From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Newsline - Church of the Brethren news update

Date Fri, 21 Jun 2002 09:35:09 EDT

Date: June 21, 2002
Contact: Walt Wiltschek
V: 847/742-5100 F: 847/742-6103

 1) Unique New Windsor event looks at peace issues.
 2) Messenger subscriptions slide in past 18 months.
 3) Large intern group begins Ministry Summer Service experience.
 4) Fellowship of Brethren Homes holds Forum 2002.
 5) On Earth Peace helps camp staff think about handling conflict.
 6) Youth Peace Travel Team begins its summer tour.
 7) Congregations work proactively at sexual abuse issues.
 8) Brethren bits: NYC Prayer Day, Annual Conference, and more.

NOTE: Live Annual Conference coverage will be available online at beginning June 29. Conference news will also be
reported in the July 5 edition of Newsline.


 1) On June 8, more than 100 people came to the Brethren Service
Center in New Windsor, Md., to consider "The Big Picture: What does
peace have to do with me?" The unique event was co-sponsored by
Brethren Service Center, Church of the Brethren Washington Office,
Emergency Response/Service Ministries (ER/SM), New Windsor
Conference Center, Interchurch Medical Assistance Inc., On Earth
Peace, and SERRV International Inc. 

The day began with a challenge to the historic peace churches from
Eva Rupp, an employee of the Department of Justice and member of
Peaceful Tomorrows, an advocacy organization founded by family
members of September 11th victims. "If those of us directly
affected by the attacks on September 11th can be working for peace,
what is your excuse (for not working for peace)?" she said. Rupp
challenged participants with her family's loss and her personal
journey to Afghanistan in January 2002.

Throughout the day workshops were offered on topics including:
Decade to Overcome Violence; Uganda Peace Initiatives; Peace Issues
in the Congregations; Voices from Iraq;  and Health, Wealth, and
Equity. Participants also had the opportunity to meet with agency
staff from On Earth Peace, ER/SM, and the Washington Office.

Greg Davidson Laszakovits, coordinator of the Washington Office,
provided startling yet effective imagery on how the massive amounts
of money spent on military endeavors could be redirected to address
the poverty, education, health care, and general well-being of the
most vulnerable of this world. For example, "If the military were
to go on vacation for two weeks, the money saved would feed and
educate the children of our world for a year," he said. Laszakovits
further called participants to let their voices of peace and
justice be heard at home and in the halls of Congress.

The evening brought participants together to view "The Good War and
Those Who Refused to Fight It," a documentary on conscientious
objectors produced for the Independent Television Service.
Following the movie, four men who served in Civilian Public Service
during World War II shared their personal stories of their time in

Coordinators Stan Noffsinger and Barb Sayler called it "a marvelous
event which exemplifies the impact church agencies can have when
they utilize their partnerships to bring people of all ages

 2) Subscriptions to "Messenger," the denomination's flagship
magazine, have fallen by nearly 10 percent in the past year and a
half. The magazine--which just marked its 150th anniversary--
reported more than 17,300 subscribers at the beginning of 2001, but
the number through May had fallen to less than 16,000.

One reason for the decrease is the end of the first year of an
ongoing half-price subscription offer for new subscribers, who
would then have to renew after their one-year subscription ran out.
Summer is also slightly lower each year because of the temporary
loss of college student subscriptions.

Other factors include a decrease in the number of congregations
that provide Messenger automatically to all congregation members;
the competition to print media, especially among younger
generations; and the denomination's own consistently shrinking
membership. Magazines in other denominations have faced similar

Messenger showed an income over expense of more than $28,000 in
2001, however, due to the use of volunteer writers, the effects of
a subscription price increase, and strong advertising revenues. It
was the magazine's fourth year as a self-funding program of the
General Board and the third straight in which it showed income over

Last year's anniversary celebration included a special fund-raising
appeal with a goal of inviting 5,000 people to become new
subscribers in the next five years and maintaining Messenger's role
as a "meeting place" for Brethren. Messenger has not been able to
afford a promotion consultant for the past five years. The appeal
raised $75,000, which will be used to help build a new subscription
promotion effort. 

 3) This year's Ministry Summer Service (MSS) orientation took
place June 1-7 at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind.,
with 16 interns. It is the largest number of interns since the
General Board began the program six years ago as an opportunity for
college-aged students to explore their sense of call to some form
of Christian ministry.
Chris Douglas, coordinator of Youth/Young Adult Ministry for the
General Board, and Mary Jo Flory Steury, director of Ministry, were
the primary leaders throughout the week, with a variety of
speakers--including Bethany professors Jeff Bach, Tara Hornbacker,
and Nancy Faus--coming in for other sessions.

