From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Newsline - Church of the Brethren news update

Date Thu, 30 Jan 2003 18:23:44 EST

Date: Jan. 31, 2003
Contact: Walt Wiltschek
V: 847/742-5100 F: 847/742-6103

 1) Brethren learn methods of "coaching" church planters.
 2) National Youth Cabinet for 2003-2004 is announced.
 3) Emergency Disaster Fund grants aid projects in US, Canada.
 4) New disaster relief project to begin in Mississippi.
 5) Houston event examines another phase of Evangelism Connections.
 6) First Advanced Foundations of Church Leadership group meets.
 7) Brethren bits: Disaster Child Care, web poll, and more.

 8) General Board calls four to serve in Dominican Republic.

 9) Bridgewater conference will examine Brethren peace witness.

10) Pennsylvania church completes a New Year's scripture marathon.
11) Young Brethren archer shoots for 2004 US Olympic team.


 1) Two dozen Church of the Brethren pastors, district executives,
and new church development committee members gathered in Phoenix
Jan. 16-18 for a seminar on coaching church planters.

Jeff Wright and Sara Haldeman-Scarr of the Los Angeles-based Center
for Anabaptist Leadership (CAL) led the event, sponsored by the
General Board's Congregational Life Ministries office and its New
Church Development Advisory Committee. Wright also led a church
planting seminar held last May at Bethany Theological Seminary, and
Haldeman-Scarr--an ordained Church of the Brethren minister--joined
CAL's staff in the past year.

The "Coaching Foundations" course guided participants through the
rationale and framework for planting new churches, models for
church planting, methods for coaching those called to do the
planting, troubleshooting, and establishing regional strategies.
Themes of intentional prayer teams, having a "business plan,"
preparing for the harvest, knowing the community, and being
flexible wove their way through the sessions.

"The challenge is to pray," Wright said. "Church planting isn't
about bells and whistles or flash or finding the right worship
style. It's about listening to God. It's about our intimacy with
Christ." Embracing God's vision for church planting, he said, means
finding "where opportunity and God's call intersect."

Wright and Haldeman-Scarr urged the group not to be discouraged by
failure, however. It's likely that half of new church starts will
fail, Wright said, but the ones that survive will bring new energy
and life to existing churches and help to spark future church
plants. He preached against giving large financial subsidies to
start-ups or bogging down energy in committees.

"Don't start with prime areas. Start with prime people," Wright
said, addressing approaches to planting churches. "They'll decide
where to go. . . . It's the Spirit that gives life; it's not our
flowcharts." He called the process of coaching one of "walking
alongside" someone and equipping them, "drawing out their
excellence for success."

Worship was also integrated throughout the event, including a
service led by the "Alternative Worship Experience" (AWE) team of
the nearby Circle of Peace congregation. The training ended with a
time of anointing and commissioning led by Wright, who also spoke
at Circle of Peace--itself in the midst of a new church building
project--the following Sunday morning.

 2) The General Board's Youth/Young Adult Ministries office has
announced the National Youth Cabinet for 2003-2004. The group will
select national youth themes, assist in developing workcamp
offerings, and work with the office on other resources and events.

Cabinet members will be Adam Messner of Pottstown, Pa.; Matt
Witkovsky of Huntingdon, Pa.; Jennifer Quijano of Brooklyn, N.Y.;
Hannah Serfling of Preston, Minn.; and Caitlin Haynes of Glen Arm,
Md. Jon Keller of the Oakland Church of the Brethren, Gettysburg,
Ohio, will serve as adult advisor along with Youth/Young Adult
Ministries coordinator Chris Douglas.

The group is expected to have its first meeting at the General
Offices in Elgin, Ill., in April.

 3) Late January saw a quartet of grants made from the General
Board's Emergency Disaster Fund, sending a total of $50,000 to
projects in the United States and Canada.

