Newsline for July 18, 2020

“As your life was precious today in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord” (1 Samuel 26:24a).

1) Mission and Ministry Board holds July 1 meeting via Zoom
2) Committee recommends small increase to minimum cash salary table for pastors in 2021
3) Nominations are sought for 2021 Annual Conference ballot
4) Global Mission creates Country Advisory Teams
5) Brethren Disaster Ministries celebrates Puerto Rico completion and new Ohio project, among updates
6) Bethany Seminary details reopening plans
7) EYN Majalisa holds election for leadership
8) A report on the work of Nigeria’s Disaster Ministry Team

9) Scott Kinnick resigns as district executive minister for Southeastern District

10) Webinar to explore Holy Spirit as ‘mover and shaker of ideas and actions’
11) Moderator’s Town Hall on ‘Faith, Science, and COVID-19: Part 2′ slated for Aug. 13

12) Death Row Support Project reflects on first federal executions in 17 years

13) Brethren bits: Racial justice resources, personnel, COVID-19 grants at work, “Inhabit 2020 at Home,” webinars, another district conference goes online, Bridgewater College announces test-optional admission, Christians advocate to keep Hagia Sophia as shared heritage site, more


Find our landing page of Church of the Brethren COVID-19 related resources and information at .

Find Church of the Brethren congregations offering online worship at .

A listing to recognize Brethren who are active in health care is at . To add a person to this listing, send an email with first name, county, and state to .


1) Mission and Ministry Board holds July 1 meeting via Zoom

Mission and Ministry Board chair Patrick Starkey leads the board in a Zoom meeting on July 1, 2020.

The Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren met via Zoom on July 1 for a summer meeting usually held onsite at Annual Conference. The meeting of the denominational board was chaired by Patrick Starkey assisted by chair-elect Carl Fike and general secretary David Steele. Starkey noted that the Zoom meeting was a very streamlined version of the usual summer meeting, attending only to the most critical board functions.

Main items of business included setting a budget parameter for core ministries in 2021, approving a revised budget for 2020, other financial matters, and consideration of a new strategic plan for the ministries overseen by the Mission and Ministry Board.

Budget and finances

The board set a budget parameter of $4,934,000 for core ministries in 2021, and approved revised 2020 budgets that reflected work by staff to review expenses as well as to reassess income projections for the remainder of this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has resulted in changes to the denomination’s financial situation, which has meant “staff needed a more dependable and realistic budget to work from,” said Starkey. Core ministries expenses were revised downward by almost $340,000 to a total of $4,629,150, and the income projection for core ministries was revised downward by almost $447,000 to $4,522,040, resulting in an anticipated core ministries deficit of ($107,110) for 2020.

In reporting on the denomination’s finances as of May, the board learned that 2020 has seen a significant shortfall in congregational giving (down $96,500 compared to last year). Individual giving has increased (up $4,800 from last year), but total giving to every fund of the denomination–including core ministries, the Emergency Disaster Fund that supports Brethren Disaster Ministries, and the Global Food Initiative–is down $283,000 compared to 2019. The “self-funded” ministries also have been negatively affected by the pandemic as Brethren Press, Annual Conference, and Material Resources all are showing deficit balances as of May.

The core ministries are considered crucial to the denomination’s program and include the General Secretary’s office, Global Mission and Service, Office of Ministry, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, Brethren Volunteer Service, Workcamp Ministry, Discipleship Ministries, Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Older Adult Ministry, Intercultural Ministries, Brethren Historical Library and Archives, and departments that sustain and serve the program work including Mission Advancement, finance, IT, human resources, buildings and properties, “Messenger” magazine, and communications.

Board actions on other financial matters included approval of a recommendation to keep the annual “draw” from the Brethren Service Center Quasi-Endowment Fund to a range of 5 to 7 percent, effective with the 2022 budget-building process. The fund was created from proceeds of the sale of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. For the 2021 budget, the draw is set at 8 percent. The recommendation was made in order “to insure long-term support for board-approved ministry programs” but the decision also allows the board to consider use of the fund to augment other income sources for start-up costs “if a bold new ministry emerges from the compelling vision statement or the strategic planning process.”

A recommendation to write off the negative net asset balance Brethren Press has accumulated as of the end of 2019 was tabled. The recommendation included using funds from the denomination’s Bequest Quasi-Fund Endowment Fund to cover the write-off along with a stipulation that Brethren Press work from a break-even budget in 2020 and going forward. This recommendation is expected to come before the board again in October after review of a new business plan for Brethren Press. The Brethren Press negative net asset balance has grown to $546,718 over the past 20 years, an accumulation from years in which expenses outweighed income. The press receives income from the sale of books, Sunday school curriculum, Bible studies, and other materials. Its expenses include salaries and other personnel expenses, expenses related to the production and marketing of products, and payments to the core ministries budget for use of facilities and support services at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.

Strategic plan

The board approved a new strategic plan for the ministries it oversees, based in large part on the compelling vision statement that will be presented to the 2021 Annual Conference. Titled “Jesus in the Neighborhood,” the strategic plan includes sections of short-term or “foreground” goals and actions for the next three months, a “mid-ground” section extending into next year, a “background” section extending one to three years, and a “beyond the horizon” section looking five to ten years ahead.

