Leaders begin writing next chapter in USMB story


Leadership Board, Board of Faith and Life hold fall meetings

By Myra HolmesLeadership Board meeting

Implementing the new USMB vision was the focus of discussions when the USMB Leadership Board (LB) met October 12-14 in Kansas City, Mo. The USMB Board of Faith and Life (BFL) also met that week and discussed ways to equip local leaders and congregations on matters of faith. 

In a phone interview following the meeting, LB chair Marv Schellenberg says the fall board meeting provides opportunity to evaluate and reflect on the past year, then look forward and begin making plans for the coming year. He describes the general tone of the October meeting as united, positive and optimistic.


New members join board

The presence of four new board members at this meeting contributed to the sense of excitement: Lianne Nikkel, Littleton, Colo.; Luke Haidle, Henderson, Neb.; Boris Borisov, Spokane, Wash.; and Delilah Isaak, Fresno, Calif. Schellenberg says the new members are “a great addition.”

Returning board members include: Schellenberg of Wichita, Kan.; David Hardt, Bakersfield, Calif.; Lud Hohm, Yale, SD; Clyde Ferguson, Jr., Mount Holly, NC; and Aaron Box, Eugene, Ore. Jon Wiebe of MB Foundation and district ministers Gary Wall, Tim Sullivan, Aaron Hernandez, Terry Hunt and Rick Eshbaugh also sit on the board as ex-officio members. National Director Don Morris represents USMB staff at board meetings.


Board reflects on 2016

LB members spent time looking back at the USMB Biennial National Gathering, held July 27-30 in Westminster, Colo., including reviewing survey results. The board appointed a task force to assist in planning the 2018 gathering.

The board also evaluated the process that led to the new national ministry strategy, which was unveiled at the National Convention in a document titled “The Future Story.” Schellenberg notes that the vision came out of the involvement of USMB leaders and members, not the Leadership Board. The board now has a mandate to implement the vision and focus on three, equally-important core commitments: church multiplication and evangelism, disciple-making and leadership development. “We’re looking forward to what God has planned for the USMB future,” Schellenberg says. 


Strategy process "behind us now"

As the board looks ahead to 2017, Schellenberg says that the Future Story process is in the rear-view mirror. “That’s behind us now,” he says. “We’re the now story. Chapter one is being written. We’re no longer talking about the Future Story; we are the story.”

A key priority to writing the next chapter, Schellenberg says, is “immediate and effective communication.” Accordingly, board members provided input for a redesign of Christian Leader magazine, approved new staffing for social media efforts and approved spending for a new USMB website.

The board agreed to contract with Kolby Miller of South Mountain Community Church, Draper, Utah, to enhance USMB social media communications. This move allows Myra Holmes, assistant editor of Christian Leader and former social media coordinator, to invest more time in the magazine.

The board also approved spending up to $30,000 out of reserves for a USMB website and rebranding. Schellenberg says the new website will be significantly different and better than the current site. “It will be one of the ways to effectively communicate with our members, and we’re hoping it will be a major way for our members to connect with each other.”


National Strategy Team named

Another key step in writing the next chapter of the USMB story is the formation of the National Strategy Team (NST), an advisory team that will meet face to face three times per year with additional teleconferences as needed. At this meeting, the board heard a report on the development of this team.

According to Schellenberg, the Leadership Board will “fly at 10,000 feet,” and the NST will fly at 5,000 feet, all to serve the leaders and local congregations—the “boots on the ground.”

The NST will be comprised of the USMB national director, the five district ministers, the president of MB Foundation and the general director of MB Mission. Those serving on the first NST are: Don Morris, Tim Sullivan, Gary Wall, Rick Eshbaugh, Terry Hunt, Aaron Hernandez, Jon Wiebe and Randy Friesen. As national director, Morris will chair the team.

In addition, key leaders from local churches will be invited to NST meetings to provide input on specific questions. In an interview after the board meeting, Morris says that’s an important piece of the NST. The team—which he describes as a think tank—is designed to be small enough to be nimble while also including significant input from local churches and leaders.