General secretary Judy Mills Reimer spent a morning with the young
adults leading a Bible Study and talking about polity and structure
of the denomination. Jay Matthews of the Midwest Ministry
Development Service and Jim Yaussy Albright, district executive in
Illinois/Wisconsin, both led sessions in which participants took
various testing instruments in preparation for ministry.

Interns also visited the Mack Memorial Church in Dayton, Ohio, and
did a service project at the St. Vincent's Shelter for Homeless.
They had a picnic with Bethany staff and a tour of the seminary. 

Now each of the 16 young adults are in their ministry settings for
the next nine weeks, learning more about what it means to be in
full-time professional ministry. Most interns are placed in
congregations for the summer; some, however, serve in Brethren
camps, at district offices, or with denominational programs. Each
intern has a mentor who attends the last three days of the
week-long orientation.

 4) The Fellowship of Brethren Homes held its Forum 2002 June 6-9
at The Cedars, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in
McPherson, Kan. The annual event is designed as a time for
representatives of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes to gather in
fellowship, share with and learn from each other, and explore
issues of common interest.

Twenty-two people from nine retirement centers from across the
nation participated this year. The program included touring The
Cedars and a Mennonite facility, Schowalter Villa in Hesston, Kan.

In addition to the sharing times, there were two keynote speakers:
John Durso, an attorney working in long-term health care, presented
a seminar focusing on current information on risk management and
other legal issues for health care. Rick Stiffney, executive
director of Mennonite Health Services, addressed the challenges
facing retirement centers as he spoke at a Saturday evening
banquet. Stiffney underscored the necessity of leadership with
spiritual and faith-based perspectives.

The Fellowship of Brethren Homes--one of the ministry groups of the
Association of Brethren Caregivers--received an invitation to hold
Forum 2003 at The Brethren Village in Lancaster, Pa. The dates of
Forum 2003 will be June 5-8. Dr. Larry Minnis, president and CEO of
the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging
(AAHSA) will be the primary keynoter.

In other news, the Partner Council (steering committee) of the
Fellowship of Brethren Homes approved a new member designation
recently. The designation is "Affiliate" and allows for any home
with historic roots in the Church of the Brethren (profit and
not-for-profit) to affiliate with the Fellowship of Brethren Homes. 

The Palms of Sebring, a past nonprofit member of the Fellowship of
Brethren Homes, was acquired this past year by a for-profit
corporation. Through the action of the Partner Council and the
membership of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes, The Palms of
Sebring applied for and was accepted as an "Affiliate." This action
was also supported by Atlantic Southeast District.

 5) During the first week of June, On Earth Peace offered workshops
in conflict resolution training to the denomination's camp staff.
The training, designed by Jessica Eller of Lafayette, Ind., and Kim
Stuckey, program staff at On Earth Peace, was presented in a
different format than previous years, as leaders traveled to the
camp to participate in the camp's regular camp staff training.

Camps could choose any or all of three different sessions:
"Communication Skills," "An Introduction to Mediation," and
"Dealing with Difficult Kids." Camp Inspiration Hills (Northern
Ohio) and Camp Blue Diamond (Middle Pennsylvania) participated in
this year's program.

The interactive and discussion-oriented sessions focused on
engaging camp staff to think about how to handle tough situations
with love. Staff were encouraged to be creative and use a "Matthew
18 approach to conflict" with campers, and during times of staff

Activities included looking at the difficulties of communication
and identifying some of the barriers and problems encountered when
people talk with one another. Staff were also given the chance to
role-play methods of dealing with difficult kids in a simulated
camp situation.

Participants were also encouraged to discuss issues of
communication and community-building. Each staff member was paired
with a peer "listening buddy" for the duration of the training as
an opportunity to practice skills and to get to know other

Camp program directors interested in scheduling this training for
their staff for this summer or next summer may contact Kim Stuckey
at On Earth Peace, 410-635-8706 or    

 6) This year's Youth Peace Travel Team of Carle Gaier (North
Manchester, Ind.), Ben Kreider (Lawn, Pa.), Chris Palsgrove (New
Windsor, Md.), and Daniel Radcliff (Elgin, Ill.) held orientation
this week at Camp Inspiration Hills in Northern Ohio District.

The orientation included time talking about responsibilities, the
Biblical foundation of peace, how to lead worship, leadership
styles, how to work with/relate to campers and staff, and 
reviewing available resources. The week closed with a commissioning
and anointing service. Outdoor Ministries Association chair Jerri
Heiser Wenger praised the various leadership gifts of the team
members and said the four "hit it off" immediately. 