Two of the allocations will support areas where Emergency
Response/Service Ministries (ER/SM) is actively working in disaster
relief. A $15,000 grant will aid ongoing flood recovery work in
Virginia and West Virginia, particularly helping to facilitate
current work in Pineville, W.Va. Another $10,000 will go toward the
startup in March of a new project in Columbus, Miss., where
volunteers will work with the local Interfaith response group to
rebuild homes devastated by a tornado (see story #5).

Church World Service will receive $15,000 from the fund for its
Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison program. The program
provides staff who encourage a cooperative faith-group response in
disaster management. The grant represents the balance of the Church
of the Brethren communion-member commitment for 2003.

Finally, a $10,000 allocation will assist a sister organization of
ER/SM, the Canadian Child Care Nonprofit Society, with training
events for disaster child care in Canada. The funds will be used to
support operational costs in building a larger volunteer base.

 4) The Church of the Brethren General Board's Emergency
Response/Service Ministries (ER/SM) office will begin a new
disaster relief project in Mississippi in the coming months.

Volunteers will work with the local Interfaith response group to
rebuild and repair homes in the city of Columbus, near the
north-central Alabama border, which was hard-hit by a tornado
outbreak on Nov. 10. The storm system spawned 72 tornadoes through
the central and southeastern US, with 37 lives lost and thousands
of homes damaged.

ER/SM learned of a poor, largely minority community in Columbus
that sustained severe damage and had been receiving little
attention in current relief efforts. Disaster project directors Rex
and Jenette Freeman visited the site earlier this month to do
assessment and meet with the Interfaith. ER/SM estimates the
project will begin about March 1, with Jiggs and Violet Miller of
Michigan serving as the initial project directors.     

In West Virginia, meanwhile, an ER/SM project in Pineville that had
closed for the winter will also reopen in March. Volunteers will
continue work with the Wyoming County Long-Term Recovery Committee
to help the community recover from damaging flash floods that
struck the area in July 2001. ER/SM reports that dozens of cases
still await assistance. Disaster project directors Bob and Juanita
Mikesell of Ohio will open the project this spring.

 5) Eighteen district executives and General Board staff traveled
to Camp Allen, an Episcopal Conference Center west of Houston, Jan.
12-14 for an Evangelism Connections event titled, "Reclaiming the
Great Commission." 

The Church of the Brethren is among the denominational partners in
Evangelism Connections, which offered two major conferences in
Louisville, Ky., and Philadelphia in 2002. This latest event was
aimed at "middle judicatory" (district) leadership.

The primary presenter for the January gathering was Claude E.
Payne, Episcopal bishop of Texas. Using a computer presentation,
Payne shared the story of his past 10 years working with the
churches of his state--a period in which many of the congregations
moved from declining attendance and revenue and a lack of vision to
ones that emphasized vision, mission, and calling out leaders. 

Payne said his guiding principles included being a "community of
miraculous expectation," working together as one church, making
evangelism a part of everything, and having what he called "BHAG"
(Big, Holy, Audacious Goals).

Glenn Timmons, director of Congregational Life Ministries and a
member of the event planning committee, led two denominational
meetings considering the implications of the event for the Church
of the Brethren. Staff reported that participants expressed
enthusiasm for incorporating the guiding principles of Payne's work
into denominational efforts to be faithful and in encouraging
congregations to claim their call of continuing Christ's mission.

 6) Eight pastors from around the country gathered in Richmond,
Ind., Jan. 7-10 to begin a two-year process of leadership
development. This first group of pastors in the Advanced
Foundations of Church Leadership process spent the four days
exploring aspects of spiritual fitness under the guidance of
Bethany Theological Seminary professor Tara Hornbacker.

The gathering also included work with self-assessment tools, case
study formulation, and online learning training. Central to the
overall experience were worship and prayer. Brethren Academy for
Ministerial Leadership coordinator Jonathan Shively said that deep
reflection, active learning, and a lot of joyful laughter
characterized the sessions.

