Newsline for July 13, 2019

“Upon whom does his [God’s] light not arise?” (Job 25:3b).

A candlelight peace vigil was held July 3, on the first evening of the 2019 Annual Conference, in solidarity with immigrants and praying for all those suffering from a situation of injustice. Various leaders in the church’s intercultural community spoke. The vigil was sponsored by the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. Photo by Donna Parcell


1) Conference sets aside regular business for compelling vision conversation, celebrates love feast
2) Compelling vision conversations: ‘We have put our hearts on the table’
3) ‘We love each other despite our differences’: The story of ND9
4) David Sollenberger to serve as moderator-elect, among other election results
5) Conference affirms additional leadership appointments
6) Standing Committee approves revision of appeal process, among other business
7) The 2019 Annual Conference…by the numbers
8) Annual Conference bits and pieces
9) Mission and Ministry Board approves budget parameter for 2020, large grant for Nigeria Crisis Response


10) Brian Bultman resigns as CFO of the Church of the Brethren

11) Brethren bits: Register for NOAC before July 15, new Brethren Disaster Ministries site, addressing statelessness, opposing war with Iran, news from congregations, “Sing Me High,” #SacredResistance, NCC statement on threatened deportation raids, recognitions for Harold Martin and Stephen L. Longenecker, and more

Annual Conference moderator Donita Keister preaches for worship. Photo by Glenn Riegel

Quotes of the week:

“We are not compelled by our love for Christ. We are compelled by Christ’s love for us…. May we come as ministers of reconciliation…knowing that a vision borne of that commitment cannot help but be compelling.”

— Donita Keister, moderator of the 2019 Annual Conference, encouraging hope in the compelling vision process during her opening sermon.

“Next July we will affirm a compelling vision for our denomination.”

— Paul Mundey, in a statement to the 2019 Conference after his consecration as moderator for 2020.

“The Bible is unmistakable: all of creation will be redeemed…. There is no better time to claim or reclaim our passion for this. Actually I can think of a better time, but it has already passed. Now scientists tell us there are only a dozen years until irreversible damage is done…. It is no wonder then that Romans 8 describes the groaning of creation.”

— Wendy McFadden, publisher for the Church of the Brethren, speaking for the Thursday morning’s worship service.

Go to for an index page with links to all 2019 Annual Conference coverage. A two-page Wrap Up of the Conference free to download and print, as a help to delegates reporting back to congregations and districts, will be available on this index page early next week. #cobac19 

Coverage of the 2019 Annual Conference was made possible by a news team of volunteers and communications staff: photographers Glenn Riegel, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown; writer Frances Townsend; “Conference Journal” editor Frank Ramirez; office manager Alane Riegel; website staff Jan Fischer Bachman and Russ Otto; director of News Services and Newsline editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.

1) Conference sets aside regular business for compelling vision conversation, celebrates love feast

Table groups participate in compelling vision conversations during the 2019 Annual Conference. Photo by Glenn Riegel

Compelling vision conversations were the highlight of the 2019 Annual Conference held July 3-7 in Greensboro, N.C. Other business was set aside–except necessary items such as elections and reports–to make time for the process intended to help the Church of the Brethren discern a compelling vision to guide the denomination into the future.

The Conference was presided over by moderator Donita Keister, moderator-elect Paul Mundey, and secretary James Beckwith.

Large amounts of data were collected from some 120 table groups of delegates and nondelegates, in response to a series of questions (see the full list at ). This data will be assessed over coming months by the Compelling Vision Process Team and the Compelling Vision Working Group. The goal is to bring a vision statement for consideration by the 2020 Conference.

A love feast followed the conversations, and was open to all present. It was the first time in decades that love feast has been celebrated by the full Conference.

Compelling vision conversations

Delegates sat in small groups at round tables, and nondelegates who signed up to participate sat at a section of tables behind the delegates. Table groups of around six to eight people spent hours each day, Thursday, July 4, through Saturday, July 6, discussing questions posed by the Compelling Vision Process Team.

The process team chaired by Rhonda Pittman Gingrich includes Michaela Alphonse, Kevin Daggett, Brian Messler, Alan Stucky, Kay Weaver, 2018 moderator Samuel Sarpiya, 2019 moderator Donita Keister, 2020 moderator Paul Mundey, and Conference director Chris Douglas. In coming months they will assess the data working with the Compelling Vision Working Group that, in addition to the three moderators and the Conference director, also includes general secretary David Steele and district executives Colleen Michael of Pacific Northwest District and John Jantzi of Shenandoah District.

Tables each had a facilitator and a recorder. The latter typed table answers and responses on computer tablets provided by CoVision, a company whose services were engaged by the process team to facilitate this tech-heavy data collection process. Members of the CoVision staff were present to assist the process team, who sat at its own table to monitor responses in real time.

As responses were typed into the computer tablets, they were recorded automatically and collected throughout the three days. Tables were encouraged to submit each idea expressed as an individual entry. Some tables also entered group responses. Responses were automatically numbered as they were received, and were not identified by table unless the person typing the comment included the table number.

A table scribe types responses on a tablet during compelling vision conversations. Photo by Glenn Riegel

After each conversation session tablets were handed around the tables for each person to type their own evaluation of that session. These evaluations helped the process team identify what was working and what problems were arising, and make adjustments as needed.

As responses showed up on their monitors, the process team had a few minutes to create a “snapshot” of responses by identifying a few that stood out for one reason or another, grouping responses that seemed to be similar or have things in common, or flagging certain responses to quote verbatim to the Conference. Following each question, a member of the process team shared that “snapshot” before going on to the next question. Questions were repeated verbally in English, Spanish, and Haitian Kreyol, and were displayed in the three languages on large screens.

