“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” This famous paragraph from a Charles Dickens novel were the opening words of the devotional given by Andrew Dyck (Pastor at Stony Brook Fellowship) as he challenged us to consider both the good as well as the frustrations of the year 2020. He referred to the prophet Joel, who spoke words of encouragement and challenge to the nation of Judah when they faced a disastrous year. God’s intention then, as now, is to draw us to himself in all circumstances. Continue reading Churches, Conference Budget Affected by Pandemic Challenges→
WORLD—Conference council delegates on June 27, 2020, met by Zoom, heard updates on boards’ activities, and discussed questions proposed by the boards.
Welcome and Devotional
Moderator Barry Plett welcomed delegates to the Zoom meeting and encouraged them to view any video reports previously posted to avoid “redundant” questions. Tim Dyck, executive director, outlined the electronic process. Continue reading Council Discusses Boards’ Questions→
Discussion dominates, $526,242 needed before year’s end
WINNIPEG, Man.—Conference council delegates on Nov. 24, 2018, voted to explore encouraging attendance at MWC’s Assembly in Indonesia by not holding an EMC convention in 2021, approved a blended support model for fully-administered missionaries, supported a $19,000 budget increase for 2019, and heard an update on the Inspiring Partnership in Ministry project.
Welcome and Devotional
Moderator Barry Plett welcomed delegates. Ralph Unger, interim pastor at host Braeside EMC, drew from 1 Kings 7, early Anabaptist history, and early EMC missions history to focus on being risk-takers. Are we passionate about reaching others? Our mandate is not over, he said. The moderator led in prayer.
The moderator said a Sustainable Funding Committee will research EMC giving patterns, ways to generate funds, new budgeting models, and improve communication and connections with EMC donors. It will operate through 2019 and report at council in summer 2020.
The board sought permission to explore not holding convention in 2021 in order to encourage EMCers to attend MWC’s general assembly in Indonesia. Conference council and ministerial meetings could still be held, and one possibility is to shift convention’s time to avoid a conflict with MWC’s event. Exploring means options will be looked at and the board will return to council with a recommendation. The motion carried.
Tim Dyck, executive director, said staff affirmed that the national office exists to “nurture the shared confession, mission, and covenant of the EMC.” A healthy organization requires a cohesive leadership team and organizational clarity. There is a need for trust, for conflict to be healthy, and to be held accountable for results. The staff met for three days to answer six questions, and has spent a few months on improving team dynamics, he said.
Mennonite Central Committee
Mark Epp, program director, said in a video that there is no hope for peace in the Middle East without restorative justice, and efforts toward peace are being made around the globe. There are more physically hungry people in the world today; one factor is conflict, a lack of peace.
Mennonite World Conference
MWC brings together various Anabaptist bodies, said North America representative Gerald Hildebrand. Connections can be strengthened through MWC’s general assembly (Indonesia), its info by e-mail, and its prayer network. Funding is split between donations by churches and individuals. Our well-being is tied to the well-being of others; we need the help of our brothers and sisters to follow Jesus, he said.
Board of Church Ministries
Kim Muehling, chair, said the past year was one of fruitful work. Bill Rambo introduced Holy Wanderings: A Guide to Deeper Discipleship, a recently published three-year project of the EMMC, CMC, and EMC. He listed 13 lessons ranging from how to study Scripture, church life, leadership, conflict, defending the faith, and pilgrimage. May the Lord use it to assist us to become more like Jesus with each other and to share the good news that the world needs, he said.
In a promotion causing much laughter, Russell Doerksen said the Education Committee’s next publishing project will excite people to rush to purchase copies for Christmas stockings in 2019. Conference pastor Layton Friesen’s Master of Theology thesis is “the rare volume on Anabaptist theology and history that is both academic but also very readable” and will help shape sermons, Sunday School lessons, and more.
Layton Friesen replied, “Wow! Now I can only disappoint you,” which caused more laughter. He was raised to think that Anabaptism was the “culmination” of the Reformation, but wondered why, then, Anabaptists were the most hated people in Europe. Suspecting there was more to the story, he said he explored the threat they posed. He asked, why did believer’s baptism threaten the government and a common purse among believers the economy? Why did people who thought they lived near “the end of the world . . .send chills down the spine of a king” or the adoption of pacifism cause others to fear they would live in an Islamic region?
Cyndy Warkentin, BCM member reporting for Heidi Dirks, said that the Mental Health Initiative is completing its year-long task. It has contributed articles to The Messenger, held workshops at MacGregor EMC and at the EMC’s convention, hopes that churches have been helped, and remains open to helping further.
Kim Muehling told the fictional story of two Baptists who agreed on much, but came to a stunning parting after disagreeing. Sparked by the Hearing from God controversy and the discussion that followed in MacGregor, the BCM will focus through 2019 and probably beyond to assist churches in how to think, disagree, and decide in a healthy way. Its efforts do not replace the EMC’s Harmony Document, but will seek to provide practical help through articles in The Messenger and Theodidaktos.