Participants in this initial "cohort group" are Dan Poole,
Covington (Ohio); Lisa Hazen, Beavercreek (Ohio); Thomas Hanks,
Fraternity (Winston-Salem, N.C.); David W. Miller, West Richmond
(Va.); Jim Davis, North Winona (Warsaw, Ind.); Ken Gresh, Rummel
(Windber, Pa.); Kelly Burk, Richmond (Ind.); and Jerry Lee Miller,
Spring Run (McVeytown, Pa.).

Advanced Foundations is offered through the Brethren Academy for
Ministerial Leadership, a joint partnership of Bethany and the
Church of the Brethren General Board.  

 7) Brethren bits: Other brief news notes from around the
denomination and elsewhere.
 *The General Board's Disaster Child Care program has announced
dates for the final two workshops in its spring series of Level 1
training sessions. The Level 1 Workshop will be offered May 30-31
in Winchester, N.H., and June 6-7 in Decatur, Ala. Five other
workshops had been previously announced. For a full list and
registration information (due at least three weeks prior to the
workshop dates), visit

 *A trio of Church of the Brethren meetings are taking place on the
eastern Florida coast in late January and early February. The
Inter-Agency Forum is meeting Jan. 30-31, followed by the General
Board's Mission & Ministries Planning Council (MMPC) Jan. 31-Feb.
1 and the Council of District Executives Feb. 2-6, all in Daytona
Beach. In addition, Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 252 is taking
place in the nearby Orlando area.

 *Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)
president Toma Ragnjiya was among 13 denominational heads from
northern and central Nigeria who visited with Nigerian president
Olusegun Obasanjo on Jan. 23. The group prayed with Obasanjo and
presented concerns over religious and ethnic conflicts, expressed
opposition to a Nigerian Interreligious Affairs Committee that they
say would blur lines of church and state, and requested the
president's intervention in the increase of Resident Permit fees.
"The president received us very well and thanked the group,"
Ragnjiya reported. "He requested that we pray for him and said that
he is ready to serve the country to the best of his ability as a

 *In a recent online poll, three-quarters of
respondents said they planned to give about the same or more to
local, district, and national church ministries in 2003. Forty
percent said they expected their combined giving to be "slightly
higher" and 4.5 percent "much higher." More than 100 people
participated in the non-scientific survey Jan. 9-23.

 *The ambassador of Angola, Dra. Josefina Pitra Diakite', plans to
visit the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., which has
worked with Angolan aid agency SHARECircle to deliver a steady
stream of aid to the African nation. The ambassador was scheduled
to visit this past week but had to cancel due to illness. The event
is expected to be rescheduled in February.

 *Correction: Due to incorrect information, the wrong title for
Edward "Ike" Porter was given in the Jan. 17 Newsline. Porter is
officially a Veterans Administration chaplain, and is believed to
be the first ordained to that role in the Church of the Brethren.

 8) The General Board has filled several vacant Global Mission
Partnerships positions in the Dominican Republic, calling out four
leaders from Pennsylvania.

Irvin and Nancy Heishman of Harrisburg, Pa., have accepted the call
to be mission coordinators in the Caribbean nation. They will begin
in May 2003 with a time of transition with interim coordinator
Guillermo Encarnacion.

Currently, the Heishmans serve as co-pastors at First Church of the
Brethren in Harrisburg. During their time there, which began in
1988, the church established two non-profit organizations--Brethren
Housing Association and Brethren Community Ministries; a
contemporary/ bilingual worship service; and a "daughter"
Spanish-speaking congregation in Bethlehem, Pa.

Laura and Ronald Brinton of Red Lion, Pa., have accepted the
position of house parents for the Brethren Mission House in Azua,
a joint project of the General Board and Brethren Revival
Fellowship. They plan to begin this summer. 

The Brintons attend the New Fairview Church of the Brethren in York
and hold leadership positions with the Missions Committee, as youth
advisors, in music ministry, and as teachers. They have been
involved with fund-raising and organizing mission trips to the
Dominican Republic.

 9) The Forum for Religious Studies at Bridgewater (Va.) College
will sponsor a conference titled "At the Crossroads: A Historic
Peace Church in the Twenty-First Century" March 27-29.

