Council Updated on Restructuring, Funding Desires

Fred Buhler explaining the BOM's proposed changes to the support model for EMC administered missionaries. Credit: Andrew Walker

by Terry M. Smith

LONDON, Ont.—Conference council delegates on July 7, 2018, heard updates, a desire for stable funding, and a possible change in missionary funding—and received Gospel Light Fellowship into membership.

 Welcome and Devotional

Moderator Abe Bergen welcomed delegates. In his devotional Albert Loewen, pastor of Mount Salem Community Church, spoke well of leaders who referred to a “dark season” in ministry. As he once assessed his pastoral ministry, he was comforted by an image of God holding him; if God was okay with him leading, he decided, he was okay with continuing. Because the gospel is Jesus and Jesus is Lord, we follow him where we now, he said, drawing upon Bruxy Cavey. His prayer for the EMC was that Jesus would remain Lord.

General Board

Moderator Abe Bergen said national staff members need help as they seek to carry the governance changes that went into effect on May 1. A personnel committee has been formed.

After Steinbach Bible College’s leadership conference was cancelled because of negative voices, other voices were heard. The General Board discussed this and the Board of Leadership and Outreach expressed its displeasure at the decision. The process could have been improved, he said. Discussion has continued in Theodidaktos and during an event co-sponsored by Blumenort and MacGregor EM churches. More conversations would be healthy, he said.

Tim Dyck, executive director, acknowledged staff and volunteers for their roles in planning the convention and thanked Abe Bergen for serving as moderator. The EMC’s vision statement is five years old and it’s time to assess its influence, he said, as we seek to live it out.

Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Tim Dyck said EFC is our voice in the public arena. In light of the supreme court’s ruling against TWU’s law school and the federal government’s summer job funding criteria, the General Board is looking at how to respond to changes yet to come. EFC and the EMC want to bless Canada. Abe Bergen mentioned MAID as another concern.

Board of Church Ministries

Kim Muehling, chair, said the BCM is working on a cohesive communications plan that will “grease,” but not “reinvent the wheel.” Good communication is happening, though there is a need to streamline the process, which will be effective if it seems invisible. Board member Russell Doerksen spoke well of the mental health workshop held at MacGregor EMC; he encouraged other churches to contact members of the EMC Mental Health Initiative.

Gerald Reimer, director of youth and discipleship, said the National Youth Committee is exploring whether to hold Abundant Springs in Thunder Bay, Ont. The EMC assists Regions 1, 2, and 9 with travel subsidies to Caronport, Sask. TRU, the youth leaders’ event, is on Oct. 26-28, 2018, at Camp Cedarwood in Man. Send teams of youth leaders so they can process the training event, he suggested. 

Board of Leadership and Outreach

Richard Klassen, chair, said the BLO is assessing how best to fund and monitor the funding it provides for counseling of pastoral families. There is a desire to strengthen the process of ordination, and the November ministerial meeting will focus on it.

Layton Friesen, conference pastor, told delegates that the EMC is in a “rich place” in leadership. He said that the ties that bind the EMC form a covenant, not a contract. For a local church to ask what the EMC has done for it today is foolish, and it’s wrong to respond with 10 things the EMC has done. We are married because God has brought us together, he said.

An “Inspiring Ministry Task Force” is being put together to look at the mutual ministry of men and women, not a constitutional matter of ordination. Darren Plett is leading this effort, Layton said.

Church Planting Task Force

Charles Koop, director of church planting, said God is at work and we need to be sensitive to what He is doing. Ethiopians from the Meserete Khristos Church have moved to Canada and want to connect with the EMC. In 20 years white folks might be in the minority in the EMC, he said. Gospel Light Fellowship is soon to be accepted into the EMC. Bow Island, Alta., is a place of interest and C2C is a helpful mentor on church planting.

PTS and CMU

Layton Friesen, director of PTS’s Anabaptist Studies Track, said PTS has held two courses on Anabaptism in 2018 and another is planned for January 2019. PTS and CMU are partners in a three-day conference being planned on global Anabaptism with Dr. John Roth. 

