Newsline for March 5, 2021

“Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will” (Psalm 103:21).

1) Multi-vocational ministers gather for book studies
2) Boko Haram released pastor abducted in Pemi, Nigeria, before deadline
3) Ministers conference in Nigeria held under strict COVID-19 protocols

4) Webinar to focus on ways churches are navigating pandemic challenges

5) Brethren bits: Recording of denominational worship service is available, remembering Dale Ulrich and Sr. Dianna Ortiz, Mission and Ministry Board meets next weekend, ‘Peacebuilding When We’re So Divided,’ news from congregations, districts, ecumenical partners, and more

President Joel S. Billi addresses the Ministers Conference of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Photo by Zakariya Musa

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1) Multi-vocational ministers gather for book studies

By John Fillmore

Multi-vocational ministers have been gathering together virtually to study and share their experience as part of Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church. This program is offered through the Thriving in Ministry initiative of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry.

Participants have been sharing insights during two book studies that have focused on the value of multi-vocational ministry and establishing meaningful boundaries that contribute to a thriving ministry. In addition to the valuable content offered by the books, participants have grown closer to each other, finding support as they connect with other pastors from across the country. The book studies are facilitated by Circuit Riders from the program, and based on their success, additional book studies are being considered.

The book studies have engaged ministers in conversation relating to the unique and vital role multi-vocational ministry has in the life of the church, as well as the unique challenges faced by pastors attempting to balance multiple vocations in addition to the demands of family and their personal spiritual development. Participants have met weekly for six weeks, sharing their insights from G. Jeffrey MacDonald’s book Part-Time Is Plenty: Thriving Without Full-Time Clergy and Saying No to Say Yes: Everyday Boundaries and Pastoral Excellence by David Olsen and Nancy Devor.

Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church is designed to provide support to multi-vocational Church of the Brethren ministers by connecting them to available resources and support for their ministry. Multi-vocational ministers are encouraged to talk to their district executives about participating in the program, or contact the Office of Ministry directly. Find out more at

— John Fillmore of Idaho District is one of the Circuit Riders for Part-Time Pastor, Full-Time Church.

2) Boko Haram released pastor abducted in Pemi, Nigeria, before deadline

By Zakariya Musa, EYN Media

Pastor Bulus Yakura, who was kidnapped, on Christmas Eve at Pemi village in Chibok Local Government Area, Borno State, Nigeria, was freed on Wednesday, March 3.

Joel S. Billi, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), in his morning briefing at the EYN Headquarters on Thursday shared the good news, where prayers of thanksgiving were conducted.

Speaking to Yakura over the telephone today [Thursday, March 4] was heart touching. “I am fine, thank you for your prayers and concern,” he said.

Yakura was freed Wednesday evening by the terror group Boko Haram, security sources told the Premium Times. “Our reporter saw Mr. Yikura on the outskirts of Maiduguri as he was being conveyed to the office of the State Security Service in Borno, at about 6:15 p.m.,” the report said.

Last week, Boko Haram circulated a video where Yakura called on the government of Nigeria and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to save him. He said his abductors threatened to take his life at the end of the week. “I have been given only seven days to appeal for assistance that will help me out of this torture,” he said in the video. “If truly you want to rescue me from this untold suffering and threat to life, then you have to act fast. I am also calling on the EYN president to help mobilize help that will rescue me, and also pray for me so that God will make things easy for me here. Today is the last day I will have the opportunity to call on you in your capacity as my parents and relatives in the country. Anyone who has the intention should help and save me.”

His children refused to go to school and his wife fell ill after watching the video in which he announced the deadline set for his execution.

— Zakariya Musa is head of EYN Media.

3) Ministers conference in Nigeria held under strict COVID-19 protocols

By Zakariya Musa

Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) conducted its Annual Ministers Conference under strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols, with minimal numbers of participants, on Feb. 16-19 at the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi, Hong Local Government Area, Adamawa State.

The EYN Disaster Relief Ministry distributed COVID-19 Personal Protection Equipment to curb the spread of the microscopic virus. Hand sanitizers, face masks, and locally made handwashing machines were placed at strategic places for general use.

The conference had 210 participants instead of about 1,000 participants in normal circumstances. Delegates were invited from each District Church Council, comprising the DCC Secretary, DCC Chairman, DCC Ministers, Advisory Board member, and few other ministers. Past EYN leaders who were present included former presidents Filibus K. Gwama and Toma H. Ragnjiya, former vice president Abraham Wuta Tizhe, and former general secretaries Bitrus A. Bdlia, Ayuba Jalaba Ulea, and Jinatu L. Wamdeo.

