Coaldale MC Welcomed, Field Expansion Considered

General Board concerned about gap between constitution and practice on women in leadership

by Terry M. Smith

COALDALE, Alta.—Conference council delegates on July 6, 2019, heard updates, voted to receive Coaldale Mennonite Church into membership, and took a straw vote on where EMC missions efforts might expand. 

Welcome and Devotional

Moderator Barry Plett welcomed delegates. In his devotional Garry Giesbrecht, pastor of Coaldale Mennonite Church, spoke of its journey to reconnect with a conference and from Acts 15 where leaders met and found a way forward. May this be a new road enriched by being together, he said.

General Board

The moderator said he had nothing to report on how MWC’s assembly in 2021 might affect the EMC’s convention, though feedback is welcomed. The Sustainable Funding Committee has not been formed. The Canadian Senate has affirmed the advocacy of religion as a valid charitable practice.

The moderator said there is a gap between what is written and practiced on women in leadership, and the discrepancy is uncomfortable. Because of this, a letter by the BLO was approved by the GB for discussion with seven churches for feedback. The churches did not agree on how to go forward. In response, the GB has wrestled with what to do. It wants to do the right thing and be biblically faithful. He asked for prayer.

Executive director Tim Dyck reported that MCC now has two lifestyle agreements; which one applies depends on a person’s role and engagement with the public. The two Human Rights challenges that MCC faced were withdrawn.

Dyck said that revising the EMC history book is nearly complete, commended author Doris Penner for her patience, and offered a gift card for the best suggested book title. Staff have chosen a thematic goal of seeking how to better connect with churches. The personnel committee is dealing with the planned retirement of Charles Koop, director of church planting. It favours an internal shuffle. Perhaps a decision will be announced in fall.

The moderator said that the EMC and Coaldale Mennonite Church were “courting” for two years, and now Coaldale had requested a one-year provisional membership to allow for future re-evaluation. Council approved this.

Mennonite Disaster Service

Harold Friesen said MDS is a great service organization, and when he asked delegates who had participated in an MDS project, many indicated that they had. Pastors were encouraged to go on an MDS-funded trip. Friesen said we have an inconvenient faith. We should not ask Jesus to call back when it’s more convenient for us.

Board of Church Ministries

Gerald Reimer, director of youth and discipleship, introduced the post-Abundant Springs (AS) video clip “Everywhere” [available to churches]. At AS young people identified the next steps they want to take and youth leaders poured into students’ lives. The event’s budget was $145,000, with 364 students, 114 leaders, 63 event staff, and 24 churches represented. A previous year saw higher numbers: 496 students, 142 leaders, 48 in administration, and 34 churches. Two non-EMC churches wanted to attend AS, which were not allowed this time, though this might need to be rethought, he said.

Why are churches not sending students to this EMC event, he wondered. He is passionate about youth ministries, mourns for those who do not come, and challenged churches to come. There is two years to get ready, he said. Don’t make it optional; send people. Let us know what it takes for you to be willing to send your church, Gerald said. (During the discussion time, there was support to allow non-EMC churches to attend.)

Kevin Wiebe, BCM member, said the board wants to assist churches in their discussion and discernment. When the church he serves lost 30 per cent of its attendees through conflict, it sent him for training. Many people want to see controversial matters discussed in The Messenger, he said. (During the discussion time, thanks were given for seeking to help with difficult conversations.)

Kim Muehling, BCM chair, read a report prepared by Don Kroeker, archives committee chair, on recent translating of German documents and the need for more translators. There is value in materials other than sermons being translated because they show the faith of members, Kim said.

Board of Leadership and Outreach

Richard Klassen, chair, said the BLO has responsibilities for doctrine and to care for ministers. There is a ministerial retreat this fall. The BLO wants to introduce a theology conference on alternate years and the BLO and Blumenort EMC are working together on a discussion on sexuality for next year. As well, to avoid confusion the severance and sabbatical policies will likely no longer appear on the same page. The minister’s manual is being improved.