Will there be a further response to MCC’s lifestyle policy? [Nothing planned, but the topic will come up at CCAL, a gathering of Anabaptist conference leaders.]
Which book by Patrick Lencioni helped the national office’s organizational clarity? [The Advantage.]
What cost will there be to investigate the MWC option? [Minimal.]
Be careful not to make a conservative response that would separate from MCC.
What happens if MCC does not follow through on its hiring policy? [Human rights appeals with a more “onorous” solution.]
When is it disagreement and when it is compromise?
Board of Missions
Sandra Plett (Ridgewood) reported on her ministry in Guadalajara, Mexico, with the Matthew Training Centre, which has a vision of well-trained workers serving among the nations. Ken Zacharias, director of Global Outreach, introduced new missionaries: Benny and Ester Fehr (Mount Salem) who will serve in Bolivia in radio ministry, Alex Reimer (Prairie Grove) with Greater Europe Mission, and James and Maria Wahl (St. Vital) who will serve in El Salvador. Joanne Martens, formerly of Germany and Paraguay, has retired in southwestern Manitoba. Ken led in prayer.
Brad Brandt, chair, highlighted the board’s proposed change to the missionary support model: workers in Bolivia, Mexico, and Paraguay will raise, in a phased-in process, 40% of their support by 2022. Giving to EMC missions is down while giving to projects is up; the number of workers on fully-administered fields might not be sustainable yet the number of associate workers is increasing.
Funding affects recruitment. The question is not whether change will happen, but what model is best amid giving realities in the EMC. The positives are the BOM still provides 60%, a more engaged support base for workers, and a higher awareness of missions, he said.
What if the worker can’t raise support? [No clear answer. Some training provided. Some temporary support.]
Not all are gifted at fundraising. What are the ethics of changing the process while people are on the field?
What’s the cost in staff time? [BOM is looking at sustainable funding, trying to strike a balance. Not excited by change, but by some possibilities.]
Fundraising is not easy, but EMCers have enough money to pay for the budget.
Benefits of missions promotion at home reveal model is a great idea.
Don’t need to change model to increase missions awareness. [Advocacy teams are going ahead whether model does or not.]
Churches used to want a weekend of ministry about missions; now they want 10 minutes on Sunday morning. Reluctantly, but with faith, supports model.
Model might dissuade some workers from going. [The number of associate workers, where fundraising is needed, is growing.]
Applicant was angry to be told there was “no room in budget” for new recruits.
Whether or not favouring the 40%, don’t make it hard for workers to get it. They deserve our support.
The BOM requested a vote by ballot with at least two-thirds in favour for the proposal to be approved. The vote was held and the proposal was approved.
Mennonite Foundation of Canada
Harold Penner, stewardship consultant, shared a video with stories of how people were helped in how they give. He then spoke of people, their generosity, plans, and charities.
Inspiring Partners in Ministry
Co-chairs Darren Plett (Pleasant Valley) and Erica Fehr (Kleefeld) outlined the process to date. The formal discussion of women in ministry had been set aside for years, more recently because of the Statement of Faith review. A recent survey determined that telling stories of women in service was a key need.
Flo Friesen then shared the story of Cathy Thiessen, a career missionary in Mexico, whose service included preaching and teaching. For seven years within a much longer career, Cathy travelled from Chihuahua city to serve as pastor in four smaller churches. She was a pioneer, an apostle, Flo said, who trained and mentored young men and served with no opposition from people in the churches, the field team, or the BOM. They were, Flo said, the best years of Cathy’s life where she could do that for which she was divinely gifted: to lead, preach, and teach.
Gerald Reimer, now the EMC’s director of youth and discipleship and earlier a youth worker in Mexico, spoke of having served with and under the direction of Cathy. She was both a mentor and a colleague. He valued her input and that of Alvira Friesen, another worker in Mexico. He did not sense any personal agenda being forced on others; they served out of a call of Christ in their context. They still have his respect and influenced him in ways for which he praises the Lord.
The question was raised: how can we support and encourage women like Cathy in their church leadership at home and abroad?
There are two separate questions here. [Fair comment.]
Has a married woman led a team on the field? [None come to mind.]
The question has an answer in it—whether it is possible to be different in different cultures without being right or wrong. Clapping.
Follow the gifts God has given. Too much focus on gender. Clapping.
When is it a cultural difference or a personal preference? There is a need to be intentional in our churches.
In Bolivia it would be a stumbling block for a woman to take the lead.
Steinbach Bible College
Gord Penner, a professor and an EMC minister, said SBC seeks to have multicultural graduates in meaningful vocations who make disciples. SBC is more multicultural than delegates might think. Its Leadership Conference is on March 14-16 with Dr. Gus Konkel speaking on a biblical view of suffering. (He said, in an aside, that a Young Adult Retreat will be held on March 8-10 at Camp Cedarwood with Layton Friesen speaking on a faith worth dying for.)
