Brethren bits for Sept. 28, 2019

— Remembrance: Leon Miller, a former longterm Brethren Press employee, passed away on Sept. 12 after a long illness. He worked in “pre-press” for almost 30 years, from 1957 to 1986, when the printing presses were located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. For many years after retirement he and his wife, Carol, who passed away in July, led the weekly soup kettle ministry of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin. The soup kettle ministry every Saturday evening provides a hot, home-cooked meal to dozens of guests in need. Visitation and a memorial service will be held at the Highland Avenue church on Saturday, Oct. 12, with visitation beginning at 3 p.m. and the service at 3:30 p.m. Following the service, at 5:30 p.m., all are invited to join the soup kettle meal in honor of the Millers’ years of service.

— Todd Knight has resigned as administrative assistant for institutional advancement at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., effective Sept. 28. Having worked at Bethany since March 2017, he has provided administrative support for two executive directors, managed constituent and fundraising records, and handled logistics for donor communication and Bethany’s presence at district conferences. He will be taking up an opportunity in leadership at a nonprofit organization in the Richmond area.

— The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership seeks a quarter-time coordinator of Spanish-language ministry training programs. The academy is a ministry training partnership of the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Theological Seminary. Responsibilities are to administer nongraduate, certificate-level ministry training programs in Spanish through regular communication with students, instructors, translators, program partners, and district personnel; discern developing leaders for the future of ministry training and recommend them for additional education; and work with the director of the academy to revise existing and develop additional Spanish-language programs as needed. Qualifications include fluency in Spanish and English, both in oral and written communication; experience in the Spanish-speaking church, either in the United States or abroad; completion of a ministry or theological training program in the Anabaptist tradition; practical experience in pastoral ministry; ability to travel to meet with students and supervisors as needed; ability to travel to the Bethany campus and to the Church of the Brethren General Offices as needed. A complete job description is available on the Bethany Seminary website at . To apply, send a cover letter and resume to .

— Church of the Brethren general secretary David Steele is one of the American faith leaders who have signed a letter to President Trump urging the finding of a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The letter was coordinated by Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). The letter said, in part: “As leaders of diverse church communions and religious organizations, we ardently support robust U.S. leadership in coordination and direct engagement with all the relevant parties to bring about an end to this conflict in a way that addresses the human rights concerns of Israelis and Palestinians–Jews, Christians and Muslims. We hold fast to the understanding that all people are equal in God’s eyes, deserving of human rights and dignity…. While acknowledging the pressing needs facing the Palestinian economy laid out in your administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity: A New Vision for the Palestinian People,’ we maintain that these needs cannot be adequately addressed unless their root causes are properly diagnosed and addressed. Underdevelopment in the Palestinian territories is not the result of natural market forces; it is the direct product of over fifty years of Israeli military occupation and policies explicitly designed to stifle the Palestinian economy. Even the most thorough and well-planned economic development proposals will ultimately fail if the political conditions needed for peace are absent. A truly viable peace can only be achieved by lifting the Gaza blockade, by ending the Israeli occupation of territories captured in 1967, through the realization of Palestinian self-determination, the recognition of Jerusalem as a shared capital for Israelis and Palestinians, and the recognition and fulfillment of the rights of Palestinian refugees. Such a peace can only be reached in consultation with leaders representing both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.”

The Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry has announced the theme and scripture text for the 2020 workcamp season: “Voices for Peace” (Romans 15:1-6, “The Message” version). “We will explore how we can use our voices and gifts to promote peace both within our communities and within our world,” said the announcement. Workcamp registration will open Jan. 16, 2020, at 7 p.m. (central time) at .


Senior high youth and their adult advisors are invited to save the date for next year’s Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS) on April 25-30, 2020. The theme is “Economic Justice” with the theme text from Luke 1:51-53), “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” More information will be made available on the CCS web page at .

