Newsline for April 8, 2019


1) Brethren programs begin response to flooding in Midwest and plains states
2) Bridgewater forum looks at ‘demise and momentum’ in church institutions
3) Church of the Brethren offers vacant land for sale in Elgin
4) Brethren Benefit Trust signs Turkmen Cotton Pledge
5) New master’s degree highlights Bethany’s revised curriculum
6) EYN holds 72nd Majalisa on theme ‘Jesus the Author and Finisher of Our Faith’


7) Dan Poole named to faculty position at Bethany Seminary


8) Three special concerts to be offered at Annual Conference

9) Brethren bits: Historic black Baptist churches burned in Louisiana, remembering Dan McRoberts and Naomi Kulp Keeney, personnel, Brethren Disaster Ministries signs letter supporting Legal Services Corp., groups meet at the General Offices, alert on “How to Celebrate Earth Day,” new growth among Brethren in Spain and Rwanda, and more

Quote of the week:
“John, in his masterful way, weaves together a story of great grief and hope…. The disciples warned Jesus that many were waiting for him, ready to stone him. And when Jesus comes to the tomb, his first words were to command that the stone be rolled away…. John symbolizes both life and death with these stones–ones meant to kill and one meant to reveal new life. Yet we are like Mary, running to Jesus and collapsing in our grief. We come, asking why such things could happen. Asking how God could let such precious ones be lost.”

— From a meditation by Joshua Brockway for the first anniversary of the abductions of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria. The fifth anniversary of the abductions is next Sunday, April 14, 2019. 
     The majority of the girls were from families of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). More than half have escaped or have been freed, but many are known to have died, and the rest remain unaccounted for or are thought to still be in the hands of Boko Haram. The last release of large numbers of them was in May 2017, when EYN president Joel S. Billi confirmed news reports that 82 had been freed. Previous to that, in October 2016, 21 were freed, in addition to the 57 who managed to escape soon after the abduction. 
     Concerns remain for the Chibok schoolgirls who are still captive, as well as the hundreds of other children and adults who have been abducted by Boko Haram over recent years. 
     Find spiritual resources for the Chibok anniversary at .

1) Brethren programs begin response to flooding in Midwest and plains states

Disaster relief supplies headed for Nebraska
Disaster relief supplies headed for Nebraska, shipped on behalf of Church World Service by the Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Courtesy of Material Resources

By Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries with Loretta Wolf of Material Resources

Heavy and widespread mid-March snowstorms led to the beginning of major flooding in the US Midwest. Rivers are still rising and flooding may worsen with the expected heavy rains that may fall in the next several weeks. Flooding along the Mississippi River, James River, and Red River of the North, and many of their tributaries, is causing extensive flooding in Nebraska, Missouri, South Dakota, Iowa, and Kansas. Already many homes, businesses, crops, stored grain, roads, and bridges have been destroyed in these communities. 

District disaster response coordinators from Western Plains District and Northern Plains District report no known damage to Church of the Brethren buildings or member homes. Church World Service staff report making smaller initial shipments of clean up buckets, hygiene kits, and blankets. They expect to provide significantly more clean-up buckets and other supplies once the flood waters have receded and families can return to their homes.

Material Resources ships relief supplies

The Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., has made shipments to areas of Nebraska affected by the flooding, on behalf of Church World Service. CWS relief materials were shipped to Omaha, Neb., in the amounts of 600 blankets, 150 school kits, 540 hygiene kits, 540 tubes of toothpaste, and 350 cleanup buckets. A shipment to Fremont, Neb., included 360 hygiene kits, 360 tubes of toothpaste, and 360 cleanup buckets.

Children’s Disaster Services sends team

On April 5 and 6, Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) is sending a team of volunteers to care for children at the Multi Agency Resource Center (MARC) established in Valley, Neb. Additional deployments are expected as the flood waters recede and more MARCs are established in the most affected areas.

Brethren Disaster Ministries to support long-term recovery 

Brethren Disaster Ministries continues to monitor the situation and to reach out to congregations, districts, and partners. In the near future, it will support the shipping of materials to the areas affected by flooding. In the longer term, the staff expects to support long-term recovery and home repairs in some communities.

Please pray for all the families, farmers and businesses affected by these storms. You can help by sending donations to the Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; or donate online at . Clean-up buckets, hygiene kits, and school kits also are needed for these communities. For more information, contact Brethren Disaster Ministries at or 800-451-4407 ext. 731.

— Roy Winter is associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries ( ). Loretta Wolf is director of Material Resources ( ).

2) Bridgewater forum looks at ‘demise and momentum’ in church institutions

Steve Longnecker welcomes participants at Bridgewater forum
Bridgewater (Va.) College professor Steve Longenecker was one of the organizers of the Forum for Brethren Studies on March 15, held on the topic, “The Status of Brethren Organizations: Demise and Momentum 1994-2019.” Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“The Status of Brethren Organizations: Demise and Momentum 1994-2019″ was the topic of the Bridgewater (Va.) College Forum for Brethren Studies on March 15. The day-long forum featured speakers on four institutions in the Church of the Brethren: Bethany Theological Seminary, Annual Conference, Brethren Press, and the Mission and Ministry Board.

The previous evening Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), was the featured speaker for an endowed lecture. At the start of the forum he presented a question and answer session.

Jones set stage for forum

Jones’ lecture on “The Changing Religious Landscape in America” was sponsored by the college’s Center for Engaged Learning and Anna B. Mow Symposium on Comparative Religious Ethics. His conversation with the forum focused on shifts of population and ethnic make-up in the nation, the loss of young people in the church, Americans who are unaffiliated with institutional religion, changing expectations for the church, and effects of politics on religion in the US, among other topics.

