Newsline for May 17, 2019

Bee on flower with text from Proverbs 3
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
     by understanding he established the heavens;
     by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
     and the clouds drop down the dew.
My child, do not let these escape 
     from your sight…” (Proverbs 3:19-21a).


1) Church of the Brethren renews memorandum of understanding with Selective Service
2) Ministerial ethics training uses newly commissioned workbook
3) Christian Citizenship Seminar seeks creative solutions to violent conflict
4) Leadership Team clarifies congregational withdrawal process to districts
5) Bethany Seminary conference explores intersection of faith and science
6) Looking at life through the lenses of faith and science


7) Brethren Press highlights new resources for congregations
8) Brethren Life & Thought offers digital access
9) Brethren bits: CWS Ration Challenge, remembering Dr. Paul Petcher and Jean Vanier, personnel, job opening, invitation to Heifer’s 75th anniversary celebration in Puerto Rico, 2020 Clergywomen’s Retreat, Brethren Voices to begin broadcasting again in June, more

“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture. The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide…. It is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global. Through ‘transformative change,’ nature can still be conserved, restored, and used sustainably–this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic, and social factors, including paradigms, goals, and values.”

— IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson. “Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’” is the title of a landmark report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the summary of which was approved at the 7th session of the IPBES Plenary on April 29-May 4 in Paris. A release about the report is at .
     For resources from the Brethren Creation Care Network go to .

1) Church of the Brethren renews memorandum of understanding with Selective Service

Conscientious objector checklist
Conscientious objector checklist, from the curriculum Call of Conscience published by the Church of the Brethren at .

The Church of the Brethren has renewed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Selective Service System, the federal department responsible for the nation’s preparation for a military draft and draft registration. Selective Service also has worked with the historic peace churches to plan for alternative service for conscientious objectors in the event of a draft.

The denomination’s last MOU with Selective Service was signed by Stan Noffsinger as general secretary of the Church of the Brethren in 2010. The renewed MOU was signed by general secretary David A. Steele and Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer on March 4.

The Church of the Brethren has had a long-standing agreement with Selective Service dating back to the early 1940s, when Civilian Public Service was formed as a result of work by leaders and staff of the historic peace churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers). In the decades since, Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) has been recognized as an agency through which conscientious objectors may do alternative service in the event of a draft.

Selective Service defines two types of conscientious objector: individuals who are not opposed to serving in noncombatant roles with the military, such as medic; and individuals who by reason of conscience are completely opposed to the military and need alternative programs that make a “meaningful contribution to the maintenance of the national health, safety, and interests.” Examples of alternative service have included jobs in conservation, education, health care, and caring for the very young or very old.

In the event of a military draft, conscientious objectors would make a claim for such classification, likely to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Membership in the Church of the Brethren would not guarantee classification as a conscientious objector; church members would need to provide written documentation demonstrating an objection to serving in the military, how they arrived at that belief, and how that belief has had an influence on their life.

“It is the belief of the Church of the Brethren that by signing this MOU with Selective Service and by maintaining the Brethren Volunteer Service program, the Church of the Brethren demonstrates that it is committed to its historical position as a peace church,” said Wittmeyer. “While membership in the church does not guarantee a drafted individual would qualify for alternative service, we do believe it makes a strong case to demonstrate one’s belief in nonresistance.”

The denominational staff recommend that, at the time of registering with the Selective Service, young men should also file a “statement of conscience” with the Church of the Brethren to be kept in case it is required in the future.

For the “Call of Conscience” curriculum of resources about conscientious objection including instructions for writing and filing a statement, go to .

2) Ministerial ethics training uses newly commissioned workbook

Ministry ethics trainers received orientation at the General Offices
Ministry ethics trainers received orientation at the General Offices to lead sessions in districts across the denomination. This is part of the every-five-year process of renewing ministerial credentialing, led by the Office of Ministry. Shown here (from left) are trainers Janet Ober Lambert, director of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership; Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of the Office of Ministry; Jim Benedict, author of the new workbook titled “Ethics for the Set-Apart Minister”; Lois Grove; Dan Poole, of the Bethany Seminary faculty; Joe Detrick; Jim Eikenberry; Ilexene Alphonse, who will be leading training in Haitian Kreyol; and Ramón Torres, who will be leading training in Spanish. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

A newly commissioned ministerial ethics workbook is being featured during the current renewal cycle. Every five years ordained and commissioned ministers in the Church of the Brethren are required to take ministerial ethics advanced level training in order to renew their credentialing. Licensed ministers and those new to the denomination are required to take the basic level of training as part of the credentialing process. The ministerial ethics training is the responsibility of the Office of Ministry, working with district leadership and ministry commissions.

