Friday, December 31, 2004

Council endorses Selective Service conversations, alternative service consultation.

The Annual Conference Council has given its endorsement to continued conversations between the General Board and Selective Service in a telephone conference call Dec. 10. The endorsement was given in response to the invitation by Selective Service for the Church of the Brethren, as a historic peace church, to develop a plan for alternative service opportunities. The council also endorsed Church of the Brethren participation in an Anabaptist meeting on alternative service opportunities.

Earl K. Ziegler, chair of the council, called the group together to discuss the matter at the request of Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the General Board. Noffsinger turned to the council in its capacity as executive committee of the Conference, reported Conference secretary Fred Swartz. Noffsinger told the council that he considered the opportunity and call to be larger than a General Board program, and an invitation to the entire denomination to be involved in a positive witness to its heritage and faith.

"The council understood from the background material given that Selective Service, or the Bush administration, have no plans in the offing to institute a new draft," Swartz reported. "There have been discussions during the past two presidential administrations of the eventual possibility of some kind of general national service. Selective Service officials explained to General Board staff that they want alternative service opportunities to be in place if and when such a program would be launched."

The council unanimously agreed to "give the general secretary our encouragement to maximize our efforts to have alternative service opportunities in place" and "to continue to explore the relationship with Selective Service." The council added a strong urging for all Annual Conference agencies "to renew the task of resourcing the church with tools to guide our youth in their choice of nonviolent service." Noffsinger reported that he will give On Earth Peace a full report of the conversations with Selective Service and will make sure that agency is a participant in the discussion. "We don't want to miss the part of providing resources to our youth that will help them understand and embrace the Brethren peace witness," commented Chris Bowman, moderator of the 2004 Conference.

Noffsinger and Jim Hardenbrook, 2005 Annual Conference moderator, also reported to the council their participation in a recent meeting of executives and moderators of Anabaptist communions. Although this fellowship has met annually, the Church of the Brethren has not been involved for six years. The meeting also included officers of the Mennonite Church US, the Brethren in Christ, the Conservative Mennonite Church, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) US, and the Mennonite Brethren USA.

At the Anabaptist meeting, the MCC's executive director Rolando Santiago brought a proposal urging Anabaptist churches to intensify their witness to service. After Church of the Brethren representatives disclosed the contacts with Selective Service, the group made plans for a consultation of representatives of Anabaptist communions to discuss the tradition's understanding of service and how to prepare for alternative service opportunities. At Noffsinger's invitation the consultation will be held at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

After hearing the report, the Annual Conference Council took action to support "our denomination's participation in a consultation on alternative service March 4-6, 2005, to be held in Elgin, Ill., as proposed by the council of moderators and secretaries of the Anabaptist churches, and in which the Annual Conference moderator and General Board general secretary will participate on behalf of the Church of the Brethren." Council members participating in the meeting were Ziegler, Bowman, Hardenbrook, Swartz, Ron Beachley, Joan Daggett, and Lerry Fogle.

Source: 12/31/2004 Newsline

Friday, December 17, 2004

Church staff meet with Selective Service.

Three staff directors of the General Board met with staff of Selective Service at the agency's office in Arlington, Va., Dec. 2. The meeting followed up on an unannounced visit to the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., on Oct. 8 by Cassandra Costley, director of the Alternative Service Division of Selective Service.

New Windsor has a long history of being a site where Brethren have organized and gathered around issues of conscience and military service, most notably hosting Civilian Public Service workers from 1944-46. Selective Service is the federal agency that registers and maintains a database of young men as they reach their eighteenth birthday in order to maintain an accounting of those available for military service in the event of a military draft.

"We went into this meeting with a clear agenda of opening a conversation with Selective Service in an effort to better understand why this visit to New Windsor occurred, and how we as a church could make clear our historic and active voice as a people of peace and nonviolence," reported Phil Jones, director of Brethren Witness/Washington Office. Also in the meeting were Brethren Volunteer Service director Dan McFadden and Brethren Service Center executive director Roy Winter.

The meeting lasted well into three hours, Jones reported. Was the New Windsor visit an indication that Selective Service was gearing up for a military conscription program, the group asked. "The answer is no, according to Costley, and her immediate supervisor, Richard Flahavan," Jones said. Costley, Flahavan, and the newly installed Director of Selective Service William Chatfield, who joined the meeting briefly, all indicated that their work was in regards to preparedness only. The New Windsor visit was made because Costley was in the area for other business and took the opportunity to make an outreach visit.