Returning to points made in his popular book, “The End of White Christian America,” Jones said that the demographic shifts that are underway make for a brand-new situation in the nation and are a factor in the current political divides that also are affecting the church. He shared the metaphor of the “captain’s chair” at the head of the family table, traditionally the father’s seat. At the religious community’s “family table,” white Protestants have sat in that chair to date. But there is a new dynamic in which no one religious or ethnic group “owns” that chair. As a result, strong forces are pushing “tribalism” in an effort to seize control of the religious landscape. Resulting questions include: What does it mean to be Christian? And who gets to decide?

Robert P. Jones speaks at the Bridgewater College forum.
Robert P. Jones speaks at the Bridgewater College forum. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

All white Christian denominations in the US are in decline, Jones said, speaking out of his organization’s well-respected research of American religion. Black churches are holding steady in terms of membership, while Latino and ethnically Asian and Pacific congregations are growing. The ranks of the religiously unaffiliated are growing as well.

Jones’ remarks touched on many controversial topics, including underlying reasons for the loss of young people in white American churches. This is connected to their perception of theology and church doctrine as irrelevant, the politicization of evangelical churches, and changing attitudes about sexuality, he said. “The civil rights issue of millennials is gay rights, and transgender rights…. It has become a test for how they see the church,” he said, adding that research finds 85 percent of Americans under the age of 30 support same-sex marriage.

All of this means that churches have to approach the rising generations “afresh,” he told the forum. The Church of the Brethren and other peace churches actually have an advantage, because the generations under age 40 share many of the same values, he said. “There are some Brethren distinctives that are quite resonant…justice, peace, simplicity,” he said. However, “there is a kind of branding problem,” he said, adding that the perception of whether a church lives out its values is a top concern for young people. An additional advantage for the Church of the Brethren may be counter-intuitive: “being an under-the-radar denomination” about which young people and the religiously unaffiliated may not have preconceived notions.

He drew attention to some opportunities for the church in the current situation: to offer pastoral care for those grieving losses in their shrinking congregations, and to make healing connections across boundaries of race. His own home church is the white half of a Southern Baptist congregation that split into black and white congregations after the Civil War. Now the pastors of those two separated churches are beginning to meet together again. He commented, “We’ve been waiting for generations to have this conversation.”

Bethany Seminary

Past president Ruthann Knechel Johansen spoke about Bethany Seminary, with current president Jeff Carter as respondent.

Johansen titled her remarks “The Dangers of a Single Story,” saying that “what is momentum to some, others may interpret as demise. What some perceive as harbingers of death, others perceive as possibility.”

In a detailed review of events, recollections, and interpretations of Bethany’s recent decades–particularly since its move from the Chicago area to Indiana–she identified strengths of the seminary as well as concerns. Strengths lie in the teaching faculty, cost effective education, commitment to Brethren values, ministry formation, financial stability, new certifications, among others. There are concerns in declining enrollment, aging donor base, insufficient support from congregations and districts, among others.

She found tensions and also possibilities for re-imagining theological education. For example, since the move to Richmond and accompanying relationship with Quaker educational institutions, the seminary has built an impressive faculty and new ministry training opportunities. Creation of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership is just one result. “Demise and momentum danced together” in Bethany’s recent history, Johansen said.

Annual Conference

Past moderator Carol A. Scheppard spoke about Annual Conference, with director Chris Douglas as respondent.

Scheppard asserted that the annual meeting, as the oldest of Brethren institutions, still holds the “DNA of the Brethren identity” but stands at a threshold in regard to its future. Challenges include shrinking finances, attendance, support, and delegate representation.

The core of her remarks came in an analysis of historical shifts in the practical function and nature of the annual meeting since its beginnings. The first annual meeting was held to discuss a tour by Count Zinzendorff that was perceived as enticing Brethren into what Scheppard characterized as an ecumenical movement, and its outcome was church leaders encouraging Brethren not to lose their distinctive practices. The annual meeting started as a consultative body with an informal structure and an emphasis on unity of practice. Over the centuries, it shifted into a legislative body with a formal structure. It started as a way of stemming innovation, but as time went on “the work of Annual Conference became more complicated,” she said.

With the compelling vision process, she said, the denomination is now coming to Annual Conference seeking innovation rather than its established function of stemming innovation. Her presentation allowed the question of whether the annual meeting can do both. Annual Conference, she said, has been a body “standing strong while allowing subtle changes…allowing bending with the winds of change.”

Brethren Press

Scott Holland, Bethany’s Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture, spoke about Brethren Press, with publisher Wendy McFadden as respondent.

“Writing Among the Ruins: Brethren Press as a Prophetic, Poetic, and Pragmatic Ministry,” was the presentation’s title, as Holland talked about the publishing house during a time of continuing decline in church membership. If Brethren leadership hopes to turn the tide from demise to momentum, it needs to “lean into” a prophetic posture and a pragmatic ministry. He identified Brethren Press as doing both.

Brethren publishing since it started in 1851 has been linked with the development of denominational ministries. But Holland also listed many of the same institutional challenges named by previous speakers, as well as challenges particular to publishing: declining denominational loyalty, competition from other publishers, demand for more frequently updated curriculum, pressure to provide digital content, and demand for translations into more languages.

If denominational publishing is central to denominational identity, he asked, what might Brethren Press do to discern, invite, and encourage “the coming church” of the future? “There is an admirable momentum about Brethren Press even in the midst of the ruins,” he said, but its future hinges on the question: what is Brethren identity in the 21st century?

Mission and Ministry Board

Past board chair Ben Barlow spoke about the Mission and Ministry Board, with Church of the Brethren general secretary David Steele as respondent.

Barlow began by sharing an image he saw in a dream: Elephants were raising a tent on a fairground, and with each was a group of Brethren representing a segment of the church. The groups and their elephants were pulling ropes to raise the tent. They worked together for awhile but then, worried that the tent would not be big enough for all, each group started to work harder to get their contingent inside–with the result that they ripped the tent to pieces.

