Todd Fetters (right), Bishop
Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA

The fires of racial tension in our country have been stoked once again. After an initial sigh, which could be translated, “Oh no. Lord help us,” the scriptural words that rose within my soul were, “Mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).

My heart truly breaks for our African American brothers and sisters in the United Brethren in Christ. I mourn with you that race relations in the United States is not where any of us had hoped and would have thought it would be 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his powerful “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

Earlier this week, I spoke with a personal friend and several United Brethren ministers who are African American. They graciously afforded me the privilege of listening to their thoughts and feelings. Despite a spike in frustration and a resurgence of fear and anxiety due to historic and systemic racism, each of them expressed an enduring and persevering love for the Lord and their fellow man. These men and women know that the real power to heal our pronounced relational divides lies in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, we grieved together, but not as men and women without hope. Our hope is placed in God who created us without favoritism or preference, and who loves us unconditionally. Our shared hope for America and the nations firmly resides in the Holy Spirit who can free our minds from the chains of ignorance, bigotry, and hatred, compelling us to act with understanding, grace, and brotherly love. Certainly, I must say that it seems to me that God has our attention. I know He has mine.

With 250 years of history under our belt, I’m grateful that the United Brethren church has typically landed on the correct side of issues of race and the vulnerable. When most American denominations were compromising to allow room for slavery, we remained abolitionist. As the Civil War ended and other denominations were trying to figure out how to make room for former slaves, we pushed ahead to advocate for full citizenship. As we saw Native Americans and Chinese immigrants suffering abuse, we spoke out against it.

We emphasized this in 2001 when the United Brethren in Christ adopted eight Core Values. One of them, “We Demonstrate Social Concern,” says:

”We must not only seek the salvation of our fellow human beings, but show genuine concern for their total well-being. We recognize our responsibility to victims of poverty, prejudice, injustice, and other forms of human suffering.

“The poor will always be among us, and we cannot ignore their plight; the Bible clearly states our obligation to those living in poverty. But there are many others, whether they are poor or not, whose situation requires our aid. They include persons in prison, immigrants, widows, orphans, the unborn, the handicapped, the homeless, the elderly, and victims of abuse. We also respond corporately to large-scale tragedies, giving sacrificially to help victims of natural disasters or social strife.

“Demonstrating social concern also involves raising our voice against injustice and prejudice. We stand against discrimination, slavery, and injustice, insisting that equal rights be granted to everyone. We advocate fairness in the workplace, in the courts, and in all other settings, and seek the end of any discrimination based upon racial, national, economic, or social differences.”

This Core Value states some actions to take: raise our voice, stand against, advocate, recognize our responsibility, seek the end, insist, don’t ignore, help, respond corporately. As United Brethren, inviting anyone to “come with us…we will treat you well” (Numbers 10:29), we can apply these in various ways to society’s ongoing struggle with racial injustice.

Some of us thought 20/20 would be a nice metaphor for vision in 2020. Perhaps there is more for us to see. Perhaps 20/20 is a Divine prescription to see racism more clearly and do something to eradicate it.

While United Brethren can be thankful for our history, we do not take this moment to pat each other or ourselves on the back. Instead, we mark this moment by taking up the same mantle of our spiritual fore-brothers and fore-sisters, which is to follow the example of Christ and love our neighbor, regardless of color, as ourselves.

Amidst this tragic chaos, I have wondered and I’ve prayed, “What does the Lord ask of me? What does the Lord ask of the United Brethren church?” Micah 6:8 provides an answer from God himself:

“He [the Lord] has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Let’s act justly. As individuals and as churches, we need to find our voice to stand and speak against discrimination and injustice. Our history shows that UBs know how to do this.

Let’s love mercy. Our Lord is patient with all of us, not always giving us what we rightly deserve. Just as we love receiving mercy, we need to love showing mercy.

Let’s walk humbly with our God. He created every man and woman of every nation, tribe, and tongue. None better than the other. All very precious to Him who sent His Son to die so that anyone might have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I realize that when it comes to issues of race, UB people are at different points. Some have spent decades working on racial awareness and understanding. Others have just recently been jolted awake to the problems. Wherever you are on that road, continue down it. And as you journey, remember to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

My prayer is, “Lord, you have our attention. Show us where to go from here.”

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:
ub.org/2017-regional-meetings/

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)

Todd Fetters (right), Bishop, US National Conference

The 2017 US National Conference will meet next summer, July 12-15, in Lancaster, Pa., where our denomination began 250 years ago. We have reserved the afternoons for special activities surrounding our 250th anniversary. For that reason, we want to limit the business session to Thursday morning, 8 am to noon. Center stage will be important proposals from the Task Force on Human Sexuality (which are still being finalized).

