Andy Sikora (left), associate director of Church Planting, introduces the Sams family during the July 14 service which concluded the US National Conference.

The Nate Sams family.

Over the past two years, 2021-2023, the Lord has directed the United Brethren Church toward starting churches in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Both plants have taken root and are making an impact in their communities, which are very different.

Through our partnership with Stadia, National Ministries director Mike Dittman and Andy Sikora, associate director of Church Planting, linked up with Nate Sams to start Known Church in Surprise, Ariz. (not far from the Huntington University campus in Peoria). Bishop Todd Fetters and Andy flew out to Arizona to meet with Nate in January 2022.

Bishop Fetters recalls, “Nate took us around the area, and it was neat to see the Peoria/Surprise region through his eyes and heart. Nate and his team met every Sunday in March at an elementary school in Surprise. Then, on April 3, 2022, Known Church held its public launch at the school. They had 65 people for that first service, and are now seeing about 50 people each Sunday.”

In March 2023, Bishop Fetters visited Nate Sams and attended the weekend service at Known Church. He also attended chapel at the Huntington University campus in Peoria, where Nate serves as campus pastor.

Nate Sams and his family attended the 2023 National Conference. He said the church is currently in transition. The school where they had been meeting lacks air-conditioning, which is not something you want to be without during summers in Arizona (today, July 18, Phoenix hit 110+ degrees for the 19th straight day!). So they are looking for a new place, and waiting for God to provide.

In Pennsylvania, 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Dan Reed is planting Harvest Mill Church in the town of Brookville, population 4000. Dan had nearly 30 people in a core group. While they currently meet in an old mill, the Lord has opened the door for Harvest Mill to meet in the local high school. They have a core leadership team of about 25, and are seeing 40-50 people attend on Sunday. Dan had been a long-term substitute teacher in Brookville, but is now focusing on the church plant.

Bishop Fetters says, “Our team has an ‘all of the above’ approach to church planting.”

In addition to the two more traditional church plants, we have three “simple church” (or micro-church) networks underway.

  • Christopher Little V is leading United House Network in Harrisburg, Pa.
  • Mike Dittman is leading Journey Communities Network in Commerce, Mich.
  • Rick Tawney is leading Renew Communities-Columbus in Ohio. There, First UB church has expanded its vision of its building to become “The Hilltop Hub.” Rick will provide leadership to a network of ministries that operate out of that building, including two churches. He was stationed as the pastor of First UB upon the retirement of Rev. Al Carter.

Bishop Todd Fetters (right) leads a panel of church planters. From left: Rick Tawney, Nate Sams, Christopher Little V, Dan Reed.

During the National Conference, Bishop Fetters led a workshop which included a panel of church planters–Nate Sams, Dan Reed, Rick Tawney, and Christopher Little V.

Says Bishop Fetters, “Our first-ever Simple Church Summit, with 28 participants, was held at the Hilltop Hub during 2022. These creative expressions of the Church are unique in their approach and reflect the UBIC’s enduring commitments to the Gospel, Unity, and Mission.”

A commissioning service was held for the Sams family, with Andy Sikora leading in prayer.

The seven persons ordained on July 14, 2023 (l-r): Brad North, Jennifer Smith, Jerald Jones, Rick Tawney, Sam Ward, Aaron deNeui, Eric Griffon.

Bishop Todd Fetters began the service with the same words which have been said to hundreds of ministers over the years.

On July 14, six men and one woman were ordained during the closing service of the 2023 US National Conference. This is always a highlight of National Conference. It’s inspiring to see men and women ordained as United Brethren ministers–“elders,” we call them.

Ordination is the culmination of years of education, examination, and faithful ministry experience. Some persons choose to be ordained in their local church, among the people who know them best. Others wait to be ordained at National Conference–six in 2011, four in 2013, six in 2015, nine in 2017 (our 250th anniversary conference), four in 2019, and one in 2021 (our “post-Covid” conference).