In the short term, the plan calls board and staff to articulate how ministries are serving the “Jesus in the Neighborhood” vision in alignment with the strategic plan. Four “foreground vision initiatives” are to be in place by the October board meeting:

— creation of task teams of board members and staff;

— a communications plan and interpretive resources to share the strategic plan with the denomination;

— a timeline to review denominational policies and procedures “with the aim of identifying potential impediments to full implementation of the strategic plan and recommending appropriate changes to those policies and procedures”; and

— assessment by the general secretary and executive committee of skills, resources, and programs in relation to the strategic plan “to identify how our current capabilities may (or may not) align with anticipated needs.”

The plan includes four areas of longer term or “background” vision:

 “Pursue Christ’s call to discipleship” to help church members articulate and embody their faith;

— “Embody the biblical command to love our neighbors” to help congregations and church members cultivate relationships with neighbors near and far;

— “Seek God’s racial justice” including identification, critique, confession, and repentance “of the whiteness and racialized hierarchy that have been integrated into Brethren identity,” among other actions; and

— “Reclaim New Testament models of giving” to transform giving practices and church culture “to reflect the just and equitable distribution of God’s resources to eradicate needs as embodied by the early church.”

The Strategic Plan Formation Team was convened by chair-elect Carl Fike and included board members Lauren Seganos Cohen, Paul Schrock, and Colin Scott; Discipleship Ministries co-coordinator Joshua Brockway as staff; Pacific Southwest District executive Russ Matteson representing the Council of District Executives; Rhonda Pittman Gingrich representing the Compelling Vision Team; Jamie Claire Chau as Subject Matter Contributor; with the involvement of Jim Randall  from Auxano, a consulting firm that provided assistance to the Compelling Vision Team and the compelling vision sessions at the 2019 Annual Conference.

In other business

The board confirmed the general secretary’s appointment of Ed Woolf as treasurer of the Church of the Brethren.

A new executive committee was called to serve from now through the 2021 Annual Conference: the chair, chair-elect, and board members Thomas Dowdy, Lois Grove, and Colin Scott.

For more information about the Mission and Ministry Board go to .

2) Committee recommends small increase to minimum cash salary table for pastors in 2021

By Nancy Sollenberger Heishman

In light of the cancellation of this year’s Annual Conference, the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee is offering a recommendation rather than a delegate-approved decision. The committee is recommending a 0.5 percent (one half of one percent) increase to the 2021 recommended Minimum Cash Salary Table for Pastors.

The 2021 recommended minimum cash salary table and guidelines information for pastors and an explanation of the recommendation from the committee are available on the Church of the Brethren website, find links at .

The committee’s letter to pastoral leaders states: “The committee spent considerable time talking about the needs of congregations and the needs of pastors. We understand that some congregations are feeling the effects of the current economy due to their states’ requirements for meeting together during the pandemic. We also understand that pastors have been put in an untenable situation of having to figure out a technology-driven response in a short amount of time with an increased pressure to perform.

“With these seemingly conflicting pressures upon the leadership of the church and the church body itself, we felt that a small increase in the COLA [cost of living adjustment] was in order. We want the congregations to know that we feel their angst about a salary increase. We also want the pastoral leaders to know that we appreciate their creativity and continued guidance that they give to their congregations.”

The committee includes Beth Cage, chair, from Northern Plains District; Deb Oskin, compensation practitioner, from Southern Ohio/Kentucky District; Ray Flagg, laity representative, from Atlantic Northeast District; Terry Grove, district executive minister representative, from Atlantic Southeast District; and Dan Rudy, clergy representative, from Virlina District. Nancy Sollenberger Heishman is the liaison from the Office of Ministry. The documents can be found at .

— Nancy Sollenberger Heishman is director of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry.

3) Nominations are sought for 2021 Annual Conference ballot

Photo by Regina HolmesBallots and other papers cover a delegate table during a business session at an Annual Conference.

By Chris Douglas

The Nominating Committee is now seeking nominations for the elections to take place at the 2021 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren. The nomination form and the nominee information form are both found online at .

Following are the offices that will be elected in the 2021 ballot.

Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee:
— 1 person for a 3-year term.

Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board:
— 1 person from Area 3, for a 5-year term. Area 3 includes Atlantic Southeast District, Puerto Rico District, Shenandoah District, Southeastern District, Virlina District, and West Marva District.
— 1 person from Area 5, for a 5-year term. Area 5 includes Idaho and Western Montana District, Pacific Northwest District, and Pacific Southwest District.

Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees:
— 1 person representing the Church of the Brethren-related colleges and universities, for a 5-year term.
— 1 person representing the laity, for a 5-year term.

Brethren Benefit Trust Board:
— 1 person for a 4-year term.

On Earth Peace Board:
— 1 person for a 5-year term.

Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee:
— 1 person representing the laity, for a 5-year term.

Every member of the Church of the Brethren is eligible to make nominations. The online form is easy to use at the link listed above. Nominations are due no later than Dec. 1, 2020.

— Chris Douglas is director of the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren.

4) Global Mission creates Country Advisory Teams

By Norm and Carol Waggy

The Global Mission office of the Church of the Brethren has instituted a new communication tool named Country Advisory Teams (CATs). These teams are a way for the Global Mission leadership to stay informed and better understand each country or region where Church of the Brethren partners are involved.

