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General Board stands by March decisions


Nov 17, 2003
- Dan Dyck

Winnipeg, Man.—In meetings here on Nov 6-8, MC Canada General Board members stood by their March decision to cut Christian Service Ministries (CSM) from the budget. But they also made a commitment to keep alive the ethic of Christian service in future thinking.

CSM included well known older programs such as Mennonite Voluntary Service and newer programs such as Service Adventure, Youth Venture, and Group Venture. The March decision was called into review by a delegate resolution at St. Catharines 2003. The resolution asked leadership to consider ways in which at least some of the programs might be preserved.

The board heard a report from Willard Metzger, chair, Christian Witness Council (CWC), and Jack Suderman executive secretary (staff), of additional work, research, responses, consultations, and conversations that have been held since July, 2003. This included the work of a task group formed to provide input into the process, results from a survey, and investigations about giving patterns in MC Canada congregations. The CWC then presented a recommendation that MC Canada continue the current level of funding until July, 2004, and that more research into the future viability of the program be done in the interim (see sidebar).

The General Board spent significant time on the recommendation. They struggled to determine the intent of the resolution passed at St. Catharines, wanting to honour the authority and the integrity of the delegates who brought forth the resolution and subsequent discussion. They also reviewed their understandings about the March/03 process and decisions, and re-affirmed their confidence in the integrity of that decision-making process.

Support Services Council (SSC) complemented the recommendation by noting that conversation was taking place at the SSC table to resurrect the idea of creating a position of Volunteer Coordinator. It “…could assist in achieving the goals identified by the resolution regarding Christian Service that was passed at St. Catharines 2003,” they said in a report. This position would be implemented in 2005 at the earliest.

The board considered various options, including the possible extension of the current arrangement until July/04, but did not consider that to be currently viable; funding implications would mean cutting further into the budgets of other programs. The board affirmed that Christian service is critical to its understanding of being the church, and wants to continue working at ways in which this value can be nourished, but it was not deemed possible to shift sufficient resources before that time.

The board committed itself to continue to explore options that encourage an ethic of Christian service in the constituency and to implement what is possible under the constraints faced by the church and within a time-frame where resources become available.

Meanwhile, at an earlier Manitoba minister’s lunch part-time pastor and CWC member Dori Zerbe Cornelsen said the March decision to cut CSM has directly affected her congregation, Hope Mennonite. A Mennonite Voluntary Service unit is located just down the street. One volunteer has decided to call Hope Mennonite his home congregation while in Winnipeg. As a member of CWC, Zerbe Cornelsen feels doubly affected.

Assistant moderator Joy Kroeger chaired a portion of the meetings that dealt with this issue. After much discussion, she said, “To re-instate Christian Service Ministries in some form would mean making new cuts elsewhere in the system. General Board members clearly endorsed the ideal of promoting an ethic of service and discipleship, but at this point in the life of MC Canada, committing program dollars to it would mean compromising another ministry.”

In regards to what the future may bring, Kroeger said, “I expect proposals will likely look different from our current program.”


Delegate Resolution from St. Catharines 2003:

Be it resolved that Mennonite Church Canada reaffirm its commitment to an ethic of service and its continued participation in “across the street” ministry in Canada and to explore and implement ways of maintaining Christian service opportunities for congregationally based Christian service ministry in Canada.

Be it further resolved that each Mennonite Church Canada congregation be encouraged to pray for and support the well-being of service units in Canada, identify and respond to local community needs, and encourage congregants of all ages to a lifestyle of service and discipleship.

(Motion carried)

Witness Council Recommendations to MC Canada General Board

October 24, 2003

The Christian Witness Council recommends to the General Board that:

1) The present arrangement that offers minimal central administration for existing units be extended until the end of July/04,

2) The Christian Witness Council continue to research and explore options and alternatives with the Christian Formation Council and the Support Services Council and others about the possibility of initiating a Volunteer/Service ministries office, that would incorporate the central administrative services needed for MVS/SA, but also seek to envision and articulate a broader mandate for such an office to serve MC Canada constituency,

3) A full report and recommendation for such possibilities be brought to the delegates at the MC Canada Assembly/04 for discussion and approval,

4) Such a recommendation would also include funding arrangements and sources for the remainder of FYE/05,

5) The funds needed to finance the extension to July/04 and future central services be divided on a sharing ratio that involves the entire MC Canada, and that the assurance of such a formula is basic to moving forward with this recommendation.

(Motion defeated)

Additional General Board Action

Saturday, 8-Nov-03

Statement: The GB is committed to an ethic of service and participation in "across the street" ministry in Canada. The GB will continue to explore and implement ways of providing opportunities for congregationally based Christian service ministry in Canada.