Blessings amid the barriers

Kathryn LaPointe, Rebekah Flores, Susan Boyer and Tabitha Rudy shared stories: of barriers to leadership, of God’s call to minister within congregations and with new neighbors, of empowerment and deep love, in the manner of Jesus.

The gathering was full of blessing, and these benedictions were shared in the chat:

Thank you all for this important discussion. I think the great power we have is to speak our truth and move others by our stories to create a groundswell that can shift the power dynamic.

May God’s Spirit open ears and hearts to listen to the truth spoken by powerful voices.

We have been illuminated – let us illuminate.

My prayer: to hold the hearts of the oppressor in light to soften the harshness, to help release suffering, to nourish healing, to find praise and peace in Divinity.

Blessings of Love; Light on your paths, and Strength for the journey! I feel we really are here for one another…on our paths, easy or hard, challenged or blessed!

Do not stop questioning, thinking, talking, DO NOT STOP!!!

Rejuvenating after Annual Conference 2021

We celebrated Womaen’s Caucus’ 50th anniversary with 50 devices (and more than 50 people) praying for God’s reconciling and transforming justice in our lives and church. We lamented the lack of women and other marginalized persons in denominational leadership. We shared stories of empowerment to leadership, and barriers to leadership, including a lack of mentoring for ministers, the sabotage of women on the ballot, and theology that preaches male and white supremacy.

We gathered on Saturday, the final evening of Annual Conference, with the question: how will you care for yourself and rejuvenate at the end of this exhausting week? The gathered body of Christ named
  • laughing with friends
  • spending time in God’s creation
  • singing hymns
  • eating nourishing and delicious food, and more as we celebrated being together through a zoom meeting.

In this rapidly changing church and world, Womaen’s Caucus is generating power with the wise, faithful, fierce margins of the church: women, people of color, lgbtq and variously-abled persons. We are salt for the earth, teaches Jesus. In this spirit we offer a panel discussion on July 15, workshop on August 24, and sharing session on Oct 5.

 

We closed our Annual Conference networking session singing “You are salt for the earth, o people, bring forth the Kingdom of God!”

(Thanks to Living Peace Church of the Brethren in Ohio for the song!)

Counting the Cost in Leadership Development

We’re generating power for a fierce, faithful, just church. Join our upcoming sessions.
    The call to church leadership comes as we sense a bigger purpose in our lives, or feel a tap on the shoulder by someone who believes in our potential to bring wisdom and compassion to the Church of the Brethren. When Womaen’s Caucus learned that half the nominees for the Annual Conference ballot never fill out the Nominee Information Form (and, therefore, are never considered for the ballot), we grieved all those gifted and faithful individuals who do not serve at denominational tables of leadership.
    This year, Womaen’s Caucus is elevating denominational attention to processes for electing leaders with special attention on the barriers faced by women and marginalized persons as they seek to fulfill their calling into leadership of the Church of the Brethren.
    Come, join two new online, hourlong webinars dedicated to growing our pool of future church leaders, both in numbers and perspective. The window for receiving nominations for the AC ballot is open, so invite others within your congregation and district to participate, too.
    Email womaenscaucuscob@gmail.com to register and receive a short document that will provide background information.

LEADERSHIP IN THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN – Tuesday, August 24, 8 pm Eastern  This session will be recorded for later access on the Womaen’s Caucus website, and will help frame the conversation for the October 5 workshop.

COUNTING THE COST IN LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT – Tuesday, October 5, 8 pm Eastern
    Election results reveal a pattern of who is most likely to serve in elected Church of the Brethren leadership roles. Despite adopted statements indicating denominational support for females, BIPOC, and people from across the denomination geographically, the pattern of electing males (often white male pastors) remains. Why is that?
    A wide range of reasons have been suggested: beliefs about role and capability of non-white non-male leaders, the financial impact and child care needs created by leadership roles, the emotional cost of being considered for an office, and personal uncertainty about the viability of the denomination. This webinar will explore these and other barriers in order to reduce their impact as we seek to develop strong leaders for the future. Leadership will include prior participants in the election process and those who names have been submitted but were never placed on the ballot. 
    Hosted jointly by Annual Conference leaders and the Womaen’s Caucus Steering Committee, suggestions for improvement will be shared with those overseeing and participating in the AC election process. This session will be recorded for later access on the Womaen’s Caucus website.

Upcoming Events: Generating Power

You’ve heard of the glass ceiling; you’ve probably heard of the stained glass ceiling (women excluded from church leadership). You’ve seen it in action. You’ve watched women get on the ballot, but lose to men. You’ve seen women side-by-side nominated for moderator both lose to a man nominated from the floor of Annual Conference. You see many women pastors – you probably have women ministers (you might be a woman in ministry!) yet you know there are districts where women are virtually excluded from pastoral ministry.

We live with a pandemic of patriarchy which elevates aggressive, egotistical masculinity, and scorns vulnerability and intuition, diagnosing them as “feminine” and weak. And we all get sick within these pressures.

We grieve that these diseases are flourishing in the Church of the Brethren. We put on our lab coats, pull out stethoscopes, and work to diagnose: what keeps women from getting nominated? What prevents women, BIPOC, LGBTQ and variously-abled people to respond YES to nominations? What blocks delegates from affirming these people’s call to leadership?

Diagnosis is elusive and we can get stuck trying to figure it out. We have identified a few problems that we are ready to help treat. And we see health and vitality that we are eager to celebrate. Our summer/fall line-up of events are treatment and celebration.

Mark your calendars


 Barriers to Leadership

We can cite statistics and wring our hands at the dearth of women in leadership (and we do!) but we know that stories are what transform and activate us. Gather to hear four women’s unique – yet universal – experiences: July 15, 8pm Eastern

Find Out More

Leadership 101

God calls an equitable, just, diverse and passionate church! Let’s get equipped through a workshop with Nominations Committee and Annual Conference leadership: Aug 24, 8pm Eastern

Find Out More

Nomination to Election

Hear from others who have been nominated, get tips on filling out those forms, and generate new ideas for this process. You’ll also find solidarity with others who know putting our hats in the ring can be vulnerable!

Oct 5, 8pm Eastern

Find Out More

Leadership in the Church of the Brethren workshop

The call to church leadership comes as we sense a bigger purpose in our lives, or feel a tap on the shoulder by someone who believes in our potential to bring wisdom and compassion to the Church of the Brethren. When Womaen’s Caucus learned that half the nominees for the Annual Conference ballot never fill out the Nominee Information Form (and, therefore, are never considered for the ballot), we grieved all those gifted and faithful individuals who do not serve at denominational tables of leadership.
    This year, Womaen’s Caucus is elevating denominational attention to processes for electing leaders with special attention on the barriers faced by women and marginalized persons as they seek to fulfill their calling into leadership of the Church of the Brethren.
    Come, join two new online, hourlong webinars dedicated to growing our pool of future church leaders, both in numbers and perspective. The window for receiving nominations for the AC ballot is open, so invite others within your congregation and district to participate, too. To attend either workshop, email  womaenscaucuscob@gmail.com to register and receive a short document that will provide background information.

LEADERSHIP IN THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN webinar – Tuesday, August 24, 8 pm Eastern 
Hosted jointly by Annual Conference leaders and the Womaen’s Caucus Steering Committee, this workshop will describe the steps that are taken to receive nominations for the AC ballot and the series of events and considerations that conclude with the AC election itself. During this live discussion, participants can offer questions and comments. This session will be recorded for later access on the Womaen’s Caucus website, and will help frame the conversation for the October 5 workshop: Counting the Cost in Leadership Development.

Speaking Truth to Power: Barriers to Leadership

Kathryn LaPointe, Rebekah Flores, Susan Boyer, Tabitha Rudy

We can cite statistics and wring our hands at the dearth of women in leadership (and we do!) but we know that stories are what transform and activate us. Hear four women’s unique – yet universal – experiences. Called to leadership but voted down. Offered a seat at the table but not listened to. Invited onto the committee but couldn’t find reliable childcare and missed meetings and fell out of the loop. Grew weary of being the *only* woman, and/or person of color, and/or LGBTQ person in the group.

Just like our first Speaking Truth to Power panel in 2020, expect to be challenged, inspired, welcomed and affirmed in this gathering! You can watch the 2021 panel live or later!

The Living Stream congregation is pleased to once again be hosting the Womaen’s Caucus panel. We support Caucus’ purpose and vision and seek to embody in our online church full inclusivity and equality in the Body of Christ. We welcome visitors, explorers, sojourners every Sunday evening at 8pm eastern / 5pm pacific time at www.livingstreamcob.org.

As we speak truth to power we are generating power. Stories can change us; stories can change our culture. Womaen’s Caucus wants to generate power with you as we call the equitable, just, diverse and passionate church! Let’s get equipped: Leadership in the CoB workshop, August 24!

A prayer for Annual Conference 2021

June 19, 2021

Brother Paul, Brother Jim, and Brother David,  

  The Womaen’s Caucus Steering Committee holds you steadfastly in prayer as we approach the first virtual Annual Conference, knowing there are many pressures and concerns in your minds and hearts. We trust that the Spirit is moving among us, creating new pathways that will benefit the denomination and all those in it for years to come. 

  We write to you for a couple of reasons. As you may recall, one of the action items in our letter of concern regarding Tod Bolsinger’s place of honor at Annual Conference is to match his speaking fees with a gift to a predominantly Black or Native congregation in the denomination. We do not believe in asking of others what we are unwilling to do ourselves, so we wanted to let you know that we have made symbolic gifts to several CoB organizations that serve primarily non-white or indigenous persons. We encourage others to determine their own gesture to recognize their contrition as they seek to abandon practices that diminish others in the family of God.  

  Many church leaders are uncovering the ways in which we, as individuals and as a denomination, have been complicit (however unconsciously) in the subjugation of and discrimination and prejudice against Black and Indigenous people of color and we are looking to Annual Conference leadership to lead us in vulnerability and confession. Knowing that you have many demands on your time and spirits, we offer a prayer that would be appropriate for Brother Paul to pray at any of several points of live engagement during Annual Conference: 

God in whose image all humankind has been created, in glorious diversity,  we give thanks for the ways you have blessed and challenged us through those who are different from ourselves.

Those of us who are white confess that we have been complicit in many kinds of historic and present harm done to our Black and Indigenous brothers and sisters.  

We have benefited from stolen and devalued labor and land.  

We have benefited from prejudice that has limited the opportunities of others and distributed the resources of your creation inequitably.  

