EMC Ministerial Explores Unity: Cultivated, Not Fabricated

by Phil and Lydia Hamm

A Ministerial Retreat is one of the greatest ways to bless your church leadership. During Nov. 25–27, 2017, some EMC churches gave their leadership a break at Wilderness Edge Retreat and Conference Centre in Pinawa, Man. Scott and Debbie Dick, youth leaders from Rosenort EMC, warmly welcomed the ministerial, which set the tone for the weekend.

The Centre did a great job of trying to help us gain some weight with their delicious meals. The food was usually secondary to the great fellowship and getting to know each other. The laughter and chatter around the tables indicated that people were having a great time.

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Credit: Phil Hamm

Saturday Evening

The informal Saturday evening program began with a very vibrant worship time as we sang praises to God in wonderful harmony. What a great way to start a weekend to focus on unity and harmony. To add to the fun of the weekend, we had several activities that were designed for us to get to know others we were meeting for the first time. We had a series of questions in which we were encouraged to share something about ourselves, culminating in a question, “If you received one million dollars, what would you do with it?” This question speaks to our priorities, desires, and dreams.

In another game we discovered that the men who volunteered were faster at making perogies (verenika) than the women. Ward and Janine Parkinson kept us laughing as they shared a skit on marrying off a youngest daughter. The great fellowship continued long into the night as we continued on around the common unifying theme of food (snacks).

Sunday Morning

On Sunday morning, after another excellent time of worship together, Kevin Wiebe, pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship, shared from Ephesians 4:1-7 about Unity: Cultivated or Fabricated. Some unity is surface or temporary. Examples are Jacob and Esau and their descendants, and Jews and Gentiles in the Early Church. The name, Israel, means one who struggles with God and humans yet overcomes.

People in the church will always have differences of opinion and sometimes this results in conflict. Lack of conflict in a church does not always mean that there is unity. Paul exhorts believers in Ephesus to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. As a church we are to anchor ourselves to the source of unity, Jesus Christ. This is done by submitting to Jesus as Lord and Master as we become His slaves.

We are not to function as individuals, but as the body of Christ. We are to work together in one Spirit for one purpose and that is to glorify the Father who is over all. We will be in situations where we will need to appropriate the grace Christ has given to us so that we can use grace to build unity. Kevin closed with the Lord’s prayer at the Last Supper in John 17:20-23 where Jesus asks the Father that all believers will be one just as Jesus and the Father were one and thereby the world will know that Jesus came to bring love to the earth. We should not just fabricate unity, but we should cultivate it.

We split up into eight groups with about 10 people per group to discuss the applications to Kevin’s message. Listening to a good sermon is great, but grappling with the implications for your life is quite another matter.

Sunday Afternoon

We continued the theme of Unity and focused on Eph. 4:12-16 with Darren Plett, of Pleasant Valley EMC, in the afternoon. We need to find ways to work together for the common good. You can’t have unity by yourself; it takes many players to make a team. Darren emphasized the unity in the body is seen in the Trinity: “the relationship of three persons in perfection.” They are one; they are unified.

When we work together we are able to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. In Gen. 11:6-7 the Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” God realized that nothing they planned to do would be impossible for them if they were united. The key to accomplishing great things is in verse 7. We need to understand each other.

If we don’t have a clear goal to work together on we will all be busy in conflicting activities. Working together builds maturity, but we need to realize that we will not achieve perfect unity here on earth. The greatest challenge of the church has been that well-meaning people argue with each other because we are passionate about the details. There may be times when we have to focus on unity and not perfection.

“We need to foster a unity of the Spirit and a unity in the faith, not necessarily unity in practice,” said Darren. Our disagreements come because of the pursuit of details of doctrine and practice. We will not come to a united understanding of some doctrines but we need to focus on the source of our faith, Jesus Christ and His redemptive work on the cross.

The gifts that the Spirit gives each believer are there to build up the body of Christ. We need to have unity of purpose and goals. Evangelism is an area that we all need to use our gifts so that we bring as many into the kingdom as possible.

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Credit: Phil Hamm

Recreation

Most of the group finished the afternoon off by going to the curling rink and eight teams competed in three games of two ends of curling. The team of John Froese (Two Hills), Lowell Froese (Leamington), Dallas Wiebe (Guadalajara), and Phil Hamm (Leamington) won all three of their games in the short bonspiel. After supper there was a table tennis tournament that was won by Darren Plett (Pleasant Valley) with runner up Frankie Kim (Pelly).