As bishop, Todd Fetters conducted this year’s ordinations, as he has done since 2017. Candidates select two persons, usually other ordained UB ministers, who have had a meaningful role in their life. These two persons join the bishop in the “laying on of hands.” Scripture is read, prayer is offered, and timeless words are spoken–the same words heard by hundreds of men and women throughout our history.

As the candidate (and spouse, if attending) kneel, the bishop and others lay hands on the person’s head, and the bishop says: “Take authority to execute the office of an elder in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The candidate then stands and is handed a Bible by the bishop, who says, “Take authority to preach the Word of God and to administer the ordinances in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.”

The seven persons ordained on July 14 were:

  • Brad North, senior pastor of South Scipio UB church (Harlan, Ind.). Brad was executive director of Camp Living Waters (Luther, Mich.) 2013-2018 before being assigned to South Scipio.
  • Jerald Jones, senior pastor since 2018 of McCallum UB church (Delton, Mich.). He is a graduate of Grace Bible College.
  • Jennifer Smith, Women’s Pastor since 2016 at Emmanuel Community Church (Fort Wayne, Ind.). She holds an Elementary Education degree from Houghton University, and taught for three years at a missionary school in Senegal.
  • Aaron deNeui, senior pastor since 2018 of Philomath UB church (Philomath, Oregon). He is a 1982 graduate of Moody Bible Institute.
  • Sam Ward, Worship Pastor at Emmanuel Community Church (Fort Wayne, Ind.). Sam, a 1997 Huntington University graduate, holds a Master of Worship Studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. He has served at Emmanuel since 2000.
  • Rick Tawney, church planter and pastor of First UB church (Columbus, Ohio). He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Akron (1989), a Master of Divinity from Trinity International (1994), and a master’s in Counseling from Philadelphia Biblical University (2003). He started Renew of Columbus in 2019, and in 2022 also became pastor of First UB.
  • Eric Griffon, Worship Pastor since 2017 at Fowlerville UB church (Fowlerville, Mich.). He is a 2003 graduate of Wheaton College (Kinesiology/Education), and in 2010 received the Master of Public Administration from the University of Michigan.


The ordination of Aaron deNeui.

The ordination of Aaron deNeui.

The ordination of Eric Griffon, with his wife, Christine.

The ordination of Eric Griffon, with his wife, Christine.

The ordination of Eric Griffon, with his wife, Christine.

The ordination of Brad North, with his wife, Janet.

The ordination of Brad North, with his wife, Janet.

The ordination of Jerald Jones, with his wife, Kala.

The ordination of Jerald Jones, with his wife, Kala.

The ordination of Jennifer Smith, with her husband, Michael.

The ordination of Jennifer Smith, with her husband, Michael.

The ordination of Jennifer Smith.

The ordination of Rick Tawney, with his wife, Sheila.

The ordination of Rick Tawney, with his wife, Sheila.

The ordination of Sam Ward, with his wife, Sara.

The ordination of Sam Ward, with his wife, Sara.

Rick and Sheila Tawney, along with two of their children, with National Ministries director Mike Dittman and his wife, Pam (right).

Sam Ward and Jennifer Smith.

Jennifer Smith with her husband, Michael, and the two Emmanuel staffers she chose to join her: Craig Mickey and Gary Dilley.

Jerald Jones and his crew from McCallum UB church in Delton, Mich.

Jerald and Kala Jones with the two ministers who stood with Jerald: Darrel Bosworth, pastor of Sunfield UB church (Sunfield, Mich.), and David Dakin, pastor of Homefront UB church (Grandville, Mich.).

Eric and Christine Griffon (left) with National Ministries director Mike Dittman and his wife, Pam.

Eric Griffon and his crew.

Sam Ward and Jennifer Smith both serve on staff at Emmanuel Community Church in Fort Wayne, Ind. Here they are joined by their spouses and the four elders who stood with them. L-r: Dan Friend, Jason Holliday, Craig Mickey, Sara and Sam Ward, Michael and Jennifer Smith, Gary Dilley.

Brad and Janet North and their crew.

L-r: Rocky Spear (recording secretary), Bishop Todd Fetters (chairperson), and Jim Bolich (assistant chairperson).