Even when we have sought to be openhanded and charitable, we have often done so in a way that failed to acknowledge the dignity and agency of others.  

Lord God, we ask you humbly in this hour to forgive these sins and teach us to understand better how to live out your shalom for all people and all creation.  

Give us opportunities to renounce our privilege and allow those with less to speak and to lead.  

Keep us ever humble and teachable regarding all the things that are outside our lived experience.  

Help us to understand that (as with so much injustice) not all of us are guilty, but all of us are responsible.

You have called us to the doing of your justice, to be merciful and kind as you are merciful and kind, and to ever and always walk humbly with you.  

We pray this, humbly and aching for transformation, in Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 Brothers, may this virtual Annual Conference be blessed by a spirit of truly fearless, innovative, and adaptable leadership.  

Bobbi Dykema, Anna Lisa Gross, Carol Lindquist, Sara Davis, Jonathan Bay, Carla Gillespie, Kathryn LaPointe 


Saturday, July 3 at 5:30 pm (Eastern)

In the historic first fully online Annual Conference, we look forward to seeing your faces up-close, unmasked, as we greet old friends, meet new friends, and learn about highlights from 50 years of Womaen’s Caucus! Just like any of us reaching 50 years, Womaen’s Caucus has grown up, acquired stretch marks, earned wrinkles, gotten tired at times, and gained wisdom. In the past year Womaen’s Caucus has chosen to refresh-at-50, and we are excited and energized! We’ve been updating our organizing documents and rejuvenating our vision. We invite you to engage this refreshed Caucus, as a *thinker* *doer* *donor* *supporter* and we’ll explain all of this in our networking session! Whether you’re brimming with memories of Caucus, or newly-encountering Caucus, you are most welcome. (All genders welcome!)

2020 (deferred) Mission & Ministry Board Ballot (Area 4)

Womaen’s Caucus interviewed candidates for the 2020 deferred and 2021 ballots which will be voted on by Annual Conference delegates in July. We asked the same questions for each position, plus one unique question based on something we read in the candidate’s profile. See all the candidates we interviewed here.

Kathy Mack

mission & ministry board

kathy mack

You are a candidate for membership in a critical leadership group within the Church of the Brethren. What do you believe are the most significant leadership needs within the denomination over the next five years?

Love and trust in the Lord

Love of the Church of the Brethren and its people

Commitment to the church and its future as well as its heritage

Vision for the future

Listening and communication skills

Integrity 

To be a living example of leading a Christian life focused on peace and reconciliation 

To be a servant leader to both the Church of the Brethren and the nation and world in which we live

 

 

 

How do the statements and actions from MMB respond to those needs?

The Mission and Ministry Board is tasked with providing opportunities for local congregations to be communities of faith that proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, respond to the needs of neighbors and to promote peace.  All statements and actions of MMB need to keep these values at the forefront when responding to specific needs of our church body and when calling leaders forward.

What resources do you bring to this work?

I worked over 30 years for an international technology company.  During my career I worked with many different types of people from around the world.  I was required to assess and solve complicated problems, while communicating with peers, executives, and customers.

I also have had numerous leadership positions within the Church of the Brethren and non-denominational Christian groups.  Each of these experiences have allowed me to work with people very committed to their relationship with Christ but bringing different views and approaches to living their faith.

My years of experience from my career and my church work have given me good listening, discerning and communication skills that I believe and I can understand, but not necessarily agree with, most people’s point of view, which allows me to search for and often find common ground.

What additional resources do you need and/or what additional resources does MMB need to serve the denomination?

To be successful, MMB needs the trust and support of the denomination, its individual congregations and most importantly listening for and following God’s will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell us about a context in which you were or a current context in which you are a minority. And we’re hoping for something that’s longer than a week long workcamp.

 

My entire adult life, I have studied and then worked in the computer technology field.  This career path is dominated by men.  Since my freshman year of college at McPherson College, as a woman, I have been in the minority.  I have also worked my entire career with international peers and customers which has given me the perspective of a global community, working for common goals.  In my most recent team, I was the only US citizen, with my teammates being from China and Romania. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You have early church (which today is innovative church) experiences, such as house church and Sending of the Seventy. What vision or insight can you bring from innovative church to MMB and our denomination?

Being a member of a house church brings many advantages and some challenges.  As a small group, every member is valued and needed for success.  Without the expenses of a building or employees, we are able to put 100% of our funds towards outreach and witnessing to our local, regional, national and global communities.  The challenge of not having a building, it is harder to have a focal point for our meetings, inviting guests and a visible presence in our community.

 

The Sending of the Seventy was an activity that was used several times in the Northern Plains District to address some deep concerns and divisions among congregations.  We sent 2 visitors to each church to listen to the issues, hopes and joys of each congregation and then to report back at the district level what was learned.  One of several take-aways I learned was at the root of many problems is the feeling of individuals and congregations that they are not being heard and their concerns are not taken seriously.  By sending visitors from other congregations, some traveling many hours for the meetings, a sense of caring and commitment was conveyed. 

Daniel Butler

mission & ministry board

daniel butler

You are a candidate for membership in a critical leadership group within the Church of the Brethren. What do you believe are the most significant leadership needs within the denomination over the next five years?

It’s not hard to look and look around and see that we have a lot of division everywhere. It seems to be fairly easy to come up with something to divide us on. So I guess I’d say one of the things I see coming up with the next five years is finding a working strategy to help bring us together. And one of those could definitely be through the visioning process that we’re going through right now, that will go on with Annual Conference. It’s very easy to split, this group over here, this group over there. To sift through that and find the commonality between the two, and build on that. As we move forward, we have to be Christ-centered in all things that we do, and being mindful of that would be a good starting point.

How do the statements and actions from MMB respond to those needs?

I think we’re moving in the right direction, like I said, with the shared vision process that we’re going through. Having a leadership group that is flexible enough to meet these ever-changing waves and currents. But at the same time, still being able to focus and work toward the greater good.

 

What resources do you bring to this work?

I have spent the last year eight years on our the Northern Plains District Board with one of those years being moderator-elect, another year being moderator. I’m a McPherson college graduate, Bachelor in history. I’ve been in sales the last 20 some years. On the side, volunteer coaching, just wrapped up a softball season and we had a lot of fun. Wrapping up my last term as board chair. I wouldn’t necessarily say that that qualifies me for anything but I’m not afraid to get on board. I’ve been told I play well with others. I definitely think that’s a positive coming in to a new group, especially one as diverse as we hope this one is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What additional resources do you need and/or what additional resources does MMB need to serve the denomination?

I don’t know if Northern Plains is any sort of microcosm. One of the things that I joked around with for a long time was that I was the youngest member on District Board, and basically spent all of my 30s on district boards. And so that was kind of a running joke for me year after year. Oh, hey, look, I’m still the youngest. We should not only have gender and racial diversity, but age. Each age group has interesting personalities, different life experiences, all add so that no group is ever the same. And that is absolutely wonderful. Because we absolutely should be the same group every time. Growth is so much better than stagnation. So just making sure that we’re able to draw from all groups, all experience to be able to gather experiences like that.

Tell us about a context in which you were or a current context in which you are a minority. And we’re hoping for something that’s longer than a week long workcamp.

Thinking about this question is really interesting. Look at where I check the boxes on my IRS taxes. I’m approaching middle age, white, I’m a male and I’m overweight. I’m  average.

I had a multicultural studies class at McPherson taught by Professor Jessica Brown, an absolutely wonderful woman. The coolest thing about the class was I was one of only about 5 white people in the class. And I know that for myself, and a friend of mine that also took it, it was very eye-opening. Hearing firsthand experiences of racial profiling was…eye-opening isn’t the right word, because it’s not powerful enough to say what it was for me. I mean, one of the stories told by one of my classmates, an absolutely wonderful human being–he was about six foot one, Hispanic, had tattoos, and was wearing a gray sweatshirt. He was actually arrested two or three times in one day, just because he fit a profile. He told us about it — he gave us as much detail as he felt comfortable giving. You couldn’t help but sit there in awe that he kept his wits about him. He had done nothing wrong. It was stories like that. There were a few other students that were able to speak up about their experiences. It was very humbling. It really, at that time, brought some context to someone raised in a very monochromatic situation. Not that there wasn’t any other exposure to other cultures growing up, but once-in-awhile, not everyday life.

 

That has thankfully changed over time. I have a niece that is biracial and she’s an absolute blessing. It’s been really interesting to see her come through this period and see her reactions to a lot of different events that are going on right now. And at the same time, it’s very odd. Because I know there are questions she has that none of us can answer. Because I’m like, a middle-age white male. I don’t know. So while I don’t understand, I have empathy.

 

From coaching to district board. What are some blessings and some burdens of working in a team?

I’ll be honest. There are times getting a new group of young people is much scarier than joining district board. It’s a different situation: coach/player relationship versus the peer-to-peer level playing field where I’m not in charge. What is absolutely wonderful about being a part of a group (like district board) is you’re part of a group of people that are called, and have passion to be a part of something beyond themselves. We definitely did not see eye-to-eye on everything which was wonderful.

 

There can be no growth without something to work towards. So getting to know the different board members, learning to work with different personalities. That’s one of the greatest things about working with groups. Even coaching: all the little micro personalities, no matter what, the goal is always the same. I want my players to learn skills. I want them to be able to see that the skills translate into other things but most importantly I want to make sure that they have fun.

 

I often say that if I’m somewhere and then I tell you I’m not having a good time there’s a pretty good chance that leaving. So if I’m somewhere, I’m having a good time! Otherwise why would I stay? So I want to make sure that they have a good time.

2021 Mission & Ministry Board Ballot (Area 3)

Womaen’s Caucus interviewed candidates for the 2020 deferred and 2021 ballots which will be voted on by Annual Conference delegates in July. We asked the same questions for each position, plus one unique question based on something we read in the candidate’s profile. See all the candidates we interviewed here.

 

Phil Stone

mission & ministry board

 

Phil stone jr

We reached out to Phil through his congregation, Sunrise Church of the Brethren, and Phil’s pastor sent along our interview request and contact information. We have not heard back from Phil but you can read his profile.

 

 

 

Karen Shively Neff

mission & ministry board

karen shively neff

You are a candidate for membership in a critical leadership group within the Church of the Brethren. What do you believe are the most significant leadership needs within the denomination over the next five years?

We need to figure out a way to meet the needs of the younger generations, millennials and Gen Y, all these different people come to the table and want to serve Jesus, but they might want to do it in different ways from their parents or their grandparents and so our church has to be open to, how do we meet the needs of not only our congregations, but the individual people who want to serve Christ. And encouraging them to be part of the body of Christ but still be able to serve the way they want to serve. 

