New leader appointed to international body for strengthening the church
At the crossroads of the Americas, ICOMB (International Community of Mennonite Brethren) gathered its members for teaching, decision making and encouragement. ICOMB’s annual summit took place in Panama City, Panama, June 2–5, 2016, with the theme of strengthening the church.
Each summit includes reporting from national leaders on how God is at work in their conference. Panama host church Iglesia Evangélica Unida – Hermanos Menonitas shared about new initiatives reaching their youth who have moved to the city, and their struggle for indigenous land rights. German and Austrian leaders spoke about their ministry of service and evangelism among refugees from the Middle East.
Emerson Cardoso (Brazil) presented a workshop on spiritual vitality, and Heinrich Klassen (Germany) taught a framework for theological vitality.
Authority is an ongoing subject of discussion at ICOMB, and executive director David Wiebe presented action taken during the year toward leaders of Igreja Evangelica dos Irmaos Menonitas en Angola who had scandalized the church in various ways. ICOMB leadership coached IEIMA through the process of engaging new leadership.
New staff role created
ICOMB functions as a fraternal body that encourages and trains. This summit voted to hire a part-time associate director for Latin America (which comprises eight of the member conferences) help the conferences and partner agencies to relate healthfully and foster church multiplication and leadership development. Rudi Plett, pastor with Vereinigung der Mennoniten Brüder Gemeinden Paraguays, will relinquish the roles of church representative and ICOMB chair at the end of 2016 to become associate director in 2017.
Plett will also serve half-time with MB Mission to develop mission capacity in the national conferences. (Several Latin American conferences already have national and international mission efforts, and the Brazil conference relates with the church in Portuguese-speaking Angola.)
With Plett’s shift from president to staff, the executive committee undergoes changes.
In January, Klassen becomes chair. Cardoso was elected secretary. With the addition of staff, executive director David Wiebe will reduce his role from full time to 60 percent in April 2017.
Leaders in attendance represented 19 of the 21 member conferences. Visa denials prevented delegates from DR Congo and Angola from being present. Khmu Mission was represented by MB Mission worker Bob Davis because the national leader was also unable to obtain a visa. Several international guests including MB Mission workers and Canadian pastors attended as guest observers.
ICOMB is planning a 2017 consultation on mission, to be held in Thailand.
The four-day meetings in Panama City concluded with a joint Sunday worship service of four churches in Chepo. Following that, some members and guests travelled three days upriver to visit church members in the village of Platanares.