A couple of times the process team asked for a quick survey on a particular topic and immediately posted on the big screens a tally of top responses by percentage.

Questions ranged widely but were focused in certain areas on certain days. The opening question on Thursday, asking participants to imagine the church in 10 years and what the manner of our living might convey to the world at that time, was repeated in one of the final questions Saturday asking participants to consider what it will take to become that church.

Other questions–many based in scripture and calling for Christ-centered responses–pushed participants to continue to use their imaginations as well as their personal experiences and the experience of their congregations. They were asked to share about ministries that inspire, the needs in their communities, how the church may meet needs, “big ideas” to invest in, and more. Some questions focused on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, and led to conversation about how these may be coherent. Some questions asked about the church’s peace witness, while others provoked conversation about Brethren ordinances and practices.

“What have you heard during the visioning conversations that excites you or gives you hope about our future as the Church of the Brethren?” was the last question posed to the Conference.

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

‘Like drinking water from a fire hose’

Pittman Gingrich described the process of monitoring the incoming responses as “a little like drinking water from a fire hose.” Just a few minutes after the very first question was asked, for example, some 850 responses already had been received.

In her remarks to the Conference, she described the whole process–beginning at the 2018 Conference and continuing for the past year in districts and at National Youth Conference and Young Adult Conference among other venues–as “surprising, frustrating, energizing, humbling.”

Those involved in assessing the data that has been collected will not be able to give a comprehensive report until after they have a chance to read and reflect on each of the thousands of responses. That will not happen until later this year, Pittman Gingrich said.

At one point, Keister acknowledged anxiety that the process does not address deep concerns about division in the church. “I assure you that this work is happening around our division, on a parallel track,” she said. “We are not kicking the can down the road…. Leadership is aware of the elephants all around us.”

Her use of “elephant in the room” imagery was picked up several times in subsequent comments. When Keister expanded it to an image of elephants dancing around the room, the Conference responded with sympathetic laughter.

Despite anxiety about the process, by the time table groups joined in love feast together the congenial tone of conversation and the laughter heard at many of the tables indicated a feeling of increased relationship.

This echoed Pittman Gingrich’s prayer for the conversations. “Open our hearts and minds and imaginations,” she prayed before the first question was asked. “Following your example may we be gentle with one another…. May we grow together as your body.”

For more about the compelling vision process see .

The communion service at love feast. Photo by Keith Hollenberg

Love feast

“Draw nigh to God and receive these sacred symbols to your comfort.” With these traditional words, Annual Conference moderator Donita Keister invited all who were present to receive communion.

The small groups continued to sit together at their tables for the four traditional parts of the love feast service. A time of confession and prayer was followed by feetwashing, with the options of an area for men, an area for women, an area for the genders together, and handwashing for those with disabilities. Because the convention center did not allow water to be used, feet and hands were washed above symbolic basins by wiping with large, pre-moistened towelettes.

The simple meal was delivered in cardboard cake boxes to each table: loaves of bread made by various congregations, spreads including peanut butter and jelly, and applesauce cups. Table groups served each other the communion service in the Brethren style by filling individual small cups with grape juice and breaking pieces of home-made unleavened communion bread.

The two-hour service was the closing event of business and a worshipful conclusion to the compelling vision conversations. Presiding were moderator Keister, moderator-elect Paul Mundey, and immediate past moderator Samuel Sarpiya.

2) Compelling vision conversations: ‘We have put our hearts on the table’

One of the table groups engaged in compelling vision conversation. Photo by Glenn Riegel

By Frances Townsend, a volunteer on the Annual Conference news team who was “embedded” at a nondelegate table to write about the compelling vision process

“What on earth are we getting into?” may have been the question on a lot of minds as we found our tables. The business session opened with singing “open our eyes,” a prayer asking for God to bring illumination and to make us willing to receive it. But singing this is not the same as willingly saying the prayer. Are we willing to receive new illumination? Am I willing?

I came with my fears and hopes for this process, as we all did. But I also hope for the holy moment that takes me way beyond my own thinking. The Holy Spirit, after all, is loose in the room….

— For the full text of Townsend’s “view from the table” daily journals:

     “The Holy Spirit is loose in the room: Compelling vision conversations begin” (July 4)

     “We have put our hearts on the table: Compelling vision conversation deepens” (July 5)

     “Big dreams are in order: Compelling vision conversations conclude…for now” (July 6)

3) ‘We love each other despite our differences’: The story of ND9

“We shared what was on our hearts, the words that were needed,” said Bob Johnson, one of those seated at Nondelegate Table Number Nine–known in the common parlance of the 2019 Annual Conference as “ND9.”

By the close of compelling vision conversations, this table that had a “rocky start” marked by feelings of isolation over their differences had become a group that “wanted to love each other.”

ND9 is interviewed following the love feast at Annual Conference: (from left) Kenton Grossnickle, Carolyn Schrock, Bobbi Dykema, interviewer Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford of the Church of the Brethren News Services, and Bob Johnson. Photo by Jan Fischer Bachman

ND9 offered to share their story publicly because the group felt their transformative experience could be helpful to others and demonstrates the possibilities of the process. In addition to Johnson, who pastors Middle River Church of the Brethren in New Hope, Va., those participating in the interview included Bobbi Dykema, pastor at First Church of the Brethren in Springfield, Ill.; Kenton Grossnickle from Myersville, Md.; and Carolyn Schrock from McPherson, Kan. Two table members had to leave before the interview.

The group was careful to acknowledge not every table had a transformative experience. They had heard reports from people at tables where the experience had been painful throughout the conversation sessions. However, if one table could be surprised by unexpected relationship-building, perhaps there is hope for others–perhaps even the whole denomination.