We’re struggling in our nation navigating being part of politics and I think politics enter into congregations. How do we continue to love our neighbors, and each other, in case we don’t agree politically?

We need to meet the critical injustices in the world; it’s super important that we don’t put our heads in the sand, but be willing to be out there. One thing I really love is that, when a crisis happens on a world stage, the Church of the Brethren puts out a statement. I really appreciate that, because somebody is thinking and eloquently writing a statement for our church even though we know not everybody in our congregation feels the same way. There are so many things happening in the world, so much injustice and we’re called to meet those issues.

I think there’s a crisis in ministry right now: finding ministers to serve churches. Bethany’s last graduating class had so many people in it but not a single one was planning on going into congregational ministry. We need to figure out how to tap people and how to support them bivocationally. I’m a bivocational minister myself. knowing that my church can’t afford a full-time pastor, but still needs somebody to lead them–a lot of churches are struggling like that right now, having to call people out in ministry and figuring out how to, to meet their needs. I went through the TRIM program which was great, because I could do it while I was working and raising a family. I like the way Bethany has branched out into different ways that people can get their education and their training to serve. And it’s great that there are so many ways you can use a Bethany degree! We still need people to be in ministry.

Continuing to know ways to serve; we do such a great job of disaster response, BVS, outdoor ministries, all these ways that people can serve. Individual congregations are highlighted that are doing all these cool things! I think we need to continue to say that service is a huge part of who we are as a church.

The financial challenges that come with coming out of a pandemic, and dwindling congregations, and those politics that get in the way of people wanting to give their money to a church (they say “hey, they’re not serving my needs.”) How do we encourage giving, tithing and best using our resources, and not having to lay people off. I think the pandemic has compounded that a bit, but it’s good to hear of people giving gifts, like to Brethren Press, to help them be able to function during a pandemic. People give amazing amounts of money when they feel passionate about something, like when Nigeria was struggling with Boko Haram, people gave amazing amounts of money. I think we just have to inspire people with our programs and encourage them to know that we are going to be good stewards of their money.

How do the statements and actions of MMB respond to these needs?

I’m going to find out more, but I always imagined the Mission and Ministry Board being like the leadership team of a congregation, meeting to make the decisions. MMB has a lot to do with a lot of those things because they can move the congregations in a direction by voting on something or putting a program out there, or highlighting something that they really feel is important for the denomination. I see MMB as driving the denomination – the steering wheel, maybe, and obviously there’s going to be people putting on the brakes, there’s going to be people changing your rear view mirror…MMB could be the GPS telling us where we’re going, saying “you know you can give us your opinion about that and we’ll listen.”

What resources do you bring to this work?

I come from an interesting position because I grew up in the heartland but I live on the fringes. Atlantic Southeast, you gotta admit it’s on the fringes. And we’re a small district, we’re a very multicultural district, and we can kind of get lost way down here in Florida. I haven’t been to Annual Conference in a few years so I feel like I’ve kind of stepped back. I used to be super involved with lots of different things and I was on the district board and so forth and so I was always aware of things going on in the district and in the denomination, but for the last couple of years (and maybe that’s due to the pandemic as well) I feel a little bit more isolated. 

I’m coming with a fresh perspective to the group, with a willing ear, and with my opinions. I’m not somebody who’s very demanding in my opinions, but I’m willing to share when somebody asks. I grew up in the Church of the Brethren and it’s been near and dear to my heart! So I come with that sense of wanting to pray for the best, to have the best path for our denomination and wanting to fight for unity and for understanding and for openness.

And I come with a resource of willingness to serve. When somebody asks me to do something, I focus on it so – I just want to do the job that I’ve been asked to do. I’m willing to learn. I have experience: being district moderator. Being on a leadership team in the district.

What additional resources/support are needed for you and/or MMB to serve the denomination in fulfilling its mission?

Physical things like finances. When it comes to people, you can’t make them do something or see from a different perspective. You can only hope that they can put themselves in somebody else’s shoes, or or agree to disagree but not to break the relationship. So the resources that I need would be understanding from others, and the willingness to to work for the good of the Kingdom. If I’m elected I’ll know a lot more about the resources we need!

Tell us about a context in which you are/were a minority (longer than a weeklong workcamp).

This is my 30th year in the Orange County Public School System and I work in an inner city school with almost 100% minority children and staff. In the last seven years I’ve been coaching in childcare centers through the school system and all the childcare centers are in the inner city district that’s very poor, with high crime and drug use and I work with the poorest of the childcare centers to help them improve their teaching, so that their children can enter the school system ready to learn. 

Our church here in Florida is multicultural, too. We do have white churches, we have Hispanic churches and we have Haitian churches, and we come together for camp and I  live at camp so I get to see it. We just started junior high camp, and I would say that we have a majority of minorities–that minorities are the majority of our campers at camp. Our staff here at Camp is mostly minorities. My whole working career, pretty much, I’ve been working with minorities. Our little congregation is the mother church for Nuevo Comienzo, a new Hispanic church start about an hour from here.

Your training in facilitating teamwork and your work in early childhood education may equip you with creative and empowering strategies for MMB – whether you’re meeting on zoom or in person. What are some of your favorite ways to facilitate teamwork and/or classes to both accomplish goals and grow in compassion?

The last four or five years the camp staff have a orientation and they asked me to do the team-building activities with the camp staff so I just come up with interesting activities that require them to work together and unpack how they feel after doing the activity, and how does that work with your campers and, how do you build that camp family while you’re dealing with a lot of different personalities?

I do Communities of Practice with the teachers that I coach. During the pandemic, we had to do those digitally so I would offer weekly times that they can come on, and I would ask questions and  we would get to know each other. To get them to work together and to try to help them learn–not just me telling them, but get them to learn some things on their own. In the classroom you have to get the whole class to work as a team. Creative ways of doing that require us to understand that people come with all different backgrounds and different abilities to handle situations. Little children, for example, their executive state hasn’t developed fully, and so they have trouble with problem-solving and they have trouble with seeing from a different perspective and I’m with four-year-old, mostly and younger. And so they’re egocentric and have so many ways that they need to learn social and emotional things. But there are adults that grow into adults without learning them!

 

Sometimes you have to look at a person dealing with something, you can say “oh I see that he’s struggling with this issue because he doesn’t have that in his executive state wheelhouse.” And knowing myself–you have to know yourself whether it’s “I’m not very good at being organized” or “if somebody pushes my buttons, this is how I act, and I have to bring myself back into control.” So understanding your own executive state and then recognizing issues in other people would be something that would be helpful as part of the team.

 

When I was on the district board here in Florida we went through one of those inventory things where you answer all these questions and they figure out what kind of person you are, if you’re an introvert or an extrovert and all that. So we did this inventory. And Del Keeney did the “thinking hats” with a pastoral cohort group that I was part of. The Church of the Brethren camp pastoral cohort – the thinking hats helps you get to know yourself, to think about how other people behave and act. It helps you, hopefully, be a good team player, and someone who can take deep breaths.

 

In my classroom: here’s one thing I know about little kids and being and helping them with their behavior is: whatever you focus on is what you’re going to get. If you focus on their behavior, you’re going to get more bad behavior; if you focus on good behavior you get good behavior. So in my class we tried to focus on the good. Number one, children make sure they welcome people and have a family feeling. And then when you’re kind to someone we would recognize that, and you can recognize in many different ways. We had little bluebirds that when you did something kind, a bluebird went into your nest, and then you can see how many kindnesses you did in a day or a week. So they would come to me and say, “I pushed so-and-so on the swing!” because they wanted to share the kind things that they had done to be recognized for their kindness. I had to teach them some things that they could do to be kind, but also noticing when they were and they didn’t even know they were being kind! “You held the door for Jacob” or “You picked Kara up when she fell down and you asked her if she was okay instead of laughing at her.” Noticing people, noticing their behaviors and adults need to be noticed, too. Noticing when someone does hard work, and appreciating them fully–you don’t have to do it in front of the whole crowd but just going to someone and saying “I really appreciate the comment that you made” or “I really appreciate the hard work you put into that.”

 

That is important – for all of us to celebrate what is going well in leadership: MMB, staff, other leaders – and not just complain. And it’s important for leaders like MMB to look for good news throughout the church. We are living in so much tension that many leaders focus on the problems and give their energy to the squeaky wheels. You’re right: what we focus on grows. And if that’s conflict and threatening to leave, by paying a lot of attention to that we’re teaching the church that it works.

 

Some people like to use their money as leverage. We’ve had that happen in our district, we wanted to have a youth pastor for the district, and if they didn’t do it the way that someone wanted, they weren’t going to give any money to the project. So that happens–people use that kind of leverage. Sometimes people surprise me with their behavior, but then sometimes I’m sure people are surprised by my behavior. So fair enough. I can’t point any fingers because there’s always some pointing back at me.

 

2021 Mission & Ministry Board Ballot (Area 5)

Womaen’s Caucus interviewed candidates for the 2020 deferred and 2021 ballots which will be voted on by Annual Conference delegates in July. We asked the same questions for each position, plus one unique question based on something we read in the candidate’s profile. See all the candidates we interviewed here.

Barbara Date'

mission & ministry board

Barbara datÉ

You are a candidate for membership in a critical leadership group within the Church of the Brethren. What do you believe are the most significant leadership needs within the denomination over the next five years?

coming soon!

You can also learn more about Barbara through a podcast interview and check out the college newspaper she cofounded (scroll to the bottom)

 

 

 

Lani Wright

mission & ministry board

lee-lani wright

You are a candidate for membership in a critical leadership group within the Church of the Brethren. What do you believe are the most significant leadership needs within the denomination over the next five years?

To continue to remind people that we have inherited a spiritual legacy that intentionally side-steps, with God’s help, being caught up in the net of whatever fear the current culture and political context immerses itself in. Reminding each other to be on constant look-out for how we might join God’s activity, already in action, rather than coerce the direction of that activity.

How do the statements and actions of MMB respond to these needs?

I need to learn more about this.

What resources do you bring to this work?

A significant resource for me, not to be overlooked by work experience, is a serene home site by a small river, where I often regain balance and perspective.  I also have years of experience on the multi-denominational Hymnal Project, continuing collaborative work with multi-faith entities on various Bible study curricula, service on Standing committee with people from all over the denomination, with the Board of the Pacific Northwest District, and years of working in spiritual care and psychology with people with severe and persistent trauma and mental health challenges at Oregon State Hospital.

