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A wake up call

AGM 2019

National director Elton DaSilva and CCMBC moderator Bruce Enns at the AGM.

Running more than an hour past the scheduled end time, the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches dealt with funding shortfalls and major structural changes Oct. 23, 2019, at WMB, Waterloo, Ont.

The 2:15 p.m. secret ballot vote to approve the collaborative model rendered the AGM the last church-delegate meeting of the Canadian Conference of Mennonites Brethren Churches, with approval of 71 percent.

“This will be a significant day,” national director Elton DaSilva said at the outset of the meeting. He called delegates to approach the past and walk into the future with three questions: “What is God doing? What is my posture? What step of obedience will lead us into a new direction?”

Apologies and accountability

Responses to “Telling Our Financial Story” a financial narrative circulated to delegates a few days before the AGM dominated the discussion. The document outlined eight factors that contributed to a decrease in the CCMBC reserves from $17.7 Million to $2.9 million over 2013–2018.

“Our response” actions from the executive board accompanied each point. The document constitutes an apology from the leadership, which was reiterated from the stage, as moderator Bruce Enns said God had humbled the Canadian Conference. “All of us lead with clay feet,” said Michael Dick, pastor at South Abbotsford, and assistant moderator during the period.

“A spirit of repentance and confession comes through in the document, but we’ve humbled ourselves through the decisions we made,” said Bryan Born, Ross Road Community Church, Abbotsford, B.C. “I hope we don’t blame this on God.”

AGM 2019

AGM delegates speak from the floor

“I want all of us to see this as a wake-up call,” said Janessa Giesbrecht of Fort Garry MB Church, Winnipeg. “It breaks my heart… We need to let go of things that speak to our division. I’m a youth pastor; I want them [youth] to see hope in the future.”

Brian Cooper, South Abbotsford (B.C.), offered a personal apology, as he was on the Board of Faith and Life during the period. “We need to recapture sense of leadership not as telling people what we should be doing but modelling what we should be doing.”

Ken Peters, Saanich Community Church, Victoria, called the document ahistorical: “MBs have always been passionate about church planting” and have been led by strong leaders in the past without this kind of problem.

Accountability – promised frequently in the report which cited mistrust – will happen individually and in meetings, Enns responded to delegate Carmyn Campbell of The Meeting Place, Winnipeg, who said, “I can say I am going to be accountable, but what does it actually mean?”

“I’m grieving for what is in report,” said Harold Froese, Fort Garry MB, who was moderator during the period. “I appreciate those who have come: they are still engaged. I grieve for those who aren’t here. My biggest grief is for all employees who used to work for the conference or our agencies.””

He called for monthly financial reports so variance could be analyzed. “The churches are the owners. We are responsible to them.”

Reg Toews, Greendale, Chilliwack, B.C., called the delegation to stand to acknowledge the apology. “We need to respond. I don’t want to miss this moment.”

Agencies and accounting anxiety at AGM

The theme of financial austerity reached into the rest of the AGM.

Mark Wessner extolled the work of MB Seminary in teaching leaders and expressed gratefulness for the half-million dollar donation that allowed the seminary to rescind two staff terminations. “That is not a long-term solution,” he said, asking for another $300,000 to remain sustainable. “We’re ringing the alarm bell,” he said.

MB seminary

MB Seminary president Mark Wessner presents at the AGM

“We’re not the same mission we were six months ago,” said Randy Friesen. Board and staff from Multiply (formerly MB Mission) apologized for not listening well and inadequate collaboration in their church planting work through the C2C Network which was abruptly undone in June 2019 amid a $1.5 million spending gap – almost a million more than the shortfall anticipated due to extra merger expenses.

“It was clear this church planting strategy was not working for us,” said Friesen. “Going forward as MB family, we will work on a single mission strategy that is local, national, global. Discernment is not just one organization’s responsibility.”

Friesen promised a new global lead team for the future to bring cross cultural experience into the leadership structure.