Keynote speaker

The preacher was picked from within the EYN Headquarters in the person of Anthony A. Ndamsai, the EYN vice president. The key sermon was targeted at awakening the ministers of God as titled, “Mu Kula Da Kan Mu.” He based the message on the text taken from Acts 20:17 and admonished that we are in a time where sin is celebrated by a wayward, cultic, and perverse generation. He encouraged that EYN pastors are expected to be more Godly because they have suffered serious persecution as a result of Boko Haram. He warned that people have begun turning for herbal protection in the communities. He made mention of charm not being a lasting solution. “Let’s depend on Jesus and even die with Him. Don’t be a minister in principle rather than in practice,” he said.

Address by the EYN president

EYN president Joel S. Billi in his address said the cut in number of participants was forced by the global pandemic that has turned down many activities, saying that half bread is better than none. “We don’t want to violate and become law breakers,” he said.

Billi faulted the government over security challenges distressing the nation. “Shame to our leaders who have totally failed in providing adequate security to her citizens. Always showing deceptive images on TV claiming to destroy pockets of hideouts of Boko Haram. Heavy presence of soldiers who are yet to reach Sambisa [a Boko Haram hideout] for the past 11 years. It has become the order of the day to hear daily of civilians and soldiers killed or kidnapped. It is unfortunate to note that there is virtually no single road, village, town, city, or region in the whole of Nigeria? What is the future of our children? Will the church survive? The infiltration of AK47s and other dangerous weapons into the country has become a major security threat.”

A Bible study group at the EYN Ministers Conference. Photo by Zakariya Musa

Decisions about finances

During the conference, financial experts were invited to brief the gathering over the sustainability of central payments [remittances to EYN Headquarters], financial management, and the attitude of non-compliance with the church’s policy among some of the ministers.

It was reported that in 2020, staff leave grants were not paid due to the COVID-19 pandemic and backed by remittances. The leave grant fund has accumulated only N48,000,000. [Equivalent to $126,035 US dollars. N signifies the Nigerian currency the Naira. The current exchange rate is N381 to $1].

Billi called “ugly” which incidents came about as a result of some pastors’ laxity and lack of prudence in their remittances. The conference therefore agreed to forfeit the unpaid staff leave grant and to focus on the future, hoping that things will change for the better. The vote in favor of the decision was 209, with 1 person against, while 6 held their votes.

The briefing noted the following:

— Only N17,000,000 [$44,625] was realized from a two-month offering carried out in EYN nationwide as directed by the 2020 Majalisa [Annual Conference] in order to pay the N72,000,000 [$189,000] debt incurred to pay staff salaries.

— The church was able to pay staff salaries in the year 2020.

— More effort is required to sustain Central Payment.

— Central Payment is going on with challenges of low or inadequate remittances from churches.

— Total debt has amounted to N104,000,000 [$272,985].

— DCC Secretaries were encouraged to make remittances to appropriate accounts and to distinguish between Sustainability Account, Retirement Account, and Headquarters Account.

— The Audit Department was able to visit 506 Local Church Councils [congregations] to check their books and have identified lots of issues for correction.

— Churches were warned of spending without recording in the cashbook.

— Some congregations created ways just to avoid the 35 percent deduction.

— More Local Church Councils have been established, but income is shrinking because some churches make donations just to gain autonomy.

— Some Local Church Branches [new church plants] don’t remit their income to their Local Church Council.

— Some pastors relax their responsibilities to Church Treasurers and Secretaries.

— What shall we do about non-reporting of capital projects?

— EYN schools are not yet charged the 35 percent remittance.

Report by the Ministers Council Secretary

One of the key events of the conference was a report of activity presented by the Ministers Council Secretary, Lalai Bukar.

Ten pastors and 14 pastors’ wives were reported to have died in 2020.

All candidates approved for ordinations were ordained in the year 2020. Approved by the conference were 31 candidates for probationary minister and 39 names for ordination into full minister status. In this regard, the EYN president ordered the District Church Councils and their respective Local Church Councils to carry out all the ordinations before the end of May.

Response to Boko Haram violence

The EYN leadership is sending a pastor to Ngoshe, one of the four District Church Councils sacked by Boko Haram in Bayan Dutse, Gwoza Local Government Area, Borno State.