These teams are made up of one person from the United States, one person from the country or region represented, and perhaps more people if requested by those two. The team leader will be responsible for ensuring regular contacts with the leadership of Global Mission, including quarterly written reports.

CAT members are volunteers who have a passion for mission, a commitment to the Church of the Brethren, and a knowledge and passion for the country or area served. CATs will help with communication with global partners. They may assist in the organization of workcamps, fundraising, and sharing information with the communication office of the Church of the Brethren. CATs may be formed for countries where the Church of the Brethren has partner churches or where US staff are assigned.

All CAT members will be invited to attend the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren in the United States every three years. A gathering for the entire group of CAT members will be arranged in conjunction with this Annual Conference. In addition, in-country meetings of each CAT will be held every two to three years.

At this time, the following people have volunteered to serve as members of CATs:

Africa Great Lakes: Chris Elliott, Bwambale Sedrack
Brazil: Greg Davidson Laszakovitz, Alexandre Gonçalves, Marcos and Suely Inhauser
Dominican Republic: Jonathan Bream, Pedro Sanchez
Haiti: Ilexene Alphonse, Vildor Archange
India: (yet to be determined)
Nigeria: Carol Mason, Joel S. Billi
Rwanda: Josiah Ludwick, Etienne Nsanzimana
South Sudan: Roger Schrock, Athanasus Ungang
Spain: Carol Yeazell, Santo Terrero
Venezuela: Jeff Boshart, Joel Peña, Robert Anzoategui, Jorge Rivera

— Carol and Norm Waggy are interim directors of Global Mission for the Church of the Brethren.

5) Brethren Disaster Ministries celebrates Puerto Rico completion and new Ohio project, among updates

Photo courtesy of Carrie Miller
Members of the Brethren Disaster Ministries leadership team in Puerto Rico, where the staff are celebrating completion of a home rebuilding project that was started following Hurricane Maria: (from left) Raquel and José Acevedo (District Disaster Coordinator), Carmelo Rodriguez, and Carrie Miller.

By Jenn Dorsch-Messler

Brethren Disaster Ministries is celebrating completion of a rebuilding project in Puerto Rico in partnership with the Puerto Rico District of the Church of the Brethren. The project worked on homes that were destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Maria, and completed 100 homes. Brethren Disaster Ministries also celebrates the opening of a new project site in Dayton, Ohio–the first resumption of volunteer work since a shut-down due to COVID-19 that began in mid-March.

Puerto Rico work completed

Since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in Sept. 2017, Brethren Disaster Ministries has worked in partnership with the Puerto Rico District of the Church of the Brethren to support those who were affected. This began with coordinating relief supplies and funds, and continued from Sept. 2018 through June 2020 when a volunteer rebuilding site extended the collaboration. The project was previously planned to close at the end of June 2020, but the last two-and-a-half months of volunteer work were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns.

Through the work of this project, 100 homes were completed either with volunteer labor, contractor work, or by providing the materials that homeowners could not afford but had other ways to install on their own. Another seven families have been provided materials and the work will be completed soon through their own means. More reporting information about the project will be shared and celebrated in coming months.

Dayton site opens

Brethren Disaster Ministries has resumed volunteer work on national sites since a shutdown due to COVID-19 that began in mid-March. A handful of local volunteers who live in the Dayton, Ohio, area began a week of service on July 14 to serve a family affected by the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes. Wearing masks and observing other safety and cleaning protocols, the volunteers are spending their days installing vinyl siding on one home. The volunteers return to their homes at night and no housing is provided by Brethren Disaster Ministries.

North Carolina move

The Brethren Disaster Ministries Carolinas rebuilding site has been closed after over two years of being housed in Lumberton, N.C. At the end of June, project vehicles and equipment were moved northeast to a new location.

The new coastal North Carolina project location is in Bayboro, Pamlico County, N.C. This area was greatly affected by Hurricane Florence in Sept. 2018, mostly due to flooding. Florence brought a record-breaking storm surge of 9 to 13 feet and devastating rainfall of 20 to 30 inches in some areas along the coast of the Carolinas. The Pamlico County long-term recovery group reports that there are still more than 200 families in the county that have not completely recovered, almost two years later.

Currently, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers are scheduled to begin serving on this project in mid-September if possible. Volunteers will be housed at Mt. Zion Original Freewill Baptist Church in Bayboro, and work partners have been established.

Nebraska short-term response

Brethren Disaster Ministries has planned a short-term response in Nebraska during the weeks of Aug. 16-29 to rebuild after spring flooding in 2019. Volunteers can sign up for one or two weeks to serve as spots are available. Housing will be provided at a hotel in Omaha, Neb., with work close by. Anyone interested should contact Kim Gingerich, long-term project leader, at 717-586-1874 or . Financial support for this response comes through a grant from the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) through funding provided by UPS.

Brethren Disaster Ministries will be monitoring the COVID-19 situation prior to the scheduled dates, and changes or cancellations may be made based on travel restrictions or guidance in August and conversations with local partners. If this response takes place, there will be specific COVID-19 safety protocols in place and all volunteers will be expected to follow them. Onsite project expenses from Monday through Friday will be covered by Brethren Disaster Ministries but travel expenses to and from the site are the volunteer’s responsibility. Please note that Brethren Disaster Ministries is not responsible for non-refundable travel expenses if cancellations occur due to COVID-19.

