On May 15, 1829, General Conference began in Fairfield County, Ohio. Before adjourning on May 19, they had taken a strong stand against Freemasonry–a somewhat signature stand for our denomination.

William Morgan, who claimed to have been a Master Mason, wrote an expose book about the Freemasons. That violated his pledge, as a Freemason, to not reveal the inner workings of the society. Before the book was published, Morgan disappeared. The predominant view is that he was abducted and thrown overboard into the Niagara River.

That happened in 1826. The resulting outrage sparked an anti-Mason movement across the country. John Quincy Adams and Millard Fillmore were among those who supported the Anti-Mason Party. (Nevertheless, Andrew Jackson, a Mason, was elected in 1829.)

You could say that the 1829 General Conference was just climbing aboard society’s anti-masonry bandwagon. But it started earlier with us. In 1826, the Miami Conference (Ohio) urged members to discontinue their lodge membership. In 1827, the Eastern Conference (Pennsylvania mostly) decreed that any members who became Masons “thereby lock themselves out of the conference and the church.”

The 1829 General Conference entered the fray by passing this resolution: “In no way or manner nor in any sense of the word shall Freemasonry be approved or tolerated in our church; and that should any of our church members, who may now be a Freemason, continue to attend their lodges, or as a Freemason attend and take part in their processions; or if he joins the Freemasons, such member, by such an act, excludes himself from membership in our church.”

That was shortened in 1833, and shortened again when this statement made the Constitution in 1841: “There shall be no connection with secret combinations.” That extended the prohibition beyond Freemasonry to other secret orders, like the Oddfellows. And it remains in our Constitution to this day.

Bottom line: if you are a Mason, you can’t also be a United Brethren member. The Masonic lodge promises salvation apart from Jesus Christ, and that’s not something we can make room for.

buddylabor300On May 14, 1988, John Buddy Labor graduated from Huntington College with a degree in Business. He was from Bumpe, Sierra Leone. His father, John Labor, was principal of Bumpe High school and a longtime leader in Sierra Leone Conference.

Buddy was born in Huntington on January 30, 1964, when his father was a student at Huntington College. The next day, in the same hospital, Tom Datema was born. They would be friends in Sierra Leone, and teammates at Huntington College.

Buddy Labor was, few people would dispute, HC’s best-ever soccer player. His number 10 jersey was retired on February 23, 1988, even before he graduated. A four-time all-American from 1984-87, Buddy held many HC soccer records: most goals scored in a game (4), most goals scored in a season (28), most goals scored in a career (100), most assists in a career (32), most points in a career (232), and most points in a game (10). He was the team MVP all four years.

The various collegiate athletic organizations recognized him.

  • NAIA. All-district team all four years, honorable mention All-America 1984-85, second-team All-America 1986, and first-team All-America 1987.
  • NCCAA. All-America from 1984-87, during which he ranked among the top ten goal scorers all four years.
  • NCAA District III. All-District 1984-87. The 1986 team placed fourth nationally in the NCCAA.

Buddy Labor was inducted into the Huntington University Hall of Fame on December 1, 2001. He now lives in Atlanta and is a sales account manager for NexTraq.

On May 13, 1889–Day Four of General Conference–Bishop Milton Wright (right) and 14 other delegates walked out. They’d had enough. Time to start a new denomination.

General Conference was being held in York, Pa., and everyone figured there would be fireworks. For years, the “Liberals” and “Radicals” (us) had been fighting over the future of the church, and the Liberals had the votes. They were using the 1889 General Conference to make some huge changes:

  • Adopt a new Confession of Faith.
  • Allow laypersons to be delegates to General Conference (until then, ministers were running the show).
  • Soften the stand against Freemasonry.
  • Adopt a new Constitution.

The Constitution couldn’t be changed unless two-thirds of all United Brethren members–not just those voting–approved the change. That made it practically impossible to change the Constitution. And the Constitution said–no changing the Confession of Faith, no lay delegates, and no connection with secret societies (read: Freemasonry).

The Liberals, since they had the votes, basically decided to just ignore the Constitution. They made the changes they wanted to make, and the conference ended with a new Constitution and new Confession of Faith.

But before these votes were taken, Bishop Milton Wright and his supporters left in protest. We don’t know if they stormed out, or just quietly existed. Whatever the case, their departure was noticed and mourned, but it made no difference.

