From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Newsline - Church of the Brethren news update

Date Fri, 17 Jan 2003 09:22:17 EST

Date: Jan. 17, 2003
Contact: Walt Wiltschek
V: 847/742-5100 F: 847/742-6103

 1) CAIR team responds to Charlotte plane crash.
 2) Another big BVS unit is set to begin orientation in Florida.
 3) CPT delegation member dies in Iraq accident; other updates.
 4) Billboards bear Brethren opposition to war on Iraq.
 5) NCC, others plan Martin Luther King Jr. Day prayer service.
 6) BBT board approves new investment fund options, other changes.
 7) Brethren bits: Heifer on TV, workcamps, awards, and more.

 8) General Board cuts nine positions amid financial constraints.
 9) Brethren Benefit Trust scales back staffing levels.

10) Disaster Child Care offers Level I training workshops.

11) Two Brethren honored for carrying out spirit of Martin Luther
King Jr.


 1) A Child Care in Aviation Incident Response (CAIR) team from the
General Board's Emergency Response/Service Ministries program made
a quick response after a US Airways Express/Air Midwest plane
crashed in Charlotte, N.C., on Jan. 8. All 19 passengers and two
crew members on board were killed when the small plane crashed into
a hangar on takeoff.

Four CAIR team members traveled to Charlotte the same day, at the
request of the American Red Cross, and set up a child-care center
the following day. The team reported that few child-care contacts
were needed, but they focused on helping surviving parents know how
to talk with their children about the loss of a parent.  

Cheryl Dekker served as administrator for this response team, which
traveled home on Jan. 10. The accident came after more than a year
with no commerical airline fatalities in the US, according to CNN.

 2) Numbers continue to surge for Brethren Volunteer Service as
Unit 252 prepares to hold orientation Jan. 19 to Feb. 3 at Camp
Ithiel, located near Orlando, Fla.

Nineteen volunteers are scheduled to gather in Florida, nearly
double the number in last year's winter unit. This follows a
31-member fall unit that was the largest in more than a decade.
Unit 252 also has a higher average age than most units, with seven
of the 19 volunteers between ages 26 and 50.

Four of the volunteers are Brethren: Brittany Atwood, South
Waterloo (Iowa) Church of the Brethren; Jim Batterton, Woodland
Church or the Brethren, Astoria, Ill.; Drew Martin-Adkins,
Washington (D.C.) City Church of the Brethren; and Rachel Peterson,
New Carlisle (Ohio) Church of the Brethren.

The three-week orientation will include a variety of speakers and
sessions, a weekend in Miami with the Eglise des Freres Haitian
congregation, and a day with National Farm Workers Ministries near

 3) A Christian Peacemakers Teams reservist in Iraq was killed and
others injured in a motor vehicle accident on Jan. 6. George Weber,
73, of Chesley, Ontario, was traveling with five other CPT
delegates en route from Basrah to Baghdad when the Chevrolet
Suburban he was traveling in blew a tire, fishtailed, and flipped
over as it hit the shoulder of the road.

Weber was thrown from the vehicle and sustained massive head
injuries, according to a CPT report. Michele Naar-Obed of Duluth,
Minn., and Charlie Jackson of San Antonio, Texas, sustained
moderate injuries. Two others, including Church of the Brethren
member Pat Basler of Webster, Wis., were examined for minor
injuries and released.

"It was pretty rough for us on top of the very emotional
experiences that are part of being with the people of Iraq," said
Brethren Cliff Kindy, who has been in Iraq with CPT for several
months. Kindy praised the Iraqi driver's efforts to avoid the
rollover after the blowout.

