Baptism is a significant step of obedience in the life of a believer and on Sunday, October 29, Mount Pleasant Church in Chambersburg, PA celebrated with three individuals who took that step. As part of the celebration, Pastor Jim Bolich invited members of the congregation to come forward and dip their hands in the water in remembrance of their own baptisms.

The entirety of the service is available online. The baptisms begin approximately eight minutes into the service.

Bishop Todd Fetters (center) chaired the US Conference. He is flanked by recording secretary Roxton Spear (left) and assistant chairperson Jim Bolich.

The US National Conference met on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, in Fort Wayne, Ind.

The 2023 US National Conference held its business meeting on July 12, with about 250 voting members who represented 104 United Brethren churches in the United States. The delegates adopted seven new statements proposed by the Human Reproduction Task Force (HRTF), which had been at work for over a year.

All seven statements were adopted as presented. Six of the statements passed with no discussion. The “Abortion” statement took more time, with four proposed amendments and a number of people speaking. However, each amendment in turn was voted down by a clear voice vote. There seemed to be no appetite for changing what the task force had written.

The United Brethren Discipline has now been updated with these seven new statements. Two of the statements, “Abortion” and “Family Planning,” are revisions of existing statements. The other five are entirely new…and significant.

On the Heels of the 2017 Task Force

The 2017 US National Conference passed six proposals from the Task Force on Human Sexuality, which was established in 2015 by the Executive Leadership Team. Bishop Todd Fetters then began considering the right time to do something similar on the issue of human reproduction. Our statements on Abortion, Family Planning, and Genetic Engineering hadn’t been revised since the 1980s. Bishop Fetters decided, “It was time for us to revisit these statements in light of the enormous scientific advancements that have occurred since the 1980s, and to find our voice for a new generation.”

In March 2022, the ELT appointed six persons to a Task Force on Human Reproduction. Bishop Fetters emphasized, as he had done with the 2017 task force, that there was no desire or appetite to liberalize our positions. In outlining the scope of the HRTF’s work, he directed them to three statements in the Discipline–Abortion, Family Planning, and Genetic Engineering. They took it from there.

L-r: Jody Bowser, Christopher Little V, Mark Vincenti, Joni Michaud, Kim Fish, Kent Eilers.

The Task Force Members

The Task Force members brought expertise from a variety of perspectives—legal, family, adoption, therapeutic services, the pastorate, personal experience, Bible/theology, UB missions, higher education, etc.

  • Joni Michaud, chairperson, is a lawyer and a member of the Pleasant Valley UB church in Lake Odessa, Mich. She has also served on the ELT since 2019.
  • Dr. Kent Eilers is a theology professor at Huntington University.
  • Dr. Jody Bowser was senior pastor of King Street UB church in Chambersburg, Pa.; at the end of April 2023, he accepted a pastorate on the East Coast with another denomination.
  • Rev. Mark Vincenti, an ordained UB minister from Emmanuel UB church in Fort Wayne, Ind., is the campus pastor at Huntington University.
  • Kim Fish is a licensed UB minister, licensed social worker, adoptive parent, and individual/family therapist with a private practice in Fort Wayne, Ind. She grew up in the UB church as the daughter of Dr. Kent Maxwell, graduated from Huntington University, and is married to Rev. Steve Fish, a UB pastor and associate director of UB Global.
  • Rev. Christopher Little V is a UB church planter in Harrisburg, Pa. He and his wife are adoptive parents.

Joni Michaud and Mark Vincenti had also served on the Task Force on Human Sexuality.

Taking it to the Church

The HRTF submitted their proposals to the Executive Leadership Team in April 2023. The proposals were embedded in a longer “white paper” which helped explain and give context to the proposals. Chairperson Joni Michaud then presented the proposals to the National Conference preview meetings held in Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and online.

The HRTF report stated, “While issues like abortion remain hotly contested in the wider culture, the general United Brethren position and scriptural basis for it are long-settled and well-established. In looking at the subjects of family planning, abortion, and genetic engineering, the primary focus of the task force was to propose revised language for the Discipline that would be both consistent with scripture and would remain relevant as science and technology continue to develop over time. This was particularly significant for the section on genetic engineering, which identifies procedures that are no longer in use and does not account for many developments in the field that have occurred during the last 35 years.”

These seven statements, along with about 20 other revisions to the Discipline (mostly minor) have now been incorporated into the Discipline. It can be downloaded here.

Following are the seven proposals as they appear in the Discipline.

