“For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
1) Bethany Theological Seminary celebrates commencement
2) Junior high conference inspires youth to be strong and courageous
3) Office of Peacebuilding and Policy signs letter for World Refugee Day
4) Remembering cost of following Jesus at May 15 service for WWI conscientious objectors
9) Brethren bits: Action alert on humanitarian crisis at the border, Monroe Good memorial service, personnel, job openings, BVS newsletter, BHLA News and Notes, news from congregations and districts, IMA World Health in ebola hot zone, call for “ecological conversion,” more
Quotes of the week:— Sheldon Shank of Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 320, in the latest BVS newsletter on the theme “Finding Joy,” www.brethren.org/bvs/files/newsletter/bvs-volunteer-newsletter.pdf .
“How can we find joy? One secret is to allow it to reign over the mundane tasks of life.”
“Summer [is] filled with things I love…. There are also many luxuries built in and have hidden cost. Vacations have us consuming more gas than we would normally use. Warmer temperatures have us cooling our homes. Watering our gardens or lawns and filling our pools have us consuming more water. On the flip side, with the warmer weather you may be able to bike or walk to more locations rather than driving. You can purchase groceries from local farmers rather than buying goods that have been shipped across the country. This summer I challenge you to be conscious about the hidden luxuries and opportunities in your summer joys.”— Sarah Neher writing for the Global Women’s Project. Find more at https://globalwomensproject.wordpress.com .
“Ubuntu, a South African word that Archbishop Desmond Tutu defines as ‘My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours…. [A] person is a person through other persons…. It is not, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Rather, I am human because I belong. I participate. I share.’ … 1 Corinthians 12:1–27 [is] Paul’s description of the church as the body of Christ made of many different members. In the camps we have been using this day to build our camp community for the week.”— Youth Peace Advocate Nolan McBride in a recent blogpost. He is traveling to camps across the country this summer. Go to https://www.brethren.org/blog/category/youth-peace-travel-team .
1) Bethany Theological Seminary celebrates commencement
A release from Bethany Seminary
Bethany Theological Seminary honored 18 graduates during commencement on May 11. The following degrees and graduate certificates were awarded:
Master of Divinity: Alexandre Gonçalves of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Naomi Beckwith Kraenbring of Columbia, Pa.; Rebecca Lynell Ullom Naugle of Gilberts, Ill.
Master of Arts: Hassan Dicks of Jos, Nigeria; Freedom Hagood Eastling of Indianapolis, Ind.; Naomi Beckwith Kraenbring of Columbia, Pa.; Steven James Krieg of Mishawaka, Ind.; Shaun Rufener of Rittman, Ohio; Jonathan D. Zinnel of Richmond, Ind.
Certificate of Achievement in Theological Studies: Jason Haldeman of Elizabethtown, Pa.; Matthew Rittle of Arlington, Va.; Timothy Troyer of Huntingdon, Ind.; Richard Wehrle of Rockingham, Va.
Certificate in Biblical Interpretation: Shaun Rufener of Rittman, Ohio
Certificate in Intercultural Biblical Interpretation: Naomi Beckwith Kraenbring of Columbia, Pa.
Certificate in Theopoetics and Theological Imagination: Gene G. Bradbury of Sequim, Wash.; Carol D. Davis of Canton, Ill.; Kendra L. Flory of McPherson, Kan.; Daniel L. Klayton of Oroville, Wash.; Jan Orndorff of Woodstock, Va.; Melissa Bruce Shaffer of Westminster, Md.
The weekend began with the traditional worship service led by the graduating class on Friday, May 10. Karen Duhai, director of student development, offered a meditation, and faculty members anointed each of the graduates as a blessing and ritual of sending.
The speaker for Saturday’s academic ceremony was Staccato Powell, the 102nd bishop in the line of succession in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Currently he serves as the presiding prelate of the Western Episcopal District. He holds a master’s degree from Duke University and a doctorate from North Carolina Central University. In 35 years of ministry, Powell has held several pastorates in North Carolina and one pastorate in St. Louis, Mo. He is a member of the World Council of Churches Central Committee and is an adjunct professor at Hood Theological Seminary.
Several certificate graduates plan to enroll in degree programs at Bethany. Plans of other graduates include doctoral programs, continuing in pastoral ministry, and using their Bethany experience to enrich their current vocations.
For more about Bethany Seminary go to www.bethanyseminary.edu .
2) Junior high conference inspires youth to be strong and courageous
By Frank Ramirez
“When the darkness makes our path unclear and vision starts to fail us
Help us to push aside our fears.
Reawakening your call for us of power, love, and mercy
Your voice still moves us through the years.”
With the theme song “Strong and Courageous” by Kyle Remnant and Jon Wilson still ringing in their ears, 281 Brethren who had come together for National Junior High Conference prepared to leave Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.
The event took place June 14-16. The theme “Strong and Courageous” was taken from God’s charge to Joshua as he prepared to take up the mantle of leadership and guide his people. Worship, music, drama, small group workshops, table fellowship, and recreation worked together to inspire strength and courage among this new generation of Brethren-leaders-to-be.
Speakers urged the youth to courageousness. Leah Hileman told the youth that they, like Joshua, could rely on their past experiences and mentors when facing the future courageously.
Kayla Alphonse called to mind the courage the 14-year-old Mary, mother of Jesus, needed to accept God’s call courageously. She challenged youth to ask themselves what they were willing to be uncomfortable for–and what they might be willing to die for.
Using the story of Paul’s beating at the hands of the authorities in Philippi, Eric Landrum told about the bloody nose he endured standing up for a kid who was bullied. Praising the new crop of Brethren leaders he saw there, he used toy building blocks to create a cross noting that they “come in every size, shape, and color. If you are creative every piece can be part of the Master Builder’s plan.”