At the invitation of the Office of Ministry, retired pastor Jim Benedict has written the new workbook titled “Ethics for the Set-Apart Minister,” with versions for both basic and advanced levels of training. He brings expertise in the field of medical ethics and decades serving in pastoral ministry.

An orientation session for trainers using the new materials took place recently at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., in preparation for the credentialing renewal process currently underway in the districts. Nine leaders from six districts have received orientation to serve as facilitators and will lead training sessions during the process that is to be completed by the end of 2020. 

In addition to English, the workbook is available in Spanish, with sessions led by Ramón Torres of Reading, Pa.; and in Haitian Kreyol, with sessions led by Ilexene Alphonse of Miami, Fla. Other trained facilitators include Joe Detrick, Lois Grove, Dave Kerkove, Janet Ober Lambert, Dan Poole, and Jim Eikenberry.

Also trained as a facilitator, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of the Office of Ministry, expressed her appreciation for the participation of this team of trainers and the partnership with the districts.

3) Christian Citizenship Seminar seeks creative solutions to violent conflict

Christian Citizenship Seminar 2019
Christian Citizenship Seminar 2019

By Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred

The Christian Citizenship Seminar gathered 47 high school youth and advisors from Church of the Brethren congregations throughout the US, beginning on April 27 in New York City and ending in Washington, D.C., on May 2, focused on the theme “Creative Solutions to Violent Conflict Worldwide.” The event was led by five Church of the Brethren staff from the Youth and Young Adult Ministry and the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy.

Throughout the week, participants learned about how churches, governments, and non-governmental organizations can pro-actively build peace and defuse potential violence without resorting to military force. In between sessions about the military budget, unarmed civilian protection, and advocacy, participants visited the United Nations, explored New York City, and met with their members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Youth lobbied their senators and representatives to support funding for unarmed civilian protection, a strategy for preventing violence by providing a protective, nonviolent presence to observe and accompany civilians living amid conflict. They also shared how their background as members of a historic peace church informed their desire to see less militarism and more efforts to build peace in US foreign policy. In many offices, preventing violence without the use of military force was a novel but welcome concept, and participants were pleasantly surprised that staff and legislators from varying parties and perspectives received their ideas and their presence with curiosity and enthusiasm.

For many of the participants, who hailed from 14 congregations in 12 states, this was their first time lobbying their members of Congress. Most walked away encouraged to continue engaging in advocacy for peace and other issues that inspire them. Christian Citizenship Seminar, which occurs every spring except for years when National Youth Conference is held, exists for just such a purpose: to empower and inspire Church of the Brethren youth to see and speak on issues of peace and justice through the lens of their faith.

— Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred is serving as the Youth and Young Adult Ministry assistant through Brethren Volunteer Service.

4) Leadership Team clarifies congregational withdrawal process to districts

The Leadership Team of the Church of the Brethren has provided district executives with a congregational withdrawal process. This “best practices” document was developed in consultation with the Council of District Executives in keeping with current polity. It was prepared for district leaders who are working with congregations that may be considering withdrawing from the denomination.

The Leadership Team does not intend to encourage any congregation to withdraw. Indeed, it is the Leadership Team’s fervent prayer that congregations will discover God’s compelling vision to continue our ministries together. If, however, withdrawal becomes necessary, this document gives guidance for processing withdrawal in accordance with current polity.

The Leadership Team of the denomination includes the Annual Conference officers—moderator Donita Keister, moderator-elect Paul Mundey, and secretary James Beckwith—along with general secretary David Steele and district executive Cindy Sanders, who represents the Council of District Executives.

The “Congregational Withdrawal Process” document does not change Church of the Brethren polity related to property ownership. The intent of the document is to encourage intentional conversations between district leadership and congregations through a defined process, to pull together the denominational polity regarding church property, and to give guidance to ministerial and congregational leadership.

