Newsline for Aug. 28, 2019

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. James 5:16b


1) Brethren Disaster Ministries asks for prayer for Puerto Rico
2) CDS Critical Response Care serves children, families affected by mass shootings
3) Compelling Vision Process Team issues post-Annual Conference report


4) Roxanne Aguirre resigns from Brethren Academy
5) Donna March retires from Brethren Benefit Trust
6) Colleen Michael retires, Pacific Northwest District appoints interim team
7) Elsie Koehn retires from Southern Plains District leadership


8) New Ventures in Christian Discipleship season to begin September 28

9) Brethren bits: Liao Chou Church of the Brethren print given to BHLA, job opening at BBT, Youth and Young Adult Ministry events, “thank you” to the Church of the Brethren from health workers in Nigeria, Onekama congregation issues statement on family separations at border, Pleasant Hill Village files for Chapter 11, and much more

Crop hunger walk logo

Quote of the week:

“God of Love –
You saw the pains of this world 50 years ago. You put a fire in the hearts of this CROP Hunger Walk community to respond to that pain, to walk, to be in communion with the stranger. Now, our eyes are once again open to the brokenness around us; the hunger, the hate, the inaction. We recommit to healing.
     We recommit to our neighbors who are hungry and thirsty.
     We lift up Your mantle of peace, justice and love.
     We will ready ourselves again to walk on a path illuminated by Your purpose:
     To be aware of those still suffering from hunger and poverty.
     To erase the inequality that diminishes Your divine light in all of us.
     To purge the doubts that nothing will change.
     To thoughtfully care for Your creation.
     To be Your love
     And to bring forth a day when no one will be hungry.

A prayer celebrating the 50th anniversary of CROP Hunger Walk. Find more anniversary resources at .

Coverage of National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) in Lake Junaluska, N.C., begins Sept. 2 at . This news index page will feature “Today at NOAC” pages, photo albums, live webcasts of worship and keynote speeches, worship bulletins, and more. A Newsline review of NOAC will follow the event.

1) Brethren Disaster Ministries asks for prayer for Puerto Rico

NOAA prediction of Hurricane Dorian
Courtesy of NOAA-NWS

“Please keep our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico in your prayers with Hurricane Dorian heading their way,” said Brethren Disaster Ministries director Jenn Dorsch-Messler in an email. The National Hurricane Center upgraded Dorian from tropical storm to hurricane status at 2 p.m. today. A hurricane watch and tropical storm warning is in effect for Puerto Rico with tropical storm conditions expected there this afternoon and tonight.

“Brethren Disaster Ministries is in close touch with the Puerto Rico District disaster coordinator José Acevedo, who has shared that they have activated their protocol with the local disaster coordinators in the areas of our Brethren churches. Brother José is monitoring information that is coming out of the Puerto Rico Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (PRVOAD) as well for situational awareness and knowledge of future needs from voluntary organizations,” Dorsch-Messler reported.

Today the forecast changed for the central and western areas of Puerto Rico, which is where the Brethren Disaster Ministries project is located. This change means that the island will not take a direct hit on the same path Hurricane Maria took in 2017, which was predicted earlier in the week.

Acevedo provided the following update from Puerto Rico this afternoon: “Another change, but this time at least good news for us. At 3:30 the weather is fine for central and west of PR. The east is expecting rain and flooding problems. Information from the weather office is telling us we may have additional rain in the east.”

Carrie Miller, long-term leader for Brethren Disaster Ministries in PR, will remain at Castañer Church of the Brethren where the volunteer housing is located, and will monitor the rain and flooding there. Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers are expected to arrive on Saturday to start work on a home in the Caimito area, but they may stay in Castañer over the weekend depending on any effects from the storm on the eastern part of the island.

Brethren Disaster Ministries will also monitor the future path of the storm, as the program opens a new rebuilding project site in Jacksonville, Fla., this week.

— Jenn Dorsch-Messler, director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, contributed to this report. Find out more about Brethren Disaster Ministries at .

2) CDS Critical Response Care serves children, families affected by mass shootings

By Lisa Crouch

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) deployed two Critical Response Care teams at the request of Red Cross in response to two mass shootings in the past month. CDS Critical Response Care teams are specially trained CDS volunteers who work with children after an incident such as terrorism, transportation disasters, or mass casualty events.

The first team was deployed to Gilroy, Calif., where the volunteers served 39 children within the Family Assistance Center. This team returned home after 6 days. The Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting resulted in 12 wounded and 3 people killed.

