Conference” Nov. 9-10 at Greenville (Ohio) Church of the Brethren. The event is for “pastors, lay leaders, and anyone interested in reaching out and enlarging the Kingdom.” For more information, call Dean Garrett at 937-329-0166 or Ron Scherck at the Greenville Church of the Brethren at 937-548-3583, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— The public is invited by the Elizabethtown (Pa.) College Center for Global Understanding and Peacemakingto a presentation by Hiroshima bombing survivor Shigeko Sasamori, who will share her story of survival and forgiveness, “Hibakusha and Peacemaking in Japan,” on Nov. 3, 2-3:30 pm, in Gibble Auditorium, Esbenshade Hall. No reservations/tickets needed.
— The Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy this week issued an “Action Alert” encouraging Brethren to contact their congressional representatives and ask them to support a bill to end the current US military engagement in Yemen, where the US is supporting a Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels.
— On the latest episode of the “Dunker Punks Podcast,” Kiana Simonson sits down with Laura Hay as the two discuss their various Youth Peace Travel Team experiences. The audio show is created by more than a dozen Brethren young adults across the country. Listen on the episode page: http://bit.ly/DPP_Episode67, or subscribe on iTunes: http://bit.ly/DPP_iTunes.