Faith UB church in Port Orange, Fla., is boarded up in preparation for the hurricane.

Faith UB church in Port Orange, Fla., is all boarded up as they await the arrival of Hurricane Dorian, which is expected to hit the Port Orange/Daytona area on Tuesday. First UB church of Holly Hill, located just up the road, will be making similar preparations. Pray for Pastor Josh McKeown and the Faith UB congregation, and for his father, Pastor Chuck McKeown, and the congregation at First UB.

Evan Towne

Evan T. Towne, 94, a former United Brethren missionary in Sierra Leone, passed away August 26, 2019, at his residence in Van Buren, Ind. He was the son of Rev. Jerry and Nella Town, who pastored UB churches in California, Ontario, and North Ohio Conference (which spanned southern Michigan, northern Indiana, and northwest Ohio).

Visitation :: 5-8 pm on Friday, August 30, 2019.
Funeral: 11:00 am on Saturday, August 31, 2019. Visitation one hour beforehand.
Visitation and funeral location: Myers Funeral Home, Huntington Chapel, 2901 Guilford Street, Huntington, Ind. 46750.

Evan graduated from high school in Huntington, Ind., in 1946. After a tour of service as a sergeant with the US Army Corp, he attended Huntington University and went on to earn a masters in education from Ball State University.

He and his family served two terms in Sierra Leone. Their first term, 1953-1956, was spent at the boys home in Ggangbaia. Their first child, Linda Gail, was born there. Back in the States, another daughter was born, Leora Komeh. During their second term, 1964-1967, Evan started an Industrial Arts department at Centennial High School in Mattru.

For 27 years, Evan taught junior high industrial arts in Huntington County. He retired in 1989. He was a member of College Park UB church in Huntington, where he taught Sunday school and served in leadership.

He is survived by his wife, Mary, and daughters Linda Schweikhardt and Komeh Zilka.

Memorial donations should be made out to United Brethren Missions in care of Myers Funeral Home, 2901 Guilford Street, Huntington, IN 46750.

Complete obituary information is located here.

L-r: Greg Voight, Joni Michaud, Victor Mojica, Dale Perry.

The 2019-2021 Executive Leadership Team is now complete. Four members were elected by this summer’s US National Conference, to join four others with continuing terms. That left four persons to be appointed for the next two years. Bishop Todd Fetters has now chosen those persons, and they were unanimously approved by the ELT.

The appointees include one person from each region—two laypersons, two clergy. Three of the appointees are serving on the ELT for the first time. The fourth, Greg Voight, has been an ELT member since 2013. Here is information about each of them.

Greg Voight has been senior pastor of Lancaster UB church in Lancaster, Ohio, since 2006. Before that, he served two years as an intern at what is now Shoreline UB church in Oak Harbor, Ohio. He is a 2006 graduate of Findlay University (Findlay, Ohio), and was ordained in 2011. Greg and his wife, Debbie, were married in 1995 and have three children.

Joni Michaud is a member of Pleasant Valley UB church in Lake Odessa, Mich. She currently serves there as administrative board chair and lay leader, and teaches junior church and Sunday school. Joni has been a lay delegate from her church to the last four meetings of the US National Conference, and served on the Human Sexuality Task Force 2015-2017. Joni works as an attorney in Grand Rapids, Mich., practicing immigration law, family law, and criminal defense. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Huntington University in 2005 and her juris doctor from Notre Dame Law School in 2008.

Victor Mojica and his wife, Margarita, have been members of Clearview UB church (Goshen, Ind.) since 1994. He has been serving as a part-time pastor at Clearview since 1998. Currently, Clearview is made up of an English-speaking congregation pastored by Jim Gillette, and a Spanish-speaking congregation pastored by Victor. He also works in his family business.

Dale Perry served 25 years as an employee of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, from which he recently retired as Manager of the Department’s Land Acquisition Program for highway and bridge construction projects. Dale has since joined consulting firm Arrow Land Solutions, LLC, as Director of Training and Development. He and his wife, Shirley, have been members of Mount Pleasant UB church (Chambersburg, Pa.) for 27 years. Dale is currently chairperson of the Governance Board (since 2016), teaches an adult Sunday school class, and serves on the church Personnel Relations Commission and Worship Media Team.

You can view the complete ELT here. There are three persons from each region, for a total of 12 members. Six are clergy, six are laypersons. The bishop is the 13th member, and he chairs the Executive Leadership Team, which meets twice a year.