— Jenn Dorsch-Messler is director of Brethren Disaster Ministries for the Church of the Brethren. Find out more about Brethren Disaster Ministries at .

6) Bethany Seminary details reopening plans

By Jonathan Graham

Bethany Theological Seminary has announced details about reopening its campus in Richmond, Ind., with plans to resume in-person classes in late August 2020. Since mid-March, the Bethany Center has been closed to students and all employees have been working almost exclusively from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Jeff Carter noted that the plans are based on guidance from the federal, state, and local governments, and that they prioritize the health and safety of the extended Bethany community while emphasizing the educational needs of students. Using the mission as a guide, seminary leadership are placing the priority on classroom and educational activities with campus community activities and support activities reconfigured to allow for appropriate social distancing. Carter noted that plans could change in response to the evolving public health situation.

Following is a summary of Bethany’s reopening timeline:

Phase 1 (current phase, in place since mid-March): only essential staff (finance, maintenance, and custodial) are working on site, and only for limited periods of time. Other staff are working almost exclusively from home. The Bethany Center is closed to students and visitors.

Phase 2 (beginning July 20): in addition to essential staff listed above, employees with direct student responsibilities will begin working from the Bethany Center, with rotating schedules and other measures to limit exposure to the coronavirus. While the Bethany Center will remain closed to visitors, those who need to access the building may make appointments to do so.

Phase 3 (beginning Aug. 27): classes will be offered on campus with students in the classroom. Most employees will continue to spend a large portion of their working hours at home. The seminary will put measures in place to allow for proper social distancing, limit the number of people in the building, and require self-screening, hand washing, mask wearing, and other protocols to protect the health and safety of students and employees. The seminary is also encouraging residential students to practice social distancing while away from campus, including in “The Neighborhood” of seminary-owned houses where students live.

Members of the seminary’s leadership team will be present in the Bethany Center on select days each week and will regularly review operations and adjust as necessary to address any health and safety concerns. For the time being, most work meetings, worship, and social gatherings will take place via video conferencing. When appropriate, classes and other gatherings may take place outdoors.

Bethany is working closely with Earlham College and Earlham School of Religion to make sure reopening plans are well coordinated. The leadership team is optimistic about the seminary’s ability to fulfill its missions despite the unusual challenges that a global pandemic presents.

“We are asking all in our community to commit to ‘Golden Rule Practices’ in order to keep one another healthy and safe,” says Carter. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Bethany community has demonstrated a remarkable ability to show care for one another and to adapt to unusual circumstances. I am confident that whatever else happens, we will continue to provide an excellent education to our students and that we will remain a close knit and mutually supportive community.”

— Jonathan Graham is director of Marketing and Communications for Bethany Seminary.

7) EYN Majalisa holds election for leadership

Photo by Zakariya Musa, copyright EYN
Inauguration of leadership at the EYN Majalisa on July 14-16, 2020: (from left) Nuhu Mutah Abba, administrative secretary; Daniel Y. C. Mbaya, general secretary; Joel S. Billi, president; and Anthony A. Ndamsai, vice president. Carrying out the ceremony was spiritual adviser Samuel B. Shinggu.

By Zakariya Musa

The 73rd Annual General Church Council Conference (Majalisa) of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) was held July 14-16 at the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi, Hong Local Government Area, Adamawa State. The highest decision-making body of the church denomination was initially scheduled for March 31 to April 3, but was postponed due to the global pandemic.
The annual conference re-elected the incumbent president Joel S. Billi and vice president Anthony A. Ndamsai, reappointed as general secretary Daniel Y. C. Mbaya, reappointed the Disaster Relief Ministry director Yuguda Z. Mdurvwa, and appointed as administrative secretary Nuhu Mutah Abba, who was newly appointed for a four-year tenure. Joshua Wakai also was confirmed to be on the EYN Board of Trustees.

This year’s unique synod had an abridged timetable for a three-day gathering instead of the usual five days. In view of this, the Majalisa was able to take few reports from the EYN General Secretary, Vice President, Finance, Auditors, Central Planning Committee, and Brethren Micro Finance Bank.

Caleb Silvanus Dakwak, pastor of EYN Utaku congregation in Abuja, preached under the theme “Fear the Lord and Serve Him with All Faithfulness,” taken from Joshua 24:14, on behalf of Dondou Iorlamen of Capro Ministries International in Jos, Plateau State.
President Joel S. Billi in his annual address began by appreciating God, that despite extreme and rigorous persecution the church is growing rapidly both spiritually and physically. He also appreciated the support of mission partners–the Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Central Committee, and Mission 21–for their continued support in a devastating time.

Billi thanked and recognized the hardship of members and pastors working in volatile areas. “We cannot thank members and pastors who are living in dangerous areas enough. These are people who are almost literally seeing death day after day. Facing attacks frequently at negligible period. Many of these churches and pastors have experienced kidnapping and abduction of members,” he said.

