Bible studies

Newsline for Jan. 30, 2021 – News

Isaiah 43:19 is the theme scripture for the 2021 celebration of Service Sunday in the Church of the Brethren. Service Sunday is observed every year on the first Sunday in February. Go to www.brethren.org/bvs/service-sunday. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

NEWS
1) Church of the Brethren denominational membership falls below 100,000
2) World Council of Churches issues statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021

PERSONNEL
3) Hannah Shultz resigns as coordinator of short-term service with BVS
4) Victoria Ehret to serve as interim district executive for Atlantic Southeast District

UPCOMING EVENTS
5) Denomination-wide online worship gathering titled ‘Venturing Forth Boldly as a Faith Family’ is set for Feb. 27
6) Next Moderator’s Town Hall will look at the global church
7) Drew G. I. Hart to headline webinar series on ‘Healing Racism Congregations and Communities’
8) Ventures course to focus on multivocational ministry

RESOURCES
9) Lenten devotional for 2021, The Wild Way of Jesus, is available from Brethren Press
10) ‘Keeping Our Eyes on God’: Preparing for Annual Conference through Bible study

REFLECTIONS
11) Inaugurating Jesus as Lord

12) Brethren bits: Longtime BVS House is sold, personnel notes, job openings, update of the Church of the Brethren Manual of Organization and Polity, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy signs on to statements, Material Resources travels the country to pick up materials for Lutheran World Relief, “Archives Live: 19th Century Notables” is next virtual archives tour, and more


Quote of the week: A litany for worship on Service Sunday

People: Dry stream beds and empty places, needs are so great.
One: The cup of cold water, well-spring quenching thirst;
People: Weary hands and tired feet, empowered by the Spirit.
One: Calloused hands, tender hearts, this is ours to do.
People: Meeting Christ in new springs of hope.
One: In lush meadows from arid fields,
All: Harvests of verdant love for fellow humans.
God shows us the path to meeting Christ all around us.”

Jim Grossnickle-Batterton, Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 252, from Service Sunday worship resources. Service Sunday calls the Church of the Brethren into an annual celebration of those who give volunteer work in the name of Christ, observed on the first Sunday in February. The theme for 2021 is “Step Out: Seeking New Paths” (Isaiah 43:19). Worship resources, a downloadable poster, and a video highlighting FaithX (formerly the Workcamp Ministry) is at www.brethren.org/bvs/service-sunday.


Landing page of Church of the Brethren COVID 19 related resources and information: www.brethren.org/covid19

Church of the Brethren congregations offering online worship in English and other languages: www.brethren.org/news/2020/church of the brethren congregations worship online.html
*Spanish/bilingual; **Haitian Kreyol/bilingual; ***Arabic/bilingual

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

Lifting up Brethren who are active in health care: www.brethren.org/news/2020/brethren active in health care.html

Send information about churches to be added to the listing of online worship offerings to [email protected]

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


1) Church of the Brethren denominational membership falls below 100,000

By Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Church of the Brethren membership in the United States and Puerto Rico has fallen below 100,000, according to the 2020 Church of the Brethren Yearbook from Brethren Press.

For 2019, the Yearbook reported 98,680 members in 24 districts and 978 local worshiping communities across the Church of the Brethren denomination–a net loss of 5,766 over the previous year.

Average worship attendance for the denomination was reported as 32,488.

The number of local worshiping communities in the denomination included 935 congregations, 33 fellowships, and 10 new church projects.

Denominations that are part of the Global Church of the Brethren Communion outside the US and Puerto Rico are not included in the Yearbook directory or its statistical report.

About the Yearbook

The Church of the Brethren Yearbook is published annually as a searchable document in pdf format. It may be purchased for $24.95 at www.brethrenpress.com/SearchResults.asp?Cat=70 .

The 2020 edition includes the 2020 directory for the denomination and the 2019 statistical report.

The directory includes detailed information about Church of the Brethren structure and leadership including listings of congregations, districts, ministers, and more.

The statistical report on membership, worship attendance, giving, and more derives from self-reporting by congregations. Over recent decades, the number of congregations that report has fallen off. The 2019 statistical report represents only 43 percent of the congregations, which means Yearbook figures are approximate.

Comparisons over 5 and 12 years

The statistical report includes a comparison over five years, revealing that a decades-long gradual slide in membership has begun increasing year-on-year:

— In 2015, denominational membership was 112,656, a net loss of 1,809 over 2014.

— In 2016, the net loss was 1,225.

— In 2017, net membership loss increased to 2,172.

— In 2018, the net loss more than doubled to 4,813.

— In 2019, the net loss increased to 5,766.

To compare total membership over a dozen years, for 2008 the Yearbook reported a total membership of 124,408. In 2008, when the Church of the Brethren celebrated its 300th anniversary, the denomination for the first time since the 1920s recorded a membership total below 125,000. In 2008, 66.2 percent of congregations reported (www.brethren.org/news/2009/newsline-for-june-3-2009).