About 50,000 refugees are hosted across the border in Minawao Cameroon, by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This refugee camps is where Bitrus Mbatha is serving as EYN Coordinator, and where 13 EYN congregations have been organized. Mbatha is one of the pastors who experienced heavy suffering from Boko Haram activities. He was in Baga, where hundreds of people were killed and churches were displaced before they fled their homes in Gwoza area, which was later abandoned to Boko Haram. He was among those who fled to Cameroon in 2013.

— Zakariya Musa is head of EYN Media.


4) Webinar to focus on ways churches are navigating pandemic challenges

By Nancy Sollenberger Heishman

An upcoming webinar on Friday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern time) will focus on the ways congregations are navigating the challenges of gathering together and some of the creativity of their initiatives in the midst of the pandemic.

The panel, hosted by Stan Dueck of the Church of the Brethren’s Discipleship Ministries, will include:

Gary Benesh and Wallace Cole, interim district executives of Southeastern District;

Daniel and Tabitha Hartman Rudy, pastors of Ninth Street Roanoke (Va.) Church of the Brethren and Smith Mountain Lake Community Church of the Brethren in Wirtz, Va., respectively; and

Jennifer Keeney Scarr, pastor of Trotwood (Ohio) Church of the Brethren.

Sponsoring staff include Stan Dueck and Josh Brockway, co-coordinators of Discipleship Ministries; Nancy S. Heishman, director of the Office of Ministry; and Roy Winter, executive director of Service Ministries.

Register at

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

5) Brethren bits

A recording of the denominational worship service from last Saturday, Feb. 27, is posted in English and Spanish translation on the Annual Conference website at where a bulletin also is available. The service is recommended for individual worship and for any congregation that may want to use it for an upcoming Sunday morning worship service.

Remembrance: Dale Vernon Ulrich, 89, died on March 3 at Bridgewater (Va.) Retirement Community. He had been a leading administrator and professor at Bridgewater College, a founding board member of Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc., and an organizer for the international celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Church of the Brethren. He was born March 1, 1932, in Wenatchee, Wash., to Herbert E. and Esther Webb Ulrich. In 1953, he married Claire Marie Gilbert Ulrich, who was his partner for 57 years until her death. Early in their marriage they joined Brethren Volunteer Service and codirected a community development project in Baltimore, Md. The first in his family to graduate from college, he went on to earn a doctorate in physics at the University of Virginia. His 38-year career at Bridgewater College included work as a professor, academic dean, and provost. A lifetime member of the Church of the Brethren, he was passionate about the college’s service to the church and the church’s service in the world. As a member of the board of Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc., he was tapped to become editor of the fourth volume after the untimely death of the former editor, Donald F. Durnbaugh. During his tenure on the board, he helped plan and organize the 300th anniversary celebration of the Brethren movement, an event held in August 2008 on the banks of the Eder River in Schwarzenau, Germany. He is survived by his wife, Doris Metzler Ulrich, whom he married in 2012; children Vernon Ulrich (married to Pamela), Daniel Ulrich (married to Paula), and Sharon Wilkinson (married to Jay); grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The family plans a memorial service at Bridgewater Church of the Brethren later this year, when it is safer to meet in person. Memorial gifts are received to the Bridgewater Church. Find an obituary at

Remembrance: Sister Dianna Ortiz, 62, who died on Feb. 19, is remembered in a release from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). She was instrumental in the peace movement to end the wars in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s. Her death “in many ways marks the passing of an era,” said the remembrance. “The indiscriminate and brutal US-backed campaigns of genocide and war in Central America in the 1980s led this Ursuline nun to the Mayan highlands of Guatemala to teach children to read and write in 1987. It was hoped that the US citizenship of those traveling to the region in hundreds of peace delegations and the presence of individuals like Sr. Dianna who were living and working there would afford some protection to those living under the constant threat of terror and death. Nearly 200,000 people would ultimately be killed by military and paramilitary forces in Guatemala. For two years, despite repeated threats, this formula of protection worked for Sr. Dianna. But in 1989, her life was forever changed when she was abducted, tortured, and released. Her story, her courage, and her campaign to expose the US role in torture and genocide in Guatemala helped inspire the global peace movement that had been organizing throughout the 1980s in the U.S. and internationally to end the wars. From 1990-1996, through peace agreements and the gradual withdrawal of US military backing, the wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala were mostly ended.” Ortiz founded the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International in 1998 and served as its executive director for a decade. She served on the NRCAT board from 2015-2020. Find an online tribute page at

The Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board will meet March 12-14 via Zoom for its regular spring meeting. Business will be led by chair Patrick Starkey, assisted by chair-elect Carl Fike and general secretary David Steele. In addition to the meeting of the full board, the weekend will include the board committee meetings and executive sessions. Open session meetings of the full board will be broadcast via Zoom webinar. Preregistration is required to view the meeting. Find a schedule, background documents, and more information at

“Peacebuilding When We’re So Divided” is the topic of the next Moderator’s Town Hall hosted by Paul Mundey, moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. The online event on March 18 at 7 p.m. (Eastern time) will feature William H. Willimon, professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke Divinity School, and the author of some 100 books, which have sold more than a million copies. In 1996, an international survey conducted by Baylor University named him one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world. A 2005 study by the Pulpit and Pew Research Center found him to be the second most widely read author by mainline Protestant pastors, and his Pulpit Resource is used each week by thousands of pastors. The event will explore practical peacebuilding skills for this time, which an announcement described as one marked by continuing fracture in both church and culture. “The emphasis will be on hope, while acknowledging the necessity of realism and lament.” Register at For questions, contact

Polo (Ill.) Church of the Brethren is continuing its involvement in the Polo Growing Project that raises crops and donates the proceeds to be distributed through Growing Hope Globally to help smallholder farmers expand production in food-insecure communities abroad. A report in the newsletter of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., which is one of the project partners, reports that a final tally of proceeds from 2020 shows income of $35,500. This brings to $530,500 the aggregate amount the project has raised over the past 16 years.

The Atlantic Southeast District Cross-Cultural Team is planning an event to discuss the current issues of racial/ethnic justice and reconciliation in the church and country, using a mini-grant obtained through a program of the Church of the Brethren’s Intercultural Ministries. The group will offer a gathering on Zoom for the district to discuss a book together, on March 27. “The resource we have chosen is Oneness Embraced by Dr. Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship near Dallas, Texas,” said an announcement. Those who sign up to participate will receive a copy of the book. The team includes Founa Augustin-Badet, Aida Lymaris Sanchez, Ashley Carrasco, and Ray Hileman.

Southern Ohio and Kentucky District has announced it will be scheduling a town hall for district members to hear from people with specialized knowledge and to discuss the district’s situation with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We now have passed 500,000 deaths,” said the email from the district board. “The impact of the vaccination programs will not be felt for some time. We, as the Southern Ohio Kentucky District Board, continue to urge all congregations to refrain from in-person meetings to prevent COVID-19 transmission.” The email reported that “in our district, a growing number of our congregations have been directly affected by this virus. We are sad to report that in at least two of our congregations, members of leadership have died due to the virus. At least two pastors and members of two other pastoral families have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and we have heard numerous reports of church members fighting the disease.” Ohio is among the top 10 states in total numbers of cases and deaths to COVID-19.

The March episode of “Brethren Voices,” a community television program produced by Ed Groff and Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, tells the story of David Radcliff and the New Community Project. Radcliff has been taking learning tours to Arctic Village, Alaska, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge since 2002. “It’s an experience to learn about the Native Gwich’in people who have lived off the land for thousands of years,” said a release. “The Porcupine Caribou Herd is the central feature in the Gwich’in way of life. They believe that they are spiritually connected with the caribou and that they were placed on Earth at about the same time. The Porcupine Caribou migrate, annually, on a journey of 1,700 miles to the birthing grounds on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Many other animals and birds also call this home for birthing, including polar bears, wolverine, black bears, moose, lynx, eagles, wolves, beavers, and many migratory birds. This area is also where the oil interests of the US government are wanting to drill for oil.” The episode also interviews Charlie Swaney, Gwich’in leader from Arctic Village, who feels that oil drilling would damage both the plain and the herd, violating the fundamental human rights of the Gwich’in. Find this and other episodes of Brethren Voices posted on YouTube.

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is celebrating a temporary reprieve for Oak Flat, also known as Chi’chil Bildagoteel, a sacred site of the San Carlos Apache people located within Tonto National Forest in Arizona. The US Forest Service was set to make a decision that would hand over the site to Resolution Copper, owned by Rio Tinto, one of the largest mining companies in the world. “Today, we celebrate!” said a CPT release. “Thank you for your prayers, letters, donations, and signatures in support of Oak Flat. The United States Department of Agriculture has ordered the Forest Service to temporarily withdraw the Final Environmental Impact Statement in order to take a few months to ‘conduct a thorough review based on significant input received from collaborators, partners, and the public since these documents were released.’ This means the work is not done though. We must stay vigilant during this time and continue to defend Indigenous sovereignty in the face of colonial extractive policies.” CPT was begun by the Historic Peace Churches including the Church of the Brethren. Read the full release at

