|News around the Synod of Lakes and Prairies
J. Herbert Nelson speaks at synod meeting, urges churches to be relevant
The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), spoke earlier this month at the fall meeting of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, urging churches to be relevant in today's world. "The center of the church is not in Louisville. The center of the church is really out with the people where the work has to be done. ... The world has shifted around the church and we have probably run just as far as we can to engage another generation doing the same things we were doing," Nelson said.
In other action, the synod commissioners installed the Rev. Dr. April Davis Campbell as its moderator, and the Rev. Dan Davis as its vice moderator. Davis Campbell, who was recently installed as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Woodbury, Minnesota, serves on the synod's Ecclesiastical Relations Committee. Davis, pastor of Westminster United Presbyterian Church in Minden, Nebraska, serves on the synod's Program Coordinating Committee.
For these complete stories, and for information about other synod actions, the Synod Summary can be found at "Synod Annual Meeting."
Deppen-Williams named executive of Central Nebraska; reception set Nov. 11
The Rev. Polly Deppen-Williams will become the new executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Central Nebraska and a reception has been planned Saturday, Nov. 11, from 2 to 4 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Kearney.
Deppen-Williams most recently served as interim pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Nebraska, and chaired the presbytery's Committee on Ministry. She previously served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in North Platte, Nebraska. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. The complete invitation to the reception is at "Polly Deppen-Williams."
Rachel Yates named to executive
post in Presbytery of Milwaukee
The presbytery council of the Presbytery of Milwaukee has named Rachel Yates as its new presbytery executive. Rachel most recently served the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as associate director for programs at the Presbyterian Mission Agency. "I am excited that [she] has accepted our invitation to serve as Milwaukee's next presbytery executive. I am impressed by her passion for good communication and interpretation, and grateful for the gifts she will bring to us in nurturing strategic thinking and collaboration," said Rob Ater, moderator of council. Yates will begin her service Jan. 1. The complete announcement, printed first in Fresh Impressions, the presbytery's newsletter, can be found at "Rachel Yates."
Street-Stewart's General Assembly speech reprinted by Horizons magazine
In the summer of 2016, Elona Street-Stewart, executive of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, addressed the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), calling the church to recognize and reconcile with American Indians. She said, "Even though my people were the first here because this is where the creator placed us to live, we are invisible in plain sight. You don't want to see us. Although you took our words to name your cities, rivers, mountains and states, we aren't real people." Street-Stewart is a member of the Delaware Nanticoke nation. Her speech has reprinted, in part, in the September/October issue of Horizons, the magazine for Presbyterian Women. The complete Horizons' article, reprinted with permission of Presbyterian Women, can be found at "Recognition and Reconciliation."
Twin Cities Houses of Hospitality supports young adults working in service posts
"No one joins Americorps for the pay," says 23-year-old Americorps volunteer Sami Dulak, a second year Twin Cities Houses of Hospitality resident working with the non-profit group Reading Partners. "I teach elementary school kids to read. It is so cool to help them learn a skill that will impact the rest of their lives. I love it!" Sami's enthusiasm for her service mission is palpable. But it comes with a price. "By the end of the week, I'm tapped out -- physically, emotionally -- I'm running on empty. I pour all my energy into these kids." Twin Cities Houses of Hospitality, an intentional community rooted in Christian hospitality in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, engages young adults, ages 21-30, who are working in public service positions. It is supported by Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, The House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, and the Synod of Lakes and Prairies. The complete story by Carrie Moore, coordinator and grant writer for the organization, can be found at "Houses of Hospitality."
Deb Demeester receives Emmy
for the Convenings
Winning an Emmy was never on Deb DeMeester's bucket list but the director of leadership development for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies received the Governors Award Emmy on Oct. 7 for her volunteer work with the Convenings. The National Academy of Television Arts & Science -- Upper Midwest Chapter Board of Governors Award is the most prestigious Regional Emmy Award in the Midwest chapter. It honors visionary, long-standing relationships that creatively and effectively use corporate, non-profit and broadcast resources to showcase the power of broadcasting to advance a mission or message. The Convenings is a multi-year effort to help Minnesotans talk about late-life planning and living as fully as possible until the end of life. The complete story is at "Winning an Emmy."
