Tag Archives: Statement of Faith

Council Embraces Change, Grapples With Reality

by Terry M. Smith

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.

General Board

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Abe Bergen: Restructuring addresses needs. Credit: Andrew Walker

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.

Restructuring

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.

Abundance Canada

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.

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Caroline and Henry Krahn reported on their work in Bolivia. Credit: Andrew Walker

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

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Richard Klassen, BLO chair: It cares for the EMC ministerial. Credit: Andrew Walker

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.

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Terry M. Smith

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.

 

Terry Smith: Boundaries and Freedom

by Terry M. Smith

The EMC’s Statement of Faith sometimes lacks a position. That’s good. This lack is a position itself, one of freedom.

For instance, the EMC’s current statement (1996) says, “We believe in the personal, visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ.” It goes into other matters related to the Second Coming, but doesn’t mention a secret rapture prior to the Great Tribulation or a thousand year reign of Christ on earth.

The EMC is clear on the Lord’s return, but it has no official position on pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, a-mill or pre-mill. Pastors and members have personal views and they can present them. Members can listen, study, and affirm what best matches Scripture.

Where the EMC Statement of Faith gives freedom, though, pastors and Sunday School teachers are unwise to require or expect members to adopt a particular position. Pastors and members have personal positions; the conference has a joint position. These are not to be confused.

On a national level, the EMC is intentional in giving a position of freedom on some secondary matters to uphold unity and community. On a local level, providing options can be a wise pastoral response to individuals pondering various matters.

The danger in mentioning freedom is that this editorial might be misread as approving options in areas beyond the Statement of Faith—for instance, on some current matters of social ethics. This would be a misreading of this editorial’s intention.

Pastors and ministers are to be approved for service both by a local church and through our national boards and bodies. We are accountable locally and nationally. Being accountable, we do well to respect our conference’s confession both in its boundaries and freedom.

Proposed Statement of Faith receives high support

by Terry M. Smith

ROSENORT, Man.—The EMC’s ministerial voted on Nov. 26, 2016, in strong support of the revised draft Statement of Faith; heard reflections in suffering by David Funk; and ended with a time of prayer.

Opening

Ministerial members were welcomed by host pastor Brian McGuffin (RFC), who led in a devotional based on Psalm 27:1-4. Our response to fear is to place our hope in someone who is not fleeting, Jesus Christ, he said. We need to keep our core identity in Christ and serve him whatever happens.

Outline of History

Alvin Plett, vice chair of the Board of Leadership and Outreach (BLO), outlined the lengthy process of consulting churches that led to this moment: churches studied the 1996 Statement of Faith and responded with revisions; in early 2016 a first draft of a revised edition was sent to churches and they studied it; in July 2016 comments were recorded and a second draft was later sent to churches.

Churches were invited to read their responses to the second draft, and the committee was to respond to clarify matters. On who could vote, the constitution’s wording was somewhat ambiguous, Plett said, but to restrict it to processed leaders would not allow some churches to vote. The BLO decided that churches should decide who could vote on their behalf.

If an article in the proposed statement received support of 80 percent or more, it is finished, he said; if less than that, further revision was needed. The desire is that the statement will be written in such a way to work together. 

Churches Respond

Fourteen churches provided written responses. Depending on their length, responses by up to three churches were read at one time.

The themes that emerged were an appreciation for the committee’s work, support for the revised statement, and suggestions on changes. Dr. Darryl Klassen (Kleefeld), chair of the Statement of Faith Review Committee, and committee members Ward Parkinson (Rosenort EMC) and Henry Friesen (ConneXion) listened to responses and provided clarifications.

When one church, Steinbach EFC, responded with lengthy suggestions, these were considered useful, but better to have been received earlier and difficult to incorporate at this stage.

One minister asked, is this the final vote? If an article receives 80 percent support, it is, the vice chair responded; beyond that, options exist. Tim Dyck, General Secretary, clarified that because the Statement of Faith is part of the EMC’s constitution, the conference council oversees any change to the constitution. The Constitution requires a gap of time between churches being notified of a proposed constitutional change and the vote for change. The revised Statement of Faith likely will not be approved till Nov. 2017, he said.

There was a time of prayer before voting. The ministerial was then asked to vote on each individual article and, additionally, on whether footwashing should be moved to the Church Practices section.