What additional resources/support are needed for you and/or MMB to serve the denomination in fulfilling its mission?

Colleagues who are also willing to support each other in stepping outside fears of conflict and dissolution, and who are on a collective search for joining the stream of God’s activity.

Tell us about a context in which you are/were a minority (longer than a weeklong workcamp).

This question likely is about being an ethnic minority, yet as a person now living on the west coast, I feel like a minority for the past 20 years in my own chosen denomination. Since I am a woman working mostly with men who find themselves at some of the lowest points in their lives, I am a minority in my daily employment. Having grown up (and continuing) in a family of multi-racial adoptees, I experience vicariously the stressors of racism my family members meet on a daily basis.

What gives you energy/purpose to be part of the Church of the Brethren?

The rituals of commitment and service, the genius of historic threads honoring individual conscience checked and moderated by community wisdom.

 

Full Interview with Paul Liepelt, candidate for Moderator-elect

Paul shared thoughtfully and extensively with Anna Lisa Gross. Here are most of his words.

Paul Liepelt

Candidate for Moderator-elect

Paul Liepelt

We’re not done with churches leaving yet. This whole time I’ve been looking for a good way to bless the churches and their ministry, to say “we want you to prosper. We want you to grow even if we can’t be together.” How do we do that? We might not be mad at each other but just realize that we can’t walk together anymore.

Anna Lisa Gross: The position of moderator means intense leadership for a year with three years of influence. What do you believe are the most critical leadership needs within the denomination over the next three years?

Paul Liepelt: I’ve been surprised over the past couple of years. I have friends all over the spectrum in Church of the Brethren and it seems like nobody is feeling like their voices are heard right now. It’s from all sides of every question, which is kind of astounding to me. So for me, it’s helping people that don’t feel heard to be heard. To be intentional about seeking out those that really haven’t been sought out before and really been listened to. And then trying to help to give them a voice in the broader body.

What is the role of the moderator’s voice and action in responding to that need for listening?

One of the things that I would love to do–and this is not to be critical to previous moderators–but one of the things that I’ve seen is that typically, moderators go to the big churches in each district, because that’s sort of what’s easiest. And that’s what’s been done. And typically, the bigger churches have more influence. If it were me, I love to go to the smaller churches, I’d love to listen to those who really don’t get a lot of attention, normally, and might be feeling on the outskirts. And then hopefully helping to guide some of the conversations of the Mission & Ministry Board and all the different organizations, in a way that reflects how people are feeling and I think ultimately, that’s sort of what the moderator should be.

What resources do you bring to this work? What additional leadership resources are needed for the denomination to fulfill its mission?

I love hearing people’s stories, that’s why I’m in ministry. I love just getting to know people, getting to know their stories. I think that a lot of those pastoral skills play into that. I get along better with the people that aren’t like “churchy” people, that are kind of feeling like they’re already on the outskirts. Hopefully being somebody that’s approachable and not “up here” that people don’t feel that they can talk to.

And additional resources for the broader church right now? That’s a really hard question. That’s probably the hardest question you’ve asked. I would hope that all staff members would be doing some kind of intentional listening and David Steele did have a listening tour as part of the first couple of years as General Secretary. But keeping that going is critically important right now. And also, one of the things we’ve seen in the past couple years in the Mission & Ministry Board was a lot of churches have just stopped giving. There’s a lot of assumptions about why. But really, it’s a combination of churches that are just not financially viable anymore and can’t contribute, to churches that don’t feel like they’re being heard. So now they’re withholding funds from the whole denomination, as kind of a last-ditch effort to get some attention to say, “Hey, we need you to listen.” So I would love to see the church do more about reaching out to those churches that don’t contribute anymore, and aren’t really participating anymore. Just to hear why and what we can do to help. You know, if they’re struggling financially, what can we do to help them, what resources we could bring them.

Tell us more about being part of subcultures, such as bikers.

I love when people’s faith and their passions collide, and I think that makes some pretty interesting people. I love the biker community. They make fun of me at work [motorcycle dealership is one of Paul’s jobs]–when the old crusty bikers, you know, who have skin like leather and have been riding in the sun for 40 years–I just love them. I love these people. For me at work, it’s interesting: a lot of people didn’t know that I was a pastor at first. It wasn’t something that I advertised, and I intentionally did not really let them know that. And then an opportunity came up: we had somebody that worked with the dealership pass away. And I was able to do his funeral. Everybody figured out real quick, I was a pastor. And these old crusty bikers, when something is going on in their life, they’re not going to go to a church, they’re not going to ask a pastor for prayer, but they want me to pray for them. And I have permission at the dealership to go to the backroom and pray for them. It makes for some really interesting interactions.

But subculture in general is just these groups of people that are passionate about something–gardening or quilting or anything. And it gives you an opportunity to speak to somebody in their own language. And when you can do that, you have a really powerful opportunity.

My wife and I were missionaries in Nigeria. I was involved in the motorcycle culture in Nigeria and had a motorcycle there. But we got to know the achaba drivers at the time. Now achabas are illegal because of Boko Haram and there’s different elements to that. But the achabas were like the motorcycle taxis and elsewhere in Nigeria, there was a lot of Christian-Muslim divide. But within the achaba community, the Muslims and Christians were just both achaba drivers and like achaba was achaba. And they would talk to each other. They’re interacting because of this common thing that they did together. A friend and I started a ministry working on motorcycles, we could build relationships within the achaba community.

Tell us about a time you have lived as a minority, not a week-long workcamp, something more significant than that.

Nigeria would be like the best example of that, because for quite a portion of time, my wife and I were the only people who had white skin for like 10 hours around us. But that’s a hard question to answer because, yes, we were in the minority. But we were in the minority with privilege, which is a very different minority experience. I can’t think of too many occasions when I have been in the minority that has denied me privilege. So it’s two very different conversations. We got married in Nigeria, we had these major life events there and doing all of that in a different culture that you’re not used to…there was a big learning curve and there was also a lot of mistakes in that so it kind of helps to breed humility because you’re going to mess up, you’re going to say things wrong. You’re going to hurt people’s feelings and have to go and apologize. It’s definitely a humbling experience.

Tell us about your decision to resign from Mission & Ministry Board and how you intend to return to MMB if elected moderator.

It’s hard to explain and it’s and it’s and it’s winding to explain. I’m speaking for myself. I’m not speaking for the board, I’m speaking from my perspective. I feel like Mission & Ministry Board made a mistake when they adopted the new Strategic Plan. The new Strategic Plan is built on the Compelling Vision, which is exactly how they should have done it. But…and I also did not realize it at the time so I have as much as anybody…we adopted the new Strategic Plan before Annual Conference ever had any discussion about Compelling Vision. Mission & Ministry Board is supposed to help the staff to implement decision of Annual Conference: funding, program, etc, helping the staff to do that. So here we are essentially, on a denominational scale implementing a decision of Annual Conference before the decision ever got made. So that was the first part of it [my resignation].

One of the parts of the new strategic plan was to have a serious conversation around racial reconciliation and systemic racism within our own denomination, and how do we navigate that. Which I also completely agree–we have to. And any church that isn’t doing that right now is not doing it right.

One of the things that we did within that though was using the language of repenting of our whiteness. On an academic level I understand what the meaning was. They mean talking about the privileges that we get simply by our skin color. I went to get a loan for my house and I was able to get a loan easily. A friend that has darker skin might go in and not be able to get that same loan. I get academically where it’s coming from, but in a lot of our rural churches, they did not hear that at all how that was intended. I don’t want to bash anybody that listens to Fox News but because of the influence of Fox News and stuff like that, they heard that in a very different way, to repent of our whiteness. And so they automatically tuned out; they were gone.

And they reached out to Mission & Ministry Board like “what on earth are you talking about? What’s going on here? We’re not going to do that.” So we identified that language was giving us the complete opposite of what we were hoping. What we were hoping was that we could bring people into conversation and really with this language we’re stopping a conversation. So it was just incredibly frustrating to me. We were essentially shutting down a conversation before it ever got off the ground. We were inadvertently putting another stumbling block to try to keep churches that are on the fence in our denomination. So it was just kind of one more thing that they were able to point to to say, “see, they don’t represent us. Anytime that any person’s voice is excluded I’m having trouble with that. If it’s the most progressive voice, if it was conservative voice.

I didn’t grow up Church of the Brethren. Part of what I love about it is that you have this multitude of voices at Annual Conference that are working to discern the Holy Spirit together and decide what’s going to be our path forward as a denomination. So anytime we cut off a voice from anywhere that drives me nuts. I finally ended up resigning because I just didn’t feel like I could be part of that anymore, if we weren’t trying to bring people into that conversation and essentially going against what we had said was one of our intentions to do.

So if I go back again….We’ll see how the Holy Spirit sorts all that. As a member of Mission & Ministry Board we work on a consensus model. So as the decision gets made you can either say, I agree with this; I’m not okay with it, but it can go forward; or I don’t like this at all. You can even ask that your objection be noted in the final decision. Or if it gets extreme enough, you can say I just can’t be part of this.

Going back as moderator in an ex-officio role, I feel like there’s an opportunity there to be able to speak some truth overtop of the conversation and help guide the conversation in a way that maybe you can’t do as a member of Mission & Ministry Board, if you’re supposed to be part of part of this body.

I guess there’s a distinction there – but maybe there’s not a distinction and I’m trying to make that up from the outside but either way it’s gonna be weird if I had to go back I’m not gonna lie! I’m not mad at anybody. I love everybody that’s on it, there are good people on it. So it will be weird! Just own it and roll it, I guess, how else do you do it?

And that is often where growth or transformation begins: in the weird.

So the point that you’re making about the language used in the strategic plan became a stumbling block for churches who were already on the fence about racial reconciliation or racial justice. I wonder if there are words that work for a denomination with this much diversity and this much conflict. As we were saying earlier, before we started the recording, our culture is as fractured as many of us can imagine, and we see that reflected in the denomination. And so is there “good enough” language possible? Could anyone create a phrase that would speak something faithful and true, and also resonate in the minds of people across our spectrum?

I think that would be a great conversation to have with churches that have raised an objection to say, number one: do you really understand the emphasis of this goal? And then if you do, what kind of language would you suggest that we use to get to this conversation? I think it might be an interesting conversation to hear how they would reply to that. Honestly, there are some churches that I think could be authentic and have that conversation. There are some churches that I think. honestly, they’re probably looking for anything to point to, to say, “see they did it again.” And for those churches, I think, yes, they might be on the fence, but really, there may not be a way to invite them in, in a way that’s going to make them happy and be faithful to the calling to have this conversation.

