INDIANAPOLIS (Mennonite Mission Network) — B. Elaine Bryant preaches in an inner-city congregation, leads peace education programs in Chicago schools and works to keep young men from falling victim to the violence that can be all too prevalent on the streets. For her efforts, she received the George and Pearl Kauffman Award from Mennonite Mission Network Nov. 15 during the Urban Leaders Network meetings in Indianapolis.
Bryant pastors Englewood Mennonite Church on Chicago’s south side. She serves on the Illinois Mennonite Conference leadership team and is a former member of the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board. Bryant also Chicago Opportunities for Peace in Action, the Englewood Renovation Project and on other neighborhood projects.
“Elaine is constantly advocating for peace and justice in the community while just as constantly working evangelistically as a pastor,” said Susan Sommer, Illinois conference administrator. “She represents Englewood to others and actively works for Christian evangelistic antiviolence within the neighborhood.”
Stanley Green, executive director of Mennonite Mission Network, spoke of Bryant’s wisdom and courage in the face of racism and oppression, her counsel to those in need and her compassion for those most in need. He also lauded her commitment to the city.
In accepting the award, Bryant gave honor to God.
“I see this as a manifestation of God’s grace because immediately I thought of several other persons who seemed to have made much more of a contribution to urban ministry,” she said.
John Powell, Mission Network’s director of Missional Church Development, said Bryant’s humility is evidence of her merit.
George and Pearl Kauffman were church planters with a deep concern for and commitment to urban ministry and leadership preparation. Following their death, their daughter and son-in-law, Jeanie and Lyn Hershey, set up a fund to help people involved in urban ministry find respite.
Powell said the Hersheys wanted to make sure pastors “could get away before they fade away.”
According to Powell, the Hersheys realized that many ministers were too busy to take advantage of the opportunity for rest, so they replaced the fund with the new Kauffman award, which honors an urban leader and includes a cash gift to be used for respite or leadership development. James Wenger, pastor of North Baltimore Mennonite Church, received the 2004 award.
Honorees must be actively engaged in a United States urban setting for a minimum of five years, working to combine evangelism with peace and justice. Nominations are being accepted for the 2006 award.