When the U.S. Mennonite Brethren Board of Faith and Life (USBFL) met Sept. 26, 2017, in Denver, Colorado, the board resumed ongoing conversation on a variety of topics related to the board’s mandate to offer spiritual guidance on matters of faith and life.
The USBFL reviewed progress made since its March 2017 meeting on plans to host a summit to be held Jan. 9-10, 2018, in Phoenix, Arizona. The five USMB district conferences are invited to send their Board of Faith and Life members or whoever serves that function within their district to the two-day summit.
The summit will be the first time district BFL members will meet together and with the national BFL. The goal of this gathering is to build bridges between the districts and to share ideas and resources, says USBFL chair Tim Sullivan.
“We are still in the planning stage,” says Sullivan in an early November interview, “so what it will look like is still a bit up in the air. We anticipate a variety of topics will be covered, some determined by the district BFLs. District BFLs will be asked to give input regarding the current national policy on credentialing women in pastoral roles.”
Sullivan says, “One thing that may be the underpinning of the entire event is the question: How do we stay connected as a family when we disagree regarding issues that we feel are important to us?”
The USBFL also discussed:
- vetting books and resources for the USMB website resource library.
- translating credentialing documents and other resource pamphlets into Spanish.
- ongoing efforts to address racism, including finalizing the content of a BFL pamphlet.
- reviewing a Memorandum of Understanding between Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and the National Board of Faith and Life. The MOU establishes a link and defines the relationship between the USBFL and the seminary since the seminary is owned by the Pacific District Conference.
- Reviewing materials in print and online that outline Mennonite Brethren distinctives and doing more to elevate what it means to be a Christian with a Mennonite Brethren perspective.
- Providing resources and workshop speakers at the next National Youth Conference.
“USBFL is a group of women and men who are fiercely loyal to our national family of churches and to safeguarding our Confession of Faith,” says Sullivan, when asked to reflect on the most recent USBFL meeting. “Each person there is a practitioner of her/his faith in a local church setting. I love being with them and have a deep respect and admiration for each person who serves.
“When we gather, it is always with a heart to look and listen for what is happening within our churches and to try to deal with those things from a biblical and Anabaptist/evangelical point of view,” Sullivan says.
“We are a diverse group of people with sometimes dissimilar perspectives on issues. Nevertheless, we respect one another deeply, and I am grateful for the collaborative spirit that exists among us. This meeting reflected that spirit again,” Sullivan says.
USBFL includes four members elected at the biennial USMB National Convention, the five district ministers and the USMB national director Don Morris. Elected members are Tim Geddert, Fresno, California, Jana Hildebrandt, Wichita, Kansas, David Loewen, Hillsboro, Kansas, and Mike Petts, Freeman, South District. District ministers are Rick Eshbaugh, Central District; Aaron Hernandez, LAMB District; Tim Sullivan, Southern District; Terry Hunt, North Carolina District and Gary Wall, Pacific District. Don Morris, USMB national director, is also a member.
Connie Faber joined the magazine staff in 1994 and assumed the duties of editor in 2004. She has won awards from the Evangelical Press Association for her writing and editing. Faber is the co-author of Family Matters: Discovering the Mennonite Brethren. She and her husband, David, have two daughters, one son, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law and one grandson. They are members of Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro, Kansas.