The Leadership Team urges a reconciling spirit in all congregational withdrawal conversations. The document also asks districts to be consistent with all aspects of Church of the Brethren polity as they work with congregations and ministers considering withdrawal, fostering a respectful spirit toward all parties and giving serious attention and care to those church members who choose to remain a part of the Church of the Brethren.

For more information, please contact your district executive.

5) Bethany Seminary conference explores intersection of faith and science

Russell Haitch moderates a faculty panel
Russell Haitch moderates a faculty panel. Photo courtesy of Bethany Seminary

By Jenny Williams

Faith, science, and encouragement to consider them in tandem were the focus at Bethany Theological Seminary’s Look at Life conference, held April 25-27. More than 100 guests and presenters gathered at the seminary to receive information and share viewpoints in a space for open dialogue.

Scientific scholarship and personal faith perspectives were offered by five professors from the fields of biology, mathematics, philosophy, archaeology, theology, physics, and astronomy. Straightforward presentations on current scientific thinking and findings generated discussion among participants. Questions posed to the speakers were followed by chances to process topics in more depth through small group discussion.

Lectures on the origin of life in the universe–perhaps not limited to Earth–were followed by sessions describing the relationships among life forms, methods of archeological dating, and the field of genome editing. Renowned Old Testament scholar and author John Walton from Wheaton College presented the final lectures on an understanding of creation that incorporates the Genesis account and the theory of evolution. A panel discussion, including Steve Schweitzer, academic dean at Bethany, and Nancy Bowen, professor of Old Testament at Earlham School of Religion, provided a response to these concepts.

Russell Haitch, professor of theology and human science at Bethany, coordinated the event. “We wanted to do a conference that would, yes, deal with evolution but also go beyond the tired talking points and acrimony. I asked myself: How can we bring a biblical understanding and Christian frame of mind to questions of origins? So, let’s look at the start of the universe and the start of humanity but also at human development. There are new reproductive technologies. There are new discoveries in epigenetics–ways that children inherit traits not just from DNA…. These areas concern people in ministry.”

The conference was part of a larger initiative at Bethany entitled “Binocular Vision: Looking at Life through the Eyes of Faith and Science.” In recent weeks, three lunches open to the public were held at the seminary to present information on current social challenges. Richmond residents in ministry and social service were joined by Bethany alumni, students, and employees to learn about the causes and effective treatments of childhood stress and various forms of addiction. More such events are planned for the coming fall. Haitch is joined by Nate Inglis, assistant professor of theological studies at Bethany, in developing this initiative.

“Binocular Vision” is being funded by a grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) through its “Science for Seminaries” program. The goal of this program is to support seminaries as they integrate science into theological education and demonstrate its relevance to the life of religious communities. Grant recipients commit to incorporating scientific topics and themes into their core curricula and to hold at least one campus-wide event.

“Science for Seminaries” project was made possible through the support of AAAS and a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science ( family of journals. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The nonprofit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more.

— Jenny Williams is director of communications for Bethany Theological Seminary.

6) Looking at life through the lenses of faith and science

A small group discussion led by Nate Inglis
A small group discussion led by Nate Inglis. Photo courtesy of Bethany Seminary

By Frank Ramirez

“Look at Life: A Conference Where Faith Meets Science” started with a big bang. No, not the Big Bang, although that came up in discussion over the course of the three-day event April 25-27 at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. Isaac Wilhelm, a graduate student at Rutgers University, spoke on “The Big Bang, Fine-Tuning, and the Existence of God,” with an overwhelming energy and enthusiasm that helped dissipate all the travel weariness of the more than 100 participants.

Wilhelm’s topic concerned “a prominent contemporary argument for the existence of God.” If Theism is a belief that someone designed the fundamental features of the universe, and atheism is an understanding that no one designed the fundamental features of the universe, and given that the universe has life, physicists have discussed what numerical value can be assigned to the fact that the universe is “fine-tuned for life.” One question is whether that proves or disproves the existence of God.

Nate Inglis, Bethany’s assistant professor of theological studies and one of the planners of the event, noted that “we’ve lost our ability to talk to each other” with regard to faith and science. But that had not always been the case. Ingles pointed to three great Christians who had no trouble integrating science and faith: Anselm of Canterbury, who believed that faith sought understanding; Ignatius of Loyola, who “found God in all things, he read God’s book of nature and book of scripture”; and Francis of Assisi, who “saw God’s footprints in all of creation, which he considered the self-revealed word of God.”