Barlow focused his remarks on this struggle over a central Brethren identity, linking it with the history of the denomination’s boards. Brethren often “don blinders” when looking at the mix of identities and histories in the church, he said, examining examples of competing Brethren identities, such as Anabaptist and Pietist. He warned that the word “Brethren” does not mean the same thing to different members of the church, However, he said, “wherever they are on whatever spectrum you draw, there are the true Brethren.”

3) Church of the Brethren offers vacant land for sale in Elgin

Realtor map of vacant land for sale in Elgin, Ill. by the Church of the Brethren

The Church of the Brethren denomination has retained the services of A. Rick Scardino of Lee & Associates for the purpose of selling excess vacant land at its address at 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, Ill. Dundee Avenue is also Illinois State Route 25.

The Church of the Brethren is not selling its General Offices and warehouse building nor the land immediately surrounding the building.

Approximately 12 acres of vacant land is being offered for sale, located east of the General Offices and warehouse building. It is bordered by I-90 on the north, Stewart Avenue homes on the south, and Dakota Drive homes on the east.

The vacant land is zoned general industrial and is an appropriate site for a variety of uses, such as medical offices, hotel, warehousing, and light manufacturing.

For more information contact realtor A. Rick Scardino at 773-355-3040 or Church of the Brethren CFO and treasurer Brian Bultman at 800-323-8039 ext. 347 or .

4) Brethren Benefit Trust signs Turkmen Cotton Pledge

From a BBT release

Brethren Benefit Trust and its affiliate, Brethren Foundation Funds, on April 4 signed the Turkmen Cotton Pledge to show opposition to unacceptable human rights conditions in Turkmenistan, as the government there has been using forced labor to harvest cotton.  Turkmenistan is the 11th-largest exporter of cotton in the world, but produces its commodity by threatening adult citizens with dismissal or salary deductions from their regular jobs if they do not assist with the annual cotton harvest.

“Brethren Benefit Trust has a history and tradition of standing up for human rights,” said BBT president Nevin Dulabaum. “One of our investment screens applies to companies that are egregious violators of human rights regulations, so we did not hesitate to oppose what amounts to modern-day slavery in Turkmenistan. This is one of the ways our organization hopes to influence an end to inhumane products and practices across the globe.”

In addition to the pledge, the Responsible Sourcing Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending human rights abuses, is asking that partners support the newly formed YESS: Yarn Ethically and Sustainably Sourced. YESS facilitates a means for cotton industry workers to avoid distribution of materials that are gathered using forced labor.

Organizations that sign the letter are playing an important role in the work toward eradicating this inhumane practice. A similar pledge created for Uzbekistan has already helped motivate the government to acknowledge the presence of forced labor, and take steps toward ending this practice in its country.

For more about the ministry of Brethren Benefit Trust see .

5) New master’s degree highlights Bethany’s revised curriculum

By Jenny Williams

In fall 2019 Bethany Theological Seminary will offer its first new graduate degree in 50 years–the Master of Arts: Theopoetics and Writing (MATW). This degree is a major feature of the comprehensive curriculum revision that Bethany faculty have undertaken during the past 18 months.

Taking advantage of growing interest in theopoetics, the MATW is distinctive in more ways than one. It is the only degree available in theopoetics, a field that approaches God and spirituality through aesthetics–most notably, language–and characterizes mysteries of the divine as part of everyday lived experience. In 2016 Bethany launched the specialized graduate Certificate in Theopoetics and Theological Imagination, also the first of its kind.

The MATW also represents a unique collaboration with the well-recognized and respected Ministry of Writing program at Earlham School of Religion, building on strengths of both schools. The degree was developed jointly by Scott Holland, Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture at Bethany, and Ben Brazil, assistant professor and director of the Ministry of Writing program. The degree requires courses taught at both schools but is offered independently by each.

Holland, a nationally known scholar and lecturer on theopoetics, teaches the first course in theopoetics ever offered and is the primary professor for Bethany’s certificate. He notes that while some students have folded their certificate study into the Seminary’s existing programs, “we were also attracting students drawn to theopoetics and writing who had no interest in a traditional seminary degree. They began asking for an MA that allowed them to concentrate on theopoetics.”

Brazil’s journalism career, including publication in “The New York Times,” “The Washington Post,” and “The Los Angeles Times,” has taken him around the world, while his doctoral work focused on the intersection of contemporary spirituality and travel. “For years, students have told me that my classes dovetail perfectly with Scott’s. I teach the craft of writing, and Scott helps students understand why creativity and faith belong together. This collaboration puts ESR and Bethany on the cutting edge of a growing field.”

Bethany’s newly revised master of divinity was launched in fall 2018, and the revised master of arts will be offered in fall 2019. For both, four new program objectives focus on process and outcome, helping students gain knowledge and develop skills for their desired vocations: (1) interpreting scripture, tradition, and theology; (2) communicating with contextual awareness; (3) integrating learning across one’s program; and (4) demonstrating knowledge and expertise.
More course formats now count toward the residency requirement for the MDiv, and the residency requirement has been dropped for the MA. In keeping with today’s students’ educational needs and desires–as many seminaries are doing–the required credit hours have been reduced to 72 for the MDiv and 42 for the MA. While courses continue to be required in the traditional areas of Bible, history, ministry, and theology, “degree requirements can be fulfilled with a greater variety of courses, allowing students more choice in their educational programs,” says Steve Schweitzer, academic dean.

Bethany has also added two new specialized graduate certificates for a total of five. The Certificate in Theology and Science was launched this academic year, and the Certificate in Biblical Peacemaking will be offered in fall 2019. The latter specifically addresses the interests of Nigerian students who take courses through Bethany’s educational partnership with EYN; however, all qualifying courses for the certificate are part of Bethany’s existing programs, encouraging intercultural connections in Bethany classrooms. All specialized certificates at Bethany require just five or six courses and can be completed in one to two years.
— Jenny Williams is director of communications at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind.