Beer, faith go hand in hand
at Steeple Brewing in Hastings
When you think about it, the minister said, church and beer have a few things in common. (That's the way Brian Ursch's story begins in the Oct. 2 edition of the Omaha World-Herald newspaper.) Brewing does, after all, require certain virtues: patience (for the weeks required for the beer to ferment) and faith (that a host of unknowns won't spoil a batch). But most importantly, beer brings people together much the way that church does. It's a reason for people to meet, to talk, to support each other. Still, when the Rev. Damen Heitmann goes to work in the brewery, he leaves the robe and stole at home. Heitmann is chaplain at Presbyterian-related Hastings College, one of seven Presbyterian-related institutions of higher education in the Synod of Lakes and Prairies. Ursch's complete story can be found at "Beer and Faith." (Photo by Amy Roh of the Hastings Tribune.)
|Conferences, camps, resources
Federal judge strikes down tax-free
housing for clergy, BOP responds
A federal judge in Wisconsin has struck down as unconstitutional a law that gives clergy tax-free housing allowances, in a ruling that could have far-reaching ramifications for religious leaders who have fought for years to keep the substantial financial benefit. Under the federal law passed in 1954, a "minister of the gospel" doesn't pay income taxes on compensation that is designated part of a housing allowance. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, argued that the law discriminates against secular employees. The complete story from the Associated Press is at "Judge Strikes Down."
The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) responded
this week, noting, "The Board of Pensions is deeply concerned by this ruling. If upheld on appeal, it would substantially impact the congregations and ministers of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Board believes that it is inconsistent to exclude manse housing from income and not treat a comparable cash allowance in the same manner." The complete story from the BOP is at "BOP Responds."
Blogging for Church Law & Tax
, senior editor Richard R. Hammar offers five takeaways from the ruling that are pertinent for church ministers and other leaders. It can be found at "Takeaways."
Registration opens for NEXT Church
gathering in February
Registration for the 2018 NEXT Church national gathering is open. Titled "The Desert in Bloom," the event takes place Feb. 26-28 in Baltimore. The gathering features church leaders, both pastors and lay people, sharing stories of their experiences of ministry, new ideas, and conversations about ministry in today's environment. Creative worship centers us around God's presence. Details and a link to registration can be found at "NEXT Church 2018."
YAV applications now accepted
for programs 25th year
Applications are now being accepted for the 2018-2019 Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) class of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This is the 25th anniversary of a program that is helping to shape the next generation of globally aware, faithful and passionate leaders. About 92 percent of YAV alums say their YAV year directly influenced their current vocation. Seventy-nine percent of alums now regularly attend worship, 63 percent report additional participation in congregational life, and 32 percent go on to ordination or pastoral leadership. To date, there are more than 1,700 alums of the program. The complete Presbyterian News Service story by Kathy Melvin can be found at "YAV Applications."
Regarding Ruling Elders:
Coping with the news
The Rev. Dr. Diana Nishita Cheifetz, a spiritual director serving leaders and clergy in the San Francisco Bay area, wrote the current installment of Regarding Ruling Elders, a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. She noted, "As the events of our world seem to swirl into chaos, a question I've heard for months: 'How do you cope with the news these days?' I know that what I fear most in this world is the death of goodness, or God-ness. And there are times I just want to put my head down and weep. Sometimes I do. Since Jesus wept over Jerusalem, sometimes I think God weeps with me, too. But what does not seem helpful is letting depression, frustration, or despair immobilize me." Her complete column can be found at "Ruling Elders."
'No Innocent Bystanders' provides
guide for social justice work
Can the people who benefit from unjust social systems actively work for justice with those who are oppressed by those systems? "No Innocent Bystanders: Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice," written by Shannon Craigo-Snell and Christopher Coucot, and published by Westminster John Knox Press, is a start-up guide for spiritual or religious people who are interested in working for social justice but don't know how or where to begin. Drawing on history, the framework of Christian ideas, and the insights of contemporary activists, it offers practical guidance on how to meaningfully and mindfully advocate alongside all who struggle for a more just society. The complete announcement from the publisher can be found at "No Innocent Bystanders."
Mosaic of Peace Conference
set in Holy Land next spring
The Mosaic of Peace Conference is planned next spring, April 29-May 12, in the Middle East, giving participants an opportunity to encounter the diverse people of the region, its history and current situation, engaging with those who seek its peace. Applications for the conference are now being accepted. Details can be found at "Mosaic of Peace."
