From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Newsline - Church of the Brethren news update

Date Thu, 6 Feb 2003 22:20:04 EST

Date: Feb. 7, 2003
Contact: Walt Wiltschek
V: 847/742-5100 F: 847/742-6103

 1) General Board experiences significant shortfall in 2002.
 2) Brethren member helps space center employees deal with Columbia
 3) Church groups continue to make voices heard on Iraq issues.
 4) India relations study committee makes return trip to India.
 5) Annual Conference Council offers guidance on divisive issues.
 6) Brethren bits: CAIR training, St. Judas Passion, district news,
and more.

 7) Districts announce disaster relief auction schedule.
 8) Cross-Cultural Consultation makes plans for Orlando meeting.

 9) "Faith the Cow" heifer tale reaches sales milestone.

 1) For the first time since 1996, when the Church of the Brethren
General Board underwent a major redesign and restructuring, the
agency sustained a deficit in its General Programs fund in 2002.
Pre-audit figures show a shortfall of $709,330. 

General Programs is the main operating fund for the General Board
and is supported mainly by individual and congregational gifts.
Support from congregations remains the largest single income
category, at $3,267,860 in 2002, but it was $41,140 lower than in
2001. Direct-mail response by individual donors was strong,
finishing $2,000 behind 2001 levels but still significantly
exceeding budget expectations. 

Investments, such as endowments, are another major income source,
and were hit hard by the weak economy. The 2002 loss of income from
endowments and other similar funds--intended to anchor future
ministries--will also cause lower balances on which to earn
interest in 2003 and beyond, according to chief financial
officer/treasurer Judy Keyser. In addition, income from bequests
was under budget by $182,740. 

The deficit in General Programs came despite underspending the
expense budget by nearly $184,000. 

Self-funding ministries -- primarily those that offer goods or
services for sale -- were also affected by the economic woes,
though some finished in positive territory. The New Windsor (Md.)
Conference Center saw a decline in bookings but still finished with
a $20,560 income over expense. Messenger magazine also finished in
the black, posting $2,800 in income over expense. 

The Emergency Response program spent $777,150, which was covered by
donations to the Emergency Disaster Fund; Service Ministries ended
with a loss of $65,580, mainly due to decreased use of the New
Windsor warehouse facilities. Brethren Press sustained a deficit of
$41,570, primarily attributed to a decrease in curriculum sales as
the "Jubilee!" children's curriculum has been through several

Keyser says the General Board is carefully monitoring income to
plan for 2003 and future years. The board at its October meeting
grappled with concerns about the budget and the long-term
sustainability of General Board ministries. Most other US
denominations are facing similar economic struggles. 

Even before the temporary decline in stock values and bequest
giving, the agency faced a projected shortfall of nearly $400,000
in 2003. The deficit is expected to grow to at least $500,000 by
2004 due to rising personnel costs and other expenses that are
exceeding the pace of giving. Keyser says the General Board's
overall financial health was confirmed, however, with a review by
the independent audit firm of McGladrey and Pullen and a separate
evaluation by the board's Audit and Investment Committee. 

On Earth Peace showed a pre-audit income over expense of $2,900 in
its main operating fund for its past fiscal year, which ended in
September. The agency's endowment funds had a loss of "paper value"
of more than $126,000, however, resulting in a total pre-audit net
deficit of $123,718. 

Financial reports from other agencies were not immediately

 2) In the hours after the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated
over Texas this past Saturday, the phone rang at the home of New
Covenant Church of the Brethren member Jerry Eller.

Eller, from Merritt Island, Fla., is a member of the on-call
Kennedy Space Center Mental Health Trauma Team that was formed in
the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Eller said the center
realized there wasn't a response network in place should a disaster
occur, and it requested resumes to form such a network.

Members of the resulting 30-member team were quickly called upon to
do Critical Incident Stress Debriefing with employees at the space
center, where Columbia had been scheduled to land. Eller -- a
licensed mental health counselor and marriage and family therapist
who also serves as guidance counselor for two elementary schools --
said the team had just completed a three-day training unit before
the disaster.

Four team members met with the astronauts' families before they
were sent to Johnson Space Center in Houston. Eller's service began
on Monday, when he was asked to meet with Boeing workers --
representing more than 2,000 of the approximately 25,000 employees
and subcontractors at Kennedy. Eller first talked with managers to
explain the available services, then began the debriefing sessions
on Wednesday.

"It's a way of having people take a look at how the tragedy has
affected them, where they are currently, helping them realize that
people are giving normal responses to un-normal events," Eller
said. "Everybody's got a story, where they were, going through a
full range of emotions."

