About Us

Fiers-Brown Society

The Christian Church Foundation invites you to make a difference forever in your church through a planned gift and to join the host of Disciples who have expressed their faith and commitment in this way.

The Fiers-Brown Society was created by the Board of Directors of the Christian Church Foundation in April 1995. All members and friends of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are invited to join the Society. Individuals are eligible for membership if they have done at least one of the following:

  • Completed a planned gift with the Christian Church Foundation (e.g. gift annuity, charitable remainder trust)
  • Established a permanent fund with the Christian Church Foundation for the benefit of a congregation, region, general ministry, institution, or specific ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Signed trust documents, wills, life insurance, or other agreements that will create a permanent fund with the Christian Church Foundation at some time in the future.

If you have taken one or more of these actions, please notify us to register your membership in the Fiers-Brown Society.


Dale and Betty Fiers

A. Dale and Betty Fiers

Dr. A. Dale Fiers was the first General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). His vision and leadership were instrumental in the formation of the Christian Church Foundation. Betty gave significant leadership to the church, especially as president of the International Christian Women’s Fellowship 1966-1970, and was an active participant in the struggle for civil rights. Through their support and commitment, they have helped the Christian Church Foundation become a vital servant of the whole church.




DeWitt and Othel Brown

DeWitt and Othel Brown

DeWitt and Othel owned and operated a newspaper, book, and magazine distribution company in Charlotte, North Carolina. Othel was the sister of A. Dale Fiers. At her death in 1987, Othel made a bequest of $8 million to the Christian Church Foundation. This bequest was, at that time, the largest ever given by a single donor to a Protestant denomination. The gift represented 92% of their entire estate and created a permanent fund that will support the ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) forever through the Disciples Mission Fund.

A. Dale and Betty Fiers and DeWitt and Othel Fiers Brown have demonstrated through their leadership, their lifestyles, and their personal stewardship a deep and abiding commitment to Jesus Christ and to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It is most appropriate that the Society bears their names.

Dr. A. Dale & Betty Fiers & DeWitt & Othel Brown

By: Rev. Dr. James P. Johnson

President Emeritus Christian Church Foundation

Presented July 21, 2015 at the Christian Church Foundation’s General Assembly Banquet

Jim Johnson, CCF President Emeritus


When Foundation President Gary Kidwell asked me to talk about Dale and Betty Fiers and DeWitt and Othel Brown because many had no idea how or why the name of Fiers-Brown Society was chosen, I told him I would be glad to do it but we would need at least 4 to 6 hours. He said you have 10 minutes. So here we go.


Depending on your age and when you became related to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the names of Dale and Betty Fiers may be quite familiar to you or totally unfamiliar. Dale was a graduate of Bethany College and Yale Divinity School. You may remember Dale Fiers as a pastor in Ohio, most notably Euclid Avenue Christian Church in Cleveland. Or as president of the United Christian Missionary Society. Or as the executive secretary of the International Convention. Or as the chief visionary and architect of Restructure. Or as our first General Minister and President.

Duane Cummins noted in his Fiers’ biography that many have called Dale Fiers the most significant figure in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of the twentieth century. It may be fair to say that no one since Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone has had more influence on the shape and mission of the Christian Church.

Betty Fiers was an absolute delight to know, a person of deep faith and a commitment to service. In Indianapolis, she was president of the United Fund League and a YMCA board member. She served a four-year term as president of the International Christian Women’s Fellowship.

In 1960, the governor of Indiana appointed her to the state’s civil rights commission on which she served for 8 years. The commitment of both Dale and Betty Fiers to civil rights has been well documented. In the heat and hatred of the 1960s, a cross was burned on their lawn one night when Dale was out of town. Betty could talk about that with amazing casualness. Alan, their son, described Betty as a woman of “steely toughness.”

Dr. Fiers retired as General Minister and President in 1973. They returned to their residence in West Palm Beach, Florida, and later moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and were very active members of Riverside Avenue Christian Church. Dale did six congregational interim ministries and served as chair of the National City Christian Church Foundation board during his retirement. Betty died in 1998 at age 89 and Dale in 2003 at age 96. They were married nearly 67 years.

No one was more responsible in the creation and support of the Christian Church Foundation. They took great pride in the growth of the Foundation as they watched it move from an idea and concept, to a struggling little organization with one full-time staff and no money, to a successful, growing, and maturing unit of the church.


