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Board of faith and life to streamline its structure?

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The board of faith and life (BFL) of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches concluded its first look at a “work in progress,” a task force report proposing measures the BFL can take to work more closely with the conference’s executive board. The report was one of the major items on the agenda at the BFL’s fall meeting in Kitchener, Ont., Oct. 25–26.

The 14-member board is responsible to report on the theological and ethical health of the denomination to the annual conference of members. But both faith and life and executive board members felt they should work more closely on strategic ministry and governance within the Canadian conference. The task force report, authored by BFL chair Brian Cooper, executive board moderator Paul Loewen, and executive director Willy Reimer, is the result of that desire for strategic alignment. Two members of BFL currently sit on the executive board, and the executive director sits on the BFL, but structural adjustments could foster a more effective process, said the task force.

Proposals still under consideration by both boards include regular BFL reports to the executive board, to help both bodies stay in step. Another proposal would see executive board strategic decisions being made in concert with BFL, to help both boards bring their respective resources to bear on initiatives. BFL could work effectively as the theological resourcing board for the executive board, operating consultatively, according to the report.

The task force says a new, streamlined structure would “eliminate governance confusion, create greater strategic unity, and enhance the relational and ministry alignment” between the two boards.

Both boards are committed to further study of the recommendations before proposing any action.

Cooper, affirmed last fall as chair of the BFL, said there is a real opportunity to “do some bridge-building, both relationally and theologically, within the conference.”

The BFL also considered the Canadian conference’s relationship with the Mennonite Central Committee, a relief agency of Anabaptist churches, to which BFL appoints delegates. The board affirmed the policy direction of MCC to develop a more strategic relationship with churches of both denominational organizations.

The BFL will also give further thought to broadening its membership base to include more of the ethnic diversity found within Canadian MB churches. The question was raised during a BFL question and answer session on the last day of the 2011 Study Conference, also held in Kitchener. “There are some faces I don’t see here,” said Mike Nishi of Vancouver’s South Hill Church. “Other Chinese churches, Vietnamese faces – how is the BFL working at bringing these other churches out?” he asked.

Cooper said it is a question under active consideration, and the BFL is aware it needs to find a way to reflect the ethnic diversity of the national conference. Reimer agreed that there is a diversity of membership in the Mennonite Brethren not reflected at the study conference. “We desperately need them to come to the table,” he said. “We need to encourage, to formalize our participation.”

—a Canadian Conference of MB Churches news release

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