The members of ND9 came to the conversation with their own feelings and thoughts, and at times with ill feelings toward each other. Over the course of the three days, their journey toward what ended up being “a wonderful way of listening”–as Johnson put it–was not easy. Some hurtful things were said, even if they were honest. After the first day’s conversation, one person said they wished another person wasn’t at the table. Another person was feeling pushed out, and finally told that to the group.

By the second day, things began to change. The honest expression of feelings–however hurtful–created a new possibility for openness and acceptance. “It’s so powerful to let you feel what you feel and say what you say and still love each other,” Johnson said.

By the third day, the group had decided to wash feet together during the love feast scheduled for that afternoon. When the time came for feetwashing, they went as a group to the area for the genders to wash together, inviting Johnson’s wife to join them. Each person in the group washed every other person’s feet.

The love and servanthood they expressed in feetwashing did not change who they were as people, and did not change their opinions, Dykema noted. But it was a symbol of a new willingness to be vulnerable to each other. “Our ideology hasn’t changed but our togetherness has,” she said.

Surprisingly, one of the things that brought the group together was a common concern for creation care–an issue usually assumed to be extremely divisive. The table shared a concern for farmers in their communities, some grew up on farms, and some are enthusiastic gardeners. They also shared a heart for trauma victims and people with addictions.

“We love each other despite our differences,” said Grossnickle, who noted that distrust was an obstacle they had to overcome from the start. He blamed the distrust on their fear of each other’s differences. It is important to understand that perfect love casts out fear, he said, quoting scripture. He added that it was helpful to realize they could listen to each other without fear.

“After our rocky time, I was praying that God would help us and then I felt the Spirit move among us,” said Schrock.

ND9 hopes the Holy Spirit will move in the same way among the wider church–in Dykema’s words, that the Spirit may “write this large.”

4) David Sollenberger to serve as moderator-elect, among other election results

The consecration of new leadership for the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference: (kneeling from left) 2020 moderator Paul Mundey and moderator-elect David Sollenberger, who will serve as moderator in 2021. Photo by Glenn Riegel

In election results, the Annual Conference chose David Sollenberger as moderator-elect after nominations from the floor forced a run-off election for moderator-elect and Mission and Ministry Board Area 4.

Sollenberger will serve for one year as moderator-elect, and then will serve for a year as moderator, to preside over the 2021 Annual Conference. Sollenberger is a videographer from Annville, Pa., and a member of Mount Wilson Church of the Brethren in Atlantic Northeast District. He has documented decades of conferences of the denomination, including Annual Conference and National Youth Conference, where he has been a speaker. He is known at National Older Adult Conference for the humorous NOAC News. He has produced numerous documentaries about church ministries and history, and has traveled to missions and sisters churches in Nigeria and South Sudan, among others. He has served on the former General Board and on the Vision Interpretation and Implementation Committee for the Church of the Brethren Vision Statement 2012-2020.

Following are more election results. The Conference is scheduled to affirm additional board-elected and constituency-elected appointments and reports of appointments during the Saturday morning business session on July 6.

Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee: Carol Hipps Elmore of Salem, Va.

Mission and Ministry Board, Area 4: J. Roger Schrock of McPherson, Kan.; Area 5: Don Morrison of Nampa, Idaho.

Bethany Seminary board of trustees, representing the colleges: Monica Rice of McPherson, Kan.

Brethren Benefit Trust board of directors: Audrey Myer of Elizabethtown, Pa.

On Earth Peace board: Carla L. Gillespie of Tipp City, Ohio.

5) Conference affirms additional leadership appointments

A vote at annual conference
Photo by Glenn Riegel

In addition to elections the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren affirms board-elected and constituency-elected appointments and also receives reports of appointments. The delegate body made the following affirmations:

Mission and Ministry Board:

Heather Gentry Hartwell of Harrisonburg, Va., elected by the board to an at-large five-year term that ends in 2024.

Paul V. Schrock of Indianapolis, Ind., selected by Nominating Committee to fulfill an unexpired Annual Conference-elected term that ends in 2023.

John Michael Hoffman of McPherson, Kan., former one-year member of the board elected by the board to fulfill an at-large one-year term ending in 2020.

Bethany Seminary board of trustees:

Eric Bishop of Pomona, Calif., elected by the seminary board to an at-large, five-year term ending in 2024.

S. Phillip Stover of McPherson, Kan., elected by the seminary board to an at-large, five-year term ending in 2024.

Wendi Hutchinson Ailor of West Lafayette, Ind., elected by the seminary alumni/ae to an at-large, five-year term ending in 2024.

Brethren Benefit Trust board of directors: .

Donna McKee Rhodes of Huntingdon, Pa., elected by the BBT board to an at-large, four-year term ending in 2023.

Russell Matteson of Modesto, Calif., elected by Pension Plan participants (Ministers’ Association and Council of District Executives) to a four-year term ending in 2023.

On Earth Peace board:

Caitlin Haynes of Baltimore, Md., elected by the OEP board to a second at-large, five-year term ending in 2024.

Lucas Al-Zoughbi of Lansing, Mich., elected by the OEP board to an at-large, five-year term ending in 2024.

Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee:

Terry Grove of Winter Springs, Fla., nominated by the Council of District Executives to represent the district executives for a five-year term ending in 2023.

6) Standing Committee approves revision of appeal process, among other business

The 2019 Annual Conference officers preside over Standing Committee (from left) secretary James Beckwith, moderator Donita Keister, and moderator-elect Paul Mundey. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Standing Committee has approved a revision of the appeal process during its pre-Annual Conference meetings in Greensboro, N.C. The group of delegates from the 24 Church of the Brethren districts met June 30-July 3, presided over by Conference moderator Donita J. Keister, moderator-elect Paul Mundey, and secretary James M. Beckwith.