Though Multiply retains two staff to support church planting in Canada (Ewald Unruh, Canada East; Reg Toews, Canada West), responsibility for church plants returns to the provinces, Friesen said.

“The deficit was a surprise,” said Multiply controller Selwyn Uittenbosch. “We always assumed C2C was self-balancing.”

Seventeen staff positions from C2C were not continued; 12 staff from MB Mission were moved to relational funding.

The board affirms Friesen’s leadership but is discerning the best place for him in the organization at this point, said Ed Heinrichs. “We’re also discerning whether a new board is needed.”

Delegates from Fort Garry challenged the move to relational funding. “It offloads corporate responsibility for financing… onto staff,” said Carl Heppner. “We should examine philosophically whether this is the path we should be on.”

“The name Multiply represents the disaster,” said James Toews. “Please go back to who we are: MB Mission.”


Board and staff leadership of Multiply at the AGM

Collaborative Model

Mistrust, identified in the financial narrative, coloured the collaborative model discussion.

Under the collaborative model, decision making will be a circular process 18-months long as the national ministry team and National Faith and Life team work out ideas to take to the provincial conventions for a vote, said DaSilva. Provincial representatives will represent their province to the National Assembly.

The Collaborative Model as presented has no governance model nor bylaws to approve because those will be developed though collaboration, said DaSilva.

“We’re like a conference of conferences,” said DaSilva.

“Structures can be equally successful depending on how well they are accepted and how well they function,” said Peter Duerksen, Grace MB Church, Waterloo. “Will these changes in structure increase a sense of ownership, identity, brother/sisterhood among people in our pews?”

“This circular process will have many voices speaking into it,” said DaSilva. He cited 700 voices via the combined attendance at provincial conventions. (Attendance at national gatherings has not exceeded 400 in the last decade, at times barely exceeding 100.)

“The scope and definition of National Assembly may be asking provincial boards to do something they’re not built to do and not equipped to do,” said Michael vandenEnden, Grantham MB Church, St. Catharines, Ont. For example, the Ontario board is not a representative board.

“We’re really voting on two changes. How we make decisions and how we deliver services,” said Rod Schellenberg, Hepburn (Sask.) MB. “The level of detail is not there to support this model.”

“No matter how perfect we make the model, it is not a substitution for trust between churches, conference leaders, conference organizations,” said Kris Peters, Linden, Alta. “It’s not vision that moves churches but credibility.”

“I’m excited about the idea national church is willing to give up some of its power,” said Richard Lougheed, Quebec representative on the board. He views less financial dependence on national and more capacity to speak into decisions as a positive for his province.

“Everything is bound by trust and relationship. When you collaborate you share vulnerably,” said Sharon Simpson, BCMB moderator.

A suggested amendment to implement the operational side of collaborative model minus the national assembly was deemed unfriendly and defeated. The vote proceeded and the collaborative model was approved.

AGM-2019Budget: no money for MB Herald

The discussion of the budget circled around the MB line item which read $0 for 2020.

“It is clear the funds are not there,” said DaSilva of the $100,000 that would be needed to print MBH in 2020. He said the Herald’s 3,500 print subscribers represent weak engagement.

“New thinking in a new age of communication needs to take place,” he said. “Many partners have robust communication tools we can bring into this model.”

“Giving that you’re trying to rebuild trust, an entity which tries to speak to churches is vitally important,” said James Toews, Neighbourhood Church, Nanaimo, B.C. “To cut this at this time is sending precisely the wrong direction.”

Informing the constituency about the closure of the Herald through a budget line item is “a highly problematic strategy for communicating with people about decisions,” said Brad Sumner, Jericho Ridge Community Church, Langley, B.C.

“We’ve been given so many good stories [from leaders] to persuade us the way to go,” said long-time editor Harold Jantz, River East Church, Winnipeg. “We needed a good give and take. When we claim a Confession we ought to be able to speak to one another within our confessional position – whether leaders or people in the pews.”