We invite United Brethren members and churches to submit proposals they would like the National Conference to consider in 2017. Proposals normally involve revisions to the United Brethren Discipline, but may include other issues. However, in light of the anniversary, we will limit what gets passed along. The bishop, in collaboration with the Executive Leadership Team, will decide the urgency of the proposals; some can no doubt wait until 2019. But we do want to open the door to your ideas.

The Executive Leadership Team set the following schedule regarding proposals for the 2017 US National Conference.

  • March 1, 2017. Deadline for submitting proposals to the Bishop’s Office.
  • April 25, 2017. The Executive Leadership Team reviews the proposals.
  • May 1, 2017. A draft of the approved proposals is posted on the national conference website.
  • May 2017. The draft proposals are discussed in regional meetings.
  • June 10, 2017. A final version of all proposals is posted on the conference website.

In submitting proposals for revising the Discipline, here are a few guidelines:

  1. For revisions to existing content: submit the exact wording you would like to see used (rather than just a general idea), along with the paragraph number. Indicate exactly where it should be placed in the Discipline (chapter and paragraph number).
  2. Include a brief statement of the rationale for making the revision. A sentence or two is usually sufficient.

As a reference, here is a proposal from a previous conference.

Chapter 14, Churches in Crisis
Intent: Place closing a church in the hands of the local board, instead of the local conference.

Current wording:
3. Closing the Church
The final decision will be made by the local conference. When that decision is made, the following actions will occur:

New wording:
3. Closing the Church
The final decision will be made by the local board. When that decision is made, the following actions will occur:

For non-Discipline proposals, include a description of what you want to see done (perhaps in the form of a motion, if appropriate), along with rationale.

Send all proposals to my administrative assistant, Cathy Reich:

Email: cathy@ub.org
Surface mail: 302 Lake Street, Huntington, IN 46750.

The current Discipline can be found at ub.org/discipline. You can read it online or download a PDF copy. If you attend one of the regional meetings, and certainly if you attend National Conference, I recommend that you print out a copy for yourself.

I look forward to seeing you next summer in Lancaster.

Trust God More!

Mike Dittman leading a training session for UB cluster leaders.

Mike Dittman leading a training session for UB cluster leaders.

Todd Fetters, Interim Bishop

I love the United Brethren in Christ family. Always have. Always will. Since my arrival at the National Office in 2013, I’ve imagined and prayed that the wind of the Holy Spirit would carry us into a new season of fruitfulness where our churches become stronger and we are successful at starting new ones.

Dr. Mike Dittman

Dr. Mike Dittman

With this vision in mind, I’m excited to announce that Dr. Mike Dittman will join the UB National office team as Director of National Ministries, effective April 1, 2016.

Mike brings ministry experience and qualifications that will help us build strong churches and start new ones that are transforming lives, connecting God’s people to one another, and on mission together in our communities. He has been part of planting and developing churches in traditional and non-traditional ways for over 30 years. For 17 years, Mike helped to build the graduate school at Philadelphia Biblical University where he focused on pastoral ministry, discipleship counseling, organizational leadership, and Christian education. He and his wife, Pam, have four children. Since 1992, the Dittmans have been providing encouragement, training, and coaching to Christian leaders through their ministry, Haven for the Heart.

As you can see, Mike brings a wealth of experience to the role of National Ministries director. But beyond that, he brings a heart for God that I desire for all of our churches and the pastors who serve them.

I’ve known Mike since 2007. He was an integral part of my own personal, spiritual, and ministry renewal at Devonshire Church in Harrisburg, Pa. His wise guidance set me on a path to rekindle my love for Jesus, restore my relationships with folks in my congregation, and regain a vision for ministry that was a blessing during my last five years as pastor of Devonshire. I’m happy to say that I remain on that same path today in my role as interim bishop.

Mike brings a broader evangelical perspective to the United Brethren church from his many years of ministry experience. But he also knows us well, having spent the past three years working as my primary equipper for our cluster leaders. Together, Mike and I want to see our churches experience greater fruitfulness. Pastors and their leadership teams are key. To that end, we have focused on the heart of a leader and cultivating a life of prayer. It is on this foundation that Mike and I direct our attention to building discipling communities.

I’m thrilled about Mike’s partnership, and he’s excited to serve the United Brethren in Christ. He and I continue to be amazed at how the intersecting of our lives bears evidence of the continual, firm hand of the Lord. We covet your prayers, as we team together to ask and imagine what Jesus wants to do in strengthening UB churches and starting new ones.