Newsline: June 20, 2007

NEWSLINE

"On that day I will call my servant...." Isaiah 22:20a

NEWS

1) Ruthann Knechel Johansen called as president of Bethany Seminary.
2) National Junior High Conference attracts 800 youth and advisors.
3) Children’s Disaster Services partners on child safety in shelters.
4) Brethren participate in national gathering on poverty and hunger.
5) Puerto Rican Brethren hold 20th island assembly.
6) Fellowship of Brethren Homes holds annual meeting.
7) Remembrance: Brethren author and scholar Vernard Eller dies.
8) Brethren bits: Personnel, job openings, and more.

Onsite reporting from the 2007 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, will be posted daily at http://www.brethren.org/, beginning late evening June 29 through July 4. The Conference web pages at www.brethren.org/genbd/newsline/2007/AC2007/Index.html will offer daily overviews of Conference events, reports from business sessions, feature stories, a photos page, and a review of worship along with the day’s sermon text and worship bulletin.
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1) Ruthann Knechel Johansen called as president of Bethany Seminary.

The Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees has called Ruthann Knechel Johansen of Granger, Ind., as president, beginning July 1. Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind., is the graduate school and academy for theological education for the Church of the Brethren.

Johansen, who has served as adjunct faculty at Bethany and has been a visiting scholar at Harvard Divinity School (1992-93) and Princeton Theological Seminary (1983-84), said in accepting the appointment: “The Church of the Brethren, our society, and the world need the faith and Christ-centered vision Bethany Theological Seminary and our church have offered since their foundings.... Bethany Seminary is not simply an institution charged with educating professional clergy; it is also an inspirational resource for study and empowerment for all believers within and beyond the denomination who seek to embody the love, justice, mercy, and peace of Jesus Christ in an often fearful and violent world.”

Johansen is currently a professor in the Program of Liberal Studies and a faculty fellow of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. For 13 years she administered and taught in the College of Arts and Letters interdisciplinary seminar “Ideas, Values, Images” at Notre Dame. She also has received a Kaneb Teaching Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the Distinguished Notre Dame Woman Award.

She holds a Ph.D. in English with emphasis on religious, psychological, and philosophical thought in literature from Drew University, an M.A. in English from Columbia University Teachers College, and a B.S. in English and music from Manchester College. She has been a guest lecturer in numerous venues, including professional associations, Earlham College, Juniata College, Manchester College, Bethany Seminary, and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

She is the author of several books and publications, including “Listening in the Silence, Seeing in the Dark: Reconstructing Life after Brain Injury,” “The Narrative Secret of Flannery O’Connor: The Trickster as Interpreter,” “Coming Together: Male and Female in a Renamed Garden,” “Peacemaking and Global Justice,” “Our Babel: What Shall We Do with the Language,” and “Turning from Underneath: On Oppression and Power.” She has written for “Brethren Life and Thought,” “Guide to Biblical Studies,” and “Messenger” magazine.

Johansen is a member of Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind., and is moderator-elect of Northern Indiana District of the Church of the Brethren. She has served on denominational study committees and was a member of the Bethany Board of Trustees 1985-95.

"The Board of Trustees of Bethany Seminary is very pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Ruthann Knechel Johansen as the next president of Bethany Theological Seminary,” said chair Anne M. Reid. “She brings a deep love of the Gospel and the Kingdom and a great appreciation for the denomination to the office. Her skills in listening and in reconciliation will be invaluable in helping the seminary relate to the larger church."

--Marcia Shetler is director of Public Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.


2) National Junior High Conference attracts 800 youth and advisors.

The first-ever National Junior High Conference in the Church of the Brethren attracted 800 participants to the campus of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College from June 15-18. Youth and advisors engaged the theme, “The Amazing Race: Continuing the Work of Jesus,” based on Luke 9:24, as they worshiped, learned, played, and fellowshiped.

Turn-out for this inaugural event more than met the expectations of the organizers, who had been planning for an attendance of around 400. The size of the conference was finally determined when registration outpaced capacity at Elizabethtown College.

“It exceeded all of my expectations for this first gathering of the National Junior High Conference!” said Chris Douglas, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the General Board. “It has also made me look forward to doing it again in the summer of 2009, hopefully in a place that could accommodate more participants.”