Layton Friesen, conference pastor, said that the past year has been a rich interaction with pastors and their families. A Mediation Training workshop was held and materials will be made available. The BLO is seeking to regularly help with mediation training, both onsite and by livestreaming.

He said the ministerial approved a new process for candidates seeking ordination, and he encouraged pastors to mentor candidates. Layton asked for feedback on what is effective or ineffective in how he relates to local churches.

Church Planting Task Force

Charles Koop, director of church planting, said planting is a bit of a mystery and, like gardening, takes a lot of faith. Bill Janzen, serving in St. Thomas, Ont., was introduced as a church planter. Janzen said there is no better way to reach new people than through a plant. When he sought support in his efforts, the EMC surrounded him and the transfer to the EMC has been “awesome.” The Region Nine churches have endorsed his ministry and he has been hired half-time, Koop said.

Dr. Yemiru Tilahun, located in Ethiopia, has been hired on a quarter-time basis to assist with church starts in Edmonton and Toronto among people from Ethiopia. Where this will lead is unclear, yet we need to be along for the ride, Koop said. A plant in Bow Island is being considered. More workers and funds are needed (the money is out there). The EMC has always been a church planting body, he said.

Board of Trustees

Gord Reimer, chair, gave thanks to Diana Peters, who recently submitted her resignation, for eight years of extraordinary service as an administrative assistant. The Church Staff Benefits Package is under review, with one favoured from the Canadian Council of Christian Charities. Volunteers are welcomed on the Sustainable Funding Committee. All churches can apply to the Church Building Grant Fund, with priority given based on need.

The financial deficit for 2018 was $32,422. Currently in 2019 there is a shortfall of $245,000, which depletes EMC reserves. He said thank you to donor churches, individuals, and businesses for their giving.

Board of Missions

Brad Brandt, chair, said missions was why the national office was first organized, and church planting is our top priority. Henry and Caroline Krahn served “selflessly” with servant hearts in Bolivia, he said. The Krahns then spoke of serving as a host couple and of ministries through a bookstore, radio, games, and a school. A Prayer Team that came was “very encouraging.” Do people get saved? Yes. Men with alcohol problems go into rehab and come out having accepted Christ. They thanked the EMC for sending them as missionaries.

The BOM chair said the EMC has four administered fields (Nicaragua, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Mexico); there has been a change in missionary support structures that workers are optimistic about; home teams are being worked on; and there is need to engage more workers.

Ken Zacharias, director of global outreach, said prayer teams have gone to Bolivia and the city of Guadalajara (Mexico). He encouraged churches to identify missionary candidates; years ago, Korean Christians encouraged him and Val to consider missionary service.

The BOM wants to expand into another field, he said. Four options were presented for a straw vote (non-binding): to Muslims in Spain, to a diverse urban centre in Spain, to send teachers to First Nations communities in Canada, and to work with Frontiers on reaching Muslims. Delegates were to choose two options in order of preference. [The votes have since been counted: First Nations in Canada, then working with Frontiers.] In the discussion time, delegates spoke about the need to engage with FN people and the TRC recommendations, and of the ministry of Koreans to FN peoples.

Delegate Reporting

Tim Dyck encouraged delegates to choose highlights to report to their churches. A video of the EMC convention was soon to be available. The council session ran until 12:30 p.m. It was shortened to allow for workshops in the afternoon, which were well-attended.

Elections

Vice Moderator
Ward Parkinson (Reg. 6)

Board of Church Ministries
Heidi Dirks (Reg. 7)

Board of Leadership and Outreach
Chris Hughes (Reg. 2)
Irma Janzen (Reg. 7)

Board of Missions
Art Koop (Reg. 8)
Joanne Martens (Reg. 4)

Board of Trustees
Isaac Dyck (Reg. 1)
Ruth Penner (Reg. 7)

Nominating Committee
Jake Dick (Reg. 9)
Frankie Kim (Reg. 3)
Waldon Plett (Reg. 5)

Church Planting Task Force
Donna Moman (Reg. 4)
Abe Bueckert (Reg. 2)
Anna Bueckert (Reg. 2)
Antonio Pitta (Reg. 2)

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