MBBS board reports on Canadian, U.S. decisions regarding graduate theological education
by Connie Faber
MB Biblical Seminary (MBBS), USMB and Canadian Conference of MB Churches (CCMBC) leaders were navigating rough waters in the summer of 2010 when the two national conferences met together to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Mennonite Brethren Church.
The decision had been made to divest MBBS to two national seminaries, and delegates from both sides of the 49th parallel questioned the process by which the decision was made. The national conferences also had concerns unique to their respective situations, and both were uneasy about how the decision would impact theological education and pastoral training.
Two years later these questions have been answered, and the seminary report at both USMB and CCMBC 2012 conventions conveyed a sense of thanksgiving for the significant bi-national partnership that for 35 years benefited students, faculty, staff and the North American Mennonite Brethren constituency.
“I want to recognize that our 35 years of working together has had some great dividends,” said MBBS chair John Unger in his report to the delegates Saturday morning. The most significant benefit, says Unger, has been MBBS graduates now serving in the U.S. and around the globe.
“The people who graduated from the seminary didn’t learn everything they needed to now—that never happens,” said Unger. “But the seminary … shaped their hearts and their minds about a form of ministry that is servant leadership.”
In his comments to USMB delegates, Unger reported that the dissolution of MBBS, Inc. is complete and that the mantle of seminary education for U.S. Mennonite Brethren has been passed to Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. North of the border, MBBS Canada has been created—a seminary without campus but with two centers—one in Langley, BC and a second in Winnipeg, Man.
Unger also reported that when MBBS, Inc. was dissolved, funds were designated for Tabor College to assist the Midwest MB institution in developing a graduate theological educational program.
The seminary also set aside money for the development of eight core seminary courses for on-line delivery. This is a seminary legacy gift available to “anyone who has a computer and Internet connection anywhere in the world. Once these courses are developed we want to give them away,” said Unger.
Institutions are free to use these courses as is, or to adapt and modify them to best serve their constituencies. The first courses are scheduled to roll out this fall.
To celebrate the 35 years of North American partnership in graduate theological education, the MBBS Board of Directors commissioned a booklet intended to provide an anecdotal history of the seminary’s bi-national era. The booklet, “Treasure in Clay Jars,” was distributed to all those attending Conection 2012 and the CCMBC convention, Gathering 2012, in Winnipeg.
Unger described the booklet as a “thank you” for supporting the seminary with students, financial resources and prayer. Along with the booklet, USMB delegates also received a package of chocolate-covered raisins—“a little Fresno sweetness.”
For the first 20 years of its life, MB Biblical Seminary was a ministry of U.S. Mennonite Brethren churches. In 1975, Canadian Mennonite Brethren joined as co-owners. For the next 35 years the seminary trained North American and international Mennonite Brethren and others from a variety of denominational backgrounds. Initially this was done from a single campus in Fresno, Calif., and then for the last 10 years through additional campuses in Langley, BC, and Winnipeg, Man.
“This morning we recognize that for many of us we recognize that there is a significant loss,” said Unger, listing the iconic buildings on the Fresno campus, faculty members, the north-south relationships and international connections. “But folks, the dividends…have been incredible.”