Who are we now and what is our job? These were the questions that dominated the agenda at the last meetings of the renamed national faith and life team (NFLT) in Abbotsford, B.C., Dec. 13–14, 2018. Until the annual general meeting at study conference in Waterloo, Ont., in October 2019, the Board of Faith and Life will not formally take the new name.
Adjusting to the changing structure, the provincial conference ministers and representatives for faith and life discussed their role in the collaborative model and the scope and qualifications of the board in light of the changing landscape.
In the past, the BFL’s task was to guard, discern, and teach, but its guidance to the conference tended to be in reaction to concerns within the constituency. “Now we are working toward greater clarity on the deliverables of the BFL/NFLT as part of the new governance manual (in development),” says chair and CCMBC staff person Ingrid Reichard. “The NFLT will take more of a proactive role in leading faith & life conversations in the MB family”.
“Theological implications of national executive board decisions, earlier tasked to the watchcare of the BFL, will become the responsibility of leadership at all levels, because decisions will be made by the church and provincial representatives, including the provincial Faith & Life teams, at the National Assembly, says Reichard. “We’re looking to have a pairing of executive and theologian walking hand in hand throughout all our decision-making processes.”
In the collaborative model structure, the NFLT remains accountable to the churches through the representatives who form the National Assembly. “The composition of the NFLT is being discerned, ensuring an even better representation and a closer connection to the provincial faith and life teams,” says Reichard.
“ Communal discernment remains a key priority of how the denomination functions”, says Reichard, pointing to the Article 8 study and review process. The BFL sought input from churches through an online survey in November; listening exercises at the provincial conferences will be the next step.
The topic of baptism and membership leads to a lively discussion. “Our hope is to have that level of enthusiasm in the engagement and the discussion around the rewording of this article in our confession of faith,” says Reichard. “I’m grateful to those who took time to respond to the survey.”
After a first draft is cut at an all-provinces BFL summit in May, it will return to the provinces and the churches for continued discernment. “We expect to move in concert with one another, not rushing ahead.” says Reichard.
Adding to the work done in harmonizing credentialing across provinces, the NFLT has struct a new credentialing team to continue to revise the process as necessary and to form an alternative system of credentialing that is more appropriate for leaders less familiar with academic writing, especially those from an indigenous or newcomer background. “We want to develop a process that is robust enough to deliver the same results but honour the cultural needs of new leaders,” says Reichard.
The publications committee of the BFL continues to produce materials to resource churches. The updated Family Matters book is a scheduled for biennial revisions to include the latest data on Canadian MBs and partners. Theological teaching pamphlets on subjects like sexuality, suicide, and witness in a pluralistic society are being revised for language and examples relevant to today’s society.
“The NFLT has an agenda: it is MB theology in Canada,” says Reichard. “We are looking for individuals who are passionate about that. If you are interested in contributing to this work, please lean in.”
Updated Feb 6, 2019