The proposed budget of $1,172,000 passed by show of hands.

“The Collaborative Model answers many of the questions you have raised here today,” said DaSilva.

AGM-2019Read also




How a house fire sparked a million-dollar ministry


  • 269 attendees registered
  • 192 delegates
  • 64 from B.C.
  • 21 from Alberta
  • 26 from Saskatchewan
  • 61 from Manitoba
  • 85 from Ontario
  • 6 from Quebec
  • 2 from Nova Scotia
  • 3 from USA (two speakers plus one USMB rep)
  • 1 international guest
  • 10 agencies sent representatives
Updated Nov. 14, 2019: error in number fixed
Updated Nov. 19, 2019: attribution of Multiply unmerger adjusted.
Updated Dec. 16. 2019: "Telling Our Financial Story" link added at end

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John H. Redekop December 10, 2019 - 23:00

This personal statement was sent to the Canadian Conference Executive Board, the Multiply Board, friends and associates.
At the outset I want to express my most sincere thanks to some brothers who, in recent years, have spent countless hours addressing our Conference’s wide-ranging problems. In particular I thank Arthur Block, James Toews, Bruce Guenther, Ken Peters, and Harold Jantz for their insightful critiques of our financial and other situations. I commend you all most sincerely for your diligence in ascertaining what really happened. Let me add here that while it is timely to analyze and critique what happened, it is also right to thank the various people presently in Conference leadership for the time and energy they give to Conference ministries.

A. The Conference; Past and Present
In recent weeks I have been asked about my views concerning the dilemmas in which the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (CCMBC=Conference) now finds itself. Somewhat reluctantly I shall spell out some assessments about our Conference and related matters. Having been involved in Conference work continually from 1969 until 1993, serving on various boards, one term as Assistant Moderator and two as Moderator, and a further decade as a continuing columnist, 39 years in total as a columnist, I am greatly interested in what happens to our Conference.
In 1968 the Conference adopted a new structure. Modified somewhat in 1986 it served us very well into the 1990s. The Conference structure consisted of six boards, generally having 11 members including representation from each provincial conference. These typically 66 members, together with the three-person Executive Committee, met each January as the Council of Boards where each board’s activities and proposals were tested by the assembly. In most years the Council of Boards also met just prior to the annual or biennial convention where each board’s recommendations were again tested before being presented to the convention.
That was the Golden Age of the Conference. Each Board, with representation from each province and some at-large members, consisted of people elected for their competence in the area. All the boards checked one another’s agendas, actions, and proposals every six months. All the boards reported to the delegate convention. It was not so much a reporting of decisions made but a presentation of proposals and recommendations to be discussed, debated, and voted on by the delegates. The extent of accountability was impressive. The delegates came not primarily to sing and hear sermons, although then, as now, there were many fine sermons, but to discuss issues in workshops and on the convention floor and to make decisions. Not surprisingly, delegate attendance was high. In 1978, 521 delegates and 312 registered visitors and other guests crowded the convention hall. Virtually all churches sent delegates. In 1984, 742 delegates attended the convention; 3,000 people attended the Sunday afternoon session. There was excitement in the air.
Delegates and guests came because they wanted to be part of the action. They wanted to discuss urgent questions and make decisions. They debated and usually affirmed position statements on many issues ranging from A Statement on Peace Marches and A Statement on the Nuclear Threat to a resolution on the naming of local churches. Conference programs and initiatives were often seriously questioned.
Given developments in recent years, it should be noted here that the major fiscal management problems the conference has experienced could have been avoided if an accountable Board of Management consisting of competent financial people such as Bill Fast, Walter Kehler, Arthur Block, Archie Heide, John Koslowsky, Sam Willems, Werner Schmidt, etc. had been kept in place and its actions and policies vetted by the Council of Boards. In the various analyses of the almost incredible problems is the last 15 years, this reality has largely been ignored.
In the late 1990s the situation changed drastically. Already in the late 1990s the new Executive Board, chaired by Moderator Jascha Boge, began the dismemberment of the existing Conference structure. At the Conference’s first convention in a large downtown hotel, in Toronto in 2004, the Moderator proposed the abolition of all existing boards except the Executive Board and the Board of Faith and life, albeit the latter was to serve in only an advisory role. Although in the 1987 convention, delegate Arthur Block had warned the convention that a corporate structure of decision-making is “fine for the business world but not the church”, the delegates in Toronto accepted Moderator Boge’s recommendation and voted to adopt the corporate model. A new Executive Director was to be appointed. The job description I had in hand was a multi-page statement describing how he should serve as Conference Minister, chief financial officer, the person responsible for supervising all conference programs, the manager of all human relations issues, supervisor of three periodicals, accountable for the operation of the Bible College, and voice of the Conference to other agencies. At the time I had drafted a statement of concern and opposition to the recommended new Conference structure. All Executive Board members were given a copy in advance. After I had read my statement to the assembly, one delegate rose to say that by opposing what the Moderator and his board were recommending I was “slapping God in the face”. The Moderator let that comment stand. At that point I decided to terminate my attendance at CCMBC conventions. If a carefully considered and carefully worded critique is seen by leadership as slapping God in the face, I needed to withdraw.
I have presented this brief historical overview because I believe that much of our recent and very major Conference problems resulted from the unsuitable Conference structure adopted in 2004, a reality almost entirely ignored in all of the assessments and critiques that I have read. If one establishes a basically flawed structure, then one will have disappointing, even very disappointing, outcomes. That has happened. (If anyone wishes to see my 2004 critique of the 2004 restructuring proposal, I will be pleased to forward it.)

