Newsline for May 7, 2021

1) Bethany Seminary to confer 26 degrees and certificates to Class of 2021

2) EDF grants support CDS work on border, COVID-19 relief in Nigeria and around the world

3) Brethren Benefit Trust board affirms five strategic goals

4) BBT issues annual lists of companies screened from investments for Dept. of Defense contracts

5) On Earth Peace holds early April board meeting

6) EYN 74th Majalisa commends six districts, lists resolutions

7) Rhonda Pittman Gingrich is hired as director of Annual Conference

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

8) Jennifer Houser to direct the Brethren Historical Library and Archives

9) Zechariah Houser to coordinate short-term service for the Church of the Brethren

10) Fabiola Fernandez resigns from Church of the Brethren’s Information Technology department

11) Kim Gingerich to be interim program assistant for Brethren Disaster Ministries

12) Lee Marsh to assist at Church of the Brethren General Offices

13) Brethren Volunteer Service offers in-person summer orientation unit

14) New and Renew virtual conference to occur next week

15) Brethren bits: Prayer for India, update on US deportations to Haiti, Shenandoah District to hold in-person disaster auction, SVMC announces changes in its governing board, Bridgewater College celebrates commencement, and more

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1) Bethany Seminary to confer 26 degrees and certificates to Class of 2021

A Bethany release

Bethany Theological Seminary will celebrate the classes of 2020 and 2021 during its Academic Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 8, at 11 a.m. (Eastern time). A small audience will gather in person in Nicarry Chapel at the seminary’s campus in Richmond, Ind., and a live stream also will be available.

The featured speaker is Amy Gall Ritchie, M.Div. 93, who served Bethany for 15 years in student development. She is the founding spiritual director of Persimmon Studio and is a member of the pastoral staff at Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind. The service also will include theopoetic contributions from students Julia Baker-Swann and Carol Davis and musical interludes performed by Carolyn Duning Ripp, organist.

Bethany did not hold an in-person commencement ceremony in 2020 due to pandemic restrictions, so last year’s graduates were given the option to join the Class of 2021 to celebrate this year. The seminary will honor the accomplishments of 13 graduates from the Class of 2020.

The Class of 2021 includes 7 recipients of the Master of Divinity degree, 7 who earned Master of Arts degrees, and 12 graduate certificates. This year’s class includes the first individuals to earn the Certificate in Biblical Peacemaking while attending classes at the Technology Center in Jos, Nigeria.

The in-person gathering is limited to 60 attendees to allow for social distancing between family groups. The seminary anticipates that many people will choose to view the live stream online.

“We are delighted to be able to share this celebration with both those who will join us in person as well as those who will watch from a distance,” says president Jeff Carter. “We are proud of these graduates, and we look forward to seeing the next chapters of their lives and ministries unfold–so that the world flourishes.”

The individuals who will be honored in this ceremony are as follows:

Class of 2020

Certificate in Theopoetics and Theological Imagination: Eric William Bader (Columbia, Mo.),
Amy Beth Lutes (Nashville, Tenn.), Joanna Davidson Smith (McPherson, Kan.), Rachel Ulrich (Richmond, Ind.)

Master of Arts: Duane Edwin Crumrine (Martinsburg, Pa.), area of concentration: Peace Studies: Paul Bala Samura (Freetown, Sierra Leone), area of concentration: Peace Studies

Master of Divinity: Raul Gregorio Rivera Arroyo (Vega Baja, P.R., and Kettering, Ohio), John Andrew Fillmore (Caldwell, Idaho), Susan K. Liller (New Carlisle, Ohio), Thomas Michael McMullin (Minburn, Iowa), Katherine Lynn Polzin (Defiance, Ohio), Jack Richard Roegner (Davenport, Neb.), Elizabeth Ullery Swenson (Olympia, Wash.)

Class of 2021

Certificate in Biblical Peacemaking: Maina Pindar (Jos, Nigeria), Sanamo Kpanah (Demsa, Nigeria), Aimu Sunday (Jos, Nigeria), Esther Zira (Kwarhi, Nigeria)

Certificate in Intercultural Biblical Interpretation: Vivek Ashokbhai Solanky (New Delhi, India, and Naperville, Ill.)

Certificate in Just Peace and Conflict Transformation: Charles D. Jackson (Champaign, Ill.), Nolan Ryan McBride (Elkhart, Ind.)

Certificate in Theopoetics and Theological Imagination: Timothy Paul Harvey (Roanoke, Va.), Steven Troy Headings (Bay City, Mich.), Charles D. Jackson (Champaign, Ill.), Meridith Anne Owensby (Cincinnati, Ohio), Alexandra Elizabeth Thorpe Toms (Chambersburg, Pa.)