“The land that our churches inhabit is holy land,” said an announcement of a webinar on March 25, at 6-7 p.m. (Eastern time), titled “Climate Justice on Sacred Ground: The Role of Church Lands in Resilience and Adaptation.” The webinar is provided by Creation Justice Ministries. Said the announcement: “The seeds we sow–both physically and spiritually–can flourish into beautiful hubs of life and diversity long after we leave. In a time of climate crisis, church lands can be a powerful force of resilience and refuge.” Speakers include Norman Wirzba, Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Theology at Duke University and senior fellow at Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics; Randy Woodley (Keetoowah Cherokee descendant), public theologian and co-creator/sustainer of Eloheh-Indigenous Center for Earth Justice and Eloheh Seeds; Diana Carroll, rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Annapolis, Md.; facilitated by Avery Davis Lamb, Resilience Program coordinator for Creation Justice Ministries. Register at

Christian Aid Ministries, a nonprofit related to conservative Anabaptist groups including Amish and Mennonites, has published a compilation of stories about Christians in Nigeria facing persecution. No Turning Back: Stories of Nigerian Christians Suffering Under Boko Haram is written by Pablo Yoder. Among those interviewed for the book were Carl and Roxane Hill, former coordinators of the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Roxane Hill currently is interim manager of the office of Global Mission for the Church of the Brethren.

“On International Women’s Day, pray for women around the world,” invites the World Council of Churches (WCC). The day is celebrated March 8 with the theme #ChoosetoChallenge. The WCC will celebrate International Women’s Day with an ecumenical service, special reflections and prayers for sharing on social media, and a spirit of praying for women around the world. A prayer service will be led by women at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, and will be available online as part of WCC weekly prayer resources. The Thursdays in Black project has prepared special prayers to support women facing sexual abuse and violence, and to highlight international solidarity to overcome gender-based violence. The prayers are available as separate virtual “cards” for posting on social media during the week leading up to International Women’s Day. Find out more at

Christian health networks are calling for global equity and solidarity for COVID-19 vaccine access, in a release from the World Council of Churches. The WCC has joined with more than 30 Christian health organizations in raising concerns about unequal access to health services and COVID-19 vaccines. While applauding the effort to have safe and effective vaccines, the ecumenical health partners are also concerned “with the emerging trend of rich countries hoarding excess doses to vaccinate their entire populations two or more times over, inflating vaccine prices for poor countries and the overall picture of low or no vaccinations in low-income countries. We are equally concerned that even in rich countries, racial/ethnic minorities and low-income persons are being marginalized in access to the vaccines.” The statement warns about the devastating economic consequences of the lack of vaccines. Christian health networks, which are significant providers of healthcare in many parts of the world, commit to “maintaining their contribution to the global COVID-19 response motivated by the teachings of Jesus of promoting health and healing, prioritizing the sick and vulnerable, finding strength in weakness, servant leadership, and witnessing to the power and love of the gospel.” Read the full statement at

In more news from the WCC, the organization is calling Christians worldwide to observe a week of prayer on March 22-27, one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. “The week will invite a time of prayer and reflection on both the lament and the hope expressed and experienced across the world during what has been a year of unprecedented suffering, but also one when churches have worked together in ever new ways to adapt, respond and accompany communities through mental, physical, economical, spiritual, and environmental crises,” said the announcement. WCC acting general secretary Ioan Sauca described the week of prayer as an opportunity to experience and convey churches’ common allegiance to Christ. “During the week, we will gather to offer intercessions especially for the most vulnerable and for those who are on the frontline caring for them often under harsh circumstances; and recommit ourselves to active compassion across what separates us, in obedience to the one who had compassion for the crowds and ministered for their healing,” Sauca said in the release. A global prayer service with participation from the eight WCC regions will be offered online, and a collection of resources will be made available on the WCC website by March 18, in English, French, German, and Spanish. Find out more at

Dr. Michelle Migliore, a member of Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind., and director of the Mishawaka clinic for city employees, was presented with the Drum Major for Community Service Award on Jan. 18. This award recognizes individuals and organizations who unselfishly give their time and resources to improve St. Joseph County in Indiana. She was cited for her attention to detail, listening, and caring.

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 Dana Cassell, Chris Douglas, Stan Dueck, John Fillmore, Jan Fischer Bachman, Ed Groff, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Roxane Hill, Nancy Miner, Zakariya Musa, Howard Royer, Ron Stief, 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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