B. The Conference Financial Situation
Given that I am not an expert in financial matters it has taken me many hours to study and try to understand the Conference’s financial developments in recent years. A significant part of the story remains a mystery but the general picture is clear.
In his helpful, in part surprising, October 23, 2019 report to the Conference AGM, Moderator Bruce Enns enumerated the following realities.
* In 2012 the Conference reserves stood at $17.7 million. By 2018 the Conference reserves had declined to $2.9 million.
* In 2013 it was determined that “the land held for investment was worth $9.5 million less than the value on our books.” (What fiduciary oversight, or lack thereof, allowed this to happen?)
* “the $2.5 million spent on improvements to the land was not recoverable even through the sale of the properties.” (Again one asks, how could this happen?)
* Mortgages owed by the churches and pastors “had to be reduced overall by $3.8 million”.
* “We relied too much on profits from Stewardship Funds investments.”
* “We spent too much money while engaged with many changes.”
* ”there are lingering questions about how our investment reserves could have declined so dramatically and the role church planting played in it.”
* “We were reluctant to hold individuals and MB family entities accountable.”
* “Our MB church-planting strategy was soon to be upended after a failed merger between MB Mission and C2C.”
* Moderator Enns reported that the Executive Board had to deal with “strong, driven leaders” who were hard to monitor and hold accountable. {John Longhurst’s report in Mennonite World Review, Nov. 6, 2019)
What can one say? Was no one minding the store? Was nobody reviewing and vetting policies? Who or what had replaced the Council of Boards?
It appears that after having abolished the very successful Board of Management, the Executive Board itself did not fully assume its management role and therefore matters got almost, if not altogether, out of hand. Indeed, the extent of mismanagement and lack of management in fiscal stewardship was described by former moderator Harold Froese thus. “The financial statement is devastating…the numbers are staggering.” Those of us who in 2004 pled with the delegates not to abolish the Board of Management were virtually ridiculed by the Moderator and other members of that Executive Board for being old-fashioned and out-of-date. The sad saga of recent years has proven Arthur Block and the rest of us critics right. The Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches has paid a very high price for being first misled and then mismanaged.
One could say much more. But let this additional reality suffice for now. After the abolition of the Board of Publications there was no one left to defend editorial independence and as Harold Jantz, editor from 1964 to 1984, has so eloquently put it, the Herald rapidly deteriorated from being a crucial forum in which readers could discuss concerns, raise questions, and debate important issues, to being largely the mouthpiece for conference leaders. It has, said Jantz, been “treated as the voice of leaders, not as a place to talk to one another”. All stimulating and sometimes controversial columnists were dropped. As Edmonton delegate Paul Cumin put it, the Herald became “a head office corporate mouthpiece.”