6) EYN holds 72nd Majalisa on theme ‘Jesus the Author and Finisher of Our Faith’

The head table at the EYN Majalisa 2019
The head table at the EYN Majalisa 2019, from left: EYN general secretary Daniel Y. C. Mbaya, president Joel S. Billi, and spiritual advisor Samuel B. Shinggu. Photo by Zakariya Musa

By Zakariya Musa

At her 72nd Annual General Church Council Conference, or Majalisa, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) appointed three directors and an advisor and awarded six members. The conference title  “Jesus the Author and Finisher of Our Faith” was taken from the book of Hebrews 12:2, and held between April 2-5 at the EYN Headquarters, Kwarhi, Hong LGA, Adamawa State. About 1,700 participants attended the highest decision-making body of the 96-year-old denomination, which has faced the terrible experience of insurgent activities.

The executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren in the US, Jay Wittmeyer, was the guest preacher. He and other Brethren were expected to come from the US and from Mission 21 in Switzerland, but due to security restrictions only Wittmeyer came from the Church of the Brethren and the Nigeria country coordinator Yakubu Joseph read the note of greetings from Mission 21.

EYN vice president Anthony A. Ndamsai, on behalf of the EYN president, welcomed the pastors, delegates, past, and present leaders who came from across Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Togo. This is the third Conference presided over by EYN president Joel S. Billi.

President Billi in his address called on the federal government of Nigeria to intensify its commitment to address security challenges in the country. “Our leaders who have deliberately refused to keep peace and order, are moving all over places with heavy armed security men, leaving the poor masses on their own. Nigeria is drifting day by day toward a state of anarchy while we are busy blowing big, big grammar that we are practicing democracy. Honestly we are too far away from real democracy.”

Billi also warned church workers to be honest. “We are committed to serve you to the best of our abilities and be good and faithful stewards of the things entrusted into our care to keep them and use them as prescribed by our working documents. Whoever in any way decides to mishandle church money conscientiously will not be protected.”
The Conference awarded six EYN members for their outstanding contributions towards church development. The awardees are: Ayuba Waba, Nigeria Labor Congress president; Joseph Ayuba, member of the Adamawa State House of Assembly; Kubili David, a former TEKAN Women’s Leader; Mike Mshelia, a businessman and EYN Estate Officer; Dr. John Quaghe and Bitrus Ndahi, through their representatives.

Three new directors were named to the EYN staff at the 2019 Majalisa
Three new directors were named to the EYN staff at the 2019 Majalisa: John Wada Zambwa, director of Audit and Documentation (at left); Yamtikarya Mshelia, director of the Women’s Ministry (at right); and , director of the ICBDP (not shown here). Photo by Zakariya Musa

Three new directors were approved by the Majalisa: John Wada Zambwa as director of Audit and Documentation, Yamtikarya Joseph Mshelia as director of the Women’s Ministry, and Markus Vandi as director of Integrated Community-Based Development Program (ICBDP). The outgoing directors and their years of service: Silas Ishaya served for eight years as director of Audit and Documentation, Suzan Mark served for four years as director of the Women’s Ministry, and James T. Mamza served for four years as director of the ICBDP.

Election of the position of EYN spiritual advisor also was conducted. The incumbent advisor, Samuel Birma Shinggu, was elected for another three years tenure.
Other guests of the Conference included the president of the Lutheran World Federation, Filibus Panti Musa, and the Adamawa State CAN chairman and Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Yola, Stephen Dame Mamza.

Prayers were offered for eight members of the Christ Reformed Church of Nigeria including its legal advisor who were kidnapped recently, for the sick, and for peace in some areas where people are living in fear.

Reports were presented by the central administration and other departments of the church. Teachings on health with emphasis on communicable diseases, and on agriculture with emphasis on soybean farming, were conducted by Ezekiel O. Ogunbiyi and Kefas Z.

The next General Church Council Conference is scheduled from April 20-24, 2020.

— Zakariya Musa is communications staff for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria. The Majalisa caught the attention of Nigerian media for leaders’ statements to the government on the need to do something about the violence plaguing the northeast of the country. EYN president Joel S. Billi and general secretary Daniel Mbaya were quoted in the Leadership newspaper at and in “The Nation” at .

Following is the full text of EYN president Joel Billi’s speech to the 2019 Majalisa:

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:18, NIV).

My heart is bubbling with joy and gratitude to God to welcome you to 2019 Majalisa. I thank God for sparing our lives and making it possible for us to witness this annual gathering. Thank you all for your indefatigable support and ceaseless allegiance to the leadership. We have not done anything without your backing. As you all know EYN structure as of today, money ascends from LCB to LCC, LCC to DCC, then DCC to GCC. For now both the DCCs and GCC do not generate even one Naira for the entire growth of EYN. We thank the faithful ones for being faithful. And we encourage the unfaithful ones to be faithful. Therefore, if there is anything worthy of praise all of us are beneficiaries.

Before we go further, I would like to thank you all for making us to be your leaders at such a difficult time in the history of mankind. The devil is busy trying to intoxicate people with all manners of sin including the elects. It is our responsibility to denounced the devil and saturate the world with the gospel.


I wish to tell Majalisa that the Church of the Brethren invited me for the third time to her Annual Conference. I was invited to the Annual Conference with my wife and three other people along with us. The conference was held in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 4th-8th, 2018. I was also invited to Brethren prayer and worship summit, April 20th-21st, 2018. I was invited as one of the keynote speakers. Julian Rittenhouse, Stafford Frederick, and Joel S. Billi. Special music by Abe Evans, over the past 60 years of his life, God has given Abe Evans the opportunity to share a ministry in song in many different settings. Discussion leaders, Nathan Rittenhouse, Roy McVey, and Kendal Elmore. I was also in Israel on a holy Pilgrimage, courtesy Adamawa State Government, as a spillover of 2017.