Others watched as the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup. The rest of the evening was spent playing pool, table games, making jigsaw puzzles, connecting with others in ministry, and even some getting into the Hot Tub. Days are never long enough when you are enjoying such sweet fellowship and connecting with other leaders. 

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Credit: Phil Hamm

Monday Morning

Gathering to praise and worship the Lord was a great way to begin our Monday morning session. Layton Friesen led a panel discussion with former conference ministers David Thiessen, Don Thiessen, Ward Parkinson, and Ralph Unger. The main question that was asked of each of these ministers was to share an experience where there was not unity and what was done to bring about unity.

Ward Parkinson shared how as a youth pastor he witnessed a church split. He felt that the church did not handle change well and people did not trust well. God helped with rededication of the members but in the end, key people left and new people stepped in to accept responsibility. Key to resolution is forgiveness when there is hurt.

Ralph Unger shared how sexual abuse by a church leader traumatized a victim and even after 40 years there was still hurt. When confronted, the church leader minimized his sin and did not take seriously the problem that he caused by immorality. Those kinds of actions do not build unity nor do they build up the church.

Don Thiessen shared about how in one of his churches an individual came to the community and had very different theological views; but they were able to establish a friendship in spite of their different theological interpretations. We can have different interpretations, yet still have a friendship based on respect and love.

David Thiessen talked about how there were two camps in his church that wanted to do outreach in very different ways. There was a polarization concerning evangelism. Some felt that the church needed to go door to door and share the gospel, and others felt that we love individuals into the kingdom by social action. Things settled down, but when it came time for a pastoral review some individuals felt that David needed to explain his spiritual understandings.

David said that he had to take a day away for solitude, reflection, and write out his responses to the concerns that were raised. The review committee accepted his response. When he met with the congregation, half of the group focused on the great commission and the other half on the great commandment (love your neighbour). David then did a ten-week series on outreach which helped to bring understanding and reconciliation to the church.

The Monday morning session ended with a communion service led by conference pastor Layton Friesen. As we passed the bread and the cup, we affirmed the person next to us by saying, “The body and blood of Christ was shed for you.” This meaningful exchange was culminated by singing the last stanza of Amazing Grace (“When we have been there 10,000 years”) and “Blest be the Tie that Binds.”

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Phil and Lydia Hamm

We had one last chance to fellowship over food as we said our goodbyes to a very moving and encouraging weekend. The Retreat Centre did a great job of hosting and accommodating us. We are grateful for the great job the planning committee did and look forward to joining the next Ministerial Retreat in 2019.

Phil and Lydia Hamm serve as a ministerial couple within Leamington EMC. They have also served in Japan.

 

Terry Smith: The Reformation: Over or to Continue?

by Terry M. Smith
In 1999 the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church signed a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Would Martin Luther have signed the statement?

An Anglican professor of mine thought so. Yet it’s said that “more than 45 percent of Lutheran church-bodies in the world did not support the declaration” (LCMS News, Dec. 8, 1999). I suspect Martin Luther would not sign it.

Is the need for the Protestant (Radical) Reformation over? The Roman Catholic Church is a diverse body and changes have happened since Vatican II and, now, with Francis I. What now?

Much can, for instance, be learned from Raymond E. Brown in New Testament study and on social justice from Walter J. Burghardt—both Jesuits. Such examples could be multiplied. Some works of Catholic scholars are within my library and I benefit from them. I am not alone in this among EMC ministers.

Around the world, priests, monks, nuns, and many other Catholics are involved in helpful ministries in ways almost beyond counting. Catholics have suffered and died in many settings because they have followed Jesus. It would be unfair to view their many efforts, motivations, personal theology, and discipleship in simple terms: since some of Roman Catholic teaching is wrong, they can’t really be following Jesus.