When we passed that Strategic Plan, I didn’t hear it as being offensive. I was one of the ones that voted to accept it. I didn’t raise any objections. It never occurred to me that it would be offensive. But once we identify that it is, can we work at it, can we try to make it better so we can all agree on it. I’m kind of surprised that Mission & Ministry Board hasn’t hasn’t gotten there yet, to say, “is there a way we can do this better?”

A challenge can be placed on the congregations who have complained about the phrasing. They can be given the challenge to come up with better language that…I don’t want to say comfortable because none of this is comfortable for any of us. But say “come up with language that you can live with, that you could be convicted by.” So does each member of MMB go back to their area and somehow talk to all those churches? I’m just wondering on a practical level, how does M&MB do that? And how do we call people back into such a hard conversation, who, like you said, are already looking for a reason to walk out the door?

And we’re not done with churches leaving yet. This whole time I’ve been looking for a good way to bless the churches and their ministry, to say “we want you to prosper. We want you to grow even if we can’t be together.” How do we do that? We might not be mad at each other but just realize that we can’t walk together anymore. I do wonder at the next Annual Conference, you know, a lot of those conservative voices now won’t be there. I think there are going to be some progressive voices that won’t be there either, and then what does that mean for our church and we start losing those voices. That’s part of what makes us cool; it’s part of what I like. At times that brings tension but I really appreciate different people and the perspectives they bring.

Read Paul’s profile.

Full Interview with Tim McElwee, candidate for Moderator-elect

Tim shared thoughtfully and extensively with Anna Lisa Gross. Here are most of his words.

Tim McElwee

Candidate for Moderator-elect

Tim McElwee

If we faithfully and courageously apply the directives of the compelling vision, we might very well be labeled troublemakers. We’re charged to live and share the radical transformation of the holistic peace of Jesus Christ.

Anna Lisa Gross: The position of moderator means serious leadership for a year, with three years of influence. What do you believe are the most critical leadership within many nominations for the next three years?

Tim McElwee: These are great questions, and it really helped me center in and try to make sense our of what this would mean if what I don’t expect to happen actually does happen with the vote. My instinct is, my supposition is that if in fact the delegate body affirms a compelling vision statement, as is expected, it’s been a long time coming. So I tried to answer these questions within that context of the compelling vision. As I read it through the first time, second time, third time, one word stuck out to me and that is mutuality. Mutuality is used several times, but the tone doesn’t feel all that mutual. There’s a lot in there that I affirm. My hesitations or concerns are based on my sense that there’s a bit of a top-down tone in some of the strategies as they described.

I think we need to proceed in trying to live out our compelling vision with as much eagerness to learn from others as we have eagerness to share our traditions with others. I was raised Roman Catholic, I joined the Church of the Brethren because of the traditions, the emphases, the values, the interpretation of the gospel that resonates with me all these many years. For me, our traditions of service and history of peace with justice are among the most important that I would love for us to try to share, better and more broadly with the neighborhood or world. We need to be wary of imposing or self assuredly proclaiming our faith tradition among others. We’re called to offer. We have to offer our witness and hope that might be received. As I pondered on that I recall a wonderful sermon that my pastor Kurt preached last summer.

What does it mean to be welcomed as we seek to live out our vision of Jesus in the neighborhood? Kurt focused on a passage from Matthew 10, and the title of the sermon is “May I come in?” Kurt emphasized that this passage of Scripture is not about the disciples welcoming others into their communities, into their churches, but disciples seeking to be welcomed by others while bringing Jesus’ message to the world. So, the difference here is when we welcome others into our world, into our community, we’re the ones in charge. We’re the ones with power. But in this passage the disciples (and us, I think) are called to vulnerably stand at the door and knock. Not knowing what to expect, not knowing if we will be received and if we’re received, not knowing whether or not our desire for mutuality will in fact be granted, not knowing whether the message we bring will be accepted or rejected. That’s why I think we’re called to pursue our vision with an equal and steadfast commitment to mutuality and prophetic witness.

The Compelling Vision statement for example, says that we’re to call and equip fearless disciples. I agree. I think if there is integrity to the message we bring as Kurt mentioned again in this same sermon, we should probably expect some rejection. Because the good news that we’re gonna bring from the Church of the Brethren, in the best of our tradition, is that we aren’t going to be upholding the status quo. We’re going to be advocating for those on the margins of society. For example, if we faithfully and courageously apply the directives of the compelling vision, we might very well be labeled troublemakers. We’re charged to live and share the radical transformation of the holistic peace of Jesus Christ, describing not the absence of conflict, but rather deep shalom of being in right relationship across differences. So I hear that we’re called both the name societal conflicts, and the systemic injustice that lies at the core of so many of those conflicts. Doing so demands courage and conviction, and this practice is in keeping with the very best of our Brethren tradition. And it reminded me of this statement that I got to help work on years ago, the 1996 Annual Conference statement Nonviolence and Humanitarian Intervention, which says passivity in the presence of injury or injustice is not an option for Christians. It’s not an option to put on blinders and pretend that injustice isn’t there. We’re called to boldly confront it. 

The Compelling Vision statement goes on to explain that to grow the body of Christ we must “break down racial barriers and hierarchies that keep us from a body of Beloved Community.” That’s a wonderful statement. I mean, Martin Luther King would stand and applaud that statement. But I think doing so means we will directly confront societal injustices, particularly systemic racism and sexism, wherever we encounter them. This means we’ll pursue our vision by setting aside the protections of power and privilege that we know all too well in the Church of the Brethren. It means we’ll humbly work with and among our sisters and brothers, living lives of uncertainty on the periphery of society. It means relinquishing or pursuing our self sufficiency and vulnerably asking for hospitality, while sharing the good news of this upside-down Kingdom we proclaim. 

Dale Brown used to say, “we Brethren have a strong prejudice against pride.” I think of Philippians 2, which proclaims, in humility, regard others as better than yourself. Let each of you look not to your own interest, but to the interests of others. This is one of the reasons that the footwashing ordinance was such a powerful experience during my first few years in the church and while it’s still so moving. This reminds me of another one of my favorite passages from Psalm 51 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, put a new and right spirit within me.” I think what I’m yearning for is the right spirit to pursue the Compelling Vision. So leadership needs of the church in the next several years? An effort to try to inspire the church to reclaim our tradition of humility, to reassert our prophetic witness, and to rejuvenate our culture of service. 

What’s the role of the moderator’s voice and actions in responding to these needs?

The Church of the Brethren can be described as living out our faith through what we call the communitarian ecclesiology. Community is at the heart of who we are. And that means we’re called to take relationships seriously. The word ecclesia means called out. Wilbur Hoover, in a tract, defined the word church as people grouped together so they can live their faith better than they could alone. I emphasize relationships when trying to answer your question about the voice of the moderator because the approach to moderating matters. What is said, how it’s said, the values that we lift up, for example when we’re engaged in difficult conversations (and we certainly have had plenty of those in the church I expect those to continue on). But when we’re engaged in those difficult conversations I think we serve the church well, and we honor each other more fully, when we strive not to be right, but when we strive to understand or to learn from one another. I don’t remember the author, but there’s a phrase that I love that says there’s something about being heard that enables people to listen. So much more important than the moderator’s voice is her or his commitment to engage in compassionate listening.

What resources will you bring to this work? And what additional leadership resources are needed for the denomination to fulfill its mission?

It’s very clear to me that I don’t bring nearly enough resources to this work. I do bring some experiences from serving within the church for 50 years.

Let me try to answer by thinking back to some of those wonderful mentors who have taught me along the way. My father was a college professor. I remember walking with him on campus one time and a student came up to him and education student, and said “I have to write what they call my philosophy of education paper, and you’ve taught for all these years, what’s your philosophy of education?” My dad said, “Education is nothing more than hanging around the right people long enough for you to catch on.” Now, I probably will never really catch on. But it’s not due to a lack of mentors or teachers that I have had the pleasure of hanging around with.

In 1974, I was blessed to be a part of the 110th BVS unit. Dale Auckerman was the project manager; he was a really important person in my life, but so were the people that Dale brought to that orientation: Anna Mow, Art Gish, M.R. Ziegler, grounded me in what it means to be a member of this church. And then at Manchester and Bethany I had the great opportunity to learn with Bob Johansen, Tim Brown, T Wayne Rieman, Paul Keller. Dale Brown, Don Durnbaugh. Even though I’m not sure what resources I bring I would hope that some of the wisdom from some of these tremendous leaders I’ve had the pleasure of working with would be a part of what I was trying to bring to the work.

The work I’ve done may be helpful as well. It’s encouraged me, for example, not to understand conflict as something to be feared, but as an opportunity to transform relationships and structures. 

In terms of additional layers of resource the church needs to fulfill its mission: In the Strategic Plan, strategy number four includes an expansive, and, I think, extremely ambitious call to economic justice, charging the church with transforming our collective culture and giving practices to reflect the just and equitable distribution of God’s resources to eradicate needs as embodied by the early church, as we read in the Book of Acts. It’s a radical, beautiful vision. So I agree that’s at the very heart of our mission, no question. Reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer where he said the church is the church only when it exists for others, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell people in every colony what it means to live for Christ, what it means to exist for others. To achieve the vision we’re going to need more than additional leadership resources, I think we’re going to need more resources of every kind.

Tell us about a time you have lived as a minority, not a week-long workcamp, something more significant than that.

My quick answer is: I have never lived as a minority, which is a confessional statement but it’s also an indictment. We need to take more seriously our charge, our calling, to lift up minority leadership in the church.

When I first read the question my first recollection was my first year in college when I was going to a state university, and I was on the track team and probably 85% of the guys on the track team were African American/Black guys, so all my friends my first year of college were Black guys and some Black women, because that was the community that I knew, and I was so deeply honored that I was actually asked to pledge Omega Psi Phi, a Black fraternity at that university. I don’t mean to say that that’s an example of a time I lived as a minority. But I do cherish that. Those guys were wonderful, beautiful, dear friends of mine.

I have had some short term experiences. One of them was a month-long experience of living in a Colombian family’s home during a January session [in college] for a course with Ken Brown. And the last question about compassionate listening also takes me back to my time in Colombia. And one of the ways that I came back changed was not taking for granted blessings and gifts that have been showered upon me, in so many ways, in my privilege life.