John H. Redekop December 10, 2019 - 23:01

C. The Conference Structure
As stated above, in my opinion many of our extremely serious problems can be attributed to the adoption in 2004 of an inappropriate conference corporate structure. In recent years various experts, named above, have done excellent analyses of the financial problems but not much attention has been given to the reasons for these problems. I submit that a major reason was the abolition of the five policy and operating boards and especially of the Board of Management. As the new Board Governance Manual put it, “The role of the Executive Board is to direct and control the entire Conference structure and processes….It designs its own government policies, creates and maintains the strategic plan, delegates management authority to the Executive Director….” We have seen what this fundamental change has produced.
As stated, the unrealistic spectrum of tasks assigned to the new Executive Director (ED) was unworkable. This shift to a business model was certainly not in keeping with our theology. It greatly reduced accountability. It abolished mid-level management by board members elected or appointed for their competence in the area. It largely disconnected Conference ministries from the provincial constituencies, and it overloaded the person appointed to be the new ED.
The conference structure adopted in 2004, over the objections of several of us experienced Conference leaders, gave the new Executive Director an impossible array of responsibilities. Here is the list taken from the official Board Governance Manual which the CCMBC adopted in Toronto in 2004.
* The Executive Board “delegates management authority to the Executive Director.”
* The ED has “authority and responsibility for management of the Conference’s infrastructure.”
* The ED shall “Restructure the management infrastructure.” [bold in the original]
* The ED is responsible “for all performance of strategic mission and priorities.”
* The ED is responsible for “managing the delivery of ministries.”
* The ED is responsible for all financial resources, supervises budget preparation and all financial matters.
* The ED appoints and directs all staff. [there were 31 in 2004]
* The ED shall “Provide pastoral counsel where it is needed or requested.”
* The ED shall “Promote the Conference in the constituency.”
* The ED “Plans public events. e.g. Conventions, study conferences, new pastors orientations, et. al.”.
* The ED shall “Collect and disseminate information relating to pastoral needs and availability.”
* The ED role “Anticipates 80-90 travel days per year.”
* The ED shall “Represent the Mennonite Brethren Conference in inter-Mennonite and inter-Evangelical organizations.”
* The ED “Performs ministry engagements, including Sundays.”
* The ED “Provides the Board with the organizational information it needs.”
* “The Executive Director is the only person accountable directly to the Board” and is held “singularly accountable for all performance of strategic mission and priorities”
This is the mammoth assignment to one person which Moderator Jascha Boge and the Executive Board convinced the majority of delegates to approve in 2004. Why should we be surprised that given this over-load to one person and the abolition of all responsible boards, that the structure did not serve us well and that the financial management became mind-boggling? One critic called it “a failed experiment”. Is he right?
Corroboration that the 2004 structure was dysfunctional is evident in numerous statements found in Moderator Bruce Enns’s October 23, 2019 report, Our Financial Story. These illustrate and underscore the fact that our current corporate administrative structure was not suited for the duties and responsibilities that need to be carried out for the larger Conference membership. Consider the following statements:
* “We also struggled to give the oversight needed for the church planting ministry.”
* “the Executive Board was dealing with an overwhelming number of significant issues”
* “the executive board did not have sufficient policies in place.”
* “too often we [Executive Board] did not have sufficient metrics in place to help give clarity to both our executive board and the strong leaders throughout our organization”
* “C2C was added to the Canadian conference and this expanded ministry proved to be too challenging to manage well.”
* “Increasingly we [Executive Board] found ourselves overseeing what amounted to a significant financial institution”.
* “Looking back, our executive board required more time and resources to gain the clarity and control around the structures and issues as well as to fully focus on a sound fiscal strategic plan with good metrics.”
* “We [Executive Board] didn’t always get a good balance of ministry and financial minds with people who adequately understood the issues. This was a huge challenge.”
* About her first meetings as a member of the Executive Board, Sharon Simpson wrote: “I didn’t fully comprehend what was involved.” That’s altogether understandable. What I find not fully understandable is the assumption that it is better for the Conference to have members of the Executive Board rather than experts in a Management Board administer Conference finances. The evidence speaks for itself.
To a small degree the deficiencies in our present Conference structure have been alleviated by hiring more staff. That, of course, raises another question. Why should we replace very competent and experienced volunteer board members with paid staff? This supposed solution not only increases costs but also seriously reduces direct accountability to the Conference membership.

