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MC Canada General Board meets


November 17, 2003
- Dan Dyck

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The General Board of Mennonite Church Canada met around a large table at Charleswood Mennonite Church in Winnipeg (Nov 6-8). Here, Pam Peters-Pries reports on planning progress for MC Canada’s next assembly, to be hosted at Winkler Bergthaler Mennonite Church in Southern Manitoba.

Winnipeg, Man.— The buoyant and affirmative tone of a consultation on a potential Mennonite Education Agency for Canada set the mood for General Board meetings here on Nov. 6-8.

They also received a recommendation on voluntary service (see separate story), heard financial updates, reports from Councils, and approved a theme for the 2004 assembly. And they wrestled with the current disenchantment among some MCBC congregations about their connection to MC Canada.

Members spoke frankly about the tensions faced by the church. But there was also a sense that the Holy Spirit was at work. Sue Steiner, chair of Christian Formation Council, led the opening worship time on Friday morning. Her closing prayer acknowledged that God is at work regardless of the challenges the church faces. “We recognize that your church goes in on in spite of our efforts,” she prayed.

In response to an earlier letter of concern from MCBC, the board committed itself to addressing the issues raised. It approved and sent a letter of response to MCBC that outlined eight steps it would take as a starting point in response. “We welcome more counsel from you. We pray to God that these steps will enable us to continue the important work of engaging God’s Kingdom that is in our midst, so that God’s healing and hope may extend to more persons. And we pray that we can continue to do so together,” read the closing paragraph.

The steps of response included items such as re-affirming the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, creating a council to give spiritual direction to the wider church, reviewing its interaction with BMC (Brethren and Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Interests), and facilitating interaction among area conference leaders so that “each may speak to the other and learn from concerns and processes of the others.” On Nov 29, MCBC is holding a special delegate meeting to decide on a course of action and will present the letter of response from MC Canada.

The board heard encouraging financial reports: Forecasts anticipated receiving 55.5% of total donation revenue for this time period (Feb 1 – Oct 31); $2,157,000, has been received so far, representing 55.2% of a $3.9 million donation income budget. Expenses are about 7% under budget for this time period.

Willard Metzger, chair of Christian Witness Council, commented that while the news is encouraging, “We are still facing the mystery fourth quarter,” referring to the uncertainty of the last three months of the fiscal year when nearly half of total donations normally come in. The same pattern exists for many congregations.

The board also received a positive review of Lloyd Plett’s work. Plett, a certified management accountant and recently retired corporate vice president for Loewen Windows, began work as Interim Financial Consultant in September. General Secretary Dan Nighswander said that “…finding Lloyd has been a gift,” noting the valuable counsel Plett has already provided.

The General Board heard a recommendation from the Joint Executive Committee (a body of MC Canada/MC USA leaders that deal with bi-national partnership issues) that MC Canada go to Charlotte, North Carolina for a bi-national assembly in 2005. The board accepted the invitation from MC USA, but with no commitment to meet bi-nationally beyond 2005. “The deciding factor for many members was the strong voice from the youth, who are determined to meet together bi-nationally,” said general secretary Dan Nighswander. “The leadership in MC USA is open in principle to the possibility (of meeting in Canada). Response to 2005 will influence future decisions,” he added.

Chairpersons and executive secretaries of Formation, Witness, and Support Services presented reports on their respective areas.

Among other recommendations, the Christian Formation Council proposed the creation of a reference council for the Denominational Minister’s office. The reference council will provide a place for the denominational minister to test ideas and collect discernment from the wider body.

In parallel discussions the General Board recognized the need for a channel to “tap the wisdom of the elders.” And they noted that the loss of the former Council for Faith of Life in the old structures had created a certain vacuum of theological discernment and discussion in the new structures. Plans to work at this agenda item will be developed as part of a larger, previously planned review (in 2004) of the way MC Canada is organized to exercise its ministries.

The Christian Witness Council (CWC) reported on the success of the Missional Leadership Formation study courses it has been leading. Executive Secretary (staff) Jack Suderman reported that 50 leaders from across Canada are participating. “The interaction has been upbeat and heartening,” he wrote in his report. “It is energizing to hear how each of the participants is making significant efforts to shape and re-shape their ministries from a missional perspective.”

CWC also noted that recently announced $1 million in cutbacks to Mennonite Mission Network (MMN), MC Canada’s USA joint ministry partner, will have an impact in MC Canada’s International Ministry program. MMN and MC Canada jointly support a variety of international workers and programs.

The Support Services Council (SSC) reported on plans to develop an overall fundraising strategy and plan for MC Canada, including the possibility of greater constituency visibility of key staff persons.

The General Board also accepted a recommendation from SSC for the theme of the upcoming assembly in Winkler, Manitoba, July 7-11, 2004. The theme, “Enough for All,” will be based on the story of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand as described in John 6:1-14.

Pam Peters-Pries, executive secretary of SSC, noted a number of factors that she anticipates will make Winkler 2004 a high quality event. “We have wonderful facilities in Winkler Bergthaler church and the surrounding community. We have excellent key volunteers, including local hosting, children’s assembly, and worship coordinators. And there are some new and innovative ideas being discussed about how our presence can make a difference in the community.”