Board of Leadership and Outreach
Richard Klassen, chair, said the counseling benefit for clergy has been changed to provide up to $500 per year with greater freedom on counselors used. The minister’s manual is being revised; a committee is being formed.
Charles Koop, director of church planting, says the Church Planting Task Force is active and needs one more member. There are church plants happening, others being considered, and new churches that plant other churches excite him. Much of the outreach is to newcomers to Canada. Richard Klassen said that Charlie Koop has indicated he will retire at the end of 2019. Charlie received a round of applause for his work.
Layton Friesen, conference pastor, said part of his job is to “drink obscene amounts of coffee across Canada.” Churches have suffered the loss of pastors; all have interim pastors. A dozen pastors will be needed in 2019, but God will bring leaders from various places inside and out of the EMC.
He’s engaging with emerging young pastors in an online study group that deals with spiritual formation, self-care, emotional and cultural intelligence, marriage and family, and leadership and management skills. (Later he said pastors can decide if they are young enough.) He encouraged board chairs to provide oversight of pastors, including asking about their prayer life. Pastors need the freedom to spend time in prayer, which is part of their work. The board is involved in a vigorous discussion about strengthening and lengthening the ordination process.
Board of Trustees
Gord Reimer, chair, said the EMC budget needs $526,242 by year’s end, which is $100,000 more than is usually received in December. He wanted delegates and pastors to report the need to their churches. There is a need for a big push in December. The board has been involved with a Sustainable Funding Strategy and an upgrade to the conference benefits plan.
The BOT had proposed a 2019 budget of $1,899,000, the same as in 2018. However, boards sought an increase of $19,000. The BOT decided to present three options to delegates: leave the budget unbalanced, approve an increase in giving, or request boards trim the budget by $19,000, he said.
Delegates discussed the options and voted in favour of increasing the proposed budget. A budget of $1,918,000 was then approved by a separate vote.
Editor’s note: There was more discussion during the day than can be reflected.
LORETTE, Man.—The EMC’s ministerial on Nov. 23, 2018, was led briefly by Brian Reimer, discussed ordination within Scripture, heard stories of “the joy and burden of ordination,” learned of a new process proposed for ordination, and ended with a sharing of ministry joys and concerns. And, in a day devoted to a discussion of ordination, a continuing issue raised was how this related to women.
Richard Klassen, BLO chair, welcomed ministerial members. Pastor Brian Reimer, of the host Prairie Grove congregation, read Scriptures from both Testaments interspersed with congregational singing. He highlighted those serving in music ministry on this morning because they were young people who persevered through a tough period in the congregation’s history. Richard Klassen said that there was no better music than when a group of church leaders join in song.
Ordination in the Bible
Ward Parkinson (Rosenort EMC) said ordination is practiced among denominations of different views. Within the EMC ordination is both an act of the local church and the conference; the conference also practices commissioning for a definite period and task. Affirmation in service is needed by the BLO or the BOM.
In AD 235 Fabian was elected bishop when a dove sat on his head; today, if we were to take off the roofs of churches and let the Lord do his work, Layton Friesen would have the best shot, he said.
There is no prescriptive designation of ordination in Scripture, and so some people set it aside, Ward said, but Scripture has descriptions of it, obedience requires ordination, and Scripture lists requirements. In a survey of Scripture, Ward listed the ordination of Aaron (Ex. 29:9), the Levites (Num. 8), and the 70 elders (Num. 11); the transfer of priestly authority from Aaron to Eleazar (Num. 20:25-27); and the commissioning of Joshua (Num. 27:18-20).
In the New Testament Jesus is the High Priest, our Mediator, who has opened a new and living way. All are priests, yet leadership is needed. The Twelve chose Matthias by lot (Acts 1), had authority, but there’s mention of them appointing successors. The seven are appointed (Acts 6) with no mention of them being deacons; the ministries of Stephen and Philip seem more apostolic. Barnabas and Saul are set apart to serve as missionaries (Acts 13), and they appointed elders in each church (Acts 14).
A companion is chosen to accompany Titus (2 Cor. 8:19). Gifts are given for church’s edification (Eph. 4:11). The Pastoral letters have more on appointing or ordaining leaders: there is the laying of hands and perhaps prophecy. The effect is binding, not casual, with no room for carelessness. The church is not to ordain without testing (1 Tim. 5:22). In Timothy’s ordination, Paul laid hands on him and a divine gift is mentioned that Timothy is to keep burning (2 Tim. 1:6). Paul left Titus to appoint elders in Crete (Titus 1:5); and the lists of qualities in an elder (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim. 3:1-7) combine the needs of good character and sound doctrine. There is a need to entrust the teaching of the gospel to reliable men (2 Tim. 2:2).
In NT times there was little distinction between an elder (respected, perhaps older person) and a bishop, but Cyprian in the third century AD saw bishops as the successors of the apostles and the hierarchy became entrenched. The Reformation saw a priestly role rejected in favour of the pastoral, with education and doctrine having priorities.
