Second meeting with consultant marked by unity, “strong consensus”
By Myra Holmes
“Strong consensus” regarding the future ministry of U.S. Mennonite Brethren emerged during a second working retreat with consultant George Bullard, says USMB Leadership Board Chair Steve Schroeder in a written statement following the meeting. A small group of attendees is fleshing out this possible scenario over the next months.
“The bottom line is: We’ve intentionally begun a process that we believe will lead to a stronger conference of churches with a unified and well-focused mission,” says Schroeder. “We covet continued prayers from those within our family of churches.”
Some 40 leaders, representing USMB districts, institutions and agencies, gathered Nov. 17-18 in Phoenix, Ariz., for the second meeting with Bullard, who was hired last spring by the USMB Leadership Board to lead a review of conference vision and structures. The first working retreat was held Sept. 22-23 in Kansas City, Kan.
Schroeder says the Phoenix meeting was marked by a spirit of cooperation and anticipation. “We came together to seek God’s direction for the future of our MB family—particularly for those of us who live and serve in the United States.”
Following up on work from the first retreat, several attendees presented possible scenarios for vision and strategy for the next 10 years. Bullard then helped attendees “understand some of the uniquenesses of each possible scenario,” says Schroeder. Bullard also played an active role in guiding the discussion and the process.
“After prayer and conversation, we sensed that God was leading us, by a strong consensus, with some common ideas for shaping the future story of ministry for the Mennonite Brethren movement,” Schroeder says. “Now this needs to be fleshed out.”
Nine attendees will summarize and consolidate this possible future scenario over the next three months. “They will also be prayerfully seeking God’s direction for some specific ideas on what this might look like for our denomination by the year 2025 if we take some active steps in that direction,” Schroeder says.
The goal is to complete that work by the end of February 2015. The summary will then be presented in March at the annual meetings of the USMB Leadership Board and the Leadership Summit, a gathering of key leaders from national, district and partner ministries. Those meetings are scheduled for the second week of March in San Diego, Calif.
If the Summit and Board affirm the direction, the Leadership Board will assign people to work out structural and organizational details. “That would be the soonest time when the question of our need for hiring any new staff persons would be considered,” says Schroeder.
He notes that this is not a process in which a few people will make decisions for all churches and agencies. “Nothing is going to be forced,” Schroeder says. “Rather, we’re trusting that, as God makes the future he is calling us into more and more clear to our leaders, then others in our family we will be eager to join together on that journey.”
Schroeder acknowledges that the process may seem “slow and laborious,” but says, “we believe that, for the sake of increased health and vitality for our entire denomination, it’s worth the time and effort.”