Ralph Unger

While the votes were being counted, Alvin Plett introduced Ralph Unger as the EMC’s interim part-time conference pastor. With 40 years of experience in pastoral ministry in and beyond the EMC, and service as EMC moderator, Unger brings a rich background. The search continues for a conference pastor, Plett said.

Ken Zacharias

Ken Zacharias, EMC Foreign Secretary, reported that he and Fred Buhler spent two and a half weeks visiting churches and leaders in Paraguay. Zacharias oversees EMC Missions’ work in Bolivia, Paraguay, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Buhler is the EMC Board of Missions chair, and has served as a missionary in Paraguay.

Prayer was requested for Judy and Dave Schmidt; Judy has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Ken said that ministries in Paraguay carry on, though they look a bit different after responsibilities were transferred to national workers.

Zacharias said that evangelicals form a small part of Paraguay’s population (five to seven percent), but he anticipates much growth in the next decade. One church has six outreach points, he said. Pray for the missions staff in Paraguay, who are doing well and are encouraged.

Charles Koop

Charles Koop, church planting coordinator, said that God is working overseas and in Canada. Why are we a conference? he asked. It is so more people become part of the Kingdom of God. The EMC is interested in urban church planting and has become a partner with the urban church-planting resource C2C.

He outlined some recent activities: a Chinese church is connected with Fort Garry EMC; an outreach is happening in Ste. Agathe, Man.; Living Faith Fellowship in Two Hills, Alta., has a pastoral couple; and the presence of immigrants is an opportunity for believers.

The Church Planting Task Force has two problems: the need for money and people to start a ministry. Kingdom building is what it’s all about. We hope to get in on what God is doing, Koop said.

Voting Results

The results of voting showed strong support for the proposed Statement of Faith. Only one article, on God the Spirit, received less than 80 percent; and 75 percent voted to move Footwashing to the Church Practices section. These two matters will be addressed. On the God the Spirit section, concerns had been expressed that it moved away from “He” language and did not explicitly mention gifts and fruits.

Belief Amid Suffering

David Funk (Fort Garry) was asked to present “A Theology of Suffering,” but he said that implies he has it figured out, which he doesn’t; but he could talk of Christian belief in the midst of suffering.

He and his wife Kendra have four children—Ethan, Abigail, Rachel, and Elijah—but only two are alive.

Rachel Amariah, when about 14 months old, died from congenital problems in 2011. What is it like to carry a baby that you know will die? Only a mother who has done so knows, he said. They decided to have another child. A few days after his birth in 2014, Elijah Cohen suffered mini-strokes; life supports were removed shortly afterward.

David has a deep respect for his wife Kendra. They have struggled with grief, trauma, guilt, and spiritual crisis. David said that the prayers of lament in Scripture allow his faith to survive.

Only through the Cross do we come to know God. The lament psalms are intended for public use, and teach us that the path to doxology is through the truth of what life is like. To exile lament is to exile those who suffer, he said.

In walking with those who suffer, be a humble learner. Their church’s absorbing some of the cost of their grief has allowed them to survive spiritually, emotionally, in marriage, and as a family. “Compassionate presence” allows a hurting person to be honest about their pain and to hurt our hearts too—beyond detached caring, he said.

The ministerial then gathered in the basement, discussing in small groups how to walk in suffering and with those who suffer.

Prayer Time

A time of prayer followed. Among the items shared were for the interim conference

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Terry M. Smith

pastor, the church in Brandon, a former conference pastor now older and in ill health, for the congregation at Two Hills, and for the ministries of Fort Garry and Rosenort EMC.About 4 p.m. Barry Plett (Blumenort) led in a prayer of blessing as the meeting ended.

Statement of Faith voting results

Articles

Yes

No

Percentage of 68 votes

The Bible

63

4

93%

God

62

5

91%

God the Father

64

3

94%

God the Son

61

6

90%

God the Spirit

52

14

76%

The Creation

58

9

85%

The Dignity of Human Beings

63

4

93%

The Fall of the Human Race

65

2

96%

Satan

67

0

99%

Salvation

55

12

81%

Discipleship

66

1

97%

The Life of Peace

61

6

90%

The Church

63

4

93%

The Ordinances

66

0

97%

Believer’s Water Baptism

65

2

96%

The Lord’s Supper

67

0

99%

Footwashing

59(87%)

3

51(75%)

The Resurrection

62

5

91%

The Return and Final Triumph of Christ

61

6

90%