Siblings Chelsea and Tyler Goss spoke for the closing worship. Tyler Goss told youth what a difference it made to him as a lonely sixth-grader sitting by himself at lunch when the school’s entire soccer team moved over to his table and sat with him. He compared the church to an ice cream sandwich, with the different layers representing the different generations in the church. You might be the ice cream layer in the middle, with the cookie layer above you representing the person you look up to, and the cookie layer below you representing the person who looks up to you, he told the youth.
Chelsea Goss emphasized, “If there’s one thing you should remember it is this: You are not alone…. This is what the love of Christ looks like,” she said. “Look around the room one last time. This is what community looks like. And we are strong and courageous.”
The conference was held under the leadership of Becky Ullom Naugle, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, assisted by Brethren Volunteer Service worker Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred and many volunteers from across the denomination.
Despite all the sports camps, music lessons, family trips, and other distractions that could have kept them away, the junior high youth and their adult advisors made a church conference a priority. Whatever they might have given up in order to attend, they were glad to be there.
“I will take root and I will stand strong.
With the God of the Ages I’ll stand strong and courageous
And Love will carry me through.
With the God of the Ages we stand strong and courageous
And Love will carry us through.”
— Frank Ramirez is senior pastor of Union Center Church of the Brethren in Nappanee, Ind.
3) Office of Peacebuilding and Policy signs letter for World Refugee Day
The Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy has signed a letter asking Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to strengthen US refugee resettlement as a core part of a robust international religious freedom agenda. The 42 signatories to the letter, which was coordinated by World Relief, represented a wide range of faith traditions. It was sent to the appropriate officials at the State Department and to the Vice President’s office.
The letter dated June 20 marked World Refugee Day. “According to just released data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are more than 70 million displaced persons around the world,” said an email from World Relief. “Half of them are children, and in 2018, 13.6 million people were newly displaced.”
The letter’s request to strengthen US refugee resettlement at a time of historic levels of displacement was intended to promote international religious freedom and life-saving protection for vulnerable refugees.
The full text of the letter follows:
June 20, 2019
The Honorable Michael Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Dear Secretary Pompeo,
The United States has long been a country rooted in the sincere belief that each person should be able to freely practice their faith. Even before the freedom of religion was enshrined as the first freedom in the Constitution, colonists came to these shores seeking a place to freely and safely practice their religion. They sought to be a ‘city upon a hill,’ a light among nations that would protect liberty and freedom for all. The below signed organizations are committed to upholding those ideals today and seek policies that ensure religious freedom for all persons around the world. We commend this Administration’s focus on international religious freedom and urge you to take steps to protect a vital population that faces religious persecution: refugees. Specifically, we urge that the U.S. continue to be a place of refuge for those experiencing religious persecution around the world by admitting 30,000 refugees in FY2019 and increasing the refugee admissions number for FY2020 to return to historic norms.
In 1980, the U.S. formally established its tradition of serving as a place of refuge in a program known as the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) to admit refugees seeking protection from persecution. From the start, this program offered a critical pathway to be admitted to the U.S. and receive the right to worship without fear or interference. Since 1980, faith communities have worked alongside recently arrived refugees to ensure they can thrive here and enjoy the liberties and protections offered by our nation. Over three million refugees have been resettled to the U.S. since the inception of the USRAP and have become citizens, civic leaders, entrepreneurs, and have contributed enormously to our country.
At a time when the world is facing its worst refugee crisis and religious persecution remains a significant threat globally, we are concerned about the significant reduction in the admission of refugees to the U.S., particularly those refugees who have fled religious persecution. Since 1980, the average annual ceiling for refugee admissions has been set at 95,000, but the Presidential Determination for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 was set at the drastically lower level of 30,000. As of May 31, 2019, only 18,051 refugees have been resettled to the U.S. Based on this level of processing, we are concerned, like FY2018, that the U.S. will not meet its stated admissions level.
According to data from World Relief, based on the number of arrivals through the first half of FY2019, it is projected that the full year FY2019 arrivals from countries where refugees have been persecuted as religious minorities will have declined by the following percentages, compared to FY2016:
• 58.8% among Christians from Pakistan
• 62.2% among Muslims from Burma (primarily Rohingya)
• 66.9% among Ahmadiyya Muslims from Pakistan
• 67.9% among Christians from Burma
• 95.7% among Yezidis from Iraq and Syria
• 94.6% among Christians from Iraq
• 96.3% among Christians from Iran
• 97.8% among Sabeans-Mandean from Iraq
• 98.0% among Bahai from Iran
• 98.5% among Sabeans-Mandean from Iran
• 100% among Jews from Iran
• 100% among Zoroastrians from Iran
These figures represent a dangerous aberration from U.S. historic commitments to the persecuted, placing lives at risk and drastically reducing our ability to protect religious freedom. By significantly reducing the annual refugee ceiling and the total number of refugee arrivals, while also putting in place stringent vetting requirements of certain nationalities who are coming from countries in which there are high levels of religious persecution, we have ongoing concerns that the refugee resettlement program is being jeopardized precisely at the time when it should be a robust, humanitarian tool helping victims of religious persecution abroad. Indeed, the 2018 annual report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) includes as one of its key recommendations to promote religious freedom the need to “resettle vulnerable refugees, including those fleeing religious persecution, through the [USRAP].”