I am happy to report to Majalisa that Global Brethren was formed last year at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. Our brother the Church of the Brethren General Secretary, David Steele, and brother Jay Wittmeyer, Executive Director of Global Mission and Service, presented to the Annual Conference a comprehensive proposal of why the fellowship needs to be formed. After a lengthy brainstorming and cross-examinations the Annual Conference endorsed for the formation of the fellowship. And by the special grace of God, the fellowship is going to hold its maiden gathering this year. The good news is, EYN is going to host Global Brethren gathering, 1st-5th December, 2019, at EYN Headquarters, Kwarhi. Brother Jay Wittmeyer has started raising funds toward the global gathering. Pray for the success of the global gathering and God’s speed to every participant.


Pastor Chris Elliott and Rev. Galen Hackman of the Church of the Brethren requested EYN leadership to nominate someone to accompany them to Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, 6th-19th November, 2018, for the purpose of teaching the book “Brethren Beliefs and Practices.” EYN leadership suggested Rev. Caleb Sylvanus, Coordinator of Pastoral Enhancement Ministry, to go with them and it was accepted. Rev. Caleb went and came back with a good news that our brothers and sisters in Rwanda want EYN to send some missionaries and pastors to them. Pastor Chris and Rev. Galen both appreciated Rev. Caleb’s gesture in teaching from a new perspective. Rev. Caleb, since his return from the trip, has been suffering from ill health. He needs our prayer for a speedy recovery.


We thank you all for approving this long awaited dream at 2018 Majalisa. As was decided during the Majalisa that January 2019 was to be the starting month of central payment. The central payment committee and the leadership adhered to the resolution despite all forms of discouragements and deliberate efforts by many pastors to thwart this laudable decision. Majalisa’s approval of central payment is really commendable and acceptable by the majority of our members. We call on all of you to kindly rally around this selfless decision to nurture it to a full maturity. If our sister churches in TEKAN can do it effectively, we can also do it. For instance, COCIN Church is paying a sum of N157,000,000 to her pastors and workers every month. Despite this, they were able to build Carl Kum University. It is sad to say that there are pastors who are telling their members not to bring money but building materials, so that it will not attract payment of 35 percent. EYN will not tolerate any minister who depicts Ananias’ behaviour. We should learn to live in the presence of the living God. He should be a well for us: delightful, comforting, unfailing, springing up to eternal life.


Permit me to say that shortfall is a sin of omission. Year in and year out, we have been receiving reports of huge millions of shortfalls. Often a time we proffer solutions of how to mitigate the practice but it is always on the increase. If all churches will commit the sin of shortfall the Church will come to a standstill.


I am pleased to inform Majalisa that we were able to recruit three directors as we were directed to do. They are namely:
1. Rev. Musa Daniel Mbaya, Director of Evangelism and Church Growth
2. Mr. James Daniel Kwaha, Director of Finance 
3. Dr. Yohanna Y. Wamdeo, Director of Education

All of them have assumed office and are doing good job in their respective ministries. Let us continue to pray for them even as they contribute their quota in the vineyard.


As old as transfer is in EYN, many pastors and workers are looking at it as a punishment especially if he or she is transferred to a place that is assumed not within his catchment area. We call on all pastors and workers to approach transfer with open mind and flexibility and most of all with prayer. Skepticism and choosy attitude will make you doubt our leaders. Therefore transfer is for the good of the workers and for the growth of the church. To my mind unification and edification of the Church are accelerate by the Holy Spirit through different workers with different gifts endowed on them.


It has become a daily cry by every peace loving person, when shall peace be restored? Nigeria has woefully failed in restoring peace. Security forces are always claiming to be on top of the problem. If it were so, the insurgency would not have lasted about ten years. Every part of Nigeria today faces one form of violence or the other. And from the look of things it is likely the insecurity is far from coming to an end. For how long are we going to live under such barbarism and uncertainty? We need peace and tranquility. Our leaders who have deliberately refused to keep peace and order, are moving all over the place with heavily armed security men, leaving the poor masses on their own. Nigeria is drifting day by day toward a state of anarchy while we are busy blowing big, big grammar that we are practicing democracy. Honestly, we are too far away from real democracy.

Up to now the Church is still groaning because of the ongoing persecution. Christians are facing the most difficult time in the history of this nation. Boko Haram attacks almost on a daily basis. Thilaimakalama suffered several attacks before they were finally displaced from the village. Ngurthlavu was attacked on March 13, 2019, where many houses were burnt and the terrorists left with two girls. Consequently the villagers decided to leave the village for the time being. The number of abductees are on the increase and the government is doing nothing about it.


We are committed to serve you to the best of our abilities and be good and faithful stewards of the things entrusted into our care, to keep them and use them as prescribed by our working documents. Whoever in any way decides to mishandle church money conscientiously, will not be protected. You may cover your actions that auditors may not see but you cannot cover it from God. A financial plundering such as EYN had never before seen it, is ongoing. We must work on monetary penalties which will be imposed on our workers in order to stop corruption and bring back the glory of the Church. You will come to hear in details when the Director of Audit and Documentation comes up with his report.


We didn’t know at all if these projects were going to finish within our tenure of office. We were working round the clock thinking that our successors will come and complete the projects. We give God all the glory for such a miracle. You will bear us witness that there had never been a special appeal or fundraising for these projects. On several occasions we were tempted to organize an appeal fund or call on EYN’s affluent sons and daughters but we never did that. We thank our brother builder Mike Mshelia for his efforts and sacrifice. We thank our brother Jay Wittmeyer for organizing two groups of workcampers to the site and bearing some logistics. DCC Hildi, Mubi, Giima, Lokuwa, Uba, and KTS are not left out. Their contributions in mobilizing youth and skilled persons will always be remembered. It is important to let you know that we still require lots of things to make the buildings complete. We crave for your donations and assistance for the remaining needs. These are few of our needs:
1. A big generator/solar panels
3. Intercom
4. Dining tables (Banquet Hall)

Fencing of EYN Headquarters and Kulp Theological Seminary has been one of our major concerns. We are glad to tell you that very soon we are going to start the project. We thank our brother Roy Winter who graciously recommended the approval of a sum of N10,000,000.00 for this work. We want our churches to know that whenever this money is exhausted in the course of the work we will call on you.