¶133 The Beginning of Life

1. In human procreation, God invites us to participate in his good work of creation in a unique and significant way. Human life is God’s gift, and it is sacred at every stage from its end to its earliest beginning.

2. The Church bears living testimony to the sacredness of life by:

a. Promoting the flourishing of every person’s life through works of justice, mercy, and evangelism.

b. Standing with and for those whose lives are vulnerable. Never is a human life more vulnerable than during its beginning.

3. God values each human being in their full humanity at every stage of their life. Therefore, we are committed to promote human flourishing at every life stage and to protect the lives of all human persons through their entire life span beginning at the moment of conception. Scripture portrays this in at least four ways.

a. Every human is made a bodied person in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

b. God provides for each person throughout the course of their life, regardless of accomplishments or faith, sustaining life by sending rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45).

c. God loves each and every human person, shown most clearly in God’s saving mission through the Incarnation of God the Son: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16).

Joni Michaud presenting the task force proposals to the National Conference delegates.

d. God’s salvation entails the restoration and renewal of the whole person, shown through the full, authentic humanity of Jesus the Messiah (Hebrews 2:5- 18).

4. God’s people bear testimony to the sacredness of life by caring for pregnant women as well as the unborn. No other human relation shares the characteristics of a pregnant woman and the human life she carries: one life biologically dependent upon another human life, and neither life more intrinsically valuable than the other.

5. The physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of a pregnant woman are significant in the best of circumstances. These needs are even more acute in circumstances when pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or when continuing a pregnancy places a woman’s life at risk. During such unimaginably difficult times, the Church envisions and strives to embody the love and tenderness of God for the weak and the vulnerable just as it does when promoting and protecting the lives of the unborn.

¶134 Family Planning

1. Children are a gift from the Lord. We recognize the family as an environment of unique nurture and support in which all members together pursue their calling in Christ Jesus.

2. Children may be received into the family in a variety of ways, including natural conception, assisted reproduction, adoption, and foster care. These aspects of reproduction and growing families are some of the deepest and most meaningful aspects of our lives. In this light, they can also be the most painful, complex, and difficult.

3. Believers may for valid reasons determine not to have children, or to place a child for adoption. For those who choose to have children, if there is a desire to time pregnancies or to space children a certain number of years apart, that is a decision parents are free to make, and through prayer and discernment they may wisely plan for the addition of any children God blesses them with. (Proverbs 16:3; James 1:5)

¶135 Adoption and Foster Care

1. As believers we have the privilege of being adopted into the family of God.

2. In scripture we see the heart of God for the fatherless and are told to fight and care for the orphan (Psalm 146:9). The church is encouraged to do this, in parenting or support roles. Valuable avenues to family growth may include embryo, private, international and domestic adoption, and foster care.

3. Often there is some aspect of loss and tragedy included in situations of adoption and foster care, and the responsibility to provide care can be challenging and difficult. The church is encouraged to be equipped, and offer emotional and financial support as they are able, in providing for the needs of these children and parents (Isaiah 1:17). In doing so, Jesus’ value of children is lived out, and is considered the same as caring for Jesus himself (Matthew 18:1-6).

¶136 Infertility

1. We recognize the pain and grief that accompanies infertility and empathize with couples affected by it.

2. Couples affected by infertility may request the elders gather together to lay hands on them to pray for healing (James 5:14).

3. Infertile couples are advised to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit (James 1:5) and supportive church community in moving forward with faith in considering methods to welcome children into their family, including assisted reproductive technology, adoption, and foster care.

¶137 Assisted Reproduction

1. Assisted reproduction includes the use of medical procedures or technology to aid human procreation.

2. The use of assisted reproductive technology may take a variety of forms, which will necessarily change as new procedures develop. Therefore, rather than addressing the nature of specific procedures, the church advises its members to prayerfully consider the following guidelines when deciding whether to make use of assisted reproductive technology:

a. Its use should be motivated by love.

b. Its use should bring glory to God.

c. Its use should protect and preserve life from the moment of conception.

d. Its use should promote justice toward and prevent the exploitation of each person involved in the process.

e. Its use should protect the integrity of the family.

¶138 Abortion

1. We believe that human life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death. Consequently, abortion cannot be recognized morally and scripturally as a means of birth control.

2. We are aware that any consideration of abortion occurs in a place of crisis and significant consequence, and that forgiveness is available in Christ.

3. The church recognizes that abortion may be medically necessary in rare and tragic circumstances, taking into account the life of the mother and baby.