Standing Committee also approved revisions to a new “Standing Committee Manual” including a two-thirds majority vote requirement; affirmed two district boundary changes and heard a report of a district’s boundary clarifications to be affirmed next year; named new members to subcommittees; engaged in conversations with district executives and leaders of the denominational board and the Annual Conference agencies; and received reports.

An attempt to continue two discussions that have taken up much time in Standing Committee in recent years–about Michigan District and On Earth Peace–failed when the committee voted against adding them to the agenda.

The district delegates spent much of the last two days of their meetings on the compelling vision conversations that are planned for Annual Conference, serving as the first body to experience or “test” the process the Conference will experience this week.

Revision to appeal process

Standing Committee approved a revised appeal process proposed by a three-member committee appointed to the task by the 2018 Standing Committee. The revision was presented by Loren Rhodes of Middle Pennsylvania District, Susan Chapman Starkey of Virlina District, and John Willoughby of Michigan District, who had worked closely with the Conference officers on preparing the revision.

The revision came in the form of a single document that combined the two existing documents on appeals with proposed revisions to the process. Willoughby explained that the group also attempted to consider how Standing Committee might work beyond the scope of the existing process.

Significant changes included a call for exhaustion of other options before initiating an appeal, addition of a section on conflict of interest and recusal for Standing Committee members, clarification of the time frame for initiating an appeal, and limiting Standing Committee to handling only one appeal each year, unless required by polity, because of the amount of work and time required.

A three-member subcommittee presents revision to the appeal process: (standing from left) Susan Chapman Starkey, John Willoughby, and Loren Rhodes. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

A significant change that garnered questions and conversation was insertion of the word “fair” as a consideration in an appeal, in addition to whether the decision being appealed was made according to polity. The section in which the concept of fairness was inserted read: “Issues on appeal shall be limited to questions of whether the process and reasoning by which the district or denominational entity made this decision were fair and consistent with Annual Conference polity.”

The revision represented only one part of the group’s work, and it was granted another year to work on other aspects of the judicial role of Standing Committee. In addition, the committee recommended that further conversation be held with the Council of District Executives about aspects of the revision that will affect district processes.

The revised appeal process will be posted on the Annual Conference website in coming weeks.

Two-thirds majority requirement

The Conference officers recommended revisions to a new “Standing Committee Manual” that was created to compile together policies, procedures, and guidelines. This is the first year the manual has been used.

Most revisions were non-substantive, such as changes made for clarity. However, time was spent discussing a proposal from the officers to add a sentence that “any recommendations from Standing Committee to the full delegate body will require a two-thirds majority vote of Standing Committee.” Moderator Keister explained that the proposal was made to establish as a requirement something that had become the practice of the group in the last two years.

During discussion of the background for such a requirement, some delegates shared memories of discomfort and embarrassment when a recommendation came to the Conference floor with only a very slim majority of support from Standing Committee. Those who were in favor talked about the benefits of spending more time in conversation across differences. Such a requirement would force the Standing Committee “to work together more,” said one delegate.

Others expressed a need not to be “locked in” to such a requirement and to allow for exceptions. Some wondered what would happen if an item of business went unanswered when a two-thirds majority could not be achieved.

Three Standing Committee members proposed an amendment they worked on over a lunch break, which was adopted. It added language to the effect that should a two-thirds majority not be reached, options for moving forward would include appointing a task team to work on refinements to achieve a two-thirds majority, recommending that the item of business be deferred to a future Conference, or suspending the two-thirds vote requirement to permit forwarding an item of business to the full delegate body with a simple majority vote by Standing Committee.

Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, chair of the Compelling Vision Process Team, reports on the process at the Standing Committee meetings. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

In other business

Two district boundary changes were affirmed. Pacific Southwest District has incorporated the state of Nevada into its geographic boundaries. Virlina District has negotiated with West Marva District and Southern Ohio/Kentucky District to rearrange district boundaries. In addition, Atlantic Northeast District is working on a clarification of its district boundaries to be approved at its district conference this year.

Elected to the Nominating Committee were Michaela Alphonse of Atlantic Southeast District, Kurt Borgmann of South Central Indiana District, Becky Maurer of Southern Ohio/Kentucky District, and Dennis Webb of Illinois and Wisconsin District.

Elected to the Appeals Committee were Stafford Frederick of Virlina District, Kim Ream of Atlantic Northeast District, and John Willoughby of Michigan District, with Timothy Vaughn of Western Pennsylvania District as first alternate and Phil Miller of Missouri and Arkansas District as second alternate.

Nominated by the officers and affirmed by the Standing Committee to serve as this year’s Two-Thirds Committee were Michaela Alphonse of Atlantic Southeast District, Phil Miller of Missouri and Arkansas District, and Steven Spire of Shenandoah District.

Named to the Program Feasibility Study Committee was Janet Elsea of Shenandoah District.

A decision was made not to print the home addresses of Standing Committee members in the Conference book in future years, but to make available an email address for contacting each district’s delegates.

7) The 2019 Annual Conference…by the numbers

Children’s activities. Photo by Laura Brown

2,155: Total registration number for the 2019 Annual Conference including 677 delegates and 1,478 nondelegates.

