Newsline for Feb. 6, 2021

1) Annual Conference office releases two ballots to be presented to 2021 delegate body

2) Chris Douglas to retire from the Church of the Brethren staff

3) The 2021 New and Renew Conference is virtual
4) Leadership Summit on Wellbeing takes place April 19-22 as a virtual event
5) Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center announces continuing education events

6) Brethren bits: Praise requested for the escape of several of the Chibok girls, remembering John Thomas Sr., prayer for Haiti, report from Rwanda, On Earth Peace announcements, Illinois and Wisconsin District Potluck, congregations do the Souper Bowl, success for 2020 graduates of McPherson College, more

Quote of the week:

“Pray together with one faithful humbled heart, beseeching our Lord Jesus Christ and glorifying his name for the sake of healing all those infected who suffer in loneliness from the lethality of this virus, and for the sake of those who have passed on to heaven, may God grant them eternal mercy and extend comfort and sympathy to their loved ones and families.”

A prayer from the Middle East Council of Churches, which will be part of a special ecumenical online prayer event titled “Together We Can Face Coronavirus” next Friday, Feb. 12, at 12 noon (Eastern time), which is 7 p.m. in Beirut, Lebanon. The prayer will be broadcast on Facebook at

Landing page of Church of the Brethren COVID 19 related resources and information:

Church of the Brethren congregations offering online worship in English and other languages:
*Spanish/bilingual; **Haitian Kreyol/bilingual; ***Arabic/bilingual

*español/bilingüe, ** kreyol haitiano/bilingüe, ***عربي / ثنائي اللغة

Lifting up Brethren who are active in health care:

Send information about churches to be added to the listing of online worship offerings to

Add a person to the list of Brethren active in health care by sending first name, county, and state to

1) Annual Conference office releases two ballots to be presented to 2021 delegate body

2020 Annual Conference Logo
The logo for Annual Conference 2021. Art by Timothy Botts

The Annual Conference office has released two ballots to be presented to the delegates at the Church of the Brethren annual meeting on June 30-July 4, 2021. The event is online-only (

When last year’s Conference was cancelled because of the pandemic, the Nominating Committee recommended deferring the 2020 ballot to 2021. Each person on the 2020 ballot has been asked their willingness to be considered in the 2021 vote. People holding positions elected by Annual Conference whose terms expired in 2020 have been asked their willingness to extend their terms until the election in 2021.

This has resulted in two ballots coming before the delegate body this year: the 2020 deferred ballot and the 2021 ballot.

Those elected from the 2021 ballot will serve the usual term for their office.

Those elected from the 2020 deferred ballot, except for the moderator-elect, will serve one year less than the usual term.

Here is the 2020 deferred ballot:

For Annual Conference moderator-elect: Tim McElwee and Paul Liepelt.

Liepelt is a pastor at Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. He has been a member of the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board, and has served on the executive committee. In past experience on the denominational staff, he taught at Kulp Bible College in Nigeria 2004-2007. He is an ordained minister and holds a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary.

McElwee lives in Wolcottville, Ind. Now retired, his leadership in the church includes a number of roles at Manchester University over more than 30 years, including vice president for advancement and for academic resources, and associate professor of peace studies. While an ordained minister he served as campus pastor. He has been chaplain for the Timbercrest retirement community. In the 1990s he was denominational staff in Washington, D.C. He also has been senior director of development for Heifer International. He holds a master of divinity from Bethany Seminary and a master’s and doctorate from Purdue University.

For the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee: Beth Jarrett of Harrisonburg, Va.; Walt Wiltschek of Easton, Md.

For the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee, representing laity: Richard E. Allison, Claysburg, Pa.; Arthur Fourman, Dayton, Ohio.

For the Mission and Ministry Board, Area 1: Josiah Ludwick, Harrisburg, Pa.; Mandy North, Manassas, Va.

