Revising Article 13 tops business agenda this summer

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U.S. Mennonite Brethren gather in July for Conection 2014

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. And while executive director Ed Boschman is the first fulltime USMB skipper to retire from ministry, there are customs associated with celebrating a retirement that will likely be followed during the convention.

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 met last month to finalize its recommendation for Article 13: Love, Peacemaking and Reconciliation. Prior to the March meeting, Nikkel said he did not anticipate that any “substantive” changes would be made to the preliminary recommendation.

“We don’t want people to be surprised when they see our final recommendation,” he says.

The final recommendation will be forwarded to churches and will be available online at www.usmb.org.

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, adding that the board will have begun looking for strategies for accomplishing this at its March meeting.

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 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.”

In addition to providing a platform for sharing stories of transformation, Schroeder says the 2014 convention will be an occasion for recognizing the years of service retiring executive director Boschman (pictured right) has given to USMB.

“We will celebrate how God has used Ed among us,” says Schroeder.

Boschman will address the delegates and guests Saturday morning, and Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, author and church planter, will be the keynote speaker Friday evening. Stetzer has written 15 books on church and mission, mostly recently Transformational Groups: Creating a New Scorecard for Groups with co-author Eric Geiger.

Stetzer’s address Friday evening and the Saturday evening program are designed to be can’t-miss events, says Boschman. Entertainer Pete McCleod is the featured guest Saturday for an evening of family-friendly humor, music and illusions.

The National Convention schedule includes two Saturday afternoon workshop slots. The workshops, presented by USMB pastors and ministry leaders, cover a variety of topics. A complete list is given online. 

The National Convention, July 25-26, is the second of two events that comprise Conection 2014, as the USMB biennial gatherings are known. The National Pastors Conference, an event for USMB pastors and their spouses initiated in 2004 and preceding the convention, will be held July 24-25.

Stetzer is also the resource speaker for the pastors’ gathering. He will speak twice and will answer questions during a third session. The National Pastors Conference also includes a one-hour workshop session. A new feature of the workshop time slot will be the opportunity for affinity group discussions, which will allow pastoral staff members with similar job responsibilities to network.

Conection 2014 is a three-day event, compared to a five-day gathering when the National Pastors Conference was first added to the program in 2004. The 2014 schedule has been streamlined to allow for a shorter stay and reduced costs for delegates and guests. The National Pastors Conference begins in the late afternoon July 24 and the National Convention begins at the same time the following day.

Delegates and guests can register online. Additional information about the events, lodging and area attractions is provided online.

Photos by Christian Leader

Photo 1: The Conection 2014 booklet will provide delegates to the 2014 National Convention with written updates from USMB ministry partners and recommendations on which they will vote. In this photo, delegates to the 2012 National Convention follow along in their booklets during a business session.

Photo 2: Ed Boschman, USMB executive director, pictured here addressing delegates at Conection 2012 will address the delegates and guests Saturday morning at the 2014 National Convention.

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