The US National Conference meets every two years, and is the highest governing body for United Brethren churches in the United States. One day is always devoted to business. This year, that day was Wednesday, July 12, 2023.

There were 255 voting members–140 clergy, 114 laypersons. The voting members represented 104 different United Brethren churches in the United States. In addition, there were 10 clergy with advisory status.

The delegates enjoyed breakfast together, and by 8:30 were seated and ready to get started. The business session began with a time of worship led by Nathan Hann and his team, and a recitation of the United Brethren Confession of Faith.

Dalton Jenkins giving the report of the Nominating Committee.

Executive Leadership Team
The first order of business was electing members of the Executive Leadership Team. Rev. Dalton Jenkins presented the report of the Nominating Committee and the eight persons on the ballot for the ELT.

The ELT meets twice a year to handle business between sessions of the National Conference. There are 12 members–the bishop, six laypersons, and six clergy. Each National Conference elects two clergy and two laypersons to four-year terms. They join the four members who are in the middle of their four-year terms, and together, they appoint another four persons to two-year terms. It all comes out to three persons from each region (East, Central, North, and West), with an even split between laity and clergy.

Those elected this year to four-year terms were:

  • Central District, clergy: Tim Sherman, senior pastor of Bethel UB church (Elmore, Ohio).
  • North District, clergy: Josh Good, senior pastor of Hillsdale UB church (Hillsdale, Mich.).
  • East District, laity: Maria Alonso-Tomlinson (International UB church, Allentown, Pa.).
  • West District, laity: Michelle Harris (Anchor Community Church, Fort Wayne, Ind.).

Newly-elected members of the Executive Leadership Team. L-r: Tim Sherman, Josh Good, Maria Alonso-Tomlinson, Michelle Harris.

Human Reproduction Task Force
Next came the report of the Human Reproduction Task Force, which was appointed in 2022. The chairperson was Joni Michaud, who also served on the 2017 Task Force on Human Sexuality. Joni is a lifelong UB from Lake Odessa, Mich., a Huntington University graduate, and a practicing lawyer.

Joni Michaud

Joni presented seven statements which the HRTF was proposing to include in the United Brethren Discipline. All seven were adopted as presented. Six of the statements raised 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.

So, we now have new statements on:
• The Beginning of Life
• Family Planning
• Adoption and Foster Care
• Infertility
• Assisted Reproduction
• Abortion
• Human Reproduction and the Responsibility of the Church

You can read the seven HRTF proposals here.

Other Discipline Revision Proposals
In addition, the delegates considered 22 other proposed revisions to the Discipline. Most were minor or editorial–little more than housecleaning, bringing the Discipline into line with actual practice, or correcting inaccuracies.

The delegates moved through them quickly, passing 21 of the revisions without discussion. They deleted proposal 34-4c, which would have revised the liturgy format used for receiving new members into the church. But that was the only change.

You can read those proposals here.

Bishop Todd Fetters giving his report, with the directors seated behind him.

Bishop Todd Fetters with Steve Dennie

The Bishop and directors gave reports–UB Global, Higher Education, Communications, National Ministries, Finance, and Ministerial Licensing & Ordination. Steve Dennie went last, giving his final report as Director of Communications; he will retire at the end of August after 45 years at the UB National Office. Bishop Fetters used the occasion to make some remarks about Steve and presented a couple gifts–two caps bearing the UB logo, and a hoodie with “Dennie 45” on the back.

Huntington University and Evangelical Seminary also made presentations.

Brian Biedenbach (left) interviewing Walter Kim.

Winsome and Wise
In the afternoon, incoming Communications director Brian Biedenbach did a conversational interview with Dr. Walter Kim, the conference’s keynote speaker.

Dr. Kim, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, addressed the NAE’s “winsome and wise” approach to public engagement, among other things. It was quite illuminating. As of 2023, the United Brethren Church has been a denominational member of NAE for 70 years.

Overall, things moved along faster than expected, and the meeting adjourned around 3:00 in the afternoon, an hour earlier than scheduled. Nobody minded that.