Belita Mitchell, moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, greeted the conference, as did Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren General Board. Worship leaders included Christian musician Ken Medema, who provided musical leadership for the entire weekend, and Baptist preacher Tony Campolo, who shared the message on Friday night. Campolo emphasized that participants should be asking how they will spend the rest of their lives in service to God and others. David Radcliff of the New Community Project delivered Saturday morning’s message, stirring youth to think carefully about how their lifestyle choices are related to stewardship of the blessings humanity has collectively received from God in the form of the planet.

Saturday night conference-goers were immersed in a Brethren “extravaganza,” a worship service that invited all into participating in the many ministries of the General Board. During closing worship Sunday morning, Medema asked the youth to share their own dreams, motivations, and signs of God working in their lives; he then turned the stories into songs on the spot.

--Becky Ullom is director of Identity and Relations for the General Board.


3) Children’s Disaster Services partners on child safety in shelters.

Disasters can strike anywhere, at any time. When a community is affected, friends and neighbors join efforts through a number of venues to help aid those in need. One of the most critical disaster relief activities includes providing safe shelter.

Today, three organizations affirmed their commitment to help one of the largest population groups affected by disaster--children. Children’s Disaster Services (formerly Disaster Child Care), a ministry of the Church of the Brethren General Board, joined with the American Red Cross and Save the Children in signing a memorandum of understanding that defines how the three will collaborate to establish “Safe Spaces” in emergency evacuation shelters during disaster events in the US.

The signing took place today, June 20, in Rayburn House Office Building as part of a briefing and Roundtable discussion on “Preparedness, Response and Recovery for Children” with Congressworman Corrine Brown.

In the most recent disaster figures from 2006, the Red Cross reported nearly 450,000 people were sheltered following disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, other storms, floods, fires, and explosions. It is estimated that at least one-third of those seeking a safe haven were children.

During a shelter situation, “Safe Spaces” will provide children with safe physical areas in which they can play, learn, socialize, and express themselves under the supervision of a caring adult. Safe Space Kits will contain materials that can be used to set up and establish a safe space within a shelter. These pre-packaged kits contain materials to mark off a special area for children; activity supplies such as art materials, books, games, and toys; and other materials to assist children and families in a shelter environment. The structured, supervised activities offered in “Safe Spaces” are designed to strengthen children's resilience and help them begin to work through their emotions following a disaster.

The trilateral agreement defines the broad cooperative actions of each organization. Depending on the scope and scale of the disaster and impact and available resources, the Red Cross will provide space in shelters for children's services, Save the Children will provide equipment and materials in the form of a Safe Space Kit, and Children's Disaster Services will provide volunteers to work with children in the shelter.


4) Brethren participate in national gathering on poverty and hunger.

Church of the Brethren leaders and members joined in to make a conference titled, “Sowing Seeds, Growing a Movement,” a time of empowerment and commitment to end hunger and poverty. From June 9-12 at American University in Washington, D.C., Bread for the World in collaboration with 30 religious denominations, fellowships, organizations, and faith bodies gathered more than 850 people to “plant the seeds.” The gathering highlighted the fact that 35 million people in the US, including more than 12 million children, suffer from hunger every day.

The conference kicked off with a powerful Saturday evening worship service where Church of the Brethren pastor Jeff Carter, of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren, served as worship leader. Carter also served as moderator throughout all business and worship sessions. Other Brethren leaders at the conference were Belita Mitchell, moderator of the 2007 Annual Conference; Howard Royer, manager of the Global Food Crisis Fund; and Phil Jones, director of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office. A number of Brethren were in attendance including a contingent from Manassas Church of the Brethren for the interfaith convocation.

The opening worship was following with a session focused on the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations (http://www.millenniumcampaign.org/). Salil Shetty, director of the UN Millennium Campaign, told the conference that although the world is making steady progress toward the goals, sub-Saharan Africa is still lagging behind. Shetty insisted the US must keep its promises for greater and more effective aid if the goals are to be achieved. The Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren endorsed the goals in 2006.

The conference also included a National Leaders’ Forum on Hunger and Poverty with speakers Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and former representative and now chair of the Democratic Leadership Council, Harold E. Ford, Jr. An interfaith convocation at the National Cathedral gathered Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others of many faith backgrounds. The event concluded with a day of lobbying on the Farm Bill.

The lobbying effort specifically asked for changes in the Food Stamp Program, to provide better funding and improved outreach and education to ensure low-income people an adequate, nutritious diet, as well as more funding for rural development, and a more equitable commodity program. Commodity payments go to only five crops: corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, and wheat. In 2005, 66 percent of the payments went to the top 10 percent of producers, while two-thirds of farms received less than $10,000 in payments.

