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General Board: Getting down to business
May 3, 2004
Winnipeg, Man.— The General Board of Mennonite Church Canada met here on April 16-17 to review assembly plans, build on relationships with Area Conferences, and receive updates from MC Canada’s Councils. Included in the agenda were discussions relating to Canadian Mennonite University, financial reports, and changing trends in North American funding arrangements for international mission workers.
A considerable amount of time was devoted to reviewing five discussion topics for the Winkler 2004 assembly (see sidebar). These topics include delegate input into: refining MC Canada’s mission statement; theological leadership (shaping a successor to the former Council on Faith & Life); joining the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Canadian Council of Churches; frequency of assemblies (follow-up on a resolution from Saskatoon 2002 to consider moving to biennial assembly pattern); and homosexuality.
Emphasis in the homosexuality discussion at Winkler will be to “listen to what is happening in our churches, affirm the churches’ understanding, and continuing to dialogue with and minister where there is disagreement,” said reports. Facilities at the Winkler 2004 assembly are allowing planners to organize round table discussions, fostering more delegate interaction than theatre or pew style seating.
The General Board, following the recommendation of the Financial Policy and Audit Committee, reviewed and accepted audited statements from fiscal year 2003-04. Lloyd Plett, Interim Financial Consultant, also presented a proposed budget process that, among other things, more intentionally seeks input from delegates on the priorities and plans for coming fiscal year(s). Plett pointed out that the financial results are better than planned. Before discontinued programs, reports noted a surplus of $125,000. The audited statement shows a net smaller than planned draw on reserves for the year. The Board expressed gratitude that donors met revenue targets. Audited statements can be found at the MC Canada web site linked from http://www.mennonitechurch.ca/events/winkler/
Other financial issues centred on Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s (MCEC) move to revise its funding formula with MC Canada, which will result in approximately $40,000 less for MC Canada in 2004-05. Giving from MCEC congregations is forwarded to MC Canada according to a negotiated formula, which means that most MCEC congregations do not have a separate budget line for MC Canada. A process is underway to re-evaluate the shared funding plan.
A document presented by MC Canada Witness also raises two significant financial implications. The first is a trend in mission worker support that moves toward a “relational funding” model. This model relies on relationships between workers and family, friends, and congregations to generate financial support. The practice raises important questions about how best to fund mission work.
The second issue is cross-border funding for workers that are jointly supported by mission partners in Canada and the USA. There are significant operational complexities, including meeting Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency requirements. The Witness Council asked for input from General Board on these issues, noting that there currently are 8-10 cases in Canada that need clarification.
Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) has raised questions about the ownership of property at 600 Shaftesbury in light of their plans for building a student residence. The General Board received a report on the historical relationship and the legal implications of several options and will bring a recommendation to Winkler 2004 for delegate action.
Sidebar: Winkler 2004
A portion of the discernment sessions at Winkler 2004 will be held around tables, fostering more face-to-face interaction among delegates. Detailed background of the discussion topics and goals are outlined in the report book, which will be sent to all registrants and made available on-line (www.mennonitechurch.ca). Some information has already been sent to all congregations in the May issue of Equipping. In summary, the topics are:
1. Mission Statement and Priorities: Review and revision of the current MC Canada mission statement in the context of denominational priorities.
2. Leading the church in discerning theology, ethics, polity and practice: Delegates will give direction to the General Board that will assist in shaping a successor to the Council on Faith and Life.
3. Homosexuality: A guided conversation about what is happening in our churches, affirming the church’s understanding, and continuing to dialogue with and minister where there is disagreement; an opportunity to learn from each other in community.
4. Joining Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) and Canadian Council of Churches (CCC): Follow-up to a St. Catharines 2003 recommendation to join EFC and CCC.
5. Frequency of assemblies: Delegates will give direction to the General Board following up on a Saskatoon 2002 recommendation to explore the implications of biennial assemblies in Canada.
This year congregations are invited, if they have resolutions for delegate consideration, to submit them in advance. The deadline for these is May 31.