A comparison of the number of local worshiping communities (congregations, fellowships, and projects) in the denomination over five years reveals an annual loss as well:

— In 2016, there was a net loss of 6 local worshiping communities over the previous year, for a total of 1,015.

— In 2017, the net loss increased to 16.

— In 2018, the net loss was 5.

— In 2019, there was another net loss of 16.

The number of local worshiping communities 12 years ago was 1,049 including 999 congregations and 50 fellowships and projects. That year, in 2008, the number of congregations dipped below 1,000 to hit a landmark low.

Additional numbers

Since the 2019 statistical report was completed, the Yearbook office has reported 4 new church starts and 32 more congregations, fellowships, and projects closing or leaving, resulting in a net loss of 27 local worshiping communities over the past year.

One reason for the large number of leaving congregations this past year occurred in Southeastern District, where more than half of the congregations have left. The district conference on July 25, 2020, approved the withdrawal of 19 congregations (www.brethren.org/news/2020/southeastern-district-approves-withdrawal-of-19-congregations). By the end of the year, 27 congregations had left the district and 15 remained, including 2 remnants from leaving congregations that reorganized to remain Church of the Brethren.

While some congregations that left the Church of the Brethren may have been influenced by the split-off group called the Covenant Brethren Church, others may have chosen to go independent.

Congregations that close usually do so following a district decision that they are no longer viable because of insurmountable membership losses or financial difficulties.

District statistics

In 2019, none of the 24 districts reported a net gain of individual members, and 22 reported a net loss.

Shenandoah District, with 13,336 members, and Atlantic Northeast District, with 11,334 members, were reported as the two largest districts and the only two with more than 10,000 members.

Atlantic Northeast reported the largest total worship attendance of 5,387 followed by Shenandoah District at 3,434. No other district reported an average worship attendance of more than 3,000.

Of the smaller districts, 5 had a membership of less than 1,000: Pacific Northwest with 819 members, Southern Plains with 478, Idaho and Western Montana with 448, Missouri and Arkansas with 365, and Puerto Rico with 339.

Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren and associate editor of Messenger magazine. James Miner in the Yearbook Office contributed to this report.

A note to readers: Messenger magazine will feature a follow-up piece about the denominational statistics in its March 2021 issue, comparing the situation of the Church of the Brethren to other denominations and the wider Christian community.


2) World Council of Churches issues statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27, the World Council of Churches (WCC) interim general secretary Ioan Sauca issued the following statement calling upon people to pause to remember the victims of the Holocaust:

Today we pause to remember the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the millions of other victims of Nazism during the Second World War. As well as being an annual commemoration of all the precious lives lost during that appalling manifestation of evil, International Holocaust Remembrance Day is also a salutary recurrent reminder of the path that leads from fear and hatred of “the other,” through the denial of the human dignity and rights of all people equally, to genocide.

Far from being an episode receding in increasingly distant history, the Holocaust remains an ever-present threat. For Jewish people, Armenians, Rwandans, and others who have experienced genocide, it is a permanent and indelible reality.

In recent years we have observed increasing license being given to hate speech and demonization of others in political and public discourse. We have seen resurgent expressions of antisemitism and other group hatreds. And we have witnessed the impacts of these phenomena on our societies and relationships. At their June 2019 meeting, the World Council of Churches and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations pledged to work together to oppose this widespread “normalization of hatred.”

On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, all people of faith and good will must recommit to the continuing challenge of resisting and challenging antisemitism and all such hatreds that deny the image of God in other human beings. In commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, we are called to speak and act to prevent its recurrence.

Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca
Interim General Secretary
World Council of Churches
Geneva, Jan. 27, 2021


PERSONNEL

3) Hannah Shultz resigns as coordinator of short-term service with BVS

Hannah Shultz has resigned from her position on the Church of the Brethren staff as coordinator of short‐term service with Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS), effective Jan. 27. She has accepted a position with Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, an organization that engages communities of faith in stewardship of Creation as a response to climate change and environmental concerns.

During her year-and-a-half with BVS, since Aug. 5, 2019, Shultz helped shift the former Workcamp Ministry online for the summer of 2020, in response to the pandemic, and then helped recreate the ministry as Faith Outreach Expeditions or FaithX. She has supervised BVS volunteer assistant coordinators and worked with them in designing a variety of in-person, hybrid, and online options for short-term service events in summer 2021.

In previous work for the church, she was assistant workcamp coordinator for the 2015 season as a BVS volunteer. She holds a master of divinity from Emory University, Candler School of Theology, and a degree from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa.


4) Victoria Ehret to serve as interim district executive for Atlantic Southeast District

The Atlantic Southeast District of the Church of the Brethren has hired Victoria Ehret to serve as interim district executive minister for a period of six months, starting Jan. 25. She currently serves the district as director of ministry in a quarter-time position.

An ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren, Ehret has been active in district ministry since 2002 previously serving as clerk of the district, moderator of the district conference, and TRIM and SeBAH-CoB coordinator for the district. She pastored Celebration of Christ Church of the Brethren in St. Petersburg, Fla., for seven years.