Bishop Todd Fetters spoke during the concluding service on Friday morning, July 14.

Nathan Hann and a team mostly from King Street UB church (Chambersburg, Pa.) led in worship throughout the week.

Over 500 people attended the 2023 US National Conference, held July 11-14 in Fort Wayne, Ind. The conference concluded on Friday morning, July 14, with a thrilling and moving service.

Once again, everyone experienced a superb time of worship led by Nathan Hann and his team from King Street UB church in Chambersburg, Pa.

Bishop Todd Fetters gave a stirring message from Philippians 2:1-18. He focused on three commands–LOVE (each other and the church), LIVE like Jesus, and LIGHT the world.

Andy Sikora prays for Nate Sams and his family, church planters in Surprise, Ariz.

There was a commissioning service for the Nate Sams family, who are 18 months into planting a new UB church in Surprise, Ariz.

Frank Yang, executive director of UB Global, prays for Chloe Makley.

The UB Global staff led a commissioning service for Chloe Makley, who served as an intern in Thailand during 2022, and in late 2023 will return to Thailand for a one-year term.

Bishop Todd Fetters led the ordination service for seven persons.

Bishop Todd Fetters ordained seven persons as elders in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. This is always a highlight of National Conference. Those persons were:

  • Brad North, senior pastor of South Scipio UB church (Harlan, Ind.).
  • Jerald Jones, senior pastor of McCallum UB church (Delton, Mich.).
  • Jennifer Smith, Women’s Pastor at Emmanuel Community Church (Fort Wayne, Ind.).
  • Aaron deNeui, senior pastor of Philomath UB church (Philomath, Oregon).
  • Sam Ward, Worship Pastor at Emmanuel Community Church (Fort Wayne, Ind.).
  • Rick Tawney, church planter and pastor of First UB church (Columbus, Ohio).
  • Eric Griffon, Worship Pastor at Fowlerville UB church (Fowlerville, Mich.).

Bishop Fetters closed the service with some personal remarks, including a big thanks to the awesome productions team, and sent people on their way. To Love, to Live Like Jesus, and to Light the World.

And then it was over.

Rev. Dan and Jane Kopp

Rev. Dan Kopp, a UB minister since 1980, passed away July 7, 2023, on his 65th birthday. Dan had battled stage 4 gallbladder cancer for the past year.

Dan grew up in the United Brethren church, the son of Rev. Clarence A. Kopp, Jr., who served as bishop 1981-1993. Dan graduated from Huntington University in 1980 with degrees in Psychology and Christian Education, and in 1982 received the Master of Christian Ministries from the HU graduate school. He was ordained that year.

Most of Dan’s career involved pastoring two churches that he and his wife, Jane, started: First Love UB in Reynoldsburg, Ohio (1984-1998), and NorthPointe UB in Lewis Center, Ohio (1999-2017).

Funeral arrangements are not yet available.

The 2023 US National Conference is only a few days away. It will begin July 11 at the Grand Wayne Center in downtown Fort Wayne, Ind. Currently, about 530 people are registered.

Livestream of Keynote Services
The four main services are open to anyone to attend. You don’t need to be registered for the conference. Just come and enjoy the services.

Those four main services will also be livestreamed, so you can participate from afar. Click on this link.

Those four services are:

  • July 11: Opening service at 6:30 pm. Dr. Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, is the speaker.
  • July 12: Evening service at 6:30 pm. Dr. Kim will speak again.
  • July 13: Evening service at 6:30 pm. Frank Yang and Steve Fish, from UB Global, will speak.
  • July 14: Closing service at 9:30 am. Bishop Todd Fetters will speak. The service will include seven ordinations and a commissioning service.

Open the church to people to come watch on the sanctuary screen. Maybe share a meal together beforehand. Or invite fellow parishioners to your home to watch a service together. Though not attending in person, you can still participate.

Business Session on July 12
The morning and afternoon of the second day–Wednesday, July 12–are devoted to business. The delegates will consider nearly 30 different proposals, seven of them from the Human Reproduction Task Force. All have now been posted on the Reports page on the UB website.

