USMB leaders gather, review study conference, set budget


Week of events includes pastors orientation, summit gathering, board meetings

By Connie Faber

USMB leaders gathered March 11-17 in San Diego, Calif., for a series of four gatherings: the biennial National Pastors Orientation (NPO) held Monday through Wednesday noon, Board of Faith and Life meeting Wednesday afternoon through Thursday, Leadership Summit convening Thursday evening through Friday and the Leadership Board Friday evening through Sunday morning.

All USMB events in San Diego were held at Best Western Island Palms Hotel.

This C-Link report reviews the four events in the order in which they occurred. 

National Pastors Orientation educates and connects

The value of being part of a spiritual family that provides local congregations with a national and international perspective was among the themes that emerged during the National Pastors Orientation.

Thirty-three new USMB pastoral staff members and spouses attended the three-day event hosted by the USMB Board of Faith and Life (BFL) March 11-13. The NPO is intended to familiarize new pastors with Mennonite Brethren history, theology, agencies, personnel and resources and to help them connect with other pastoral staff members.

Tim Geddert, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary professor and a BFL member, and Valerie Rempel, FPBS associate professor, were the key resource speakers.

Geddert spoke about the mission of the church. “Without a clear ecclesiology, we will be collecting good ideas but it won’t hold together,” said Geddert.

Geddert began by highlighting why ecclesiology is important for all Christians and gave specific reasons that are unique to Mennonite Brethren.

At a time when the state and church were one and the same and acted coercively, “Anabaptists restored the New Testament concept of ‘church,’” said Geddert.

A second reason Mennonite Brethren should think carefully about the theology of church is our hybrid identity as Anabaptist Evangelicals. “We are even more confused about this than most churches,” said Geddert.

Geddert addressed four topics related to ecclesiology: going with joy into the Lord’s house (Psalm 122), Jesus’ treatment of tax collectors (Matthew 9), priorities of the church (Acts 2:42-47) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28).

Rempel (right) briefly reviewed the history of the Anabaptist movement, beginning with Martin Luther and including Uhrich Zwingle, Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, Menno Simons and Eduard Wuest. She noted which practical and theological characteristics of the Mennonite Brethren Church can be traced to Simons’ influence and which ones come from Wuest.

Rempel summarized key developments following the arrival of Mennonite Brethren in the United States and to the present. She concluded with a description of current agencies, both Mennonite Brethren and inter-Mennonite, with which USMB partners on the national and global level.

The orientation also included presentations from Ed Boschman, USMB executive director, that provided an outline of the relationship between national and international Mennonite Brethren ministries, explained why USMB is organized as a conference of churches and emphasized transforming lives as the mission of every congregation.

Larry Nikkel, BFL chair, spoke on the importance of leadership and reviewed the ministry of the Board of Faith and Life. He invited district ministers Gary Wall, Pacific District Conference; Tim Sullivan, Southern District Conference; Rick Eshbaugh, Central District Conference; and Terry Hunt, North Carolina District Conference, to describe their work as “pastors to the pastors.”

Nikkel, Steve Schroeder, USMB Leadership Board chair, and Lynn Jost, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary dean, provided morning devotions. A worship team comprised of NPO participants led the singing.

Tuesday evening was devoted to a report from Mission USA director Don Morris on USMB’s church health resources and church planting efforts.

The final session Wednesday morning included short updates from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary dean Lynn Jost, MB Mission general director Randy Friesen and MB Foundation board member Terry Hunt.

Orientation participants also met Kindred Productions U.S. staff member Amy Sterk and USMB support staff members Lori Taylor and Donna Sullivan, J Epp, USMB director of development, Connie Faber, Christian Leader editor, and Myra Holmes, USMB social media coordinator.

The NPO schedule included a Monday evening outing to San Diego’s Old Town and Bazaar del Mundo and free time Tuesday afternoon.

The NPO concluded with small groups that  met together Monday morning gathering again Wednesday for prayer . 


BFL determines follow-up steps to study conference

The Board of Faith and Life met for two days and reviewed the evaluations, comments and suggestions participants offered regarding the January study conference concerning Article 12 (Society and State) and Article 13 (Peace and Nonresistance) of the Confession of Faith (COF).