We are grateful that the Administration continues to prioritize the promotion of international religious freedom as a core foreign policy goal. We believe having a robust U.S. refugee resettlement program is part and parcel of promoting a strong, consistent international religious freedom agenda abroad. We urge the Department of State, in partnership with other agencies, to continue to strengthen the U.S. refugee admissions program as a life-saving foreign policy and humanitarian tool helping victims fleeing religious persecution abroad. We urge that the U.S. admit 30,000 refugees in FY2019 and increase the refugee admissions number for FY2020 to return to historic norms. The U.S. has promoted international religious freedom abroad as a core value and foreign policy agenda, and our acceptance of refugees signals to countries abroad that we value this fundamental freedom and are willing to protect those who are persecuted because of their faith.
— Find the letter with the list of signatories at https://worldrelief.org/blog/religious-freedom .
4) Remembering cost of following Jesus at May 15 service for WWI conscientious objectors
By Paul Cesare
On May 15, International Conscientious Objection Day, a group representing local congregations from each of the historic peace churches and the Community of Christ (an emerging peace church) came together for a memorial service honoring the conscientious objectors during World War I. Approximately 84 people attended from local congregations and Scott Holland attended from the faculty of Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind.
The service held at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., followed a 2017 symposium at the museum titled “Remembering Muted Voices,” coordinated by Andrew Bolton of the Community of Christ, a Christian denomination formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS). The symposium focused on numerous aspects of the war’s effect on the US including the ability to demonstrate peace in a time of war. Each of the historic peace churches played a role in the symposium that brought various scholars and presenters from around the country and from other countries–some from a secular perspective and some from the perspective of the Christian faith. Videos of those presentations may be found online.
After some research into the Swarthmore College database of conscientious objectors, compiled and maintained by Anne Yoder, well over 2,000 names were found, the vast majority from Amish, Brethren, Hutterite, Mennonite, or Quaker affiliation. The May 15 ceremony specifically recognized those historic peace churches from whom conscientious objectors emerged, as well as some from the Community of Christ. There was acknowledgment of other conscientious objectors not from any of the aforementioned denominations.
The memorial service harnessed the strength of a combination of ceremonial and worship resources including piano and violin accompaniment, responsive readings, songs of faith, candle lighting, and a poem titled “Conscientious Objector” written by Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “Conscientious Objector.”
Planners for the event were reminded that out of the often horrific conditions for pacifists during World War I came later efforts of the historic peace churches to provide a framework for the protection of pacifists. Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers worked directly with the US government to create Civilian Public Service, allowing conscientious objectors the ability to serve others while not becoming directly involved in the next world war. From that work, similar programs such as the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps were formed. Without such organizational cohesion among the peace churches, these types of programs would not have existed.
May 15 then, was not simply a means of remembering those who were conscientious objectors, but also a call for remembrance of what churches can do when they unify over the issue of peace.
Two stones were dedicated at the ceremony and have been laid on the grounds of the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The stones, which were required to have no more than a specific allotment of characters in each line, read as follows:
F. Henry Edwards and
Charles Dexter Brush
Community of Christ/
Objectors in World War I
“Love your enemies”
We remember the Amish,
and all conscientious
objectors of World War I
Isaiah 2:4, Luke 19:42
— Paul Cesare is peace coordinator at First Central Church of the Brethren in Kansas City, Mo.
5) Annual Conference 2019: Bits and pieces
The 2019 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren takes place next week July 3-7 in Greensboro, N.C. Presiding will be moderator Donita Keister, moderator-elect Paul Mundey, and Conference secretary James Beckwith. Keister preaches for opening worship Wednesday evening. Pre-Conference meetings include the Ministers’ Association annual continuing education event and the Standing Committee meetings of district delegates, among others.
For details go to www.brethren.org/ac .
This year’s onsite news index page will be live as of July 1 at www.brethren.org/ac/2019/coverage .
— The three days of business sessions Thursday through Saturday will have a special focus on compelling vision conversations and will include a new morning worship service this year. The conversations will be held in small groups at round tables, led by the Compelling Vision Process Team, and will include all delegates and those nondelegates who have pre-registered to take part. Saturday afternoon’s love feast will be a highlight. Find the business agenda at www.brethren.org/ac/2019/business .
— A request from Eric Reamer, who is helping coordinate the holding of love feast at Annual Conference 2019 in Greensboro, N.C. The love feast will be offered during the final business session on Saturday afternoon, July 6, and all delegates and nondelegates who are present will be invited to participate. “We are anticipating as many as 1,500 people participating,” Reamer reported in a request for help to obtain home-made loaves of bread for the event. “At this time we still need many loaves of home-made bread, not communion bread but loaves of bread that will be shared at the tables as part of the communion meal.” He noted that some of the bread needs to be gluten free. He also shared a request for people to volunteer to help set up and serve the love feast. Contact email@example.com or 570-837-9393.
— “Connect your congregation for Annual Conference Sunday 2019!” says an invitation to the Annual Conference Sunday morning webcast on July 7. “Each year, we form one large worshiping congregation on Annual Conference Sunday, as many congregations and individuals tune into the webcast on Sunday morning…. By streaming the service from Annual Conference for the worship in your church, your congregation can worship along with thousands of other Brethren!” Differing time zones and worship start times are not an obstacle to a congregation joining in the live stream worship because the webcast can be rewound and paused and started as needed. Plan for worship start times after 8:30 a.m. (Eastern). Link to the Annual Conference daily webcasts of worship and business sessions and find more information about the special Sunday morning service at www.brethren.org/ac/2019/webcasts/#acsunday . Worship bulletins are at www.brethren.org/ac/2019/webcasts/#resources .
— For those traveling to Greensboro by air, the Annual Conference hotel–the Sheraton at the Koury Convention Center–provides complimentary shuttle transportation to and from the Greensboro airport. The service van has limited seating and there may be wait times if several people arrive and need the shuttle at the same time. Call 336-292-9161 after arriving at the airport and picking up luggage (no advance reservations) for information about the wait time for the next available pickup.