Wes Tobin, a scientist and professor at Indiana University-East, was enthusiastic about the possibility of life not only elsewhere in the cosmos but even possibly in our own solar system. He cautioned against finding patterns and interpreting data according to what we want to believe, however, instead of what actually exists.

Russell Haitch, professor of theology and human science at Bethany who oversaw coordination of the conference, spoke on “Putting Faith and Science Back Together Again.” He said that while 59 percent of American adults say there is a conflict between faith and science, for most people this causes no personal distress. But there is “a long history of science and faith working together in Western Christianity. How did they get pulled apart and how might we put them back together?” Haitch asked.

Haitch said that part of the blame for the conflict between science and faith goes to what he called “the Protestant experiment,” which took the mystery out of the service of communion, separating the physical and spiritual worlds. Blame also goes to the scientific community’s success, leading many to think that “the physical world is the most real, and maybe the only reality.” The conflict finds its clearest expression in the Declaration of Independence, according to Haitch, saying “God has given all people inalienable rights, but we hold these truths to be self-evident.” As a solution, he said, “I have proposed that the pattern of Jesus…provides a model for uniting faith and science. Union without confusion.” In both realms of science and faith, he said there is space for both to operate.

Katherine Miller-Wolf, professor of anthropology at Indiana University-East, with a specialty in Mayan history, gave a detailed look at various methods used to date historical and geological events in “From Tree Rings to Microwaves: How Scientists Date Stuff.” It is possible through a variety of methods, from counting tree rings to examining the decorations on tombstones, to obtain a fairly accurate idea of just when certain events occurred, she asserted.

Craig Story, professor of biology at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., sprinkled scriptures throughout his presentation on “Life, Biologically Speaking: A Brief History with Updates.” “DNA is a form of time machine,” he said. “Most of us have about 800 people out there who are third cousins or closer.”

Story emphasized that much of the earliest work on genetics was tainted by the virulent racism of its proponents, who tended to put humanity on the top of creation, especially those branches of humanity that looked like them. Bad science made for in bad results, including unethical and immoral experiments on human beings under the guise of “eugenics.” Modern genetics notes that humanity is part of a complicated spectrum of life that is interrelated and dependent on those relationships. “The Bible is not very specific about the scientific origins of things,” Story said, adding that “God is working on all this at a very deep level. Science has truths. Scripture has truths. Both are true.”

Because of another presenter’s family crisis, Story also was called on to examine some of the exciting–and possibly frightening–implications of gene splicing in a presentation titled “The Perfect Human? The Promises and Perils of Human Genome Editing.” Is it possible for genome editing to alleviate, cure, or even eliminate several debilitating illnesses, such as cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, or Sickle Cell Anemia? The answer is yes, but there are real ethical questions that have to be resolved.

A recent international conference insisted that in order to retain accountability and ethical behavior, “rogue” germline therapies in humans have to be discouraged, transparency in research must be encouraged, interdisciplinary forums for discussion should be created before proceeding with experiments, and policy should be formulated upon the recommendations of a globally representative group. This is necessary because, in the words of one scientist, “The unthinkable has become conceivable.” Yet, Story said, one scientist in China already has violated the conventions against rogue therapies and transparency in research by splicing genes in infants to inhibit the HIV virus–with no accountability, no publication, and no advance notification. While most would agree that it is important to alleviate human suffering, the long-term consequences of some of these actions is unknown.

Perhaps the most anticipated presentation came from John H Walton, professor at Wheaton (Ill.)  College and a prolific author whose lecture, “Lost Worlds: Genesis 1-2,” focused on the cultural assumptions behind the interpretation of the creation story in the Bible. He admitted, “There are lots of people who think there is a serious war going on between the Bible and science. You hear that you’ve got to make a choice. You can have one or the other. I’d like to propose that’s not the only way to look at these things.” Walton continued by noting that faithful interpretation of scripture calls for accountability. “The Bible has authority that I have to submit to. That means that I’m accountable.” Approaching the Bible, readers are accountable to “the truth claims of scripture.”