4. The church needs to demonstrate sensitivity and care toward those who have had abortions in the past in order to facilitate an atmosphere of grace and healing.

¶139 Human Reproduction and the Responsibility of the Church

1. Scripture is clear that God’s church is responsible to bring Jesus’ love, light, hope, and healing to people who are hurting, struggling, and in need while also maintaining deeply biblical convictions about human life and reproduction. These two convictions are not in conflict. They are to be simultaneously embraced and held in creative tension in order for the Church to be a faithful witness to the world.

2. We understand that a deep range of emotions pertain to reproductive issues. The Church’s commitment is to:

a. Be a generous support in bearing the burdens of those in trial or crisis (Gal. 6:2; Rom 12:15).

b. Show extravagant welcome (Romans 12:13; 15:7), companionship (Romans 12:10), and sacrifice (Hebrews 13:16) to those in need.

3. While maintaining our compassion and support for people during difficult and often confusing reproductive crises, we must always maintain our commitment to the authority of Scripture (Isaiah 40:8, 2 Timothy 3:16). At times this may necessitate embracing convictions that contrast with prevailing cultural and social norms and rejecting certain reproductive technologies or procedures.

4. It is our high view of God’s gift of life (Psalm 139:13-16), the sacredness of the human body (Genesis 1:26-27), and the beauty of God’s design of human reproduction (Genesis 1:28, 2:23-24) that compels us to maintain and celebrate our biblical convictions about human reproduction as we care for and value the least of these.

Nancy N’Gele
Huntington, Ind.

“100 Years Loved” was the sign on the wall at Rev. Marion E. Burkett’s birthday party at Sugar Grove Church of the Nazarene in the village of Tunker, Ind. on Good Friday afternoon, April 15.

Earlier in the day, Rev. Burkett had conducted a Good Friday service at his residence, the Columbia City Miller’s Merry Manor. He shared that he had become a Christian believer 85 years before. His sons Rev. David Burkett, wife Julie, and daughter Molly from Franklin, Pa., and Rev. Phil Burkett and wife Darlene from Cass city, Mich., led in singing “The Old Rugged Cross” and “One Day,” accompanied by Phil on the accordion. Phil also sang an a capella solo of “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”

Two members of the nursing home staff assisted Rev. Burkett in serving communion to approximately 40 residents and guests. Rev. Amos Rawley, pastor of New Hope United Brethren church in Huntington, gave the benediction.

At 2:00 p.m., the party began in Tunker, hosted by M. E. Burkett’s son Dr. Mark and Sandy Burkett. Delicious hot food and desserts were served guests from the church kitchen.

Special music was provided by sons David, Mark, and Phil, along with other family members. The family group sang two favorites of the guest of honor, “Life is Like a Mountain Railroad,” and “Trust and Obey,” with Darlene Burkett at the piano.

Approximately 75 members of the family and friends had come to celebrate the 100th birthday.

On Monday, the staff of Miller’s Merry Manor surprised him with another party with a huge cake and the release of 100 balloons.

Rev. Burkett grew up in a United Brethren church in Monroe, Mich. He was ordained as a United Brethren minister in 1946, and in the years ahead served in ministry in many ways. He pastored churches in a half-dozen states, served as a missionary in Sierra Leone for two terms in the 1950s and another term in 1971, served in Kentucky at the UB Laurel Mission and the United Methodist Redbird Mission, planted a UB church in Pima, Arizona…and so much more. It was fitting that he would spend his 100th birthday serving communion.

Rev. Burkett and his wife of 73 years, Frances, raised four sons. David and Phil became ordained United Brethren ministers and missionaries, and Mark became a medical doctor. The fourth son, Stephen, died of cancer in 1990.

Former Bishop Ray Seilhamer has published his autobiography. “My Journey” is available on Amazon–$9.95 in paperback, $4.99 in epub format.

“My Journey” covers his life from growing up on the farm in Pennsylvania, through Huntington College, serving as president of Evangelical Seminary in Pennsylvania, his eight years at bishop, six years leading the graduate school at Huntington College, and pastoring at nine United Brethren churches, two of which he started (Emmanuel and Devonshire). It’s been a very full life. He and Ruth continue pastoring the UB church in Zanesville, Ind.

L-r: Bishop Todd Fetters, Rev. Todd Frederick, Rev. Cyle Young.

The Pathway congregation.

The new “Jackson Campus” sign of Heart O’ the Lakes.