Take a look at the reports. You’ll learn a lot about what’s been happening in the United Brethren world during the past two years.

Marilyn Waters

Marilyn Waters passed away May 26, 2023. A funeral service was held on June 16 in Harlan, Ind.

In 1996, Marilyn joined the staff of the UB National Office to manage the denominational bookstore. She has diligently handled all curriculum orders from United Brethren churches, shipping out thousands of pieces of Sunday school literature and other materials every quarter. She retired from that position in May 2011, after having served for 15 years. Many UBs across the denomination would have interacted with Marilyn.

Huntington University has an opening for Associate Campus Pastor. The associate campus pastor is responsible for fostering the spiritual formation of students. Under the direction and leadership of the campus pastor, the associate campus pastor will oversee day-to-day ministry programs and outreach experiences including worship, student discipleship, prayer initiatives, chapel programming and small groups.


  • Must have a strong personal Christian commitment and faith in Jesus Christ and a desire to serve others.
  • Growing Christian with a track record of discipleship and accountability relationships.
  • Experience developing and leading women’s ministries.
  • A ministry/theological graduate degree or its equivalent.
  • Evangelical in theological orientation, in general accord with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ’s Confession of Faith.
  • Licensed or ordained UB minister preferred. If not licensed/ordained through the UB denomination, willing to consider transfer license/ordination to the UBIC.
  • A minimum of three to five years of successful fulltime pastoral leadership in a university ministry or church setting.
  • A deeply held sense of calling to ministry with college-age students.
  • Gifted in spiritual counseling, preaching, creative worship, discipleship, and small group ministries.
  • Must be committed to the mission of Huntington University as a comprehensive Christian college dedicated to educating men and women to impact our world for Christ.
  • Understanding of and commitment to the goals and character of Huntington University.
  • Faithful attendance to a Christ-centered, Bible-believing church in the evangelical tradition. (Church of the United Brethren in Christ preferred but not required.)
  • Positive interpersonal skills and a team player.
  • Excellent communications skills.
  • Demonstrated administrative and supervisory skills.
  • Commitment to continuous process improvement.

How to Respond if Interested
This is a fulltime, 10-month exempt position. To apply, visit this link.

Have you reserved your room yet for the US National Conference? The special conference rate, as well as our reserved block of rooms, ends on June 19. After that date, you’ll pay a higher price and be subject to room availability. So don’t delay!

This applies to three hotels–the Hilton, the Courtyard, and the Hampton. There is more room available in the Hampton, which is located right across the street from the Grand Wayne Center. The Courtyard is also across the street, while the Hilton is attached to the Grand Wayne Center, where meetings will be held.

Go here for information about the hotels.

Gerald Gallaway, a United Brethren minister for 36 years, passed away May 25, 2023.

Visitation: 4-7 p.m. June 23, 2023
Funeral: 1:00 p.m. Saturday, June 24, 2023.
Visitation and Funeral Location: McCallum United Brethren Church, 5505 Otis Lake Rd, Delton, MI 49046

Gallaway grew up in Leslie, Mich., and went on to attend Huntington University, graduating from both the college and seminary. He and Saundra (known as Sonnie) met at Huntington and were married in 1961. Four years later, they embarked on a career pastoring six different churches or circuits in Michigan.

  • Casco UB/Chicora UB, 1965-1969.
  • A circuit in South Haven, Mich., 1969-1976.
  • Charlotte UB (now Crossroads) 1976-1979.
  • Maple Hill UB (now Homefront) in Grandville 1979-1986.
  • West Windsor UB in Dimondale 1987-2002.
  • McCallum UB in Delton, where he retired.

His after-retirement years were spent singing and playing his guitar at various nursing homes in Hastings, Delton, Galesburg, and Plainwell, as well as in church.

According to the published obituary, “The family is requesting that all who attend both the visitation and service wear bright Hawaiian colors. In his years after retirement, Gerald found joy in the Hawaiian colors and also the music.”

The full online obituary can be read here.