For the Mission and Ministry Board, Area 4: Daniel L. Butler, Grundy Center, Iowa; Kathy A. Mack, Rochester, Minn.

For Bethany Seminary trustee, representing clergy: Chris Bowman, Manassas, Va.; Frances R. Townsend, Onekama, Mich.

For Bethany Seminary trustee, representing laity: Irene Beltran, Pomona, Calif.; Jacki Hartley, Elgin, Ill.

For the Brethren Benefit Trust board: Janis Fahs, North Manchester, Ind.; David L. Shissler, Hummelstown, Pa.

For the On Earth Peace board: Ruth Aukerman, Union Bridge, Md.; James LeFever, Los Angeles, Calif.

Here is the 2021 ballot:

For the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee: Kim Ebersole, North Manchester, Ind.; Nathan Hollenberg, Broadway, Va.

For the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee, representing laity: Robert S. McMinn, Huntingdon, Pa.; Kevin Schweitzer, Dayton, Ohio.

For the Mission and Ministry Board, Area 3: Karen Shively Neff, Gotha, Fla.; Phillip C. Stone Jr., Linville, Va.

For the Mission and Ministry Board, Area 5: Barbara Daté, Eugene, Ore.; Annali Topf, Los Angeles, Calif.

For Bethany Seminary trustee, representing laity: Drew Hart, Harrisburg, Pa.; Nohemi Flores, Pomona, Calif.

For Bethany Seminary trustee, representing colleges: Katharine Gray Brown, North Manchester, Ind.; Steve Longenecker, Harrisonburg, Va.

For the Brethren Benefit Trust board: Sara Davis, La Canada Flintridge, Calif.; Carl Eubank, Dayton, Ohio.

For the On Earth Peace board: Rudy Amaya, Pasadena, Calif.; Alyssa Parker, Harrisburg, Pa.


2) Chris Douglas to retire from the Church of the Brethren staff

Chris Douglas

Chris Douglas will retire from the Church of the Brethren staff on Oct. 1. She has worked for the denomination for more than 35 years, since 1985. Most recently, she has served as director of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

Douglas began her work for the denomination as staff for Youth and Young Adult Ministry and Urban Ministry in Jan. 1985. She went on to serve full‐time as director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for 20 years, from 1990 to 2009. During that time, she took on expanded responsibilities for leadership development events, increased attendance at National Youth Conferences, and expanded the youth workcamp program. Among her accomplishments, she mentored numerous Brethren Volunteer Service workers as they coordinated six National Youth Conferences.

She became Annual Conference director on Sept. 6, 2009, and by the time of her retirement will have directed 11 Annual Conferences (the 2020 event was cancelled because of the pandemic). Her final Conference will be the 2021 event. As the first Conference ever to be held virtually, it represents a closing challenge in Douglas’ tenure.

Her organizational skills have been evident in her work with the Conference, negotiating with host sites in various locations across the country, overseeing the work of many volunteers and committees, making sure the Conference goes smoothly, doing onsite trouble-shooting, and more. As Conference director, she has been staff support for the Program and Arrangements Committee, for the Conference officers, and for the Church of the Brethren Leadership Team.

She has been a member of the Religious Conference Managers Association for many years. She is a graduate of Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., and holds a master of divinity and a doctor of ministry from Bethany Theological Seminary. An ordained minister, she also has served as a pastor in the Church of the Brethren.


3) The 2021 New and Renew Conference is virtual

By Stan Dueck

Join us for the New and Renew Virtual Conference, May 13-15. New and Renew is an opportunity for pastors and leaders of new church plants and established churches to come together for worship, learning, and networking.

The conference theme is “The Reward of Risk,” developed from the Gospel of Matthew 25:28-29a.

Often in our conversations around church planting and church renewal, we talk about the possibility of failure regarding risk. But have we ever stopped to ponder the possibility of reward amid risk? What might it look like to celebrate those who have taken the risk for the Kingdom of God? Join us as we explore the Reward of Risk and celebrate those who risked for the Kingdom of God.

