Proposed Statement of Faith receives high support

Leaders also grapple with reflections in suffering.

Statement of Faith committee chair Darryl Klassen and member Ward Parkinson guide and clarify during the ministerial's discussion. Only one article did not receive the required 80 percent support to be adopted. Credit: Andrew Walker

by Terry M. Smith

ROSENORT, Man.—The EMC’s ministerial voted on Nov. 26, 2016, in strong support of the revised draft Statement of Faith; heard reflections in suffering by David Funk; and ended with a time of prayer.

Opening

Ministerial members were welcomed by host pastor Brian McGuffin (RFC), who led in a devotional based on Psalm 27:1-4. Our response to fear is to place our hope in someone who is not fleeting, Jesus Christ, he said. We need to keep our core identity in Christ and serve him whatever happens.

Outline of History

Alvin Plett, vice chair of the Board of Leadership and Outreach (BLO), outlined the lengthy process of consulting churches that led to this moment: churches studied the 1996 Statement of Faith and responded with revisions; in early 2016 a first draft of a revised edition was sent to churches and they studied it; in July 2016 comments were recorded and a second draft was later sent to churches.

Churches were invited to read their responses to the second draft, and the committee was to respond to clarify matters. On who could vote, the constitution’s wording was somewhat ambiguous, Plett said, but to restrict it to processed leaders would not allow some churches to vote. The BLO decided that churches should decide who could vote on their behalf.

If an article in the proposed statement received support of 80 percent or more, it is finished, he said; if less than that, further revision was needed. The desire is that the statement will be written in such a way to work together. 

Churches Respond

Fourteen churches provided written responses. Depending on their length, responses by up to three churches were read at one time.

The themes that emerged were an appreciation for the committee’s work, support for the revised statement, and suggestions on changes. Dr. Darryl Klassen (Kleefeld), chair of the Statement of Faith Review Committee, and committee members Ward Parkinson (Rosenort EMC) and Henry Friesen (ConneXion) listened to responses and provided clarifications.

When one church, Steinbach EFC, responded with lengthy suggestions, these were considered useful, but better to have been received earlier and difficult to incorporate at this stage.

One minister asked, is this the final vote? If an article receives 80 percent support, it is, the vice chair responded; beyond that, options exist. Tim Dyck, General Secretary, clarified that because the Statement of Faith is part of the EMC’s constitution, the conference council oversees any change to the constitution. The Constitution requires a gap of time between churches being notified of a proposed constitutional change and the vote for change. The revised Statement of Faith likely will not be approved till Nov. 2017, he said.

There was a time of prayer before voting. The ministerial was then asked to vote on each individual article and, additionally, on whether footwashing should be moved to the Church Practices section.

Ralph Unger

While the votes were being counted, Alvin Plett introduced Ralph Unger as the EMC’s interim part-time conference pastor. With 40 years of experience in pastoral ministry in and beyond the EMC, and service as EMC moderator, Unger brings a rich background. The search continues for a conference pastor, Plett said.

Ken Zacharias

Ken Zacharias, EMC Foreign Secretary, reported that he and Fred Buhler spent two and a half weeks visiting churches and leaders in Paraguay. Zacharias oversees EMC Missions’ work in Bolivia, Paraguay, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Buhler is the EMC Board of Missions chair, and has served as a missionary in Paraguay.

Prayer was requested for Judy and Dave Schmidt; Judy has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Ken said that ministries in Paraguay carry on, though they look a bit different after responsibilities were transferred to national workers.

Zacharias said that evangelicals form a small part of Paraguay’s population (five to seven percent), but he anticipates much growth in the next decade. One church has six outreach points, he said. Pray for the missions staff in Paraguay, who are doing well and are encouraged.

Charles Koop

Charles Koop, church planting coordinator, said that God is working overseas and in Canada. Why are we a conference? he asked. It is so more people become part of the Kingdom of God. The EMC is interested in urban church planting and has become a partner with the urban church-planting resource C2C.

He outlined some recent activities: a Chinese church is connected with Fort Garry EMC; an outreach is happening in Ste. Agathe, Man.; Living Faith Fellowship in Two Hills, Alta., has a pastoral couple; and the presence of immigrants is an opportunity for believers.

The Church Planting Task Force has two problems: the need for money and people to start a ministry. Kingdom building is what it’s all about. We hope to get in on what God is doing, Koop said.

Voting Results

The results of voting showed strong support for the proposed Statement of Faith. Only one article, on God the Spirit, received less than 80 percent; and 75 percent voted to move Footwashing to the Church Practices section. These two matters will be addressed. On the God the Spirit section, concerns had been expressed that it moved away from “He” language and did not explicitly mention gifts and fruits.

Belief Amid Suffering

David Funk (Fort Garry) was asked to present “A Theology of Suffering,” but he said that implies he has it figured out, which he doesn’t; but he could talk of Christian belief in the midst of suffering.

He and his wife Kendra have four children—Ethan, Abigail, Rachel, and Elijah—but only two are alive.

Rachel Amariah, when about 14 months old, died from congenital problems in 2011. What is it like to carry a baby that you know will die? Only a mother who has done so knows, he said. They decided to have another child. A few days after his birth in 2014, Elijah Cohen suffered mini-strokes; life supports were removed shortly afterward.

David has a deep respect for his wife Kendra. They have struggled with grief, trauma, guilt, and spiritual crisis. David said that the prayers of lament in Scripture allow his faith to survive.

Only through the Cross do we come to know God. The lament psalms are intended for public use, and teach us that the path to doxology is through the truth of what life is like. To exile lament is to exile those who suffer, he said.

In walking with those who suffer, be a humble learner. Their church’s absorbing some of the cost of their grief has allowed them to survive spiritually, emotionally, in marriage, and as a family. “Compassionate presence” allows a hurting person to be honest about their pain and to hurt our hearts too—beyond detached caring, he said.

The ministerial then gathered in the basement, discussing in small groups how to walk in suffering and with those who suffer.

Prayer Time

A time of prayer followed. Among the items shared were for the interim conference

terry-smith

Terry M. Smith

pastor, the church in Brandon, a former conference pastor now older and in ill health, for the congregation at Two Hills, and for the ministries of Fort Garry and Rosenort EMC.About 4 p.m. Barry Plett (Blumenort) led in a prayer of blessing as the meeting ended.

Statement of Faith voting results

Articles

Yes

No

Percentage of 68 votes

The Bible

63

4

93%

God

62

5

91%

God the Father

64

3

94%

God the Son

61

6

90%

God the Spirit

52

14

76%

The Creation

58

9

85%

The Dignity of Human Beings

63

4

93%

The Fall of the Human Race

65

2

96%

Satan

67

0

99%

Salvation

55

12

81%

Discipleship

66

1

97%

The Life of Peace

61

6

90%

The Church

63

4

93%

The Ordinances

66

0

97%

Believer’s Water Baptism

65

2

96%

The Lord’s Supper

67

0

99%

Footwashing

59(87%)

3

51(75%)

The Resurrection

62

5

91%

The Return and Final Triumph of Christ

61

6

90%

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