Gregory M. Sweetland, 67, of Huntington, Ind., went home to be with Jesus on Thursday, July 11, 2019. Greg’s life goal was that others would know Jesus Christ and have a personal relationship with him. Greg accomplished this by leading his wife, children, and five grandchildren in growing relationships with Jesus Christ. In addition, he developed and taught curriculum for children’s Sunday school.

Greg also volunteered and served in various capacities at different churches, and he reached out to the international community with the Gospel. Greg knew that the only way to be sure of Heaven was to believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one can come to God the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6).

A memorial service will be held at 10 am on Saturday, August 17, 2019, at College Park United Brethren Church, 1936 College Ave., Huntington, Indiana.

Memorial donations can be made out to the “By the Book” Bible Trailer or the TESOL Program at Huntington University. Both can be sent in care of Myers Funeral Home, 2901 Guilford Street, Huntington, IN 46750.

Flooding in Sierra Leone.

Major floods have been impacting much of Sierra Leone in recent days. As of August 5, five persons were reported dead, 41 communities affected, and in Freetown alone, 459 homes flooded and 5318 people displaced. In Sulima, where the UB Sierra Leone Conference has been working among the Muslim majority Vai people, Rev. Tucker’s home was flooded, forcing him to seek shelter elsewhere. Please be lifting them up in prayer.

Pastor César Obregón

We were shocked to learn of the murder of Pastor César Obregón, one of the United Brethren pastors in Guatemala. Witnesses claim a local sorcerer/witch-doctor brutally attacked him with a machete. He died soon after from his wounds.

Pastor Obregón had served as a church planter since our earliest days in Guatemala, which go back to 2000. He had planted numerous churches. The most recent was located in San Antonio, Suchitepequez, a three-hour drive from the capital of Guatemala City. There, the congregation met on a property they had purchased, under a bamboo-framed structure covered with a heavy mill black plastic. People were hearing the Gospel and were being saved.

Pastor Obregón left behind a wife, children, grandchildren, and a very new congregation.

Jeff Bleijerveld, executive director of UB Global, writes, “Pray for our Guatemalan brothers and sisters as they mourn his loss and seek to reconcile what took place in a country that is overwhelmingly Christian. Indeed, darkness often rages against the church where its light shines the brightest. However, the victory is ours because the battle has already been won, and our dear brother César has gone on to receive his reward. Pray that even this tragic event might be transformed for God’s glory, and that many would come to know Christ as Lord and Savior.”

Rev. Armando Lopez (right), national leader of Nicaragua Conference, provided the following update on his country’s ongoing national crisis.

The economic situation has deteriorated rapidly, with immediate consequences for our churches, which are struggling to support themselves. As an example, in one church with an average number of attendees, only 20 Cordobas ($0.59) was collected, which is very rare. I tell you this because [I am] very concerned about the situation and the crisis that we have been experiencing over the last year. We still do not know how it will end.

The closure of many companies and the decline in exports has forced the dismissal of many people, including many church members. There is also been an increase in electricity and water rates, and people and churches have to pay more for these services. In addition, new tax reform was passed that forces companies and citizens to pay more taxes to cover the federal budget.

We had been using much of our financial resources to legalize church properties that were never officially registered. We managed to legalize three, but the problem with legalizing them is that doing so exposed old debts to be collected for garbage collection, property improvements, and property taxes. We did not have the money needed to pay all these debts, so we are paying in installments for two of the churches. This has been a huge challenge for the conference that is not currently generating income.

We also have six pastors who are sick with Dengue Fever. These are pastors for small rural churches and have not been able to receive treatment. I’m worried for them as they cannot afford medicines. Without further ado, I am thanking you in advance for anything you can do for this conference. Bishop Armando Jose Lopez – UBIC Nicaragua.

The 2019 US National Conference met July 17-20 at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. About 700 persons attended. The theme “Let’s Pray!” was developed through messages by Daniel Henderson and various workshops. In addition, special displays, printed materials, and a prayer room guided people in praying for United Brethren churches, ministers, missionaries, and ministries around the world.

Business Meeting
The business meeting on Thursday morning, July 18, began at 8:30 and concluded at 1:00 pm.

The delegates voted on seven proposals for revising the United Brethren Discipline. Most were minor or editorial, nothing substantive. Five passed by a voice vote without any discussion. Another passed with one amendment and no discussion.

Then there was Proposal 2. This one had been percolating for several years. It passed by a vote of 183-126, but only after a lengthy (and commendably civil) discussion.

When it comes to drinking alcohol, the United Brethren standard has been, and continues to be, abstention. From 1849 until 2005, all United Brethren members were prohibited from consuming alcohol, period. Total abstention was required.