So who were DeWitt and Othel Brown? DeWitt Brown grew up in North Carolina but moved to Florida in his early 20s and became the circulation manager for the Miami Herald newspaper in Palm Beach County. He hired high school students to deliver the newspapers.
One of these high school students invited DeWitt to his home for dinner one night. At that dinner DeWitt met a young woman who, a couple of years later, would become his wife. The high school paper boy would later say, “Cupid must have been the unseen guest, because arrows were flying back and forth across the table, and they pierced a couple of hearts.”

Did you make any connection? The high school paper boy was Dale Fiers. The young woman was his older sister, Othel.

DeWitt and Othel Brown moved back to Charlotte and became partners in Dixie News with DeWitt’s father and eventually, the sole owners. The Dixie News was a distributorship for magazines and newspapers. The company survived the depression and became one of the largest magazine distributorships in the South. By one report, for the 30 years prior to Othel’s death, the great majority of nonsubscription periodicals bought within 75 miles of Charlotte were distributed by Dixie News.

DeWitt died in 1980. Othel in 1987. For years they gave away to a variety of charities $70,000 to $100,000 each year. Their estate gift to the Christian Church Foundation totaled 8 and a half million dollars and it was designated for Disciples Mission Fund to support the general units, regions, higher education institutions, and the other participants in the church’s mission funding system. At the time it was the largest gift ever reported to a Protestant denomination in the United States. This gift represented 92% of their estate.

Othel frequently carried a black vinyl briefcase, 12 by 18 inches. At her death when they examined its contents, they found Dixie News business records, a copy of her church’s budget (First Christian), a copy of their Charitable Trust, a copy of their son’s obituary who had been killed in a bicycle accident 47 years earlier, and a yellowed newspaper clipping that read: “What we do for ourselves alone dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

I remember my surprise the first time I called on Othel at her home. This was a very small two-bedroom home. Its furnishings were incredibly modest and old. No fancy stuff, no fancy furniture, no fancy clothes. It represented who they were. It was listed for $85,000 when she died.

The Foundation asked Dr. Fiers to come to a meeting of the board to share with board and staff the story of his sister and brother-in-law. In his closing remarks, he told us that he had encouraged them to build a big beautiful home out on Queens Road or Kings Boulevard in Charlotte where they could live comfortably and entertain friends and business acquaintances in a way appropriate for their role and stature in the community.

After her death, Dr. Fiers said they found a large box in the attic that contained rolls of blueprints for a beautiful mansion – elevation drawings, engineering drawings – all ready for a contractor to bid. They could not spend the money on themselves.
Dr. Fiers concluded those remarks with this affirmation: “Somehow, I believe that somewhere on the King’s Highway, there is a mansion, a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heaven, reserved for Othel and DeWitt Brown.”


The gift to the Christian Church of 8 and a half million dollars created the DeWitt and Othel Brown Estate Fund at the Foundation. How would you measure the impact of this gift?

The annual distributions from this gift to Disciples Mission Fund have ranged from $309,000 to $525,000 depending on the year and market fluctuations. The total distribution to the church since inception is more than $10.5 million. So we all understand the annual impact of this fund, the distribution from this fund last year was more than the contributions to Disciples Mission Fund from all the congregations in Ohio (or any one of 22 regions).

This now $10 million fund will continue to generate needed funds for Disciple mission as long as there is a Disciple mission.

Let me add just a footnote to this issue about the value of endowments for Disciples Mission Fund. The contribution of all Foundation-managed endowments to Disciples Mission Fund last year was $830,000 which is an amount larger than the contribution of all congregations in any single region.


With this introduction, I trust you will understand how appropriate it was for the Foundation to create the Fiers-Brown recognition society to honor not only these four, but all Disciples who have put in place a planned or completed gift with the Foundation.

It has been a privilege to know these two families and to know so many of you who have demonstrated in your lives an unshakable personal faith, a deep and abiding love for the church, a commitment to its mission, and a profound stewardship of both your lives and possessions. If you are a member, thank you for your commitment to the church now and in the future.

If you’ve made a gift that will be stewarded by the Foundation in your estate plans, but have not yet joined the Fiers-Brown Society, I encourage you to let a member of the Foundation staff know so that your name can be added to the 1,500 current members.

And, if you are just beginning to consider how you might leave a legacy gift to support your chosen ministries, we invite and encourage you to talk with the Foundation about that as well.