She is a graduate of Ball State University, Muncie, Ind., with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in secondary education. She completed the Training in Ministry program of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership in 2008. Prior to her career in ministry, she was a public-school teacher in Indiana and Florida for 31 years.


UPCOMING EVENTS

5) Denomination-wide online worship gathering titled ‘Venturing Forth Boldly as a Faith Family’ is set for Feb. 27

The Program and Arrangements Committee of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference has announced a denomination-wide online worship gathering titled “Venturing Forth Boldly as a Faith Family,” scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 27, at 8 p.m. (Eastern time). In a season of disruption and despair, the service will assure us of what “God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9) and how we can faithfully respond.

The theme is taken from the proposed compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren, with its call for Brethren to “venture forth boldly as a faith family, expectant and innovative, serving others and the God who makes all things new.” The scripture theme is 1 Corinthians 2:9-10: “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’–these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”

Congregations are invited to consider using this for their own Sunday morning worship service on Feb. 28, or any later date. Links will be shared in February, including separate links for the service in English and in Spanish.

Featured speakers include preachers Kurt Borgmann, pastor of Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., and Audri Svay, Bethany Seminary student and co-pastor of Eel River Community Church of the Brethren in Silver Lake, Ind.; worship leaders Cindy and Ben Lattimer, co-pastors of Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa.; and an array of people from around the denomination who will offer additional expressions of worship leadership.

A children’s time will direct the theme to a younger audience.

A wide array of music will include selections by Leah Hileman and Miami (Fla.) First Church of the Brethren.

A “behind the scenes” story from Nancy Faus Mullen will tell how the hymn “For We Are Strangers No More” was included in the 1992 Hymnal: A Worship Book published jointly by Brethren Press, Faith and Life Press, and the Mennonite Publishing House.

Moderator-elect David Sollenberger will explore by video what online worship means for Church of the Brethren congregations, which historically have thrived on person-to-person interaction. The report will examine stories of congregational faithfulness and innovation in Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

The worship gathering is being planned by the Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee: elected members Emily Shonk Edwards, Carol Elmore, and Jan King; the Conference officers, moderator Paul Mundey, moderator-elect Dave Sollenberger, and secretary Jim Beckwith; and Conference director Chris Douglas as staff. Find out more about Annual Conference at www.brethren.org/ac.


6) Next Moderator’s Town Hall will look at the global church

Carol Spicher Waggy and Norm Waggy

Plans have been announced for the next Moderator’s Town Hall hosted by Paul Mundey, moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. The online event is titled “The Global Church: Current Happenings, Future Possibilities” and will take place Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. (Eastern time). Norm and Carol Spicher Waggy, interim directors of Global Mission for the Church of the Brethren, will be the featured resource people.

The Global Church of the Brethren Communion includes denominations in India, Nigeria, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Spain, the African Great Lakes region (Rwanda, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of Congo), Venezuela, as well as the United States.

This growth reflects an overall vision for “a union of autonomous Brethren bodies, a spiritual community bound together by a common passion to be followers of Christ, a common New Testament theology of peace and service, and a common commitment to be in relationship with one another” (from “Vision for a Global Church of the Brethren,” a 2018 statement of Annual Conference, www.brethren.org/ac/statements/2018-vision-for-a-global-church-of-the-brethren).

The Waggys will provide updates on the Church of the Brethren denominations and the persecution of Christians in Nigeria that affects Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and will discuss future possibilities for expanding the vision of a global Church of the Brethren. Ample time will be provided for attendees to ask questions.

Norm Waggy is a graduate of Manchester University and earned his doctor of medicine degree at Indiana University. He worked as a family physician for 34 years, retiring in 2015. He has served on the former General Board of the Church of the Brethren. Carol Spicher Waggy is an ordained minister, a graduate of Goshen (Ind.) College, and holds a master of social work degree from Indiana University and a master of divinity degree from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. She has been a member of the Church of the Brethren’s Mission Advisory Committee since its inception. She also has served as an interim district executive and as a Standing Committee delegate to Annual Conference. The couple lived in Nigeria from 1983-1988, serving as Church of the Brethren mission workers.

Register for the town hall at tinyurl.com/ModTownHallFeb2021. Questions about registering for this event or any other administrative matters can be emailed to [email protected]


7) Drew G. I. Hart to headline webinar series on ‘Healing Racism Congregations and Communities’

Drew G. I. Hart

“Save the dates,” said an announcement of upcoming webinars and online conversations from the Church of the Brethren Intercultural Ministries. Drew G. I. Hart, a member of Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren, will be speaking as part of the upcoming “Healing Racism Congregations and Communities Series” that launches this February.

Hart is assistant professor of theology at Messiah University and has 10 years of pastoral experience. He is director of the university’s Thriving Together: Congregations for Racial Justice program and co-host of Inverse Podcast. He is the author of Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism (2016) and Who Will Be a Witness?: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance (2020). He was the recipient of bcmPEACE’s 2017 Peacemaker Award, the 2019 W. E. B. Du Bois Award in Harrisburg, Pa., and was Elizabethtown (Pa.) College’s 2019 Peace Fellow. (Twitter and Instagram @DruHart)

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, from 12:30-2 p.m. (Eastern time), the ministry plans a webinar with Hart titled “Who Will Be a Witness: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance.” Register at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_t9nIs9nYRE2BH9ENXFKZ7Q. A recording also will be available after the event.