Wright & Co. gathered at the Park Opera House in York, where they reconvened as the “true” United Brethren in Christ Church. They argued that the Liberals had withdrawn and formed a brand new denomination with a new Constitution and bylaws. The Liberals had 250,000 members and the Radicals had about 15,000 members, so it’s a stretch to say THEY withdrew from us. But that was Milton Wright’s story, and he stuck to it.

There in the Park Opera House, the delegates re-elected Wright as bishop and elected three rookie bishops.

The whole thing was messy and sad. But today’s United Brethren church–which this year is celebrating its 250th anniversary–is descended from that small group of protesters. Otherwise, like the descendents of those other 250,000, we’d all be United Methodists.

A few reports for the 2017 US National Conference are starting to appear on the United Brethren website.

The Human Sexuality Task Force

The Human Sexuality Task Force has finalized its proposals. Their white paper (report 22), which explains the proposals, has been posted on the Reports page, with links to download the report in PDF format or to view it online. A related PDF document (report 23) includes the entire “Family Standards” chapter of the Discipline, so you can see their proposals in the context of all of our other statements on family-related issues.

If you are attending one of the upcoming Regional Meetings (which start May 15 in Michigan and May 17 in Willshire, Ohio), it is recommended that you download and read the report beforehand. It will be the central topic of the meeting.

Nominating Committee

The Nominating Committee has finalized its report, with the nominations for both bishop and members of the Executive Leadership Team. The Discipline requires that the ballot for bishop be published 60 days prior to National Conference. The ballot for Executive Leadership Team members must be posted 30 days beforehand. From the Reports page, you can read their report online or download a PDF copy of it.

Marion and Frances Burkett

Marion and Frances Burkett

Frances Burkett, 91, passed away on Wednesday evening, May 10, as a result of complications due to a short illness. She and her husband of 73 years, Marion (M. E.) have been residents of Miller’s Merry Manor nursing home in Columbia City, Ind.

Visitation: 9-11 a.m. Saturday, May 13, 2017.
Memorial service: 11 a.m. May 13.
Location: College Park United Brethren church, 1945 College Ave, Huntington, IN 46750.

The Burketts met at Brown Corners UB in Clare, Mich.—her home church, and his first pastorate—and they were married in 1943. In 1951, the Burketts went to Sierra Leone for two three-year terms. They spent the 1960s pastoring in the States and serving with the United Methodist Redbird Mission in Kentucky.

In 1971 they returned to Sierra Leone, where M. E. took Jerry Datema’s place as Field Secretary. After that came pastorates in the Missionary Church, plus three years at the UB Laurel Mission in Kentucky. In 1985, they started a UB church in Pima, Arizona. Five years later, they were back in Ohio pastoring a UB church, and other pastoral roles followed.

It was a life of practically non-stop, tireless ministry. Two of their sons, David and Phil, became ordained United Brethren ministers and also served as United Brethren missionaries in Sierra Leone and Macau respectively.

A luncheon will follow the memorial service. Instead of flowers, donations are suggested toward the Mattru Hospital project in Sierra Leone. Make checks payable to: Global Ministries. You can see more info and give online at ubglobal.org/donate.

Son Phil writes, “Please remember Dad (M.E.) in your prayers as he grieves the loss of his wife of over 73 years.”


Marion E. Burkett
199 West Center Dr
Columbia City, IN 46725-8604

David L. Burkett
2268 E. Mt. Morris Rd.
Mt. Morris, MI 48458

Philip L. Burkett
4393 Koepfgen Rd
Cass City, MI 48726

Todd H. Fetters, Bishop, US National Conference

With National Conference 2017 soon upon us, we will gather to celebrate our 250th Anniversary. Now, that’s an historic milestone as the first denomination born on American soil.

In anticipation of this historic US National Conference, four regional meetings will be held to promote the events of National Conference, review the ballot for bishop and Executive Leadership Team members, and review the proposals for Discipline revision.