The gathering will "explore the condition of the peace witness in
the contemporary Church of the	Brethren and take a fresh look at
Biblical non-violence among the Brethren." Presenters will include
historians, sociologists, theologians, and representatives from
other fields. The goal of the meeting is "to create innovative
scholarship with new insights into the state of the peace movement
within the denomination."

For more information, contact campus chaplain Robbie Miller at
540-828-5383 or Registration is $30 (plus
$15 for those who choose to attend a Friday evening banquet).
Continuing education credit will also be available.

 10) Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren really got into the
Scriptures recently, completing an 81-hour Bible-reading marathon
on Jan. 4. The marathon began at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1 and continued --
night and day -- until the Bible had been read "cover to cover,"
according to pastor of Christian nurture Dennis Lohr.

Volunteers read from the sanctuary pulpit for 15-minute increments,
with more than 140 people from ages 6 to 80-something
participating. The marathon was coordinated by the senior high
youth cabinet, who filled in when a snow day prevented some people
from making their scheduled slots. Nearly 20 youth and advisors
stayed overnight to provide backup.

On the final morning, 66 books and millions of words after the
venture began, more than 75 people were present for a unison
reading of the last chapter of Revelation. The event received
coverage on the local television news and from an area newspaper.

"I suspect that from time to time Christians make a New Year's
resolution to read the Bible cover to cover," Lohr said. "I suspect
that many of those resolutions don't make it past Leviticus or
Numbers. We did! What is difficult to do as an individual is often
times more possible to do in community. This experience drew us
together in powerful and unexpected ways."

 11) One Church of the Brethren youth's goal of going to the 2004
Summer Olympics is -- literally -- right on target.

Tyler Benner, a member of the Chiques congregation in Manheim, Pa.,
is a relative newcomer to competitive archery, but he has quickly
risen to the top of the field. With some recent strong performances
building on a long list of accomplishments and records, he hopes to
be on the US archery team for the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece.

"I've always played a lot of team sports, and always did really
well with them, but . . . I found that individualized sports
becoming more my thing," says Benner, a high school senior who will
turn 18 in March. "Archery was an individual sport where you can
just go out there, and what you shoot is what you shoot."

In Benner's case, what he has been shooting is some very good
scores. He recently won the 2003 Junior World Trials in Virginia,
giving him the top spot on the US team that will compete in the
Indoor Junior World Championships in France this summer. He'll also
be trying out for the US senior archery team this year, with a
series of tournaments beginning in April.

The constant competitions and about 20 hours of practice a week
make a full schedule, but Benner says he has been able to
successfully juggle it with a rigorous courseload at school. He
makes up assignments as needed and takes work along for his many
trips on the road.

"I'm in a perpetual state of packing," he says. "I'm barely ever
home before I have to pick up a suitcase and run off for a few

Benner says his family has a long history of archery involvement,
but he didn't really get serious about the sport until about three
years ago. He began training at the Hemlock Archery Club in nearby
Lebanon, where he continues to shoot with his recurve bow.

He says he often has people express surprise that he's only been
shooting a few years, but Benner says that actually helped him to
avoid developing bad habits as a shooter. "That has really
accelerated my progress through archery," he says. His father often
videotapes his sessions, and he compares that to tapes of expert

"He's doing really well for the time he's been shooting," two-time
Olympic archery coach Lloyd Brown said in a release. "He works
really hard. He's very serious about his shooting. I think that's
what's going to move him near the top."

Benner's big challenge now is raising the funds to cover all his
travel and lodging in the drive for the Olympics. He said the
Chiques congregation and his family have been very supportive, and
he's spoken at church several times. He recently obtained his first
major equipment sponsorship, as well. Now the big goals lie ahead.

"I really do think that (I can do it)," Benner says of 2004. "I've
gotten a lot of great feedback from national coaches. They're
saying, 'We think you can definitely do this. . . . It's just a
matter of time with you.' That's always nice to hear."

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. Jane Yount, Beth Sollenberger Morphew, David
Shumate, and Don Fitzkee contributed to this report.

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