“Persecution of Christians in Nigeria has come in different forms now, and is becoming too glaring to any onlooker and the world at large,” he continued. “It is clear in the public eye that Christians are no longer needed in northern Nigeria. That is the message of Boko Haram. The tactical and deliberate war waged against Christians by Boko Haram for the extinction of the church has lasted for 10 years now. The EYN Church is always at the receiving end.

“Other Christians and Muslims are suffering in this barbaric, uncivilized, crude, and wild behavior, but EYN suffers most. The severity of the persecution is on us. I am convinced and certain that if Boko Haram succeeded against Christians, they are going to kill all Muslims who don’t share the same ideology with them. Why can’t we borrow a leaf from the war in Syria and the entire Middle East? Muslims verses Muslims, Arabs versus Arabs.”
He also showed concern about staff salaries, which he described as meager, surrounded by enormous forces against them. He shared that “the achievement made so far, over Central Payment [dues paid by congregations to the denomination], is the center of unity of all pastors and staff of EYN. It is like eating from the same plate and table. Any leader or leaders who will ever come to denounce Central Payment shall be called an ‘enemy of sharing.’ We should discourage with all our strength individualistic possessors. What is wrong if everybody receives his salary on the 25th of every month? What is wrong if all workers contribute toward the retirement of any of us? What is wrong if the big and strong churches supplement the efforts of small rural churches? I want to guess there are people here who are either on food or drug supplements. So why don’t we embrace the life style of the early church in Acts of the Apostles to be our watchword?”

EYN has been “living together for 100 years without any major crack or rancor amidst zones or tribes,” he said. “Let us continue to be one family and one body, so that the young ones will grow to see the unity of Christ in us.”
The 73rd Majalisa has awarded the following people and District Church Councils (DCCs) for their various contributions to the church and humanity:
1. Pastor Solomon Folorunsho.
2. Rev. (Dr.) Titus D. Pona
3. Mrs. Charity M. Mshelia.
4. Mr. Charles Shapu
5. Mr. Daniel Usman Gwari
6. Dr. Watirahyel Isuwa Aji.
Seven DCCs were awarded for faithfulness in handling church funds, sponsored by the Audit Directorate: DCC Yobe, DCC Maiduguri, DCC Gashala, DCC Gombi, DCC Mubi, DCC Viniklang and Golantabal, respectively.

COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment and donations were received from some individuals and organizations as their contribution to the success of the conference, which hosted about 1,500 participants.

Resolutions of the conference included but were not restricted to the following:
— To proffer special allowance to pastors working in difficult areas.
— Three months of a second offering in support of Central Payment.
— Some Local Church Councils (LCCs) declared by the Majalisa for merger.
— One DCC Mishara created from DCC Uba, and 23 local church branches approved for autonomy.
— To form a committee that will come up with an election policy.

— Zakariya Musa is head of EYN Media for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

8) A report on the work of Nigeria’s Disaster Ministry Team

Photo courtesy of EYN Disaster Ministry
A women’s security and peacebuilding seminar in Nigeria is one of the events made possible by the Disaster Ministry of EYN.

By Roxane Hill

The Disaster Ministry of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria’s (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has been operating for more than five years. The staff work in numerous humanitarian sectors specifically in Nigeria’s northeast. One of their constant struggles is knowing who to help, as there is always more need than funds and materials to go around.

Emergency Disaster Funds (EDF) from the Church of the Brethren are still supporting the EYN Disaster Ministry. Mission 21 also provides some funding, and Mennonite Central Committee is providing programing and funding for the trauma workshops. Despite insecurity due to the ongoing Boko Haram attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Disaster Ministry has accomplished a lot in the first half of this year.
The effort this year has helped whole communities as well as individuals. One well helped a community of 1,000 people who were getting water from a stream that also was used for watering animals, bathing, and clothes washing. This well is greatly appreciated by the entire area. On the individual level, a displaced Christian woman living in Cameroon was given assistance for basic needs after her husband rejected her when he converted to Islam. These are just two examples of the larger work being conducted by the Disaster Ministry.

Also this year, the team visited the International Christian Center in southern Nigeria, which is providing schooling and a place to live for 4,000 children. Many of the students are EYN orphans displaced by Boko Haram violence. The team provided a large quantity of food and spiritual care, which buoyed their spirits.

Two special workshops were held earlier in the year. One was a training through the Boys Brigade for disaster preparedness and emergency response. The other workshop on security tips and peace building was held for 152 women and girls. Gender-based violence has increased during the insurgency, and the workshop gave women safety tips to help avoid becoming victims of this violence. Those who attended were encouraged to teach others in their families and home communities.

Funds provided this year: $151,500 from the EDF, $26,000 from Mission 21, and $12,275 from MCC.

2020 activities have included:
— Purchase of a truck to facilitate travel and conveyance of materials.
— Medical assistance for three communities.
— Repair of 43 homes in 3 remote communities.
— Provision of fertilizer and maize seed to 1,200 families.
— Support for the soybean project of EYN’s agricultural development work.
— Wells dug in 3 communities.
— Food distributed to 9 areas.
— One-on-one counseling for 25 individuals.
— Improvements to the school at Masaka IDP Camp and 3 teachers employed for the year.
— Oversight for the building of a new church at the Yola IDP Camp, built in memory of Chrissy Kulp.
— Administration of the EDF COVID-19 grant, which provided awareness, wash stations, and aid to 300 widows.