D. “God is humbling us”
This phrase appears three times in Moderator Bruce Enns’s introduction to Our Financial Story. This sentiment is repeated in the report itself. It has also been invoked by some Multiply leaders.
I have a problem with this assessment. In my understanding of the situation God played no role in the humbling. God did not cause the pain of humiliation that Executive Board members, past and present, may now feel. To say that “God is humbling us” may ease the pain by making God a participant in what has happened but God was not responsible even to the slightest extent. God was not a participant in the mismanagement. He did not cause the outcomes which resulted in humiliation. It should not be implied or said that He was somehow responsible for bringing about the humbling. The humiliating outcomes were caused by human decisions and neglect, not by anything else. In sum, God has not humbled the Executive Board. The Board and its senior staff members were the cause of their humbling. Do not minimize human mistakes by bringing God into the picture. Do not attribute to Him the pain caused by human beings.

E. Forgiveness and its Consequences
The leaders of the Canadian Conference and of what is now called Multiply have apologized for some mistakes, some missteps. They deserve commendation for such a response. But that still leaves me with some questions. Let me begin by noting that while Multiply functions largely as an autonomous agency, its composition and its mandate are established by the owning conferences. For that reason it seems logical to hold both the Canadian Conference Executive Board (in the US the US Conference) and the Multiply Board accountable for what has been done and what has not been done, concerning general policies and decisions.
The key parties involved have apologized for how they handled the fusion of MB Mission with C2C and have reversed that fusion. That reversal was clearly the right thing to do.
That leaves at least one other major policy initiative not fully addressed. I have read and heard that Multiply leaders have apologized in various regions for the renaming of MB Mission without any consultation with the churches and without any authorizing mandate given by the owning Conferences or member churches. Given this reality, should the apology and request for forgiveness not be accompanied by a reversal of the action for which forgiveness has been requested?
I was taught at home and in my church that if one needed to apologize and ask for forgiveness for wrong doing, then one should also try to undo that which required an apology. Wrongdoing needed to be made right. Anything stolen needed to be returned. A wrongful action taken and a wrong decision made needed to be undone. I was taught that without corrective action, the verbal apology lacked credibility. Perhaps I need further light on the issue and I am certainly open to receive it, but it seems to me that if there is an apology for how the name change of MB Mission happened, then the acknowledged need for an apology should be accompanied by a reversal of the action for which an apology needed to be made. I’m sure that I do not understand all of the subtleties involved but I know of no Biblical teaching which states that if I apologize for doing something wrong, then I can continue to do it.

John H. Redekop December 10, 2019 - 23:02

F. Some Concluding Reflections
F1. We are setting aside the glue which unites our Canadian MB Conference.
*A few decades ago we lost our main denominational college.
*We are now losing our only remaining denominational periodical.
*We are now losing our delegate conventions. I remain to be convinced that with less membership participation there will be greater membership interest and commitment, financially and otherwise.
(Let me mention here that on January 30, 2017 I sent a six-page document to the members of the CCMBC Board Members. I entitled this analysis of the CCMBC and some proposals: Some Comments on the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, January 30, 2017. If anyone should want to have it, I will send it by email.)

