Transition Proposal, Three Per Cent Budget Increase Approved

By Rebecca Roman

Conference Council members met by Zoom on November 20, 2021, starting at 10 a.m. CT, to give opportunities for boards to report and make recommendations on the work of the Conference.

Opening

Moderator Abe Bergen opened by reading from 2 Corinthians 5:11–21, saying reconciliation is part of EMC’s mission. He noted how Mennonites who immigrated from Russia to Canada benefited from practices that harmed others. There is a need to make efforts at reconciliation and healing with Indigenous Peoples in Canada, he said.

General Board

Moderator Abe Bergen reported. The way churches and the Conference currently define ministerial leadership has changed over the years and is no longer aligned with what is laid out in the EMC Constitution. The General Board (GB) has requested the Board of Leadership and Outreach (BLO) review and clarify the role and makeup of the EMC Ministerial. If changes to the Constitution are needed, the proposal will be brought to Conference Council.

The GB has been approached with requests for exemptions to COVID-19 vaccines based on religion. While the GB will not be publishing a statement, Bergen says the Board has approved a response for direct inquiries.

Transition Consultant report and proposal

Vice-Moderator Darren Plett introduced Don Peters, Transition Consultant. With the upcoming retirements of Director of Global Mission Ken Zacharias and Executive Director Tim Dyck, the GB hired Don Peters to review EMC’s current staff configuration and make recommendations.

Don Peters began by thanking the EMC, saying he appreciated people’s openness and willingness to answer questions. He outlined key points in the proposal:

  • That the Executive Director take on a more visible role in championing the vision of the EMC (EMC already has a strong vision statement);
  • That the current Communications Coordinator become the Director of Communications;
  • That the expectation of travel be specified in the job descriptions for directors (an expectation exists, but the number of visits expected isn’t currently outlined);
  • That the EMC hire a director who will assist churches in reaching the next generation;
  • That the EMC further explore associations and partnership to accomplish our vision and mission (we currently have associate missions, but this could be expanded to other areas of ministry);
  • That associate missionaries be administered by the Director of Global Outreach;
  • That each director liaise with a board and each board have a staff liaison.

Some comments were made that the job description for a director to reach the next generation seems vague. Don Peters responded the focus needs to go beyond handing out pamphlets, towards advocacy. We need someone to assist the church in developing policies and vision to understand and include the next generation.

The motion carried.

Budget and Trustees report

Andrew Kampen, Board of Trustees vice-chairman, introduced the proposed budget for 2022. For 2021, EMC reduced its budget by 10 per cent in anticipation of coming financial difficulties. Receipts did not drop as expected and disbursements were lower than expected. The receipt of government subsidies also assisted in replenishing reserves depleted from previous shortfalls.

The 2022 budget includes an increase in spending of three per cent. It is hoped receipts will overtake expenses by an additional three per cent (for a total of $1.8M), replenishing the reserve fund.

The budget was approved.

Kampen reported the BOT has updated the privacy policy and is working to develop a budget reserve policy.

Inspiring Partnership in Ministry (IPiM)

Members of the IPiM task force, presented a summary of its recommendations.

The task force recommends the Conference maintain a focus on what we have in common, name ministry truthfully (often women missionaries serve as pastors and church planters), and make Conference meetings welcoming and safe.

Local churches are encouraged to include women as speakers, include both spouses in local pastor job contracts (where appropriate), give attention to ministries currently led by women, name church ministry honestly, consider adding a woman pastor to church staff in a role that fits the church’s theology, consider professional development to assist all-male pastoral teams in understanding women’s perspectives, and follow through on stated beliefs (often churches believe more leadership roles are open to women than they practice).

To individuals the task force recommends continued learning; this is an ongoing challenge.

Board of Leadership and Outreach

BLO chairman Andy Woodworth said ministerial met on the previous day via Zoom for a time of sharing and prayer. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the planned ministerial retreat was postponed.

A major initiative of the BLO for 2022 is Come and See, a season of spiritual renewal. This is to run from the first Sunday of Advent 2021 until Pentecost of 2022.

The BLO is also working on rewriting the Ministerial Misconduct Policy. Conference Pastor Layton Friesen said the current policy was made 20 years ago.

Church Planting Task Force

Director of Canadian Church Planting Gerald Reimer said despite successes and failures, “the call is clear” to continue church planting. Two new church plants had opening services in fall of 2021: Kingdom Life in Winnipeg, Man., and Bow Island EMC in Alberta. Since Bow Island is a daughter church of Gospel Light in Redcliff, Alta., Gospel Light is left with vacancies in leadership—a challenge that requires prayer.

Board of Church Ministries

BCM chairwoman Kim Muehling summarized responses from delegates to the question at the June 2021 Council meeting asking about challenges and opportunities as we come out of the pandemic. Three main themes were the harmful level of conflict in churches, uncertainty about people returning, and the need to embrace new technology well. The BCM is looking at providing resources to help churches with these challenges.

Ruth Block introduced Come and See resources developed for use in children’s ministry. There is a Facebook group for Come and See Kids (https://www.facebook.com/groups/emckidsmin).

Jordan Doerksen reported on behalf of the National Youth Committee. Abundant Springs is planned for spring 2022, but a decision will be made in January if the event can go ahead.

Board of Missions

Antonio Pitta reported on his recent exploratory trip to Spain with his wife Esther and Rolf Kruse. The port of Algeciras brings North Africa to Europe. Moroccan people face racism from the Spanish people.

The BOM passed a recommendation to send the Pittas to Spain for language learning as early as January. Conference Council will need to ratify the decision to accept Algeciras and the Campo of Gibraltar area as a new field at their next meeting.

Outgoing Director of Global Mission Ken Zacharias reported the BOM recently signed an Associate Mission Agreement with Pioneer Missions. Two young women have been recently accepted by the BOM and Pioneers.

Both young women (unnamed for security reasons) reported and requested prayer as they serve.

Closing

Moderator Abe Bergen closed with a summary of the day’s events and decisions. He reminded delegates of the need to “talk about [recommendations from the Inspiring Partnership in Ministry task force] in our churches.”

Post-meeting a time was held to honour outgoing EMC staff members. Phil Hamm expressed gratitude for Ken Zacharias who will be retiring as Director of Global Mission at the end of November 2021. Another departing staff member is Andrew Walker, Communications Assistant, who will be leaving mid-January 2022 to pursue further education. Kim Muehling expressed thanks for his years of service.

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