Flahavan went on to explain that there is no draft and that none is coming as indicated by statements from the White House and Pentagon in recent months, Jones reported. "He also pointed to the late October vote of Congress that overwhelmingly defeated a proposed draft bill" (HR 163), Jones said. "The gearing up for a draft and the sheer amount of funding and staff increases that would be necessary are reasons enough to indicate there will be no draft," Flahavan stated, indicating that a draft would cost in excess of one half billion dollars to initiate. Most of the meeting was spent in learning more about Selective Service and how its Alternative Service program would operate if there were a draft.

"The fact that they were asking us a lot of questions shows that one of the things we have developed as a peace church is a lot of respect for our position," commented Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the General Board. Within a week of the meeting with Selective Service, Noffsinger and Annual Conference moderator Jim Hardenbrook reported on the meeting to the Council of Moderators and Secretaries of the Anabaptist Churches. The council also includes officers of the Mennonite Church US, the Brethren in Christ, the Conservative Mennonite Church, Mennonite Central Committee US, and the Mennonite Brethren USA.

Planning is underway for an Anabaptist churches' Consultation on Alternative Service, to be held at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Details will be announced after the first of the year. McFadden will represent the Church of the Brethren on the planning committee along with Noffsinger.

"Now's the time to talk about the issues of alternative service and its future," Noffsinger said. "To me that's the value" of the conversation with Selective Service, he added.

Source: 12/17/2004 Newsline

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Begin the year with the Bible

How long does it take to read the Bible cover to cover—nonstop? It took us 81 hours!

Beginning the first minute of 2003, the sound of scripture echoed through the halls of our church. Each person took a 15-minute assignment, reading from wherever the previous person left off. The marathon concluded with a unison reading of the last chapter of Revelation shortly after 9 a.m. on Jan. 4. Almost 150 people participated in the reading, with approximately 75 people present for the conclusion. News coverage was provided by area television stations and newspapers.

The senior high youth planned and led the project. The church newsletter and bulletin were used to explain and promote the idea. A few weeks before the reading began, youth were available before and after worship to sign up readers. When a snow storm made it difficult for some readers to come to the event, youth camped out in the church overnight to make sure the reading didn’t stop.

Most importantly, the marathon had a surprising and wonderful spiritual impact on those who participated. Many were blessed not only by the time they spent reading, but also by the time they spent listening. A sense of reverence filled the sanctuary and church building as voices of young and old gave sound to the ancient, yet living texts. A spirit of community emerged as readers greeted and encouraged one another throughout the marathon. Those who risked a night-time reading quickly signed up to come in a second or third night, indicating that the sacrifice gave the experience extra meaning. The boundaries of the church expanded as members welcomed friends and relatives to participate in the project.

When the last verse was read an overwhelming feeling of joy broke forth—joy not so much over having finished, but over having made the journey simply… peacefully… together. What is difficult to accomplish as an individual, is more easily done in community.

For more details or resources, contact me at

Dennis Lohr is pastor of Christian nurture at Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

Source: The Seed Packet – Winter 2004

Friday, December 03, 2004

Workcamp Registration Opens

Registration for the 2005 youth and young adult workcamps sponsored by the General Board took off in the first half-hour after it opened online, at midnight on Nov. 30, reported coordinators Cindy Laprade and Beth Rhodes. In the first 30 minutes of registration 118 people signed up, and by the next morning at 8 a.m. a total of 203 people had registered. "We were quite overwhelmed," Laprade said. Already four of the workcamps are completely full. For more information on the workcamps see, click on "General Board," go to keyword "Youth/young adults."

Source: Newsline 12/3/2004
Manchester College

Manchester College, a Church of the Brethren school in North Manchester, Ind., is among the "Best Midwestern Colleges," says the "Princeton Review." Rankings released by the review put the college in the company of 170 colleges and universities recognized as outstanding in the region, the college reported in a press release. The review ranks colleges and universities nationwide and offers school selection advice on its website, along with comments from students and college officials. Learn more about the rankings at For more information about the college visit

Source: Newsline 12/3/2004