On Thursday, Feb. 18, from 4:30-6 p.m. (Eastern time), the ministry is inviting participation in an online #ConversationsTogether with Hart. “Join us for a time of conversation, Q&A, and dialogue about how we can be faithful witnesses toward healing racism in our communities and times,” said the announcement. Register at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMkcu-qrDkpGtP8U27V9wGF7FXpHj7CLrpt.


8) Ventures course to focus on multivocational ministry

By Kendra Flory

The February offering from the Ventures in Christian Discipleship program at McPherson (Kan.) College will be “The Gift of Multivocational Ministry.” The course presented by Dana Cassell will be offered online on Feb. 20 at 9 a.m. to 12 noon (Central time).

In the Church of the Brethren, more than three-quarters of congregations are served by multivocational (part-time) pastors. That statistic may sound discouraging, but multivocational ministry is actually a gift and grace, for both ministers and congregations. This course will highlight current realities, encouraging possibilities, and theological roots of shared ministry for today.

Cassell serves part-time as pastor of Peace Covenant Church of the Brethren in Durham, N.C., and part-time as manager of the “Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church” program in the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry.

Continuing education credit is available to ministers for $10 per course. The registration process includes an opportunity to pay for CEUs and give an optional donation to the Ventures program. Go to www.mcpherson.edu/ventures.

— Kendra Flory is advancement assistant at McPherson College.


RESOURCES

9) Lenten devotional for 2021, The Wild Way of Jesus, is available from Brethren Press

The Wild Way of Jesus: Devotions for Ash Wednesday Through Easter, written by Anna Lisa Gross, is the 2021 Lenten devotional from Brethren Press. “This Lent, walk with Jesus along his wilderness way,” said an announcement. “Look to the birds in the air, taste mustard growing along the path, and greet people deemed outcasts. Follow Jesus through the world’s wild edges and experience life-giving good news.”

The Brethren Press devotional series is published twice a year, in the church seasons of Advent and Lent, as a pocket-sized paperback suitable for individual use and for congregations to provide to their members. The devotional costs $4.50 per copy for regular print size, $8.95 for large print, and $4.50 for e-publication and PDF formats. Purchase the devotional at www.brethrenpress.com/Product
Details.asp?ProductCode=8496.

Series subscribers pay only $8 a year for both Advent and Lent booklets in regular print size or $15.90 a year for both in large print. Subscriptions are renewed automatically each year at the discounted rate and bulk quantities can be adjusted with a simple call. Subscribers can cancel their enrollment in the program at any time. To sign up as a subscriber, call 800-441-3712 and ask about the seasonal devotional standing order program.


10) ‘Keeping Our Eyes on God’: Preparing for Annual Conference through Bible study

By Paul Mundey

Traditionally the moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference calls the church to Bible study and prayer as we anticipate Annual Conference. This year is no exception, but with an added plus: the availability in mid-February of 13 Bible studies focused on the themes of the proposed compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren (www.brethren.org/ac/compelling-vision).

Available now are two sample lessons from the Bible studies, in both English and Spanish, at www.brethren.org/ac/compelling-vision/bible-studies.

This year’s Annual Conference will be an empowering, resourcing event. At its heart will be intentional, prayerful engagement with the proposed compelling vision as we seek the mind of Christ, living into the Conference theme “God’s Adventurous Future.” Excellent preparation for this spiritual engagement will be participation by your congregation in the 13 compelling vision Bible studies.

We live in a season of pandemic and polarization; people are experiencing much unrest and confusion in their context. However, an emphasis on “Jesus in the Neighborhood,” our compelling vision banner theme, will help resource and center, contributing to a renewed perspective on God and hope.

Recently, I rediscovered 2 Chronicles 20:12: “[O God] we [feel] powerless against this great multitude [of realities] coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” The speaker is King Jehoshaphat of Judah, and the great multitude in his case was the powerful threesome of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites. Up against such forces, Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast and gathered the people together–great and small, male and female–to seek the Lord. As they did so, their eyes were indeed on God. Just then, Jahaziel, son of Zechariah, heard from God and prophesied. He said a lot, but the gist is found in 2 Chronicles 20:15: “Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s.” In turn, Jehoshaphat and the people took courage, praised and magnified God, and went forth to meet the challenge before them.

For me, Bible study and prayer are prime tools to assist as I strive to keep my eyes on God and God’s accompaniment, when a multitude is before me. Thus, I am excited that Annual Conference delegates, participants, and other people from our congregations will soon have access to a new Bible study resource for the Church of the Brethren.