The stand was changed in 2005 for laypersons. The new wording read, “We urge all of our members to avoid using alcoholic beverages.” The key word was “urge.” We would continue desiring and promoting abstention, but wouldn’t require it.

Except for licensed United Brethren ministers. For them, the total abstention requirement remained, for both alcohol and tobacco. While laypersons were “urged” to not smoke or drink, ministers were prohibited from doing either. That prohibition came in the chapter on “The Ministry”:

“Ministers are not permitted to use tobacco, beverage alcohol, and illicit drugs, or to engage in any immoral conduct, and their marriage relationships must be in harmony with the teachings of Scripture as defined in the Discipline.”

In 2015, a proposal came to remove that sentence. However, it hit the floor at the end of the day, and other issues had consumed the alotted time, so the proposal was tabled…which in effect killed it. But the same basic proposal returned in 2019.

The discussion lasted an hour, with 14 people speaking against removing the prohibition, 12 speaking in favor of removing it, and another six speaking in general to the proposal. Everyone who wanted to speak got a chance (with a three-minute time limit).

Bishop Todd Fetters then called for a ballot vote. The proposal passed by a significant margin. Of the 309 persons who voted, 59% voted to change the stand on alcohol and tobacco as it applied to ministers. Ministers would now be held to the same requirements as all other members, as outlined in ¶143.

On July 25, Bishop Fetters sent a letter to all UB licensed ministers explaining the results. Concerning the use of alcohol and tobacco, he wrote:

“Simply put, both behaviors are permitted, but not endorsed. Members are given freedom to choose to use alcohol and tobacco, but our desire is that members choose to abstain. The strength of the statements is in the fact that members are urged to avoid (alcohol) and urged to abstain (tobacco). Furthermore, our leaders are urged to teach about the hazards of both alcohol and tobacco, while pointing to the Holy Spirit as a Deliverer for those who are controlled by the substances.

“I commend you to navigate your freedom in Christ through the counsel of the Scriptures, the indwelling guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the encouraging accountability of the church, which includes your ministry peers.”

L-r: Bishop Todd Fetters, assistant chairperson Gary Dilley, and recording secretary Rocky Spear.

Cluster Chapter
The only other Discipline change worth mentioning regards the chapter “Connections,” which is now titled “Clusters.” The cluster system was adopted in 2005, and had since evolved significantly away from how it was described in the Discipline. In particular, the original vision involved a highly decentralized approach, but that never really took hold. Instead, the clusters became centralized under the Office of the Bishop.

We needed to align the Discipline with actual practice. So, the existing chapter was replaced with a greatly shortened chapter which included five points about clusters, four points about cluster leaders, and a paragraph about associations. You can read it here.

Election of ELT Members
The Executive Leadership Team meets twice a year to handle business between sessions of the US National Conference. It consists of 12 persons–three from each region, half being clergy and half laypersons.

Every two years, the US National Conference elects four members to four-year terms, and then the bishop appoints another four persons to two-year terms. They join the four members elected by the previous National Conference.

The four persons elected this year were:

  • West District: Tomi Cardin, a layperson from Anchor UB church (Fort Wayne, Ind.).
  • North District: Mark Wilson, senior pastor of Fowlerville UB church (Fowlerville, Mich.).
  • Central District: Andy Sikora, senior pastor of Renew Communities (Berea, Ohio).
  • East District: Janis Creason, a layperson from Devonshire UB church (Harrisburg, Pa.).

Interestingly, these were the same persons Bishop Todd Fetters had appointed to the 2015-2017 and 2017-2019 ELTs. They will now serve four-year terms, instead of just two-year terms.

At this point, Bishop Fetters is still working on determining the four persons to appoint to the 2019-2021 ELT.

Four Ordinations
Four persons were ordained during the closing service on Saturday morning:

  • Daniel Friend, Director of Music at Emmanuel Community Church (Fort Wayne, Ind.).
  • Christopher Little V, associate pastor of Devonshire UB church (Harrisburg, Pa.).
  • Joshua McKeown, senior pastor of Faith UB church (Port Orange, Fla.).
  • Matthew McKeown, associate pastor of First UB church (Holly Hill, Fla.).

An article on provides more information about these men and a number of photos.

2019-2021 UB Discipline
The Discipline has been updated with the various changes made by the National Conference. You can view it online and download a PDF copy.

Bishop Todd Fetters speaking on Saturday morning to close the 2019 US National Conference.