The second team was deployed to El Paso, Texas, to provide care for the children affected by the shooting in the Wal-Mart store that resulted in 24 wounded and 22 people killed. This team responded in El Paso for 7 days and had contact with 35 children.

One team member from the El Paso team stated, “I was honored to be part of a group of women who passionately serve. We were blessed.” Another stated, “So glad the Red Cross and the community of El Paso are there for the children and families impacted by this horrific tragedy.”

A third team was standing by to respond to Dayton, Ohio, in response to the shooting that occurred the same day as El Paso, but in the end was not deployed.

CDS is thankful for the dedicated volunteers willing to set aside their daily lives to deploy to these communities when the call comes. The Critical Response Care teams are faced with an increased intensity on these responses due to significant loss of life of those involved in the tragic event. A mental health clinician is either placed on the team or is on call to help support the team and the emotional response to this level of work. CDS office staff also are in close communication with the project manager throughout the response for encouragement and support.

To maintain respect for the families affected by these tragedies, CDS will not be reporting many details, but the teams did feel an impact was made on the children they served in both communities.

— Lisa Crouch is associate director of Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), a ministry with Brethren Disaster Ministries. Find out more about the ministry of CDS at .

3) Compelling Vision Process Team issues post-Annual Conference report

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The Compelling Vision Process Team at work logging and reviewing responses in real time during the first compelling vision conversation session at the 2019 Annual Conference. Photo by Glenn Riegel

By Chris Douglas

The Compelling Vision Process Team has written a report on the Compelling Vision conversations that took place at Annual Conference in Greensboro in July. This report is being shared at district conferences and/or through district communication channels. We thought that all of you might be interested in reading it since so much of our time at the past Conference was spent discussing together a compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren. You may find this report by clicking this link: .

In addition, as promised, recognizing that creativity breeds creativity and hope nurtures hope, the team has posted the complete list of responses to two questions discussed at Annual Conference:

— Describe a Christ-centered ministry you have observed in another Church of the Brethren congregation or in the wider body in the last year that made you more hopeful about our future. See all of the responses at .

— What is the next big idea to address one or more of the world’s needs? See all of the responses at .

Thank you for your participation in the Compelling Vision process!

— Chris Douglas is director of Annual Conference. Read the full report from the Compelling Vision Process Team at .

4) Roxanne Aguirre resigns from Brethren Academy

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Roxanne Gaxiola Aguirre

Roxanne Gaxiola Aguirre, coordinator of Spanish-language ministry training programs for the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, has resigned her position as of Aug. 30. The academy is a ministry training partnership of the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Theological Seminary.

Aguirre began at the academy in January 2018. She worked with students and liaisons from districts involved in certificate-level ministry training programs for Spanish speakers, Educación para un Ministerio Compartido (EPMC) and Seminario Bíblico Anabautista Hispano de la Iglesia de los Hermanos (SeBAH COB). Aguirre helped EPMC grow, leading orientation weekends for churches in California and Nevada. At the 2019 Annual Conference in July she recognized the academy’s first EPMC graduate. The first students in SeBAH COB will graduate next summer.

— This information was provided by Jenny Williams, director of communications for Bethany Seminary.

5) Donna March retires from Brethren Benefit Trust

Donna March has announced her retirement as of Dec. 31 as Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) director of Human Resources and Administrative Services. She has worked in Church of the Brethren-related positions for 35 years, including 30 years at BBT.

March began her tenure with the Church of the Brethren in May 1984, working for the former General Board as support staff in the ministry department and then in the General Secretary’s Office.

She began working for BBT on July 31, 1989, and for the next 30 years served in several managerial positions, beginning with her first 18 years of working with the insurance and pension programs. She was promoted in March 2007 to her role in the administrative department.

In the administrative department she has served as secretary, as one of the officers of the four corporations under the BBT umbrella, and has supported the president’s office, the Board of Directors, and the staff. For many years she took the lead in coordinating the 5K Fitness Challenge for BBT at Annual Conference.

Her last day in the BBT office will be Dec. 20.

— Nevin Dulabaum, president of Brethren Benefit Trust, contributed this information to Newsline.

6) Colleen Michael retires, Pacific Northwest District appoints interim team

J. Colleen Michael
J. Colleen Michael

J. Colleen Michael retired July 31 as district executive minister for Pacific Northwest District, having served for more than seven years since Jan. 1, 2012. The district has appointed a three-member interim team to care for essential functions during a time of discernment regarding organizational structures that will serve the district in the future.