— Roxane Hill is interim office manager for the Church of the Brethren Global Mission.


9) Scott Kinnick resigns as district executive minister for Southeastern District

Scott Kinnick has resigned as district executive minister for the Church of the Brethren’s Southeastern District, a position he has held for the past four years. He began as district executive in Sept. 2016 and will officially conclude his service on Dec. 31, 2020.

A life-long member and an ordained minister of the Church of the Brethren, Kinnick previously served as pastor of Trinity Church of the Brethren in Blountville, Tenn., and also held two previous pastorates. He also held a number of varied roles within the Southeastern District prior to serving as district executive minister. He is a graduate of the Training in Ministry (TRIM) program of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.

During his tenure with the district, Kinnick gave support to the certification of the district’s ACTS-level program, the School of Spiritual Leadership. He also served as a district executive minister representative on the Thriving in Ministry Advisory Committee of the Part-Time Minister; Full-Time Church program of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry.


10) Webinar to explore Holy Spirit as ‘mover and shaker of ideas and actions’

The Office of Ministry is sponsoring a webinar titled “Exploring the Holy Spirit: Mover and Shaker of Ideas and Actions” on July 30 from 1-2 p.m. (Eastern time). Leading the event will be  Grace Ji-Sun Kim, professor of theology at Earlham School of Religion, and Denise Kettering-Lane, associate professor of Brethren Studies at Bethany Theological Seminary. Both schools are located in Richmond, Ind.

Kim and Kettering-Lane will explore the Holy Spirit’s significance within various Christian traditions including the Church of the Brethren.

“The Spirit presents itself to many as an enigma,” said an announcement. “Its existence is mysterious and complex, generating misunderstandings and unawareness of its true purpose. The Spirit’s ambiguous nature opens the opportunity for study to unearth the exciting truths that it holds. The Spirit is present in our world in various forms and invites us to work for climate justice, racial justice, and gender justice. It stirs us to work toward new kinships with God that are sustainable, just, and whole. The Spirit empowers, sustains, and encourages us to live out our call and ministry.”

To participate in the event register for the webinar at
 . Church of the Brethren ministers may earn 0.1 CEU of continuing education credit at no cost from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.

11) Moderator’s Town Hall on ‘Faith, Science, and COVID-19: Part 2′ slated for Aug. 13

Kathryn Jacobsen

Church of the Brethren Annual Conference moderator Paul Mundey has announced plans for another Moderator’s Town Hall on Aug. 13 at 7 p.m. (Eastern time). The topic will be “Faith, Science, and COVID-19: Part 2.” A special focus will be the current reality of the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on the reopening of churches.

Kathryn Jacobsen, Professor in the Department of Global and Community Health at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., will once again be joining Mundey to continue answering attendees’ questions and share the latest information about the COVID-19 crisis.

Jacobsen is a specialist in infectious disease epidemiology and global health who has consulted with a number of organizations during this pandemic. She is a member of Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va., and values her connection to faith and the Church of the Brethren.

To register for the town hall go to . Interested persons are encouraged to sign up early, as the event is limited to the first 500 registrants.

Questions about registering for this event or any other administrative matters can be emailed to . Questions related to COVID-19 and the pandemic are to be submitted the night of the event.


12) Death Row Support Project reflects on first federal executions in 17 years

The Death Row Support Project

By Rachel Gross

The federal government’s actions this past week are tragic on so many levels. What are the motives for ending a 17-year hiatus of the federal death penalty? The federal government has carried out the executions of two death row inmates this week: Daniel Lee on July 13 and Wesley Purkey on July 16.

Especially at a time when support for the death penalty in the US is at its lowest in 45 years, this is nothing other than a misguided effort to appeal to what in the past has been a popular idea: being “tough on crime.”

Another popular misconception is that using the death penalty is done for the sake of family members of murder victims. In fact, the killing of Daniel Lee was protested by the mother of the murder victim who, motivated by her Christian faith, pleaded with President Trump to stop the execution.

The chaos that has filled the last hours before the federal executions this week points to the ridiculousness and arbitrariness of the death penalty. As courts and judges haggled back and forth about the lives of individuals, any semblance of respect for life was shattered. According to his lawyers, Mr. Lee was strapped to a gurney for the final four hours of his life, while the legal challenges played out. Wesley Purkey suffered from mental illness and dementia, leaving many to question his awareness of what was happening to him.

The Church of the Brethren’s 1987 statement “The Death Penalty” says that our faith leads us to “an understanding of God’s will for us which upholds the sanctity of human life and personality” (find the statement at ).

Let us advocate that our federal and state governments stop the use of this immoral practice.

— Rachel Gross is director of the Death Row Support Project, a Church of the Brethren project that connects volunteer pen pals with people on death row. For more about the DRSP go to .

13) Brethren bits

Intercultural Ministries has made #RacialJustice resources available online at . “Join us as we journey together through July and August as we share racial justice educational resources online.  Please visit the Church of the Brethren Intercultural Ministries Facebook page for updated posts and share with others,” said LaDonna Nkosi, the director of Intercultural Ministries. Stay tuned for more updates and a series of upcoming webinars and #ConversationsTogether for further online discussions and resources for this new initiative called “Journey Through July and August.” To receive information by email go to and subscribe to Intercultural Ministries updates. 