Heart O’ the Lakes UB church now has two locations in Michigan–Brooklyn and Jackson. As of December 6, Pathway UB church in Jackson is now officially Heart O’ the Lakes – Jackson.

Pathway, known as Gethsemane until 2006, was founded in 1970 by Rev. Herb Cherry. In 1972, Gethsemane helped support Rev. Milan Maybee in planting a new UB church in Brooklyn. Now those two congregations have come together under the same banner.

Rev. Cyle Young has been lead pastor of Heart O’ the Lakes since 2016. He will continue in that role with both congregations. Rev. Todd Frederick, who was assigned as senior pastor of Pathway in 2017, will now join Cody Morehead as associate pastors of Heart O’ the Lakes—one church with two locations.

The “UB Year in Review,” published every January since 2012, is now in the works. You are invited to submit news about your church from 2021–events, ministries, mission trips, or anything else of interest. If you have any relevant photos, those would be great. Of particular interest: information about how your church has adjusted in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, or any continuing effects of the pandemic on your church.

Send to, or use the form on this page.

Greg Helman (second from right) with the umpiring crew.

Rev. Greg Helman, pastor of Blue Rock UB church (Waynesboro, Pa.), helped umpire the Pennsylvania State Champion softball game at Penn State University in June. He and his crew from Franklin County, Pa., were chose to umpire the AAA final at Beard Field. He was the second base umpire.

He writes: “One close play at second involved a runner returning to the base after the left fielder ran down a fly ball. She threw it to the shortstop, who hesitated and then threw it to second. My call was safe as the runner’s fingers touched the base as she slid head first before the ball was caught. This call was appealed and we gathered together to determine the situation. Ultimately, the call was safe. The fans for the defense weren’t happy. However, I later watched the play on my tv and the announcer stated, ‘Blue got it right!'”

Greg’s wife, Marty, and daughter Greta surprised him by attending the game, which was televised on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

First UB of New Castle, Pa., erected a steeple atop the church in honor of Rev. David Bell, who pastored the church for 28 years. Bell died in September 2018 of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

The church held a dedication service for the steeple in April. Ann Bell, Dave’s widow, attended along with 33 other family members. Rev. Marc Stephenson, the current pastor, presented to her a collection of memories assembled by members of the congregation.

Read the article about the steeple in the New Castle News.

Grace UB Church in Sherkston, Ontario.

The sanctuary of Grace UB church.

Brian Magnus, bishop of the United Brethren Church in Canada, reports that the Grace UB church in Sherkston, Ontario, burned to the ground during the night.

He said the the pastor’s family, living in the parsonage next to the church, noticed smoke coming from the church building around 3:30 in the morning. They immediately called 911. Fire trucks came from Sherkston, Port Colborne, Fort Erie, and even Niagara Falls.

Bishop Magnus said, “The front half (sanctuary, lobby and basement) are down to the basement foundation walls. The back half is also burned, and smoke- and water-filled, and will need to be torn down to the concrete slab.”

The parsonage has some smoke damage. Fortunately, nobody was hurt in the fire.

Bishop Magnus writes, “Please be praying for this congregation. I guess the news spread and some of the church members and neighbors stood around watching the last couple of hours. They’re in shock and need God’s comfort.”

Grace UB has consistently been one of the largest contributors to United Brethren missions. Over the years, a number of UB missionaries have come from Grace, including Ruth Benner, Shirley Fretz, Kathy Jones, Audrey Federline, Olive Weaver, and Eula Eby, all of whom served in Sierra Leone.

L-r: Coach Kevin Marshall, Calvary member Jeff Frazier, Athletic Director Gabe Rodriguez, and Pastor Ted Doolittle.

Ted Doolittle, senior pastor, Calvary Community Church

One of the “Be the Church” projects of Calvary Community Church (Saginaw, Mich.) was collecting water for the Bridgeport Public Schools. While most students are doing virtual school online in our school district, we learned that there are a total of 445 in-person students in the school district.

Drinking fountains are closed due to Covid-19, so our Leadership Team challenged the church to bring in water bottles so that schools could make every Wednesday in October “Water Wednesday” courtesy of Calvary. We set a goal of 1,780 bottles, but we surpassed that goal in two weeks by receiving 2,148! The schools were delighted when we delivered them.

While we have not been doing indoor worship yet, the church is not closed! The motto is: “While we can’t GO to church, we will continue to BE the church!” In addition to the water project, the church has continued to distribute more than ninety boxes of food each month to needy families in our community through our bi-monthly Outreach Ministry. More projects are planned.