The three-day virtual conference has more than 20 sessions to broaden your knowledge of church planting and congregational renewal. Besides the workshops, inspirational worship, and keynotes will invigorate your calling and passion for ministry.

Unable to attend the conference? No problem! Registration means you can access the recorded sermons, keynotes, and workshops for six months after the event. That means you can watch recorded presentations that are helpful for your ministry context and earn continuing education units.

If you are looking for new and practical ways to engage your community and congregation, look no further than the New and Renew Conference 2021. You don’t want to miss out on this great experience!

Pricing: $79 per person plus $10 for individuals wanting continuing education credit.

For more information go to

— Stan Dueck is co-coordinator of Discipleship Ministries for the Church of the Brethren.

4) Leadership Summit on Wellbeing takes place April 19-22 as a virtual event

By Philip Collins

The Church of the Brethren is hosting a Leadership Summit on Wellbeing, a virtual event for clergy and other church leaders. This multi-day event covers a wide array of topics that are intended to provide a holistic approach to sustaining leaders.

Dr. Jessica Young Brown, a counseling psychologist and assistant professor of Counseling and Practical Theology at Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, is the keynote speaker. She specializes in bringing together mental health work and the church, particularly for church leaders.

Other speakers include Ron Vogt, Bruce Barkhauer, Melissa Hofstetter, Tim Harvey, and Erin Matteson.

The summit will take place on the evenings of April 19-22. Attendees will have access to five pre-recorded sessions to view before attending the event online, which will consist of follow-up Q&A sessions on the material viewed. Each presenter covers a different aspect of wellbeing, including physical, emotional, financial, relational, and spiritual wellbeing.

Registration opens Feb. 8. To register and to find more information, visit Early-bird registration is available for $50 before April 1, when registration will increase to $75.

— Philip Collins, a student at Bethany Theological Seminary, is serving as logistics coordinator for the Leadership Summit on Wellbeing.

5) Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center announces continuing education events

Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center

The Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) has announced upcoming continuing education events. Two Spring events will be held virtually via Zoom. The Fall event currently is planned to be in-person. Descriptions and registration links are below. For more information contact

“Pastoral Care and Crisis Intervention: Part III” will be held Sat., March 27, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (Eastern time), with leader Dale Leverknight. This session will provide the most basic skills pastors need to begin to offer spiritual support and comfort to persons in their care. It will benefit deacons and other lay leaders, in addition to pastors. Find more information and register at

“Church, Community, and Change: Navigating Shifting Circumstances” will be held Tues., April 27, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (Eastern), with leader Denise Kettering-Lane. The global pandemic has changed the way that we participate in church and the way we understand our communities. Divisions in our denomination have raised questions about the way we interact with other Brethren. This course will explore the nature of the church and Christian community in the Brethren tradition and will discuss how recent events are shifting these meanings and what that might mean for congregations and communities. Find more information and register at

“Kingdom Building in Worship” will be held Sat., Oct. 30, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. (Eastern), currently planned to be in-person at Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa., with leaders Cindy Laprade Lattimer, Marty Keeney, and Loren Rhodes. Without careful planning, worship easily becomes stale, unimaginative, and bland. This seminar is designed for anyone who has a role in planning worship: pastors, music leaders, and lay ministers. Presentations and workshop components will support attendees in developing a process for planning worship that is meaningful, Christ-centered, cohesive, thoughtful, and sensitive. Find more information and register at

SVMC, which has offices on the campus of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, is a partner organization of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership and Bethany Theological Seminary, serving five Church of the Brethren districts: Atlantic Northeast, Southern Pennsylvania, Middle Pennsylvania, Western Pennsylvania, and Mid-Atlantic.