— The Office of Ministry invites clergywomen to a Clergy Women’s Retreat on Jan. 6-9, 2020, in Scottsdale, Ariz. “We are looking forward to gathering as Church of the Brethren clergywomen for a time of spiritual growth and renewal,” said the announcement. “Please join us at the Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale.” The planning committee includes Connie Burkholder, Kathy Gingrich, Rebecca House, LaDonna Nkosi, Leonor Ochoa, Sara Haldeman-Scarr, and Nancy S. Heishman as director of the Office of Ministry. Clergywomen are invited to be involved in the months leading up to the retreat by volunteering to help with worship planning (contact Rebecca House at or Leonor Ochoa at ); or by joining the prayer team for the retreat (contact LaDonna Nkosi at ). “Invite others to join since prayer team members don’t necessarily have to be clergywomen or planning to attend the retreat,” the announcement said. “The hope is that part of the prayer team will be interceding for the retreat from their locations even when the retreat is in session and as participants arrive and return home.” Also invited are donations to support the scholarship fund as well as plans to provide childcare for children under age 2 who accompany their mothers. Visit to contribute financial support. Go to to register.

— Solidarity with refugees is the topic of this week’s action alert from the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. It highlights the need for advocacy around the Presidential Determination (PD) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, which determines the number of refugees allowed to be admitted to the United States. “The FY2019 PD was set at 30,000 refugees, the all-time-lowest number in the history of resettlement,” the alert said. “Meanwhile, there are nearly 26 million refugees worldwide with 1.4 million needing resettlement. Despite the continued global need, some in the administration are reportedly calling to ‘zero out’ the program for FY 2020. The Senate and House have both introduced the Guaranteed Refugee Admissions Ceiling Enhancement Act, GRACE Act, S. 1088, H.R. 2146, which would set 95,000 as the minimum PD. As Christians, we affirm the inherent dignity of every person and the ability of refugees to seek security and safety for themselves and family members.” The alert cited the 1982 Annual Conference “Statement on Undocumented Persons and Refugees” urging church members to call upon the government specifically to “make provisions for admissions beyond the annual ceiling and to review the numerical limits periodically, taking into account economic, social, political, ecological, agricultural and demographic national and global conditions.” The alert includes points for talking with representatives and senators as well as sample scripts. Find the action alert at .

— In related news, the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy has shared a statement from Church World Service (CWS) president and CEO John L. McCullough. The statement responds to reports that the US administration plans to set the Fiscal Year 2020 refugee admissions goal at 18,000, a record low, and an executive order issued this week that permits state and local officials to block refugee resettlement in their communities.
     McCullough’s statement:
     “With one final blow, the Trump administration has snuffed out Lady Liberty’s torch and ended our nation’s legacy of compassion and welcome. The darkness of this day will extend for years, if not decades, to come.
     “This is nothing short of a refugee ban. Cutting America’s life-saving refugee program to such extreme lows is a terrible mistake that will put the lives of thousands of refugee families–the most desperate cases in the world–at dire risk. It will destroy the lives of former refugees in the United States who have been desperately waiting for their children, their parents, their most precious loved ones to arrive. It will destabilize key allies and destroy what is left of our nation’s moral example. It will annihilate the vital infrastructure and support services that the United States has taken decades to build.
     “Cutting the refugee program to what is effectively zero while circumventing Congress and allowing states and local governments to ban refugees is a death blow to the program that has saved the lives of millions.
     “This tragic decision is an affront to people of faith and people of conscience across the nation who have dedicated their lives and opened their communities to refugee families. The refugee resettlement program was built by communities of faith who sought to respond with compassion to the world’s worst displacement crises.
     “Congress must not continue to stand by as the Trump administration systematically blocks all vulnerable people from accessing protection in our country. We implore Congress to ensure there is a full consultation with the administration and to demand that the refugee admissions goal be set at 95,000 in line with our nation’s historic commitments and capacity to welcome.” 
     CWS’s work with refugees dates back to 1946. Learn more at

— Faith Over Fear trainings are offered this fall by Shoulder to Shoulder, an ecumenical organization in which the Church of the Brethren is a partner. “These trainings share research, tools, effective strategies for the work of faith and community leaders who wish to counter anti-Muslim bias, discrimination, and violence in the United States,” said an announcement shared by the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. Four trainings are offered: Nov. 2-3 in Omaha, Neb., co-sponsored locally by Tri-Faith Initiative; Nov. 10-11 in Louisville, Ky., co-sponsored locally by Peace Catalyst International, Muslim Americans for Compassion, and Interfaith Paths to Peace, and hosted at the First Christian Church of Louisville; Nov. 15-16 in Willmar, Minn., co-sponsored locally by the Willmar Interfaith Network and Minnesota Council of Churches; Dec. 2 in Charleston, W.Va., held at Temple Israel. Go to .