The board also determined that its next step will be to write an open letter to all study conference participants and to the USMB constituency. The letter will offer the context of the study conference, “Kingdom Citizens in a World of Conflict,” and lay out the next steps. BFL chair Larry Nikkel says in an email following the board meeting that these next steps include:

  • Sharing study conference evaluations that deal with counsel to BFL on future steps,
  • Posting a summary of how and whether any changes to the COF impact the USMB’s legal standing as a “peace church,”
  • Meeting with district BFLs by the end of May to test possible language changes to the COF,
  • Talking with Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, Tabor College and Fresno Pacific University representatives about possible changes to the COF and
  • Meeting with local congregations and individuals following discussions with district and education leaders.

In addition to Nikkel, elected BFL members are Michael Eldridge, San Jose, Calif.; Rod Anderson, Sioux Falls, SD; and Tim Geddert, Fresno, Calif. Ex officio members include Ed Boschman, USMB executive director; Rick Eshbaugh, Central District Conference minister; Terry Hunt, North Carolina District minister; Tim Sullivan, Southern District Conference minister; and Gary Wall, Pacific District Conference minister.


Leadership Summit looks for ways to strengthen partnerships

Leaders of USMB ministries meet annually with the USMB Leadership Board and staff and this year the number of people attending the Leadership Summit was reduced so that the participants could focus on defining the purpose of the gathering.

Agency representatives came from Tabor College (Jules Glanzer and Rick Bartlett), Fresno Pacific University (Pete Manjares), Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary (Lynn Jost), MB Mission (Randy Friesen) and MB Foundation (Jon Wiebe). District ministers Gary Wall (Pacific), Tim Sullivan (Southern), Rick Eshbaugh (Central) and Terry Hunt (North Carolina) represented the districts. Ed Boschman, executive director; Don Morris, Mission USA director; J Epp, director of development; and Steve Schroeder, Leadership Board chair, represented USMB. They met March 14-15.

“The 2013 USMB Leadership Summit was both inspirational and helpful,” says Boschman, who led the summit. “Meditating and thinking and praying together with this gifted and experienced cadre of leaders within our USMB family is a high privilege.”

Boschman reports that this year the summit focused on four questions: What is the reason for the annual summit? What is the collective vision for a preferred future condition for our USMB family? How can we strengthen our collaboration and kingdom impact? How would you like the USMB Leadership Board and staff to serve USMB?

The summit participants concluded that in the future the group will “aim to strengthen our cooperation in a synergistic way by working together at a focused agenda—leadership development, local church resourcing, new church planting or resource development—which ramps up our collective USMB kingdom impact,” says Boschman in an email interview following the summit.

“Each agency will make available their expertise and services to result in increased effectiveness,” says Boschman. “The Summit will be a gathering where we discern and pray together about the best possible ways to ‘do better together what we can’t do alone’ and then to implement those strategies.”


Leadership Board approves budget, considers staff changes

At its meeting March 15-17, the USMB Leadership Board (LB) approved a seven-month budget of $512,852 for June to December 2013. USMB is shifting to a calendar year for financial purposes, beginning in 2014.

The abbreviated income budget includes $249,000 in church contributions, an amount LB treasurer David Hardt described as “reasonable.” USMB staff fundraising is budgeted at $210,000. The expense budget includes limited funds for new staff initiatives and for church planter assessments and development.

The Leadership Board heard an extensive report from Ed Boschman, USMB executive director that included updates concerning various ministry partners. Don Morris, Mission USA director; J Epp, director of development, Connie Faber, Christian Leader editor; Myra Holmes, social media coordinator; Donna Sullivan, administrative secretary and Lori Taylor, USMB web master, also gave reports.

In his report, Aleks Borisov reported that he has resigned as the USMB Slavic ministries director because of his work as the pastor for a new USMB church plant in Spokane, Wash.

“This little baby (Disciples Church) is keeping me busy,” said Borisov, who served as pastor of education at Pilgrim Slavic Baptist MB Church, the Slavic-language congregation that is mothering the new English-language church.

Preaching in English every Sunday is a challenge, said Borisov. “Please pray for me,” he said.

Boschman reported that Borisov will serve on a volunteer basis for the next several months, and that Boschman will consult with the other entities that are involved in employing a Slavic ministries director to determine their next step.

In other business the board:

  • confirmed that Conection 2014, the next biennial national convention, will be held in the greater San Francisco area.
  • approved changes to the bylaws of Mennonite Health Services Alliance as requested.
  • approved Julia Reimer as a new member of the Historical Commission.



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