6) Brethren bits

Artwork by Bryan Meyer

Prayers of praise are requested for the escape of several of the Chibok girls, nearly seven years after they were abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014. The majority of the kidnapped girls are from families that worship with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

Writes the Global Mission office in the prayer request: “Continued prayers for EYN, the areas that are still experiencing violence, and the ongoing fear this causes.”

CNN reported that a father of one of the newly escaped girls, Halima Ali Maiyanga, received a call from his daughter to say she and others had managed to flee Boko Haram militants. “I never expected to hear from her again,” Maiyanga said. “The whole family is so happy. Our house is full of people who are rejoicing with us.” He told CNN that his daughter and others are safe and being looked after by the Nigerian army. “It is not yet clear how many of the remaining missing girls have managed to escape,” the article said, adding that more than 100 of the young women are still missing (

Another article about the escape, from ABC News, is at

Remembrance: John Thomas Sr. (90), a former member of the Church of the Brethren denominational staff, died Feb. 1 at Western Missouri Medical Center. An ordained minister, he served on the funding team of the former General Board of the Church of the Brethren, retiring at the end of 2011 after working for nine years as a special gift counselor and deferred gift counselor covering the Plains states. He began work for the denomination in December 1998 as a financial resource counselor. In previous work for the church, he pastored a number of congregations and was district executive minister for Southern Plains District 1981-87, later serving a term as interim district executive in the late 1990s. He also was a regional director for the CROP program of Church World Service for 15 years, during which time he traveled to India, Africa, and Asia. His volunteer leadership in the church included service as a trustee for McPherson (Kan.) College, a member of the Standing Committee and Nominating Committee of Annual Conference, and moderator of Missouri and Arkansas District. He held degrees from McPherson (Kan.) College, Bethany Theological Seminary, and the University of Central Oklahoma. His career in teaching included being a school teacher in Cabool, Mo., and Guthrie, Okla., a school administrator at Guthrie Public Schools, and a substitute teacher in Leeton, Mo., where he also was a council member for the town. He was born July 25, 1930, in Leeton, Mo., to Ora Basil and Laura Mae (Mohler) Thomas. He is survived by his wife, Katy; his children Ann (Jim) Bucci of Ortanna, Pa., Debra (Mike Hughbanks) Thomas of Omaha, Neb., John (Barbara Simpson) Thomas of St. Joseph, Mich., Nathan (Maura Mcnally) Thomas of Dowingtown, Pa., and Carolyn (Robert) Hall of Guthrie, Okla.; step children, grandchildren, step grandchildren, great grandchildren, and step great grandchildren. Funeral services were held on Feb. 4 at Sweeney-Phillips and Holdren Funeral Home. Interment followed in Mineral Creek Cemetery. Memorial gifts are received to Warrensburg (Mo.) Church of Brethren, where he was a member. An obituary is at

The Global Mission office requests prayer for Haiti. Writes the Global Mission office: “There are demonstrations in the street and lockdowns in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Continue to pray for Haiti Medical Project workers as travel is impacted and for the whole Eglise des Freres (Church of the Brethren in Haiti).” A Miami Herald article from late January gives information about the epidemic of kidnappings in the country:

A report from Rwanda has been shared by the Global Mission office. Etienne Nsanzimana, a leader in Rwanda Church of the Brethren, reports that the fledgling denomination has four congregations at Gasiza, Mudende, Humure, and Gisenyi, which serves as the head office. “In Rwanda COVID is still affecting so many,” he wrote. “Currently we are under partial lockdown, people are only allowed to circulate within their own districts. Safety measures are still observed to make sure COVID-19 is not spread. Currently all the churches are not allowed to meet due to COVID-19. Out of the town of Gisenyi, which is on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been much affected economically due to cross-the-border businesses that have been stopped, making it hard for a common person including many of our church members. On a normal time over 60,000 people would cross the border on a daily basis doing business.” He shared the following prayer requests: for a pastors’ retreat and their wives, the preschool at the Gisenyi Church, and the Gisenyi church building.