Is, then, the need for the Protestant Reformation over? My answer is no. Here’s why in part:

  • An EMC worker in northern Canada says a Bible Club team was “amazed and amused to see the people being pressured into buying their Indulgences now with quick and simple payments from their Visas and MasterCards.”
  • Our EMC cross-cultural workers in various countries encounter folk forms of Catholicism with mixtures of beliefs. A focus on Christ, his grace, and discipleship are key markers for our workers.
  • Indulgences are still being issued.
  • U.S. evangelical theologian Roger Olson recently wrote of participating in Protestant-Roman Catholic dialogues. At one, after suggesting that the Roman Catholic Church needed to become less exclusive and learn from Protestants, he found himself uninvited (see his blog, Is the Roman Catholic Church Catholic Enough? Oct. 27, 2017).

The settings and climate might have changed somewhat, but the theological concerns of 16th century Protestants in Europe remain relevant today.

Others, often Protestants, say, “The Reformation must continue.” How so? If it means that the Protestant Reformation’s concerns must be used today to examine our faith in life, yes, it should continue.

However, “The Reformation must continue” is a slogan that can be used to set aside key doctrines of our Christian faith. Used in this way, the slogan does not adequately respect or continue the earlier Protestant (Radical) Reformation’s focus on Christ, his grace, and discipleship.

Are Christians in Canada today as aware of doctrine as believers were in the 16th century in Europe? A blanket statement seems unhelpful. There are, though, some reasons for concern.

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Terry M. Smith

We do well to consider carefully what we think and practice. For instance, some funerals seem to be services of celebration with a confidence that nearly everyone, if not everyone, goes to heaven. A common thought among Canadians seems to be: If there is a God and if there is a heaven, then good people go there and likely all people get there. In what way does this match or contradict biblical and classic Christian teaching?

 

Poetry: Storms

by Betty Siemens Martens, Kleefeld, Man.

Snowflakes, soft, white, fluffy snowflakes
Falling gently, no sound they make.
A beautiful, feathery sight.
‘Tis the picture of pure delight.

Soon comes along a playful breeze,
Those fluffy snowflakes to chase and tease.
They dance, they twirl, they spin around
Then come to rest upon the ground.

Not for long; the wind increases
All its fury it releases.
Whipping the snow across the field
And all around, its power to wield.

Then, in the night the wind retires,
While in the house they stoke the fires.
The stars come out. How they shimmer!
‘Til morning light makes them dimmer.

The sun comes out in full glory,
The trees they glisten white and hoary.
Drifts of snow like diamonds galore!
Awesome sight! And calm reigns once more.

So is the storm within the soul
Who will not let God take control.
But perfect peace comes in to stay
When the Christ the Saviour leads the way.

 

 

Grateful Today

By Marlow Gingerich

In checkout lines I am almost certainly asked the perfunctory “How are you today?” Most customers will respond with the innocuous “Fine” or “Okay,” and some will be too preoccupied to respond at all. However, I was recently challenged, during a sermon by my local pastor, to reframe these interactions with a novel response: “I’m grateful.”

His sermon focused on Luke 17: 11-19. In this passage Jesus encounters ten lepers on the road to Jerusalem. They plead for his mercy, and he miraculously heals them, instructing them to go show themselves to the priests. Only one of the lepers turns back to give thanks for his healing. Jesus tells him “Your faith has made you well.” It is a faith rooted in a heart of gratitude to a God of abundance. Is ours?

We don’t know for certain why the other nine men kept walking. Perhaps they felt entitled to healing after such suffering, or perhaps they were afraid that their healing wasn’t real or wouldn’t last. When we survey our circumstances, do we see the provision of God in our world? Or do we have a sense of entitlement? Are we letting fear stop us from practicing gratitude?

Certainly, there are times I have been afraid to be grateful, worried that I might somehow jinx myself or shouldn’t celebrate for fear my good fortune might not last. But that is not what God wants of us nor for us. He wants us to be like the one who turned back and worshipped with a grateful heart.

In my role at Abundance Canada, I am grateful to work with so many people who are like “the one.” They understand that all they have is from God, are truly grateful for it, and want to turn back and say thanks through generous giving. Recently, I was inspired by working with Susan (not her real name), a woman putting her gratitude into action. With real estate prices in her area soaring, Susan’s property sale left her with more cashflow than she’d ever had before. She was grateful for this financial blessing and wanted to do something meaningful with the proceeds.