Michael is a life-time member of Wenatchee (Wash.) Brethren-Baptist Church United. As district executive she oversaw a district name change from Oregon Washington District to Pacific Northwest District. During her tenure she helped the district deal with threatening wildfires, including in the summer of 2015 two fires that threatened her hometown and the city of Tonasket, Wash.

She represented the district in denominational leadership, serving on the Compelling Vision Working Group and as chair of the Council of District Executives (CODE). While on the CODE executive committee she was one of the district executives who worked with the denomination’s Leadership Team responding to the 2016 Annual Conference “Query: Same Sex Weddings,” out of which work emerged the compelling vision conversations.

In previous denominational roles she was on the board of the former Association of Brethren Caregivers and transitioned into the Mission and Ministry Board where she served on the Strategic Planning Team. She also chaired the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee.

Interim team

The district has named an interim leadership team of Debbie Roberts, Glenn Brumbaugh, and Carol Mason. Roberts is pastor of Ellisforde Church of the Brethren and adjunct professor of Reconciliation Studies at Bethany Seminary, and will be primary contact for the Office of Ministry, will maintain district files and records and financial reviews. Brumbaugh, pastor of Olympic View Church of the Brethren in Seattle, Wash., will be the district representative to CODE. Mason, an area minister for the district, will care for pastoral placement, congregational property issues, coordination of clergy, congregational ethics, ministers’ credentialing renewal, and will be ex-officio on district board and committees.

The district will receive mail at the Olympic View church address.

7) Elsie Koehn retires from Southern Plains District leadership

Elsie Koehn

Elsie Koehn has retired as district executive minister for the Church of the Brethren’s Southern Plains District. She has served in district leadership for more than 10 years. She concluded her service and was recognized during the district conference held in Falfurrias, Texas, on Aug. 8-9.

The Southern Plains District board, chaired by Matthew Prejean of Roanoke, La., will be in conversation regarding transitions and future district leadership.

Koehn began her leadership of Southern Plains District on an interim basis in January 2009. On May 15 of that year she began work as district executive minister. Previously she pastored Pleasant Plains Church of the Brethren in Aline, Okla., for some 16 years, starting in 1993. She also served as moderator for Southern Plains District in 2007-08, and represented the district on the Standing Committee of Annual Conference. 

— Nancy Sollenberger Heishman contributed to this report.

8) New Ventures in Christian Discipleship season to begin September 28

By Kendra Flory

The Ventures in Christian Discipleship program at McPherson (Kan.) College is moving into its eighth year of providing useful, affordable education to small church congregations. The first two online courses of the year will focus on creation care. All classes are donation-based and continuing education credit is available for $10 per course.

On Sept. 28 at 9 a.m. to 12 noon (central time) Kirk MacGregor will present the course “God’s Relation to the Natural World and Creation Care.” Many philosophers and theologians view God’s relation to the natural world as parallel to the relation between our souls and our bodies. This course will examine this notion and explore its implications for creation care. Putting this notion in conversation with Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), this course will argue that what we do–positively or negatively–to the natural world, we do to Jesus himself.

MacGregor is assistant professor of Philosophy and Religion and department chair at McPherson College. He is the author of five books, the most recent of which is “Contemporary Theology: An Introduction” (2019). He is a member of McPherson Church of the Brethren.

On Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon (central time) Sharon Yohn will present the course “Faith Through Action: Effective Approaches to Solving the Climate Challenge.” God calls on us to act when our brothers and sisters are in need. The destabilization of our climate is already causing immense human suffering, leaving us with a clear call to action. But how? When faced with a problem this large and complicated, it is hard to feel like our actions are meaningful. This course will explore three types of meaningful action and the resources available to support those actions.

Yohn is an active member of Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa., and assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Juniata College. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science at Juniata College, and a doctorate in Environmental Geosciences from Michigan State University. Called to action by both her scientific understanding and her faith, she has been an advocate for climate action for several years. She co-wrote a series of articles on faith and climate change for the Church of the Brethren magazine “Messenger” and served on a denominational Creation Care Committee. She is group leader for the Juniata chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a non-partisan organization building political will for a livable future. 

To learn more about Ventures in Christian Discipleship and to register for courses visit .

— Kendra Flory is advancement assistant at McPherson College.