“The whole experience was empowering,” said Brethren member Brenda Westfall from Indiana. “Meeting people from across the US, with such passion to advocate for the hungry, hearing powerful speakers including Senators Kind and Hagel advocating for the hungry, and lobbying on behalf of the hungry and low-income.”

The 2000 Annual Conference statement “Caring for the Poor” provides recommendations for action on poverty and hunger (www.brethren.org/ac/ac_statements/2000Poor.html). As the Church of the Brethren continues to do the work of Christ, the seeds to grow a movement will be planted.

--Emily O’Donnell is a legislative associate at the Brethren Witness/Washington Office.


5) Puerto Rican Brethren hold 20th island assembly.

The Church of the Brethren congregations in Puerto Rico held their 20th Island Assembly in early June. The churches also celebrated the graduation of the third class of students from the Puerto Rico Theological Institute.

On June 1, the Instituto Teológico de Puerto Rico awarded nine students certificates for completing the necessary requirements to graduate from the Church of the Brethren ministry training program in Puerto Rico. This is the third graduating class.

Lorens Crespo Reyes, graduating student and pastor of La Casa del Amigo in Arecibo, gave an inspirational message based on 1 Corinthians 4:20, "For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power." José Calleja Otero, graduating student who began a radio evangelism ministry in December, was the keynote preacher for the opening worship of the 20th Island Assembly that evening.

Another graduating student, Miguel Alicea Torres who pastors the church in Rio Prieto, brought an item of new business to the assembly the next afternoon. He has begun a church project in San Sebastian as an outgrowth of his radio ministry, and was requesting recognization from the assembly delegates.

The quorum for the assembly was met with 22 delegates in attendance, plus 24 other registered guests. Carol Yeazell, interim director of the Congregational Life Teams for the Church of the Brethren General Board, brought greetings from general secretary Stan Noffsinger, and from Atlantic Southeast District executive minister Martha Beach who could not attend this year.

In other business, reports were received, budget deliberations discussed, and nominations held. The current moderator of the assembly is Jose Medina, a former graduate of the theological institute and a licensed minister from the Manati church. Moderator-elect is Severo Romero, with Ana D. Ostolaza and Nelson Sanchez receiving confirmation as secretary and board chair, respectively.

Next year's assembly will be held at Castaner Church of the Brethren, which has experienced a 30 percent growth increase this past year and is discussing the need to expand worship facilities. The dates for the next assembly are June 6-7, 2008.

--Carol L. Yeazell is interim director of Congregational Life Teams for General Board.


6) Fellowship of Brethren Homes holds annual meeting.

The Fellowship of Brethren Homes held its annual Forum at Brethren Hillcrest Homes in La Verne, Calif., from April 1921. The theme this year was “Dealing with External Forces.”

The CEO of the American Association of Health Services, Larry Minnix, was the keynote speaker for the conference. Minnix presented “Scenario Planning--The Long and Winding Road,” discussing leadership and scenario planning.

Also presenting were Lowell Flory, director of institutional advancement at Bethany Theological Seminary, and Larry Bowles, development director for the Hillcrest Community. Flory and Bowles gave a joint presentation titled, “It’s My Community--Development and Fundraising in the Local Community and the Broader Church of the Brethren Community.” Copies of these presentations are available upon request.

In other presentations, a session on continuing Church of the Brethren history was given by Marlin Heckman, a Church of the Brethren scholar. Myrna Wheeler, chaplain at Hillcrest, led a memorial service for Tim Hissong, CEO of the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio, who passed away on April 15.

A proposal for the Fellowship of Brethren Homes to consider the possibility of forming a health insurance captive unique to its organization was presented by Don Fecher, director of the fellowship, a ministry of the Association of Brethren Caregivers. The Mennonite Church USA has successfully utilized a health insurance program for members of Mennonite Health Services for more than 10 years, and Neal Holzman, CEO of Friends of the Services for the Aging, has recently implemented a similar program for Friends United Meeting. There appeared to be enough interest from forum participants to continue researching the project.

Next year’s forum will be held jointly with members of Mennonite Church USA and the American Baptist Church, in St. Louis, Mo., March 2730, 2008. The event will provide a time for the three denominations to collaborate and discuss similar issues. The format of the conference will include joint sessions, as well as separate sessions for each denomination.