On Earth Peace is engaging youth by offering up to $500 in grant funding towards youth-initiated projects for peace and justice. The first three grants have been awarded to the Borderless Relations Committee of Findlay, Ohio; the Agape-Satyagraha Graduate Project, Harrisburg, Pa.; and Lauren Anderson of Glade Valley (Md.) Church of the Brethren. The full announcement can be found at

In more from On Earth Peace, the Read Aloud Program has a new webpage featuring videos, worksheets, and blog posts. The read-aloud videos are separated into seven categories: Kingian Nonviolence and peace skills; gender and identity; “Own Voices”; immigration, migration, and refugees; anti‐racism and social justice; holidays; and environment and earth advocacy. Summaries and reflective questions are provided for each book. The webpage will be updated weekly to reflect the program’s most recent video and blog uploads. Go to

The Illinois and Wisconsin District Potluck this year will be held virtually, hosted by Neighborhood Church of the Brethren. The event includes the following workshops:

Tues., March 16, 7:30 p.m. (Central time): Bible study on the District Potluck theme “Extend Charity to Others: Matthew 25:40” led by Christina Singh.

Wed., March 17, 6:30 p.m. (Central): “Racism” led by Jacki Hartley, exploring the questions “How did we get here? And how do we, as individuals and as a body of believers, move beyond good intentions to do the work of racial justice?” following last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and the Jan. 6 attack on Congress.

Wed., March 17, 7:30 p.m. (Central): “Indian Spices and Easy Recipes” led by Purvi Satvedi.

Thurs., March 18, 6:30 p.m. (Central): “IT and the Church” led by Enten Eller, exploring the theological and technological potholes and potentials of online worship.

Thurs., March 18, 7:30 p.m. (Central): “Leader Limits: Helping Your Pastor Thrive” led by Jonathan Shively.

Fri., March 19, 6:30 p.m. (Central): “Sex Trafficking” led by Vivek Solansky, who has researched the rapid growth of the business of human trafficking.

Fri., March 19, 7:30 p.m. (Central): “Train to Age” led by Joni Grant, a retired IT executive who started a second career as a personal trainer when she turned 62. She will explore how to work for a future that sees you fit and active into your 80s and 90s.

Sat., March 20, 10 a.m. (Central): “Worship as Art: How Community Energizes Practice” led by Jonathan Shively.

More information will be made available at

At least two Church of the Brethren congregations are participating in the Souper Bowl this weekend, an opportunity to raise money for hunger relief. The youth at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren made the local news for their Souper Bowl effort. Ridge Church of the Brethren in Shippensburg, Pa., was featured in the Shippensburg News-Chronicle for being one of six local congregations competing to bring in the most food donations this year. The churches are collecting non-perishable food items for King’s Kettle Food Pantry and also for the Hound Packs Program of Shippensburg school district that provides free meals to families. Find the article at

McPherson (Kan.) College is reporting a high rate of success for its 2020 graduating class. “Since commencement in May, 95 percent of the class has secured employment or further education,” said a release. “Additionally, of those graduates with jobs or graduate school placements, 82 percent had at least one internship while at McPherson College.” The release noted that this success was achieved during a pandemic year. President Michael Schneider said in the release, “We can account for nearly every graduate when we track our outcomes. Most colleges can account for only 10 to 20 percent of any graduating class. When we report 95 percent of a class has secured employment or further education, we are talking about the entire class not just a portion of the class. When you add our strong placement rate to our efforts at reducing student debt through The Student Debt Project, McPherson College graduates are getting a head start at a successful future.” The Student Debt Project combines financial literacy, mentorship, and matching funds to show students how they can reduce their college debt before graduation.