9) Brethren bits

— Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) seeks candidates for the position of director of Human Resources and Administrative Services, reportable to the president. The primary function is to provide leadership, vision, direction, and assistance with all functions related to human resources and administrative services. This full-time, exempt position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The position conducts employee searches and interviews for BBT staffing, offers other human resources leadership, serves as the corporate secretary, assists the board and president with regard to board and committee meetings, and assures the adequacy of office space for BBT’s staff. The director also coordinates and/or provides support for the president’s office. This position serves as a member of the Management Team. The ideal candidate will have a degree in human resources and/or equivalent management work experience. This position requires a person who enjoys working with people; has a professional, positive manner; has an understanding of human resources regulations and/or employee benefits or is adept at learning these functions; has exceptional organizational skills; is proficient in taking meeting minutes; is very detail oriented and has the ability to prioritize workloads; and is proficient with computer systems and applications. Impeccable follow-up abilities are a must. Candidates with strong verbal and written communications skills, and proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite are sought. Experience with the Paylocity web-based software is a plus, but not a requirement. Current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; current and active membership in a faith community is required. This position requires some business travel. Salary and benefits are competitive with organizations of comparable size and scope of services. An exceptional full benefits package is included. To apply send a letter of interest, a résumé, three professional references, and salary range expectation to Donna March, 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; . For more information about Brethren Benefit Trust visit .

— The Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Church of the Brethren has issued a list of upcoming events and dates: The 2019 National Junior High Sunday will be celebrated on Nov. 3. Ministry Summer Service applications for the summer of 2020 are due Jan. 10, 2020. Next year’s Christian Citizenship Seminar will be in the spring of 2020 (stay tuned for finalized dates). The 2020 National Youth Sunday will be held on May 3. Next summer’s National Young Adult Conference will be May 22-25. The next National Junior High Conference will be in the summer of 2021. The next National Youth Conference will be held in the summer of 2022. Find out more about the Youth and Young Adult Ministry at .

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh- Cayford

“We received this print of the Liao Chou Church of the Brethren [in China] when a researcher, Liu Tingru, came to interview Bill Kostlevy,” reports Zoe Vorndran, shown here displaying the print. Kostlevy is archivist and director of the Brethren Historial Library and Archives, where Vorndran is serving as an intern. “Liu Tingru and his videographer, a University of Wisconsin-Madison undergraduate student, had been traveling around the country to interview people within the denomination about the Church of the Brethren’s influence in China in order to create a documentary,” Vorndran says. “While there are uncertainties of the plans for the building, Liu Tingru would like to see the former Liao Chou Church of the Brethren become a Heritage Center since the violence in 20th century China had destroyed some other cultural buildings and items. He would like to preserve the building’s culture since so many others had been destroyed or altered, especially during the Cultural Revolution.”

— The Church of the Brethren is thanked for supporting health care in northeast Nigeria in an article in the Nigerian “Sun” newspaper. Representatives of the Christian Health Association of Nigeria (CHAN) held a meeting focused on the challenges for “mission hospitals” in the northeast. Robert Tombrokhei, chair of CHAN Adamawa State Advocacy Committee, “lamented how the mission health workers are incessantly hampered by the unending wave of insecurity in the area, raising genuine fears that the residents need more than a mere miracle to be free. His narrative erased the hope that the strength of the Boko Haram insurgents is on the wane,” said the report. He told the paper, “As the Boko Haram insurgency raged, health facilities in the region, especially our clinics and hospitals were completely destroyed. But we thank God for the Church of the Brethren in the United States. Their assistance has been awesome; they have been sending money for the reconstruction of some of the damaged facilities. And now, we are resuscitating some of them.” He added, however, that “the other big challenge now is that the locals are not returning home. Even the clinics we have managed to rebuild are experiencing low patronage because the majority of the people from the area are still languishing in various internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camps.” Some medical facilities have not yet been rebuilt. “The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria clinics in Shua, Michika, and Madagali … which were earlier razed to the ground by the insurgents are still the way they are,” he said. “The insurgents carted away the equipment in the hospitals and stole their cars and motorcycles.” See .

— Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren adopted a “Statement on Family Separations at the US Southern Border” at a council meeting on July 28, reports pastor Frances Townsend. “Members of the Onekama Church of the Brethren are deeply concerned about the separation and detention of families and children at the US Southern border,” the statement begins. “These people are desperately seeking protection from violence, persecution, and extreme poverty in their home communities across Central America. We are horrified by the reports of children being taken away from their parents based on a policy of intentional cruel treatment of asylum seekers and other refugees in order to discourage others who may try to seek asylum and safety in our country.” The statement cites scripture texts including Deuteronomy 24:17, Isaiah 58:6-7, Hebrews 13:1-3, Matthew 7:12, Ephesians 2:14 and 4:32. It also cites a report released on July 8 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights about conditions in which the migrants and refugees are being held in detention in the US, and that several UN bodies have found the detention of migrant children may constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment that is prohibited by international law. “We, the members of the Onekama Church of the Brethren, condemn this cruel and inhuman travesty,” the statement concluded. “We challenge other churches and individuals to make similar declarations. We will push for immigration policies that affirm family unity and human dignity. We also seek ways to live out our faith by supporting refugees perhaps by offering resettlement support, family reunification in our community, and financial assistance. The challenge is enormous! Join us in meeting that challenge in whatever ways you are able.”

— Greenville (Ohio) Church of the Brethren hosts a Sewing Bee on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 9 a.m. “Bags will be sewn for Church World Service school kits,” said an announcement from Southern Ohio and Kentucky District. “Bring your sewing machine, an extension cord, and a sack lunch.” For more information contact Barb Brower at 937-336-2442.
     In related news, the district is thanking all who contributed to a cleanup bucket assembly in July and a school kit assembly in August in which 523 cleanup buckets and 2,500 school kits were completed for CWS. They being sent to the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., for processing and distribution. “We appreciate the donations from individuals and churches that help pay for the supplies that Ohio/Kentucky Brethren Disaster Ministries has purchased in bulk,” said the newsletter.

— Missouri Arkansas District will hold district conference on Sept. 13-14 in Roach, Mo. Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey will provide leadership for two events: a workshop on “Kingdom Building: Evangelism in All It’s Fullness!” on Friday afternoon, Sept. 13, where ministers in attendance will receive .3 continuing education units; and worship on Saturday morning, Sept. 14, where Mundey will bring a message titled “Does the Future Have a Church?” inspired by Acts 1:6-9 and Acts 26:16-18. For more information go to .

— Pleasant Hill Village, a Church of the Brethren-related retirement community in Girard, Ill., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, reports the Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter. The filing is “due to unprecedented and sustained non-payment from Illinois Medicaid,” the report said. “After closing its nursing home in August 2018 under the burden of $2 million of non-compensated care, Pleasant Hill Village now seeks bankruptcy protection in the interest of its ongoing Girard ministries of Senior Independent Living and Senior Assisted Living.” The newsletter article shared that “the board and leadership of Pleasant Hill Village wish to express our gratitude for the support and loyalty of our residents, families, employees, and friends at this challenging time.” Pleasant Hill Residence, the Senior Independent and Assisted Living facility constructed in 2002, continues to operate 48 apartments on the Girard campus. “It is our intention and plan to continue these stable and comfortable Independent and Assisted Living apartments for our residents and the community,” said the statement from the board.

The Manchester University class of 2023. Photo courtesy of Manchester University

— Church of the Brethren-related colleges and universities are welcoming students on campus for the new school year. “Give it up for the Class of 2023!” said a tweet from Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., this week, accompanying a photo of the new class spelling out their expected graduation year. Manchester is tweeting the hashtag #MUWelcomeWeek. Elizabethtown (Pa.) College tweeted, “The sun is shining, campus is buzzing and classes have begun! It’s a great day to be a Jay!” “Welcome Class of 2023!” said a tweet from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., using the hashtags #collegedays and #Classof2023. Bridgewater (Va.) College posted a video of its new class spelling out 2023 on the football field, with the comment, “We see you, Class of 2023. We’re so excited for the new energy and talents our first-year students are bringing to BC!” Find the video posted at .

Bridgewater logo

— In more news from Bridgewater, the college kicked off the 2019-20 academic year–its 140th–with a new brand identity. “While the college continues to hold dear the same values it has for 140 years, the institution has changed greatly and flourished in the past five years,” said president David Bushman in a release. “Now is the time to present those positive changes to the world with a bold, new look and one strong voice.” The connected B and C in the college’s new logo illustrate Bridgewater’s expertise in building connections and relationships that encourage talents, foster knowledge, and give meaning so students will grow and flourish, the release said, adding, “It is the visual representation of the key messages that define the Bridgewater experience.” The rollout of the college’s new brand, led by associate vice president for Marketing and Communications Abbie Parkhurst and the Office of Marketing and Communications will take place over the course of a year. A new website will launch later this year.

Photo courtesy of ULV

A special collection is being held at the University of La Verne, Calif., according to a ULV tweet this week. “Keep an eye out for these green donation bins around campus,” the tweet said. “They are part of a humanitarian campaign that is running from now until Sept. 11. Items donated during this campaign will given to migrant refugees along our border.”