Master of Arts: Patricia Doka Amos (Jos, Nigeria), area of concentration: Peace Studies; Jack Richard Roegner (Davenport, Neb.), area of concentration: Theological Studies; Rachel Elizabeth Ulrich (Richmond, Ind.), area of concentration: Peace Studies

Master of Arts: Theopoetics and Writing: Julia Baker-Swann (Fresno, Calif.), Gene George Bradbury (Sequim, Wash.), Carol Diane Davis (Canton, Ill.), Somer Brady O’Neill Eckert (Alexandria, La.)

Master of Divinity: Amanda Sheree Bennett (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), Mary A. Garvey (Huntingdon, Pa.), Steven Troy Headings (Bay City, Mich.), Charles D. Jackson (Champaign, Ill.), Katherine Ruth Peterson (Middletown, Ohio), Vivek Ashokbhai Solanky (New Delhi, India, and Naperville, Ill.), Alexandra Elizabeth Thorpe Toms (Chambersburg, Pa.)

At link to the live stream commencement ceremony is at

2) EDF grants support CDS work on border, COVID-19 relief in Nigeria and around the world

Brethren Disaster Ministries has directed grants from the Church of the Brethren Emergency Disaster Fund to COVID-19 response in Nigeria through Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and the worldwide COVID response by Church World Service (CWS). Another grant supports CWS relief work in Indonesia and Timor-Leste following flooding. A grant also has been given to support a humanitarian response at the southern US border by Children’s Disaster Services (CDS).

Humanitarian border response

A grant of $27,000 supports the CDS response at the southern US border. The growing crisis along the border and the influx of migrant families seeking asylum since the beginning of 2021 is related to the struggle with poverty and violence in Mexico and Central America that has led people to flee for decades. Due to changes in US policy and a hurricane that hit Central America last fall, numbers have skyrocketed including unaccompanied minors and families seeking refuge.

A COVID-19 handwashing station outside the EYN Ministers Conference earlier this year. Photo by Zakariya Musa

A CDS team has been deployed to the border in Texas to work with migrant children while their parents rest before the next leg of their journey. These families have been released on deferred adjudication, a legal status allowing immigrants to travel to reunite with family and loved ones, as long as they promise to appear for their scheduled immigration court dates. CDS continues to seek additional opportunities to serve unaccompanied minors and at other border locations.


A grant of $15,000 has been given to EYN’s COVID-19 response. Previous EDF grants focused on providing PPE and hygiene supplies to at-risk populations and food distributions to vulnerable widows, the elderly, and orphans. EYN provided monthly reports including an activity summary, financial report, pictures, and stories of recipients.

With this grant, the EYN Disaster Relief Ministry will continue similar programing. The PPE equipment, including hand sanitizer and face masks, will be provided to schools and for the EYN Majalisa (annual conference). Food distributions will be provided to widows, orphans, and the elderly in five church communities at Viniklang, Bajabore, Yola Town, Mbamba, and Nyibango.

CWS COVID-19 response

A grant of $25,000 supports the CWS worldwide coronavirus response in 2021. This long-term partner issued a $2.25 million appeal to address the extensive global need on April 22, 2020, then updated the appeal on July 6, 2020. CWS is working with its branch offices and many partners to address pandemic-related needs. This includes rental assistance in the US, childcare assistance, expansion of hunger programs, humanitarian assistance, and the shipping of CWS emergency kits to families in need.

Grant funds will be targeted to support humanitarian assistance, hunger- and poverty-fighting programs, support of global refugees, and CWS kit programs, which best match the intent of the Emergency Disaster Fund.

Indonesia and Timor-Leste

A grant of $5,000 supports CWS in the purchase of supplies for hygiene kits for families affected by flooding in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Torrential rains from Tropical Cyclone Seroja, one of the most destructive storms to hit the region in years, sent thousands fleeing to shelters. Hundreds were killed and thousands of households have been displaced.

Together with partners, CWS has initiated a program to support 1,000 disaster-affected families with hygiene kits containing bath soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste for adults, toothpaste for children, sanitary pads, shampoo, towels, buckets with lids for water collection and storage, water drippers, detergent, and a trash can with lid.

To give financial support to these grants, go to

3) Brethren Benefit Trust board affirms five strategic goals

By Jean Bednar

Continuing to affirm bold steps in the plan to position Brethren Benefit Trust for a strong future, the BBT board affirmed the five strategic goals that evolved throughout 2020 from conversations among board and staff members, with members and clients, and with denominational leadership.

The affirmation of the goals among the board and staff who were in attendance took place at the April meeting of the BBT board, held April 22-24. For the second year in a row, the board’s April meeting took place via Zoom, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The five strategic goals are:

— Embrace a mentality of growth (rather than one of maintenance),

— Adopt marketing and communications measures that will boost BBT’s message and make it more competitive in the benefits marketplace,

— Align the structure of BBT staff appropriately to meet future challenges,

— Determine how best staff should work and from where, in order to better meet the needs of BBT’s client base among changing demographics of the denomination, and

— Examine our corporate image and brand to ensure that it resonates with the people and organizations we are to serve.