He said most are still in the grief and mourning stage while an
answer is sought for the root cause of the disaster, and some were
seeking spiritual answers and centering. A large memorial service
was planned for Friday morning (Feb. 7). There is also anxiety over
the future of the space program and jobs at the center, Eller said.

"I have learned the human side of the tragedy," Eller said. "These
people worked with the astronauts, met with their families. . . .
They're all a family out there (at the center). They're going to
need each other's support more than ever now. I really felt
privileged to be able to enter their world and offer them a sense
they can be OK."

 3) While the global debate over action against Iraq rolls onward,
numerous religious bodies including the Church of the Brethren
continue to speak out against any attack.

The Church of the Brethren Washington Office this week issued an
action alert urging Brethren to contact their senators and
representatives and express "firm and committed" opposition to a
war with Iraq. It also calls for support of Senate resolutions 32
and 28, supporting ongoing work by United Nations weapons
inspectors, and House Joint Resolution 20, which would "effectively
repeal" the October resolution authorizing the president to use

Addressing Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the UN
Security Council this week, the Washington Office alert says,
"While the secretary of state's speech before the UN did highlight
the need for weapons inspections to continue, it did not provide a
justification for war."

Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or 800-839-5276 to
reach a member of Congress; for further details, contact the
Washington Office at 202-546-3202.

In larger church circles, meanwhile, Church of the Brethren General
Board general secretary Judy Mills Reimer was among 46 US religious
leaders asking "with utmost urgency" for a face-to-face meeting
with President George W. Bush, according to a National Council of
Churches (NCC) release.

The letter, facilitated by NCC general secretary Bob Edgar and
signed by a variety of leaders from 11 denominations last week,
says it is a "moral and ethical matter of the highest order" and
asks for a "pastoral opportunity" to present the churches' position
and beliefs. Edgar had earlier called for a Jan. 27 day of fasting
and prayers over the Iraq issue.

In other developments:
*Church World Service (CWS) executive director John McCullough
joined an emergency mission to Iraq Jan. 19-31 to assess the
humanitarian and human rights consequences of a war on Iraq,
according to a CWS report. The team planned to issue several
reports after the visit.

*Former Bridgewater (Va.) College religion professor David Metzler
was among those participating in a Jan. 14-16 Iraqi-American
Symposium for Peace held at the University of Baghdad. The event
studied the roots of the impending war and explored ways for
faculty and students to bridge the gap between educational
institutions in the two countries. Metzler spent an additional 10
days as part of a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation in Iraq. A
new Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation, including Church of the
Brethren members Cliff Kindy and Peggy Gish, planned to enter Iraq
this week.

 4) Two years after the last visit, representatives of the General
Board's India study committee traveled to India in late January to
hear of progress among Brethren groups in Gujarat State and the
Church of North India (CNI), which continue to wrestle over issues
surrounding the former group's separation from CNI.

Board member J.D. Glick of Harrisonburg, Va. -- who took the place
of former committee member Christy Waltersdorff after her board
term ended -- and Ernest Thakor of Naperville, Ill., represented
the committee on this visit. Also traveling with the group was Bob
Gross of North Manchester, Ind., who has been sponsored by the
Global Mission Partnerships office for a number of years to lead
reconciliation efforts between the groups.

Gross, who has traveled to India in this capacity several times,
was joined on this trip by his wife, Rachel. A long-time goal of
the mission office has been "to bring these two groups to the same
table to seek common ground on long-standing issues between these
two parts of the body of Christ," according to Global Mission
Partnerships director Merv Keeney. 

The General Board last year approved a statement that would seek
relationship with both groups without extending formal recognition.
The statement was forwarded to the 2002 Annual Conference for
action, but delegates tabled the issue. It is expected to return to
the agenda at this summer's Conference.

 5) The Annual Conference Council at its December meeting issued a
statement "for the purpose of clarity and for a sense of unified
understanding and practice among us all" in response to letters and
inquiries about divisive issues at Conference.

The statement notes the Council's recognition that the
"denomination is not of one mind" on a number of issues, but that
policy and polity coming out of Annual Conference "represents the
mind of the church at this time and is to be followed by the Church
of the Brethren."

A query sent to the 2003 Annual Conference by South/Central Indiana
District asks for the appointment of a committee that would "study
and offer guidance on how congregations can disagree with Annual
Conference decisions yet remain, as much as possible, in unbroken
fellowship with their sister congregations, including how district
boards should respond in these situations." It arose out of the
Manchester congregation's decision to allow same-sex covenant
services to be held at the church, sparking dissension in the

"It has been a hallmark of the Church of the Brethren that we also
make every effort to keep integrity with and respect for one
another when we disagree," the December Council statement says.