As we anticipate the 2021 Annual Conference, a great multitude of challenges are indeed before us–not Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites, but schism, political unrest, and racism, among others. Given such challenges, we need to “eye” something that will lead us forward. I am confident that the compelling vision Bible studies will do just that as they point us to God in Christ, and the challenge of the proposed vision to “develop a culture of calling and equipping disciples who are innovative, adaptable, and fearless.”

– Paul Mundey is moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and a member of the Compelling Vision Working Group.


REFLECTIONS

11) Inaugurating Jesus as Lord

A message from Paul Mundey, moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference:

Of late, the inauguration of a new US president has occupied our attention. But there’s a more pertinent inauguration needed during days of national upheaval: a fresh elevation of Jesus as Lord.

Many have yet to inaugurate Jesus to this status. Yes, we give lip service to the centrality of Jesus, but often we become acculturated, collapsing toward consumerism, civil religion, and an insular faith. In doing so, we fail to allow Jesus to transform every aspect of our “form and frame,” being “born again,” not only in our relationship to God, but also in our relationship to soul, self, others, and all of creation (Romans 12).

This holistic renewal is the DNA of Jesus’ dream (Luke 4:18-19), for Christ envisions life not constricted, but full and abundant (John 10:10). Such expanse is not tribal or siloed, but all-encompassing, calling us not to narrowcast but to adopt a spacious view of life. Thus, Jesus does not see us as conservative or progressive, “born Brethren” or “new Brethren,” Democrat or Republican, Anglo or ethnic, but as children of God called to confession and repentance–and in turn–salvation and New Creation in him (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

Such a vital, countercultural slant in Christ is promising but also arresting, for

— a Jesus-slant requires that I learn from my enemy, not just confront my enemy;

— a Jesus-slant requires that I condemn violence after birth, not just before birth;

— a Jesus-slant requires that I reach toward the sinned against, not just sinners;

— a Jesus-slant requires that I welcome and receive his work (the cross and resurrection), not just focus on my own efforts; and

— a Jesus-slant requires that I prioritize my citizenship in heaven (God’s Kingdom), not just casually nod to his authority.

In sum, a Jesus-slant is counterintuitive, offering an unexpected way forward amid national upheaval. It does so by calling us to be “resident aliens” in Christ (Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2014), loyalists to an alternate Kingdom (1 Peter 1:1-2; 2:1-12), rather than conforming to a culture of “racism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, exceptionalism…postmodernism, militarism” (Michael Gorman, Participation in Christ: Explorations in Paul’s Theology and Spirituality, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019, p. 247).

In doing so, a Jesus-slant identifies the world, in the words of C. S. Lewis, as “enemy-occupied territory. Christianity [then] is the story of how the rightful king has landed…and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage” (Gorman, p. 246).

As Gorman clarifies, “this benevolent sabotage is not…a Christian takeover, a religiously based coup d’état…but…a foretaste of something–the new creation that has come and is coming” (Michael Gorman, “A Letter from Paul to Christians in the US,” Christian Century, Aug. 21, 2019, www.christiancentury.org/article/critical-essay/letter-paul-christians-us).

I call us to a mission of sabotage, modeling and proclaiming New Creation in Jesus. In doing so, we refrain from using the tactics of the world, the flesh, and the devil, opting for strategies of the Kingdom: enemy love, “carefronting,” radical hospitality, merciful justice, nonviolent protest (Matthew 5-7). This is not to minimize the abhorrence and disgust before us and the need to witness assertively; please hear me. Instead, it is a way to maximize our effectiveness as we avoid becoming the very evil we deplore.

In Acts 17, Paul and Silas hold a revival meeting in Thessalonica declaring Jesus as Messiah (Acts 17:3). Many believed, including both Greeks and Jews (Acts 17:4). But some Jews “became jealous, and…formed a mob and set the city in an uproar…[dragging Paul and Silas’s friend, Jason, and members of his house church]…before the city authorities, shouting ‘These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also…. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor [Caesar], saying there is another king named Jesus’” (Acts 17:5-7). Miraculously, Paul and Silas are released on bail, slipping off to Beroea, but their message still echoes: Jesus is King and not Caesar.

I pray we too turn the world upside down with the disturbing yet enlivening message of King Jesus. It’s tempting to disrupt with mob, uproar, or some other conventional means, but far more effective are the countercultural methods of the Messiah. In fact, they’re the best device, surprising and sabotaging, as we live as “resident aliens,” making manifest the New Creation of the Savior. Frankly, that’s the best path forward through a highly charged political climate–modeling and proclaiming boldly another way of living, inaugurating anew Jesus as Lord!

— Paul Mundey is serving at moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.


12) Brethren bits

This long-time home of mission workers and Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) volunteers in Elgin, Ill., has been sold, in an announcement from Shawn Flory Replogle and Ed Woolf of the denomination’s Finance office. “On the market since Sept. 2020, the BVS House was purchased in October 1948 by the former General Brotherhood Board of the Church of the Brethren. The home was intended to supply emergency renting quarters on a temporary basis, 12 to 18 months. More than 70 years later, the BVS House has been the community for hundreds of mission workers and volunteers living and working in the Elgin area. A new volunteer house has already been purchased, with three BVS workers and a Brethren Historical Library and Archives intern located there since this past summer. It is located adjacent to the Church of the Brethren General Offices property on the east side of Elgin.”

