BFL, Summit, LB gather in Bakersfield for spring meetings
By Myra Holmes
U.S. Mennonite Brethren (USMB) leaders gathered March 21-24 in Bakersfield, Calif., in a three-part “triathlon” of meetings.
The national Board of Faith and Life (BFL), charged with USMB spiritual oversight, took the first leg Wednesday and Thursday. The nine-member board, chaired by Larry Nikkel of Wichita, Kan., worked on memorandums of understanding that outline the relationship between BFL and the MB seminary, now owned by Fresno Pacific University, and govern how the leaders of the USMB and the Canadian Conference of MB Churches will work together.
In addition, the BFL did homework and planning in anticipation of a study conference in January 2013. The study conference will focus on a review of two articles of the Confession of Faith—those concerning “The Society and State” and “Peace and Nonresistance.”
The second leg Thursday evening and Friday was the National Leadership Summit, an annual gathering of leaders of “all things USMB” hosted by the national Leadership Board and staff. Attendees included lead staff and board chairs from the five districts (Pacific, Central, Southern, Latin American and North Carolina), three schools (Fresno Pacific University, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and Tabor College), BFL, MB Foundation and MB Mission.
Rather than spending the time sharing reports, as is the custom, participants discussed the book Follower First: Rethinking Leading in the Church by Rusty Ricketson. Consultant Rich Kriegbaum facilitated the discussion.
"We focused on three things in our Summit this year,” says Ed Boschman, USMB executive director. “One was to re-evaluate our understanding of what it means to be a leader and what it means to be a follower. The second was to envision and ‘float’ ideal future conditions for our various ministries, agencies and institutions. The third was to ask ourselves whether some things need to change, and if so, what they might be, in order for us to maximize our kingdom impact."
Discussions raised questions rather than provided clear answers. Boschman and Kriegbaum will lead follow-up on ideas presented. The Summit ended with participants on their knees, seeking God’s direction for the future.
Finally, the USMB Leadership Board (LB; photo above) met Friday evening and Saturday. They heard reports from the USMB staff, provided input on staff initiatives and prayed for staff members.
The nine-member LB accepted an aggressive budget of $998,000 for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which will be submitted to delegates at Conection 2012 for final approval. The budget, up from $850,000, reflects full-year salaries for the director of Slavic ministries and director of development—new, part-time staff positions filled mid-way through the last fiscal year—and significant expenses for new church plants under Mission USA to fulfill the USMB goal of six new churches each year for the next 10 years.
The board also approved two revisions to the USMB bylaws, regarding vetting of USMB nominees to partner agencies and appointment of additional board members, and affirmed a slate of nominees and appointees to various USMB and partner ministries offices, to be submitted to delegates at Conection 2012 for final approval.
The next Leadership Board meeting will be Oct. 12-14 in Denver, Colo.