Ordination is more than a human rite; it is an equipping through the laying of hands and a role that is a gift of God, Ward said. Leaders are selected by congregation or appointment with neither less biblical. There is to be testing of study, doctrine, reputation and character. The setting apart is a life-long process. Eugene Petersen says we are “lashed to the mast”; not that you have it, but that He has you. The laying on of hands is common and confers something, though the meaning is unclear.
Stories of the Joy and Burden of Ordination
Four ministers shared their thoughts on being ordained.
When Frank D. Reimer resigned at Prairie Rose and an expected successor withdrew, he became the next logical candidate who was elected before he, too, resigned. Edwin served for decades. Was he called? Moses resisted until God told him to “Shut up,” pack his bags, and go to Egypt. He was set apart as spiritual leader with a responsibility to preach the Word, which he accepted. He learned that his time had to be flexible, had to adjust from moving from being teacher to a pastor (and living on a pastor’s salary), and accepted counsel not to neglect his family. He will never forgot how he was installed as pastor in the morning and officiated at his first funeral in the afternoon.
He has served 20 years in the EMC (Stony Brook) amid a sense of inadequacy that has kept him reliant on the Lord. His journey has taken him through an EMB church plant, training, and a call to a Baptist church; a mentor helped him prepare for ordination. He didn’t feel worthy, but if God was in this, he was prepared to carry on. There is not a lot of biblical support for ordination, for “pomp and ceremonies” and “diplomas.” He doesn’t know the significance of ordination and doesn’t use “Reverend” except when writing to a court where it makes a difference. Being ordained has helped him in difficult times to be reminded that pastoral ministry is more than a job; it’s a calling in which he was set apart. The authority of a pastor doesn’t come with the position, but is a voluntary submission.
Vern (Riverton) was in grade nine when God laid it on his heart to be a pastor. Influential in his connecting with the EMC were his wife Lana’s Pelly link and conference pastor David Thiessen. Crestview wanted an ordained person, but he asked it to hold off on ordination for a year or so. Ordination later happened. It reminds him that he is part of something bigger, and the sense of calling holds him in tough times so he don’t leave when it gets hot.
He is concerned about training—too little and, on the other hand, burnout from too many demands. Jude 20-23 is a key passage for his ministry, summing up pastoral work as gritty, but with a huge amount of blessing. He loves that the Lord has called him to this and at times he “would give it away for a nickel.”
Now a church planter for the EMC in Ste. Agathe, Man., Dick said he had been commissioned at Rosenort EMC as a youth pastor where it was suggested that he pursue ordination at some time. When he looked at the paperwork involved, he didn’t see it really affecting what he was doing in ministry. It’s been a four-year process of working through the required reading; the point, short answer, and essay questions; and other portions. He has struggled to pursue ordination because he has been waiting for the church to call or select him.
Ordination means to set apart for a particular responsibility for leading and serving Christ’s bride, the Church. It signifies a formal recognition of someone who’s following the Lord in an example that others should imitate. What difference would ordination make for him? It represents the affirmation of the church and helps develop a deepening sense of responsibility for the Church. How can the church take on more responsibility for ordination?
Looking at How We Ordain People
Layton Friesen said that the BLO heard calls from the church to strengthen and enhance ordination within the EMC. A proposal was sent, discussion will occur, changes might happen, and a decision will be made in July 2019. Verbally and in a written document the proposed process was outlined.
Rather than a “pass the exam” process, there will be a seven-month (Oct.-April) ordination course where ordinands become a cohort (a unit) of leaders who will meet together (online or in person) during this period.
A required set of readings and written reflections will relate to skills, theology, history, spirituality and character. A pastor in the region will serve as a mentor and the conference pastor and church planting director will host periodic forums online with the cohort. The candidate and mentor will spend months preparing a theological questionnaire. Only those affirmed by the mentor will proceed to ordination. The cohort will be examined together in a retreat in May where the examination committee can respond to each candidate with an unqualified assent, qualified assent, or dissent.
The BLO feels that it should no longer exam or ordain deacons because their role has changed in most churches. Teaching scripture and doctrine is no longer a central to it, and most churches have moved to terms from life callings.
Instead, EMC orientation evenings for deacons should be held. Deacons would not form part of the EMC ministerial (unless they have already been ordained and then their role would continue). All deacons would be welcome at the ministerial retreat. If a church wants a deacon to teach and discern about doctrine, it can seek their ordination and the new cohort process would apply to such candidates as well.
There are some positions (parachurch, college professors, or chaplains) where ordination can be pursued without the place of service being directly in a local church. If a minister no longer serves an EMC congregation, their ordination would become inactive after one year; they are not “defrocked” and their ordination can be reactivated at the request of an EMC church.
There was considerable discussion throughout the day. On the proposed new process of ordination, here is some of the feedback.
If the mentor doesn’t approve a candidate, what recourse does the candidate have if they disagree? [Unclear.]
The current ordination process seemed strangely isolating and lonely. A cohort is better.
Uncomfortable with the key push being theological. [How do we test for character and integrity? Mentor and congregation will help.]