Church World Service (CWS) has announced that “after more than 20 years of wonderful service, the Rev. John L. McCullough has decided to step down as President and CEO of CWS. With the CEO term being four years, he decided not to stand for another term. We are so very thankful for his commitment and leadership…. New President and CEO, Rick Santos has a decade of field experience in Asia and has spent 23 years working for and with faith-based organizations, including earlier in his career, more than a decade with CWS!” The organization held a virtual “meet and greet” for Santos on Jan. 28 and published a blog post that Santos wrote to introduce himself to the ecumenical community at https://cwsglobal.org/blog/what-led-me-to-this-moment.

Angelo Olayvar joined the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C., in January as a new intern. He is a junior at Eastern Mennonite University studying political science, accounting, and business administration, with aspirations to go to law school and pursue a career in human rights law.

The Church of the Brethren seeks a full-time director for the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Responsibilities include promoting the history and heritage of the Church of the Brethren by administering the archive and by facilitating research and the study of Brethren history. Required skills and knowledge include extensive knowledge of Church of the Brethren history and beliefs; familiarity with Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity; ability to articulate and operate out of the vision of the Church of the Brethren; familiarity with library and archival disciplines; customer service skills; research and problem-solving skills; proficiency in Microsoft software; experience with OCLC products; at least 3-5 years of experience in a library or archives; a master’s degree in library science, archival studies, or a public history related program; a graduate degree in history or theology and/or certification by the Academy of Certified Archivists. Applications are received immediately and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Send a resume to [email protected], Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

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

The Church of the Brethren seeks a part-time, hourly assistant for the Buildings and Grounds department at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Responsibilities include providing support for services such as maintenance, warehouse operations, shipping, mail, supplies, equipment, and other work at the direction of the manager of Buildings and Grounds. Required skills and knowledge include ability to relate with integrity and respect within and beyond the organization; knowledge and experience in building operation and facilities management; knowledge of electrical work, plumbing, HVAC, and mechanical systems is helpful but not required; ability to bend, stoop, climb, lift 50 pounds, and work in extreme environments in or out of doors; ability to handle hazardous materials and exposure to hazardous situations; ability to access, input, and retrieve information from a computer; ability to work with minimal supervision; skills in oral and written communication; at least five years of Buildings and Grounds operations experience helpful but not required; high school diploma or equivalent required. Applications will be received beginning immediately and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the position is filled. Send a resume to [email protected], Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120; 800-323-8039 ext. 367. The Church of the Brethren is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

The Church of the Brethren’s Illinois and Wisconsin District seeks a district executive minister. The district includes 35 congregations and 2 fellowships ranging from southern Illinois to Wisconsin, and is theologically, geographically, and politically diverse. This is a half time position (approximately 25 hours per week). Office location is negotiable. Travel is required both within and outside of the district (once travel is again advisable). Responsibilities include direction, coordination, management, and leadership of the district ministries, as authorized by the District Conference and implemented by the District Leadership Team; work with congregations in calling and credentialing ministers, and in the placement/call and evaluation of pastoral staff; providing support and counsel for ministers and other church leaders; sharing and interpreting program resources for congregations; providing a link between congregations, district, and denomination by working collaboratively with the Council of District Executives, Annual Conference and its agencies, and their staff. Qualifications include ordination through an accredited program, with a master of divinity degree preferred; skills in organization, administration, and communication; commitment to the Church of the Brethren locally and denominationally and willingness to work ecumenically; demonstrated leadership skills; pastoral experience preferred. Apply by sending a letter of interest and resume to Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Director of Ministry, via email at [email protected] Applicants are requested to contact three people to provide letters of reference. Upon receipt of a resume, a Candidate Profile will be sent that must be completed and returned before an application is considered complete. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

An updated edition of the Church of the Brethren Manual of Organization and Polity–with footnotes instead of endnotes for easier research–is now available at www.brethren.org/ac/ppg.

The Peacebuilding and Policy has signed on to the following statements in recent weeks:

A letter to the Biden transition team asking for the full restoration of the State Department Office of Religion and Global Affairs.

A letter to the Armed Services Committee against the use of Armed drones in Kenya.

A letter urging President Biden to make reversing the FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organization) designation of Yemen’s Houthis a day-one priority for his administration. This came among warnings that the designation of Yemen’s Houthis as a terrorist organization could spur a large-scale famine by “disrupting the flow of much-needed food, medicine, and aid delivery.”

Truck drivers from the Church of the Brethren Material Resources department have been traveling the country picking up relief materials on behalf of Lutheran World Relief, a partner organization in the warehousing and shipping work at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. “We were asked by Lutheran World Relief to make some pickups of quilts and kits (school, personal care, and baby kits) in four locations,” reported Glenna Thompson, Material Resources office assistant. “Ed and Brenda Palsgrove started out in Raleigh, N.C., Arden, N.C., then headed to Waterloo, Ill., and Crystal Falls, Mich. Three of the locations were at Lutheran Camps.” The truck also made a stop at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., to pick up donations. “The trailer was filled out with donations,” Thompson said. “A note from the four locations, they were excited to see the tractor/trailer and expressed their appreciation to the Brethren Service Center for making these pickups.”

