When U.S. Mennonite Brethren gathered July 24-28, 2018, in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Pastors’ Conference and National Convention, planners intended the biennial events to celebrate USMB diversity and unity.
The theme of “Celebrating our diversity and unity” was most obviously carried by the USMB pastors and leaders who were the convention speakers.
Delegates didn’t just hear testimonies and sermons about diversity and unity. They experienced it during a Saturday morning discussion about the Board of Faith and Life (BFL) resolution regarding family separation at the U.S./Mexico border. The lengthy and at times emotional discussion revealed a variety of opinions on immigration issues. As delegates looked for harmony, they reminded one another that the resolution was narrow in its focus and that that focus—advocating for policies that keep children and parents together—was one upon which everyone seemed to agree. In the end, delegates unanimously approved a revised resolution developed by an ad hoc group.
Delegates also seemed unified in their support of Multiply, described by MB Mission’s Randy Friesen as a “new wineskin” for ministry that invites North American Mennonite Brethren to think differently about church planting. This shift, which officially launches in January 2019, was prompted by the merger two years ago of C2C Network, the Canadian MB church planting ministry that serves in North America, and MB Mission, the North American global mission agency that works to plant churches globally among the least-reached.
Gathering in Salt Lake City gave delegates and guests the opportunity to learn more about church planting and church growth in a state where the dominant religion is Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and only 1.5 percent of people are evangelical Christian. MB Foundation, the U.S. MB stewardship ministry, sponsored a bus tour Thursday afternoon that included a stop at the 10-acre Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake and visits to two SMCC campuses. SMCC lead pastor Paul Robie and other SMCC staff led Friday afternoon workshops on Mormon beliefs and practices. The Friday evening worship service was held at SMCC-Draper Campus.
The 210 convention attendees represented 56 USMB congregations and all five district conferences. One hundred were delegates, 67 were guests or ministry representatives, 32 were children and 11 were staff. This compares to 263 total attendance (120 delegates) at the 2016 convention in Denver, Colo., 216 attendees in 2014 when the convention was in Santa Clara, Calif., and 298 in 2012 when the biennial event was held in Omaha, Neb.