USMB leaders gather to plan, connect


Board approves modest budget increase

from USMB press release and minutes

Mennonite Brethren leaders from across the United States gathered in San Diego, Calif., March 7-13 for a series of discernment, networking and strategy meetings that included the National Pastors Orientation (NPO) Monday through Wednesday noon, a Board of Faith and Life (BFL) meeting Wednesday afternoon through Thursday afternoon, the National Leadership Summit (NLS) Thursday evening and Friday and the National Leadership Board (NLB) meeting Friday evening through Sunday noon.

A leadership team anchored by Valerie Rempel and Tim Geddert, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary professors, and Ed Boschman, USMB executive director, hosted 24 church staff and spouses for the NPO. The three-day event included worship times, lectures, informal presentations and discussions as well as social activities designed to help the pastors connect and to be better informed about the national USMB family.

The nine-member BFL discussed its ongoing work with the Canadian Conference BFL in addressing theological matters and affirmed a new document outlining how the BFL will serve as a “theological umbrella” for Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. The BFL also reviewed plans for publishing topical brochures, efforts to educate new pastors about MB theology and practice and the importance of facilitating a discussion about “living what we believe” as stated in the Confession of Faith.

The National Leadership Summit, hosted by the NLB and USMB staff, brought together lead staff and board chairs of all USMB ministry institutions and agencies. Each ministry partner—MB Foundation, Tabor College, Fresno Pacific University, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and MB Mission—gave updates. Additionally, the district ministers and board chairs for each of the five district conferences (Pacific, Central, Southern, Latin America and North Carolina) reported. NLS participants also talked in small groups about barriers to achieving unity and oneness.

The National Leadership Board, chaired by Steve Schroeder of Hillsboro, Kan., met the last two days of the week. “The Board is prioritizing the need to be even more effective in ‘getting the word out’ and ‘telling our story’ so as to develop a better informed constituency and also to clarify the added value that the U.S. Conference is to our churches,” says Boschman in summarizing the meeting.

The NLB approved a 2011-12 budget of $800,000, up from $734,136 for the current fiscal year. The board endorsed a procedure to follow when a congregation leaves the denomination and approved a three-month sabbatical for Mission USA director Don Morris. Dennis Becker from College Community Church, Clovis, Calif., was appointed to the Mennonite World Conference General Council; Jill Schellenberg and Laura Schmidt Roberts, both of Fresno, Calif., were appointed to the Mennonite Central Committee National Board.

The NLB discussed several items related to the recent shift in Mennonite Brethren seminary education, including representation on the Fresno Pacific University Board of Directors and the seminary’s Advisory Council. The Leadership Board approved the MB Biblical Seminary Inc., recommendation that approximately $1.1 million in endowment funds be distributed to four initiatives to assist in developing collaborative MB graduate theological education: $500,000 for student support, $100,000 for North American and international course development and $250,000 each to the U.S. and Canada. The Leadership Board also approved the recommendation that the U.S. funds be used to partner with Tabor College in the development of a graduate theological and pastoral training program.

The Leadership Board heard updates regarding church planting and church renewal, USMB communication efforts, the April national MB youth convention and Ministry Quest. Boschman reported on plans to develop closer relationships with Slavic-language congregations and to update the church-giving model, with the goal of having a new model ready for the July 2012 national USMB convention to be held in Omaha, Neb.

Leadership Board members are Schroeder, vice chair Marv Schellenberg, Wichita, Kan.; treasurer David Hardt, Bakersfield, Calif.; secretary Sue Kliewer, Auberry, Calif.; and members Clyde Ferguson Jr., Hudson, NC; Aaron Hernandez, LaGrulla, Texas; Slavic Gladysh, Clovis, Calif.; Matt Kolbert, Clovis, Calif.; and Jody Thomas, Rapid, City, SD.


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