$50,928.49: Worship offerings. Each evening worship service and the Sunday morning service received an offering dedicated to a particular purpose. This total includes:

     — $13,212.01 for Brethren Disaster Ministries work in Puerto Rico

     — $11,383.41 for the Church of the Brethren core ministries

     — $11,152.16 for church rebuilding in Nigeria in a collaboration between the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

     — $8,171.35 for child care and age activities expenses at Annual Conference

     — $7,009.56 for Calling the Called workshops in the Church of the Brethren districts, sponsored by the Office of Ministry

$2,360: The online donations and offerings received via related to the 2019 Annual Conference. The 30 online gifts included $900 in general donations for Annual Conference, $940 to support webcasts of the Conference, $150 for the Nigeria Crisis Response, $150 for Brethren Disaster Ministries work in Puerto Rico, $200 for Church of the Brethren core ministries, $100 for the work of Global Mission and Service, and $70 for the work of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C.

$7, 595: Amount raised for hunger relief by the Association for the Arts Quilt Auction.

$1,312: Amount received in an offering for ministers’ assistance during the pre-Conference Minister’s Association event. At least 132 people participated in the event led by Dr. David Olson on the theme, “Saying No to Say Yes: Everyday Boundaries and Pastoral Excellence.”

$2,500: Donation from the conference center in Grand Rapids to purchase free ice cream bars for this year’s Conference goers, as a gesture of thanks to the Annual Conference for returning to their city again in 2020.

165: Pints collected by the Annual Conference Blood Drive in onsite donations.

35: Years of service by Joyce Person as teller coordinator and lead teller for Annual Conference, recognized during the first morning’s business session.

8) Annual Conference bits and pieces

— The Annual Conference officers for 2019 were moderator Donita Keister, with moderator-elect Paul Mundey and Conference secretary James Beckwith. Three elected members of the Program and Arrangements Committee–along with the officers, Conference director, and staff–were responsible for planning and organizing the event. Focusing on worship this year was John Shafer, with Jan Glass King focusing on the business and compelling vision sessions, and Emily Shonk Edwards focusing on the exhibit hall. Onsite coordinators who joined in the work of organizing the Conference were Dewey and Melissa Williard. Conference director Chris Douglas expressed the church’s gratitude to these and the numerous additional volunteers whose hard work made the Conference possible.

— Find the news index page with links to all the online coverage of the 2019 Annual Conference, including the worship bulletins among other resources, at .

— A “Wrap-up DVD” featuring highlights of the Conference (approximately 20 minutes plus bonus material) and a “Sermons DVD” including all of the Conference sermons are suggested resources to help delegates report back to their congregations and districts. Costs are $29.95 for the “Wrap-up DVD” and $24.95 for the “Sermons DVD.” A $10 shipping fee applies. Order from Brethren Press at or 800-441-3712.

— For “Today in Greensboro” overviews of each day starting with pre-Conference meetings Tuesday, July 2, through the closing worship service Sunday, July 7, go to the following links. These pages feature the day’s theme, a scripture text, quotes from preachers and other speakers, brief information about special events, photos from a variety of activities, and more.

     Today in Greensboro – Tuesday, July 2

     Today in Greensboro – Wednesday, July 3

     Today in Greensboro – Thursday, July 4

     Today in Greensboro – Friday, July 5

     Today in Greensboro – Saturday, July 6

     Today in Greensboro – Sunday, July 7

— Webcasts of the worship services, concerts, and business sessions–including the compelling vision conversations–continue to be available to view online. Find links to the webcasts at .

— Daily photo albums of Conference activities ranging from worship to business to meal events to age-group activities and more are at .

— Five new congregations and one new project were welcomed into the Church of the Brethren denomination. The new project is Ebenezer in Atlantic Northeast District. The new congregations are:

     Faith in Action Church of the Brethren, Northern Ohio District

     Floyd Iglesia Cristiana Nueva Vida, Virlina District

     Hanging Rock Church of the Brethren, West Marva District

     Living Stream Church of the Brethren (online congregation), Pacific Northwest District

     Veritas Church of the Brethren, Atlantic Northeast District.

— Two official representatives from Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) attended: president Joel S. Billi and staff liaison Markus Gamache. A dozen or more Nigerian Brethren also were in Greensboro including a group from BEST, the Brethren Evangelism Support Trust of EYN.

— A candlelight peace vigil was held July 3, on the first evening of the Conference, in solidarity with immigrants and praying for all those suffering from a situation of injustice. Various leaders in the church’s intercultural community spoke. The vigil was sponsored by the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy.

— The Conference on July 4 approved the annual increase in the minimum cash salary table for pastors. An increase of two percent was approved for 2020. The recommendation for the increase was made by the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee.

— The Sunday morning offering was received for “Calling the Called” workshops sponsored by the Office of Ministry. Each of the 24 districts in the Church of the Brethren is challenged to hold a workshop in the coming year for people discerning their calling to ministry. “Imagine if every district held a yearly event with the result of hundreds of persons being newly called to ministry across the wider church?” said the call to giving on the back of the Sunday bulletin. “The hope is that God’s Spirit will anoint women and men of all ages, all cultures, with beautifully varied gifts, at any stage in life to say ‘yes’ to following Jesus into the holy work of ministry in their communities.” Virlina District was held up as a model of a district who already is offering workshops on an annual basis. The offering received Sunday will help promote such events across the denomination.

EYN leaders attend the Mission and Ministry Board meeting that preceded the 2019 Annual Conference, accompanied by Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer. Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria was officially represented at the Conference by president Joel S. Billi and liaison officer Markus Gamache. Another dozen or more Nigerian Brethren were at the Conference as well, many as part of the BEST group. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

 The top 10 titles sold at the Conference’s Brethren Press bookstore:

     1. “Not-so-big Church”

     2. “September Mourn”

     3. “Seeing Jesus in East Harlem”

     4. “25 Days to Jesus”

     5. “Seagoing Cowboy”

     6. “Speak Peace: A Daily Reader”

     7. “Covenant Bible Studies: Fruit of the Spirit”

     8. “Deacon Manual: Calling”

     9. “Deacon Manual: Caring”

     10. “Alexander Mack: A Man Who Rippled the Waters”

— Conference director Chris Douglas announced the location for the 2022 Annual Conference during the report of the Program and Arrangements Committee on July 4. Omaha, Neb., will host the Conference to be held July 10-13, 2022. Douglas noted those dates represent a return to a Sunday through Wednesday schedule in order to take advantage of a discount for hotel room prices for a meeting over a Sunday night.