The course was called The Conscientization of North Americans to the reality of South America. Here’s a vignette: One day a Catholic lay worker who had devoted her life to working with the poorest of the poor, met our group on a long hike up in the mountains just outside Bogota. It was a very hot and humid day as we climbed the narrow mountain pathway. Eventually we arrived at a small settlement of 8 to 10 families. They lived in very small shacks built mostly out of cardboard. We gathered in a small clearing, with logs as our chairs. A married couple in the community operated a small general store, really small, with simple basic provisions. They had no electricity, so of course nothing was refrigerated, but they managed to keep some essentials on their shelves, and when the members of their community found a way to earn some money, they bought food from the store. So we’re about to begin to hear their stories. But before the members of the community began to share their stories, the woman who ran the small store gave each of us from the United States a bottle of soda pop. [tears] These sisters and brothers had nothing, but they selflessly gave these amazing gifts. We were hot and thirsty but it was so hard to accept those gifts. I remember the children, for whom a bottle of pop would have been an enormous luxury, watching, and smiling at us, as we drank that warm, sweet, thirst-quenching pop. [tears] That’s why that experience is so transformative.

Sounds like a unique communion, and it also comes back to what you were saying, in the very first response about hosts and guests, and the experience you had is one you could only have had as a guest.

The importance of us wholly and vulnerably asking, “can we come in?” and whether our desire for mutuality will be granted: those are really important questions for us if we’re going to pursue this compelling vision with the right spirit. Thanks.

Read Tim’s profile.

2021 Program & Arrangements Ballot

Womaen’s Caucus interviewed candidates for the 2020 deferred and 2021 ballots which will be voted on by Annual Conference delegates in July. We asked the same questions for each position, plus one unique question based on something we read in the candidate’s profile. See all the candidates we interviewed here.

Program & Arrangements COmmittee

nathan hollenberg

Annual Conference is both a rock of ages and an agent of new community as we move online in 2021, and as first-timers attend every year. What AC practices, old and new, hold the greatest promise for uniting, strengthening and equipping the church to follow Jesus?

After a couple years of tense and hurtful district conferences in the Shenandoah district the decision was made to forgo business for a few years and instead have district conferences centered around worship. While Annual Conference business is an important and vital part of being the church together, I wonder what a reframing of conference might do to help build unity and to help refresh and empower individuals as they leave conference. We spend time in our districts doing “delegate briefings” to prepare leadership for the business of the church. While an important step, it may send the unintentional message that business is the most important part of conference. I wonder if there is a way to honor the importance of our decision making process while also emphasizing that the role of delegates and leaders at conferences needs to be deeper. If people are coming to a conference expecting “a fight” or tense theological/political debate, it’s difficult to build unity. I think worship, insight sessions, and fellowship are vital parts of the Annual Conference experience for “seasoned” and new participants alike and I wonder if we don’t adequately “brief” our delegates on this aspect of Annual Conference.

 

 

 

What is the role of Annual Conference worship within the denomination? How can it best be made meaningful for both fresh Brethren and cradle Brethren?

Annual conference worship at its best introduces us to the diverse body of believers that make up the Church of the Brethren. Worship at AC feels both familiar and yet fresh and new. The diversity of music, worship leaders, speakers, and visuals is a reminder that we are part of something bigger than just our local congregation. While I think Annual Conference worship has been a strong point of conference, I do wonder how we share this experience with our congregations. Very few across the denomination are able to experience the power of Annual Conference worship and so I would like to see Program and Arrangements provide resources for delegates and pastors to aid them in sharing the Annual Conference worship experience with their congregations. Not just a wrap-up DVD or recordings of sermons but an invitation and tools to lead worship and give a taste of their experience (much like we often encourage our youth to do following NYC).

 

AC worship and event planning frequently rely on personnel from near the conference location (which has been weighted heavily to Grand Rapids and Greenville). How can P&A include voices/cultural practices from areas of the country that will likely will not host an AC?

I appreciate the question because I think perhaps the most important step in building a more representative and diverse Annual Conference is awareness. I understand that the decision to host conferences in particular locations multiple times is rooted in stewardship (cost savings) but as the question suggests this practical and economic approach disproportionately impacts some sisters and brothers over others. While I am admittedly new to the Program and Arrangements process my hope is that after a year of online and virtual worship, and of learning new ways of being the body, that P&A could think more creatively on how to tap into leadership from all over and not just in a particular districts. Technology allows collaboration and planning in ways not available to past generations and so perhaps a new way of finding leadership for any given Annual Conference needs to be discerned.

 

Tell us about a context in which you are/were a minority (longer than a weeklong workcamp).

I cannot say in good faith that I have ever truly been a minority. As the question suggests without fully naming, the experiences I have had as “the minority” were often short-term and by choice. The only place I have felt like a minority for any stretch of time is being someone who identifies with a more progress theology in a largely conservative district and yet again, I recognize that even in this circumstance I have a lot of power and choice. All that to say this is an area I need to listen more and speak less.

 

 

Each candidate was asked the same questions, with one final unique question drawing on their profile.

Whether it’s Annual Conference, NYC, your local congregation, etc, how do you blend/balance giving your core constituents what they like with attracting new and/or minority communities? (A classic example is music – do we sing Great is Thy Faithfulness or 10,000 Reasons?)

I think Annual Conference in particular has done a good job of balancing what is familiar with new and culturally diverse forms of worship. There is always room to grow. In a singular worship service you can hear organ, guitar, four-part acapella harmony while hearing scripture read in English, Spanish, and visually in sign-language. At my home congregation we have tried to introduce familiar hymns in new ways with new instruments and slightly new rhythms as a way of “bridging the gap.” The two-service model that swept Christianity I think was the incorrect approach as it sent the unfortunate message that worship is all about our preferences. Instead, if worship can provide a diverse experience where multiple generations and communities can find themselves represented – then this sends the message that worship is about the community. So it’s not that we must decide between Great is Thy Faithfulness or 10,000 Reasons – maybe it’s both, or maybe it’s singing Fluye Espiritu Fluye and Move in our Midst.

I do feel the need to say that I am fully aware that many congregations feel limited in what they are able to offer during worship, especially when it comes to music. Perhaps this is again an area that P&A can provide some attainable resources for congregations.

program & arrangements committee

kim ebersole

Annual Conference is both a rock of ages and an agent of new community as we move online in 2021, and as first-timers attend every year. What AC practices, old and new, hold the greatest promise for uniting, strengthening and equipping the church to follow Jesus?

Worship services, insight sessions, and varied opportunities for people to gather and make connections with each other (either formally or informally, in person or electronically) are ways the Annual Conference experience can unite, strengthen, and equip us to be Jesus’ presence to each other and to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the role of Annual Conference worship within the denomination? How can it best be made meaningful for both fresh Brethren and cradle Brethren?

Worshiping together unites us in spirit and body, helping us acknowledge our commonalities and bridge our differences, while opening us to possibilities of who and what we as the Church of the Brethren are called to be as the body of Christ in the world. Using a variety of music, worship formats, preaching styles, and participants can make worship more meaningful and open us to new spiritual insights and vitality.

 

 

 

 

AC worship and event planning frequently rely on personnel from near the conference location (which has been weighted heavily to Grand Rapids and Greensboro). How can P&A include voices/cultural practices from areas of the country that will likely will not host an AC?

While using the time and talents of people in the geographic area of Annual Conference may be practical, it is important to recognize that that practice may place a burden on a small group of people and limit the scope of the conference experience in unintended ways. The Program and Arrangements Committee can lessen those possibilities by calling Brethren/others from all geographical areas, theological perspectives, and cultural identities to assist with conference planning and implementation.

 

 

Tell us about a context in which you are/were a minority (longer than a weeklong workcamp).

A formative experience for me was when, as a white, middle-class teenager, I volunteered for several years in an inner-city mission whose participants were people of color. One day a woman came in who was bleeding profusely. As people tended to her, I questioned why they didn’t call for an ambulance. I was told that emergency response time in their community was typically very slow; ambulances took a long time to arrive, so they bound her wounds and took her to the hospital themselves. Living in the white suburbs, fast response to emergency situations was the norm and that day was an eye-opening experience, one that confirmed for me that white privilege is a very real thing in our country. That day I was a minority in their community, but I was still very much privileged because of the color of my skin.

Each candidate was asked the same questions, with one final unique question drawing on their profile.

 Whether it’s Annual Conference, NOAC, your local congregation, etc, how do you blend/balance what is comfortable/familiar with what is creative/innovative? (In worship and otherwise)

I try never to say, “But we’ve always done it this way” and to say instead, “What is possible, what will enhance and enrich, what is new and revitalizing, what opens and expands?” while not alienating participation. Not change just for change’s sake, but how can we introduce something different to give a new perspective and make the experience fresh for participants.

 

 

2020 (deferred) Mission & Ministry Board Ballot (Area 1)

Womaen’s Caucus interviewed candidates for the 2020 deferred and 2021 ballots which will be voted on by Annual Conference delegates in July. We asked the same questions for each position, plus one unique question based on something we read in the candidate’s profile. See all the candidates we interviewed here.

mission & ministry board

mandy north

Interview with Mandy North

(click for an audio interview, scroll down and push play)

 

 

 

 

mission & ministry board

josiah ludwick

Interview with Josiah Ludwick

(click for an audio interview, scroll down and push play)

2020 (deferred) Program & Arrangements Ballot

Womaen’s Caucus interviewed candidates for the 2020 deferred and 2021 ballots which will be voted on by Annual Conference delegates in July. We asked the same questions for each position, plus one unique question based on something we read in the candidate’s profile. See all the candidates we interviewed here.

Program & Arrangements COmmittee

Walt Wiltschek

Annual Conference is both a rock of ages and an agent of new community as we move online in 2021, and as first-timers attend every year. What AC practices, old and new, hold the greatest promise for uniting, strengthening and equipping the church to follow Jesus?

Worship always jumps front and center as the practice that can (or should) bring us together. If worship is truly about Christ, and not us, then we leave behind whatever other baggage we carry at the door and focus on praising and honoring God as we come together. It reminds us of who we are. That also requires some intentionality in building worship that is accessible to all. Beyond worship, the mere act of fellowship and spending time together in larger numbers than we usually do also holds value. We can’t ignore or dismiss each other as easily when we’re all in the same space. That said, the virtual connections this past year has necessitated also hold potential for linking us in some new ways if done well. And hearing the stories of our heritage and what the church is doing denominationally and around the world is also significant, a reminder that we are part of something greater than ourselves. As Walt Whitman wrote, “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the role of Annual Conference worship within the denomination? How can it best be made meaningful for both fresh Brethren and cradle Brethren?

