The October 15 night CNN Democratic debate was held at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. That was the very first United Brethren college, started back in 1847 and named after founding bishop William Otterbein.

From the start, Otterbein University admitted women and people of color, which was a bit revolutionary for the time. It was also co-educational, with men and women taking the same classes (not a watered-down track for women). Of the first 81 students, 29 were women, and women served on the faculty. So we were quite progressive for the time.

Lewis Davis became president in 1850 and served in that role for 21 years before departing to start the first United Brethren seminary (now United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio). He’s the namesake for Davis Hall at Huntington University.

An event called “UB Connected” will be held for the fourth consecutive year on November 3-4, 2019, at Rhodes Grove Camp in Chambersburg, Pa. It is sponsored by the United Brethren Association.

The event begins at 6:00 PM, Sunday, November 3, with a brief UB Association business meeting. We will be voting in 2020 board members. (If you are a member and will not be able to attend the event, please e-mail Christi, ubassociation@rhodesgrove.com, to request an absentee ballot. Especially important for those more than 2 hours away) At 6:30 PM we will begin our evening service with worship followed by a message from Bishop Todd Fetters. The service will conclude with Holy Communion.

On Monday morning, beginning at 9:00 AM we will have a concert of prayer. We will be praying for 5 topics: Our Global Family, Our Present Pastors and Future Leaders, Rhodes Grove Camp, The Ministry Needs of our Congregations and Our Pastors’ Marriages and Children. The event concludes with a noon meal.

There is no cost to attend sessions. However, there are fees for meals and lodging.

You can register online here: https://ubassociation.wufoo.com/forms/z1q82uri0o49sei/

You’re invited and encouraged to attend the first “Idea to Action” symposium at Huntington University. It is sponsored by both Huntington University and the denomination.

Date: Monday, October 28, 2019
Time: 9:30 am to 2 pm
Subject:
Special Needs Ministry

You can register using this link.

The symposium is free for United Brethren pastors, staff, and members. Huntington University undergraduate and graduate ministry students are also free to attend. Others who wish to join are welcome but will be charged a fee of $125. If attending the live event, an optional lunch is available for a cost of $15.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Dr. Kent Eiler will share his expertise from an academic perspective.
  • Pastor Mike Elkins and Dennis Myers will share how their special needs ministry at New Hope Community Church in Bryan, Ohio, is working to meet the needs of families in their community.
  • Kimi Archer, with Joni and Friends, will share resources that are available to churches and ministries, and give ideas to help support the local church in serving and being the church to families with special needs.

Learn more about the Idea to Action series here.


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 UBCentral.org 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.

Bishop Todd Fetters (left) with the persons participating in the ordination services.

Rev. Chuck McKeown (right) praying for the persons being ordained, including (on the left) Julie and Joshua McKeown.

Daniel and Michelle Friend kneeling for the laying on of hands.

Dan Friend receiving a Bible from Bishop Todd Fetters.

Christopher and Elizabeth Little kneeling for the laying on of hands.

Christopher Little V receiving a Bible from Bishop Todd Fetters.

Joshua and Julie McKeown kneeling for the laying on of hands.

Matthew and Kara McKeown kneeling for the laying on of hands.

Matt McKeown received a Bible from Bishop Todd Fetters, and his father, Chuck, looks on.

Four persons were ordained during the recent US National Conference in Bowling Green, Ohio. The service occurred on Saturday morning, July 20.

Bishop Todd Fetters conducted the four ceremonies, along with Rev. Jim Bolich, director of Ministerial Licensing and Ordination. They were assisted by two ordained elders chosen by the person being ordained.

Christopher Little V is associate pastor of Devonshire UB church in Harrisburg, Pa. This fall he will begin planting what will be called the United House Church Network in Harrisburg. Assisting were Rev. Derek Thrush, senior pastor of Devonshire Church, and Dr. Michael Dittman, National Ministries director for the US National Conference.

Daniel L. Friend is Director of Music at Emmanuel Community Church in Fort Wayne, Ind. He has served at Emmanuel since 2002. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Huntington University. Assisting were Rev. Craig Mickey, a staff minister at Emmanuel, and Rev. Jason Holliday, a former Emmanuel staffperson who is now senior pastor of Living Grace UB church in Fort Wayne.

Matthew T. McKeown is associate pastor of First UB church in Holly Hill, Fla. He has served there since 1998. His brother Joshua McKeown has been senior pastor of Faith UB church in Port Orange, Fla., since August 2017.

Assisting in both ordinations was their father, Rev. Chuck McKeown, who is senior pastor of First UB. Rev. Brent Liechty, senior pastor of Rising Hope UB church (Shippensburg, Pa.) also assisted in Matt’s ordination. Rev. Don Ross, senior pastor of Victory Chapel UB church (Liberty Center, Ohio), assisted in Joshua’s ordination.

Your church should bring a busload or car caravan of people to a service at the upcoming US National Conference. Or to several services.

The evening services, and the closing service on Saturday morning, are open for anyone to attend. You don’t need to have registered for the conference. Come join the nearly 700 UBs who have registered, and let’s fill the place!

The convention is July 17-20. The evening services start at 6:30. Daniel Henderson will speak Wednesday and Thursday nights on prayer, which will be a continuing emphasis for Bishop Todd Fetters; it would be great if you could. Friday night is Missions Night, with David Datema speaking. Bishop Todd Fetters will speak on Saturday morning at 9:00 am, presenting some of his vision for the denomination.