Kang named 1001 New Worshiping Communities central region associate
The Rev. Shawn Kang has been named the central region associate for 1001 New Worshiping Communities in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) In his new role, Kang will work with presbyteries, churches and new worshiping leaders in the central United States to further grow the movement. Based in Houston, Kang most recently served as pastor of Pathways, a new church he planted 13-years ago in the Presbytery of New Covenant. And he's recently received approval to start another new worshiping community. Kang officially begins his 1001 New Worshiping Community work on Nov. 6. The central region consists of 43 presbyterians in 15 states: Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
The complete Presbyterian News Service story by Paul Seebeck can be found at "Kang Named."
PC(USA) agencies join global #GivingTuesday movement
The Presbyterian Foundation has partnered with the Presbyterian Mission Agency to support #GivingTuesday on Nov. 28. Held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States, and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this day harnesses the collective power of partners across the world to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. According to Giving U.S.A., faith-based organizations have fared well in this one-day online fundraising movement. The complete announcement from the Presbyterian Foundation can be found at "Giving Tuesday."
|News from the Board of Pensions
Annual enrollment in BOP plan starts Oct. 30
The October issue of Board Connections, a newsletter of the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), notes, "It's almost here! This year's annual enrollment is Oct. 30 through Nov. 17. Annual enrollment is your only chance to review and elect benefits coverage for 2018 -- unless you have a qualifying life event during the year." The current edition of the newsletter can be found at "Board Connections."
Current edition of BOP's Employer
News can be found online
Noting that annual enrollment in the plan of the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) starts Monday, Oct. 30, Employer News, a BOP newsletter, adds, "Eligible employees will receive a postcard in the mail at home with annual enrollment dates, deadlines and actions to take. Detailed information and resources will be available on pensions.org when annual enrollment starts. Two web tutorials in English, Spanish, and Korean outlining what employees need to know and do during annual enrollment are available now to help employees get ready for annual enrollment. The complete newsletter is at "Employer News."
|News of colleges, universities and seminaries
Badal announces February retirement
date from University of Jamestown
University of Jamestown president Robert S. Badal recently announced his plans to retire Feb. 28 after serving as president of the school since 2002. "I have had the rare chance to take a small but historic institution to a higher level, and I have remained steadfast in that honorable pursuit," he said. Under Badal's leadership, the university has experienced growth in enrollment, endowment, academic programs, and extracurricular offerings. The University of Jamestown is one of seven Presbyterian-related institutions of higher education in the Synod of Lakes and Prairies. The complete story can be found at "Robert Badal."
Huizenga appointed dean of University
of Dubuque Theological Seminary
Dr. Annette Bourland Huizenga, a faculty member at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary since 2008, was named in September as dean of the seminary. She had been assistant dean since 2016. She succeeds Dr. Bradley Longfield, who returned to full-time teaching in 2016 after serving 18 years as dean. The complete story from the University of Dubuque can be found at "Huizenga Named Dean."
|News around the PC(USA) and more
PC(USA) leaders report on talks with ECO
A trio of Office of the General Assembly leaders briefed the 300-strong Mid Council Leaders Gathering in St. Louis Sunday, Oct. 15, on the progress -- or lack thereof -- of conversations between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO) over the sometimes chaotic process of departure of churches from the PC(USA) to ECO. "We spent two days [Sept. 27-28] having deep conversations about governance, ecclesiology and ecumenism," said General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson II of a meeting between PC(USA) and ECO leaders that was convened by the World Communion of Reformed Churches. "The conversations have given us some clarity, but we are not done." Laurie Griffith, OGA's director for constitutional services, reported that in the last five years, 303 PC(USA) congregations have departed for ECO -- though not all have been formally dismissed by their PC(USA) presbyteries. The complete story by Jerry Van Marter, director of communications for OGA, can be found at "Talking with ECO."
Disaster pastor advises:
Open wallet, not closet
Barely a day after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, at the start of this year's devastating run of natural disasters, I saw the first of many appeals pop up on social media. Please contribute stuff: clothing, bottled water, canned food, cleaning supplies, diapers. Drop it off at the collection point we've set up. Help us fill the truck! This is standard operating procedure in a consumer culture: We've got to send stuff! Because, you know, survivors have lost their stuff. So, quick: help us get them more stuff! It's a beautiful, generous impulse. But so often, it's not what's really needed. The complete column by Carlos Wilton in Religion Dispatches can be found at "Wallets Not Closets." (
A quick way to help with the wallet can be found at the website of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. It's at "Hope Out of Chaos.")
