Business agenda includes revising Article 13, MOU updates
By Connie Faber
When U.S. Mennonite Brethren gather in Santa Clara, Calif., this July for the 2014 National Convention, much of the time they will sail familiar seas—hearing firsthand updates from USMB church planters and USMB partner ministry leaders, for example.
But delegates will also navigate new waters—having the opportunity to approve changes to the Confession of Faith article on peacemaking, the first article to be revised since the confession became a national rather than a North American statement. The Confession of Faith, a theological document developed cooperatively by the Canadian and U.S. Mennonite Brethren conferences working as the General Conference, was significantly revised in 1999 in preparation for the divestiture of the bi-national General Conference in 2000.
The Board of Faith and Life (BFL) has been piloting USMB through the choppy seas of revising Article 13 to better reflect the various—and conflicting—viewpoints on peacemaking held by the USMB constituency. BFL began the revision process at a January 2013 study conference. Following the conference, individuals and congregations were invited to submit written comments and to voice their feedback at district convention discussions hosted by BFL members.
The national BFL also talked with Bible faculty members at Fresno Pacific University and Tabor College, the two USMB-affiliated colleges, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary faculty, district BFLs and with members of the International Community of Mennonite Brethren, Mennonite Central Committee and other Mennonites.
Larry Nikkel, BFL chair, commends the constituency on their involvement in the process. “I hope that everyone feels they have had more than ample opportunity to review and comment,” he says in an email interview. “The communication interchanges have been clear in their passion and points but respectful. That is to be applauded.”
BFL published a preliminary recommendation in October 2013, and the board finalized its recommendation for Article 13: Love, Peacemaking and Reconciliation in March.
The final recommendation has been forwarded to churches and is available online.
Revising Article 13 is only the first phase of a more extensive journey, says Nikkel. “Our broader goal is to create an environment in which the constituency can be re-engaged in addressing with the great passion of Jesus on issues of peace and justice,” says Nikkel.
Delegates will conduct other business as well during the 2014 National Convention.
- The North American MB Historical Commission is asking both USMB and Canadian Conference of MB Churches convention delegates to approve a revised Historical Commission memorandum of understanding.
- Delegates will act on a recommendation and bylaw change brought by the Leadership Board that the USMB fiscal year shift to the calendar year, retroactive for 2014.
- Delegates will elect members to the USMB Leadership Board and Board of Faith and Life as well as members of partner ministry boards including MB Foundation, MB Mission and the Historical Commission.
- Delegates will also be asked to affirm representatives to three inter-Mennonite agencies: Mennonite Disaster Service, Everence and Mennonite World Conference.
Convention sessions will also include firsthand accounts from USMB ministries and partner agencies of how God is working in the U.S. and around the world. Typically these stories, particularly from Mission USA church planters, are a convention highlight.
“At every convention we celebrate what God is doing in our church plants and in our individual congregations,” says Steve Schroeder, USMB Leadership Board chair. “It is a story we retell because God continues to work in new ways and we celebrate this. This is our opportunity to hear how God has worked among us in the last two years.”
Delegates can register online for the National Convention.
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