— “God’s Adventurous Future ” will be the theme for Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., next summer, announced 2020 moderator Paul Mundey. Inspired by Revelation 21:1, Mundey said, “Based on the word of God, I declare that new creation is possible!” He told the congregation at the close of the last worship gathering of this year’s Conference that “the world urgently if not desperately needs another way of living in Jesus. Sin is ravaging human life…ending up with incredible despair. It is easy to just give up or leave or abandon our faith or even our denomination.” However, he urged Brethren, “Stay the course! And keep your eyes on Jesus. I believe God can lead us forward.”

9) Mission and Ministry Board approves budget parameter for 2020, large grant for Nigeria Crisis Response

Mission and Ministry Board chair Connie Burk Davis is completing her term of service with this Annual Conference. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

A budget parameter for core ministries of the Church of the Brethren in 2020 and a large grant to continue the Nigeria Crisis Response program into next year were on the agenda of the Mission and Ministry Board in pre-Conference meetings.

The denominational board also thanked outgoing members who completed their terms including chair Connie Burk Davis. In addition, the board welcomed leaders of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), president Joel S. Billi and staff liaison Markus Gamache; welcomed three congregations to the Open Roof Fellowship; celebrated a Rev. 7:9 award from the Intercultural Ministry; named a new executive committee and other subcommittees; and received reports, among other business.

Budget parameter for 2020

The board approved a parameter of $4,969,000 for the Church of the Brethren’s core ministries budget in 2020. Treasurer Brian Bultman and assistant treasurer Ed Woolf reported that the parameter reflects work to create a balanced budget for denominational ministries next year.

The parameter reflects a $220,000 expense reduction in core ministries. Finance staff said that while these reductions are not yet finalized, some expense reductions could include removal of campaign expenses, restructuring, and employees making personal changes in their individual health insurance coverage. More details will be presented as part of the 2020 budget packet in October. The parameter also includes the use of $121,000 in designated funds.

Additional financial projections for next year include the expectation that a decades-long slide in congregational giving to the denomination will continue, a one-percent increase in salary and benefits, a four-percent increase in medical insurance cost, and a planned decrease in the “draw” from the Brethren Service Center quasi-endowment. The latter was created from the sale of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. There was discussion among board members who want to further decrease the use of monies from the Brethren Service Center quasi-endowment in order to preserve it as a resource for the future.

Representatives were present at the board meeting to receive Open Roof Fellowship certificates presented by disabilities advocate Rebekah Flores, on behalf of Discipleship Ministries.

In other business

The board approved use of $325,000 from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to continue the Nigeria Crisis Response through 2019 and into March 2020. This joint effort of the Church of the Brethren and EYN aids those affected by the violence of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria. Roy Winter, associate executive of Global Mission and Service, announced an intention to taper off funding for the effort over coming years as the violence lessens and the needs also lessen across the region. A budget of $275,000 is planned for 2020 and a budget of $135,000 for 2021.

Three congregations were welcomed to the Open Roof Fellowship. Representatives were present at the board meeting to receive certificates presented by disabilities advocate Rebekah Flores on behalf of Discipleship Ministries. Center Church of the Brethren in Ohio was represented by Northern Ohio District executive Kris Hawk. Polo (Ill.) Church of the Brethren was represented by pastor Leslie Lake. J.H. Moore Memorial Church of the Brethren, also known as Sebring (Fla.) Church of the Brethren, was represented by Dawn Ziegler.

The annual Rev. 7:9 recognition from the Intercultural Ministry was awarded to René Calderon.  Originally from Ecuador, he was a member of the denominational staff in former decades and worked on intercultural ministries including support for sanctuary churches and translation of resources into Spanish, among other efforts. Discipleship Ministries co-coordinator Stan Dueck noted that Calderon’s work was carried out during a time when it was politically difficult. He also worked in Puerto Rico for a time, and served as a co-pastor with his wife Karen. The Rev. 7:9 award recipient is selected by the Intercultural Ministries Advisory Committee. The award was given to Calderon in absentia and the unique pottery cup that symbolizes the honor will be sent to him.

Named to the board’s executive committee for 2019-2020 were Lois Grove, Paul Liepelt, and Colin Scott, who will join the new chair, Patrick Starkey, and the new chair-elect, Carl Fike.

A new team was named to continue the Annual Conference assignment “Living Together as Christ Calls.” The board carried out a brainstorming session to help guide this new team as it follows up on the work of two previous teams assigned to this Conference mandate. Named to the new team were board members Thomas Dowdy, John Hoffman (whose appointment is yet to be affirmed by the 2019 Annual Conference), and Carol Yeazell.

A new Strategic Design Team was named, including four board members: Carl Fike, Lois Grove, Paul Schrock, and Colin Scott.

Four board members who complete their terms of service at this Annual Conference were recognized: chair Connie Burk Davis, Mark Bausman, Luci Landes, and Susan Liller.

10) Brian Bultman resigns as CFO of the Church of the Brethren

Brian Bultman has resigned as chief financial officer and executive director of organizational resources for the Church of the Brethren to pursue an opportunity as vice president of finance and CFO at Central Credit Union of Illinois in Bellwood. Over the course of his career he has held leading management positions at several credit unions in Illinois and Maryland.