— This year’s Witness to the Host City is partnering with BackPack Beginnings in Greensboro. “The mission of BackPack Beginnings is to provide children in need with nutritious food, comfort items, and basic necessities,” said an announcement. “The organization was started in 2010 by Parker White, a young mother who wanted to help children in need in her community. From a few boxes of food on her dining room table, this organization has grown to a multi-program organization that now serves over 4,000 children. The organization is staffed 100 percent by volunteers!” The Annual Conference office has asked BackPack Beginnings what their most needed items are, so that Conference attendees can be guided in bringing helpful donations: canned soups, canned Chef Boyardee meals, canned chicken and tuna, grits and oatmeal, healthy snacks, washcloths, deodorant, toothpaste, children’s activity books. Also needed are gently used khaki/navy pants for boys and girls, sizes 8-14; gently used jeans for boys and girls, sizes 2T, 3T, 4, 5, 6, 6X, and 7/8; gently used children’s athletic shoes, size 10-13 and 1-5. Find out more at www.backpackbeginnings.org .
— The annual Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) Fitness Challenge 5K run/walk has been canceled this year. The event usually takes place during Annual Conference. Said a BBT announcement: “In order to be supportive of the schedule for the Annual Conference 2019 compelling vision process, BBT will not hold its annual Fitness Challenge. It was felt that the timing and the proximity of the race to the conference venue would cause a schedule conflict for those who want to be fully engaged in the important business taking place at the Annual Conference. We hope to return to our 5K tradition in Grand Rapids in 2020!”
— In addition to the annual blood drive at Annual Conference (this year taking place Friday and Saturday, July 5-6) Brethren Disaster Ministries is sponsoring a “Church of the Brethren VIRTUAL Blood Drive” on the theme “Sleeves Up!” during Annual Conference. “Even if you are not going to the Annual Conference you can join in the Blood Drive efforts by donating blood in your home area. Click on the link below to go to our Virtual Blood Drive campaign page and pledge to give blood from June 21 through July 31,” said an announcement. “Find a blood drive near you at redcrossblood.org and let us know when you donate. Take a photo, upload it to #SleevesUpBrethren and send a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org .” The photo shown here is of Kathy Melhorn when she participated in the Virtual Blood Drive in 2016. Find out more at https://sleevesup.redcrossblood.org/campaign/church-of-the-brethren-virtual-blood-drive-2 .
6) Peace Day 2019: Making the case for peace
By Jen Houser
On Earth Peace announces its 13th annual campaign to promote Peace Day, the International Day of Peace, on Sept. 21, 2019. The theme for Peace Day 2019 is “The Case for Peace.” This year’s campaign helps participants build the case for peace from a Christian perspective.
Peace is essential for those who follow Jesus–but where does that peace commitment come from, and what does it look like? Through the months of the campaign, On Earth Peace will offer resources, webinars, and online meet-ups to help people connect and deepen their understanding of peace as a part of Christian faith.
For Sept. 21 itself, On Earth Peace will offer various actions for people of all ages to participate in across the United States and around the world including children’s activities, study resources, and opportunities to gather with your local community.
Learn more about Peace Day and what you can do to join in at www.onearthpeace.org/peace_day_2019 .
Connect with the On Earth Peace Peace Day Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/OEP.PeaceDay .
Hashtags for Peace Day 2019 include #goal17 #peaceday #onearthpeace #thecaseforpeace #justice #shalom #peace and #PeaceDay2019.
For questions and more information email email@example.com .
— Jen Houser is the 2019 Peace Day intern and a church and community group organizer for On Earth Peace.
7) Upcoming Brethren Academy courses are announced
The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership has announced upcoming courses open to TRIM and EFSM students, pastors (who may earn 2 continuing education units per course), and other interested people. The academy is a joint program of Bethany Theological Seminary and the Church of the Brethren.
While the academy continues to accept students beyond the listed registration deadline for each course, that date is used to determine whether there are enough students to offer the course. Many courses require pre-course readings, so students need to be sure to allow enough time to complete the readings. Please do not purchase texts or make travel plans until the registration deadline has passed and a course confirmation is received.
To register, contact the academy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-983-1824.
“Death and Dying,” an online course, is held Sept. 4-Oct. 29 with instructor Debbie Eisenbise. The registration deadline is July 31.
“Interim/Transitional Ministry: More than Mere Maintenance” is an online course held Sept. 25-Nov. 19 with instructor Tara Hornbacker. The registration deadline is Aug. 21.
“Church of the Brethren History,” a weekend intensive, is held Oct. 10-13 in Miami, Fla., hosted by a Haitian congregation of the Church of the Brethren. The instructor is Denise Kettering Lane. The registration deadline is Sept. 6.
“Introduction to the New Testament” is an online course held Oct. 16-Dec. 3 with instructor Matt Boersma. The registration deadline is Sept. 11.
“A Place of Refuge: Urban Ministry,” a two-week intensive, is held Jan. 6-16, 2020, in Atlanta, Ga. The instructor is Joshua Brockway. The registration deadline is Nov. 1, 2019.
“Faith Formation for a Changing World” is an online course held Jan. 22-March 17, 2020, with instructor Rhonda Pittman-Gingrich. The registration deadline is Dec. 18, 2019.
“Spiritual Practices in Ministry” is an online course held April 15-June 9, 2020, with instructor Reba Herder. The registration deadline is March 11, 2020.
“Science and Faith,” a weekend intensive, is held April 29-May 3, 2020, with instructor Russell Haitch. The registration deadline is March 25, 2020.
“Church Planting,” a directed independent study, is being planned for May, 2020, with the date to be announced. The instructor is Stan Dueck.