Walton reminded his audience that the Ancient Near East and contemporary 21st century Americans make very different assumptions about the world. He used the analogy of the difference between a house and a home to establish the cultural assumptions of Genesis. Some people are very concerned about how to put building materials together to build a house, while others are more concerned about how to make a building home-like. The Hebrew word “bara,” translated as “create,” is more about making a home than constructing a house, he said. It is used more than 50 times in the Hebrew Bible and it is always about bringing order to things. Walton said the word “refers to a divine activity. In scripture God creates, or brings order, to material objects like Jerusalem, but also to grammatical objects like purity.”

With this understanding, when the Bible says the earth was formless and empty the assumption is that the world was “not lacking matter, but order.” The creation story was about making a home, not building a house, he asserted, noting that the seven days of creation conform to the seven days necessary to dedicate the temple as holy space. The creation narrative in the first chapter of Genesis was about consecrating the whole earth as God’s home, meaning all of creation is God’s holy space.

Throughout the conference, participants met in small groups to process what they had learned and discuss issues they wished to explore further. Despite the controversial nature of the subject, and the wide variety of religious backgrounds and beliefs, respectful listening was the norm throughout.

— Frank Ramirez pastors Union Center Church of the Brethren in Nappanee, Ind.

7) Brethren Press highlights new resources for congregations

New resources of note from Brethren Press include new quarterly materials from the Shine curriculum, which is jointly produced by Brethren Press and MennoMedia; new quarterly materials for A Guide for Biblical Studies; new Covenant Bible Studies titles; a Spanish-language version of “Another Way of Believing” by Dale W. Brown titled “Otra Manera de Creer”; Living Word Bulletins for the next church year; and the Advent devotional for 2019 titled “Ready” by Frank Ramirez.


“Living in the Land” is the summer theme for this Christian education curriculum for preschool through junior youth. “Stories of God’s People” is the theme for the fall. Materials are available for early childhood, primary, middler, junior youth, and multiage classes. For each class level, the curriculum offers a teacher book, a student leaflet or magazine, a packet of additional classroom resources such as posters and games, a music songbook and CD, and “Shine On: A Story Bible” available in both English and Spanish. Prices vary, call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712 for more information.

A Guide for Biblical Studies

This quarterly study guide written from a Church of the Brethren perspective is for adult Sunday school classes and small groups. Order one copy for each participant. Cost is $6.95 or $9.95 for large print.

The fall Guide is titled “Responding to God’s Faithfulness” written by Debbie Eisenbise. This coming winter, Guide will focus on “Honoring God” with author Anna Lisa Gross. In spring 2020, George Bowers is the author of the Guide quarter on “Justice and the Prophets.” Next summer 2020, “Many Faces of Wisdom” is the quarter topic, written by Paul Stutzman.

Covenant Bible Studies

Brethren Press has three newly published or soon-to-be-available books in the Covenant Bible Studies series. The series is for use by small group adult Bible study gatherings but also is suitable for individual use. Cost per copy is $10.95.

“Justice in the Hebrew Bible” by David Leiter studies the broad message of God’s justice and righteousness in the Old Testament. This study serves as an overview by reviewing key passages from the all the major sections, from historical narrative and legal texts to prophecy, proverbs, and psalms.

“Galatians” by David Shumate will be available for this fall. The study focuses on Galatians as Paul’s spirited defense of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone, a New Testament letter addressing the tension between legalism and license, between law and gospel, and between the
works of the flesh and the gifts of the spirit.

“God in the Psalms” by Chris Bucher will be available for next spring 2020. The Psalms, despite their variety of subjects and genres, all express the view that God is a God of steadfast love. This study traces the theme of God’s steadfast love through hymns, laments, songs of trust, and
thanksgiving psalms.

Otra Manera de Creer

This new Spanish-language version of Dale Brown’s classic book, “Another Way of Believing: A Brethren Theology” offers to Spanish speakers an in-depth and thought provoking study of the various ways Brethren “do theology” by their everyday living. This is a useful book for both
the academic and the lay reader. Cost is $18.95.

