Global MBs gather in Germany to celebrate unity, diversity

How did the Mennonite Brethren (MB) church emerge in 1860 and where does it stand today are some of the questions raised at the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) symposium held May 13–14 at the Mennoniten-Brüdergemeinde (MBG) church in Oerlinghausen, Germany.

Hosted by the German and Austrian MB Conferences, the symposium was part of a larger series of national events called Celebration 2010, organized to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the MB church.

An estimated 200 people from 15 countries attended the symposium. Historical authorities and speakers presented on the theology, mandate, and future challenges of the MB mission. Among them, Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies (CMBS) director Doug Heidebrecht presented “150 years of MB Theology: Significance of Scripture and Hermeneutical Approaches,” and MBMS International global program director Ray Harms Wiebe presented “The Future of the MB Mission Movement.” Presentations were translated into German, French, English, Japanese, and Spanish to accommodate the diversity of guests. Symposium papers will be published later this year.

“It was fascinating to listen to the experience of MBs around the world,” said Heidebrecht. “Although we are on different journeys, we share common roots…. There is a real sense of connectedness.”

ICOMB held its annual meeting in Lemgo, Germany, May 21–22. MBMS International put forth a notice of motion recommending the MB church in Thailand join ICOMB next year.

ICOMB reported on the launch of a leadership training scholarship program for teachers in Bible schools worldwide. A fund of $900,000 is available to invest in higher education initiatives, such as identifying and developing “model” MB elementary and secondary schools in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Leaders will gather June 2011 for a consultation on higher education at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg. An ICOMB annual meeting will follow the consultation.

Abe Dueck, executive secretary of the MB Historical Commission, presented The Mennonite Brethren Around the World: Celebrating 150 Years, a work ICOMB commissioned 6 years ago, to ICOMB members. Edited by Dueck, the book is a collection of global MB history with contributors from more than 10 countries.

“[The book] was received very favourably,” said Dueck. The English edition will be launched at the North American Celebration 2010 event in July. A Spanish translation has been completed and is being prepared for publication in Paraguay. Additional funding is needed for translations in German and French.

The Pentecost Missions Conference, May 22–24, involved seminars representing 10 countries. CCMBC executive director David Wiebe presented “Ethnic Church Planting and Christian Education in Canada,” while Randy Friesen, MBMS International general director, spoke several times on Acts 17:24–27, the thematic text the 150th anniversary celebrations.

Day tours (Berlin, Hamburg, Switzerland, and Münster) were organized for delegates May 15–21. A 6-day historical tour traced the first MB churches in Ukraine and early Anabaptists in Switzerland.

Celebration 2010 concluded with International Mission Day, May 24, on Pentecost, a national holiday in Germany. Guests from North and South America, Asia, and Africa were present for the event, held at the August-Hermann-Francke School in Detmold. Guest speaker Randy Friesen focused on an international call to missions.

The international MB community, now a body of 280,000 believers, worships in 18 countries.

—a Canadian Conference of MB Churches news release

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