--Don Fecher is director of the Fellowship of Brethren Homes, a ministry of the Association of Brethren Caregivers.


7) Remembrance: Brethren author and scholar Vernard Eller dies.

Vernard Marion Eller, 79, passed away on June 18 at his home in La Verne, Calif. An ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and a retired professor of philosophy and religion at the University of La Verne, he was well known beyond church circles for books that used humor and wit to popularize theology and religion.

“The primary thrust of my life has been to try to bring into focus four different elements not often seen as even being compatible: a strong Christian commitment; solid thought and scholarship; clear and powerful communication; and true wit and humor,” Eller wrote in a Feb. 1980 issue of the Church of the Brethren’s “Messenger” magazine.

Most notable among his books was “The Mad Morality” (Abingdon Press, 1970), the ten commandments seen through the eyes of “Mad Magazine.” The book sold 30,000 copies in its first year and a half of publication, and was named among the top five paperbacks Protestants were reading in 1970 by the “Christian Herald.” “Newsweek” praised “Mad Morality” in an April 25, 1983, article reviewing the history of “Mad,” saying Eller’s book was “one of the magazine’s proudest moments.”

Also among the more than 20 titles Eller authored were “The Most Revealing Book of the Bible: Making Sense Out of Revelation,” “King Jesus’ Manual of Arms for the ’Armless: War and Peace from Genesis to Revelation,” and “The Sex Manual for Puritans.” Books published by Brethren Press included “Towering Babble: God’s People without God’s Word” and “Cleaning Up the Christian Vocabulary.” His doctoral thesis was published by Princeton University Press, “Kierkegaard and Radical Discipleship: A New Perspective.” He was a prolific contributor to magazines and journals including “The Other Side,” “Christian Century,” “Christianity Today,” “Journal of Religion,” and “Religion in Life,” as well as “Brethren Life and Thought” and “Messenger.”

Eller was a graduate of La Verne College and Bethany Theological Seminary, and earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University, and a doctorate from Pacific School of Religion. After completing a bachelor’s degree at La Verne, he was called by the Church of the Brethren General Board to be editor of youth publications, serving on staff from 1950-56. He met Phyllis Kulp of Pottstown, Pa., while leading a Brethren heritage tour, and they were married in 1955.

In 1958, he began his 34-year career at the University of La Verne (then La Verne College). Over the years he also served as Staley Distinguished Christian Scholar at numerous colleges, as an adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, and as a summer session faculty member at Pacific School of Religion. He was a member of the American Academy of Religion, the American Society of Church History, the Brethren Journal Association, and was a fellow of the Swenson-Kierkegaard Foundation.

He was a founding member and free minister with Fellowship Church of the Brethren in La Verne, which later merged with Pomona (Calif.) Church of the Brethren to become Pomona Fellowship Church of the Brethren. He provided leadership as a speaker and Bible study leader in those congregations, and in camp and conference settings. He served terms of service on the General Board and on the board of Bethany Seminary, was a Brethren delegate to the National Council of Churches, and served on a study committee of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference that wrote the 1973 “Statement on Taxation for War.”

Eller was born July 11, 1927, in Everett, Wash., the oldest son of Jay and Geraldine Eller, and was raised in Wenatchee, Wash. In his last years, he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and was cared for at home until his death.

He is survived by Phyllis Eller, his wife of over 50 years; children Sander Eller of La Verne, Enten Eller of Richmond, Ind., and Rosanna (Eller) McFadden of Goshen, Ind.; and three grandchildren.

Services will be at Pomona Fellowship Church of the Brethren on June 26, at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Pomona Fellowship Church of the Brethren or Heifer International.


8) Brethren bits: Personnel, job openings, and more.

*Helen Stonesifer has announced her retirement as coordinator of Children's Disaster Services (formerly Disaster Child Care) for the Church of the Brethren General Board, effective July 1. Serving for more than 30 years with the General Board, Stonesifer has held various positions at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., since her employment began in 1976. She began in food services, then moved to SERRV, where she worked in various areas. In 1989, she became secretary in the Administrative Offices, and in 1990 was hired as secretary for Cooperative Disaster Child Care. In 1998, she became the office manager and administrative secretary for Emergency Response/Service Ministries, while also providing support to Disaster Child Care. Then, in 2003, her position changed to coordinator for Disaster Child Care. Her responsibilities have included coordinating child care disaster responses; managing, training, and scheduling Critical Response Childcare Teams; recruiting, screening, and certification of volunteers; and planning and developing the annual calendar of trainings for the program.