Even before the pandemic hit, BBT leadership was engaged in strategic conversations on how the organization might need to adapt to meet the changing needs of members and clients. Now, a year later, the goals for this plan have been affirmed by the board, and steps are being taken to position staff for these changes. As always, the focus is on those BBT serves and how to retain their business while bringing on new clients and enrolling new members.

Assisting with this process is a consultant that has a proven track record of assisting companies with challenging transitions. The consultant has worked with BBT president Nevin Dulabaum since January, and in the following months interviewed more than 10 of the BBT staff to help assess strengths, weaknesses, and internal dynamics. At this meeting, the consultant joined the board in closed session with Dulabaum and Michelle Kilbourne, BBT’s director of Human Resources and co-facilitator of the strategic goal process, to address how best the company can fulfill the goals.

A pivotal question going forward will be how BBT might want to position itself in terms of identity. BBT will examine whether its name accurately reflects its mission, vision, and values in an invitational manner for those the organization serves both inside and outside the Church of the Brethren.

Changes to the BBT board membership

The BBT board has undergone recent changes with more to come.

Shelley Kontra tendered her resignation from the board in March, due to scheduling issues. The board agreed to appoint retired BBT staff member Donna March to serve the remaining one year of Kontra’s term.

In addition, Kevin Kessler, Sara Brenneman, and Ron Gebhardtsbauer will complete their terms as of the July board meeting. Filling these board positions will happen in three ways. First, through an election of Pension Plan and Insurance Plan members. In that recent election, Kathryn Whitacre of McPherson, Kan., was chosen; she will begin serving in July. There will be two elections taking place at this year’s virtual Annual Conference, which will produce two new board members as well. The 12th member of the board will be added by board appointment, also in July.

Clean audit opinion of 2020 financials

The BBT finance staff, accustomed to working in close quarters to handle the flow of more than $630 million in assets under management, was dispersed to work from their respective homes for the past 14 months, due to the pandemic. Despite this challenge, the team didn’t miss a beat in its administration and oversight of its responsibilities, once again earning a clean audit opinion, the highest ranking possible.

At its meeting, the board met with BBT’s independent auditors, reviewing the 2020 financials in open session with staff, and in closed session without staff.

The BBT board also

— Approved IR&M as one of its two bond managers for an additional three years,

— Affirmed the two 2021 Department of Defense lists that BBT staff prepared, which screen out publicly traded companies that generate a significant amount of their revenue from US Department of Defense contracts, which show Brethren values-based screens for most investment options, and

— Agreed that it will meet again in person in November at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

Find out more about the ministries of Brethren Benefit Trust at

4) BBT issues annual lists of companies screened from investments for Dept. of Defense contracts

By Jean Bednar

As an agency of a historic peace church that believes in nonviolence, Brethren Benefit Trust has long screened out investing the funds of Brethren Pension Plan members and its money management clients in weapons and weapons systems, firearms, and US Department of Defense contracts.


Whenever possible, investments utilized by BBT’s members, clients, and donors are screened according to Brethren Values Investing guidelines, which are consistent with Church of the Brethren Annual Conference statements.

Each year, BBT produces two lists of companies that earn significant revenue from US military operations. One list identifies the top 25 publicly traded defense contractors based on the size of contracts awarded by the Department of Defense, and the other list includes all publicly traded companies that generate 10 percent or more of their revenue from Department of Defense contracts. These lists are then presented to the BBT board at its April meeting.

In addition to these lists, BBT’s investment managers also screen out companies that generate 10 percent or more of their revenues from abortion, alcohol, gambling, pornography, and tobacco. Companies that are egregious violators of environmental or human rights regulations also are screened from BBT portfolios.

To see the 2021 Department of Defense lists compiled by BBT, go to For more information on Brethren Values Investing, contact Steve Mason at

5) On Earth Peace holds early April board meeting

By Melisa Leiter-Grandison and Irvin Heishman

The On Earth Peace board held its spring meeting April 8-10, gathering virtually by Zoom for the third time due to the pandemic.

Times of worship were a significant part of the gatherings.

Board member Lucas Al-Zoughbi opened the first session with an introduction to the worship resources of Sabeel (an Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center based in Jerusalem). Sabeel connects the Christian community around the world with Palestinian Christian traditions and with following Jesus in the work of justice for oppressed people. On Earth Peace was co-sponsor of Sabeel’s “Easter In Jerusalem” celebration.

Staff member Matt Guynn opened the second session utilizing resources for Holy Week, which had been provided by On Earth Peace for individuals and congregations to use for worship.

Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, director of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry, was invited to share a time of reflection and worship on the theme of trauma as both an individual and a community experience, with thoughts on how to work at healing.

Board member Cindy Weber closed the meetings with a time of worship featuring scripture, music, and prayer.

The year 2021 marks the eighth year since On Earth Peace began an intentional process of institutional transformation toward becoming an anti-racist, anti-oppression organization. Part of this commitment has been the expectation that the board and staff will complete a two-and-a-half day anti-racism training once every five years. Board action extended that expectation to include persons serving as liaisons from other organizations, such as the Council of District Executives. Since in-person training is not possible this year, the board approved an interim virtual training event with Widerstand (, which will include:

Reflection, input, and discussion about anti-racist spirituality with particular focus on the
— roots, traditions, and practices for an anti-racist spirituality praxis,
— the spirituality of conflict and crisis,
— antiracism and the spiritual disciplines, institutional transformation, spiritual formation, historical trauma, and the importance of racial identity.

Reflection, review, and discussion on growth and development of an anti-racist institution through work with the Widerstand Consulting’s continuum including field-tested and research-based direction on how to be effective and focused in the work of dismantling institutional racism.

Guided reflection on the challenges and opportunities being faced by On Earth Peace in its collective anti-racism journey.

In-person training will be scheduled for 2022.

A major focus of the meetings involved conversations about resources and staff structure needed to further the transformation of On Earth Peace work around anti-racism and anti-oppression commitments and values. Staff and board members completed a survey ahead of the meetings to review current programs in light of value commitments and strategic priorities. A covenant of shared values was approved to guide the conversations and several sessions of brainstorming followed. A time of racial caucusing helped board and staff reflect on how internalized racial superiority (IRS) and internalized racial oppression (IRO) limit our thinking together as we have these conversations. Appreciation is extended to the board’s Resource Management Committee for planning and leading this process.

A Vulnerable Persons Protection Policy proposal was discussed. Awareness of the impact of police background checks on marginalized persons resulted in a decision to do more work on the policy before approval. Marie Benner-Rhoades, who co-chairs Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) as On Earth Peace’s liaison, is assisting both organizations in reviewing their protection policies.

Bill Scheurer, executive director, provided the staff report to the board. A major part of his report was on how the board and staff will cover his responsibilities as he begins his sabbatical. He will return from his sabbatical time on June 26.

The report from the Church of the Brethren Council of District Executives (CODE) was provided by David Shetler. He acknowledged that he was unaware that On Earth Peace had not been invited to report to the January CODE meetings as has been customary. Instead, CODE dedicated the time to reflect on relationship concerns.

The report of the executive committee of On Earth Peace was followed by a report on the decision of the Church of the Brethren Standing Committee to form a Task Team. The purpose is to clarify understandings about the On Earth Peace decision to join the Supportive Communities Network (

The Board Governance and Development Committee forwarded nominations for new board members to Annual Conference. When these new members are confirmed and welcomed, the board will have reached its full capacity of 12. The committee also led the board in several powerful team builders in which board members were invited to share stories of courage and hope. These not only helped board members learn to know one another better but infused the meetings with sacred moments of inspiration and faith.

— Melisa Leiter-Grandison and Irvin Heishman are co-chairs of the board of On Earth Peace.

6) EYN 74th Majalisa commends six districts, lists resolutions

A release from EYN by Zakariya Musa

Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) held its General Church Council Annual Conference, also known as Majalisa, with successful approvals, deliberations, commendations, celebrations, and presentations on April 27-30.

About 2,000 pastors, delegates, and heads of programs and institutions were in attendance at the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi, Hong Local Government Area, Adamawa State.

Guest speaker Yuguda Ndurvwa at the EYN Majalisa. Photo by Zakariya Musa

Guest preacher Yuguda Z. Ndurvwa talked under the topic “Everyone Born of God Overcomes the World” (1 John 5:4).

EYN president Joel S. Billi in his address reiterated calls on Nigerians to seek the face of God in order to save Nigeria from various challenges that are lingering, with little or no reasonable effort to tackle them. From his address:

“It is time for all Nigerians to lift up our voices and cry to God to save our nation. Nigeria is dilapidating every day with no sign of hope at all. Public schools, government hospitals, roads, employment, subsidizing fertilizers for peasant farmers, and many other things are no longer in good shape. Former and current leaders allowed all these things to slip off their grip because of their selfishness and they don’t have the masses at heart. They always stand aloof from the masses because they can afford overseas treatment, sponsor their children to study abroad, and have the money to go round the world at will.

“As we are all aware, breaking of prisons (Correction Centers) have become the order of the day in the south. Burning of police stations and killing of soldiers have become rampant. Abduction and kidnapping have become a very lucrative business. Going by this trend, will Nigeria survive? What is the future of our children? Posterity will judge most of us for being complacent.”