Is there room for an ordinand to have input on the selection of a mentor? [Yes.]
Include the church in the process more; the pastor should be the mentor. [The pastor will be a mentor, but an outside mentor is also needed.]
Lots of people fall between the cracks because the local church fails to initiate. Nudge the BLO to work with the church. [Needs to be a both/and.]
What is the educational requirement to be ordained? [None yet. What should be the requirement?]
Needs to be more “bite” on the process or transfer of ordination. Those who resist it need it the most.
Some modification is needed for churches who already have a preaching team and minister-in-training process already in place. [Agreed.]
Like the process. Big part of leadership development is relationship. Another mentor pouring in is great.
Sharing of Ministry Joys and Concerns
There was a time for sharing of joys and concerns and prayer together.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Women in Leadership survey results invite discussion, no clear way ahead
MENNVILLE, Man.— EMC’s conference council delegates voted on June 10, 2017, to fill conference-related positions, tabled motions related to the Statement of Faith, and discussed both the Women in Leadership survey results and a Conference Restructuring Committee proposal.
Dwight Plett, lead minister of the host Mennville EMC, cautioned delegates that we can say yes or no to women in church leadership for both good and bad reasons. There is a need for obedience and unity. We need to remind ourselves that we are on the same team and need to love each other. After, moderator Abe Bergen said that Dwight came forward in an unassuming manner and then hit the delegates between the eyes.
Sid Reimer, Nominating Committee chair, led in elections (see the sidebar) and told stories about the Region.
Board of Missions
Fred Buhler, chair, said national staff are intentional about visiting churches with missions information. The time of 10:02 a.m. has become a prompt from Luke 10:2 to pray for workers to be sent into the harvest. Beth Koehler has become a prayer coordinator. Wisdom is needed to care for missionaries and their children, Fred said.
Ken Zacharis, foreign secretary, talked of beginnings and endings in missions. Hacienda Verde is a beginning: a ministry within a 3,000-hectare area used by 18 families excommunicated from Old Colony settings. A school and a church have developed.On the other hand, Nicaragua recently celebrated a half-century of active church development, though no EMC missionaries have been present for 25 years. Nancy Friesen shared that she will be going to language study before serving again in Bolivia.
Tim Dyck, general secretary, reinforced the need for prayer. He said that this is a “season” of medical challenges for missionaries, some of whom are dealing with cancer, which affects ministry. Beth Koehler led in prayer.
Board of Leadership and Outreach
Peter Doerksen, chair, said the BLO has been involved in two major items: the Statement of Faith review and the search for a Conference Pastor. Layton Friesen was introduced as the new conference pastor.
The BLO is looking at the examining and credentialing process for ministers. Doerksen has two single-spaced pages of names of people who have been sent forms for processing, but have not returned them.
Ralph Unger, interim conference pastor, described the EMC as small, but tenacious, a setting where beliefs matter. He suggested a committee be formed of “older, younger, male, female, more conservative and more liberal individuals” to decide core beliefs not to be compromised, while moving some practices to the “periphery” without violating scripture or offending others’ consciences.
Church Planting Task Force
Charles Koop, church planting coordinator, highlighted the recent chartering service of Gospel Light Fellowship (Medicine Hat); a new outreach in Airdrie, where about 40 people attend; and the concern for outreach to First Nations communities around Pelly.
PTS and CMU
Layton Friesen said that summer and fall programming at Providence Theological Seminary is moving ahead despite the recent fire at Bergen Hall. He will be involved in directing the Anabaptist Studies Track. Five courses will be included.
Dr. Cheryl Pauls, president of Canadian Mennonite University, highlighted that the EMC has a member on the Graduate School of Theology and Ministry’s advisory council and that EMC students are involved in undergrad and graduate studies. CMU is celebrating the Protestant Reformation 500th anniversary.
After much deliberation, Cornerstone Fellowship Church (Swift Current) will hold its final service on June 25, 2017, moderator Abe Bergen said. Conference passed a motion to release the church.On the other hand, the Winnipeg Logos Church , a Mandarin-speaking congregation, has applied for conference membership with the endorsement of Fort Garry EMC, the churches of Region 7, and the EMC General Board. Council voted to accept the congregation.
The Conference Restructuring Proposal, distributed somewhat earlier in written form, was presented. Change is needed because the relationship between the national ministerial and the conference council needs to be clarified; the current boards cooperate, but do not collaborate (“silos” of responsibilities); our needs today and tomorrow are to be considered; and the structure needs to reflect our Vision and Values statements. While the General Board could make changes by adjusting the conference policy, not the constitution, it prefers to place the matter into the council’s hands, it was said.
There were five recommendations (see sidebar). Because the fifth recommendation affects the second, third, and fourth, this recommendation will be acted upon; the second to fourth were withdrawn until the fifth is complete. The first recommendation was passed after considerable discussion. Among the comments:
Change is supported.
This involves significant change. Will other groups be consulted? (Response: Other boards, the General Board, and other non-EMC groups will be consulted.)
