When the USMB Leadership Board met Nov. 8-9, 2019, in Omaha, Nebraska, their key topics of discussion coincided with decisions made by the eight board members. The five district ministers and representatives from MB Foundation, Multiply, USMB Youth and the Pacific District Conference Hispanic Council and Don Morris, USMB national director, also attend and participate in Leadership Board meetings.
When asked to characterize the board’s November discussions, chair David Hardt said, “We had good conversation with input from everyone at the table. We discussed the various topics at length. I value the input from each member of our board. The diverse points of view helped us to arrive at decisions that were properly considered and prayed through.”
The board had a lengthy discussion regarding changes at Multiply, the North American MB mission agency that had partnered with the church planting agency C2C Network. The partnership ended in June 2019 with a $1.5 million gap largely due to a church planting model that was not sustainable. Seventeen Multiply staff members were released. Randy Friesen, Multiply president, participated in person while Brent Warkentin, Multiply board chair, joined the board meeting via conference call; the board also talked without either Multiply representative present.
The Leadership Board identified five suggestions going forward related to staff and board evaluations and financial reporting to the U.S. and Canadian boards.
National Director Morris says via an email interview that since the November Leadership Board meeting, a task force comprised of four Canadians and four Americans is working with John Radford, a consultant from Canada that has previously worked with Multiply, to review Multiply leadership, organizational culture and board functioning.
The task force hopes to provide a report this summer to the Canadian assembly that meets in June and the USMB National Convention that will be held in July.
Kyle Goings, representing USMB Youth, provided a detailed analysis of the ministry team’s three efforts: YouthCon, The Network and Project:Serve. Based on analysis of the 2019 youth conference, Goings reported that the USMB Youth team is recommending that national youth gatherings, held every four years since 1975, be discontinued. The Leadership Board agreed that YouthCon 2019 would be the last national youth conference.
The Leadership Board affirmed changing the name North Carolina District Conference to Eastern District Conference, at the request of the district. The district has been considering the name change for some time, given opportunities to add more states to the district.
In a related discussion, given the location of congregations that have expressed interest in joining USMB, the Leadership Board discussed new opportunities to work with Congolese churches and asked the National Strategy Team to bring to a future meeting a proposal for drawing new district lines.
The board approved a letter written by the U.S. Board of Faith and Life regarding alternative service that would be sent to the National Commission of Military Service. The letter was sent in early December and a copy was sent to USMB churches.
In his report, U.S. BFL board chair Tim Sullivan spoke of the board’s desire to continue having a seminary representative on BFL. He also reported on BFL’s discussion of women in ministry and the wording of Article V of the Confession of Faith regarding the atonement.
The Leadership Board approved the proposed 2020 budget, which treasurer Tharen Spahr reported as “almost the same” as the 2019 budget. The total budget is $809,200, with $406,000 in income coming from USMB churches. This compares to a 2019 budget of $812,200. Expenses include a 2.5 percent increase for staff salaries.
Spahr also said he expected the 2019 year to end in the black, based on expenses coming in under budget. A 2019 year-end report is expected by the end of January 2020.
The board discussed Leadership Board upcoming vacancies and how best to fill those positions and the attributes of individuals that they would like to have on the board.
The Leadership Board also approved a motion to appoint as representatives to inter Mennonite agencies only individuals who currently attend Mennonite Brethren churches. The decision was prompted by a current representative who has moved to a state that is not home to a USMB congregation.
The board heard and discussed reports from Morris about his work as national director; Jon Wiebe, president and CEO of MB Foundation; Xavier Pina of the Pacific District Conference Hispanic Council; and district ministers Tim Sullivan, Southern District, Dennis Fast, Pacific District, Aaron Hernandez, Latin America MB Conference, Terry Hunt, Eastern District, and Rick Eshbaugh, Central District. USMB staff members submitted written reports.
Leadership Board members are David Hardt, Bakersfield, California; Boris Borisov, Spokane Valley, Washington; Aaron Box, Eugene, Oregon; Luke Haidle, Henderson, Nebrasa; Lud Hohm, Yale, South Dakota; Delilah Isaak, Fresno, California; Lianne Nikkel, Littleon, Colorado; Larry Smith, Lenoir, North Carolina; and Tharen Spahr, Wichita, Kansas.
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.