What Presbyterians Believe:
'Thoughts and Prayers'
Charles Wiley, coordinator of the Presbyterian Mission Agency's office of Theology and Worship
The day after the Las Vegas shooting massacre, I posted on Facebook, 'Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.' I didn't really know what else to say at the moment. My friend Bruce Gillette replied with a political cartoon depicting God in heaven saying, 'Enough already with the 'prayers for the victims and their families, you morons. Go enact some meaningful gun control!' Thoughts and prayers. Shallow or meaningful? What does it mean to pray in such situations?" Wiley's complete column can be found at "Thoughts and Prayers."
Service, learning to engage attendees
at General Assembly in St. Louis
From June 16-23, 2018, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will meet in the "Gateway City" for the 16th time since 1851 and the first since 1988. Planning for the Assembly comes as St. Louis continues to experience unrest, dating back to the police shooting of an 18-year-old black man, Michael Brown, in the summer of 2014 in suburban Ferguson, Missouri. "The protests are primarily economic, but you cannot separate out the various factors that contribute to them," the Rev. Craig Howard, executive of Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery told 300 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders here Oct. 16 during the annual Mid Council Leaders Gathering. "The panel Saturday [titled "Faith in Action: Being Church in Times of Social Unrest"] was very helpful," Howard said. "We are looking to do something on a larger scale at GA ... to try to create an environment for transformation." The complete story by Jerry Van Marter, director of communications for the Office of the General Assembly, can be found at "Service and Learning."
Hope, humor abound in dialogue
between 2 top PC(USA) leaders
Hope, the faithfulness of God, and whether Louisville is really the center of the Presbyterian universe were among the topics addressed in a wide-ranging dialogue between two top leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the 2017 Mid Council Leaders Gathering in St. Louis this week. Perching on bar-stool chairs on either side of a small round table, the Revs. J. Herbert Nelson II, stated clerk of the General Assembly, and Frank Spencer, president of the Board of Pensions, responded to questions from moderator Brian Ellison, executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians and associate stated clerk of the Synod of Mid-America. In keeping with the talk-show format of the event, Ellison also invited written questions from the audience -- several hundred leaders of presbyteries and synods across the country. The complete story by Eva Stimson, a correspondent from the Office of the General Assembly, can be found at "Hope and Humor."
Presbyterian Ministry at United Nations celebrates UN Charter anniversary
Seventy-two years ago, the newly formed United Nations approved a charter that has been the foundation of its work ever since. United Nations Day was celebrated this week. "Presbyterians were part of the drafting of the U.N. charter and this is a remembrance of the charter going into effect. So in a way, Presbyterians can celebrate the church's own history in the creation of the U.N.," said Ryan D. Smith, director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. "For Presbyterians it's a reminder of where we've been and where we are going as a church." The complete Presbyterian News Service story by Rick Jones can be found at "United Nations Day."
General Assembly procedures
Meeting this week in St. Louis, the All Agency Review Committee of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) took up the issue of how certain topics are introduced at the denomination's General Assembly and the ramifications of decisions made on the work of the agencies, often without input from the agency staff. Following a two-and-a-half hour closed executive session at the beginning of the day to discuss property and personnel matters, the group gathered to consider the work of the General Assembly. The complete Presbyterian News Service story by Gregg Brekke can be found at "Procedural."
Assembly panels update mid council
leaders on their efforts
The three groups tasked with discerning the form, function and vision of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) gave updates this week to 300 church leaders gathered in St. Louis for the annual Mid Council Leaders Gathering. Initiated by the 222nd General Assembly in Portland, Oregon, the 2020 Vision Team, the All Agency Review Committee and the Way Forward Commission have worked for more than a year at their respective tasks. The presentation to mid council leaders provided the groups' representatives an opportunity to describe the process and possible outcomes of their activities. The complete story by Gregg Brekke for the Office of the General Assembly can be found at "Work Updates."
|Just one more
You've heard of it. Here it is. 'Fake News'
Your editor scanned through readership stats from the last issue. It appears readers are more interested in humor than viruses and malware. And that's ok. Then there's "fake news." Everyone knows, however, that something fake should not be news, but that's another story. Here are four videos, all available on YouTube, about "fake news." The first is from FactCheck.org, letting you know that it can take time to determine fact from fiction. It's at "Fact Check." The second is from HowStuffWorks.com, offering four ways to spot "fake news." It's at "How Stuff Works." The third is a video SpencerVideos.com, offering students a five-step process to identify "fake news." It's at "Learning Stuff." And finally, the fourth, your editor's favorite, is from PBS Digital Studios. It's like a journalism class. It's the longest, but in addition to helping you identify "fake news," it provides a brief description of the news industry. But if you have 12 minutes ... it's at "Five Filters."