Report from ICOMB 2018 Summit
The Mennonitischer Freikirche Österreich (MFO) – Mennonite Free Church of Austria – hosted the annual ICOMB Summit June 2-6, 2018 in Vienna, Austria. MFO has five churches located in Vienna, Steyr, Linz, Wels and Gmunden.
- 42 people gathered from the 21 member conferences of ICOMB. All MB national churches were represented except for Congo and Angola whose delegates were denied visas and India whose delegate was ill. ICOMB contains 475,000 members in 3,000 congregations world wide.
- Two other national churches were represented:
- Ukraine: The Association of Mennonite Brethren Churches of Ukraine (AMBCU) now has 11 congregations. We received a report from Roman Rakhuba and Aleksii Makaiov, and officially put AMBCU on the path to formal membership in ICOMB. Anticipated acceptance date is 2020.
- Thailand MB Church: Karen Hubert-Sanchez represented this emerging conference. Chair Nadanong Silichotboribun (Naat) had her visa application denied.
Leadership transfer from David Wiebe (CCMBC – Canada) to Rudi Plett (AHM – Paraguay)
Plett brings a wealth of knowledge of the eight Latin American conferences, having worked as associate director under Wiebe for the past 18 months. His linguistic abilities help him to connect well: Spanish (for Latin America), German (for four European members), and English. He also understands conference leadership – something quite rare but exceedingly necessary for the ICOMB role.
Acceptance of the Emerging Conference Pathway
Vic Wiens of MB Mission/Multiply identified more than 30 networks of churches that already feel part of the Mennonite Brethren family to some degree, and who will likely seek to join ICOMB in the future. This represents an anticipated 150 percent growth in our fellowship in the next number of years. Wiens clarified several critical stages of development necessary for identity, community, and mission capacity before an emerging conference might join ICOMB in a healthy way.
Acceptance of Education and Equipping Matrix
One major challenge of equipping enough pastors is making education accessible. In India, for example there are 1,000 MB churches, but less than 400 pastors. The MB college there has developed off-campus extension programs, but it is slow going. In other countries, many pastors have not completed high school, and so are ineligible for bachelor-level training, much less seminary. We reviewed and accepted an outline for training pastors through non-formal means, with ministry outcomes that grow as pastors develop experience and knowledge. Doug Heidebrecht of MB Mission/Multiply led the process.
The combination of the Emerging Conference Path and Education/Equipping Matrix, together with a plan for developing mission focus in every ICOMB member means ICOMB is better positioned to meet our mission statement: Healthy, Missional Conferences Making Disciples.
Plett will host a consultation in Asuncion, Paraguay, July 26–28, 2018, gathering presidents, mission directors, and key education leaders from each Latin American conference. This will be the first regional assembly for ICOMB. The conversation will revolve around readiness for mission in each conference based on the new tools accepted at Summit.
Paul Dück presented an excellent workshop on the role and presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the leader and believer. It was needed, to work through questions about ICOMB and MB Mission’s projected path toward an increased openness to the Holy Spirit.
A budget of $180,000 for 2019 was accepted. Conference contributions are expected to total $75,000, and the remainder must be fundraised. The main expenses are the executive director’s office (including travel, coaching conference leaders), the annual summit, and the Paraguay consultation.
Emerson Cardoso (COBIM – Brazil) was elected chair of the executive committee. Andreas Isaak (VMBB – Germany) was elected secretary. Treasurer Ed Boschman (USMB – U.S.) and vice-chair Yoshifumi Tanaka (NMBK – Japan) continue their terms.
Summit wrapped up with footwashing and the Lord’s Supper, as usual. The delegates always report that this is a highlight.
All delegates split up to visit 5 MFO churches on Sunday morning. They brought greetings and sermons and enjoyed the fellowship across cultures.
In 2015, MFO was recognized as part of the Austria Christian church body due to the efforts of a Roman Catholic deacon assigned to liaise with Free Church movements in Austria. For the dozen or more delegates who stayed an extra day to sightsee in Vienna, touring St Stephen’s Cathedral (Stefansdom) was a highlight. This deacon gave them a personalized tour and one-hour presentation including his personal faith story, and the way God called him into his position.