Regional Meetings

The regional meetings will be held as follows:

  • Monday, May 15 – Sunfield UB (Sunfield, MI). 9:00 – 11:30 am. Address: 8436 W Grand Ledge Highway, Sunfield, MI 48890
  • Wednesday, May 17. Praise Point (Willshire, OH). 9:00 – 11:30 am. Address: 555 Decatur Rd, Willshire, OH 45898
  • Monday, May 22 – Rhodes Grove Camp & Conference Center (Greencastle, PA). 9:00 – 11:30 am. Address: 7693 Brown’s Mill Road, Chambersburg, PA 17202
  • Tuesday, May 23 – Lancaster UB (Lancaster, OH). 6:30 – 9:00 pm. Address: 1125 Pleasantville Rd, Lancaster, OH 43130

These regional meetings are designed to facilitate questions and answers, specifically about the Discipline revisions proposed by the Human Sexuality Task Force. (ub.org/ncreports). Dr. Luke Fetters, HSTF chair, will be at each meeting to talk about the report, answer questions, and receive feedback. Other members of the HSTF will attend meetings closer to their region.

If you haven’t registered for a regional meeting, you can do so here:

About the Human Sexuality Task Force Report

I want to thank Dr. Luke Fetters and the members of the task force. They have labored for nearly two years on their report. It represents deep biblical and theological thinking, energetic and humble discussion, and collaborative and unified decision-making. In April, the Executive Leadership Team received and reviewed the report, and greenlighted it for National Conference consideration.

You can download the HSTF report here: ub.org/ncreports

About the National Conference Business Session

The business for National Conference will focus exclusively on the proposals from the HSTF report. No other items of Discipline revision will be presented. Our business session will begin Thursday, July 13, with breakfast at 7:30 am. We will call the meeting to order promptly at 9:00 am and conclude at 12:00 pm. Business is limited to these three hours so that our afternoon is free for folks to enjoy tours to historic sites around Lancaster.

I look forward to seeing you at one of our regional meetings. Please pray that the Lord will continue to bless the ministry and movement of the United Brethren in Christ.

Let the Wind Blow! (John 3:8)

glossbrenner-nobg-300The entire Civil War occurred between the General Conferences of 1861 and 1865.

Almost all UB members in Virginia opposed slavery, but were basically cut off from the rest of the denomination. When the war started, some UBs suggested going independent and forming a southern United Brethren church.

However, Bishop Jacob John Glossbrenner (right) decided to stay in Virginia throughout the war, and he was the glue. The Maryland and Virginia churches, part of the same conference, held separate annual conferences for the duration. Glossbrenner was allowed to pass through the battle lines to hold conference for the Maryland churches and then return to Virginia.

The 1865 General Conference met May 11, 1865, in Iowa. By that time, the war had been over for a month. However, on May 10, Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, was finally captured in Georgia. When this news reached the conference, there was much rejoicing and they broke out in the “Doxology.”

Bishop Glossbrenner was there. Some ministers initially treated him coldly, suspicious of his decision to spend the war in Confederate territory. But after hearing Glossbrenner’s story, delegates passed a resolution commending his heroic leadership of the Virginia churches during the war.

The Civil War, which United Brethren people generally viewed as a just war to end a great evil, prompted us to reconsider our 1849 statement which emphasized pacifism. The 1865 General Conference, while still opposing aggressive warfare, added, “We believe it to be entirely consistent with the spirit of Christianity to bear arms when called upon to do so by the properly constituted authorities of our government for its preservation and defense.”

By 1865, Glossbrenner had already served 20 years as bishop. He continued another 20 years. His 40 years as bishop is longer than any other bishop, ever. He died two years after leaving office, possibly of stomach cancer.


This year, 2017, the United Brethren Church celebrates its 250th anniversary. But May 10 is the exact day. On that day in 1767, our founders, Martin Boehm and William Otterbein, met in a barn in Lancaster, Pa. It was Pentecost Sunday.

“Great Meetings” dated back to the 1720s. They were usually independent religious gatherings, not connected to any particular group, and they were typically held at farms over a period of two or three days. Word would go out about an upcoming meeting—time, place, etc. People would pack up enough clothes and food to last a few days, travel however many miles they needed to travel, and bunk in homes, barns, tents, or crude shelters built just for the event. The host would stockpile food and maybe slaughter a few hogs, sheep, or even a cow. And let’s not forget the horses, who needed grain.

Various preachers would show up, gather a crowd, and let loose to everyone in hearing range. Several might be preaching at the same time on different parts of the farm—one in the barn, one under the big oak tree, one from the farmhouse porch. People from rural areas who maybe didn’t have regular access to a minister were able to sit under meaty preaching, and the fellowship was good. Probably the eating, too. Whole communities would find the Holy Spirit descending in power and changing everything.

Isaac Long, along with his brothers John and Benjamin, were among Martin Boehm’s converts among the Mennonites. All three were successful farmers. Isaac often accompanied Boehm to Great Meetings. In 1767, Isaac offered to host a Great Meeting at the barn his family had built 13 years before six miles northeast of Lancaster. How about May 10?