After hearing about Abundance Canada’s Flexible Gifting Accounts, she made an appointment with our office. Susan and I worked together, planning and organizing her way of giving back. Of course, she had to balance the tension between giving freely and determining how much to keep for her own needs, but gratitude empowered her to overcome the fear of not having enough. Funds were transferred to Abundance Canada, timed so that the resulting charitable donation receipt was most relevant to Susan’s income tax situation. She blessed more than a dozen charities with generous donations. As she gave in this way, Susan’s trust in God increased, and her gratitude with it. She went on to replicate those initial donations two more times. She says it is very fulfilling.

We aren’t all in the financial position Susan is, but gratitude is not a trait that some have and others don’t. Gratitude is a choice, one that becomes easier the more we practice it. We all have so much to be grateful for each day, it should be our greatest joy to give our thanks to God. But we must start by intentionally cultivating a heart of gratitude. I challenge you to begin by simply answering many “How are you?” questions with a quick reflection on your blessings and a heartfelt “I’m grateful.” Imagine the conversation you’ll start! It might be one you’ll both be grateful you had.

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Marlow Gingerich

Marlow Gingerich is a Gift Planning Consultant at Abundance Canada. For more than 40 years, Abundance Canada has effectively helped Canadians with their charitable giving in their lifetime and through their estate. To learn more, visit abundance.ca or call 1.800.772.3257 to arrange a no obligation free consultation.

 

Kids’ Corner: A Surprising Jesus

by Loreena Thiessen

How do you like your hamburger? Do you want it with cheese, tomato and a pickle? Do you want it fast?

At McDonald’s your order comes quickly. That’s why it’s called fast food, one reason you choose McDonald’s. You don’t want to wait.

Still you have to wait for a lot of things. Like Christmas Day every year. Do you wait patiently or impatiently?

In ancient times God’s people waited too. For 500 years they waited for the Messiah God promised would come. They waited and hoped. Their lives were difficult. They needed someone to help them. They needed a Saviour to save them from a harsh government.

They wanted a Messiah to walk and talk with. They wanted a Messiah who would destroy their enemies and remove evil from the earth. They wanted a King. They expected a warrior and a judge. Instead they got a baby in a manger. The people were surprised to hear that the baby born in Bethlehem was their long awaited Messiah.

Mary was surprised by the news the angel Gabriel brought. She didn’t understand when he said that Jesus would be God’s own Son. But she believed him.

Joseph was surprised too and he was worried. He wanted to do the right thing. He accepted the news and trusted God to help him.

The shepherds taking care of their sheep at night were very surprised. Black night suddenly became brilliant with light. A host of angels filled the sky singing loudly. They gave them the news. They instructed them to go and see for themselves, to tell others the good news.

The Magi were surprised to see a new star in the heavens. They knew it meant a new king was born and set out to find him. So they talked to King Herod. Herod was surprised and afraid. He knew a new king could replace him. In fact Herod was so afraid he plotted to kill all baby boys of the same age just to get rid of him. But God had other plans. He instructed Joseph to leave with Mary and Jesus and escape to Nazareth.

As Jesus grew up he seemed like an ordinary boy. He learned carpentry working with Joseph. He went to the temple with his family. But Jesus was not ordinary. One day in the temple he amazed the teachers. He explained that the Messiah is actually God. The teachers were surprised at his wisdom and knowledge.

As a teacher Jesus did many surprising things. He called his disciples from their jobs as ordinary fishermen. He broke laws, made the blind to see, and healed the sick on the Sabbath. He forgave people instead of judging or condemning them. He ate with sinners like Zacchaeus. He welcomed children when they were not welcome. He fed thousands of people with just a few fish and bread. He stopped the storm and walked on water. Most shocking of all was that he was arrested and died on the cross. His followers were devastated. They believed it was over. Their Messiah was dead.

loreena-thiessen
Loreena Thiessen

Then an even more surprising thing happened. Jesus rose from the tomb where he had been placed. Once again he came to the disciples and showed them he was truly alive.

That is the surprising thing about Jesus. Jesus came as a baby, he is God’s own Son, the Messiah, and he rose again and is alive today. God kept his promise of so long ago.

Read Matthew 2:40-49 and Luke 24:1-7.

Activity: find the right answer.