F.2. Causes.
In my opinion we are losing much of that which unites us not because there is no longer a need or because as a Conference we do not have the resources but because we have established seriously flawed structures, we have been weak in creating and projecting visions, we have seriously mismanaged our Conference finances, our leaders have apparently decided that our main periodical should be the voice of leaders instead of a forum for discussion and even controversy; and we have allowed ourselves to drift somewhat, I stress somewhat and in some locations, from our historic and what our Conference understands is a Biblical Anabaptist theology. I believe that to a considerable degree the radical restructuring which happened in 2004 is responsible for our financial dilemma, the loss the Herald, and the general weakening of our Conference.

F.3. Are there remedies or solutions?
Clearly there are no easy answers. We all know that situations and times change. Even so it remains the case that various denominations and other organizations still have strong, membership-involved and membership-serving conventions. If a convention is interesting, important, and invites involvement, many delegates will come. Delegates are not much interested in being told what the leaders and staff have decided.
I believe that even with severe financial constraints, the Herald should be relaunched in both hard copy and on line. But this can be successful only if a new, semi-independent Board of Publications is elected and if the relaunched periodical will carry highly relevant, even controversial articles, and at least a few provocative and stimulating columnists. Important as theological articles, mission reports, and Conference reports are, much of it already available on line and even in hard copy, they do not build readership. A revitalized and widely-read Herald would, I believe, very soon stimulate sufficient additional church and member interest and financial contribution to cover its cost. One might also ask, why should the cost be high? For years Harold Jantz, with very little staff help, published a weekly, then biweekly, Herald which was widely read.
Further, I believe that we should re-establish the Board of Management. We have seen what happens when there is no competent board vetting financial matters. We have paid a high price for abolishing this board.
Sisters and brothers, we have paid a high price for what happened in 204 and in subsequent years. The question before is now is whether anything will be done about that reality?
Like all other evaluators I have been candid but also tried to be fair and thorough. I readily acknowledge my inadequacy. Where my statement is incomplete, I ask for your understanding. Where it is faulty, I humbly ask for grace and forgiveness.

Jake Janzen December 16, 2019 - 08:50

Good administrated comments. God might also consider initiatives like C2C somewhat imperialistic in that we cannot be content with advocating for precepts of God in the world with others. Institutionally we tend to strive for religious supremacy.

Rick Block December 16, 2019 - 09:13

A few thoughts from a regular MB layperson:

Thankyou John for your perspective – our MB organizational structure (i.e. community) is important to me, and I believe to many other regular laypeople. Reading your response left an ache in my stomach – seems almost like a current “lamentations” letter. I feel a sense of sadness, frustration, but also hope. Even though largely I’ve been a witness to this difficult journey from afar, so to speak, hope has always been there. An analogy – consider natural landscapes affected by fire, which at first glance may appear devastated, yet most assuredly new growth emerges according to the plant community of that ecozone. Might I boldly say this design principle of regeneration and resilience is also woven into the dna of the church? I believe so, and I think its important to be attentive to whats growing….
Speaking of hope…I also hold to a hope (albeit less-informed) that both laypeople and those in leadership (at all levels) are motivated to dig into the necessary conversations that stem from a difficult journey. Healing, flourishing, and well-being come from attending the wounds, not neglecting them. From intentional steps of rehabilitation (e.g. dialogue) to regaining full form and function. In my experience, leadership and constituency engagement are so intricately tied – the leaders who have inspired me do so upon their ability not to ‘lead by telling’, but rather ‘lead by asking the right questions’, and listening/integrating/facilitating the response, growth and development of both individuals and the larger communal vision.
I want to offer an engaging short exercise for readers (and their proximate neighbours!) on our concepts of leadership. There are no correct answers here, you simply consider where on the spectrum your perspective lies (alongside or perhaps leaning towards one of the statements). Recently this was an engaging exercise for the SK Leaders Collective cohort – ask Jacquie (my life partner and one of several leaders of the SK Collective) about the trends we saw with this cohort – these folks are the leaders of tomorrow at local, prov and perhaps even national MB circles. Are we motivated to engage in conversations that nurture further growth for a fit and healthy conference?