The Global Women’s Project has welcomed Karlene Tyler to its steering committee. Tyler resides in McPherson, Kan., where she retired after a 42-year tenure at McPherson College. “Having held 16 diff¬erent titles throughout her career at McPherson, Karlene brings a plethora of skills and talents to GWP,” said the announcement. She also is active at McPherson Church of the Brethren. Her international experience has included travel to 33 countries, and she hopes to visit each continent in her lifetime.

Creation Justice Ministries is hiring for the Faithful Climate Action Fellowship. Creation Justice Ministries is an environmental ministry connected with the National Council of Churches (NCC). “Are you a young Christian concerned about the climate crisis?” said the announcement. “Do you know a young adult who would be a good fit? Join us in exploring how our faith traditions can support and guide our climate activism.” Young Black, Indigenous, and people of color (age 18-26) in the Midwest and Southeast are invited to apply. Fellows will engage in nine months of joint study, leadership training, and action. Monthly interactive webinars will provide a chance to meet young faith and climate leaders in the fellow’s region, and both peer leaders and professional mentors will guide in developing a voice as a faith and climate activist. The time commitment of only two to three hours per month is designed to fit with fulltime employment or school work. Fellows will receive a $500 stipend. Application deadline is Feb. 15. Go to

Also from Creation Justice Ministries is an online workshop titled “ResiLENT Worship: Preaching Our Way to Climate Resilience,” on Feb. 18 at 6-7 p.m. (Eastern time). “This Lent, let us discover together how the church might become a hub of resilience in the midst of the spiritual and physical storms of the climate crisis,” said the announcement. “The work of climate resilience in the church starts with the center of Christian life: worship. The structure of our communal life lies in the heart of Christian worship. The ways we structure our worship life resonates beyond the walls of the sanctuary. Incorporating elements of climate education and worship of God through Creation can develop norms that support God’s people and Creation in the midst of the climate crisis.” The event is free and will include three mini-sermons on climate resilience, worship music for the era of climate change, and tools for incorporating climate-resilient worship in your community. Speakers include Leah Schade, assistant professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary; Melanie Mullen, director of Reconciliation, Justice, and Creation Care for the Episcopal Church; Ched Myers, ecumenical activist, theologian, popular educator, writer, teacher, and organizer; Christian McIvor, minister of Worship, Music, and the Arts at Greystone Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. Register at

The group’s March 25 virtual workshop at 6 p.m. (Eastern time) is on the topic “Climate Justice on Sacred Ground: The Role of Church Lands in Resilience and Adaptation.” Find out more at

Fully autonomous weapons is the subject of a joint statement of the World Council of Churches, the International Day of Human Fraternity, Pax Christi Northern California, and Soka Gakkai International. “A Plea for Preserving Our Shared Humanity” expresses concern over the insidious development of weapons systems that lack meaningful human control. “Our shared belief in the inalienable dignity of the human person and the inestimable worth of human life demands our vigilance toward new forms of military technology that mediate the use of lethal force, especially in armed conflict and policing,” reads the statement. “An urgent and firm rejection of the development of fully autonomous weapons is essential to preserving our shared humanity.” The statement urges that the human person must never be reduced to a set of numbers. “Machine learning that processes vast amounts of digital information tends to replicate existing biases, causing a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations,” reads the statement. “Fully autonomous weapons would lower the threshold for international armed conflict, and they could also be used for domestic terrorism, insurrection, policing and border-control.” The statement calls on all UN member states and all people of goodwill to commit to preserving meaningful human control over the use of force. “As our technological evolution outpaces our ethical evolution, we must place firm limits on emerging technologies that undermine the ties that bind us as members of a single human family,” the statement concludes. Find the WCC release about the statement at

Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren. All submissions are subject to editing. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contributors to this issue include Jan Fischer Bachman, Marie Benner‐Rhoades, Shamek Cardona, Philip Collins, Chris Douglas, Stan Dueck, Tina Goodwin, Annika Harley, Roxane Hill, Debbie Noffsinger, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Please send news tips and submissions to . Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters, make subscription changes, or unsubscribe at .

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