The 17-person delegation had been in Iraq since Dec. 29, visiting
hospitals and other Iraqi civilian institutions to witness the
impact of more than a decade of sanctions and the possible threat
of another war against Iraq. Brethren Peggy Gish and Anne Albright
joined Basler and Kindy on the team. Albright and Basler were
scheduled to return to the US earlier this month. Another Brethren,
Nathan Musselman, has been in Iraq through Voices in the

In related news, a 13-member US National Council of Churches
delegation including general secretary Bob Edgar made a four-day
humanitarian mission to Iraq over the New Year holiday. The
delegation made a statement that "a war against Iraq will make the
US less secure, not more secure." It noted that, "We are called by
God to be peacemakers." Edgar shared about the group's findings on
NBC's Today Show on Jan. 9.

A $15,000 grant from the General Board's Global Food Crisis
Fund--part of a recent $50,000 grant to the Middle East Council of
Churches--was carried to Iraq via this NCC delegation.

Brethren have also had a presence in Europe, where Brethren
Volunteer Service worker Janelle Flory of McPherson, Kan., spoke at
a demonstration at the Rhein-Main Airbase in Frankfurt, Germany.
She is serving with the German Fellowship of Reconciliation. 

 4) Brethren in at least two areas are communicating their
opposition to Iraq in a big way -- by placing advertisements on
billboards in the community.

Southern Ohio District's Shalom Ministry Team is making an all-out
effort with its billboard project, which member Greg Bidgood Enders
says is "well under way." The group is putting up 10 billboards
around the greater Dayton, Ohio, area. Five different designs each
carry a photo by Brethren Witness director David Radcliff, each
portraying people who would be affected by war, and bear an
anti-war message.

Three of the billboards were up as of Jan. 6. The billboards will
be displayed through January and February, and will be kept up
longer if more funds are received to continue the spots. 

In Modesto, Calif., meanwhile, the Modesto congregation urged
several other churches in the area to join in sponsoring a
billboard in the city. It also bears one of Radcliff's photos from
Iraq and says, "War destroys precious lives . . . on all sides."

  5) The National Council of Churches (NCC) on Monday will help to
lead a prayer service for peace and justice in Washington, D.C., in
conjunction with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. A particular
emphasis will be given to efforts to avert a war with Iraq, and to
the connection between war and poverty.

The event will take place from 2:30-4 p.m. at the Washington
National Cathedral on the city's northwest side. A processional to
the White House and a prayer vigil will follow the service.

The NCC said it was seeking to rally "large numbers" of
congregations in the area to be part of the event. The Church of
the Brethren Washington Office planned to have a presence, with
Washington Office coordinator Greg Davidson Laszakovits serving as
the denomination's official representative.

Other sponsors of the event include Sojourners, the Episcopal
Diocese of Washington, Children's Defense Fund, and Call to
Renewal. For more information, call 202-544-2350.

 6) The Brethren Benefit Trust board approved creation of a
Community Development Investment Fund as it met Nov. 23-24 at the
Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The fund,
which will give Brethren Pension Plan members and Brethren
Foundation clients a guaranteed 3-percent rate of return each year
beginning in 2003, will help to underwrite community development
projects in areas of need.

"The impact of this fund will be at the grassroots level in
community projects that make a difference," BBT president Wil Nolen
said. Investments will be placed with a development bank or credit
union and used to finance loans within that community. Loans are
typically for construction or rehabilitation of low-income housing,
to assist low-income people in starting or expanding their own
businesses, or to support area non-profit organizations in their

Investments in the Community Development Fund will be through
Calvert Foundation's Community Investment Notes and Community
Investment Management Accounts. Some of BBT's international
investments will be directed for investment in countries where the
Church of the Brethren is active, such as Nigeria, Sudan, and the
Dominican Republic.

The BBT board also approved a second new investment choice for
Brethren Foundation clients, a domestic small-cap stock fund, which
will contain investments in companies that have a market
capitalization of less than $2 billion. The board also approved
adding a small-cap manager to the Retirement Benefits Fund and the
Pension Plan's Common Stock Fund.

Two new measures will help maintain proper funding of the Pension
Plan's Retirement Benefits Fund: a 10-percent adjustment to the
2000 actuarial tables for Plan members who annuitize after July 1,
2003, to more closely reflect true life-expectancy calculations;
and a directive for staff to bring to the April 2003 meeting a
recommendation regarding the designation of a portion of BBT's
general reserves to the Retirement Benefits Fund, helping provide
a surplus until the economy rebounds.