  1. Who is Jesus?_______________________
  2. Where was Jesus born?_____________________
  3. Who heard the Good News first?_________________
  4. Who was healed?____________________________
  5. Who brought the Good News?___________________
  6. Today Jesus is _____________________

angels | the blind man | alive | God’s Son | the shepherds | Bethlehem

Council Embraces Change, Grapples With Reality

by Terry M. Smith

Statement of Faith, 2018 budget, conference restructuring supported

STEINBACH, Man.—Conference council delegates on Nov. 25, 2017, affirmed the revised Statement of Faith and provisionally approved the conference’s restructuring, while grappling with current financial realities signified by a 2.6 percent budget decrease, a review of how some EMC missionaries are funded, and the need to plan toward stable funding.

Moderator Abe Bergen welcomed delegates. In the opening, a musical team of Paul Walker, Joel Jolly, Kevin Wiebe, and Kim and Josh Muehling led in singing. Reminding delegates that it is the Lord from whom our help comes, Garry Koop, senior pastor of host Steinbach EMC, led in a poetic, creative monologue based on Psalm 121.

General Board

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Abe Bergen: Restructuring addresses needs. Credit: Andrew Walker

Abe Bergen said that the Church Planting Task Force, which formally relates to the BLO, has been invited to send a representative to General Board meetings. Fundraising is changing and there is a need to address this; local church decisions affect what we do together, he said.

A proposal on forming a task force on Women in Leadership has been received, discussed at length at the board level, and tabled. The discussion reflected the varied views within wider conference, he said. [The tabling happened so that input could be sought from women.]

The 2018 convention will be held at Western University, London, Ont. Peter Doerksen (Vanderhoof) will speak on being Rooted in the Gospel. Some congregations have left other conferences; the EMC is willing to talk with them, while seeking neither to be passive nor eager, he said.

The Statement of Faith revision process has involved much input from churches and two motions were made in July 2017: to replace the 1996 statement with the 2017 statement and to move footwashing from the Statement of Faith to that of Church Practices. Both motions were carried at this meeting.

Restructuring

The moderator said a Conference Restructuring Committee (CRC) was struck to address three needs: a fragmented structure with independent boards; little accountability among boards for inter-relationships; and little room to promote a vision together. Members were added to the CRC, boards were consulted, staff members were engaged throughout, consultants were used, and other agencies were consulted.

The CRC proposes changes to the administrative handbook: that an executive team serve all boards, a personnel management team deal with hiring and supervision, and job descriptions be revised for staff members. Boards are being asked to review the job descriptions toward approval over the next two meetings (by March). Conference council is asked to allow these changes subject to approval by the boards.

Q: How large is the Executive Team? (Current staff members.)

Q: Once the boards have approved this, what’s next? (Implementation.)

Q: Are staff levels affected? (Not part of the mandate.)

Comment: There is confidence in those who’ve thought of this. Let’s move on to other matters.

Q: The EMMC went through restructuring that created conflict. How similar is this? (Other groups were consulted. The counsel was to talk, talk, talk. This has happened.)

Q: Does this affect budget and positions? (No.)

Comment: In the EMMC’s case, people at top were excited, but were better at talking than listening. With more power to the Executive Director and the executive team and less to boards, hopefully big things will still come to conference council. (Formed PMC in response to perceptions of power. Not a big redistribution of power, but a clarity of roles.)

The motion carried.

Abundance Canada

Harold Penner, consultant, said it was 35 years since the EMC joined Abundance. $15.5 M has gone to 968 charities, including $500,000 to EMC and EMC-related organs. He is willing to meet people and said that generosity changes everything.

Mennonite World Conference

Layton Friesen, EMC’s representative, outlined the history of MWC and a bit of the EMC’s involvement: Christian Neff founded the MWC in 1913, convinced of strength in unity and a need for loyalty to one another. P. J. B. Reimer, of the EMC, attended and reported on the 1968 general assembly in Amsterdam.

In the first global assembly in 1925 in Switzerland, some delegates could not enter the country; in 2015 in the U.S., similar problems were encountered. Two-thirds of Anabaptists live in the southern hemisphere, and the declining church in Europe and North America needs them, Friesen said.

MWC emphasizes worship, prayer, mission, and service; and he encouraged the strengthening of global relationships through 25 people from 10 churches attending the next general assembly (2021 in Indonesia) and by using worship materials for World Fellowship Sunday (held near Jan. 21), including an offering to help churches elsewhere.