Board of Trustees

Gord Reimer, chair, said it is looking at church staff benefit options, and, with Abundance Canada, has a grant fund to which every church with a mortgage can apply (though churches with greatest needs have priority). The year-to-date shortfall is higher than in two previous years. Reserve funds are only one-third replenished, he said. Churches, individuals, and businesses were thanked for giving. Revenues have declined in recent years, there is a need for stable funding, and ideas are welcomed, he said. The council accepted the audited statements.

Board of Missions

Fred Buhler, chair, said the EMC has about 100 missionaries under the BOM; about 100 other EMCers are involved in other missions service.

Fred referred to the BOM’s proposed change in models for missionaries who serve in fully-administered fields: the BOM would provide 60 percent of the support; the worker would raise 40 percent. (Currently the BOM pays 100 percent.) The board is moving ahead with missionary advocacy teams regardless of what decisions are made about a change in funding structures, he said.

The mission work in Guadalajara, now a little over seven years old, has targeted an unreached, educated, middle-class population, and much work has been done with many contacts made. Despite a memo of understanding, there have been tensions in understanding among staff and the BOM. Study groups have developed, but there is a breakdown in how these groups function as a church. There has been changes in staffing, and Gerald D. Reimer is giving oversight to staff members. There is a need to evaluate where we are and how to go ahead, he said.

Harvey and Brenda Thiessen reported. Harvey is North America Area Leader for OM, overseeing about 1,000 workers in Canada, U.S., the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. He said the whole church is to take the whole gospel to the whole world. One and a half billion people have not heard the gospel; meanwhile, mobile technology has reduced the “seven degrees of separation” to zero, and its use is needed.

Ken Zacharias, director of global outreach, said the EMC has formal missions relationships with 24 agencies. Workers serve in career, short-term, and in Ascend internship roles. Those who dedicate their children to the Lord need to release them to His service when they are 18 to 20, he said. The board is moving toward missionary support teams that draw in people with skills in encouragement, prayer, communications, finances, logistics, and re-entry support, he said.

Chris and Revita Kroeker are involved in marriage and relationship ministries. A prayer team (people are welcome to apply) is going to Bolivia on Oct. 18 to 31, with Anthony Reimer (Blumenort) as team leader, to pray together on site with insight, he said.

The BOM wants to enter another field of labour, but where is to be determined. A sub-committee will assist in this decision.

Discussion Times

Times for discussion were held. Among the questions and comments:

  • Can materials on implementation be shared? [The revised conference handbook is available.]
  • Who chairs board meetings? Do staff members vote? [Boards choose their own chairs. Staff members do not vote.]
  • Is it hypocritical to ask for sustainable funding while missionaries are to have more faith? [More discussion is needed.]
  • There’s a need to look at the root causes of the funding shortfall and what to do about it.
  • On the process for ordination, there’s a need to get to know people, including criminal records checks. [This is in line with BLO thoughts.]
  • There can be creative ways of meeting needs even if a budget is cut.
  • The work in Guadalajara needs both evaluation and patience. Don’t throw in the towel too soon.
terry-smith

Terry M. Smith

Elections

Moderator

Barry Plett (Reg. 8)

 Board of Church Ministries

Sarah Barkman (Reg. 8)

Kimberly Muehling (Reg. 7)

 Board of Leadership and Outreach

Jacob Enns (Reg. 9)

Ralph Unger (Reg. 7)

Andy Woodworth (Reg. 8)

Board of Missions

Brad Brandt (Reg. 8)

Carl Loewen (Reg. 8)

Peter Rempel (Reg. 1)

Board of Trustees

Andrew Kampen (Reg. 8)

Cheryl Rogoza (Reg. 8)

Nominating Committee

John Bueckert (Reg. 1)

Josh Muehling (Reg. 7)

Antonio Pitta (Reg. 2)

Anna Plett (Reg. 8)

Leonard Plett (Reg. 4)

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