— McPherson (Kan.) College has announced “a gift of $1 million from Richard and Melanie Lundquist, noted California philanthropists,” in a recent release. “The gift recognizes the work of renowned car restorer, Paul Russell and Company, and was announced at a private event hosted by McPherson College at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Russell serves as president of the college’s national advisory board for automotive restoration.” The release reported that Paul Russell and Company restored a 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Figoni and Falaschi Teardrop Cabriolet owned by the Lundquists that took top honors in Most Elegant Convertible class and was among four contenders for the Best of Show at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours. Chris Hammond, a McPherson graduate, was senior mechanical restorer on the project, and Paul Russell and Company currently employ three McPherson graduates. The McPherson College Automotive Restoration program began in 1976 with funding from local entrepreneur, Gaines “Smokey” Billue, and has evolved into a nationally recognized and award-winning leader in restoration education, offering the only four-year bachelor’s degree for restoration technology in the country, the release said.

—  CROP Hunger Walk is celebrating “50 years of walking. 50 years of ending hunger together” in 2019. Find new resources for this fall’s CROP Walks and related events at . Resources include a 50th anniversary prayer, bulletin insert, sermon starter, moment for mission, commissioning of walkers, and more.

— “The work of the World Council of Churches (WCC) related to disarmament continues to endure and expand, even as the world faces increasing injustice and tensions that threaten peace on a daily basis,” said a WCC release today. In June, WCC representatives joined some 80 diplomats, peace activists, researchers, and chaplains from across the globe for an “Idea Forum on New Arms Control Initiatives” included panels on nuclear arms control. “Though we are not yet in a new nuclear arms race or a new Cold War, all the indicators are pointing the wrong way as old treaties are abandoned and new threats are not addressed,” the release said. The release also noted a meeting of the Certain Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems held in Switzerland in March. “Discussions indicated that some states are intending to develop and use killer robots. Australia, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States spoke against any move to create a new treaty on autonomous weapons. Fortunately, other governments spoke out to express their concerns and belief that human beings must retain meaningful human control over weapons systems. The group met again in August, when Russia, the US, and some other governments continued to block attempts to restrict or prohibit the development of autonomous weapons technology. A disappointing report was adopted, which did not set out any meaningful process for the way ahead. Alarmingly, the report does not refer to human control, human rights, or human dignity. The WCC continue to support the aims of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which is advocating for a pre-emptive ban on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons.”

— In more news from the WCC, the organization convened a meeting of church leaders from Brazil on Aug. 26. “Churches in Brazil need to work more closely than ever to address the culture of violence and environmental concerns in the nation; so affirmed participants in the ecumenical round table meeting,” said a release. The meeting brought together representatives of churches and ecumenical organizations in Brazil along with leadership of the WCC, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, and ACT Alliance. The WCC has been following developments regarding the environment, the rule of law and human rights, and the impacts on indigenous peoples and other vulnerable communities in Brazil with increasing concern, the release said. “The roundtable meeting was convened as an opportunity to hear the analysis and learn about the responses of Brazilian church leaders, and to reaffirm the commitment of the WCC and the other participating international church-based bodies to intensified accompaniment and support for the churches in Brazil in their efforts to address these challenges.”

— Mark Kuntz of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., is beginning his 61st year as a cellist with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. “ESO itself is commemorating 70 years, having been started in 1949 by a group of community players and acclaimed today as a highly professional regional orchestra,” reports Howard Royer in the Highland Avenue church newsletter.

— Richard Burger was recognized for 75 years of ordained ministry at the Northern Plains District Conference. According to a recognition shared by district executive Tim Button-Harrison, he was ordained in 1944 at Fairview Church of the Brethren, attended McPherson (Kan.) College and Bethany Seminary in Chicago, during which time he served as a pastor in Kansas, Illinois, and Iowa. After seminary he served for 11 years as a mission worker in Nigeria. He returned to pastor the Fairview congregation and the Middlebury congregation in Indiana, before returning to farming in Iowa. He was married to his late wife, Anna, for more than 70 years and they together had five children. District member Diane Mason shared with Newsline that Burger’s service in Nigeria included building the mission station in Shafa, “which the Boko Haram took a few years ago. Knowing that was hard on Dick,” she wrote. She added he was Heifer founder Dan West’s pastor while at Middlebury Church of the Brethren. “He still farms today,” Mason said, “still driving tractors and combines though his grandson does most of the farm work.”

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