Board of Missions

Brad Brandt, vice chair, said John 13:35 is a missions verse—that people will know we are Jesus’ disciples by our love to one another. Little is more appealing to non-believers than a group of people who love each other.

The BOM has shifted medical insurance carriers for cross-cultural workers to gain more stable costs and better coverage. The board welcomes input on how to increase missions awareness among churches, Beth Koehler is assisting in a prayer focus, more workers are needed, Ascend’s internship program needs promotion, and a new field is being sought. With a strategy to exit Paraguay five to seven years from now, the BOM wants to have a new field by then.

Len Barkman, BOM secretary, outlined the current missionary support model: some workers get full support; associate workers get partial support; and others operate with a hybrid (workers under AIMM and in Bolivia receive a base support, but can raise funds).

The board is looking at changing the support process for workers getting full support, he said. The reasons: current funding levels affect recruitment and new fields and there is a need to build stronger connections between church and missionaries.

There are three basic models of support, he said: a centralized model of conference support, workers raise their full support, or a blended funding model where the agency provides partial support and missionaries raise the rest. Other agencies have been checked with and counsel sought. The discussion continues.

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Caroline and Henry Krahn reported on their work in Bolivia. Credit: Andrew Walker

Henry and Caroline Krahn said that tensions on a colony in Bolivia resulted in people moving to land bought near San Jose. School and church buildings were moved.

Ken Zacharias, foreign secretary, said that churches are assisted with missions conferences. Prayer teams are being planned: Paraguay (March 6-19), Guadalajara (Feb. 6-13), and Bolivia (tentatively in Oct. or Nov.). Hurricane Nate has hurt Nicaragua. Its government is responding and so is MCC. The BOM is giving $10,000 to assist through MCC.

Board of Trustees

Gordon Reimer, chair, said that there is a need to look at a sustainable model for EMC funding. The EMC pension plan is reviewed regularly. The national office’s phone system has been upgraded, thanks to Project Builders, in a manner that exceeded hopes while reducing costs. The EMC building grant, now managed by Abundance Canada, is to be more generous to churches; about $1.3M is available.

For budget 2017, $418,734 is needed by year’s end. For 2018, the budget has been reduced 2.6% to $1,899,000 from $1,950,000. Most boards have reduced their budgets, the BOT excepted because of salaries.

Comment: Concerned about a decrease for missions and church planting, the major reason for the conference. Some funds are being raised on the side. The budget does not reflect actual spending. (The full expenditures of all boards are provided in a recently published bulletin insert. The comment is a useful reminder to reconsider how reporting on budgeting is done.)

Comment: The budget was well-prepared. Glad to see decrease. Can support it. This church will give the same in 2018 as in 2017.

The motion to approve the budget was carried. Gord Reimer said that the board calls each church.

Board of Leadership and Outreach

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Richard Klassen, BLO chair: It cares for the EMC ministerial. Credit: Andrew Walker

Richard Klassen, chair, said the BLO cares for the EMC ministerial. Irma Janzen is a new member. The Ministerial Examination Committee continues. The Church Planting Task Force is exploring becoming its own entity.

Layton Friesen, conference pastor, said he has been impressed by the EMC’s hospitality, the leadership of pastors and deacons, and unity in the conference. This is to be celebrated and thanks given.

He walked delegates through the conference’s website, looking at resources available to ministers and churches: a counseling benefit, pastoral search committee materials, material on pastor and congregational evaluations, a pastoral salary guidelines worksheet, policies on sabbatical and severance, and information on conference supported benefits. These documents reflect our theology, he said.

Ordination is the way we make pastors, Layton said. It’s proposed that the EMC move from an examination to a process of ministry formation. Further discussion will happen.

Charles Koop, church planting coordinator, called on Abe Bueckert to report about the Gospel Light Fellowship. Abe said the church meets in Medicine Hat, Alta., and will be moving into a larger rental space in the same building. Abe Penner is taking on more responsibilities in leadership. There is some local resistance to the church; some people desire to stay with what they’ve learned. Yet a young man was converted and another man asked why Abe had not come 20 years ago.