The proposal did not come to the churches soon enough.
The proposed restructuring is vague. (Response: Input is wanted and so what is presented is half-baked.)
What’s broken that we’re trying to fix? (Response: Use of staff and board resources needs to be more efficient.)
What is being asked in the motion, approval of a basic direction or something more substantial? (Response: It is a desire to be transparent. It is an approval in principle of a direction, not a structural change.)
What is this doing to the power structure of the Conference? Will power be in fewer people’s hands? If so, there could be a loss of trust among churches. Groundwork needs to build trust, not just efficiency. (Response: This concern was shared by others, including by the General Board. There is an emphasis on collaboration. Send further responses to the Conference Restructuring Committee. This process is not complete. It is half-baked and shows what could be.)
Board of Trustees
Gordon Reimer, chair, said the Treasurers’ Day went well in Jan. With changes at Abundance Canada affecting how the EMC can offer church mortgage loans, the practice is being reviewed.The 2016 audit showed a modest surplus for the year, though the reserve funds require replenishing. Churches, individuals, and businesses were thanked for their financial support. He highlighted “all other funds,” internal and external designations (with significant amounts) that are not part of the budget. The audited financial statement was approved.
EFC and MDS
Tim Dyck, an EMC representative to the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said he was encouraged by the results of the Evangelical Missions Engagement Survey among church members in Canada. It is a “treasure trove” that reveals a commitment to missions, the pivotal role of the local church, and an appreciation of conference and mission agencies. He encouraged churches to participate in a survey of youth ministries (Nov.-Dec.).
Ross Penner, MDS director of Region 5, said Mennonite Disaster Service has been engaged in mission in a time of global change since 1950. It shows an evangelical faith that cannot lie dormant and responds to disasters, touching lives and nurturing hope, faith, and wholeness. He has been surprised how people from set aside their denominational differences for the sake of mission.
Board of Church Ministries
Jessica Wichers, chair, highlighted the new beliefs brochure, a bookmark listing Anabaptist distinctives, and the Christian Education Update. Kevin Wiebe’s six lesson video series on Pov.ology has been well received in wider circles; she encouraged churches to check it out. More members are needed on the Archives and Worship Committees, and, with current technology, distance is no barrier.
Andrew Walker, assistant editor, said The Messenger is available in a variety of digital formats and he gave an update on readership statistics; digital readership is increasing. The website will include a poll to be posted through the year. He encouraged pastors and church secretaries to advertise the digital formats. The decision has also been made to post audio sermons on the magazine’s website.
Gerald Reimer, conference youth minister, highlighted the Young Adults’ Retreats in Manitoba and Alberta. Abundant Springs went well, though with an attendance of 345 young people. The lower numbers are a concern, but the event continues to meet needs. Where are the other churches? “Basically, it’s in your hands,” he said. Speaker Sid Koop, in his third appearance, did well. A seminar on mental health issues was packed out four times. Out-going members were thanked for their efforts. Jason Dueck has served for 16 years.
Statement of Faith
The Statement of Faith had been previously presented. The council made and tabled motions to replace the current 13 articles and to move footwashing from the Statement of Faith to Church Practices. These matters will to be voted on in Nov.
Women in Leadership Survey
Darren Plett, project leader, said about two-thirds of EMC churches responded to the survey. Many responses indicated that local leaders were not agreed on how to respond to the questions. Regarding restrictions in EMC policy (to limit ordination and selection of ministers to males), 32% would “require adherence”; 25% would support “no change, allow variance”; and 43% would “remove restrictions.” With no majority, no clear way forward is seen.
Potential action points were mentioned (summarized):
That all who teach in our churches be examined for theology and be held accountable. Could a woman be credentialed for working with children?
Though past study has happened, perhaps there is a need for current study, including Bible study guides.
There is a need to respond to fears. Examples: approval of female pastors might lead to allowing same-sex relationships, women are too emotional to be pastors, and men don’t know how to relate to women in authority.
We have not heard from women. There is a need to hear their experiences and be better informed.
Do we only allow women to serve or do we encourage them? We could have “a more welcoming space” for women, even a co-pastor role.
Male pastors would be encouraged to take a course or seminar on women’s issues.
Small Groups Discussion
In response to the proposed action points, delegates gathered in small groups to rate the points and to comment on them. They could also suggest another action point. When the small group discussions were over, some of the results were shared with the wider body.
Among the comments during the council’s discussion:
Have a women’s conference with men present, but only female presenters.
Follow-up with churches that did not respond.
Some women have gone through much training; credentialing is needed, but need not automatically lead to being a pastor.
The three options in the survey were inadequate.
Some interest in the process ahead.
Where is the balance between personal and church positions?
Whether credentialing should be reduced to a local matter.
The sheets with ratings and comments were gathered to assist in future proposals and decision-making.
ROSENORT, Man.—Conference council delegates on Nov. 26, 2016, approved a budget of $1,950,000, and pondered both a report on a trip to Israel/Palestine and relationships with other affiliate organizations.