It cites a Manual of Organization and Polity item that states,
"Congregations and presumably all agencies and entities of the
church constantly need to examine and renew their covenant with the
denomination and to follow the counsel of the church. The prayerful
conclusion not to support a denomination position or program should
be a matter of anguish, not competitiveness."

Annual Conference meets July 5-9 in Boise, Idaho.

 6) Brethren bits: Other brief news notes from around the
denomination and elsewhere.
 *Trainers for the Child Care in Aviation Incident Response (CAIR)
program of the General Board's Emergency Response/Service
Ministries are undergoing a training session this weekend in New
Windsor, Md. CAIR coordinator Roy Winter said he expected 25

 *The Northern Indiana District board has committed to pray for
individual congregations or denominational agencies/ministries each
week from mid-February through district conference in September in
response to the Annual Conference "Call to Prayer" emphasis. The
board has invited district congregations to join in praying for
those on the schedule. The board also officially changed Herman
Kauffman's title from "district pastor" to "executive minister" to
better reflect the position description and titles used elsewhere
in the church.

 *Brethren composer Steve Engle has issued a 30th anniversary CD of
his "Saint Judas Passion" production, originally presented at the
1973 Annual Conference in Fresno, Calif. Brethren pastor Frank
Ramirez has directed and performed in several subsequent
productions of the work. The transcribing was done from original
vinyl records, requiring about 500 hours. The final product is
about 80 minutes long. See for details. 

 *The 2003 Congress on Urban Ministry will be held March 11-14 at
Palmer House Hotel in Chicago. Plenary speakers include 2001 Annual
Conference worship speaker Emmanuel Cleaver; Oscar Muriu of
Nairobi, Kenya; Johnny Ray Youngblood of New York; and Katie Day of
Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. The theme is "The
Witness of the Church Amidst Poverty and Plenty." More information
is available by calling 312-726-1200, or visit SCUPE
(Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education) also held six
regional gatherings in the US this winter. The final one is in
Shreveport, La., this weekend.

 7) Five districts have announced disaster relief auction dates for
the coming year, following a strong auction fund-raising year in

Southern Ohio District will open the schedule by holding its first
auction April 5 at the Oakland Church of the Brethren in
Gettysburg. Three more will be held in May: Mid-Atlantic District
at the Agricultural Center in Westminster, Md., May 3; Middle
Pennsylvania District at the Huntingdon (Pa.) County Fairgrounds,
May 9-10; and Shenandoah District, at the Rockingham County
Fairgrounds, Harrisonburg, Va., May 16-17.

The Brethren Disaster Relief Auction sponsored by the Atlantic
Northeast and Southern Pennsylvania districts--the oldest and
largest such event in the denomination--will be Sept. 26-27 at the
Lebanon (Pa.) Area Fairgrounds. The mammoth auction added a Sunday
evening hymn sing this past year, attended by more than 2,000

Proceeds from the events benefit disaster relief efforts through
Church of the Brethren Emergency Response/Service Ministries. At
least four additional districts have other special projects to
raise funds for denominational disaster relief efforts.

 8) Plans continue to develop for the 2003 Cross-Cultural
Consultation, to be held in the Orlando area April 24-27.

Using the theme "Tuning in to the Heartbeat of God," based on
Isaiah 60:1-5, the event will include presentations, Bible studies,
and small-group discussions exploring the past, present, and
potential future heart of the denomination "for the work of racial
reconciliation and cross-cultural ministry," according to event

Sessions will be held at Camp Ithiel and at the Rios de Agua Viva
Church of the Brethren congregation, with other area congregations
sharing in hosting duties. The conference will begin and end with

Serving on the Cross-Cultural Ministries team, which is assisted by
the General Board's Congregational Life Ministries office, are
Jaime Diaz, Belita Mitchell, Sonja Griffith, Orlando Redekopp,
Barbara Date', Irv Heishman, Gilbert Romero, and Congregational
Life Team member Duane Grady.

 9) Nearly 70 years after the cry, "Have Faith," began Heifer
Project as a Church of the Brethren ministry, the story of the
program's first young cow remains a top seller.

The children's book, "Faith the Cow," recently " 'moo--ved' through
the 15,000-copy level" in sales, according to Brethren Press
marketing and sales manager Russ Matteson. An order from
now-independent Heifer International put the book over the

Originally published in 1995, "Faith the Cow" is about to go to
press for its sixth printing.

"The story is a delightful one for children and adults," Matteson
says. "Faith makes real what can be accomplished when we take a
risk and put our faith into action." The book received an Angel
Award and a Franklin Award in 1995. Call Brethren Press at
800-441-3712 to order.

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. Dick Benner contributed to this report.

Newsline is a free service sent only to those requesting a
subscription. To receive it by e-mail, 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.

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home