Manitoba focuses on good news
Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba Assembly,
Mar. 1–2, 2013
There was a “sweet, sweet spirit” at Steinbach MB Church, Mar. 1, for the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba’s (MBCM) annual convention, as Canadian Mennonite University’s Wholly Jazz led delegates and guests in an evening of worship, with CMU president Cheryl Pauls and MBBS/CMU professor Andrew Dyck reading Scripture and two students sharing testimonies. Conference pastor Keith Poysti led in prayer for the 14 new pastors in Manitoba in 2012/2013.
Speakers delve into the heart of the gospel
Friday afternoon keynote speaker MBBS president Bruce Guenther defined the gospel as “the story of God’s interaction with humanity from creation to consummation.” In contrast to the proliferation of books that truncate the gospel to the cross, Paul’s use of “Christ” – meaning the expected anointed one – to explain the good news (1 Corinthians 15:4) was his signal the gospel didn’t begin with the story of Jesus.
Speaking on the Good Samaritan in light of the Mary and Martha story that follows, Victor Neufeld, pastor at North Kildonan MB Church, Winnipeg, said when we try to guilt people into love, “we get as bitter as Martha and start looking down on the ones chilling at Jesus’ feet.”
“If there’s a hero in the story, it’s Jesus. He’s the good Samaritan,” said Neufeld. “The gospel starts with you half-dead at the side of the road. The one coming down the road who can save us is the one we’ve mocked all our lives. After that story, love doesn’t sound like a command; it’s a response.”
Saturday morning, Brian Cooper, board of faith and life chair, and associate dean and assistant professor of theology at MBBS-ACTS, spoke on “living for the least, the last, and the lost.”
After the Rodney King affair, Christians urged L.A. pastor E.V. Hill, “You gots to feed ’em, Dr. Hill” while others said, “You gots to win ’em, Dr. Hill.” “I’m here to contend,” said Cooper, “that nowhere in Scripture are we told to separate people’s souls from their bodies. Worship of God touches bodily needs because matter matters.”
Panelists put the gospel in context
In response, a panel of pastors – Roger Thiessen of FaithWorks, Ruth Schellenberg of Fort Garry MB, Phil Vallelly of Winkler MB, and Dave Ens of Eastview Community and its downtown campus One88 – were interviewed by CMU professor David Balzer about how to live the gospel in their contexts.
Schellenberg said Fort Garry’s children’s ministry is about more than presenting information: it’s passing on faith. “As adults, we don’t have all the answers. We need to let the children see themselves in the story.”
One88 and Winkler (Man.) MB find ways to live the gospel in very different contexts: Winnipeg’s inner city and the “buckle of the Bible belt.” Ens said he meets many people “who want to get back on their feet” after leaving the Remand Centre but find “the only community they have is the one that got them into trouble.” They don’t need another program, so One88 offers the essential in all our lives: healthy community. “How do you categorize who is lost and broken?” Ens wondered, adding, “Perhaps, that’s us too.” Winkler MB meets the needs of hurting people through their family resource centre that offers parenting and nutrition classes.
From the floor, River East MB moderator Gordon Matties told of an acquaintance who cried, “God, are you there?” and felt a deep sense of love. Matties said, “I wonder if our insistence on deserving to die could be balanced with deserving to be loved.”
Manitoba partners with C2C
In the business session, provincial executive director Elton DaSilva and moderator Harold Froese presented a church planting proposal that would see the province officially partner with the C2C Network. The proposal calls for the creation of a leadership team that will report to the Manitoba executive director, and a C2C work team.
Composed of Manitoba pastors and two representatives from C2C, the leadership team will be responsible for vision casting, budget approval, interviewing potential church planters, and recommending planters for assessment. Eastview Community pastor Delbert Enns, Winkler MB pastor Phil Vallelly, and C2C associate national director Ewald Unruh were introduced as leadership team members. Manitoba’s work team, currently made up of C2C staff from across the country, including Unruh, Regina church planter Blair Allen, regional directors Chris Douglas (B.C.) and Johnny Thiessen (Alta.), and national director Gord Fleming, will be available to coach planters, organize training cadres, and resource existing churches.
Delegates voted in favour of the recommendation to “affirm the direction of this church planting proposal,” which Froese said will “allow us to work together more closely” across the Prairie provinces.
“I’ve heard people say C2C has a hidden agenda; I’d pray our agenda would never be hidden: we raise up missionaries,” said Fleming, comparing his local work to MB Mission’s overseas. “Our goal isn’t church planting; it’s to help people see who Jesus Christ is.”
To La Salle pastor Ray Klassen’s question about systems for existing churches, Fleming responded, “Missiologist Bill Hogg’s full-time role is to work with existing churches to talk about how to
be outreach focused.”
Matties expressed appreciation for MBCM’s Ministry Focus, which states, “We hear God calling us to compassionately minister with and among people who are poor and to initiate the emergence of new Christ-centred faith communities.” “That we’d bring the two together is my hope,” he said. “How will C2C help us carry out one and two?”
“Through planting churches among the poor,” DaSilva replied, offering the example of Manitoba’s newest church plant, Walls of Freedom, serving new immigrants and First Nations in Winnipeg’s core. “Compassion ministry isn’t C2C’s role – it’s all of ours,” added Fleming.
“I’m an MB by choice. I see beauty in us and I see divides,” DaSilva said. “If your church is proclamation only, there’s something wrong with your gospel; if your church is social justice only, there’s something wrong with your gospel,” concluded DaSilva. “We need to sharpen that tension.”
• Delegates approved a 2013 budget of $521,535.
• Fred Pauls was introduced as the new principal of MB Collegiate Institute.
• Assistant moderator Gerald Dyck thanked former Missions and Church Extension director Russ Toews for the way he “served with dignity and integrity for seven years.”
• DaSilva asked for feedback on how to engage single-ethnic churches coming into the conference.
• National leadership development director Ron Toews announced his plan for an “online TransCanada highway” where pastors and coaches can meet together to pray and share ideas.
—Angeline Schellenberg, photos by Angeline Schellenberg, Tony Schellenberg