1. Leadership is primarily inherent quality characteristics, OR a set of learned skills applied well

2. A leader’s vision is borne from within, OR developed from engagement with the collective

3. A vision is most effectively attained by way of executive decision-making by those on top, OR participatory decision-making by stakeholders

4. Effective leadership is more science than art, OR more art than science

5. Conflict at the leadership level is an opportunity for growth, OR a moment when someone’s gotta leave the fold

6. Apart from this leaders collective, I have had very little leadership training, OR a fair amount of leadership training

7. Opportunities to exercise my leadership gifts / learned skills have been largely granted / offered / encouraged OR largely elusive, lacking in opportunity and/or encouragement

Leroy Unrau December 16, 2019 - 16:58

I agree with John H. Redekop’s observation that some version of a “finance board” might have prevented the financial crisis that has diminished the financial health of the Canadian conference. Let me illustrate this with an example of an intervention by a Manitoba conference management board that averted a financial crisis.

In the late 1980s, I was chair of Mennonite Brethren Communications the Manitoba conference agency that has since evolved into Square One World Media Inc. In one budget year during my term as chair (don’t remember which year because it was so long ago) MB Communications proposed a budget that was challenged by the provincial board of management (I do not think that this was its name at the time, but for the purposes of this story, it is close enough). Specifically, the provincial board said that based on the previous year’s revenue experience and MB communication’s plans for the coming year, that the budget proposal was unrealistic and that to proceed with those plans would be irresponsible. In a meeting with MB Communications representatives, the board of management chair said his board would oppose approval of the MB Communications budget at the forthcoming conference.

In the following days and weeks the MB Communications board considered the concerns of the provincial board of management and ultimately saw the obvious – that it would be spending money it did not have, and had no hope of raising through donations.

While it may be comforting to argue that the “Lord’s work” as defined by a conference agency must go forward in faith because the “Lord will provide,” a truly responsible conference environment will have components within it that “count the cost” in a way that understands the vision of the agency, assesses the revenue potential of the giving constituency, and acts as a steward for all of the resources available to the conference.
Accordingly, the board of MB Communications overhauled its budget. As far as I can recall, we chopped approximately $250,000 to $300,000 from the originally proposed budget; these cuts reduced the budget by about a third.

Job losses were relatively minimal in that not more than two part-time employees had their hours reduced. Other cuts were made to operations that did not involve further staff cuts. The biggest cut was the decision to chop a project to produce a movie. MB Communications had engaged a producer/consultant for the project on contract; his contract was not renewed. At the time of this cut, the movie project was almost two years old and it had already soaked up considerable money – there were more promises than progress. It was also becoming clear that MB Communications had neither the resources to complete a movie production nor the experience to carry it out.

It was customary during the 1980s for representatives of all Manitoba conference agencies to meet a month or so before the provincial conference to present budgets and plans for the future. I clearly remember that my colleagues from the other agencies were genuinely astonished at the extent to which MB Communications trimmed its budgets to reality.

My point is that it is important for the Mennonite Brethren church in general that all budgets, both at the national and the provincial level and even the congregational level, be reviewed and challenged by a board of management (or some equivalent) in a business-like way that respects mission and vision. The Manitoba conference board of management’s “pushback” review of the MB Communications budget proposal opened our eyes to the reality that “hopes and prayers” would not generate the income to match our board’s vision.

Because the Manitoba conference was legally “on the hook” to cover any financial misadventure at any of the Manitoba conference agencies, it is my opinion that the board of management’s intervention saved us all from a financial situation that would have embarrassed everyone. MB Communications not only survived but has gone on to thrive as a Christian communications organization.


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