Aug. 2 will be his last day of work at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

Bultman has been CFO of the denomination for about four-and-a-half years, since Feb. 9, 2015. During this time he has overseen the work of the finance office and its staff and, with assistant treasurer Ed Woolf, has made regular financial reporting to the Mission and Ministry Board. He also has held responsibility for the annual financial report and audit report to the denomination. Overseeing the sale of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., was a significant accomplishment of his tenure. Recently his work has included initial preparation for the sale of excess vacant land at the General Offices location.

11) Brethren bits

Leaders from Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) visit Washington, D.C., following the 2019 Annual Conference in order to meet with legislators and other policy-makers to talk about the situation in northeast Nigeria and the need for more protections of religious freedom. Shown here (from left): EYN president Joel S. Billi; Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy; Markus Gamache, EYN’s liaison officer; and Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren.

— A reminder to register for National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) now, before prices go up on July 15. The event for those age 50-plus is held at Lake Junaluska in western North Carolina on Sept. 2-6. Cost per person is $195 for those who register before July 15. After that date the cost will be $225. First time attendees will get a $20 discount. The registration fee does not include housing or meals, which must be reserved and purchased separately. More information and a registration link are at .

— Nikifor Sosna will be joining the Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) office team as a second-year volunteer, serving as orientation assistant. He served his first BVS year with Brethren Disaster Ministries in North and South Carolina. He is originally from Saskatchewan, Canada. He will begin his work at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on July 15.

— Brethren Disaster Ministries has announced a new rebuilding project site in the area of Jacksonville, Fla., where Hurricane Irma caused extensive flooding and damage in 2017. Work at the new site will begin Sept. 1, after Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers pack and move half of the current rebuilding project site in the Carolinas to Florida in late August, said the announcement. The program will continue to work in the Carolinas into 2020. The Florida site is expected to be active through the end of 2019 with possible extension into 2020 depending on the work and volunteer housing availability. “All groups that were previously listed as Project 2 on the 2019 schedule will now be going to this [Florida] location,” the announcement said. A maximum of 15 volunteers can be accommodated each week due to the available tools, transportation, and leadership. For more information go to or contact Brethren Disaster Ministries at or 800-451-4407.

— “The WCC’s work to organize member communions to address statelessness is a critical addition to the growing movement addressing this important topic,” said Nathan Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, in a recent World Council of Churches release. Hosler was a participant in a WCC-organized ecumenical delegation that attended the World Conference on Statelessness and Inclusion on June 26-28 in the Hague, the Netherlands. “More than 290 stateless activists, academics, non-government organizations, UN officials, artists, government officials, and journalists from across the world met to critically assess and formulate responses to statelessness in the world today,” the WCC reported. Prior to the conference, the delegation met with “Stad en Kerk,” an organization of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, and learned about the “Church Asylum Project.” This 96 day round-the-clock prayer service extended from fall 2018 to January 2019 to prevent an Armenian family from being deported from the Netherlands. Read the full WCC release at .

— Hosler also is one of numerous American faith leaders who have signed a joint letter opposing war with Iran. He signed the letter as director of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy for the Church of the Brethren. With an opening scripture citation of Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” the letter said, in part: “Jesus’ words, ‘children of God,’ are directed not to those who merely proclaim their opposition to violence and war, but to those who seek better, life-saving ways to resolve inevitable human conflicts. A United States war with Iran would be an unmitigated disaster, morally and religiously indefensible; US faith leaders must be among the first to rise up, say ‘No!’–and call for better, more effective, and life-saving ways forward. Given the escalation of confrontation between the United States and Iran, it is time for leaders from our faith communities to point to more effective ways to transform conflict and to speak strongly against military action that could have enormous human and financial costs, and which could easily and broadly escalate.” The full text of the letter with names and titles of those who have signed it, along with an option for visitors to the site to add their signatures, is at .

— Salkum (Wash.) Church of the Brethren has closed the doors of its church building after recently holding a final worship service there. “The remnant of Brethren have chosen to continue worshiping monthly,” reports Pacific Northwest District executive Colleen Michael. “Their ministry of providing safe space for the community based pre-school will continue as will the outreach ministries to provide much needed food and clothing. Pastor George Page has served faithfully for many years and intends to continue as needed for the monthly services.” The district has assumed ownership of the property and district leaders will be working with former congregational leaders to discuss the future of the property. Former pastor David McKellip remembered the congregation in a Facebook post about the closing, noting that the church “has been a leading church in the area.” His post noted the church’s ministry to the community including hosting the SOMMA Food Bank, God’s Helping Hand Food Closet, and the community pre-school. He wrote: “Congratulations and best wishes to the congregation for a long history of ‘Continuing the work of Jesus, Peacefully, Simply, Together’ in that community. It has been an outstanding run of faith service and care.”

— Marilla (Mich.) Church of the Brethren is celebrating its centennial, reports the “News Advocate” in Manistee, Mich. Events celebrating the church’s 100 years take place Aug. 10-11. The article, which quotes church member Cindy Asiala, says the “Little Church on the Hill” as it’s affectionately known, on Aug. 10 will host an open house at 3 p.m. followed by a “church favorite” noodle and chicken dinner at 6 p.m. and a sing-along of gospel hymns at 7:30 p.m. On Aug. 11, breakfast will be served at 9:30 a.m. followed by a special service. The church’s anniversary will be commemorated by the Arts and Culture Alliance (ACA) of Manistee County with the commissioning of a quilt and the designatit as a stop along the Manistee County Quilt Trail. The church was originally founded in 1897 as First Baptist Church of Marilla, and in 1919 was purchased and organized as Marilla Church of the Brethren. Find the news article at .

