Letters March/April 2017
Reaching the lost
We always liked to read what Willy Reimer had to say including the recent column (“Giving and the father heart of God,” Executive Director, November/December 2016). Evangelism and missions are a high priority. We notice in this last issue there is a lot of information about Canada, but we missed the emphasis on evangelism and mission. We trust that our denomination will be soul winning and reaching out to the lost in many ways.
Henry and Lydia Dyck
What got us here?
Since Gathering 2016, much has taken place in CCMBC. The Executive Board has convened several times to respond. My response has been to go back and reread the documents, minutes and notes of the last two decades of CCMBC AGMs to understand how we have come to this place. It was instructive.
There have been a number of pivotal moments. One was 2004, when major structural changes were made. Another was 2012, when the Executive Board presented Terry Mochar’s National Office Review. The NOR identified a series of “burning platforms” in CCMBC (“Hearing from the Lord at Gathering 2012,” Features, September 2012).
I reacted then to Mochar’s directives and prophetic language, but rereading the “General Observations” was disturbing. It was disturbing because the very things Mochar had noted as serious problems – misunderstanding the Deposit Fund, declining support from churches and ROI [return on investment for donors] – have grown worse.
The NOR set CCMBC on the course of the past five years. We did not arrive where we are by accident, and we will not put ourselves on a healthy course without sober reflection and analysis. At the very least, we need to carefully review what launched us on this course.
Need to restore confidence
Like many others, I am saddened by the major challenges now facing the Canadian MB conference.
We, the Mennonite Brethren stakeholders in our conference, need to ask some basic questions. Why has general interest in the Canadian conference declined? Why is conference financial support so weak? Why is attendance at national conventions so low? How can we get more churches to take ownership of decisions made at the national conventions?
As someone who was for three decades active in Canadian conference boards and leadership and a columnist in the MB Herald for almost 40 years, I have drafted some ideas about the current malaise.
The financial problem is not one of inadequate financial resources. Never before have Canadian Mennonite Brethren, on balance, had greater financial assets and higher income than they do now. Even as contributions to the Canadian conference are lagging, local church budgets have never been higher than they are now.
The conference restructuring which took place in 2004 has, in my view, not been successful. Following a common business model, all authority was assigned to an Executive Board and, most importantly, all responsibility for implementing decisions and managing the conference was assigned to an executive director who was to be both national business manager and national conference minister. Even the apostle Paul could not have done that!
Restructuring the conference as a corporate business was theologically inappropriate and functionally unwise.
It will not be easy to restore confidence, to regenerate strong financial support and to rebuild a sense of ownership in the Canadian MB community. But it can be done. Some suggestions can be found in my longer observations (see here). It is not a matter of trying to recreate the past, but of learning from the past.
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