Lamenting on the global pandemic and the setback the pandemic brought to mankind, he said it “cannot be quantified…. We are still in the struggle of stay safe with masks on our faces like bulls who are plowing. But we should not give up or lose heart. Don’t lose heart, for God’s power and miracles are under way.

“Let us continue to pray for the release of the remaining 112 Chibok School girls, Rev. Yahi, Leah Sharibu, Alice Yoaksa, Bitrus Takrfa, Bitrus Zakka Bwala, and hundreds of others in the forest. Please, we should not relent in praying for this huge number of people in captivity. We should ask God to keep them in the faith no matter what. Lai Mohammed is still lying that the Federal Government is working tirelessly to ensure the release of the remaining 112 girls. These girls were seven years in abduction on 14th April, 2021…. The federal government has totally failed.”

The three-day long highest policy making body of the church received reports of the year 2020 activities presented by all directorates. Six District Church Councils (DCCs) were commended by the Majalisa for their extra effort in remittance to the Headquarters, which has enabled the church to pay staff salaries during COVID-19 economic setbacks. The DCCs and their secretaries are Maiduguri: Julius Kaku, Maisandari: Joshua Maiva, Utako: Patrick Bugu, Nasarawa: James T. Mamza, Jimeta: Smith Usman, and Yawa: Fidelis Yerima.

One of the EYN Bible schools, Madu Bible School in Marama, was applauded for producing good candidates, rated during job interviews by the church.

Commended by EYN president Joel Billi for sustaining central payment to EYN were: Haruna D. Thakwatsa, principal, Madu Bible School, Marama; Fidelis Yarima, secretary, DCC Yawa; Smith Usman, secretary, DCC Jimeta; Joshua Maiva, secretary, DCC Maisandari; James T. Mamza, secretary, DCC Nasarawa; and Patrick Bugu, secretary, DCC Utako. Photo by Zakariya Musa

One of the spirited EYN members was praised for their contribution to the church. “My heart is sparkling with joy by what our brother Mr. A. A. Gadzama and his family have done for EYN. This noiseless man who does not blow his trumpet built a magnificent church to LCB Gidan Zakara in DCC Nasarawa. He built and furnished it with modern chairs. We really express our gratitude for this unprecedented offering, sacrifice, donation, and gift to God. This is not the first time they have done such a thing. May the face and peace of God, dwell in their hearts and bless them spiritually and physically.”

Resolutions of the 74th Majalisa include but are not restricted to the following, as shared by the office of the EYN General Secretary:

  1. The Majalisa accepted the long-awaited amendment of the 1983 Constitution of the Incorporated Trustee of EYN-Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. It will soon be published, all legal requirements will be met, and copies will be made available.
  2. The “Disaster Relief Ministry” is now “Disaster Relief Management.”
  3. Building Sunday school classes as a requirement for granting autonomy to Local Church Councils (LCCs, or congregations) is still encouraged but not a must where the strength at the beginning is not available.
  4. The name “Director of Audit and Documentation” is now “Director of Audit and Compliance.”
  5. EYN is to establish a printing press. A committee will be set up by management to work out the modalities.
  6. Six out of 12 LCCs that had an income below 1 million naira, that are not in danger zones, will be served with warning letters. These LCCs are Kali Sama, Kubuku, Wurojam, Mintama, Bantali, and Wakdang. If they do not meet up by the end of the year 2021, they will be merged next Majalisa.
  7. The conference for ministers’ wives will be held May 18-21.
  8. There is an urgent need of the sum of 8.1 million naira to buy land for Billiri Mission Field (N4.4m) and to roof nine mud-built churches in Rijau Niger State (N3.7m). Management will work on how LCCs and DCCs will raise these funds and communicate to LCCs and DCCs soonest.
  9. EYN Founder’s Day: Any pastor that collaborates with church committees to hide some part of the revenue realized that day, or had multiple offerings on that day, will be suspended without salary for a period of six months effective 2022.
  10. Next of kin to all EYN employees should be their spouse; anything other than this has to be in consultation with the office.
  11. Education of Pastors’ children: EYN will establish a boarding primary and secondary school where pastors’ children can be educated. This will help reduce distorting pastors’ children education. A committee will be set up by management to bring proposals.
  12. The Majalisa approved 18 LCBs to be granted autonomy, one DCC to be charted, two DCCs to have their names changed, and two LCC to have their names changed.
  13. LCC Song is transferred to DCC Golantabal for the reason of proximity.

During the Majalisa, a thanksgiving service was observed in honor of pastor Bulus Yukura, who was kidnapped from Pemi on Dec. 24, 2020, and was miraculously released by Boko Haram terrorists after two months in captivity. Yukura, his wife, Grace, and their children were invited to the floor of the Majalisa. In his response, Yukura thanked all for their prayers and joint efforts towards his release, which he considered “the grace of God.” Songs of joy, prayers, and special offerings were made.

