Global delegates meet, celebrate in India
by Connie Faber
Celebrations—present and future—were an important part of the annual International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) gathering the first week of November 2008. ICOMB is comprised of one delegate from each of the 19 national Mennonite Brethren conferences and a representative from MBMS International, the North American denominational mission agency. Ed Boschman, U.S. Conference executive director, represents the United States national conference.
“As a first-timer, it was an amazing moment for me to realize that we had a group representing 19 national conferences in 15 countries sitting together in India that represents 150 years of global mission work,” said Boschman in an interview after the meeting. “We were together celebrating a global family, connected through identity, theology and mission activity. And God has added his blessing to the sacrifices that this denominational family made.”
The 13 ICOMB conference representatives present at the 2008 meeting continued planning for a 2010 global celebration marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Mennonite Brethren Church and attended weekend events celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the formation of the India MB Conference Governing Council.
While sesquicentennial celebrations, each with an international component, are being planned by the national conferences in India, Japan, Panama, Paraguay, Brazil and Portugal, the anniversary celebration in Germany, along with tour options to the Ukraine and Holland and Switzerland, is emerging as a key event.
The European celebration begins May 14-15, 2010 with a symposium planned by the three German conferences that will highlight the history of Mennonites in the former Soviet Union. The annual ICOMB gathering will be May 20-22 in conjunction with a German conference convention. The European celebration will conclude with a one-day Mission Conference May 24 with a second German conference. Travel days are included in the schedule and participants are encouraged to attend local worship services on the two Sundays.
The international Mennonite Brethren community is also invited to the North American celebration, said Boschman and David Wiebe, the Canadian Conference executive director. Boschman and Wiebe reported that they have already begun planning for their joint anniversary celebration, to be held July 21-24, 2010, in Vancouver, BC. The two national conferences will also be holding their biennial conventions in connection with Celebration 2010.
ICOMB is involved with several projects commemorating the denomination’s 150th anniversary, including the current global study ofKnowing and Living Your Faith: A Study of the Confession of Faith. The study book, released in July 2008, is being translated into at least seven languages. ICOMB is requesting that all denominational schools study the ICOMB confession in connection with the anniversary.
Plans call for the Mennonite Brethren History Project, directed by the Historical Commission of the U.S. and Canadian Conferences, to be completed for the sesquicentennial year. ICOMB delegates also discussed using short videos and YouTube to share national conference stories. ICOMB anticipates developing a theme and supporting Scripture text that local congregations would incorporate into worship services Jan. 10, 2010, the Sunday closest to Jan. 6 which is the founding date of the Mennonite Brethren Church.
The ICOMB delegates did more than talk about celebrations, they joined the India Conference Nov. 7 in celebrating the Golden Jubilee of their Governing Council, the formation of which marked the transition in leadership from MBMS International to local leaders.
In keeping with past practices, the India Conference, as the ICOMB meeting host, was given the opportunity to present an extended report and a variety of leaders from the India Conference attended the ICOMB meeting as guests. The ICOMB delegates were “warmly welcomed and hosted by the India Conference,” says Boschman, and were able to visit the Mennonite Brethren Bible college and medical center as well as other area attractions. Delegates also attended local church worship services Nov. 2, and many of the representatives preached at the services.
Significant time is given at the annual ICOMB meeting to national conference reports. “It is an opportunity for those of us who represent the conferences to talk about the real effect of ministries and challenges that we are experiencing,” says Boschman. Boschman notes that common challenges emerged in the 2008 updates. “Clearly, theological identity is on everyone’s mind,” he says.
In other business, the group heard a report from Victor Wall, the ICOMB executive director. Wall was appointed to a second two-year term and was commissioned with prayer for his ongoing service. The delegates discussed an upcoming education consultation for all Mennonites in Congo, reviewed the ICOMB Global Scholarship Fund and discussed the role ICOMB can play when national conferences encounter significant conflict and challenges. The ICOMB delegates examined the relationship between MBMS International and the national conferences, noting the importance of developing and maintaining good working partnerships.