Board of Faith and Life (BFL) discernment report

Re: 2012 National Office Review

The Board of Faith and Life (BFL) was commissioned by delegates at Gathering 2012 to discern the prophetic word that arose from the strategic review carried out by consultant Terry Mochar for the Executive Board. The concern expressed at Gathering 2012 was that delegates were being asked to receive the resulting National Office Review document (popularly known as the “Mochar report”), a message about which many knew little or nothing beforehand. Several delegates were uncomfortable with the language of prophetic discourse in which the message from conference leaders was expressed. The motion was “to
have the BFL take the lead to discern the prophetic word from the Mochar report.”

The BFL took this mandate seriously. We met to accomplish this task, which we divided into three main categories: discerning prophetic words, looking at the process of the National Office Review leading up to Gathering, and formulating some affirmations and concerns about the National Office Review.

Prophetic words

We affirm that God speaks to his people through words of prophecy. Prophecy is a word of strengthening, encouragement, and comfort, as outlined in 1Corinthians 14:3. Discernment of prophetic words is also mandated in 1 Corinthians 14:29. Terry Mochar’s word from the Lord is in line with the biblical pattern for exhortation. Scriptural instruction regarding prophecy mandates that we examine the content and implications of both the word from the Lord and the National
Office Review.

Before we comment on the National Office Review, we acknowledge the goodwill on the part of the Executive Board and Terry Mochar in presenting this word and report. We view their intentions and motives as sincere. Their commitment to advance the mission of Christ is evident.

Even though we affirm the prophetic nature of this report, we do not place it on par with Scripture or see it as infallible. Similarly, we view Terry Mochar’s “Four Messages from the Heart of God to the Churches in the CCMBC” as one person’s sincere attempt to hear what God may be saying to Mennonite Brethren in Canada, and to offer ways of addressing perceived needs within our conference structures and processes. We also believe that the Executive Board will need to use discernment to guide them in applying the recommendations of the report.

The process leading up to Gathering 2012

We recognize, and the Executive Board has acknowledged, that our experience with the National Office Review at Gathering highlighted “a need for better, clearer, and more timely communication from the Executive Board, especially on items related to budget and major initiatives.” Delegates were not given adequate information or presented with an explicit resolution. We acknowledge that the process that led to the affirmation of an omnibus budget wasn’t adequate for most delegates. We are also aware that the Executive Board is addressing this issue.

BFL members were asked at Gathering 2012 if the BFL had seen and processed the National Office Review. These questions revealed that there’s an expectation of close cooperation between the BFL and Executive Board. In keeping with this expectation, we are already working toward greater collaboration with the Executive Board on major national initiatives. We recognize that we still have work to do in this regard.

Affirmations and concerns

In the following section, we want to affirm what we think MBs in Canada need to hear from the National Office Review. We also want to express our concerns about the need to carefully interpret and apply Terry Mochar’s words.

We affirm Terry Mochar’s “Four Messages from the Heart of God” as an exhortation to CCMBC that:

a) this is a critical time for our churches;

b) we can do more together than individually;

c) we need to live with a sense of accountability to God and future generations;

d) we need to heighten our awareness of the importance of reaching Canadians with the gospel.

The BFL accepts Terry Mochar’s four messages as a word from God to us. We also recognize the importance of adequately and critically discerning the rest of the report.

We affirm the need to address the disunity between the national conference and provincial leaders that Mochar describes in his prophetic word. We encourage the appropriate parties to repent and change their behaviour. At the same time, we recognize that many of our churches display commendable levels of unity and cooperation. Our concern is that Mochar’s call to repentance may be received as a blanket reproach of MB relationships and past evangelistic initiatives. We don’t want people to perceive Terry Mochar’s prophetic words as grounds to reject the past simply because it’s the past.

We affirm that elements of the National Office Review have resonated with leaders in our conference. This gives added weight to his statement that this is a sacred time for our denomination. Our concern is that we may risk ignoring other voices who may disagree with some of his recommendations.

Acknowledging the need to guard against arrogance, we humbly affirm Terry Mochar’s sense that the MB conference has a unique opportunity to bless other denominations and the Canadian church more broadly. We affirm that the kingdom of God is larger and more important than the MB conference. We joyfully participate as Mennonite Brethren with other denominations.

We affirm the need for structural and process changes in order to facilitate the effective ministry work of the conference. We encourage the Executive Board to initiate a rigorous process that will lead us to the broad acceptance of changes resulting from the National Office Review’s recommendations. Also, the magnitude of the Stewardship Fund financial resources mandates a high level of care and discernment regarding their allocation, and requires that leaders attempt to find a broad base of consensus from within the constituency. Care is needed as conference leaders relay the import and urgency of the report to churches. Clarity regarding the use of language is needed in order to articulate our call to mission.

Conclusion

We believe the National Office Review and Terry Mochar’s prophetic word can lead us to make concerted efforts toward greater unity. We affirm that this is a time of opportunity for MBs in Canada and that the National Office Review encourages us to vigorously pursue together God’s purpose for the church.

The potential that accompanies the changes called for in the National Office Review may incline our leaders to move forward quickly in order to boldly move us into a new reality. However, the magnitude of the changes which may accompany the National Office Review’s recommendations exhorts us to move forward wisely, taking care to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. In the end, progress will welcome input from a variety of sources in order to benefit our fellowship. We look forward to the strategic initiatives our Executive Board will bring to our denomination for discernment.

—Brian Cooper

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