I’m not a “cradle Brethren,” coming from Methodist and Catholic/Jewish family backgrounds, so I have some sense of what it means to come into the church without that long-time legacy. My first Annual Conference, when I was in high school, was powerful, and it opened my eyes to the church in a new way–probably a significant factor in eventually leading me to a career of serving in the church. I was intrigued by the business, but the soaring tapestry of worship in a larger setting than I had ever experienced stood out. I think that’s the particular power of Annual Conference worship: a reminder, as Ken Morse’s hymn states, that we are “Strangers no more, but members of one family.” That spoke to me as a new Brethren, but I believe the message can resonate for those at various stages of the journey.

 

 

AC worship and event planning frequently rely on personnel from near the conference location (which has been weighted heavily to Grand Rapids and Greenville). How can P&A include voices/cultural practices from areas of the country that will likely will not host an AC?

I think Annual Conference already does try to do some of that, particularly in keynote speakers/leaders and insight sessions, etc. For some of the roles it’s more practical to have people from the region, as they can have readier access to the sites that will be used; for others, it’s as easy as a phone call or text/email to ask others to serve, where feasible. (I’d note that worship planners are often not local, but can come from anywhere in the church.) Of course, there will be a new Annual Conference director coming in, too, so I think it will be important to hear her vision for Conference. And in 2022 we are scheduled to be in Omaha, a new city for us–and first time in Nebraska since 1970. I’d like to see us continue to move around the country to some degree, realizing that finances might dictate a heavier rotation of certain locations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell us about a context in which you are/were a minority (longer than a weeklong workcamp).

 I suppose it depends what sort of minority you mean: Racially, probably not often, other than when I’ve been traveling. When in China one time a number of people asked to take their photo with me, and I was confused until I realized that nobody else around looked like me–I was taller and whiter than anyone else in the area. I never felt threatened, but it was an odd feeling to be considered a novelty. I’ve had that experience of realizing I was ‘different’ a few other times while traveling, which I expect others encounter much more often. Ethnically, when growing up friends would ask why my father (who was from Chile) had an accent, or I learned about my Jewish heritage and relatives who died in the Holocaust. That was mostly secondhand, though, rather than something I directly experienced. In other settings, it’s been not having a Brethren family “heritage,” or being the only male in a group, or being new to an area and the “outsider.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each candidate was asked the same questions, with one final unique question drawing on their profile.

The mission attributed to Christopher Sauer, “For the glory of God and my neighbor’s good,” is meaningful to you. Tell us about one experience you’ve had at Annual Conference (or dream of having) in which this mission comes alive.

I like a lot about what I’ve read of Sauer, and this particular motto attributed to him speaks succinctly of the horizontal and vertical axes of faith that the church needs to hold in balance. When surrounded by the Spirit, that balance makes our faith three-dimensional. In a sense, I hope that infuses ALL of Annual Conference (and other aspects of church life). The recent emphasis at Conference of finding ways to serve the city in which we’re meeting certainly would be an example, keeping part of our focus beyond our church (or convention center) doors. More inwardly, perhaps I’ve seen it most concretely in times that Brethren can be on opposite sides of an issue on the business floor, but still talk or hug or pray together later. I feel like less of that happens now, but I believe good community can still happen–like a spontaneous sing-along that broke out one year–if we’re attentive to the Spirit in our midst.

 

program & arrangements committee

beth jarrett

Annual Conference is both a rock of ages and an agent of new community as we move online in 2021, and as first-timers attend every year. What AC practices, old and new, hold the greatest promise for uniting, strengthening and equipping the church to follow Jesus?

Oh there are so many things to love and look forward to about Annual Conference each year no matter how or where it takes place. For me, the most powerful practice of Annual Conference is worshipping together each evening. Singing old favorites and learning new songs are always a highlight. I especially appreciate hearing from a variety of persons in our denomination. These times of worship are not only a time of building our faith and renewing our zeal in Jesus Christ, but the Holy Spirit forges a bond between us which is really amazing when I consider how vastly different each of us are!

In addition, I greatly appreciate the table talk during the business sessions… especially now that they have added tables for non-delegates. As the Body of Christ, we do not make decisions in a vacuum…instead, we do the hard but enriching work of opening ourselves to new ideas and ways of thinking and seek to find common ground on tough issues. Together, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we discuss matters of faith. This practice is a benchmark of Christian faith that we see over and over in the New Testament…it wasn’t always easy, but with the help of the Holy Spirit the New Testament Church was able to navigate uncharted territory through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through listening to the stories of the other.

What is the role of Annual Conference worship within the denomination? How can it best be made meaningful for both fresh Brethren and cradle Brethren?

In the past, Annual Conference was often held during Pentecost with an invitation for the Holy Spirit to reinvigorate the believers present. I believe this important aspect remains true even today. We may not meet on Pentecost Sunday, but our worship together invites the spirit to bring renewal among us through the preaching of the word, prayers together and of course, singing! We celebrate who we are in Christ and re-covenant together to remain faithful to the call God has on us collectively as well as individually. This is especially important following our query process, which can be sometimes difficult and unsettling. And yet, at the end of each day, we focus on Jesus in our worship together and give space to the Holy Spirit to move among us. When we attend Annual Conference worship with this attitude, it is meaningful for all walks of life: cradle Brethren as well as fresh Brethren.

AC worship and event planning frequently rely on personnel from near the conference location (which has been weighted heavily to Grand Rapids and Greensboro). How can P&A include voices/cultural practices from areas of the country that will likely will not host an AC?

Diversity can be tricky…and yet the New Testament church was diverse! When our worship is lacking the voice of the other, it becomes flat, predictable and boring. In order to remain vibrant and vital, we must be intentional about giving those not often included for geographical reasons, cultural reasons or any other reason, a place at the table when it comes to worship and event planning for Annual Conference. From my previous experience planning worship for Annual Conference, I learned how important it is to listen and incorporate those who have a different perspective from the very beginning of the process. Of course, as details begin to be filled in during the process, we must continue to include a wide variety of voices and practices – not only as scripture readers but worship planners who shape how we worship.

I often use the image of a stained glass window when thinking of worship and the body of Christ. What makes a stained glass window beautiful are the different sizes, colors, and shapes of the glass that come together to paint a picture of Jesus. There can be no image of Jesus if all of the glass is the same color, size, texture and shape. I believe the same is true for our worship planning process.

Tell us about a context in which you are/were a minority (longer than a weeklong workcamp).

My family and I served and lived in Sicily, Italy for ten years. Our children attended Italian public schools and we formed many long-lasting relationships with the people in our community. We learned what it was like to depend on others for nearly everything… even when we were supposed to be “helping and serving” others. Of course, the first several years were difficult as we learned the language and would often make some huge language blubbers. We felt the frustration of not being able to express ourselves the way we wanted to… as well as feeling misunderstood and excluded because we had an accent.

However, we were the fortunate ones as we received grace upon grace from our Italian brothers and sisters. We learned what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans:  “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” We learned to value the gift and beauty God has placed in all people. Through the hospitality of the Italians, we experienced what it means to be hosted with grace and love. We also learned how to be vulnerable and how painfully self-sufficient and haughty we Americans can be in almost any context. These are lessons I hope and pray will continue to form me.

Each candidate was asked the same questions, with one final unique question drawing on their profile.

Whether you’re planning worship, picking choir anthems, or developing goals for youth ministry, how do you blend/balance what is comfortable/familiar with what is creative/innovative?

I often go back to an image of a swing that I heard in my seminary days when it comes to balancing the past, present and future in any given ministry context. Nothing is better than swinging from a good old tree swing… up to the highest places as if I would launch into heaven itself… back to the comfort of having my feet on the ground and then leaning way back into the past which gives me a bird’s eye perspective of where I am going. It’s the back and forth that makes swinging exciting. It would be a sad ride if we only went forward, or only went backwards or worse yet…stayed still with our feet on the ground. But it is the entire movement that takes our breath away and sends us on an adventure. For me this image captures the importance of balance…the importance of being rooted in ancient Christian practices and biblical principles, living out our faith in our current context and allowing the Spirit to lead us into new and exciting adventures. I believe it is important to be intentional about including all of these when planning worship, youth ministry, a sermon, or just life together as the body of Christ.

 

Femailing June 2021 – Generating Power

We’d like to thank our long time layout whisperer Mary Jane Shearer for all the work she’s done to put together Femailings throughout the years. We have greatly benefited from your creativity and attention to detail! We’d also like to thank Kathy Gingrich for her editing work on Femailings over the past few years. Thank you for stepping in and taking Femailings to new places. We are deeply grateful for the skills you both have shared! 

We live with a pandemic of patriarchy which elevates aggressive, egotistical masculinity, and scorns vulnerability and intuition, diagnosing them as “feminine” and weak. We grieve that these diseases are flourishing in the Church of the Brethren. We have identified a few areas that we are ready to help treat. And we see health and vitality that we are eager to celebrate.

Our summer/fall line-up of events are treatment and celebration. Read on and mark your calendar! View and download the newest Femailing. 

July 3: Annual Conference networking session at 5:30pm Eastern
July 15: Speaking Truth to Power panel (Susan Boyer, Tabitha Rudy, Kathryn LaPointe and Rebekah Flores): stories of barriers to leadership at 8pm Eastern
August 24: Leadership in the CoB Workshop
October 5: From Nomination to Election session
Also in this Femailings:Introducing Carla Gillespie, our newest steering committee member
Calling In the AC Leadership Team
This Femailing was edited by Anna Lisa Gross. And we thank her for offering her gifts.

We are looking forward to spending time with you virtually again this year! 

 

Calling In: A Letter for AC Leadership

Recently, the members of the Steering Committee notified Church of the Brethren denominational and Annual Conference leaders of our strong objection to the use of the racist metaphor underpinning the published work of Dr. Tod Bolsinger. Our objections to the book rest on the elevation of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition as a model of Christian leadership. At the invitation of the Annual Conference Office and with initial endorsement of his book, Canoeing the Mountains, Dr. Bolsinger is scheduled to speak five times at Conference. 

We encourage you to read the letter  in its entirety, reflecting on how we, individually and collectively, confront bias against marginalized persons. Together, we can make change!

Letter to AC Leadership

We received a response from the leadership of Annual Conference. Please read the following

2021-05-05 Officers reply to Womaen's Caucus' 4-19-21 letter

Caucus’ Renewed Purpose

What does the feminist movement mean today?