Above: The Compelling Vision Team met this week Monday through Wednesday, Sept. 23-25, at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The group includes all the members of the former Compelling Vision Working Group and the former Compelling Vision Process Team: Kayla Alphonse of Miami, Fla.; Kevin Daggett, Bridgewater, Va.; Chris Douglas, Annual Conference director; Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Minneapolis, Minn.; John Jantzi, executive minister for Shenandoah District; Donita Keister, immediate past moderator of Annual Conference; Brian Messler, Lititz, Pa.; Colleen Michael, former executive minister of Pacific Northwest District; Paul Mundey, Annual Conference moderator; Samuel Sarpiya, moderator of the 2018 Annual Conference; David Steele, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren; Alan Stucky, Wichita, Kan.; and Kay Weaver, Strasburg, Pa. “Keep them in your prayers as they go about this important work for the denomination,” said a request from the Conference office.

Below: Members of the Ministers’ Association arrived at the Church of the Brethren General Offices Thursday, Sept. 26, for two days of meetings. The group includes Barbara Wise Lewczak, chair; Ken Frantz and Erin Huiras, vice-chairs; Jody Gunn, secretary; and Tim Sollenberger Morphew, treasurer. Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of Ministry, participated as staff.

— The Ecumenical Stewardship Center is holding a gathering titled Generosity NEXT featuring plenary speakers who are “thought leaders on cutting-edge topics related to faithful stewardship and generosity in the North American cultural landscape,” according to an announcement. The Church of the Brethren participates in the center. Generosity NEXT will meet on the topic, “Spirited Generosity: Offering Vitality in the 21st Century” on Nov. 20-21 at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta, Ga. Attendance via live streaming is available. The event will explore the history and theology of the offering, its spiritual significance, and how faith communities can continue to make congregational giving a vital practice in 21st-century culture. Speakers include L. Edward Phillips, associate professor of Worship and Liturgical Theology at Candler School of Theology; Robert Hay Jr., senior ministry relations officer, southeast, for the Presbyterian Foundation; Melvin Amerson, stewardship consultant for the Texas Methodist Foundation; and stewardship and fundraising consultant Lori Guenther Reesor. Find out more at .

— On Earth Peace celebrated its 13th Peace Day campaign on Sept. 21. On a Facebook page the agency collected stories of what congregations would be doing to join in the celebration. Examples shared in the On Earth Peace email newsletter included: Williamson Road Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., organizing a Fall Peace Day Block Party for the surrounding community to gather together and enjoy fellowship, food, and ice cream, and fun activities for kids and families as well as a demonstration of the correct installation of a car seat; the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy hosting a prayer service for immigration at Washington City Church of the Brethren in Washington, D.C.; Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren hosting a viewing of the film “A Singing Revolution”; Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind., replacing peace poles in its community and dedicating new ones; and San Diego (Calif.) First Church of the Brethren and the San Diego Peace Resource Center offering peace activities and workshops as well as a concert.

— East Nimishillen (Ohio) Church of the Brethren is celebrating 215 years of ministry. Special speakers are planned each month in October culminating in a music celebration on Oct. 27. The celebration will include apple dumplings and ice cream. For a flier go to .

— Lakeview Church of the Brethren is one of the organizations in Manistee County, Mich., receiving grants from the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, according to the “News Advocate.” The grants are given to food pantries and worksites in the county to improve their services. The District Health Department No. 10 coordinated the grants and helped the recipients develop an action plan to implement sustainable change, the newspaper reported. The church shared a grant of $6,000 with two other organizations and purchased educational materials and displays, bins for displaying seasonal produce, insulated thermal bags, and a new sign with healthy messaging. Find the news report at .

— “How many miles are represented by 3,000 pounds of shoes?” is a question being asked at Greenville (Ohio) Church of the Brethren since the congregation collected 3,000 pounds of shoes for WaterStep, according to the “Daily Advocate” newspaper. This is the fourth year the church has collected shoes for Waterstep, a non-profit based in Louisville, Ky., that provides safe water to communities in developing countries. The shoes “are purchased by an exporter that pays WaterStep a specific rate per pound of shoes, explained [pastor Ron Sherck]. Waterstep uses the funds to build an easy-to-assemble, small chlorine generator that purifies contaminated water, saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year.” Read more at .