A spokesperson for the parents of the Chibok schoolgirls, Yakubu Nkeke, also was on the floor of the Majalisa for a briefing, and asked for continued joint prayers for the release of the remaining 112 girls and many others.

Some few EYN sons who are holding political office, and a delegation of Adamawa State Governor His Excellency Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, paid a thank you visit to the synod.

While concerned over the non-attendance of partners, the EYN president informed the house about the COVID-19 challenges that banned the Church of the Brethren and Mission 21 from attending the 2021 Majalisa. President Billi brought their greetings.

We appreciate God for the answered prayers.

— Zakariya Musa is head of Media for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria.


7) Rhonda Pittman Gingrich is hired as director of Annual Conference

Rhonda Pittman Gingrich has been hired as director of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. She will begin her work on Aug. 23, working from her home in Minneapolis, Minn., and from the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

She will succeed Chris Douglas, who retires as Conference director on Oct. 1.

Pittman Gingrich is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren, currently working as adjunct faculty at the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership and program director at Camp Pine Lake in Northern Plains District.

In recent years, she has provided significant leadership for the compelling vision process that will conclude with delegate action at this year’s Annual Conference. Previously, she served on the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee 2014-2017, the Annual Conference Revitalization Task Force 2010-2012, and the Church of the Brethren 300th Anniversary Committee 2000-2008.

She has been a trustee for Bethany Theological Seminary and chaired the search committee that led the process resulting in appointment of Bethany president Jeffrey W. Carter in 2013. In 2016, she was moderator of the 150th district conference in Northern Plains District.

In 1990, as a Brethren Volunteer Service worker, she coordinated National Youth Conference. At more recent NYCs, she has been part of worship and music planning and has been an advisor for the National Youth Cabinet.

Pittman Gingrich wrote the 2018 Advent devotional for Brethren Press, titled Wait and Hope, and also the 2007 Lenten devotional, titled Growing the Fruit of the Spirit. She is the author of Heart, Soul, and Mind: Becoming a Member of the Church of the Brethren, the membership curriculum from Brethren Press.

She holds a bachelor of arts degree in English Education and Music from Bridgewater (Va.) College; a master of divinity from Bethany Theological Seminary; and a doctor of ministry from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.

She is a member of Open Circle Church of the Brethren in Burnsville, Minn.

8) Jennifer Houser to direct the Brethren Historical Library and Archives

Jennifer Houser has been hired by the Church of the Brethren as director of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

She is a licensed minister currently serving as part-time pastor at Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind. She also is a reference associate at Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library, which has branches in Mishawaka and Harris, Ind.

She is a graduate of Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., where she earned a bachelor of arts in Christian Ministries. She holds a master of divinity degree from Duke Divinity School at Duke University in Durham, N.C., where she worked as the archival assistant.

Houser will begin her work with the BHLA on Aug. 2.

9) Zechariah Houser to coordinate short-term service for the Church of the Brethren

Zechariah Houser has been hired by the Church of the Brethren as coordinator of short-term service for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS), working from the General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

He is a licensed minister currently serving as part-time pastor at Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind.

Houser is a graduate of Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in Youth Ministry and a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies. He holds a master of divinity degree from Duke Divinity School at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

He will begin his work with BVS on Aug. 9.

10) Fabiola Fernandez resigns from Church of the Brethren’s Information Technology department

Fabiola Fernandez has resigned as manager of Information Technology for the Church of the Brethren, effective May 21, to accept a position with the city of Elgin, Ill.

She has served in the IT department for five years, since she was hired May 23, 2016, as systems specialist. In May 2019, she was promoted to the position of manager of IT.

She holds an associate’s degree from Elgin Community College and a bachelor of science degree in operations management and information systems from Northern Illinois University.

11) Kim Gingerich to be interim program assistant for Brethren Disaster Ministries

Kim Gingerich of York, Pa., has been hired as interim program assistant for Brethren Disaster Ministries’ rebuilding program. She will work out of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., starting May 17.

Since Jan. 2014, she has been a longterm disaster project leader covering office and household management, serving and living fulltime at rebuilding project sites. She previously served as district disaster coordinator for Southern Pennsylvania District, and is an ordained minister.

12) Lee Marsh to assist at Church of the Brethren General Offices

Lee Marsh has been hired as Buildings and Grounds assistant at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., starting May 17. He is currently working as a truck driver at Nu-Way Transportation and previously was a warehouse manager/driver at Goodman Distribution Inc.


13) Brethren Volunteer Service offers in-person summer orientation unit

By Pauline Liu and Kara Miller

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) is pleased to announce that we will be hosting an in-person summer orientation for Unit 329 at Inspiration Hills Camp in Burbank, Ohio, from July 18-Aug. 6. We are excited to be able to gather safely and in intentional community for the orientation experience once more!