Organize a road trip with some of your fellow parishioners. We’d love to see you there!

The conference will be held at Bowling Green State University in the Bowen student union center.

The 6th Annual Marriage Retreat for United Brethren Pastoral Couples will be held August 12-14, 2019, at Rhodes Grove Camp & Conference Center in Chambersburg, Pa.

Instead of our usual “Marriage Retreat,” this year’s event is more of a “Spiritual Retreat.” Plan to get away for a few days with other pastoral couples, retreat from the daily grind of ministry, and reconnect spiritually.

There is no cost. This three-day, two-night retreat is sponsored in full by the United Brethren National Office, the United Brethren Association for Church Development, and Rhodes Grove Camp.

This retreat is reserved for pastors and spouses serving in United Brethren in Christ churches.

The retreat this year will be guided by Mike Dean, pastor of Living Waters UB church in Winchester, Va.

Register using this PDF form.

A one-day UB History Course will be held June 29 in New Carlisle, Ohio (near Dayton).

Date: June 29, 2019
Time: 8 am to 5 pm
Location: Park Layne UB Church
Address: 1320 Styer Drive, New Carlisle, Ohio
Instructor: Rev. Bob Bruce

You can register here.

The United Brethren History Course is a requirement for ministerial licensing in the United Brethren denomination. However, people who just want to learn more about United Brethren history are welcome to take the course. The course is held periodically in regional settings. For United Brethren ministers, the course qualifies for 12 credit hours.

Laypersons, especially local church leaders (board chairpersons and members, lay delegates, etc.), are encouraged to attend. It’s valuable to have an understanding about United Brethren history.

The cost is:

  • $200, if you are seeking a ministerial license. There is a $50 discount if you pay fully in advance of the class, making your cost just $150.
  • $100 for everyone else.

You will also need copies of three books: “Trials and Triumphs,” and “All for Christ,” volumes 1 and 2.

Complete information can be found here.

Bishop Todd Fetters speaking at the Sunfield meeting.

The meeting at Mt. Pleasant UB church in Chambersburg, Pa.

The meeting at Praise Point UB church in Willshire, Ohio.

Steve Dennie explaining the Discipline revision proposals at the Willshire meeting.

The Sunfield crowd.

Prayer time at Mt. Pleasant UB church in Chambersburg, Pa.

Prayer time at Sunfield.

Worship time at Sunfield.

During the past two weeks, four Regional Meetings have been held as a prelude to the US National Conference this summer. Bishop Todd Fetters used the meetings to inform people about what will happen at National Conference and review the proposals for revising the United Brethren Discipline.

Last week, meetings were held in Chambersburg, Pa. (May 6) and Willshire, Ohio (May 8).

This week, over 60 people attended the May 13 meeting at Sunfield UB church in Sunfield, Mich. Two days later, about 20 people attended an online edition, with participants from the East Coast to California.

The Executive Leadership Team meeting April 29-30.

The Executive Leadership Team met this past Monday and Tuesday, April 29-30, at Huntington University (Huntington, Ind.). Among other things, they reviewed the proposals which will go before the US National Conference during the business session on July 18, 2019.

Proposals
There are just six proposals for revising the Discipline, along with five editorial changes. Bishop Todd Fetters will go over these during the regional meetings, which start this coming Monday (May 6) at Mt. Pleasant UB church in Chambersburg, Pa.

The most significant proposal regards beverage alcohol. In 1849, we began requiring all UB members to totally abstain from drinking alcohol. In 2005, we removed that restriction for laypersons, but kept it for United Brethren ministers. A proposal to remove the restriction for ministers, and only urge abstention rather than require it–same as with laypersons–went before the 2015 US National Conference, but was tabled. The same basic proposal will be considered this year.

Another proposal involves major revisions to the “Connections” chapter, which deals with the cluster system. This chapter was new in 2005, when the US National Conference eliminated the annual conference system and instituted the cluster system. The chapter needs to be updated to reflect how the cluster system functions today.

Two PDF documents can be downloaded on the UB website. One contains all of the Discipline revision proposals. The other summarizes UB history as it relates to our stands regarding alcohol.

Regional Meetings

The National Conference business meeting will be held Thursday, July 18. UB ministers and lay delegates are strongly encouraged to attend a regional meeting. The dates and locations are:

  • Monday, May 6: Mt. Pleasant UB church (Chambersburg, Pa.)
  • Wednesday, May 8: Praise Point UB church (Willshire, Ohio)
  • Monday, May 13: Sunfield UB church (Sunfield, Mich.)
  • Wednesday, May 15: Virtual meeting via Zoom software.

The meeting time for each event is 9:00 – 11:30 am.

At the regional meetings, Bishop Fetters will invite feedback about all of the proposals, and tweaks may be made. A final version of the proposals will be published in June.

Please register for a regional meeting, if you plan to attend.

Executive Leadership Team

This was the last meeting for this version of the Executive Leadership Team. For eight of the 12 members, their term ends this summer. Half of the eight elected members are chosen by the US National Conference every two years. The bishop also appoints four members every two years. The four members whose terms don’t end until 2021 are Dennis Sites, Tyler Bates, Matt McConnell, and Gary Dilley. The UB website shows the current ELT members and when their terms end.

ELT officers (l-r): Bishop Todd Fetters (chairperson), Gary Dilley (vice chairperson), and Tomi Cardin (secretary).