Living Word Bulletins

The Church of the Brethren’s bulletin series features texts and images chosen by Brethren, for Brethren. The series includes bulletins for 52 Sunday services plus love feast and Christmas Eve/Day and is shipped quarterly. The series has been enhancing the worship of Brethren congregations for over 50 years with prices that save churches both time and money. Call
Brethren Press at 800-441-3712 to start a subscription. Cost is $4.95 for 50 or $3.15 for 25. Bulletin size is 8 1/2 by 11 inch.

Advent devotional

Written by some of the finest authors in the Church of the Brethren, these pocket-sized devotionals are published each Lent and Advent season and are suitable for congregations to provide to their members, to give to guests and visitors, or for individual use. Readers receive over 12 weeks of daily meditations with scripture and prayer to prepare them for the season. Frank Ramirez is the author of the next devotional in the series, titled “Ready” for Advent 2019. Cost is $4 or $7.95 for large print.

For more information and to order these materials online go to . To make telephone orders call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712.

8) Brethren Life & Thought offers digital access

By Karen Garrett

In the Brethren Journal Association (BJA) annual report to the spring 2019 meeting of the Bethany Theological Seminary board of trustees, association president Jim Grossnickle-Batterton reported the following:

“‘Brethren Life & Thought’ continues to offer multiple platforms for conversation in the furtherance of our mission to ‘nurture the life and mind within the Church of the Brethren.’ The BJA remains committed to facilitating these conversations by seeking new ways to reach interested readers. To that end, BJA has committed itself to offering ‘Brethren Life & Thought’ in a digital format. One of our major tasks this year will be working out the logistical details of this project.”

The intention is to begin offering subscriptions to a digital format “Brethren Life & Thought” beginning with Vol 64.1 (Spring/Summer 2019). In addition the journal will continue to publish in print format version for the foreseeable future. It is currently behind in its publication schedule but by the end of the calendar year, Vol 64.1 should be available in both print and digital format. Watch for future announcements about the details of this new venture. The subscription page on the Bethany website has been updated to reflect the digital subscription costs.

As a step in the digital direction, the journal announces that beginning with Vol 63.1 (Spring/Summer 2018) one article per issue will be available to read online or download at . For this premier launch we share Robert Johansen’s article “How the Peace of Christ Confronts the Wars of the World” as a free download.

The “Brethren Life & Thought” logo accompanying this article might not look familiar except to those who use our social media. “Brethren Life & Thought is on Facebook and has a blog at .

— Karen Garrett is office manager for “Brethren Life & Thought.”

9) Brethren bits

— Remembrance: Dr. Paul Petcher, former medical mission worker in Nigeria, passed away on Sunday, May 12, at the age of 96. He was a medical missionary with the Church of the Brethren mission in Nigeria from 1951-1960, serving in both Garkida and Lassa. Memorial services include visitation on Saturday, May 18, from 5-8 p.m. at Lathan Funeral Home in Chatom, Ala., and a memorial service on Sunday, May 19, at 2 p.m. at Cedar Creek Church of the Brethren in Citronelle, Ala. Memorial gifts are received to the Nigeria Crisis Fund. The full obituary is available at

— Remembrance: Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities, died of cancer in Paris at age 90 on May 7. He was the founder of L’Arche, a federation of 154 communities for adults with learning disabilities in 38 countries on 5 continents. L’Arche communities have been project sites for many Brethren Volunteer Service workers over the years. In Europe, 32 BVSers have served at L’Arche communities in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Germany since 1997, with one BVS volunteer serving in a L’Arche community in France in the early 1980s, reports Kristin Flory of the Brethren Service Europe office. At least one BVS volunteer has served at a L’Arche community in the United States as well. For the orientation of new volunteers, BVS staff use a video clip of “Henri Nouwen speaking about how Jean Vanier changed his entire outlook on his life’s purpose when Vanier invited Nouwen to leave his academic life and focus his life on ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’ by joining the first L’Arche Community in Trosly, France, and eventually moving to the Daybreak L’Arche Community in Toronto, Canada,” reports BVS director Emily Tyler. “In the clip that we use, Nouwen says that the three biggest things he had learned were 1. Being is more important that doing, 2. The heart is more important than the mind, and 3. Doing things together is more important that doing things alone. All three of these lessons are important for BVSers serving anywhere–important lessons coming from L’Arche for all of us.” In an obituary shared by the World Council of Churches (WCC), Vanier is remembered for having chosen relationships with intellectually disabled people ahead of privilege. He was a “fervent champion of the developmentally disabled, a proponent of peace and humane society,” the remembrance said.