1. The Church of the Brethren–we lack words to express our heartfelt gratitude for their perennial support and encouragement for EYN. We are happy to have brother Jay and sister Roxanne in our midst. We want to assure you that we shall start reroofing the conference hall immediately after Majalisa if Christ tarries. We thank our brother Roy Winter who is always here with us to ensure smooth running of our Disaster and Relief Ministry. A big thank you to sister Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford for her recent visit to EYN. Thank you for the fantastic and accurate report you wrote on EYN in the Messenger. Special appreciation to Markus Gamache (“Jauron EYN”) for liaising work for the Church of the Brethren and EYN.

2. Mission 21–we welcome our brother Mathias Waldmeyer from Mission 21. Young, agile and trustworthy fellow. It is our prayer that the zeal and charisma we see in you will continue to be burning. We thank Dr. Yakubu Joseph, who is the engine room of Mission 21 in Nigeria. I always call him a workaholic, and that is exactly his description. We congratulate him for his marriage. We also wish to congratulate our brother Rev. Jochen Kirsch for his elevation to a rank of a Director. We wish him God’s blessings and protection. We thank his predecessor Rev. Claudia Bandixen who visited EYN severally. We most of all thank God for sustaining our partnership with Mission 21. God willing we will celebrate our 60th anniversary of togetherness. Sixty years in cordial partnership is a thing of celebration. Praise God! May God continue to cement this partnership until Christ comes.


We thank the outgoing resource persons who served the Church for a period of seven years. Help me clap for them for their inexhaustible sacrifice. Thank you and God bless you real good. Warm welcome to the new committee. It is our prayer that God will use you effectively in this special assignment. May God see you to the very end.

1. Spiritual revival across EYN
2. EYN to be in every state of the Federation
3. Rebuilding of all the destroyed churches and constructing new ones
4. Release of all the captives or abductees
5. Modernizing KTS and all regional schools (JBC, MBC, LBS and CBS)
6. Having an ultramodern guesthouse in a state capital
7. Having a medical doctor and a surgeon in our clinic

Wish you fruitful and peaceful Majalisa. God’s speed to your respective homes. See you at 2020 Majalisa.

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the LORD GOD, my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (1 Chr. 28:20).

7) Dan Poole named to faculty position at Bethany Seminary

By Jenny Williams

Dan Poole has been named assistant professor of Ministry Formation at Bethany Theological Seminary, beginning July 1. Poole began employment at the seminary in August 2007 as coordinator of Ministry Formation and in July 2018 was named visiting instructor of Ministry Formation. In conjunction with these roles, he served as advancement associate from 2009 to 2014 and has held the title of director of Educational Technology since 2014.

Prior to and during his employment at Bethany, he has taught several courses on a regular basis in an adjunct faculty capacity. Poole has also been part of two grant-funded team assignments at Bethany, related to preparing students for ministry in today’s cultural and religious contexts.

Following his graduation from Bethany, Poole served as associate pastor at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren from 1991 to 1996, then as senior pastor at Covington Church of the Brethren (Ohio) from 1996 to 2009. He earned a DMin from Columbia Theological Seminary in 2018. He received a BS with majors in religion and philosophy from Manchester University in 1988.

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

8) Three special concerts to be offered at Annual Conference

Blackwood Brothers Quartet
Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Courtesy of Annual Conference Office

By Debbie Noffsinger

The 2019 Annual Conference to be held July 3-7 in Greensboro, N.C., will feature concerts by the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, Jonathan Emmons, and Friends with the Weather. Register for the Conference and find out more about the schedule and other special events at .

The Blackwood Brothers Quartet
Wednesday, July 3, 8:30 p.m.

This legendary southern gospel group will be bringing their signature harmonies and gospel style to Annual Conference. As pioneers of the Christian music industry, the Blackwood Brothers Quartet are eight-time Grammy Award winners, have recorded over 200 albums, and sold over 50 million records.

The Blackwood Brothers Quartet concert is free only to registered Conference attendees. Name tags will be required for entrance. Concert tickets will be available for purchase for $50 at the door and in the onsite Conference office for those who are not registered attendees.

Jonathan Emmons Organ Recital
Friday, July 5, 11:30 a.m.

Jonathan Emmons has become well known for his musical abilities in the Church of the Brethren, having served as organist at Annual Conference many times. His recitals include a mix of sacred and classical organ compositions as well as informative commentary and information. This concert is free and open to all Conference attendees.

Friends with the Weather
Friday, July 5, 8:30 p.m.

Friends with the Weather is a project of singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalists Seth Hendricks, Chris Good, and David Hupp. They bring a unique blend of dynamic musicianship, three-part vocal styling, and rich lyrical content, while exploring how we can learn and grow in the midst of challenging times, and strive to be sources of love, hope, passion, and vision. This concert is free and open to all Conference attendees.

For more about Annual Conference go to .

— Debbie Noffsinger is registration coordinator for Annual Conference.

9) Brethren bits

— Remembrance: Dan McRoberts, 78, passed away on Saturday, March 23, in Caledonia, Mich. He served the Church of the Brethren as a member of the General Board (1999-2004), the Association of Brethren Caregivers Board (2005-2008), and the Mission and Ministry Board (2008-2010), and was planning to serve as usher coordinator for NOAC 2019. In addition, he held various leadership positions in his local congregation and Michigan District. He was born Sept. 3, 1940, in Lake Odessa, Mich., to Roy J. and Ruth Winey McRoberts. He was a life-long member of the Church of the Brethren. A Celebration of Life service was held on Thursday, March 28, at Hope Church of the Brethren in Freeport, Mich., with visitation. Memorial gifts are received to Hope Church of the Brethren. Condolences may be sent online at . The full obituary is available at .