8) Bethany remembers president Warren Groff
From a Bethany Seminary release
Warren F. Groff, the fifth president of Bethany Theological Seminary, died Sunday, June 23. During his career in ministry and higher education, he was characterized as a “perceptive scholar, careful administrator, ardent churchman, skillful wordsmith, and devoted family man” (from the program of Warren Groff’s presidential inauguration, 1976). A memorial service will be held Aug. 10 at 11 a.m. at York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill.
“Dr. Warren Groff was a man of amazing intellect who possessed a deep love for the church and Seminary,” states Jeff Carter, president of Bethany. “Committed to the academy and service to the church, Dr. Groff’s writings embodied Bethany’s founders’ commitment to academic rigor and a theological education rooted in practical experience and daily life. A gentle soul, he will be long remembered for his thoughtfulness and service to others.”
Groff served Bridgewater (Va.) College as associate professor of religion from 1954-58 before his call to join the Bethany faculty as associate professor of theology. In 1962 he became dean and professor of theology, just as a new faculty of reputable scholars was being established and Bethany was preparing to move to the new Oak Brook campus. As dean, Groff took a leading role in redesigning the curriculum, featuring a small-group colloquial structure as the core of the master of divinity program. He was instrumental in the creation of a doctor of ministry program; the program standards were adopted by the National Council of Churches and were subsequently followed by other seminaries. Also during his tenure, Bethany entered into new cross-registration partnerships with other Chicago-area seminaries and began offering a master of arts in theology jointly with Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Earlham School of Religion.
Following the resignation of president Paul M. Robinson in 1975, Groff was unanimously selected by the search committee to become Bethany’s next president, the first from among the seminary faculty, and served until his retirement in 1989. Highlights of his presidency included growth of the doctor of ministry program, with the first degree awarded a year after he took office. Education for a Shared Ministry was founded in 1977, followed by Training in Ministry in 1984, both non-degree ministry programs for lay leaders that continue today through the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.
Groff’s early years as president saw Bethany transition successfully to a self-funded agency of the Church of the Brethren with strong enrollment and generous financial support. The first endowed chairs were funded, honoring Alvin Brightbill and Albert and David Wieand, and an additional major gift established Bethany’s peace studies program. Groff also initiated a renewal of Bethany’s music program, which by the early 1980s featured tours with a mixed choir, instrumental ensemble, and handbell choir. During his tenure, the seminary celebrated its 75th year in 1979-80.
Originally from Harleysville, Pa., Groff was ordained in the Church of the Brethren in 1947 and pastored the Beech Run congregation near Huntingdon, Pa., for two years before earning his bachelor of arts from Juniata College in Huntingdon in 1949. He received a degree from Yale Divinity School in 1952, including a year at Bethany, while on the ministerial staff of First Congregational Church in Southington, Conn., from 1951-53. He received a doctorate from Yale University in 1955 and was a visiting scholar at Harvard University during 1965-66. During his presidency, he served the denomination as moderator in 1978-79. Juniata College awarded him an honorary doctor of divinity degree in 1976, and in 1983 he received a doctor of humane letters degree from his alma mater, Bridgewater.
During the 1960s and ’70s, Groff was a member of the Faith and Order Commissions of both the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches. He was a delegate to the Fourth World Assembly of the WCC in 1968 and served as president of the American Theological Society in 1972-73. Groff held key positions on the Commissions of Accrediting and Revision of Standards of the Association of Theological Schools and was a member of the American Academy of Religion. Among his publications are “Christ the Hope of the Future,” “Prayer: God’s Time and Ours!” “Story Time: God’s Time and Ours!” and “God’s Story–and Ours!” Between 1947 and 1994, he wrote more than 50 articles and was a contributing author to 5 books. The spring 2011 issue of “Brethren Life & Thought” was devoted to excerpts of his writings.
In 1968 Groff coauthored “The Shaping of Modern Christian Thought” with longtime fellow faculty member Donald Miller. “Warren and I worked closely together on many projects at Bethany,” Miller says, “including teaching classes, writing articles, and developing curriculum. He was highly regarded and respected for his theology and made a heavy impression on all the theologians in the Chicago area. Having come from a simple church background, Warren was extremely intelligent and made innovations wherever he went.”
— Jenny Williams, director of communications at Bethany Seminary, contributed this release to Newsline.
9) Brethren bits
— A memorial service for former Nigeria mission worker Monroe Good will take place on July 10 at 1 p.m. at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. Good passed away on May 3, find a remembrance in the Newsline of June 1 at www.brethren.org/news/2019/brethren-bits-for-june-1.html . Approximately 30 guests from the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) are expected to attend the service and a Nigerian women’s choir will provide music. A time of visitation with light refreshments will follow. The service will be livestreamed on YouTube by the congregation. Contact the Lancaster Church for more information or see www.lancob.org .
—An action alert from the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy invites Brethren to take action on the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. The alert calls attention to the inhumane conditions in migrant detention facilities, especially for children, and cites fundamental Christian beliefs about how we should treat our neighbors as well as the 1982 Annual Conference statement on undocumented persons and refugees which says, in part, “The primary truth of faith as we consider immigrants and refugees today is that Christ has made another appearance among us, as Himself an immigrant and refugee in the person of political dissidents, the economically deprived, and foreigners on the run. We are to join them as pilgrims in search of that city yet to come, with foundations of love and justice whose architect and builder is God” ( www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1982refugees). The alert also raises concern about preventing diversion of funds from agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ICE for immigration enforcement. It offers action ideas and text for speaking with legislators. Go to https://mailchi.mp/brethren/border-crisis?e=9be2c75ea6 .