William Otterbein was then pastoring in York, Pa. He traveled the 30 miles to Lancaster. A minister from Virginia was preaching to an overflow crowd in the orchard. But Otterbein decided to go into the barn to hear Martin Boehm preach.

Boehm told about his conversion experience. As he plowed his fields, he knelt at the end of each row to pray, and the word “Lost! Lost!” continually hovered over him. Finally, halfway through a row, he broke. Falling to his knees, Boehm cried out, “Lord save, I am lost!” The words of Luke 19:10 immediately came to him, “I am come to seek and save that which is lost.” Joy poured through him. He ran to the house and told his wife what had happened.

The story clearly paralleled a life-changing experience Otterbein had had 22 years before when pastoring a church right there in Lancaster. He realized, “This man and I believe and have experienced the same things!”

Otterbein couldn’t contain himself. When Boehm finished preaching, Otterbein embraced him and exclaimed, “Wir sind Bruder!” We are brethren!

And thus began a lifelong friendship, and a new movement. A movement that became the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.

On May 9, 1929, General Conference began at the King Street United Brethren church in Chambersburg, Pa. Beginning in 1949, General Conference would always be held in Huntington, Ind. (up through 2005). But before that, they moved around, like we do now for the US National Conference.

The previous year, 1928, King Street got a new pastor, a young fellow named Clyde Meadows (right). He would remain King Street’s pastor for 33 years, until being elected bishop in 1961. In one way or another, a Meadows was represented at General Conference for most of the 1900s.

Clyde’s father, a UB minister, attended the 1917 General Conference as a delegate from Virginia. It was held that year in Kitchener, Ontario — the only time General Conference was held outside of the United States (until 2010).

Clyde attended the next two General Conferences as part of a Huntington College quartet that provided special music — the 1921 conference in Messick, Ind., and 1925 conference in Adrian, Mich. He then was host pastor of the 1929 General Conference.

Meadows loved telling the story of what happened in 1933. Pennsylvania Conference elected him as a delegate to the conference held in Hillsdale, Mich. However, the rules said you had to be a member of your conference for three years, and he fell two months short. “Consequently, they more or less threw me out,” he wrote in his autobiography. “I could attend the sessions, eat with the delegates, and stay in the dormitory, but I couldn’t vote or speak.”

From 1937-1961, Meadows was a legitimate delegate from Pennsylvania Conference. He chaired the 1965 and 1969 General Conferences as bishop, and from 1973-1993 was, again, an elected delegate from Pennsylvania Conference. In those later years, he was always called upon to make the motion to adjourn. He then attended the 1997 General Conference; as Bishop Emeritus, he had advisory status. Clyde Meadows passed away two years later, at age 98.

In 1929, we had 20 conferences, 19 of which sent delegates to King Street for General Conference. That seemed to be a high water mark. Conferences soon began a series of mergers, until in 1981, we were down to 11 conferences. As an example, the Auglaize and Scioto conferences in Ohio merged to form Auglaize-Scioto Conference, and in 1973 they merged with Indiana’s White River conference to form Central Conference.

About 279 students will graduate from Huntington University on May 13. Commencement will begin at 2:30 Saturday afternoon in the Merillat Complex fieldhouse. This year will see the first graduates (32 of them) from the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program, which began in 2014.

Honorary doctorates will be conferred on two persons.

Ms. Kelly Savage (left), who chaired the HU Board of Trustees 2011-2015, will receive a Doctor of Commercial Science degree. As the Chief Human Resources Officer with Amway, she is responsible for the company’s more than 21,000 employees worldwide.

Savage is a member of Banner of Christ UB church (Byron Center, Mich.) and currently serves on the denomination’s Higher Education Leadership Team. She graduated from Huntington College in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting, and in 1985 received a Master’s of Business Administration degree from Colorado State University. She served on the HU Board of Trustees for 14 years.

Steve Platt (right) will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He graduated from Huntington College in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and played four years of varsity basketball. He was Indiana’s all-time leading collegiate scorer (3,700) points, and was the national leading collegiate scorer in 1973 and 1974. In 1994, Platt returned to Huntington College and became the Forester’s head basketball coach. During his 14-year tenure, he compiled 329 wins against 143 losses for a .697 winning percentage, the highest in school history.