Convention decisions generate little discussion
Business took a back seat to vision at the 2008 National Convention in Hillsboro, Kan. The few business decisions made were done quickly and with little or no discussion. Delegates took action on a new budget and slate of leaders, bylaw revisions for MBMS International and Memorandums of Understanding with several U.S. Conference partner entities.
Although it neither required delegate action nor generated discussion from the floor, a significant piece of business was the unveiling of a new U.S. Conference mission statement, logo and Web site. The new USC mission statement emphasizes “oneness”: “We partner as one family to serve one Lord on one mission, for the transformation of individuals, families and communities.”
Delegates were asked to give the Leadership Board input on the mission statement and on priorities for the future via discussion groups and written feedback. Attendees could view and give feedback on the new Web site, which executive director Ed Boschman called a “hummer in the e-world,” at computer kiosks set up outside the sanctuary.
The only item of business to generate discussion from the floor was the proposed budget for 2008-2009. The $902,973 budget represents an increase of about 9 percent, which leaders readily acknowledged but for which they did not apologize in light of the vision for the future.
Boschman said, “It’s about passion and about what we want to see happening in the kingdom.” He noted that while the national conference is grateful for churches that faithfully give to denominational ministries, those churches represent only 35 percent of U.S. Conference congregations. “We need to confront that reality,” he said.
A few delegates spoke from the floor to encourage more consistent giving from local churches, including John Langer of Gettysburg, SD, who said, “Let’s step up.” Delegates approved the budget as presented.
New leaders, new board
Delegates also unanimously affirmed a new slate of leaders, including members for the Leadership Board and a new Board of Faith and Life.
A national BFL was reinstated at the 2006 Convention, with details of slate and structure to be hashed out in the interim. Newly-appointed BFL chair Larry Nikkel of Hillsboro, Kan., reported that the board had an organizational meeting in June and will meet again in October. He also alerted delegates to a draft of a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Canadian BFLs included in the delegate packet and invited delegates to direct questions to him; delegates did not act on the MOU.
Serving with Nikkel on the new BFL are: Ed Boschman, USC executive director; Gary Wall, district minister for the Pacific District Conference; Tim Sullivan, district minister for the Southern District Conference; Roger Engbrecht, district minister for the Central District Conference; Rod Anderson, Sioux Falls, SD; Michael Eldridge, San Jose, Calif.; Tim Geddert, Fresno, Calif.; and Jennifer Greer, Boone, NC.
Three members of the Leadership Board will not be continuing on the board, including chair Joe Johns, treasurer Greg Quiring and Valerie Rempel. Filling those vacancies will be Brad Barnes, Bakersfield, Calif.; Matt Kolbert, Fresno, Calif.; and Steve Schroeder, Hillsboro, Kan. Kathy Isaac, Garden City, Kan., was reelected to another term. Continuing on the Leadership Board are: Brian Classen, Papillion, Neb.; Sue Kliewer, Fresno, Calif.; Vyacheslav Tsvirinko, Fresno, Calif.; Terry Hunt, Lenoir, NC; and Rolando Mireles, Jr., Rio Grande City, Texas.
Also on the approved slate of leaders were representatives to MBMS International, MB Biblical Seminary, MB Foundation, Mennonite World Conference Youth and Mennonite Central Committee.
The morning opened with Chuck Buller, previous U.S. Conference executive director, offering a prayer of blessing for his successor Ed Boschman. Buller was also presented with a gift as a token of appreciation for his service.
Delegates approved a Memorandum of Understanding for MB Historical Commission, Kindred Productions and MB Biblical Seminary. Until 2002, these ministries were owned and operated by the General Conference, a binational conference comprised of the U.S. and Canadian Conferences. Since divestiture of the General Conference in 2002, the seminary and Historical Commission are jointly owned by the two national conferences, while Kindred Productions is owned by the Canadian Conference. As required by the original MOUs the documents clarifying the relationships and details of operations for these ministries were to be updated in five years.
Similarly, revisions to the bylaws of MBMS International take care of business matters generated by divestiture. The bylaw revisions approved by delegates enable the mission agency to complete its incorporation in Canada; incorporation in the U.S. is already complete.
In other business, U.S. Conference ministries reported on current and ongoing projects. Don Morris, director of Mission USA, kept his time behind the podium brief to allow church planters to speak.
- Rod Anderson, Christ Community Church, Sioux Falls, SD, showed a video of testimonies and said the church plant strives to “laugh together, love the Lord together and win people to the Lord together.”
- Jeff and Lianne Nikkel, from Trailhead Church, Centennial, Colo., called themselves “missionaries to Denver” and told stories of friendships that are drawing people to Jesus.
- Nathan and Susan Carlson talked about their vision for a church plant in a suburb of Portland, Ore., where they hope to “love God and bless our city as we bring people to Jesus.”
- Rod and Lynette Jost shared about their work in a culture dominated by the Mormon church. South Mountain Community Church @ Daybreak is the third Mennonite Brethren church launched in the Salt Lake City, Utah, area.
- Terry Hunt and Chris Eidse, on behalf of the North Carolina District Conference, shared the district’s vision for youth ministry and for their current building project.
- Jason Gilbow, Providence Fellowship, Edmond, Okla., described how a renewed love for people and passion for bringing them to Christ has resulted in ministry to the very poor at a nearby apartment complex.
The Mission USA presentation closed with all the church planters standing on the stage for a prayer of blessing offered by Morris.
Connie Faber, editor of the Christian Leader, likewise kept her report time brief, allowing time for delegates to share with one another ways they see God at work in their congregations and to write down ideas and feedback for the Leader editorial staff.
Two USC commissions—National Youth Commission and Historical Commission—also reported. Speaking for the Youth Commission, Wendell Loewen and Rick Bartlett reported that the ministry-minded format for the National Youth Convention, tested at Anaheim ’07, was “a significant success.” Plans are underway for a similar format for the 2011 youth convention.
Ken Reddig spoke for the Historical Commission, a ministry shared with the Canadian MB Conference, and invited delegates to begin planning to attend the celebration of the 150th birthday of the Mennonite Brethren denomination, to be held in Vancouver, BC in July 2010.
Delegates also heard reports from conference-related ministries. Merrill Ewert, president of Fresno Pacific University, got an enthusiastic response when he told a story of lives changed on the university basketball team this past winter. Delegates heard from Tabor College during the opening session Friday evening. Kindred Productions manager Mario Buscio promoted their new Kindred Spirits rewards program, which donates a portion of purchases to approved MB ministries.
Jon Wiebe, president and CEO of MB Foundation, introduced the Foundation’s new mission statement, vision statement and tag line. He reported growth in both assets and lending in the past two years, healthy contribution levels and a record high of over $7 million distributed to ministries at the recommendation of donors.
A written message by MB Biblical Seminary president Jim Holm, read by seminary representatives Lynn Jost and Rick Bartlett, encouraged delegates to partner with the seminary in calling, equipping and placing new leaders.
In MBMSI’s report, general director Randy Friesen challenged attendees to “look at another level of mission giving” in order to send workers into more places of opportunity.
Representatives from several ministry partners delivered greetings from their organizations, including the Canadian MB Conference, Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite World Conference, Mennonite Mutual Aid and MHS Alliance.