— Andie Garcia has resigned as system specialist for Information Technology for the Church of the Brethren, working at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. He began in the job on July 15, 2019, and will conclude on July 21, 2020. He has accepted a position as desktop support analyst at Kane County (Ill.) Government.

— Susu Lassa will end her year with Brethren Volunteer Service as an associate with the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C., on July 17. She focused on issue areas such as immigration, worked with the Advocacy Network for Africa, and coordinated the Nigeria Working Group. She intends to attend Bethany Theological Seminary in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in theology with a focus on peacebuilding.

— The Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry is announcing assistant coordinators for the 2021 season: Alton Hipps and Chad Whitzel. They will start their service on Aug. 10. Hipps, who originally is from Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren, graduated from William and Mary College in 2020 with a degree in geology and environmental science. Whitzel is from Easton (Md.) Church of the Brethren and is a 2019 graduate of Bridgewater (Va.) College with a degree in accounting/finance.

— Brethren Disaster Ministries has announced that Evan Ulrich will serve at the new tornado rebuilding site in Dayton, Ohio, through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) beginning July 24. Ulrich is from Homer, N.Y., and is a recent graduate of Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., where he earned a degree in physics and mathematics. He has attended and has served as a camp counselor at Camp Blue Diamond, a Church of the Brethren outdoor ministry center near Petersburg, Pa.

A food distribution in Gisenyi, Rwanda, with Etienne Nsanzimana

— Brethren Disaster Ministries has been directing grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to COVID-19 relief work in several countries around the world. The staff recently shared a Facebook post by Ann Clemmer expressing gratitude for one of those grants to a hospital in Goma, a city of about 1.2 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “One of the few designated hospitals for COVID-19 isolation and treatment is Heal Africa, which is already overwhelmed and overtaxed,” she wrote. “Thanks to an unexpected and generous donation from one of our partners, Church of the Brethren, Heal Africa received a much-needed allotment of protective equipment for staff and patients (gloves, masks, gowns, etc.) God continues to provide all our needs even before we ask.”

— Etienne Nsanzimana has sent photos of a recent food distribution in Gisenyi, Rwanda. Nsanzimana is a leader in the Church of the Brethren in Rwanda, which has received funding for COVID-19 related relief efforts through the Emergency Disaster Fund and Brethren Disaster Ministries. With the photos, he reported, “Currently the lockdown is partial here in Rwanda, people can move beyond their districts but with social distancing and wearing face masks all the time. The churches are still closed, markets are working at 50 percent, borders with neighboring countries making many of our people in Gisenyi to be very affected because many live by cross -border businesses. They are planning to open up the airports on August 1, 2020. Thank you so much for your help.”

“Thank you Living Peace Church-Plymouth!” said a Facebook post by Brethren Disaster Ministries thanking Living Peace Church of the Brethren in Plymouth, Mich., for its support to Children’s Disaster Services (CDS). The church stepped up to create Individual Kits of Comfort for CDS to distribute to children affected by disasters during the pandemic, when CDS volunteers are unable to serve children and families in person at disaster sites. Associate director Lisa Crouch recently picked up 120 kits from the church for use during this coming disaster season.

— The Discipleship Ministries of the Church of the Brethren was a co-sponsor of “Inhabit 2020 at Home,” an online conference of the Parish Collective. “Given the revelation of this moment with COVID-19 and systemic racial injustice–is it too late to reorganize the church in the neighborhood for a more equitable future?” said a description of the event, which took place July 16-17. Speakers included Willie Jennings, Shane Claiborne, Majora Carter, Lisa Sharon Harper, John McKnight, and Jonathan Brooks. Ticket purchasers will have access to all live content for four weeks after the conference. Go to .

— “Messenger” magazine has posted a racial justice page at . This page offers a collection of the magazine’s articles addressing race in recent years, plus some excerpts and images from key pieces.

— On Earth Peace is offering a four-part webinar series on “Raising Race-Conscious Kids” with topics including how parents and teachers can address race, the myth of color-blindness, the role of racial scripts, and the future of racial justice. The webinars will take place on Thursdays from July 23 through Aug. 13, at 8-9 p.m. (Eastern Time). Go to .

— A staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 at Pinecrest Community, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Mount Morris, Ill. “No residents with symptoms have been reported as of Monday, July 13,” reported the “Ogle County News.” Pinecrest CEO Ferol Labash reported the case in a letter to residents and resident representatives, the newspaper said, reporting that last week, Pinecrest “performed COVID-19 testing of residents and staff to establish a baseline as recommended by CMS. It received the results of 202 tests and is still waiting for the results on 60 tests.” Read the article, which includes details about Pinecrest’s extensive COVID-19 protocols, at .

— The online cooking class “Elaboración de Pasta Artesanal” sponsored by La Fundacion Brethren y Unida (FBU) in Ecuador as a special fundraiser has had to be postponed. The chef who was to give the class has tested positive for COVID-19. FBU has announced a new date and time for the online course: Aug. 7 and 8, from 7-9 p.m. (central time). The event will be held in Spanish. Go to .

