July 14, 2022
L-r: Jody Bowser, Christopher Little V, Mark Vincenti, Joni Michaud, Kim Fish, Kent Eilers.
In April 2022, the Executive Leadership Team appointed a six-person “Task Force on Human Reproduction.” They will study a wide range of issues and propose Discipline revisions to be considered by the next US National Conference, which will meet July 11-14, 2023, in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The Task Force’s work will focus on three statements in the “Family Standards” section of the Discipline, none of which have been revised since 1985.
- The “Abortion” statement was adopted in 1969, and was revised in 1981 and 1985.
- The “Family Planning” statement was adopted in 1969 under the heading “Responsible Family Planning.” In 1985, one sentence was added and the name was shortened to “Family Planning.”
- The “Genetic Engineering” statement was adopted in 1985 and has never been revised. This statement is probably most in need of updating, as a slew of new reproductive technologies have arisen during the past 30 years.
Bishop Todd Fetters felt that these statements desperately needed to be updated. We need principles which are consistent with Scripture, and which can be applied to new reproductive technologies which may arise in the future.
Bishop Fetters emphasizes that, as was the case in 2017, there is no appetite among the general UB constituency for “liberalizing” our stands. It’s just a matter of addressing current realities and giving sound biblical guidance to UB people.
This task force is modeled somewhat on the Task Force on Human Sexuality, whose work was approved by the 2017 US National Conference. Two members of this group, Joni Michaud and Mark Vincenti, also served on the Task Force on Human Sexuality.
- Joni Michaud, the chairperson, is a member of Pleasant Valley United Brethren Church in Lake Odessa, Mich. She holds degrees from Huntington University and the Notre Dame Law School (2008), was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan in 2008, and is now a practicing attorney with Voices for Hope PLC in Grand Rapids, Mich., with a focus on criminal law, family law, and immigration law. She was a member of the Task Force on Human Sexuality.
- Rev. Mark Vincenti has been a United Brethren minister since 2000, serving on staff at King Street UB church (Chambersburg, Pa.), College Park UB church (Huntington, Ind.), and now Emmanuel Community Church (Fort Wayne, Ind.). In addition to his work at Emmanuel, in late 2021 Mark assumed the role of Campus Chaplain at his alma mater, Huntington University.
- Dr. Jody Bowser has been pastor of King Street UB church (Chambersburg, Pa.) since 2015. Prior to that, he served in ministry at non-UB churches in California, Washington, and Ohio going back to 1989. He holds an undergraduate degree from Judson College (1985), a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary (1989), and a Doctor of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (2003).
- Rev. Christopher Little V, the son of former UB minister Chris Little, served 2015-2020 as Pastor of Outreach at Mount Pleasant UB church (Chambersburg, Pa.) and is now planting a church in Harrisburg, Pa. He holds degrees in Christian Ministry and Music from Geneva College (2014), and in 2018 completed a masters in church planting from Wesleyan Seminary in Indiana.
- Kim Fish grew up in a United Brethren minister’s home, the daughter of Dr. Kent and Carol Maxwell. She holds a psychology degree from Huntington University and a masters in social work from Indiana-Purdue a degree in Psychology and went on to earn a masters in social work from IUPUI, a state university in Indiana. She has worked over 25 years in the social service field, and now works in private practice with Clarity Counseling in Fort Wayne, Ind. She is married to Rev. Steve Fish, a United Brethren ordained minister who currently works an associate director of UB Global.
- Dr. Kent Eilers has been a professor of theology at Huntington University since 2009. He grew up in a Christian home in the Evangelical Covenant tradition, and went on to serve on staff with several churches in Michigan and Colorado. He holds an undergraduate degree from Calvin College, a master of divinity from Denver Seminary, and a PhD in systematic theology from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
The Task Force held an initial meeting via Zoom on March 30, and then met in person on June 17 in Huntington, Ind. They will present a preliminary report to the October 2022 Executive Leadership Team, and will submit its final report to the Bishop’s Office by March 1, 2023.
In May 2023, regional meetings will be held to prepare people for the upcoming US National Conference. A representative of the Task Force will attend those meetings to present the proposals and invite feedback.
In June 2023, a final version of all proposals will be published for delegates and the entire UB constituency. They will then be acted upon during the July 12 business session of the US National Conference.