News Briefs
June 2000

Church members lose homes in wildfire

The United Church of Los Alamos, N.M., suffered some smoke damage in the wildfire that has been roaring through the southwest, but 12 member families and friends have lost their homes completely, says the Rev. Jay Dee Conrad, pastor.
      "Almost every home in Los Alamos has had some damage... from smoke damage to major damage," he says, but the outreach has been fantastic. "People are caring for people," says Conrad. "In our own church community, we have set up a liaison with each family that lost their home." The congregation also has established a committee to coordinate needs and gifts, and a "Hand in Hand" program to deal with grief, displacement and loneliness.
      "There is still a sense that we are at the beginning of a very long road," Conrad adds. " The spirit in the community is great. Our church family gathered on various occasions for making connections, hearing stories, reaching out and joining in prayer."
      The United Church of Los Alamos is affiliated with the UCC, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), American Baptist Church, Moravian Church, Presbyterian Church (USA) and Reformed Church in America.

UCC Association funds Eden scholarship

The Kentuckiana Association of the UCC's Indiana-Kentucky Conference has given Eden Theological Seminary $150,000 to establish an ongoing, annual full-tuition scholarship at the school. They challenge other associations and conferences to do the same.
      Eden's Heritage Scholarships cover 75 percent of tuition costs for all full-time M.Div. Students who are UCC or Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) members. When combined with the field education stipend students receive in second- and third- year study, their tuition expenses are reduced to nothing.

Methodists gut restructure proposal

A massive plan to restructure the United Methodist hierarchy was whittled down to a few paragraphs by delegates to the denomination's 2000 General Conference in Cleveland. By a vote of 784-144, the delegates rebuffed a 53-page report and recommendations and basically agreed to maintain the denomination's current structure.
      In other General Conference news, the church stuck to its traditional stance against homosexuality, triggering peaceful protest, defiance and a series of arrests. Delegates also nixed a motion to allow blessing same-gender unions.

UCC board files amicus brief in school voucher case

The United Church Board for Homeland Ministries is adding its muscle to the controversial Cleveland school voucher case.
      The Homeland Board, housed at the UCC's national offices in Cleveland, is opposed to the use of taxpayer monies for vouchers that parents may apply to tuition at private and parochial schools. A federal appeals court had ruled against the plan, but the state and the superintendent of education are appealing. Since the appeal began, the church agency has filed a friend of the court brief in favor of the ruling. Jan Resseger, a public education specialist with the Homeland Board, says vouchers "benefit a tiny minority of children and direct public funds away from already underfunded public schools." Vouchers also are a violation of the separation of church and state, she adds.

International pressure may save Pilgrim church wall

With pressure mounting from international groups, Tjeerd van Rij, the Leiden, Holland, alderman largely responsible for that city's plans for the demolition of an historic Pilgrim church site, has resigned his office. In the wake of the resignation, Jeremy Bangs, director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, has been asked to provide his plans for the preservation of the church ruins to the Leiden Cultural Platform, an umbrella group responsible for the city's museums and historic sites. Bangs and others trying to save the surviving church ruins hope that these developments will cause Leiden officials to save the site. The UCC sent a petition backing efforts to save the wall to Leiden officials in late May.
      For additional information on the ruins, see

UCC women elected to board

Two UCC women have been elected co-chairs of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice's Board of Directors. Sandra Sorenson, associate, communications and resource development for the UCC's Office for Church in Society, and Faith Adams Johnson, minister for family life and human sexuality with the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, join Donna R. Garry, treasurer of the International Council of Jewish Women, in co-chairing the board in The Coalition, founded in 1973, is comprised of more than 40 national groups from 16 denominations and faith traditions, including the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Association, UCC, and the Reform and Conservative movements of Judaism.