An update was given on the new Congregational Employee Plan medical
insurance program (which was launched on Jan. 1, 2003). And
beginning Jan. 1, 2004, participation in the Brethren Insurance
Plans will be "unbundled," meaning Plan members can participate in
one or more of BBT's medical, life, and long-term care insurances
without participating in all three.

In other business, the board:
*approved an increase in the maximum contribution to Brethren
FlexCare Medical Reimbursement Accounts from $2,500 to $3,500
effective Jan. 1, 2003.

*approved a housing allowance exclusion of up to 100 percent of
gross income for ministers who receive a long-term disability
benefit; and a housing allowance exclusion of up to 100 percent of
total retirement compensation for retired ministers.

*approved a 2003 expense budget of $2,545,000--a reduction from
$2,979,715 in 2002.

The board next meets April 26-27 in Elgin, Ill.

 7) Brethren bits: Other brief news notes from around the
denomination and elsewhere.
 *Heifer International, which originally began in the Church of the
Brethren as Heifer Project, was featured on NBC's Jan. 8 broadcast
of "The West Wing." The now-independent agency was woven into the
storyline as the president wrestled with foreign aid issues. The
episode concluded with the president and his staff posing around a
Heifer goat for a photo.

 *The Cedars retirement community of McPherson, Kan., was one of
seven nursing home facilities in Kansas recognized as a 2002 PEAK
(Promoting Excellent Alternatives in Kansas) Pioneer. Kansas
Secretary of Aging Connie Hubbell presented the award to The Cedars
on Nov. 12. It recognizes non-traditional models of care. All
award-winners will also be recognized at the Governor's Conference
on Aging in May.

 *The Valley Point Church of the Brethren, near Orbisonia, Pa., in
Middle Pennsylvania District, recently sustained severe structural
damage to its building due to strong winds from a storm system.

 *According to statistics from Bethany Theological Seminary, 82
students took classes in Bethany's graduate school in the fall
semester. Ten of these were at the Susquehanna Valley Satellite,
and the remainder at the main Richmond, Ind., campus. Forty-eight
were M.Div. students, and 32 were Brethren college alumni. Another
102 people, representing 22 of the 23 districts, were enrolled in
Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership programs.

 *Naomi West of the Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren was
recognized Nov. 21 by the Virginia Council of Churches for her many
years of work with refugees, both within the Church of the Brethren
and ecumenically. West continues as an active member of the
Shenandoah District Refugee Resettlement Task Team.

 *Skyridge Church of the Brethren in Kalamazoo, Mich., which made
waves this past summer with the ordination of an openly gay man,
recently performed another first--the ordination of the
denomination's first military chaplain. Edward "Ike" Porter
transferred his membership from the Mennonite Church to Skyridge,
where he and his family had been attending regularly for years, on
Jan. 12. Skyridge pastor Debbie Eisenbise says Porter is a "very
strong pacifist" who sees his work at the VA mental hospital in
nearby Battle Creek as a way to help people "heal from the scars of
war," Eisenbise says.

 *To clarify an item in the Jan. 3 Newsline, proceeds from the sale
of Indiana youth Emily Laudeman's new CD will benefit the "If a
Tree Falls..." campaign of Brethren Witness.

 8) Facing escalating costs, a downturn in investments, and reduced
giving, the General Board last week made the "difficult decision"
to eliminate several staff positions effective Jan. 10. 

Those whose positions were cut included Congregational Life Team
Area 4 (Plains) coordinator David Smalley, Congregational Life Team
support staff Vickie Hoerchler, District Ministry office secretary
Georgianna Schmidtke, and Accounts Receivable specialist Dianne
Buttrum. Each received a three-month severance package of regular
salary and benefits.