— Missouri and Arkansas District will hold its 29th district conference through Internet and telephone connections using Zoom on Sept. 11-12. The district leadership “has decided that it is in the best interest of the people of our district,” said an announcement. “We have worked very hard to provide a conference that will be safe for everyone and accomplish the work of the district as well as providing opportunities for worship and fellowship. The schedule will be much the same with a Friday afternoon workshop open to everyone, an insight session, Bible study, worship, special music, and a Sunday message from Annual Conference moderator-elect David Sollenberger.” The workshop led by Sollenberger will center around the compelling vision proposal to come before the 2021 Annual Conference, with opportunities for questions and small group discussion (ministers will receive .3 CEUs for participating). The insight session will be led by staff of the Church of the Brethren (ministers will receive .1 CEUs for participating). The Bible study will be led by staff of Bethany Theological Seminary (minister will receive .1 CEUs for participating). Following Bible Study, there will be a worship service with district moderator Paul Landes speaking. The event also will include business sessions, a time of remembrance for district members who have passed away since the last district conference, and a virtual talent show and ice cream social.

 “Domestic Violence: An Online Opportunity for Increased Awareness, Education, and Support” is offered Aug. 1 by the Virlina District Commission on Nurture Family Life Ministries Committee. The virtual event includes worship led by Patrick and Susan Starkey of Cloverdale Church of the Brethren; a workshop led by Stephanie Bryson of the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley on the topic “Barriers in Domestic Violence Situations and the Dangers of Staying and Leaving”; and a workshop with Stacey Sheppard of Total Action for Progress, Domestic Violence Services, on the topic “Dynamics of Domestic Violence and Special Considerations with Underserved Populations.” Videos will be available on the Virlina District website at starting Aug. 1.

— Bridgewater (Va.) College has announced a test-optional admission policy for three years, starting with undergraduate applicants for the 2021-22 academic year. A release said the college’s “personalized and holistic approach to student success is now being applied to the college’s admission process…. Bridgewater’s admissions team recognizes that standardized test scores are not the main determining factor of student success. In addition, the college understands some students may have difficulty scheduling a test date due to complications related to the COVID 19 pandemic.” The release said undergraduate students applying to Bridgewater for the 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years may choose whether to submit SAT or ACT scores, alongside application information such as grades, overall classroom performance, and extracurricular activities. “Our admissions staff members have always examined every component of a student’s application, but the record of course selection, grades, GPA and the strength of the curriculum has consistently provided the most accurate predictor of a student’s chance for future success at BC,” said vice president for Enrollment Management Michael Post. At the end of the three years, the college will determine whether to reinstate a testing requirement or extend the test optional policy.

— A “bonus” summer episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast continues Josiah Ludwick’s series on Intercultural Ministries. “He takes us on an international visit to learn about the Church of the Brethren in Rwanda,” said an announcement. “Be inspired as you hear from church leaders across the pond and reflect on your own sharing of the gospel along with host, Emmett Witkovsky Eldred.” Listen now by going to or subscribe
at .

— The World Council of Churches is advocating with Turkey to keep Hagia Sophia as the shared heritage of humanity, said a WCC release. In a letter to H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey, WCC interim general secretary Ioan Sauca “is expressing his fervent hope and prayer that Hagia Sophia will not become once again a focus of confrontation and conflict, but will be restored to the emblematic unifying role that it has served since 1934.” Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO World Heritage site that, until President Erdogan’s recent decision to turn it back into a mosque, had been a museum since 1934 by decree of the Turkish republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Originally built in the sixth century as a Christian cathedral when Constantinople (now Istanbul) was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after 1453, when the Ottomans laid siege to and took Constantinople. “Since it began functioning as a museum in 1934,” the WCC letter said, in part, “Hagia Sophia has been a place of openness, encounter and inspiration for people from all nations and religions, and a powerful expression of the Republic of Turkey’s commitment to secularism and inclusion and of its desire to leave behind the conflicts of the past. Today, however, I am obliged to convey to you the grief and dismay of the World Council of Churches…. By deciding to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque you have reversed that positive sign of Turkey’s openness and changed it to a sign of exclusion and division. Regrettably, this decision has also been taken without prior notice or discussion with UNESCO regarding the impact of this decision on Hagia Sophia’s universal value recognized under the World Heritage Convention…. The WCC together with its member churches has spoken out in defence and support of other religious communities, including Muslim communities, for their rights and integrity to be respected. The decision to convert such an emblematic place as Hagia Sophia from a museum back to a mosque will inevitably create uncertainties, suspicions and mistrust, undermining all our efforts to bring people of different faiths together at the table of dialogue and cooperation. Moreover, we greatly fear that it will encourage the ambitions of other groups elsewhere that seek to overturn the existing status quo and to promote renewed divisions between religious communities.” Find the WCC letter at .


Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jeff Boshart, Shamek Cardona, Jacob Crouse, Chris Douglas, Jonathan Graham, Rachel Gross, Mary Kay Heatwole, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Roxane Hill, Rachel Kelley, Jeff Lennard, Paul Mundey, Zakariya Musa, LaDonna Nkosi, Etienne Nsanzimana, Carol and Norm Waggy, Roy Winter, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Please send news tips and submissions to . Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters or make subscription changes at . All submissions are subject to editing. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren.

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