Cross-Cultural Church Partnerships Happening in Calgary, Winnipeg

By Rebecca Roman

On June 19, 2021, EMC Conference Council delegates met by Zoom to hear and discuss the work of the Conference. Among items shared is a church merger taking place in Calgary, Alta., between Abbeydale Christian Fellowship and Iglesia Emanuel. A church partnership is also forming between Kingdom Life Church (an outreach church plant for Syrian refugees) and St. Vital EMC in Winnipeg, Man. The details of what that partnership will include are still in process.

Opening Devotional

Sharing about his temptation to see the Ministerial meeting (on June 18, 2021) as “spiritual” and Conference Council meetings as merely “physical” pastor Alain Reimer from Evangelical Fellowship Church in Fort Frances, Ont., “set the stage for today” by reading from Acts 6:1–7.

“Are we as concerned about finding Spirit-filled people to fill those [board] positions as we see here in Acts?” Reimer asked. He encouraged Council members “what we’re doing today is spiritual work…and we are just as in need of the Spirit’s guidance today as the Ministerial was yesterday,” then led in prayer.

Elections

Josh Muehling, chair of the Nominating Committee outlined the election process. For results, see sidebar.

General Board

Moderator Barry Plett provided a brief summary of the General Board’s structure and recent work, which included staff transitions and support for Executive Director Tim Dyck during compassionate leave for the recent illness and death of his wife, Brenda.

Board of Missions

Board chair Brad Brandt reported on new missionary placements: Antonio and Esther Pitta to Spain, Danny Plett with TeachBeyond, and two individuals to sensitive locations. Doors have opened, Brandt said, for ministry to Muslims in Spain and to Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Several years ago, Antonio Pitta had written a research paper on ministry to Moroccan Muslims in Spain. With the BOM “somewhat overwhelmed…at what ministry to First Nations people might look like,” Jen Kornelsen approached the BOM inquiring about writing a paper precisely on this topic. “No coincidence, but God at work,” said Brandt.

Brandt mentioned recent bereavements to missionary families, then prayed for families affected.

Antonio Pitta described the process of God’s call to him and wife Esther in their ministry transition, which began when they encountered Moroccan people on a trip to Spain in 2016. “We know what it’s like to come into another country, learn a new language and new culture,” said Pitta.

Jen Kornelsen reported on EMC’s steps towards serving Indigenous Peoples in Canada. “This is a time for us to pull together and learn together so that we can do better together,” said Kornelsen.
Canadian Church Planting Task Force

Gerald Reimer, EMC Director of Canadian Church Planting, said that Iglesia Emanuel has been “adopted in to the family of the Abbeydale Christian Fellowship church in Calgary.” Antonio Pitta and Esther Pitta, former pastoral couple of Iglesia Emanuel and Larry Nutbrown, pastor of Abbeydale shared about the merger process. In prayer for the merger, Frankie Kim (Pelly Fellowship in Sask.) said, “They can overcome” difficulties such as language barriers “because you already gave them the unity in you.”

Reimer reported on another union taking place between St. Vital EMC and Kingdom Life Church, both in Winnipeg, Man. Saying “this is still very new for us,” Merle Kroeker, Leadership Team chairperson, shared about the process of forming a partnership from St. Vital’s perspective. In spite of needing to work out some details, Kroeker said the congregation ultimately decided “if this partnership is God’s will, he will help it to be successful.”

Ibrahim Zabaneh, who joined EMC as a church planter about a year ago, gave Kingdom Life’s perspective. As a church plant among refugees mainly from Syria, there was a desire to see people “integrated and not to be isolated from the community,” he said.

Board of Trustees

Andrew Kampen, BOT chair, presented a summary of the audited financial statements from 2020, saying that the full statements are available upon request. A fund balance of $267,955 will help to replenish budget reserves that were depleted over the past few years, he said.

Moving to the 2021 financial update, Kampen noted that receipts to date are lower than the past five years.
Board of Leadership and Outreach

BLO chair Andy Woodworth reported on the previous day’s ministerial meeting. Attendees over Zoom heard an “outside-in perspective” from Dr. Yemiru Tilahun on what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church in Canada. Woodworth also outlined BLO plans to lead EMC churches in a season of spiritual renewal beginning November 28, 2021.

Woodworth said the BLO continues to deal with “sticky issues” such as women in ministry. “Every time we get close, we seem to fall short,” said Woodworth, describing how the BLO’s “Recommendation on Resolving the Dilemma of Women in Pastoral Leadership” failed to reach the needed level of acceptance.

Board of Church Ministries

BCM chair Kim Muehling thanked outgoing member Kevin Wiebe and welcomed new members Gary Giesbrecht and Dwight Plett, with thanks to current member Sarah Barkman who will serve another term. Muehling introduced Rebecca Roman, interim editor of The Messenger. Roman described how a recent submission on the Rosenort revival in 1951 came to fruition. Travis Plett of the National Youth Committee highlighted planning for Abundant Springs in 2022. Erica Fehr, EMC Communications Coordinator, shared her vision for the Growing Together newsletter in promoting civil discourse on timely topics.

Breakout Groups

Discussion took place in breakout groups about what congregations need coming out of this pandemic. Both challenges and opportunities were mentioned.

Personnel Committee

Vice-Moderator and Personnel Committee chair Ward Parkinson said a severance package agreement has been reached with former Director of Communications and Education Terry Smith. He requested the constituency pray for Smith and wife Mary Ann in their transition.

Parkinson also reported that Don Peters, former Executive Director of MCC Canada, will serve as a part-time consultant to assist in staff transitions as Director of Global Outreach Ken Zacharias and Executive Director Tim Dyck both plan to retire in the next couple of years.

Closing

Participants returned to breakout groups to close in prayer.

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