*Rita Taylor is a new employee with the dining services of the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center at the Brethren Service Center, beginning June 12. Taylor is an experienced cook who most recently worked at Indian Springs Country Club in Silver Spring, Md. She and her family live in Columbia, Md. She is a devout Christian, originally born in Lagos, Nigeria, and is in the process of becoming an American citizen. She will be serving as team leader for the afternoon and weekend shifts, working with managing chef Walt Trail.

*Johanna Olson has begun work as temporary staff for the Brethren Disaster Ministries of the Church of the Brethren General Board. She will help bridge transitions in staffing following the retirement of Helen Stonesifer as coordinator of Children’s Disaster Services (formerly Disaster Child Care) and the hiring of a new associate director. Olson is a returning Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker who served as a volunteer for Emergency Response in 1994-95. She graduated last winter from the University of Minnesota with a master’s degree in nonprofit management and public policy. She also has worked with refugee programs in St. Paul, Minn., and for the disaster response program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She will work both at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., and from her home in Illinois.

*The Church of the Brethren General Board seeks a managing editor for Brethren Press, to fill a fulltime position in Elgin, Ill. Responsibilities including managing the publishing schedule for a wide range of curriculum, books, bulletins, pamphlets, and other publications; managing the editorial office including contracts, copyright permissions, and payments; copy-editing and proofreading most publications; providing content editing on selected publications; supervising projects through typesetting and design; working collaboratively with contract writers, editors, designers, typesetters, and photographers; and assisting with acquisitions of new titles. Qualifications include excellent editing and proofreading skills and experience with broader areas of production and publishing; ability to supervise and organize many details and meet deadlines; excellent computer skills; understanding of Church of the Brethren heritage, theology, and polity or willingness to learn; strong communication and interpersonal skills; demonstrated skill in establishing and operating in a collegial framework. Required education and experience include a bachelor’s degree in a related field, with a master’s degree preferred, and prior successful experience with editing and production. Preference will be given to individuals active in the Church of the Brethren. A position description and application form are available on request. Application deadline is Aug. 15. To apply, complete the General Board application form, submit a resume and letter of application, and request three references to send letters of recommendation to the Office of Human Resources, Church of the Brethren General Board, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120-1694; 800-323-8039 ext. 258; kkrog_gb@brethren.org.

*The Brethren Witness/Washington Office and On Earth Peace seek an International Day of Prayer for Peace grassroots organizer, to fill a short-term part-time contract position without benefits, paid at $13.50 per hour. Work will be done from home, some travel may be necessary. This position is jointly sponsored by the two organizations to catalyze and organize Church of the Brethren congregations around the International Day of Prayer for Peace on Sept. 21. Responsibilities include developing and carrying out a marketing, outreach, and organizing plan; promoting resources and an organizing packet for vigils; serving as liaison between local organizers, On Earth Peace, and the Brethren Witness/Washington Office; and building relationships that will keep the two organizations in touch with congregations for ongoing work. Qualifications include grassroots organizing skills, communication skills, ability to reach out to diverse constituencies and cultures, and availability at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, June 30-July 4. Basic familiarity with the Church of the Brethren is helpful, and multilingual abilities are preferred. Information about the International Day of Prayer for Peace is at http://overcomingviolence.org/en/about-the-dov/international-day-of-prayer-for-peace. On Earth Peace, the contracting agency, does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, culture, national origin, orientation, age, or disability, and encourages all interested persons to apply. The application process begins immediately, as the two organizations hope to have an organizer in place June 30 through September. To apply, send a letter of interest including relevant experience to Matt Guynn, Coordinator of Peace Witness, On Earth Peace, mattguynn@earthlink.net, 765-966-2546 (fax). Applications will be considered beginning the morning of June 24, until the position is filled.

*“Brethren Life and Thought” is in search of writers. The Church of the Brethren academic journal selects the most thoughtful and careful writings about church life, theology, biblical studies, and history, “but it doesn’t always demand footnotes,” said editor Julie Garber in a request for submissions. As a product of Bethany Theological Seminary and the Brethren Journal Association, “Brethren Life and Thought” was conceived as an academic journal to publish the research of seminary faculty, pastors, graduate students, and scholars. “Fifty-one years later, many people practice sound and creative thinking that deserves an airing in the church, so the journal invites writers of all types, including professional scholars, to contribute to the dialogue,” Garber said. Quality essays, sermons, reviews, research, critique, poetry, and worship resources are welcome. An editorial board reviews submissions, choosing the most well reasoned materials for publication. Submit writings to blt@bethanyseminary.edu. Include contact information. Consult submission guidelines at www.bethanyseminary.edu/blt.

