USMB Leadership Board prepares for Gathering 2024

LAMB Conference churches host board members for meals

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USMB board members traveled to three churches for evening meals during board meetings held in March. Photo: J.L. Martin

While the Texas Gulf Coast attracts its fair share of snowbirds, it was a series of one-day board meetings rather than the warm temperatures that drew two dozen USMB leaders to McAllen in late March.

The Board of Faith and Life met March 20, National Strategy Team on March 21, Leadership Council on March 22 and Leadership Board on March 23. This was the first time in recent years that the spring board meetings were held in South Texas and gave board members the opportunity to visit three of the nine LAMB (Latin America MB) District churches.

BFL, Leadership Council and Leadership Board met at a hotel in McAllen and were hosted by Mission MB Church and Templo Nueva Vida for an evening meal. Grace Point Church at Grulla, LaGrulla, hosted the NST meeting and provided two meals.

The Board of Faith and Life took advantage of technology to allow two members to attend via Zoom. Photo: J.L. Martin

Board members present Thursday afternoon toured the southern border, both at the bank of the Rio Grande River and at the partially finished border wall located about one mile north of the river. Board members said the tour was informative as well as sobering, says USMB National Director Don Morris.

Leadership Board decisions focus on convention business

Action taken by the Leadership Board dealt with the business agenda that will be voted on by delegates to the 2024 National Convention. The Leadership Board accepted Jason Quiring, Saratoga Springs, Utah, and Samuel Hailemariam, Indianapolis, Ind., as nominees to the Leadership Board and approved a change to USMB bylaws, according to the modified minutes received by the CL.

The proposed change is to Article IV Conference Relationships, Section 1 Relation to Member Churches, specifically concerning the reversion clause. The proposed change gives district conferences flexibility in addressing a church’s capital assets if the church dissolves or leaves the conference and indicates that no legal action will be taken if a church denies a reversion request.

According to an April 16 letter sent to USMB churches by Leadership Board chair Luke Haidle the rationale for changing the U.S. Conference bylaws is that:

  • constituent feedback is that districts will be served by having a national level bylaw;
  • this wording allows flexibility for districts to address each case in ways unique to the situation;
  • this wording allows districts to avoid taking fellow Christians to court while still appealing to their conscience in matters of commitment; and
  • there is the potential need for actionable interest on the part of the U.S. Conference, which is why the Leadership Board recommends that districts also have a reversion clause in their bylaws.

Other action

In other business, the Leadership Board determined that the board chair will, according to the modified minutes, “review the minutes and then forward what’s appropriate” to Christian Leader editors. In the past, CL editors received unredacted and unmodified minutes following the twice annual in-person meetings, as well as a copy of the agenda and attached reports prior to Leadership Board in-person meetings. Beginning with the March 2024 meeting, the practice of distributing the board agenda and accompanying reports was discontinued.

At the request of the Leadership Board, the most recent meeting also marks the first time that staff reports were sent to the national director rather than board members. The national director included in his report the information from staff reports that he felt was appropriate.

The USMB Leadership Board is joined by members of the Leadership Council for the first full day of its two-day meeting. Photo: J.L Martin

In addition to a report from National Director Don Morris, the Leadership Board heard from Stephen Humber representing Multiply, Dave Loewen representing the national Board of Faith and Life, Jon Wiebe representing MB Foundation and representatives from the district conferences: Jordan Ringhofer of the Pacific District, Xavier Pina of the PDC Hispanic Council, Brian Harris of the Southern District, Daniel Rodriguez of the Central District, James Moore of the Eastern District and Aaron Hernandez of LAMB.

Treasurer Gavin Banik and J.L. Martin, USMB bookkeeper, provided a financial report. At the request of Morris, the board added an additional $4,500 to the Christian Leader budget for a second in-person Editorial Committee meeting and agreed to allocate nine $500 scholarships to the National Pastors’ Conference in July from the Pastor Scholarship Fund. The board approved using $2,000 from the Vision Summit Leadership Fund for a U.S. youth representative to the Mennonite World Conference Global Youth Summit to be held in July 2025 in Switzerland.

The board appointed Tim Geddert to serve for two years as a non-voting resource member to the Board of Faith and Life.

Leadership Board officers were elected. Dave Thiessen, Fresno, California, will serve as chair; Jared Pulliam, Portland, Oregon, as vice-chair; Gavin Banik, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will continue as treasurer; and Joan Warkentin, Wichita, Kansas, will serve as secretary.

The board also discussed the national director search process when it met with Leadership Council members and again when only voting members met Saturday morning. Following the Leadership Board meeting, the board announced April 1 that it had selected its top two candidates for the national director position and would be interviewing these individuals in April.

Board members present for the March meeting were Gaven Banik, Ross Bentley, Boris Borisov, Luke Haidle, Staci Janzen, Jared Pulliam, Dave Thiessen and Joan Warkentin. Council members present were Brian Harris, Aaron Hernandez, James Moore, Don Morris, Xavier Pina, Jordan Ringhofer, Daniel Rodriguez and Jon Wiebe. Two council members, Bruce Enns of Multiply, and Kyle Goings, NextGen, were absent. Stephen Humber and Dave Loewen were present as guests. Donna Sullivan, recording secretary, and J.L. Martin, USMB bookkeeper and event planner, were also present.

The Board of Faith and Life celebrate National Director Don Morris’ birthday. Jesse Swiers (left) and Brian Harris applaud Morris as he blows out his candle. Photo: J.L. Martin

BFL and NST meetings

The week of board meetings began March 20 with the Board of Faith and Life. BFL chair David Loewen and member Jesse Swiers along with National Director Don Morris and district ministers Jordan Ringhofer, Brian Harris, Daniel Rodriguez, James Moore and Aaron Hernandez attended in person while members Connie Nicholson and Tim Geddert, both from Fresno, California, participated via Zoom.

In response to a request from the CL, BFL Chair Loewen, of Hillsboro, Kansas, lists three highlights of the board’s meeting.

  • The Covenant of Sexual Ethics for Pastors was approved and will be added to the Ministry Licensing Application Packet for all pastors to sign.
  • The document “Responding Faithfully and Lovingly to LGB Persons” was passed on to the district boards of faith and life. District boards can distribute the paper as they determine.
  • BFL discussed ongoing and future projects about the Confession of Faith, licensing pastors and resourcing church staff, including developing a resource for local church leadership on transgender issues.

In its meeting the following day, the National Strategy Team reviewed the January vision summit on leadership development. Comments made during that discussion, according to Don Morris, national director, in an email to the CL, included that:

  • it was helpful for people to get to know people in other districts,
  • things larger churches are already doing should be maximized for the benefit of smaller churches or churches with less resources,
  • another vision summit should be held in 2025, and
  • momentum will build as dialogue and ideas continue.

The NST spent time talking with new interim church planting mobilizer Scott Thomas, who attended the afternoon portion of the meeting.

The NST also discussed the value of a unified approach to pastoral licensing and expectations.

The NST is comprised of the USMB national director, five district ministers, Multiply general director and MB Foundation president and CEO. These representatives reported about what they are doing to strategize for ministry, Morris says.

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