Smalley was based in Kansas City, Kan., and the others at the
General Offices in Elgin, Ill. In addition, four vacant
positions--three in the Congregational Life Team program and the
Editor of Study Resources for Brethren Press--were eliminated. Area
4 will be covered by other Congregational Life Team members as the
program moves to a less-regionalized approach.

Packer Virginia Long and medical receiver Sam Moledina were also
each reduced to half-time at the Brethren Service Center in New
Windsor, Md., accounting for a reduction of one Service Ministries

The cuts were determined by the general secretary with consensus
from the staff Leadership Team and the General Board's Executive
Committee, following the process set up by the General Board.
Additional adjustments to the agency's budget and structure are
expected in the coming months.

 9) Brethren Benefit Trust continued to scale back its staffing in
the final quarter of 2002, reducing the hours of one position and
leaving another unfilled following a resignation.

Senior accountant Luc Lee resigned in December, although he
continues to assist BBT's finance department on a call-in basis.
BBT president Wil Nolen said there are no plans to fill the

Also this fall, marketing coordinator Loyce Borgmann's position was
reduced from full-time to half-time. A senior writer position and
manager of human resources position left open during the year by a
resignation and termination, respectively, are also expected to go

Combined, the moves represent a total reduction of three and a half
full-time positions at BBT since the start of 2002. An additional
reduction of one and a half positions occurred in 2001.

 10) The Disaster Child Care program of the General Board's
Emergency Response/Service Ministries office will again offer a
series of Level I training workshops in 2003. Under the theme
"Courage to Care," at least six of the training sessions--which
provide the basic instruction for those seeking to be a Disaster
Child Care volunteer--will be offered this spring.

Locations and dates for workshops have been set as follows:
Jacksonville, Fla., March 7-8; Fort Myers, Fla., March 14-15;
Wichita, Kan., March 14-15; West Point, Neb., April 4-5; and
Salkum, Wash., April 11-12. Another workshop is planned for
Decatur, Ala., in late April or May, and one in New Hampshire or
Massachusetts is being considered.

Participants should register at least three weeks before the
workshop dates to get a $45 early registration fee; the final
deadline is two weeks before, with a registration fee of $55. Fee
for certified volunteers seeking re-training is $25.

Additional details on the program are at For more information
contact Helen Stonesifer at 800-451-4407, ext. 5 or, or Roy Winter at 800-451-4407, ext. 7

 11) Two Brethren are receiving awards named for Martin Luther King
Jr. as the US prepares to observe a day named for the civil rights

Ambler (Pa.) Church of the Brethren member Ron Lutz is receiving
the Martin Luther King Jr. Award from the Wissahickon Faith
Community, representing the ministerium of the region northwest of
Philadelphia. The award is jointly sponsored by Bethlehem Baptist
Church, an African-American congregation that will host the worship
service at which the award will be presented on Monday.

"It's a real honor to be awarded this," Lutz said. This new honor
and the Edgar Baker Award he received for his community work while
pastor at the Germantown Church of the Brethren in Philadelphia are
"probably the outstanding ones I've received," he said.

Lutz has worked at reconciliation with gangs in Germantown, has
assisted with numerous community organizations such as food
cupboards and homeless programs, and has championed the Prison
Visitation and Support ministry that began with visits to
conscientious objectors in jail after World War II. Today, visits
are made to those in federal prisons who aren't visited by anyone
else, Lutz said. About 300 visitors now participate nationwide. 

Lutz pastored at both Germantown and Ambler before retiring in
1999. He says he hasn't dropped off at all in his volunteer work,

Former Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren pastor Don Shank,
meanwhile, received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 2003
Humanitarian Award in Elgin, Ill., at a breakfast event on Jan. 11.
Shank was honored for his work in religion/civil rights,
recognizing his "efforts on behalf of peace, reconciliation, and
justice in the Elgin community."

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 Newsline is cited
as the source. Karen Roberts, Roy Winter, Stan Dueck, Nancy Miner,
and David Radcliff contributed to this report.

Newsline is a free service sent only to those requesting a
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