ICOMB holds annual meeting

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Gifts shared, styles clash, work done

by Karla Braun

A native Kikongo-speaker led the 2011 annual International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) general meeting in French, interpreted into English by a native Portuguese-speaker for an audience that included native Japanese- and Telugu-speakers, relayed into Spanish by a native German-speaker. This is the multicultural reality of the global Mennonite Brethren church and the ICOMB gathering held June 17-21 at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg.

Relational richness and shared gifts—both figurative and literal—characterized the ICOMB meeting, but so did differences in decision-making. These challenges were realized most clearly as ICOMB leaders discussed filling the vacant position of ICOMB executive secretary. At the 2010 ICOMB meeting in Germany, David Wiebe of Canada agreed to serve as half-time interim executive secretary upon completion of his term as executive director of the Canadian Conference of MB Churches, December 2010.

One year later, a groundswell among representatives of the 19 member conferences in gathered in Winnipeg affirmed David Wiebe for the position of executive secretary despite his inability to satisfy the criteria of being multilingual and having a Global South perspective. Acknowledging the support, Wiebe said, “The bottom line is, there should be a good process.” In the end a search committee was formed to review candidates under the executive secretary profile and description.

Executive officers were selected through spontaneous appointments from the floor. Rudi Plett from Paraguay will serve as chair, Yoshifumi Tanaka from Japan as vice chair, Ed Boschman from the United States as treasurer, and Heinrich Klassen from Germany (Bund Taufgesinnter Gemeinden) as secretary. Through interpretation, the Latin American contingent of leaders affirmed that “Rudi is one of us, even though he is blond.”

Representatives reported on joys and challenges. Absent Angola and Panama representatives sent a written account, and Indian leader John Sankara Rao’s report of his fraternal visit to the not-yet-officially recognized Thai MB conference was circulated.

MB Mission representative Vic Wiens introduced Mission Building Capacity, a strategy to foster church health, leadership development and community development in ICOMB member conferences.

Celebrating 150 Years, the story of the MB church around the world told by indigenous believers, is available in English and Spanish through the efforts of ICOMB conferences. Plans and funding for a German translation of the book are underway, and preparations are being made for translations into French and Telugu. Given that the accumulated members of Angolan, Portuguese and Brazilian MB churches is larger than the total Spanish-speaking MB community, Ray Harms-Wiebe of MB Mission suggested a Portuguese translation should also be considered. The ICOMB Confession of Faith is available in eight languages with translations pending in two more.

ICOMB was launched in 1990 at the Mennonite World Conference in Winnipeg to build partnership for ministry and mission between the MB conferences around the world. The second ICOMB education consultation, held in Winnipeg June 13–15, is an example of ways in which the partnership is currently demonstrated.

2011 ICOMB Representatives
United States – Ed Boschman
Canada – Willy Reimer
Mexico – Enrique Rodriguez
Portugal – Jose Arrais
Germany (BTG) — Heinrich Klassen
Germany (AMBD) — Andreas Isaak
Germany (VMBD) — Andrea Isaak
Austria – Andreas Isaak
DR Congo – Damien Pelende
Japan – Yoshifumi Tanaka
India – PB Arnold
Colombia – Diego Martinez
Brazil (COBIM – Portuguese and Germanic) — Viktor Ekk
Paraguay (German) Rudi Plett
Paraguay (Spanish) Juan Veron
Uruguay – Liliane Dea
Peru – George Martinez
Panama – Ricardo
Angola – Jose Ngola-Muinga
Thailand – Ricky Sanchez
N Thiland & L*s – Phone Keo

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