“Archives Live: 19th Century Notables” is the title of the next virtual tour hosted by the Brethren Historical Library and Archives at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The event takes place on Facebook on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 10 a.m. (Central time). “During this edition of Archives Live, we will be diving into the 1800s with special focus on people and events that impacted the church,” said an announcement. “This time period was one of westward expansion and increasing emphasis on publications and education. We will explore antebellum Brethren historical sources such as the writings of Peter Nead, John Kline, and Henry Kurtz. We will discuss the founding of denominational magazines that are still being published and the figures involved, especially the Messenger.” For more information go to www.facebook.com/events/705814510093607.

Find the latest Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) newsletter with stories from the work of volunteers around the world and an “alumni corner” at www.brethren.org/bvs/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2021/01/Volunteer-winter-2021.pdf.

The Death Row Support Project has announced a collaboration with a group of Northwestern University students during their 2021 winter and spring quarters, in an announcement from DRSP director Rachel Gross. As part of working toward a Certificate in Civic Engagement, seven students have chosen to work at building the capacity of DRSP by building connections between DRSP correspondents and state abolition groups, exploring ways that the experiences of writers can contribute to the abolition of the death penalty, and evaluating DRSP’s use of social media and web presence.

In another development, DRSP has a new brochure for use in introducing people to the project, in collaboration with the Church of the Brethren’s Mission Advancement office. For copies, contact Gross at [email protected]

Pacific Northwest District has announced that Salkum (Wash.) Church of the Brethren closed this year as the district “mourned the death of one of its last members, Glenn Keenan.” The district assumed responsibility for the building and grounds in June and renegotiated the contract with East Lewis County’s Headstart program, which is housed in the building’s basement, said the district newsletter. On behalf of the district, Carol Mason is interviewing interested congregations “in search of a building home” and other potential users. She plans to continue through Lent an “open-door Sunday” to welcome anyone wanting to be in the church building for meditation or worship.

Lafayette (Ind.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a “Grieving Garden” for COVID-19 victims in Tippecanoe County, according to a report from WLFI Channel 18. The display of flags for those who have died from the virus in the county was put together by members of the Poor People’s Campaign Lafayette-Kokomo region. “When you enter the garden you’ll find upwards of 140 flags on display with the month and day of each Tippecanoe County COVID-19 death since the first one in March 2020,” the report said. It quoted Anna Lisa Gross, a Church of the Brethren pastor and a member of the campaign: “It starts to put into perspective how the deaths have increased…. Churches aren’t meeting in person, or if funerals have been delayed or if they’d been held on Zoom, we all need a place to go that feels holy, where we feel like our lives are sacred and this place is available for you to come.” Find the WLFI news piece at www.wlfi.com/content/news/Covid-19-Grieving-Garden-helping-families-heal-573670291.html. Find additional media coverage at www.jconline.com/story/news/2021/01/26/grieving-garden-memorializing-covid-19-deaths-dedicated-lafayette-indiana/6675381002 and www.jconline.com/story/news/2021/01/22/lafayette-church-plans-grieving-garden-dedicated-covid-19-deaths/6660188002. Find the project’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/covidgrievinggarden.

Washington (D.C.) City Church of the Brethren has started a new Community Arts Ministry. Jessie Houff, community arts minister for the congregation, has created an art gallery and blog on the church’s website, highlighting all the artists, creators, and makers in the congregation. “This is a place folks can go to see all the talents we have in our church and celebrate their accomplishments as a creator for God,” Houff said in a report to Newsline. “We’ve made it accessible so that folks who may not consider themselves an artist can still be highlighted by calling them creators and/or makers. For example, we are highlighting not just visual artists but writers, bakers, musicians, and more.” Houff is particularly interested in getting in contact with quilters, dancers, and people with other varieties of creativity. The art gallery displays photos of works accompanied by a blog to get to know each artist. The blog posts reflect on their creative process, especially during the pandemic. Houff plans to post a new artist every other week, beginning with the Washington City congregation and then in a couple of months branching out to other artists and makers in the wider Church of the Brethren community. Interested artists and creators may contact [email protected] to receive details. Find the art gallery and blog at https://washingtoncitycob.org/art.

Southern Pennsylvania District’s Witness Commission “is sending out a hearty thanks and God bless you to all who participated in this year’s Carlisle Truck Stop Ministry cookie distribution,” said the district newsletter. The ministry distributed 11,000 bags of cookies through the work of two truck stop chaplains. “The truckers are always grateful for the home-baked goodness,” said the newsletter. “Your outreach and witness to the men and women that transport our goods is noticed!”

The Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter also shared a letter of appreciation for the district’s financial support from Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. The letter announced that the college’s “Be More Inspired” fundraising campaign raised $74.5 million, surpassing its goal of $60 million. “We are truly grateful for the impact so many have made on our campus through their generous gifts,” wrote college president Cecilia M. McCormick. The campaign launched in March 2016.

Elizabethtown (Pa.) College’s Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies is announcing two upcoming online events:

“The Complicated Spirituality of Pietist Conversion” will feature Jonathan Strom on Thursday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. (Eastern time), via Zoom. Strom, recipient of the 2019 Dale Brown Book Award for German Pietism and the Problem of Conversion, is senior associate dean of faculty and academic affairs and professor of church history at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He will explore how the desire to determine “true conversion” distorted the understanding of conversion experiences and worked at cross purposes to the spirituality Pietists hoped to instill.

“Responding with Compassion to the Crisis in Northeastern Nigeria” will feature Samuel and Rebecca Dali on March 4 at 7 p.m. (Eastern time) via Zoom. Samuel Dali will give an update on Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) in the context of ongoing violence and reflect on the church’s constructive engagement around sociopolitical, economic, and environmental issues. Rebecca Dali will review the recent humanitarian work of the Centre for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives and discuss the suffering and resilience of women in situations of war and related trauma.

Go to www.etown.edu/youngctr/events or call 717-361-1470.

McPherson (Kan.) College has announced a Carolyn Beach Endowed Scholarship Fund that will provide approximately 10 health science scholarships. The estate gift of nearly $1.7 million creates “a permanent fund to award scholarships annually to students, especially women–pursuing careers in the health science field,” said a release. Beach attended McPherson from 1958 to 1960. She passed away on Aug. 20, 2020. “As a student at McPherson College, Beach fondly remembered several science professors, specifically, Dr. John Burkholder and Dr. Wesley DeCoursey, who laid a solid foundation for her future career in health care,” the release said. “She also competed in basketball and softball. She was influenced by Dr. Doris Coppock, a long-time former teacher and coach. Beach chose to attend McPherson College because of its strong connection to the Church of the Brethren. She later transferred to the University of Iowa to follow her dream of earning a degree in medical technology. She lived most of her adult life in California where she enjoyed a rewarding career as a medical technologist with Kaiser Permanente.” The release also noted that Beach was impressed that $1 million in local support had been committed to the college’s new Health Science program, which offers majors in health science and health care management. Partnerships with local and regional health care agencies provide students with hands-on educational opportunities in a variety of health care settings. Find the full release at www.mcpherson.edu/2021/01/gift-funds-scholarships-for-future-women-leaders-in-health-care.

In a 2020 financial wrap-up, the Brethren World Mission group announced its giving to Church of the Brethren denominations around the world. “Though giving was down somewhat in 2020, a significant impact was made in the lives of our brothers and sisters,” the group’s newsletter said. It announced that a total of $40,154 was shared in this past year: Venezuela $18,145, Haiti leadership training $5,500, Africa Great Lakes church building projects $4,400, Rwanda $3,795, Democratic Republic of Congo $3,300, Haiti health care $2,200, Mexico $1,100, South Sudan $1,100, and Dominican Republic church building project $550.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has announced the theme for its upcoming 11th assembly to take place in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 2022: “Christ’s Love Moves the World to Reconciliation and Unity.” A reflection on the theme is available in English, French, German, and Spanish at www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/a-reflection-on-the-theme-of-the-11th-assembly-of-the-wcc-karlsruhe-2022. Said the announcement: WCC assemblies “are moments when the churches within the fellowship of the WCC, responding to Christ’s prayer ‘that they may become completely one’ (John 17:23), call one another to visible unity for the sake of the world that God loves and for the sake of the creation that God declares good.”

“Religious leaders in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are welcoming the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, even as Japan’s Christian council ‘regrets’ that the government has not supported or ratified the treaty,” said a release from the WCC. “We ask the government of Japan to sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty as soon as possible,” the National Christian Council in Japan said in Jan. 27 statement, saying that the treaty “collects the wisdom of humanity” and is “a major step in humanity’s long walk toward hope and ideal.” Religious leaders in Hiroshima and Nagasaki expressed both a sense of encouragement and determination to move forward for a world free from nuclear weapons. “I have been encouraged by the fact that wishes of the hibakusha have become a global public opinion and the nuclear weapons ban treaty was adopted and has come into force,” said Yoshitaka Tsukishita, board chair of the Hiroshima Religious Federation. “But there is still a long way to the total ban. I hope that more countries will ratify it.”


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 Shamek Cardona, Chris Douglas, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Tina Goodwin, Anna Lisa Gross, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Nathan Hosler, Jessie Houff, Rachel Kelley, Jeff Lennard, James Miner, Paul Mundey, Shawn Flory Replogle, David Sollenberger, Glenna Thompson, Kay L. Wolf, Ed Woolf, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Please send news tips and submissions to [email protected] . Find the Newsline archive at www.brethren.org/news . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters, make subscription changes, or unsubscribe at www.brethren.org/intouch .


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