CWS ration challenge

Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service are encouraging Brethren to consider taking up the “Ration Challenge” from Church World Service (CWS), to experience what life is like as a refugee in today’s world. The challenge takes place from June 16-23, and may be a suitable activity for Sunday school classes and youth groups, as well as concerned individuals. “Survive on the same rations as a Syrian refugee during Refugee Week, get sponsored, and show refugees we’re with them, not against them.” Go to .

— The Church of the Brethren’s information technology department has announced two promotions:
     Francie Coale has been named director of information technology. Previously she was director of information technology at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., and now will oversee the IT department at both the Brethren Service Center and the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., while also continuing as director of buildings and grounds at the Brethren Service Center.
     Fabiola Fernandez began May 13 as manager of IT at the General Offices, where she has been a system specialist.

— Everett Teetor has tendered his resignation effective June 14 as accounting assistant for Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT). He was hired by BBT on July 23, 2018. Previously he had served as an intern in the finance department from June 5, 2017, until his hire date. He is a member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill.

— Zoe Vorndran will begin June 24 as the 2019-2020 intern in the Brethren Historical Library and Archives at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. She graduates from Manchester (Ind.) University on May 18 with a bachelor of arts degree in English and history. While a student, she worked as archives assistant and desk worker for the Funderburg Library. She is a member of Lincolnshire Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind.

— Tim Courtright will begin July 15 as executive director of Camp Swatara near Bethel, Pa. He has been serving at Kenbrook Bible Camp north of Lebanon, Pa., as executive director. Courtright grew up in central Ohio where he learned to love camping from early experiences with the Boy Scouts and church camp. He has been involved in camping as a participant, volunteer, and consultant for 34 years.
     Camp Swatara has hired Allison Mattern of Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren as Family Camping Center manager following the resignation of Rick and Sarah Balmer. Mattern grew up in Campbelltown, Pa., and attended Slippery Rock University where she earned a degree in Environmental Science and pursued course work related to park and campground interpretation–in which she holds certifications.

— The Church of the Brethren seeks a coordinator of short-term service, a full-time salaried position that will provide oversight and administration of short-term service experiences and placements including the Workcamp Ministry, and will support recruitment of volunteers for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). Required skills and knowledge include grounding in Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and practices; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision of the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren; interpersonal skills and ability to take initiative without regular supervision; attention to detail; organizational skills; communication skills; administrative and management skills; ability in providing faith/spiritual leadership in group settings; recruitment experience in a college or equivalent volunteer service setting preferred; understanding of managing a budget required, with experience of managing a budget preferred; willingness to travel extensively; ability to work well in a team office setting; flexibility with evolving program needs. Experience required includes leading workcamps or mission trips; working with youth; word processing, database, and spreadsheet software; recruitment and assessment of individuals. Previous BVS experience helpful but not required. A bachelor’s degree is expected, a master’s degree or equivalent work experience is helpful but not required. This position is based at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Qualified candidates are invited to send a resume to or to the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Avenue, Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Heifer 75th anniversary

— Save the date! Global Mission and Service invites Brethren to a celebration of the 75th anniversary of Heifer International, commemorating its roots in the Church of the Brethren and its historic ties to the community and hospital of Castañer, Puerto Rico. Brethren are invited to join in the following itinerary: Friday, Oct. 4, gather in San Juan; Saturday, Oct. 5, spend the day in Castañer to attend the celebration and tour the hospital; Sunday, Oct. 6, worship with area congregations of the Church of the Brethren, return to San Juan, and travel home. Participants are responsible for their own expenses. Global Mission and Service is glad to assist in coordinating flight and hotel bookings and will arrange transportation for Saturday’s activities. Contact Kendra Harbeck at or 847-429-4388.

— The Office of Ministry is continuing to plan for the 2020 Clergywomen’s Retreat to be held Jan. 6-9, 2020, in Scottsdale, Ariz. This retreat is open to all commissioned, licensed, and ordained women in the Church of the Brethren. Presenter Mandy Smith is lead pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio; a regular contributor to “Christianity Today”; author of “The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry”; and director of Missio Alliance’s “She Leads” summit. Estimated cost is $325 for double occupancy and $440 for single occupancy. Find a “Save the Date” brochure at . Registration opens later this summer.

