An interview with conference moderator Jascha Boge

Moderator Jascha Boge

We have the resources, now let’s unify and strengthen our denomination.

This month, the Herald interviewed Jascha Boge, Canadian conference moderator. He talked about his dreams for the conference, the challenges of managing a growing Stewardship Ministries fund, and Gathering 2008 in Montreal. This is his third term as moderator, a position he first held from 2000–2004.

MBHWhat’s new on the executive board this year?

JB: We’re looking forward to some exciting things. It always takes a few years to get comfortable with a new governance structure. Now it’s in place and we realize we have a wonderful opportunity to set strategy for the future.

Speaking of strategy, tell us a bit about the Stewardship Ministries fund.

Our visionary forefathers started the stewardship fund some 30 years ago because churches had a hard time getting mortgages. The fund helped pastors and churches get real estate loans at a reasonable rate. Over the years, the fund was so well managed that the rate of return became competitive. Subsequently, more members started investing and the amount that came in greatly exceeded what we needed for mortgages.

We now manage roughly $160 million and distribute $55–60 million in mortgages. That leaves $100 million on deposit. If we can invest and make even one percent yearly interest earnings (after covering expenses and ensuring there’s an adequate reserve fund), we’ll have $1 million to distribute.

To administer these earnings effectively, the board must strategize for the future and put some management guidelines in place. At the moment, those guidelines have yet to be determined. But we realize the stewardship fund is a blessing. We can dream dreams and actually fund visions, not just talk about them.

Clearly, there will be many opinions about how to use the money. We’ll get questions. And sometimes we’ll have to say “no.” But we’ll never spend money foolishly, nor will we spend money we don’t have.

In your opinion, what’s the best way to utilize those resources?

In my mind, the driving principle is that the Mennonite Brethren have many, many good things to offer this world. We ought to build our denomination into the future – to be a people that attract others to God. I’d like to see us grow both spiritually and numerically. For that reason, I’m not really interested in funding capital projects. I want to do things that have a multiplier effect.

One of the things we’re seriously looking at is helping national and provincial staff work together and see themselves as one team.

But that doesn’t sound like an investment in outreach or church growth.

If a church body wants to succeed, it needs to be unified. Local churches know what the local need is. They’ll do a far better job of outreach than the national conference could. For the national conference to fund localized programs to help the needy would be difficult to administrate.

If the denomination gets stronger from within, we’ll be able to better perceive local needs. If we become a growing, unified church, we’ll have visions for all sorts of ministry in all sorts of places.

Do you have a vision that goes beyond Canada?

I’m passionate about getting churches involved in international church-to-church relations and possibly providing seed money to make that happen. We’ve had such a successful mission program. Now it would be good for members to get to know our international brothers and sisters. We could learn a lot from them about worship – they are so full of the Spirit – and about trusting God for daily needs. And they could benefit from our resources.

Our brothers and sisters need tangible support in things like employment opportunities and acceptable places to worship. In many churches I’ve visited in Congo and Angola, the structures consisted of sheet metal and tin roofs, and were often falling apart.

Our brothers and sisters also need to know there’s a whole family out there who love each other. If we do this, I believe our denomination will get excited about who we are and we’ll begin to attract people to us.

That’s a fantastic vision. How can grassroots church members share their feedback with you and ask questions about the future?

Gathering is a time for grassroots input – a space where members can talk to us. We realize grassroots communication with the board hasn’t happened very effectively in recent years, so we’re working out a solution for that. Members are always welcome to contact us directly. And the Herald is another vehicle for communication.

As you mentioned, Gathering 2008 is coming up in just a few months. What can we look forward to this year?

I’m excited that Gathering is back in Montreal. Our Quebec members are very good at hosting. I remember the last convention in Montreal in 1992 – the excitement was very palpable and real.

This year, we don’t have any major issues to decide. So, it’s an opportunity to be part of the family and have a good time together. This will be a forward-looking convention, where we plan to present ReGenerate 21–01, a 10-year plan for a 21st century church with a 1st century dynamic. There will also be a great deal of time spent in worship and celebration. I invite everyone to come!

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