Welcome and Devotional
Moderator Abe Bergen welcomed delegates. Ward Parkinson, pastor of host Rosenort EMC,focused on the beatitudes of Matt. 5:1-12, saying the Church has “strange currency” in rejoicing over mourning and meekness. Christ’s kingdom is not a matter of celestial distance, but of values. Keep listening to a different drumbeat. As Mother Theresa said, we must never fear to be a sign of contradiction to the world. Let’s find our identity in nothing but Christ and his drumbeat. There is the blessing of God, he said.
Board of Church Ministries
Jessica Wichers, BCM chair, said that the board is actively working to provide a Balanced Digital format in early 2017. Readers can check out The Messenger’s new digital format at ISSUU.com. There will be six print and six website issues in 2017, though the board desires to return to 12 print issues at some point.
Kevin Wiebe, BCM member and pastor of New Life, introduced Povology, a six-part video series created by him about “poverty and the church, intended for small group studies.” It is officially approved by the EMC and is free to stream or download at http://www.povology.com. It features interviews with Shane Claiborne, Dr. Ron Sider, Bruxy Cavey, Dr. Ray Vander Zaag, missionaries, professors, and EMC pastors. Responding to the presentation, moderator Abe Bergen told Kevin, “You rock!”
Kim Muehling introduced the newly formed Worship Committee, which will engage in theological investigation and identify practical resources to be shared. It has no desire to be an echo chamber, she said.
Steinbach Bible College
Professor Gord Penner said a high percentage of graduates are volunteering in church life, giving, recommending the college, and satisfied by their experiences within it. New are an online BA, a BA in Marketplace Ministry, an Activate Discipleship School. Take a course, be grounded in the faith, and go back to serve, he said. Abe Bergen told delegates that Gord Penner is the EMC’s 2017 convention speaker.
Board of Missions
Ken Zacharias, foreign secretary, said he and BOM chair Fred Buhler recently visited missionaries and ministries in Paraguay. Some workers retire, but continue to minister. He and Fred were with Judy and Dave Schmidt when they received news of Judy’s having cancer. Schmidts are grateful for prayer, and Ken asked that they be upheld in prayer.
The Mingu Gauzu team carries on. Tres Palmas, with about 40 to 50 people in attendance, has many ministries: in Ste. Teresa; in radio, counseling and addiction ministries; a village outreach; a school open to German-speaking Brazilians; a hospital open to all; and school and camp ministry.
Darren Plett (Pleasant Valley) was part of a prayer team to Guadalajara, Mexico, and spoke of being deeply affected by the missionaries’ commitment and contacts. The church plant is a cell group model focused on upper middle class people who will later reach people of a lower economic class. The cell groups occasionally meet. If you believe prayer makes a difference, go on a prayer team, Plett said. Tim Dyck said a $500 subsidy is available for pastors who visit missionaries.
Moderator Abe Bergen and Tim Dyck, general secretary, visited cross-cultural workers in sensitive areas. Pray for these and other workers. Beth Koehler is the new volunteer prayer coordinator for EMC Missions. The Day of Prayer for EMC Missions is Feb. 19, 2017. Lester Olfert promoted the 2017 50th anniversary celebration tour in Nicaragua (April 4-11, 2017), inviting people to attend.
Executive director Don Peters said that the scope of MCC’s work is worldwide, with $73.2 million of expenses last year (MCC Canada and U.S. combined) in 54 countries.MCC’s work is done in the name of Christ on “your behalf,” he said. The Nigerian school girls kidnapped two years ago were connected with the Church of the Brethren, part of the Anabaptist family, he said.
Highlights of Meeting
Delegates were encouraged to report to their churches in these areas:
The Messenger moving to mixed print/digital format beginning in January
Newly released video study series on Povology (www.povology.com)
BCM has restarted the worship committee to serve our churches
New options coming to SBC (online BA, Marketplace Ministry BA,
Activate Discipleship School)
Nicaragua Exposure Trip to celebrate 50th anniversary
EMC Day of Prayer moved to Feb. 19
Report on Israel/Palestine
Survey will be sent to churches on role of women in leadership
Survey for assisting in reimagining Convention
Treasurers’ Day Jan. 21 at St Vital EMC
Statement of Faith Review nearing completion
Celebrating World Fellowship, Sunday, Jan. 22
– Erica Fehr
Abe Bergen and Tim Dyck reporting on being part of MCC’s learning tour in Israel. Canada and the U.S. are western allies of Israel. The Church has been in Israel from the start. While some people are concerned about MCC’s perspective, MCC is “pro church” in Israel, not pro-Palestinian, they said.
MCC’s work is well-respected by the Church in Israel. They told stories: a Palestinian Christian vineyard owner refuses to sell his land or treat those who oppose him as enemies; of a young boy’s being killed by a sniper; of an MCC Grow Project; and of how Jordan accepts many refugees. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and he died to bring peace between peoples (Eph. 2). Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:1). Bergen and Dyck are willing to dialogue regarding the situation in Israel.