— A Growing Project Harvest Festival is happening in Mid-Atlantic District this Sunday, Sept. 29, at 2:30 p.m. starting off with hayrides at the Growing Project Farm in Myersville, Md. “Please join in the fun as we gather to celebrate and thank God for another bountiful harvest,” said an announcement. A Service of Thanksgiving is at 3 p.m. and the event also includes a Cake Auction, sampling of foods from Burkina Faso, a Scarecrow Workshop, and more. During 2019 the program is supporting villages in Burkina Faso, in West Africa, working with participants to raise and consume nutritious food in an area that often suffers from drought. Bring along clean, empty aluminum cans for a recycling project to benefit the Burkina Faso project. The “Field of Hope” Growing Project is a ten-church effort including Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren, Edgewood Church of the Brethren, Grossnickle Church of the Brethren, Hagerstown Church of the Brethren, Harmony Church of the Brethren, Myersville Church of the Brethren, Welty Church of the Brethren, Christ Reformed United Church of Christ, Middletown and Holy Family Catholic Community. 

— Atlantic Northeast District holds its district conference on Oct. 4-5 in Leffler Chapel at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Brian Berkey is serving as moderator.

— The College of Law at the University of La Verne, Calif., is ranked among the top 10 law schools for student diversity by Enjuris, an online platform designed to help injured parties with legal resources, according to a release from ULV. The rankings looked at race and ethnicity demographics across the country for American Bar Association-accredited law schools. According to Enjuris, the number of minorities enrolled in law schools across the country increased by 6 percent in 2018. This included Hispanics, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Asians, African Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Caucasians. Find the ULV release at .

— McPherson (Kan.) College is reporting record enrollment, according to a release. The college welcomed its largest incoming class on Aug. 20, continuing an upward enrollment trend established over the past five years. “With 316 new freshmen and transfer students, it is the largest class in school history,” said the release. “As classes get underway, full-time equivalent enrollment is up to 840…. According to Ruffalo Noel Levitz, an enrollment management firm that surveyed 63 private higher education institutions in the Midwest, average enrollment is down three percent.” Said college president Michael Schneider in the release, “We know families question whether they can afford to send their children to college. McPherson College is showing students how it is possible to graduate with no student loan debt and it is attracting their attention.” The McPherson College Student Debt Project aims at helping students graduate with no student loan debt focusing on financial literacy, mentoring, and financial disciplines, student commitments to work during college, and college matches for a portion of their earnings. The release said that 98 percent of McPherson graduates are in careers within six months of graduation, and two-thirds report having a job before they graduated.

— There is a new Dunker Punks podcast, featuring a story from Jos, Nigeria. “Life’s too short to not have unique, fulfilling experiences. That’s why Sharon Flaten took advantage of Bethany Theological Seminary’s online classes and off-campus learning centers to move to Jos to study,” said an announcement. Ben Bear interviews Flaten about her story and how it came about. Listen at and subscribe at

— A joint climate justice pledge has been signed by two US denominations–the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America–and the Church of Sweden. “The message urges action on the unprecedented negative effects of climate change,” reported the World Council of Churches (WCC). The pledge reads, in part: “As we observe the Season of Creation, we renew the call for our churches to work together for the sake of Earth and to build collaborations wherever possible, both with other communities of faith and with diverse agents in our civil society. Now is the time for science, politics, business, culture, and religion–everything that is an expression of human dignity–to address together this critical issue for our time.” The pledge also acknowledges that churches have been slow to recognize the urgency of the crisis. “We have turned away from our own roles in environmental degradation, clinging as we could to lifestyles of unsustainable waste and overuse even as others suffer from lack of necessities.” The pledge commits to advocate for national and international policies and regulations that enable transitions to carbon-neutral, resilient societies; education and advocacy efforts that attend to the most vulnerable and put their needs ahead of the more privileged; and raise awareness in congregations by promoting the use of education, worship, and action resources. See .

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]