The NST will meet in early December in conjunction with Mission Drift, an invitation-only event hosted by MB Foundation in Denver, Colo. The NST plans to meet again in March in conjunction with the spring Leadership Board meeting.

Morris notes that the core members of the NST already attend meetings of the Leadership Board, BFL and other key meetings, so scheduling the team meetings near those events reduces cost.


Partnership with C2C, MB Mission discussed

The board engaged in “a lengthy discussion,” according to the minutes, regarding possible partnership with C2C, the church planting ministry of the Canadian Conference of MB Churches (CCMBC). Morris and Gary Wall, district minister for the Pacific District Conference, represent USMB on a task force created by CCMBC to explore a merger between C2C and MB Mission, the North American global mission agency.

According to the minutes, the board wants to encourage such partnerships “because this is exactly what we invited them to do in the Future Story.” The board discussed concerns for USMB identity if responsibility for church planting were to be transferred to C2C as well as benefits that might result from sharing resources, which could make church planting efforts in the U.S. “more robust.”

The board agreed to issue a letter to the leaders of C2C, MB Mission and CCMBC to clarify an operational agreement regarding church planting in the U.S. This memorandum of understanding will be signed prior to any Mennonite Brethren church planting in the U.S. and will be ratified by the USMB Leadership Board by the end of 2016.

Schellenberg says the board is looking forward to new ways of working together with C2C and MB Mission, just as the conference does with the schools and the foundation. The letter, he says, is simply a matter of making sure all parties are on the same page.


Budget approved

Financially, Schellenberg says the conference expects to end 2016 in a good position. He credits good stewardship on the part of Morris and USMB staff for that solid footing.

The board approved a budget of $826,840 for 2017, down almost $36,000 from 2016. Church plants going off subsidy account for much of the difference.

Schellenberg notes MB Foundation is “very charitable” in supporting the USMB budget, but the health of the USMB budget and the success of the future vision depends on continued church giving. “We need all of our churches to weigh in on this,” he says. “Everything we do is only through contributions.”

The next meeting of the USMB Leadership Board is planned for March 30-31, 2017, in San Diego, Calif.


BFL meets before Leadership Board

The USMB Board of Faith and Life (BFL) met October 11-12 prior to the Leadership Board meetings. Board members discussed the ongoing evaluation of past resolutions, heard updates on projects to educate the USMB constituency following the revision of Article 13 of the Confession of Faith, explored a possible study conference in 2018 and discussed ways to equip local congregations on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) issues.

A BFL task force has been evaluating hundreds of resolutions made by the General Conference before divestiture into the U.S. and Canadian Conferences. At this meeting, BFL agreed that all former Faith and Life resolutions exist as resolutions for the specific time for which they were created, some of which continue to have validity for our time; some of which do not.  BFL will continue to evaluate these past resolutions to determine which should be elevated to policy level, which would then have formal and binding legal implications.

The board acted on one such matter at this meeting, moving to add a sentence to the Ordination and Licensing Policies and Procedures Packet that women may be licensed for any ministry role other than lead pastor. This move “clarifies and codifies what has been and continues to be the credentialing policy of the U.S. Conference made through multiple decisions by delegates through the years,” noted BFL chair Tim Sullivan via email following the meeting.

The board also heard updates on follow-up to the 2014 revision of Article 13 of the USMB Confession of Faith regarding peacemaking. Projects include a Bible study distributed through Christian Leader magazine, a new pamphlet now available to local churches and a blog.

The board explored the possibility of hosting a study conference in early 2018 on hermeneutics, which would allow for application to several relevant issues. A task force will provide a skeleton for such a conference by the end of 2016.

Recognizing that pastors and local congregations face pressing questions on LGBTQ issues, the board discussed several ways to provide resources, including an article in an upcoming issue of Christian Leader magazine, a position paper available to pastors and possible regional events. A task force will work to plan one regional event that could be a model for further such events.

BFL will next meet March 29-30, 2017, in San Diego, Calif., following the National Pastors Orientation.


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