Charles Koop asked if we are willing to take risks, to give our best people so that churches are built. There is a need to move beyond building our local church to building the Kingdom of God. The relationship with C2C is under review because of the benefits received and the money required. Koop said that in planting churches, we need workers more than money. The money is there, he said. A moment of prayer was held for more workers (Luke 10:2).

The Dauphin work is not sustainable, he said, so Oscar and Mirna Hernandez’s formal involvement ends in December, though they will stay in the community till June. They seek a future place of service. Pray for church plants. Not all are going well. There is some mystery why some are not growing.

In Alberta, efforts continue in Airdrie and Two Hills; in Saskatchewan, Pastor Frankie Kim and Simon Hyounjin Yoon engage in Indigenous ministry; in Manitoba, Aberdeen (Winnipeg) has a Spanish work and Logos (Winnipeg) has Pastor Jabez Lee in training.

The communities of Manning (Alberta) and Ste. Agathe (Manitoba) are possible future sites. Take courage, Koop said. God is at work in our conference. To him be the glory!

Q: What long-range plans and resources are in place for church planters? (When we hear of a possible lead, we follow-up. Luke 10:2. Bible colleges have not been adequately approached. C2C says one of the best ways leaders are identified is when they approach you.)

Mennonite Central Committee Canada

Rick Cober Bauman, its new executive director, was grateful for the warm welcome and the partnership between the EMC and MCC. MCC seeks to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. He highlighted the suffering in Uganda: a mass grave for victims of war; concern about climate change affecting growing patterns; and a woman holding an old MCC meat can, a reminder of food delivered in a time of drought. MCC takes seriously the need, in Christ’s name, for relief, development and peace. He is grateful for time, materials, money, and prayers.

Steinbach Bible College

President Rob Reimer was grateful for the EMC: its giving, prayers, and an increasing number of its students. While a high percentage of graduates do not become pastors or missionaries, most serve in the church. Mission Exposure is key to SBC: Inner City, Winnipeg (first year), Northern Canada (second year), and International (third year). SBC now offers a BA in Ministry Studies fully online; a Marketplace Ministry BA, Pursuit Experiential Leadership (a four-month discipleship training school), and the Activate Discipleship School (for people employed outside church circles).

Board of Church Ministries

Heidi Dirks, BCM member, said that a new Mental Health Initiative seeks to help EMC churches in the areas of mental health, especially with youth. Articles will appear in The Messenger throughout 2018 and workshops will be held. Joel Jolly, worship committee member, said that the worship committee is developing; he highlighted local efforts in matters of worship.

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Terry M. Smith

Kevin Wiebe, BCM and education committee member, said that a sequel to Living in God’s Kingdom is being developed by the EMC, EMMC, and CMC for 2018. Topics include the Bible and authority, Bible and interpretation, vocation, culture, leadership, devotional life, conflict, worship, local church, stewardship, evangelism, continuing to believe, and pilgrimage.

Andrew Walker, assistant editor, requested that churches encourage more people to sign on to The Messenger’s various formats (website, PDF, print). Feedback is welcomed. Print continues to be valued.

The moderator closed the day in prayer and blessing.

 

Terry Smith: Advent is a Time of Grief

by Terry M. Smith

Do you grieve this Advent season?

The original coming of Christ made angels, shepherds, and Magi rejoice. It also made people weep as baby boys were slaughtered in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:16-18). Advent, then and now, can be a time of confusion and grief.

“To some people, the approaching Christmas season spells loneliness, darkness, even pain,” Pastor Irma Janzen wrote 15 years ago. “They don’t look forward to it. It can be the most difficult season of the year” (What if Christmas isn’t Merry? Dec. 4, 2002, The Messenger).

“Some people in our congregations get overtired because they are too busy. Others overspend and feel guilty,” Irma said. She wrote that “commercialism and media make much out of Christmas,” while Christmas reminds some people how relationships have broken down. These are words to hear.

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

Family gatherings at Christmas reveal tensions, weaknesses as well as strengths, in how members relate to each other. Such gatherings amid strained relationships are mixed times of joy, stress, and grief. In the midst of this, Christ’s grace and the Church are much needed.

How do the actions of the Church and the sermons you hear at Christmas speak to your grief and strained relationships? How do they miss them?

O Lord, Christmas creates tension for us. We are sometimes hurt and confused. Help us to find your grace. Help us to feel and know that we are not alone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.