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Missional Formation Facilitators appointed


Gerd Bartel

Jim Loepp Thiessen

Eric Olfert


Winnipeg, Man.—Gerd Bartel, Jim Loepp Thiessen and Eric Olfert all share a passion for the Church. They have also all been appointed as half time Missional Formation and Partnership Facilitators for Mennonite Church Canada and its area conferences.

As missional formation facilitators, their task will be, where invited, to help churches explore a renewed missional identity, where every part of the church is actively engaged in God's mission of healing and hope.

They will offer resources to churches including sermons, workshops, retreats, Sunday school classes and consultation with church councils and committees, helping them both to delve into missional church ideas and to establish missional partnerships with churches across the street and around the world.

Each facilitator will work in a different area conference, and are appointed under partnership agreements with area conferences. Jim Loepp Thiessen, with continuing half-time pastoral responsibilities at Shantz Mennonite Church, will work in Mennonite Church (MC) Eastern Canada starting in September.

Eric Olfert retires from teaching half time at Rosthern Junior College to fill the role in MC Saskatchewan in August. Gerd Bartel combines his new role with his existing half-time position as MC Canada's Director of Development for Western Canada starting in July.

Norm Voth has been active in this capacity with MC Manitoba since last fall, and conversations about the possible placement of a Missional Formation Facilitator in MC Alberta are underway.

"This will really bring Mennonite Church Canada programs a lot closer to churches," said Jack Suderman, executive director of MC Canada Witness. With staff dispersed in area conferences, MC Canada will be able to respond to many more congregations' requests for dialogue and partnership, requests that have been numerous in the last year.

(L-R) Ilene Bergen (MCEC Coordinator for Christian Education), Eric Olfert, Bryan Moyer Suderman, and Gerd Bartel participate in May 31 meetings exploring the future of missional church formation, including the possibility of offering a Missional Church Leadership Development course in 2003, to discuss the dynamics of missional church formation in our congregations and to discuss the process of congregational partnerships with specific projects and/or workers. Photo by Dan Dyck.

All three appointees come highly recommended and with a strong love for the church and its missional purpose. Asked why he took the job, Bartel said immediately, "I love the church, that's number one."

Bartel, who thinks he has gone only one year since 1976 without some kind of involvement with church conference life, said "Reason number two is that I enjoy being with people and sharing the vision of the church with individuals and congregations." His past activities include moderating the BC conference, chairing the Canadian Mennonite Bible College board, a previous stint as director of fund-raising and serving as vice-chair of the general board and some time on the nominations committee.

"A fire was lit in my own spirit the first time I read about missional church," said Loepp Thiessen. "For our congregation, so much life has already happened in the connections we have made in India, Africa and North Carolina." Loepp Thiessen looks forward to seeing how that life takes shape in other congregations.

Eric Olfert said he too is "excited about the missional church vision and eager to learn more about what it all means." He thinks it may offer some answers to several issues facing the Mennonite Church in Saskatchewan.

Mennonite Church Saskatchewan is facing a major rural-urban shift that is causing both rural and urban churches to revisit basic questions about their identity and purpose, said Olfert. He says the missional church vision might answer some of those questions.
"It doesn't seem as obvious as it used to what the answers are," said Olfert. He is excited about the Mennonite Church in Saskatchewan and looks forward to "being in close contact with Mennonites all over Saskatchewan and being a facilitator of dialogue."
Suderman said, "We praise God for raising up creative, innovative, experienced, committed and competent persons to assume these responsibilities."