This decision was carefully considered and researched in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, and Faith Outreach Expeditions (FaithX).

We are also announcing the Fall Unit 330 orientation on Sept.19-Oct. 8 at Camp Brethren Heights in Michigan.

We are still accepting applications for the summer unit through June 4. Applications for the fall unit are due Aug. 6. Please consider sharing your gifts with BVS to serve a world in need.

Our full BVS orientation COVID-19 guidelines and consent form can be found at Please email with any questions.

— Pauline Liu is coordinator of volunteers and Kara Miller is orientation assistant for BVS.

14) New and Renew virtual conference to occur next week

By Erika Clary

Don’t miss the opportunity to register and attend the New and Renew virtual conference next week, from May 13-15, focused on “The Reward of Risk.” New and Renew is an excellent opportunity for pastors of new church plants and established churches to fellowship through worship, learning, and networking.

The conference will feature more than 20 workshop sessions, inspirational worship, and keynote speakers, all of which will broaden participants’ knowledge of church planting and renewal and will recharge passion for ministry.

Keynote speakers José Humphreys and Christiana Rice, as well as preachers Samuel Sarpiya, Leonor Ochoa, and Aaron Reyes will dive deep into “The Reward of Risk,” a theme developed from Matthew 25: 28-29a. The key scripture from Matthew 25:28 (The Message) reads, “Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most….”

Conversations around church planting and congregational renewal often include discussion about the possibility of failure regarding risk. Many times, we do not stop to ponder the possibility of the reward amid risk. What might it look like to celebrate those who have taken the risk for the Kingdom of God? We would be glad for you to join us as we contemplate and celebrate this theme.

Unable to attend live sessions during the conference? Registration includes recordings of all sessions, which will be available to watch to earn 2.0 continuing education units until Dec. 15. Registration costs $79 per person, plus $10 for those wishing to earn CEUs.

To find more information and to register go to

— Erika Clary is working temporarily for the Church of the Brethren Discipleship Ministries until starting a Brethren Volunteer Service position as coordinator for National Youth Conference 2022.

15) Brethren bits

In an update on US deportations to Haiti, Haiti Advocacy on May 6 wrote that “today’s flight is the 33rd since Feb. 1, expelling over 1,700-2,000 Haitians, mainly families with children, even though ‘USCIS believes that Haitians returned to Haiti may face harm upon return to Haiti.’” The email noted that the current US administration has, in the first four-plus months of 2021, already returned more Haitians than were deported in all of the federal government’s fiscal year 2020. The organization is advocating for an extension or redesignation of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for undocumented Haitians living in the US.

At Greensburg Church of the Brethren, “Connor Watson and Aaron DeMayo have been working on turning a pile of cardboard boxes into a mini golf course,” according to Trib Total Media of Tarentum, Pa. The project was started in February when the two “decided to create an activity for people who have been cooped up because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are members of Above the Challenge, a North Huntingdon-based organization that works with individuals in the special needs community…. All proceeds will benefit the Greensburg Church of the Brethren, which is used by Above the Challenge for events when the weather does not permit outdoor activities.” Find the full article at

Shenandoah District is holding an in-person Disaster Auction on May 21-22. “The annual disaster ministries auctions and sales began in 1993 on the same dates as this year’s event, May 21-22. Since the 2020 auction was canceled, this year will be the 28th year,” said an announcement. “Through it all, the cumulative total of funds raised for disaster ministries since 1993 is $4,951,951.42. With a successful auction and sale in May, it is possible the total funds raised will top $5 million this year.” Items to be auctioned are being featured on the district’s website and on the auction’s Facebook page.

Pray for India

“Pray for India this Saturday,” said an invitation from the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. On Saturday, May 8, at 10:30 a.m. (Eastern time), a prayer event for India is being held, sponsored by the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America and the New York State Council of Churches along with other Indian Christian organizations. India is being ravaged by COVID-19 cases and an overwhelming number of deaths from the virus. Prayers will be offered by Christian leaders from across the ecumenical spectrum. For more information go to

The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian Conference of Asia have issued a pastoral letter expressing concern, grief, and prayerful solidarity with the churches in India as COVID-19 surges in South Asian countries. “We stand with you in solidarity and prayer in the midst of the suffering and loss of thousands of lives in India,” read the letter. “We grieve with you before God, for the loss of so many family members, friends, pastors, teachers and healthcare workers who have been taken by this pandemic.” The letter also expresses grief for the pain of those who are sick and suffering. “It is our hope and prayer that during this period of crisis, God Almighty will continue to accompany you, as you uphold each other in the struggle for healing and recovery. We particularly lift up and pray for the healthcare personnel, hospitals, clinics and community health initiatives of the churches which are being overwhelmed and stretched to their limits, serving and caring for the flood of sick and suffering people.”