The scope has widened to include equality for all groups and a call for proactive diversity because we recognize that our human community needs full participation. Womaen’s Caucus continues to work for equality and diversity so that together we may move reality closer to Jesus’ vision for a new world.

Through education, Womaen’s Caucus

  • will build understanding of the intersectional issues facing women (e.g., sexism, economic inequalities, violence, reproductive rights) and the conditions that influence them; and
  • will help persons and organizations develop the needed skills to remedy the dynamics of power and injustice that contribute to gender inequality.

Through personal support, Womaen’s Caucus

  • will provide safe spaces for women to speak the truth about their life experiences and offer resources of support;
  • will bear witness to the strengths and courage of feminists within the church; and
  • will work toward social transformation with like-minded groups inside and outside the Church of the Brethren.

Through advocacy, Womaen’s Caucus

  • will seek broad-based participation in activities intended to achieve gender equality;
  • will speak loudly within the Church of the Brethren, calling it into accountability around issues of gender inequality; and
  • will act boldly to change practices that limit opportunities within the church for all persons to live and serve equally.

Femailing October 2020

Femailings Oct 2020

 

October 2020 Download

Our theme, “It’s the end of the world as we know it” invites us into a process of  reflection and action as we cope with mounting layers of acute grief and deferred loss,  then rise up as we seek to engage and celebrate community in new and meaningful  ways. 

Without a doubt, many would agree 2020 has been a challenging and stressful  year. Living with a pandemic in our midst has brought changes to familiar and ordinary  activities such as grocery shopping, educating our children, meeting friends in  restaurants, attending in person worship and visiting our friends and loved ones,  whether they be in hospitals, nursing homes or our neighborhood. It’s also been a  year of change within the Church of the Brethren. Annual Conference did not meet.  Many church camp were closed or had reduced programming. Several congregations  across the denomination have chosen to “break” with us and form a new corporation,  Covenant Brethren Church. District conferences are being held virtually. 

Through it all, Mary Scott-Boria invites us to pray for the heaviness of the past  four years and celebrate our kinship and inclusion in the beloved community as  together we work for racial equality, justice and the things that make for peace. Ruth Nalliah shares her dream for a more inclusive and authentic church. Laura Hammonds  shares affirmation of her faith through poetry and prose. Check out the QR code on  page six which links to her poem on the Womaen’s Caucus website.    

 Christy Waltersdorff’s Pentecost Sunday sermon reminds us of the importance  of breath, and helps us reflect on the trauma of George Floyd’s death and asks the  provocative question, “So when did the Church stop breathing?”  

The Womaen’s Caucus steering committee invites us to grieve our losses, and  then take action to create a new way of being the Beloved Community. Two newly  formed partnerships are providing tools and training to help us move forward:     Caucus Podcasts continues the conversation on Speaking Truth to Power  through our partnership with Messenger Radio; and Womaen’s Caucus and On Earth Peace are working together to challenge  sexism and racism in the Church of the Brethren. Matt Guynn and other facilitators will  lead a webinar on nonviolence, the social dynamics of nonviolence and briefly  introduce the 6 principles and 6 steps of Kingian Nonviolence. A link is provided to  register for the upcoming event on November 10th. Anna Lisa Gross reminds us  “birthing” involves “breathing” and “pushing” and it is our hope these two resources  aid us in creating positive change in the Church of the Brethren. 

The Steering Committee wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas  and a Blessed New Year. Stay healthy! Be well, and one last thing, VOTE!    

 

Kingian Nonviolence Workshop

As Womaen’s Caucus and Supportive Communities Network work for justice and healing in the Church of the Brethren, we have invited On Earth Peace to facilitate an exploration of the power and possibility of Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation as a method for interpersonal and group conflict, and nonviolent social change organizing. During this session, we will explore the meaning of nonviolence (a rich conversation in our pacifist tradition!), consider the three social dynamics of nonviolence, and briefly introduce the 6 principles and 6 steps of Kingian Nonviolence. 

This will be facilitated by Matt Guynn, Dr. Mary Lou Finley and Dr Joan May Cordova

*gathering tools* to *shift the culture* to *build the church of the future, now*

Workshop Registration

Please register to join us! This workshop will take place Tuesday, November 10th at 4:30 PT/7:30 ET and is a 90 minute session. 

Please send us an email with your name and KNV Registration in the subject line – womaenscaucuscob@gmail.com

If you tried to register before 10/27 at 3pm, please email us, our form wasn’t working properly. 

“Friendship” – A Poem

Friendship

by Laura Hammonds

 

Spring

We drink more coffee than a dozen writers,
dance in the car, and
move towards the trilliums in bloom.

We touch the smooth, silvery bark of maples and birches:
a woods at once canopied with new-yellow-green leaves
and carpeted with short, white flowers.

We smell damp dirt in the humid hills of hardwoods,
navigate the drier outsides of sticky, chocolaty paths,
tread timidly in tennis-shoes, through wetter spots, where tires have been.

Summer

We rock on a shaded, cement back-porch, sip cans of cool, fizzy, fruity water,
watch a tiny piney-squirrel sway atop a neighbor’s birdfeeder,
listen to the brown birds in the oak complain, as he snarfs the small seeds: their supper.

We see the beach’s wet pebbles beneath our rain-boots, or,
under sun-burnt feet, nearer the water’s edges, far from your orange towels, and
walk warm, wet dunes with nothing in our pockets but heart-shaped rocks.

We search for darkness on gritty, grey, gravel roads,
the meteors shower from the Milky Way in sparks, far from your black truck and the high corn,
the buzz and sizzle of the thick, electric wires above spook us back to the city.

Fall

We look over tall and dry grasses to the chilly blue Lake, which is building sandbars for no one,
hear the crunch of scattered leaves in the drifts of sand
that sit on the rickety boardwalks and blow past the boarded up bathrooms.

We write papers or poems in a grocery’s café, by wide windows, during a premature dusk,
buy thin potato chips and crème filled long-johns , or,
break over refrigerated California sushi rolls, chicken salad croissants, and red grapes.

I open your card, the one with penciled outlines of your heart-shaped rock collection,
a Longfellow poem inside about arrows and songs and friendship,
your gift: a bag of gifts: sixteen, or more, and all just for me, and all just for my birthday.

Winter

We wear wool scarves you knitted last spring,
walk past the white-roofed, red barn, in snow, ankle-deep,
my small boot-print in yours, through flakes and frozen pinecones.

We talk inside an atrium full of plants,
the scrape of chairs echoes in the space and cloudy light,
people in tight suits, sweaters, and sometimes heels, peer down from their glass elevators.

I sit to write you a December birthday poem:
something that will say:
I hope I bring a fraction of the joy to your life that you bring to mine.

Dedicated to Jaim, in celebration of his birthday (2018)

 

If you’d like to contact that poet:  miss.laura.hammonds@gmail.com 

Femailing July 2020

In this issue you’ll find three articles in a section of call and response that delve into nuanced discussions of approaches to institutional history, “Just because we share history doesn’t mean we share an interpretation of history.” 

Debbie Eisenbise, a panelist from our virtual luncheon, writes “True inclusion and power sharing will not occur unless there is systemic reform” in her article “Defund Dysfunction.”

As you may be aware, Womaen’s Caucus wrote a letter to General Secretary David Steele, Moderator Paul Mundey, Moderator-elect David Sollenberger, Annual Conference Secretary Jim Beckwith, CODE Representative Cindy Sanders, Bethany Seminary President Jeff Carter, Brethren Benefit Trust President Nevin Dulabaum and Annual Conference Director Chris Douglas. We are still discerning how we are called to speak truth to power so watch for follow-up!

We are pleased to introduce you to our newest Steering Committee member, Carol Lindquist. 

We also gathered a list of books, websites and podcasts that open us up to ways scripture speaks truth to power. 

 

Ways you are invited to respond: 

We’re compelled to continue these conversations. Would you like to engage?

How do you rescind power or share power with others in a church context?

How are you called to speak truth to power? How has truth been spoken to you?

How does historical trauma impact your daily life? What does it mean to carry a silent history? 

 

Letter to CoB Leaders

Womaen’s Caucus has sent a letter to the Church of the Brethren Leadership Team and several additional denominational leaders calling upon them to watch the full video of “Speaking Truth to Power” that was recorded on July 3. The powerful words and authentic vulnerability of panel members, Debbie Eisenbise, Gimbiya Kettering, and Madalyn Metzger serve as inspiration for the denomination to reflect on structural and cultural patterns that limit participation of so many persons wanting to be a part of our faith community.

The letter requests that denominational leaders ask themselves the same questions posed to the panel, sharing their personal responses with one another as a way of auditing their personal influence on the lives and faith of the persons they lead. In addition, the Caucus identified three ways that the work of the panel is influencing the work of the denomination.

Letter to Church of the Brethren Leaders

Womaen’s Caucus 7.13.20

Speaking Truth to Power

Virtual Luncheon 2020

Friday, July 3rd we hosted our panelists Gimbiya Kettering, Debbie Eisenbise and Madalyn Metzger. These three wise, fierce, faithful, patient and passionate church leaders, writers and speakers shared with us their personal stories of speaking truth to power. They also spoke the much needed truth to us. We need visionaries who are grounded both within the church and beyond the church,who call their church and world to Jesus’ radical love. The panel moved us to thought and action. 

We invite you to view the recorded session in the Living Stream archive

Womaen’s Caucus is grateful to the work of Living Stream CoB and Enten Eller for supporting allowing the use of their systems and tech. This event would not have been possible without them! 

Donate to Living Stream and help continue these fruitful online spaces. 





Femailing June 2020

Femailings-June-20-v6-digital

Article highlights in this issue:

“There isn’t going to be a perfect time, when we are strong enough to work for justice and peace. There is only now.” – from “The Protest of Martha” written by Gimbiya Kettering

“The names, faces and labels might be different, but we still struggle with not only welcoming everyone to the table Christ has set for us, but sending the invitation in the first place.” – from “Building up the Body of Christ” written by Madalyn Metzger

Welcoming a new steering committee member, Kathryn LaPointe!

Two reflections from the Clergy Women’s Retreat from Pastors Cesia Morrison and Lidia Gonzalez.

“Food insecurity was a reality for ~ 1/8 people in the US before COVID-19 and increase with myriad anxieties and injustices.” – from “Women and Food” written by Anna Lisa Gross

Read, enjoy and discuss!

Do you have a feminist sermon, article or book review you would like to contribute to our next Femailing? Please email us at womaenscaucuscob-at- gmail-dot-com