— Dylan Higgs of Fishers, Ind., has been hired as director of instructional design at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., starting July 8. In this new position, Higgs will support faculty and students in the use of technology for course content and resources; facilitate videoconferencing and production for classes, meetings, and other events; assist in the production of videos and DVDs; and provide training and education in the use of technological communication tools. He has been an adjunct instructor at Ivy Tech Community College and an instructional designer for Kelly Services, both in Indianapolis. From 2009-2014 he was an adjunct instructor at the University of the Bahamas in Nassau. He holds a master’s degree in translation from Autonomous University in Barcelona, Spain, and a master’s degree in higher education from Purdue University Global in Indianapolis, and is completing a master’s degree in learning design and technology from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
— Gabriela Carillo Chacón began as admissions recruiter at Bethany Seminary on June 26. She is a 2019 graduate of Earlham College, also in Richmond, Ind., with a bachelor’s degree in human development and social relations and a minor in French and Francophone studies. She interned with the Human Resources Department at Universidad Técnica Nacional in Costa Rica. Fluent in Spanish, she has taught English to native Spanish speakers and has done translation and interpretation.
— The Church of the Brethren seeks candidates for a full-time salaried director of Intercultural Ministries to serve on the Discipleship Ministries staff based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The major responsibility is to equip the denomination to fulfill its intercultural vision and commitments. Required skills and knowledge include, among others: commitment to Jesus Christ as understood through the Anabaptist and radical Pietist roots of the Church of the Brethren; knowledge of Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; effective sharing of personal faith; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision of the Church of the Brethren and the Mission and Ministry Board; ability to integrate intercultural competencies within a model of discipleship; demonstration of intercultural understanding and competency, and the ability to teach others; having a broad definition of “intercultural” and ability to see wide applications for core intercultural competencies; ability to move easily among a variety of different cultural groups, recognizing and respecting their unique qualities and gifts and cultivating forms of expression that bridge the diversity throughout the church; knowledge of group process and ability to facilitate appropriate processes for sharing learning, receiving feedback, and decision-making; written and oral communication skills with bilingual ability preferred; ability and willingness to draw on the expertise of others as needed; skills in developing, implementing, and evaluating strategic initiatives; logistics management, such as meeting and event planning; ability to function effectively in a complex system, including making difficult decisions; ability to engage and utilize teams of volunteers to execute strategies; interpersonal skills that contribute to effective work within the Church of the Brethren, its congregations, and districts; computer aptitude and experience with current platforms; familiarity with and experience of social media work; ability to build the capacity of the denomination to identify, acknowledge, confess, lament, repent, and counteract racialized hierarchies and patterns. Experience and education requirements include five or more years of participation in intercultural contexts; experience developing and implementing program, managing complex workloads, communicating effectively to a diverse constituency, and working as part of a collaborative team; a bachelor’s degree, with a master’s degree in a related field preferred. Applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Send a resume to COBApply@brethren.org . Contact the Human Resources Manager, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
— Bethany Theological Seminary seeks an office manager for “Brethren Life & Thought,” an academic journal of the Church of the Brethren. The position is expected to average eight hours per week. Many duties can be performed offsite; some travel to Bethany’s campus in Richmond, Ind., is required. Major responsibilities include operations of journal production (subscriptions, communication with editors, logistics of printing); communicating with subscribers and donors (not including fundraising); providing clerical support for the advisory board of the Brethren Journal Association; maintaining an inventory of back issues and archives of the association’s work. Qualifications include a high school diploma and preferably a year’s experience in a business setting, organizational skills, self-motivation, and familiarity with database management and current computer technology. Familiarity with the Church of the Brethren is preferred. The desired start date is early September. Applications will be reviewed until the position is filled. Send a letter of interest, resume, and contact information for three references to email@example.com or Academic Dean’s Office, Office Manager, Brethren Life & Thought, Bethany Theological Seminary, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374; 765-983-1815. Bethany Theological Seminary’s policy prohibits discrimination in employment opportunities or practices with regard to race, gender, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, or religion.
— Shepherd’s Spring Inc., has launched a search for a new executive director. “We look forward to its continued impact on the lives of thousands of children, youth, and adults of all ages,” said an announcement from the board of the outdoor ministries and retreat facility in Mid-Atlantic District. The executive director has overall strategic and operational responsibility for Shepherd’s Spring staff, programs, facilities, and execution of its mission, and will develop a deep understanding of the outdoor ministry field, core programs, operations, and business plans. Qualifications include a thorough commitment to the Shepherd’s Spring mission and proven leadership, coaching, and relationship management experience, preferably in a faith-based outdoor ministry program with a retreat center. To apply, respond to the Indeed posting at www.indeed.com/cmp/Shepherd’s-Spring-Outdoor-Ministry-Center/jobs/Executive-Director-dd30307c74d9e8cb . More information about the organization is at www.shepherdsspring.org . For questions contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
— “Get the complete stories and more BVS goodness by reading our latest newsletter,” invites Brethren Volunteer Service. The latest BVS newsletter on the theme “Finding Joy” is online at www.brethren.org/bvs/files/newsletter/bvs-volunteer-newsletter.pdf . “If you or someone you know is wondering about their next step, BVS has life-changing volunteer positions open all year round,” the invitation continues. Find out more or explore project listings at www.brethren.org/bvs .
— A new edition of the BHLA News and Notes from the Brethren Historical Library and Archives is at www.brethren.org/bhla/documents/newsletter/bhla-news-and-notes-2019.pdf . In this issue: “Where Was I Born on March 21, 1930? A Story of Bethany Hospital” by Mary Bowman Baucher, with history of the hospital on the near west side of Chicago, Ill.; “The Dunker Meeting House and the Irony of Brethren History,” a review of the book “September Mourn. The Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield” by Alann Schmidt and Terry Barkley; and more.
— Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light will host a Climate Change Forum at Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., on Wednesday, July 10, at 6:30 p.m. “This will be a conversation about how climate change is impacting and will continue to impact northern Indiana,” said an announcement. Melissa Windhelm, operations manager of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, will be the guest speaker.
— Antioch Church of the Brethren near Rocky Mount, Va., will host a World Hunger Organ Concert on Sunday, July 14, starting at 4 p.m. “Enjoy a very entertaining program of advance organ compilations by Franklin County’s own Jonathan Emmons,” said an invitation from Virlina District. A dessert fellowship will follow the concert.
The annual World Hunger Auction itself is held at the church on Saturday, Aug. 10, starting at 9:30 a.m. This is the culmination of a year-long series of fundraising activities. The auction includes the sale of crafts, quilts, toys, produce, baked and canned goods, special services, and more. Throughout three decades, the World Hunger Auction has raised money to aid those facing hunger-related issues with the funding benefiting organizations working toward that goal. The 10 congregations of the Church of the Brethren that sponsor the auction distribute the money to various organizations including Heifer International for international and domestic programs, Roanoke Area Ministries, the Church of the Brethren Global Food Crisis Fund, and Heavenly Manna, a food pantry in Rocky Mount, reported the district e-newsletter.
— Cabool (Mo.) Church of the Brethren held a workshop called “Separate No More, Being the Body of Christ,” on June 22, “and what a great time we enjoyed together!” reported Sandy Bosserman in the Missouri and Arkansas District newsletter. “Twenty-five persons, representing five denominations and four congregations of the Church of the Brethren, joined in as we engaged in earnest discussions about racism and white privilege. Jerry and Becky Crouse, members of the Ministry Team at Warrensburg Church of the Brethren, provided great leadership from their experience as Warrensburg High School Guidance Counselor and Chaplain at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City respectively, as Pastors, and as Mission Coordinators in the Dominican Republic. More importantly, the work grew from heartfelt empathy and a compelling sense of the leading of the Holy Spirit.”
— Southern Ohio and Kentucky District is continuing its disaster response effort following devastating tornadoes in and around the Dayton area. The district is helping homeowners in Harrison Township (Northridge) and Dayton. “So far, 350 volunteers have worked about 2,165 hours for 145 families,” said a report. “The homeowners are very appreciative. Thank you to all who have served, made donations, and remembered this ministry in prayer.” However, the district notes that there is still much work to be done. In July district volunteers will be working Thursdays (except July 4), Fridays, and Saturdays doing brush and tree removal. Volunteers will meet at Happy Corner Church of the Brethren at 7:30 a.m. for registration and orientation. On Saturdays a breakfast will be served. Carpooling will be available to the day’s worksite. Workdays will end at 4 p.m. To volunteer, contact district disaster coordinator Burt Wolf at 937-287-5902 or Sam Dewey at 937-684-0510 or send an email to SouthernOhioBDM@gmail.com . Volunteers should bring a sack lunch, work gloves, and tools as requested by the organizers.
— Virlina District’s Commission on Nurture is sponsoring “Transitions: Maintaining Family Life–The Cycle of Your Sanity,” a family-life workshop hosted at Troutville Church of the Brethren on Saturday, Aug. 17, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. “Moving out-moving back in…. It has become a new rhythm in family life, one that extends across the generations,” said an announcement. “Adjusting to the changing family dynamics can result in a variety of feelings, leaving one to wonder, Am I still sane? What are my roles when we are different generations living together? Do I really need a curfew…I’m 40?! Do I have to go to Sunday School…I’m 25?! Come join us for a frank discussion of the realities as well as some tools for surviving any type of intergenerational co-habitation.” For a registration form contact Mary Sink St. John at 540-362-1816 or email@example.com .
— Camp Harmony near Hooversville, Pa., is looking ahead to two festivals this summer and fall, according to the Western Pennsylvania District newsletter. “Events to put on your calendar” include the Gospel Festival on Friday, Aug. 30, starting at 6 p.m., through Monday, Sept. 2, ending at 3 p.m. This weekend for the whole family will feature music, activities, and food. Said the announcement: “Stay for the whole weekend or come for just a day. Hear great talent from Gospel performers like Heaven4Shore, Good News, United, The Choraliers & Pearl and more!” Admission and parking are free, and lodging is available.
The camp’s Harmony Festival takes place Saturday, Sept 28, starting at 10 a.m., through Sunday, Sept. 29, ending at 5 p.m. Also with free admission, it features children’s activities, vendors, food, music, a campfire, and a movie “under the stars.”
— Virlina District is holding its first-ever choir festival on the theme “Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace” on Sept. 13-14 at Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va. Guest director is S. Reed Carter, IV, minister of music at Salem Presbyterian Church and director of the Salem Choral Society. Robert Iseminger, instrumentalist at Central Church, will serve as accompanist. “We will learn and rehearse four or five anthems on Friday evening and Saturday,” said the district announcement. “The festival will conclude with a service of worship filled with music and the Word at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. It will be open to the public. We hope to have 100 percent participation from the Church of the Brethren Choirs (and all others who love to sing) in the area! You’ll be able to take your anthems home to share with your congregation!” Those attending from outside the area may request to stay in a Church of the Brethren family host home overnight Friday. A fee of $25 per participant will cover music and food. A schedule will be shared soon. Contact Carol Elmore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-774-3217.
