Alberta increases collaboration with national conference
Alberta MB Conference annual convention
March 15–16, 2013
Dalhousie Community (MB) Church, Calgary
Hoping to rediscover the call of God’s kingdom on their lives, some 100 people gathered at Dalhousie MB Church, Calgary, Mar. 15–16, for the annual convention of the Alberta conference (ABMB). By the end of the weekend, the province had agreed to collaborate more intentionally with the national conference, and to outsource most of its services, resourcing, and even budget to the Canadian conference, in order to see God’s kingdom come in Alberta.
Over the past number of years, ABMB’s budget and church donations have shrunk significantly, putting the province’s long-term viability at risk. As one delegate said, “our ability to offer resources to our churches is dissolving before our eyes.” The ABMB executive board agreed that increased collaboration with the national conference would provide the best solution to meet the needs of the province’s 22 congregations.
Although the provincial conference wasn’t completely dissolved, delegates agreed to implement nationally deployed resources in the areas of leadership development, caring for leaders, and administration – in addition to pre-existing partnerships in church planting, stewardship ministries, and events.
Delegates also passed a motion to allow the executive board to develop a plan for a unified national-provincial financial stream. The board will present the plan at ABMB’s 2014 convention, where delegates will be asked to vote on the recommendation.
Nuts and bolts
More intentional national-provincial collaboration will likely mean greater responsibility for Canadian conference staff within Alberta. But beyond that, details are still unclear. “It’s like changing a tire while driving,” explained ABMB executive director Daniel Beutler. “It’s not clear what the nuts and bolts are going to be.”
Delegates expressed some concern over the idea of a unified financial stream, wondering whether the province would see its “fair share” of funds. Assistant moderator Kerry Dyck assured delegates that it wasn’t a matter of competition between the provincial and national conferences. “It’s not about us and them,” said Dyck. “It really is just us.”
Other delegates asked how the Alberta conference would retain its charitable organization status if all funds were directly transferred to the Canadian conference. The board said it would address this and other legal questions as it develops the proposal, but ultimately wants to simplify financial giving for its churches.
“The future is full of possibility and promise,” concluded moderator Val Martens. “We will continue to take steps to maintain unity and connection here in Alberta. Our pastor clusters will remain strong, and communication will still come from Alberta. And our provincial board of faith and life will stay the same.
“As we move toward more intentional collaboration with the Canadian conference, we’ve found them to be welcoming and encouraging,” said Martens.
Canadian conference executive director Willy Reimer responded, saying, “We’re asking how we can do this more effectively. We want to work together. We want to see people who are far from God walk with God. That’s our heartbeat.”
“Not too long ago in our province, we were shutting down churches,” said board member Elroy Senneker. However, Alberta is now seeing new life through church planting. “God is using us as Mennonite Brethren, drawing people to himself,” he said. Senneker then officially commissioned Johnny Thiessen – who was introduced at last year’s convention – as C2C regional director for Alberta.
As a tangible sign of hope, the conference welcomed Urban Grace as its newest church. Planted by Trevor Rysavy in 2010, the congregation meets in the Kensington area of Calgary.
“Three years ago, my heart was broken for the city,” said Rysavy, “so my wife Lesley and I moved to the urban core with our family. That’s what church planting is all about: you get your heart broken for a city and then you just don’t quit!” Urban Grace has grown from 22 people to some 100, operating in four different missional communities.
- Camp Evergreen will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. As part of the anniversary celebrations, Evergreen hopes to finish two new cabins, and build eight more for use in summer 2014. The camp’s executive director Bob Kroeker expressed his thanks to Mennonite Disaster Service, who will partner with the camp to frame the remaining buildings this summer. The cabins will be named after individual ABMB churches (Lendrum Lodge, Highland House, Coaldale Cottage,Gem Abode) as “a strong statement that we need [our churches]. They remind us of our connections and roots.”
- ABMB executive director Daniel Beutler commissioned Terry Lamb for a two-year term of service within Alberta. Lamb will provide pastoral care and prayer ministry for Alberta church leaders. As a sign of goodwill and collaboration, an annual sum of $115,000 – which covers Lamb’s salary, benefits, travel, and other expenses – was provided by an anonymous donor from another province.
- Seminary president Bruce Guenther announced that MBBS has temporarily suspended efforts to “pour resources” into its Journey Centre initiative in Edmonton due to developments at another educational institute in the same area. With the possibility of expansion at the other school, MBBS will wait before it continues to develop its satellite location.
- Delegates approved an annual budget of $346,500 for 2013–14.
- The makeup of the provincial executive board will stay the same, with Kerry Dyck, Conny Neufeld and Elroy Senneker all affirmed for additional two-year terms.—Laura Kalmar