— “Growing Together” is the title of an article by Warrensburg (Mo.) Church of the Brethren delegate to Annual Conference, Barbara Siney, in the “Daily Star Journal” reviewing the compelling vision process. “At a time when many Christian believers are at odds with one another, confrontation is sometimes the first approach in meeting disagreements. This year, the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren convened in Greensboro, North Carolina, to worship, pray and fellowship together. And we met with the primary purpose to grow together toward a ‘Compelling Vision,’” she wrote, in part. Find the article at .

— A benefit festival “comes full circle for a couple in the Hollidaysburg congregation,” reports Middle Pennsylvania District. Rockin’ the Lot (RTL) has been a way that Hollidaysburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren reaches out from its large parking area on Route 36 with a summer music festival has raised funds for various causes over the years. Reports the district: “This time organizers quickly chose the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library…because many on the team knew of a library fundraising effort recently launched by a couple in the congregation, Keith and Janet Eldred. The Eldred family, including sons Ethan and Emmett, helped produce RTL during its first five years. Then Keith and Janet stepped aside from RTL (and some other activities in their lives) for a challenging reason: Janet’s diagnosis of early-stage dementia. Eventually, their response became a moonshot goal to raise $1 million for the library by making Keith’s debut novel a bestseller while Janet could still enjoy the effort and contribute.” The project called “This is RED” will be discussed at the church on July 24 at 7 p.m. Advance copies of Keith Eldred’s novel “Rubrum” will be displayed. Find out more at .

— Kimberly Koczan-Flory of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren was one of the organizers of an event in downtown Fort Wayne, Ind., on the evening of July 12. It was one of the “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Inhumane Detention Camps” that took place in many communities across the country. She told the “Journal Gazette” that the event was organized by residents who share a concern that children and families seeking asylum are not being treated well by US authorities. “The welfare of children is vitally important to us, and we know that trauma is being inflicted, and that trauma affects children not only now but for a lifetime,” she said. Beacon Heights pastor Brian Flory was one of the speakers at the event. Find the article at .

Aug. 23-34 come enjoy... music
4th annual “Sing Me High” festival

— The Brethren and Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, Va., is one of the hosts of the 4th annual “Sing Me High” festival celebrating music and faith in the Shenandoah Valley. The festival is held Aug. 23-24 at 1001 Garbers Church Road in Harrisonburg. In the 2019 line up are Friends with the Weather, Mike Stern and Louise Brodie, the Walking Roots Band, Ryan and Friends, Honeytown, Good Company, the Clymer Kurtz Band, and more. Go to the festival website at for information about tickets, a songwriter contest, camping options, food, and more. 

— The Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) has announced its General Meeting on Sept. 14 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Trinity Church of the Brethren near Blountville, Tenn. “Everyone welcome,” said the flier for the event that includes messages by Craig Alan Myers and Roy McVey, a report on the 2019 Annual Conference, confirmation of committee members, the BRF chairman’s report, and a time for open discussion. Lunch is provided by the host church.

— Church World Service (CWS) is inviting Christians to join in a campaign of sanctuary churches for immigrants, identified by the hashtag #SacredResistance. The Church of the Brethren is a member denomination of Church World Service, and CWS is an important, long-standing partner of Brethren Disaster Ministries and the sponsoring organization for the annual CROP Hunger Walks in which many Church of the Brethren congregations participate. “As people of faith, we have a moral calling to stand with our undocumented siblings in times of fear and turmoil,” said the CWS invitation. “The Sanctuary Movement has had broad support for years among faith communities, but now, we’re calling on congregations to resist raids by opening their houses of worship publicly, and join the call for #SacredResistance: a public list where local immigrants rights leaders and community members in need can find safe spaces in case of raids and deportations.” The campaign has four goals: continue to build a network of houses of worship that are safe spaces; accompany undocumented community members and provide assistance such as shelter, food, clothing, legal service, and family reunification when possible; complement local organizing efforts around rapid response; and “make a profound prophetic faith statement and publicly resist raids and deportations.” Find out more at .

— Citing Zechariah 7:9-10, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another,” the National Council of Churches (NCC) has issued a statement calling the US government not to carry out threatened deportation raids this Sunday. “Indeed, these raids may very well take place while millions of Christians are attending Sunday services,” said the statement, in part. “The raids have struck fear and dread into the hearts of countless people who are living peaceful and productive lives in our nation…. People of faith cannot turn a blind eye this weekend and we must rely upon the strength of God, revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to accept the freedom and power to resist evil, injustice, and oppression.” Find the full statement at .

— Harold Martin is being recognized by the Brethren Revival Fellowship for his 40 years of service as editor of the “BRF Witness” newsletter. At age 89, “his health now prevents him from an active role in writing, editing, and speaking,” said the most recent edition. Martin and his wife, Priscilla, have moved to an assisted living facility in Ephrata, Pa. The BRF requests cards of thanks and encouragement to be sent to the Martins. Contact current “BRF Witness” editor J. Eric Brubaker at .

— Stephen L. Longenecker, the Edwin L. Turner Distinguished Professor of History at Bridgewater (Va.) College, has received the 2019 Nelson R. Burr Prize given by the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church. He is being honored for his article titled “Randolph H. McKim: Lost Cause Conservative, Episcopal Liberal,” published in the Sept. 2018 issue of “Anglican and Episcopal History.” In a release about the award, the historical society notes that “this article is part of a larger study that compares the faith and politics of former Confederate chaplains after the Civil War. ‘Randolph McKim is one of those persons who makes history come alive,’ Longenecker noted, ‘and I had easy material to work with.’ His most recent book is ‘Gettysburg Religion: Refinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North.’”

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