— Shenandoah District is recognizing Grant Simmons who is retiring after 73 years of ministry with the Church of the Brethren. Said the recognition: “Pastor Simmons grew up in the Sangerville Church, became a licensed minister in 1946. He graduated cum laude from Bridgewater College in 1952 and from Bethany Seminary in 1955. He was also ordained that same year. Early in his ministry Pastor Simmons served in a summer pastorate in the South Indiana District and then moved outside of Roanoke to serve at Boons Mill Church in the Virlina District (from 1955-65). He returned to the Shenandoah District and pastored at both the Mt. Vernon Church (1965-79) and the Arbor Hill Church (1999-present). During his hiatus from pastoring in the 1980s and 1990s, he worked in family counseling in Waynesboro and was active in the Mt. Vernon Church.” Simmons is quoted as saying that ministry has been “an interesting experience” but that at age 88, “I’m old enough to sit back and listen to others speak.” Two celebrations were planned, a retirement celebration on Sunday, June 30 at Arbor Hill, following last Sunday’s retirement celebration at Mt. Vernon.
— Northern Ohio District’s most recent “Pray for Peace” bulletin insert focuses prayer concern on “deplorable conditions inflicted upon children from infants to teenagers” among migrant children. The insert also highlights the problems of private prisons and the profit motive to increase incarceration rates, as well as the need to provide for refugees who are being persecuted for their faith. Download the insert titled “Our Inhumanity Is Showing–Again” from www.nohcob.org/blog/2019/06/27/pray-for-peace-6-26-2019 .
— South Central Indiana District has announced its 2019 district-wide service project. “This year, the District-Wide Projects committee is asking each church in the district to collect supplies for 5 Church World Service (CWS) Hygiene kits, including the $2 per kit for shipping/handling,” said an announcement. Churches are to bring the kits to the district conference in September.
— Worship in the Woods, a Summer vesper series at the Brethren and Mennonite Heritage Center Amphitheater in Harrisonburg, Va., will feature several Church of the Brethren preachers among other presenters. On the roster are Robbie Miller on June 30, Joanna Friesen on July 7, Larry Aiken on July 14, Ron Wyrick on July 21, Scott Duffey on July 28, Mountain High Rise on Aug. 4, and the Mount Pleasant Mennonite Youth Choir (at Weaver’s Mennonite Church) on Aug. 11. The vesper services start at 7 p.m.
— Longterm Church of the Brethren partner IMA World Health is one of the few organizations still offering care in the Ebola hot zone of the DR Congo. Reports a recent e-newsletter from IMA: “The Ebola crisis continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The situation is constantly evolving, but your support is making a real difference.” Find an IMA release on “Making a Stand to Prevent Ebola’s Spread” dated June 13 at https://imaworldhealth.org/making-a-stand-to-stop-ebolas-spread . “As Ebola advances beyond the Democratic Republic of Congo into Uganda, IMA World Health is intensifying efforts to contain the spread before it becomes a greater global emergency,” said the release, in part. “Two family members who crossed into Uganda from DRC died of the disease. The urgency now is that Ebola could reach international crossroads such as Goma in DRC and Kampala, Uganda, both home to more than 1 million people….”
— “Ecological conversion” is urgently needed says a statement issued by a conference on “Eco-Theology and the Ethics of Sustainability.” A release from the World Council of Churches reported: “After 52 participants from 22 countries from different confessional and faith traditions gathered June 16-19 in Wuppertal, Germany, they have released ‘Kairos for Creation–Confessing Hope for the Earth.’ The ‘Wuppertal Call’ describes how the participants of the conference…shared stories from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America, and Oceania. ‘We heard the cries of the earth, the cries of people vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially children and the elderly, the cries of youth demanding intergenerational justice and the concerns of experts over current trends,’ the text reads. ‘We recognize the urgency of the years that lie ahead, nevertheless express the courage to hope and are compelled to call the global ecumenical movement towards a comprehensive ecological transformation of society.’ The call acknowledges that the ecumenical movement has long committed itself to a pilgrimage towards justice, peace and the integrity of creation. ‘These goals will require urgent steps on the road ahead,’ reads the call. ‘We have transgressed planetary boundaries…. At the heart of the required transformation is a need for ecological conversion (metanoia), a change of heart, mind, attitudes, daily habits and forms of praxis.’ The call suggests specific actions churches can take, then notes that the task ahead is immense and will require decades of dedication. ‘The urgency of the situation implies that a comprehensive response cannot be delayed.’” The conference in Wuppertal was organized by the Protestant Association of Churches and Mission, Evangelical Church in Germany, United Evangelical Mission, Bread for the World, and the World Council of Churches. Read the full text at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/kairos-for-creation-confessing-hope-for-the-earth-the-wuppertal-call .
— “Stellar coaching career earns John Stern Hall of Fame induction,” said the headline in the “Midland Daily News.” John Stern, who received the honor for his 23-year career as the Bullock Creek High School head varsity wrestling coach, is a member of Midland (Va.) Church of the Brethren. He and his wife also have a farm and he has been a Homer Township board trustee, Midland County Farm Bureau president, and a Bullock Creek school board member. He was inducted into the Midland County Sports Hall of Fame in May. Find out more at www.ourmidland.com/sports/highschool/article/Stellar-coaching-career-earns-John-Stern-Hall-of-13827697.php .
— A new book by David A. Hollinger is being called an “important new publication on twentieth-century Brethren history” by the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA). Hollinger is Preston Hotchkis Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, and a son of Church of the Brethren minister Albert Hollinger, Jr. “He has written an important and moving memoir about a remarkable Church of the Brethren family and its experiences in Pennsylvania, on the Alberta frontier, and eventually La Verne, California,” said the BHLA’s latest newsletter. Titled “When This Mask of Flesh Is Broken: The Story of an American Protestant Family,” the book can be ordered through Brethren Press at www.brethrenpress.com or call 800-441-3712.