— Remembrance: Naomi Kulp Keeney of Londonderry Village, Palmyra, Pa., passed away on Friday, April 5. She was the daughter of H. Stover Kulp, who with Albert Helser were the first Church of the Brethren mission workers in Nigeria, and of Christina Masterton Kulp. She was born in Lassa, Nigeria, and attended Hillcrest School in Jos, Nigeria. After moving to the United States she attended Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., and Temple University. Throughout her adult life she was actively involved at Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren, chiefly working with children and youth. She was a first grade teacher and a medical secretary for her husband’s family practice. Her interests included reading, learning, and listening to music of all genres, and she delighted in spending time with her children and grandchildren. She is survived by daughter Ruth and husband William Miller of Annville, Pa.; daughter Jane and husband Will Webster of Harrisburg, Pa.; and son G. Martin Keeney and wife Jill B. Keeney of Huntingdon, Pa.; grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. She was preceded in death by her husband, Galen E. Keeney, who was a physician in Colonial Park, Harrisburg, and her brother, Philip M. Kulp. 
     A memorial service will be held on Friday, April 12, in the chapel at Londonderry Village, and will be streamed live online (see information below). The service will begin at 12 noon and friends may greet the family beginning at 10 a.m. Burial will be private at the convenience of the family. Memorial gifts are received to the Living Witness Fund of Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren and to the Good Samaritan Fund of Londonderry Village. 
    Live broadcast of the memorial service will be streamed by Living Stream Church of the Brethren for those across the country and in Nigeria who may want to participate online. The live stream will begin with music at about 11:45 a.m. (Eastern time) or 4:45 p.m. (Nigeria time). View it at . A recording also will be available to view at this same link.

Three rural historic black Baptist churches have burned down in St. Landry Parish in Louisiana since March 26. The fires are being treated as criminal activity and state and federal investigators are examining the details of the case, said a state fire marshall investigator. Find the area news report about the congregations have come together for worship at this difficult time, at .

The Office of Ministry this week hosted a meeting of district staff at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The group that met from April 1 to 3 included Northern Ohio District executive Kris Hawk along with district administrative assistants  Mary Boone of Southern Ohio and Kentucky District, Andrea Garnett of Illinois and Wisconsin District, Carolyn Jones of Southern Pennsylvania District, Rachel Kauffman of Northern Indiana District, Jo Ann Landon of Mid-Atlantic District, Kris Shunk of Middle Pennsylvania District, Joe Vecchio of Pacific Southwest District, and Julie Watson of Northern Ohio District. Assisting with the meeting was Mishael Nouveau, office manager for the Office of Ministry. Hawk and Kauffman joined with Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of Ministry, to lead the General Offices’ Wednesday morning chapel service.

— Vita Olmsted has resigned as director of Information Technology for the Church of the Brethren, to accept another position. She concluded her work at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on April 1. She had worked in the position for a little more than a year, since Feb. 19, 2018.

— Brethren Disaster Ministries has signed a letter in support of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which the proposed federal budget would eliminate. The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy reported that “this organization provides free legal services for a variety of communities including those impacted by disasters.” The request to sign came from the National VOAD, reported Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries, saying that “LSC has worked closely with National VOAD organizations in advocating for disaster survivors.” He shared the following statement from the National VOAD: “For many years, LSC has worked with many National VOAD members and disaster survivors through legal aid offices in disaster affected communities across the United States. Despite their great work, the submitted 2019 Federal Budget has eliminated all funding for LSC.”

— An action alert on “How to Celebrate Earth Day: Examples from Churches Around the Country” was published today by the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. Citing Numbers 35:33-34, “You shall not pollute the land in which you live…you shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell,” and the 2018 Annual Conference statement on “Creation Care,” the alert shared some ideas from congregations around the country to help celebrate Earth Day this year on April 22. Featured are stories from the congregations of Beacon Heights in Fort Wayne, Ind.; Montezuma in Dayton, Va.; Prince of Peace in Kettering, Ohio; and Washington City in Washington, D.C. Go to .

— The Global Mission and Service staff are praising God for new life and growth among Brethren in Spain and in Rwanda:
     Growth is being celebrated by Iglesia de los Hermanos-Una Luz en las Naciones (the Church of the Brethren in Spain). A prayer request reported that “independent congregations in the cities of Bilbao and Madrid joined the Church of the Brethren after their pastors attended Brethren ethics training sessions last year. Additional congregations are considering joining, and there are several church-planting efforts underway.”
     Two recent baptism services were held by the Church of the Brethren in Rwanda at Lake Kivu. “Multiple people from each of the four congregations in Rwanda were baptized into the church,” said the prayer request. “A third baptism service is planned for the day before Easter, when 15 people will officially join the family of Christ.”

Discipleship Ministries welcomed the New Church Development Advisory Team for meetings this week at the General Offices. The group gathered April 2-4 to vision and plan for church planting and the 2020 Church Planting Conference. The team includes Ryan Braught of Lancaster, Pa.; Steve Gregory of East Wenatchee, Wash.; Don Mitchell of Mechanicsburg, Pa.; Nate Polzin of Saginaw, Mich.; Gilbert Romero of Montebello, Calif.; Cesia Salcedo of Christiansburg, Va.; and Doug Veal of Kettering, Ohio. Joining the group for their meetings were district executives Russ Matteson from Pacific Southwest District and David Shumate from Virlina District. Stan Dueck and Gimbiya Kettering hosted the group on behalf of Discipleship Ministries, with assistance from Randi Rowan.

— La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren leaders have been interviewed by a National Public Radio station, according to a Facebook post on April 4. “Pastor Susan and Katrina Beltran interview with @npr @kpcc about La Verne Church of the Brethren for a piece on 88 cities,” the post said.

— Shenandoah District on May 9 holds its Living Peace Award banquet, a.k.a. “Peace Feast,” at Brethren Woods in Keezletown, Va. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. Lucile Vaugh will be recognized. Guest speaker will be David Radcliff, executive director of the New Community Project. Cindy and Doug Phillips will provide special music. Cost is $17 for adults and $10 for students. Contact the district office by May 1 at 540-234-8555.