The Reimagining Committee has started its work, it was said. The Conference Restructuring Committee has met three times. The role of women in ministry issue will be picked up. Stephanie Unger, on the Reimagining Committee, said it wants convention to be open to everyone. There’s a need to find out why people aren’t coming and what they want to see. A survey has been developed; people are encouraged to invite non-attenders to complete it.
Harold Penner, stewardship consultant, said Abundance Canada changed its name from Mennonite Foundation of Canada because “God is generous; God owns, we manage; God invites us to give our whole selves; God invites us to share.” People felt the name was exclusive and being a foundation seemed too restrictive. The same services will be offered.
Board of Trustees
Tim Dyckreported that the salaries of Executive and Administrative staff are under review. The Manitoba Pension Committee is reviewing the EMC Pension Plan. The phone system is being upgraded. Jan. 21 will be an EMC Treasurers’ Day.
The EMC budget proposed for 2017 is five percent higher than 2016 (from $1,868, 000 to $1,950,000). Only a three percent increase is asked of churches; the remainder comes from an increase in estate giving. One church said it was voting against the budget. Delegates voted in favour of the budget.
Board of Leadership and Outreach
Vice chair Alvin Plett said that Ralph Unger was asked to serve as interim conference pastor as the search continues. Unger reported that the Statement of Faith review saw all articles, except one, receive strong support. Footwashing received 75 percent support to move it to Church Practices. The process will be completed in 2017. A church mediators training session will occur on Feb. 18, and a New Leaders’ Orientation held on March 18-19 (following SBC’s Leadership Conference).
Charles Koop, church planting coordinator, said that a pastor has been found for Living Faith Fellowship, Two Hills, Alta. (John Froese); there is a need for more workers; immigrants are coming because they want more opportunity; a Chinese church is asking about membership in the EMC; and little is happening within Caucasian European circles. The Dauphin ministry is being assessed, a partnership with C2C will assist in church planting, and additional funds are being sought for church plants. We want more people to come to faith in Jesus, he said.
Mennonite World Conference
Layton Friesen, EMC representative, said his awareness of the wider Anabaptist church was strengthened through attending MWC’s gatherings in Winnipeg in 1991, Paraguay in 2007, and Pennsylvania in 2015. The next General Assembly is in Indonesia in 2021.
There are four commissions: Deacons (looking for churches in distress), Peace (trying to love enemies), Faith and Life (theology), and Mission (outreach). A name change has been floated. According to MWC, based on numbers and location, the EMC is asked to contribute $22,000 to its global fund; it gives $7,000.
He asked if a global connection is important to your congregation, if it is wanted; and, if so, how to do it. He invited churches to make MWC Fellowship Sunday an event each year. Suggestions are available on sermons, songs, liturgies, and prayer. An offering, equal to the cost of one lunch, could be forwarded.
In a change, delegates met around small tables, discussed questions provided about boards and affiliate organizations, a recorder made written notes later handed in, and some of groups’ thoughts were shared publicly. It was generally well received.
Blessing to Churches
Toward the end of the day, national staff members spoke of the privilege, encouragement, and blessing that comes from serving the EMC. Specific encouragements were listed (see sidebar). They ended by saying,“We don’t take your support for granted. We want to continue to earn your trust, and serve the EMC churches to the best of our ability. We thank you and bless you for your continued support.”
Blessing from National Staff to Churches
As your national staff, we often reflect on what a great privilege it is for us to be serving all of our EMC churches through the ministries of our Conference. We sense the encouragement and the blessings of you, our EMC churches, as we engage in our daily activities. Some of the specific ways that you have encouraged us over the course of this past year include:
Your demonstrations of interest by asking relevant questions. Sometimes the questions are easy to answer and sometimes they are hard questions. But always, they are encouraging.
Your prayers on our behalf. We appreciate that you take the time to tell us that you are praying for us in our roles.
Your enthusiasm and service for missions. One church requested the contact information for all EMC missionaries so that they could send a personalized Christmas card to each.
Another church has been connecting with every missionary that is on home furlough, inviting them to report on Sunday mornings. This is a tremendous encouragement to us as well as to the missionaries.
Your invitations to serve in your churches through meetings, Sunday School presentations, or Sunday worship services. It is always encouraging to know that you are interested in the things that we are excited about.
Special thanks to the woman who routinely brings “snacks” to the EMC office.
Your enthusiasm for Christian education in many forms – through Conference produced materials, retreats, and beyond.
Your responses to the many surveys that we have sent to churches over this past year.
You send high quality volunteers to serve on the many boards and committees of the EMC. They serve with little recognition and without pay.
Your commitment to gathering for discussion, decision making and developing friendships.
You open up your churches to events such as this Conference Council gathering, and you serve joyfully and graciously.
Of course, you send funds on a regular basis to ensure that the ministries continue to function.
We don’t take your support for granted. We want to continue to earn your trust, and serve the EMC churches to the best of our ability. We thank you and bless you for your continued support.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference