Canadian conference AGM fuller than expected

In off-years between conventions, Canadian conference annual general meeting agendas are usually relatively lean. Such was not the case in Saskatoon, Oct. 17, 2009.

Great delegate interest was aroused by the announcement that Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary is in active discussion with Fuller Theological Seminary in the face of dwindling enrollment on the MBBS Fresno campus.

Seminary board chair Jack Falk said MBBS overall has maintained fairly stable enrollment, but the Fresno numbers are shrinking as candidates opt for campuses like CMU in Winnipeg or B.C.’s ACTS Seminaries. Many smaller seminaries are struggling with sustainable enrollment issues, he said.

Lynn Jost, appointed president of MBBS after being interim president, said Fuller – the largest evangelical seminary in North America – wants to be able to utilize MBBS faculty and offers program availability that could work well for Mennonite Brethren candidates. Fuller’s distance education facilities are particularly attractive, he said. So is the brand, and Fuller’s cohort and intensive learning programs.

Falk said at each step, so far, the board has been encouraged to keep pursuing the possibilities. He added that a Canadian seminary committee has been formed to ensure Canadian interests are well served by the denomination’s training branch. He said the full board of MBBS will discuss the issues in detail, and if progress is favourable, a plan to present and decide might be formulated as early as January 2010. Delegate questions about MB identity brought assurances that MBBS faculty would continue teaching under our confession of faith.

David Wiebe delivered a report on projects already begun and announced a new initiative to ensure that theological perspectives pervade a broader range of conference business. The executive board will be asked to create a new position, theological director, to work under the executive director.

Wiebe also reviewed progress on the conference’s current initiatives in church health, leadership development, and reaching out. He said the executive is mindful of comments made at the Montreal Gathering and is taking care to match revenues and expenditures on these initiatives.

He also said that Mennonite Brethren are coming up to a major landmark in the MB family, our 150th anniversary – “and we want to celebrate it well.”

CFO John Wiebe reported that financially it has been an “interesting year,” but he is encouraged that the impact of the economy on our churches has not been significant – “just a little less revenue.” He said, “The good part is while actual revenue has remained relatively flat, we have been able to grow other revenue sources.”

—Barrie McMaster

Update at press time: Fuller Theological Seminary has withdrawn from the discussions.—Eds.

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