— The 2019 Disaster Auction at the Rockingham County (Va.) Fairgrounds will be held May 17-18. Donations of livestock and handmade articles such as furniture, quilts, wall hangings, theme baskets and other miscellaneous items will be auctioned to raise funds for the Shenandoah District’s disaster ministries.

— The Meat Canning Project of Southern Pennsylvania District and Mid-Atlantic District is April 22-May 1 at Christian Aid Ministries in Ephrata, Pa. This is the 42nd year of the project.

— Camp Mardela is hosting a spring worship celebration for its commemoration of “150 Years of the Brethren on the Eastern Shore” of Maryland. Jonathan Shively is the featured speaker. The event takes place May 19 at 4 p.m.

Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock, Va., is hosting a fundraiser concert on June 21 at 7 p.m. featuring the Hoppers and the Promised Land Quartet. The concert will raise money for the church building fund. Tickets are $17.50 for advanced purchase or $27.50 advanced purchase for guaranteed seating in the first four rows. Tickets on the night of the event will be $21.50 at the door. Children 12 and under are free. Doors open at 6 p.m. Call 540-984-4359.

— Bridgewater (Va.) College celebrated 139 years of its founding and presented five awards on Founder’s Day on April 3. At the ceremony, three faculty members were recognized for excellence in teaching and scholarship. Inaugural awards for excellence were also given to a staff member and a student. Jennie M. Carr, associate professor of education, received the Martha B. Thornton Faculty Recognition Award. Erin Morris Miller, associate professor of psychology, received the Faculty Scholarship Award. Scott Suter, professor of English and American studies, received the Ben and Janice Wade Outstanding Teacher Award. Cynthia K. Howdyshell-Shull, registrar, received the Daniel Christian Flory Award. Johnny Haizel-Cobbina, a senior information systems management major from Frederick, Md., received the Bridgewater College Founder’s Award. Haizel-Cobbina sits on the executive board of Habitat for Humanity and the Spiritual Life Board at the college.

— “HIV and AIDS affect millions of people worldwide, so why don’t we talk about it much? This episode is dedicated to just that,” said an announcement of the latest Dunker Punks podcast. “Listen as Ben Bear interviews David Messamer on how the Brethren community relates to the subject.” Find the podcast at . Find a survey to fill out about the podcasts at .

— The World Council of Churches has hosted a meeting to assess the impact of Cyclone Idai on Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, according to a WCC release. “They came from governments, the United Nations, civil society, churches and other faith-based organizations to discuss the impact of Cyclone Idai that has wreaked death, havoc and destruction on Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in recent weeks,” the release said. “Meeting at the World Council of Churches in Geneva on April 5, WCC deputy general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, who is from Malawi, said the gathering was called with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations.” The release noted that governments and international agencies believe the death toll is at least 1,000 and likely to climb as hundreds of thousands of people have been left displaced, homeless, and traumatized. Top diplomats from the three countries attended the meeting along with Alwynn Javier, head of Humanitarian Affairs for the WCC’s ACT Alliance; Roland Schlott, humanitarian coordinator for the Lutheran World Federation-World Service; Constanza Martinez Sr., the United Nations representative for World Vision International; as well as a member of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and others from the WCC and non-governmental organizations.

Illinois and Wisconsin District held its spring potluck on Saturday, an event that has become an annual celebration of district ministries and congregations. This year the event was hosted by Franklin Grove Church of the Brethren in northwest Illinois, and included worship and workshops in addition to potluck feast.

— The Brethren Church denomination has moved its National Office to a “new home” at 27 High Street in Ashland, Ohio, according to a release. An open house and ribbon cutting ceremony were held April 2 with remarks from Carlos Campo, president of Ashland University; Wayne McCown, interim executive dean and vice president of Ashland Theological Seminary; and Steven Cole, executive director of the Brethren Church. The Brethren Church is a sister denomination to the Church of the Brethren as one of the denominations that have a shared history in the Brethren movement that began with the baptisms in the Eder River, Germany, in 1708.

— David Curtis, a member of the Church of the Brethren from Warrensburg, Mo., will be raising pledges for On Earth Peace by doing the European Peace Walk this May and June, according to the organization’s newsletter. “He will be joined in this expedition by his wife, Barbara Curtis, Taryn Dwyer (their 19-year-old granddaughter), and Kent Childs (a hiker friend who had the idea to do the walk together),” the newsletter said. The 205-mile walk “is a trans-national walking adventure starting in Lenti, Hungary…. Participants pass through Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Italy, ending in Trieste.” On Earth Peace reported that Curtis “has backpacked over 10,000 miles since his retirement in 2006 and is known as ‘Old Drum’ in the hiking world. He has walked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the John Muir Trail, the Ozark Trail, the KATY Trail (including the Rock Island Spur), the Florida Trail, and the Camino Frances (the El Camino from St. John de Pied du Port, France to Santiago, Spain). Barbara is an avid long distance cyclist, biking coast-to-coast three times.” Curtis is personally pledging $1 per mile, or $205 if he makes it all the way. For more information visit the On Earth Peace Walk for Peace Facebook page at or the Walk for Peace website at .

— Vernon and Angela Stinebaugh of Mountville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, both centenarians, are being celebrated for their 77 years of marriage. The couple met at Manchester College (now Manchester University) where he was for many years professor of music theory. Lancaster Online has published an article about their long-lived romance, noting that “on Thursday, the couple planned to celebrate Vernon Stinebaugh’s birthday with brunch at Oregon Dairy. Angela Stinebaugh hit 100 on March 4, and the couple began a month of festivities…. In recent days, they have received nearly 100 cards, beautiful flower arrangements and proclamations from the state Senate.” Read the full article at–year-love-story-continues/article_1541e4c2-5724-11e9-a1fe-27005d79fb34.html .

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