— A diverse group of more than 100 organizations, including the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, has sent a letter to Congress opposing an administration proposal that would significantly weaken regulation and oversight of firearms exports. It would transfer controls of exports of semi-automatic firearms and ammunition from the US Munitions List under the authority of the Department of State to the less-stringent controls of the Department of Commerce. Those signing the letter included religious organizations representing 26 religious denominations, communities, and organizations; national and state gun violence prevention organizations representing 14 states; and human rights, education, arms control, peace, and domestic violence prevention organizations. The groups warn that the transfer to the Commerce Department of export controls for semiautomatic pistols, assault-style firearms, sniper rifles, and ammunition “will thwart congressional oversight and create new and unacceptable risks of exacerbating gun violence, human rights abuses, and armed conflict.” In addition, the proposal would transfer control of the technical information and blueprints for potentially undetectable 3D-printed guns, which could facilitate printing of 3D guns worldwide and make these weapons readily available to terrorist groups and other criminal elements. The letter also explains, “The Administration’s proposal guts Congress’ authority to provide oversight of firearms exports. Currently, Congress is notified of firearms sales authorized by the State Department valued at $1 million or more. No such notification requirements will exist if these weapons are transferred to Commerce control. In recent years, Congressional notification has been an important backstop, helping forestall firearms transfers to repressive forces, such as those in Turkey and the Philippines.” Pending legislation H.R. 1134 in the House and S. 459 in the Senate would prevent the transfer.

— Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is celebrating its 35th anniversary year and the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy is helping bring attention to a special campaign in which several donors have pledged to match every dollar donated up to $35,000, now through the organization’s June advocacy summit on the theme “Persistent Hope: 35 Years of CMEP.” “I think of a question I am often asked when speaking about CMEP’s work in Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East: How do you continue working for justice and peace, maintaining hope in the face of such hopelessness?” wrote Mae Elise Cannon, executive director. “The answer for me is easy: CMEP’s vibrant community of churches and individuals who have kept this vital organization at the forefront of the Christian call for justice and dignity for all people in the Middle East for 35 years. Find a new video about CMEP offering a snapshot of the organization’s work at

— The SERRV board of directors was hosted at the Church of the Brethren General Offices for a couple days of meetings beginning May 7. SERRV International is a fair trade organization that had its start as a Church of the Brethren program. The SERRV headquarters is located in Madison, Wis., and the organization continues to maintain a distribution center at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. For more information visit

“Brethren Voices” plans to be rebroadcasting again starting in June, with a special program. “Brethren Voices” is a project of Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren led by producer Ed Groff and host Brent Carlson. It is offered for congregations around the country to share on public access cable stations in their areas. The show also is posted on YouTube with more than 100 episodes of the show available, go to .

— The newest episode of Dunker Punks Podcast asks, does the Church really have room for everyone? “The Church of the Brethren is unique, they have certain values that are incredibly distinct [to the] church itself,” said an announcement. In this episode, Emmy, Evan, and Hannah explore the ideas of accepting people of differing faiths and beliefs while identifying with a similar culture. Listen at

— “McPherson College C.A.R.S. Motoring Festival celebrates 20 years of wheeled wonder” is the title of the “Auto Week” article about the annual celebration of the Auto Restoration program at the Church of the Brethren-related college in McPherson, Kan. The celebration took place the first weekend in May. “What did you major in as an undergraduate?” asks author Mark Vaughn in a tongue-in-cheek opening to the article. “Something practical and entirely reasonable that represented a good use of your parents’ money like…. Business? Psychology? Underwater Basket Weaving? Wouldn’t you rather have majored in Playing With Cars?” The Auto Restoration major started 43 years ago and became a full bachelor’s degree 16 years ago “thanks to help from Mercedes-Benz, which operates its own Classic Center for restorations, and thanks to scholarship money from collectors like Jay Leno and many others. The school also has a partnership with the Ferrari Club of America to provide scholarship support and internship opportunities.” McPherson is the only school to offer this four-year degree. It was 20 years ago that students in the program decided to start an annual car show. Find the article at .

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