The governing board of the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) has welcomed two new members: Michael Benner (at-large member) and Brandy Liepelt (Atlantic Northeast District). The board also recognized members completing service: Miller Davis (completing two terms of service as Bethany Theological Seminary trustee), Angela Finet (relocating from Mid-Atlantic District to Atlantic Northeast District), and Bill Wenger (resigned as Western Pennsylvania District executive). “We are grateful for the gifts and skill each of these departing board members brought to our ministry,” said the announcement. The SVMC is a Church of the Brethren ministry education partner with Bethany Theological Seminary, the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, and the districts of Atlantic Northeast, Mid- Atlantic, Middle Pennsylvania, Southern Pennsylvania, and Western Pennsylvania.

Bridgewater (Va.) College has celebrated the Classes of 2021 and 2020 during a series of in-person commencement ceremonies May 1-2 on the campus mall. Approximately 321 undergraduate and 32 graduate students from the Class of 2021 received degrees at the ceremonies, conferred by Bridgewater president David W. Bushman, reported a release. For the first time, Bridgewater graduated students from four different master’s programs: three students graduated with a master of science in psychology-mental health professions; five graduated with a master of arts in digital media strategy; 13 graduated with a master of science in athletic training; and 11 graduated with a master of science in human resource management. The commencement speaker was Stephen L. Longenecker, Edwin L. Turner Distinguished Professor of History at the college. A professor of religious history, Longenecker is retiring from Bridgewater at the end of the 2020-21 academic year after 32 years as a professor in the Department of History and Political Science. In accordance with Virginia’s COVID-19 guidelines, the college held six commencement ceremonies over the two days. Everyone on campus was required to wear a face mask and to adhere to 10 feet of social distancing. Each student received just three tickets for guests to attend their commencement ceremony. Every ceremony was live-streamed so that additional family members and friends could watch virtually.

“Meet Eric Miller and Ruoxia Li, co-executive directors Church of the Brethren Global Mission,” said an announcement of the May episodes of Brethren Voices, a community television program of Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, produced by Ed Groff. “In 1911, Brethren founded a hospital: Yangquan You’ai Hospital in Pinding, Shanxi Province, China. Many years later, and prior to her connections with the Church of the Brethren, one of our special guests walked by this hospital, each morning, on the way to her elementary school…. The life journeys of Ruoxia Li and Eric Miller take many twists and turns, which led them to meeting in Beijing, China, and life together in the United States and China.” This program originally began from an interview of nearly 90 minutes. This series of two Brethren Voices programs may be viewed at

Creation Justice Ministries is welcoming the “30×30 Report” from the Biden administration. Said the ministry’s board president Rebecca Barnes in a press statement on the importance of 30 by 30: “We are facing a climate crisis that requires swift action. Supporting the conservation of 30 percent of land and waters by 2030 is one such bold action. We understand the need to care for not only God’s creation and creatures on land, but God’s creatures in the ocean. By creating a plan for protection of our ocean space, we are caring for this majestic, sacred land that God has entrusted with us.” The ministry listed several principles to focus on in order to achieve the goal, including continuing “to look at care for our fellow humans, conserving space away from human development, preserving God’s creatures, and learning from Indigenous communities on how we can maintain better practices of sustainability…. Without a rounded, holistic approach to preservation, we will not have fulfilled our call.” Find out more at

Church World Service (CWS) “commends President Biden for fulfilling pledge to increase refugee admissions goal to 62,500 in FY 2021,” in a statement released May 3. “Setting the stage to set an admissions goal of 125,000 next year, CWS urges the administration to immediately rebuild the resettlement program to resettle as many refugees as possible this year,” the statement continued, in part. Increasing the 2021 refugee admissions goal to 62,500 “will allow thousands of screened refugees to finally be resettled in the United States to join family members, escape peril, and build new lives in safety. This follows a months-long delay in finalizing an increased admissions goal, which jeopardized the safety of many and had caused irreparable damage to thousands of refugees who were already approved for resettlement. Said Meredith Owen, CWS director of Policy and Advocacy, “Today’s decision sends a clear message that the United States views the resettlement program as an embodiment of our values of compassion and welcome…. Communities across the country can now return to the proud work of welcoming new neighbors and reuniting families.” Since 1946, CWS has supported refugees, immigrants and other displaced individuals, in addition to providing sustainable relief and development solutions to communities that wrestle with hunger and poverty. Find the full 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 Jean Bednar, Shamek Cardona, Erika Clary, Jan Fischer Bachman, Jonathan Graham, Ed Groff, Irvin Heishman, Nate Hosler, Melisa Leiter-Grandison, Pauline Liu, Jessica Luck, Kara Miller, Nancy Miner, Roy Winter, 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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