*The Brethren Witness/Washington Office is inviting congregations to join a project called "Spotlight on Torture," in which the National Religious Campaign Against Torture has arranged for DVD copies of the film "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" to be available to 1,000 congregations on a first come, first served basis. Fifty copies were given out during the week of June 10-17, and 950 more will be given out during the week of Oct. 21-28. "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" is an 80-minute HBO film on the torture at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, suitable for mature audiences only. Filmmaker Rory Kennedy investigates the psychological and political context in which the torture occurred. Each participating church receives a free copy of the DVD, a facilitator’s guide for leading discussion, a copy of “Torture is a Moral Issue”--a statement that could be endorsed by those attending the screening and by others in the congregation, suggestions of action steps to end torture, and resources for further information. Go to www.nrcat.org/spotlight.aspx for details. Congregations are requested to call the Brethren Witness/Washington Office at 800-785-3246 if they are chosen to host a screening, so that the information may be shared with other congregations in the area.

*Congregations that recently celebrated the century mark include Juniata Church of the Brethren in Altoona, Pa., with a celebration on April 28-29, and Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, with a weekend of festivities on April 28-29.

*"Mission Alive" was the theme for the spring rally of the West Marva District Women, at Shady Grove (W.Va.) Church of the Brethren on May 9. Seventy-five people represented 23 congregations. Janis Pyle, coordinator for mission connections for the Global Mission Partnerships of the General Board, gave an overview of denominational missions, information about mission efforts in Sudan, and church planting in Brazil. Offerings of $1,220 were earmarked for the Sudan Initiative. At the event, 143 health kits, 168 school kits, and 69 baby kits were collected for Church World Service, and donations of $274 for blankets and $612 for postage for the kits were made.

*The Brethren Retirement Center in Greenville, Ohio, will host the Midwest Peacemakers 2007 Conference on the theme, "The Nonviolence of Jesus,” from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Aug. 18. The three keynote speakers are Rod Kennedy, minister of First Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio, seminary professor, and a leader in the Baptist Peace Fellowship; Thomas Miess-McDonald, theology professor, missionary, and pastor of the Church of the Great Peace; and Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, Byzantine priest, educator, co-founder of Pax Christi-USA, and an author and speaker for the Center for Christian Nonviolence. The event includes worship, singing, and a carry-in lunch. The Midwest Peacemakers was established in 2002 by Church of the Brethren alumni of Civilian Public Service and Brethren Volunteer Service. Contact chairman Charles F. Cooley, 4922 Honeysuckle Blvd., Columbus, OH 43230; 614-794-2745.

*Eight Brethren were among participants in a May 18-29 Ecuadorian Amazon Learning Tour sponsored by the New Community Project. The delegation explored the rainforest ecosystem, met with Siona and Cofan native leaders, and learned about impacts of oil drilling, cocoa and coffee production, deforestation, poverty, and climate change on tropical forests and human communities. The visit was hosted by Selva: Vida sin Frontiers, an Ecuadorian environmental and human rights organization that has benefited in the past from a grant from the Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Crisis Fund. Other upcoming trips include Honduras (July 10-20), Denali/Kenai Fjords (Aug. 10-19), and Arctic Village, Alaska (Aug. 20-29).

*David Eller, former chairman of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College's Religious Studies Department and former director of the Young Center for the Study of Anabaptist and Pietist Groups, has been sentenced to two-and-a-half to10 years in state prison, followed by five years of probation, according to a report in the “Lancaster New Era” newspaper on June 2. The court’s decision was announced June 1. Last summer Eller was arrested after having contacted four undercover agents posing as children on the Internet, and after having made an appointment to meet one of the agents posing as a young girl. The agents were members of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Child Predator Unit. In February Eller pled guilty to charges of criminal use of a computer and unlawful contact with a minor. Some 60 people were in the court to support Eller, the newspaper said, many from his congregation at Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

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Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, cobnews@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Julie Garber, Diane Gosnell, Joan McGrath, Janis Pyle, David Radcliff, and Helen Stonesifer contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with the next regularly scheduled Newsline set for July 4, offering a review of news from Annual Conference 2007. Other special issues may be sent as needed. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to "Messenger" magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

 

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