The group will stay at Inspiration Hills another week to lead
junior high camp there, then head to Annual Conference in
Louisville, Ky. Other stops on their summer tour include Camp
Wilbur Stover in Idaho, National Youth Conference in Colorado, Camp
La Verne in southern California, Camp Myrtlewood in Oregon, Camp
Peaceful Pines in northern California, and Camp Koinonia in

The annual program is sponsored by the General Board's Brethren
Witness and Brethren Volunteer Service offices and the Church of
the Brethren Washington Office, On Earth Peace, and Outdoor
Ministries Association. In addition to Heiser Wenger, coordinating
team members present at the orientation were David Radcliff, Kim
Stuckey, Dan McFadden, and Camp Blue Diamond's Ministry Summer
Service intern Natasha Stern.

 7) While US Catholic leaders wrestle with the effects of sexual
abuse in the church, some Church of the Brethren congregations are
working proactively at the issue.

At the Skyridge congregation in Kalamazoo, Mich., pastor Debbie
Eisenbise said a special worship service this spring celebrated
Skyridge's child protection policy. "We just feel it's so important
for congregations to do this, yet we know that most haven't,"
Eisenbise said. "It's done a lot for us."

The Michigan District had encouraged its congregations to develop
such policies, with the added incentive that it could bring
financial savings on insurance. Skyridge responded in 2001 by
putting together a policy that required an hour-long training and
consciousness-raising session for anyone who works with children
and youth in the church.

It also requested self-disclosure statements and references from
each person, along with permission to conduct background checks, if
needed. The congregation maintains a list of those who have been
approved. At least two teachers/caregivers work together in each
classroom. Eisenbise said the policy hasn't made finding volunteers
any more difficult thus far.

"We realize (children) are a vulnerable population," she said.
"It's an important thing to do to make church a safe place for

In California, meanwhile, members of the La Verne congregation
struggled last month when  a convicted child molester asked to
attend there. The story drew coverage in the local media, and the
church held a special open meeting in late May, with about 120
people attending.

The offender said he was working at recovery and change, according
to the Los Angeles Times, and La Verne pastor Chuck Boyer said the
church wanted to explore the question as part of the church's
commitment to grace and forgiveness.

An area director of a program to aid abused children was invited to
facilitate the May meeting. A wide range of feelings were
expressed, according to Boyer, but he said differing views were
voiced with respect. 

"The consensus of the meeting was that we should seek to work with
the sex offender to attempt to bring about healing in his life.
Various individuals agreed to be on a support team for him," Boyer
said. "However, the majority of those present were not willing to
have him attend worship where children would be present."

The offender since decided to voluntarily return to prison to serve
out the remainder of his parole. La Verne is planning another open
meeting for late summer or early spring, and the church hopes to
further educate itself on sexual abuse issues.

 8) Brethren bits: Other brief news notes from around the
denomination and elsewhere.
 *This Sunday, June 23, has been designated National Youth
Conference Prayer Day. The General Board's Youth/Young Adult
Ministry office is requesting prayer for all the nearly 4,200
youth, advisors, and staff who will be attending the event July
16-21 in Fort Collins, Colo. 

 *Camp Colorado is not completely out of the woods yet in regards
to the wildfire threat, but the situation has improved over the
past week. Camp spokesman Lynn Clannin said the massive Hayman Fire
has come no closer to the camp, located near Sedalia, during that
time. The fire's nearest approach is about six miles from the camp,
but a mandatory evacuation order was lifted this Thursday, June 20.
Several Brethren in the area were able to visit the camp earlier in
the week, and Clannin said "it remains in very good shape."

 *This week marks the beginning of a string of major events in the
denomination. The annual Song & Story Fest will take place June
23-29 at Woodland Altars in Peebles, Ohio; then Annual Conference
occurs June 29-July 3 in Louisville, Ky., with a host of other
agency and organization meetings before and during the big event;
the Church of the Brethren Ministers' Association holds its annual
meeting July 3-4 in Louisville; and then National Youth Conference
begins July 16 in Colorado.

 *The Church of the Brethren Washington Office late last week put
out an action alert in recognition of World Refugee Day, observed
June 20. The alert asked Brethren to contact congressional
representatives and request that President Bush admit the
previously agreed-upon total of 70,000 refugees into the United
States in fiscal year 2002. Only 12,000 had been admitted through
early June.


Newsline is produced by Walt Wiltschek, manager of news services
for the Church of the Brethren General Board, on the first, third
and fifth Friday of each month, with other editions as needed.
Newsline stories may be reprinted provided that the source is
cited. Danielle Hart and Ralph McFadden contributed to this report.

Newsline is a free service sent only to those requesting a
subscription. To receive it by e-mail or fax, or to unsubscribe,
write or call 800-323-8039, ext. 263. Newsline is
available at and is archived with an index at Also see Photo Journal at for photo coverage of events.

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