USMB delegates approve revision of Article 13, continue church planting
BFL receives mandate to continue discussion on love, peacemaking and reconciliation
U.S. Mennonite Brethren Conference (USMB) delegates voted 103 to 10 to approve the recommended revision to Article 13: Love, Peacemaking and Reconciliation of the Confession of Faith at the closing business session of the 30th national convention, Conection, July 25–26 at the Santa Clara (Cal.) Marriott. This is the first time the USMB Confession of Faith has been changed since 2000 when it became a national (rather than a binational North American) statement.
The revision states commitments more strongly: “We actively pursue peace and reconciliation,” and “As peacemakers we alleviate suffering, reduce strife, promote justice and work to end violence and war.” Where the binational confession (and current Canadian confession) called members to “give alternative service where possible,” the new wording is honest about the diversity of the denomination’s beliefs. It also claims Peace Church identification and provides a basis for discernment and choices: “As in other Peace Churches, many of us choose alternative service rather than military participation. Because Jesus is Lord, his example and teaching take priority over nationalism and the demands of human authority.” (Read a comparison here.)
The U.S. BFL began the revision process at a January 2013 study conference. Papers were presented on New Testament principles, contemporary application, the case for legitimate protective violence and the argument for nonviolence. Tim Geddert’s “Radical Peacemaking: Living with our Diversity” brought the focus onto both sides’ shared allegiance to Christ.
Between the time of the study conference and the national convention, individuals and congregations were invited to submit written comments and to voice their feedback at district convention discussions hosted by BFL members. The national BFL also talked with Bible faculty members at Fresno Pacific University and Tabor College, the two USMB-affiliated colleges, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary faculty, district BFLs and with members of the International Community of Mennonite Brethren, Mennonite Central Committee and other Mennonites.
Following the announcement of the outcome of the vote, delegates also approved a motion introduced from the floor that mandates the board of faith and life to “foster communication within our congregations to encourage the study of, commitment to and growth in biblical love, peacemaking and reconciliation, guided by the Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith Article 13 and to report the response to this initiative at the 2016 convention.” The motion passed unanimously.
The vote concluded a convention process that began Saturday morning with the BFL report and open mic question-and-answer time, a 45-minute workshop discussion Saturday afternoon and a second opportunity for comments on the convention floor just prior to the late afternoon vote.
“Being part of this process for the past two-and-a-half years has been a privilege,” said Gary Wall, Pacific District Conference minister, addressing the delegates from the floor after the ballots were cast and before the vote was announced. “As you know, some people do some heavier lifting than others. Thank you to Ed Boschman, Larry Nikkel and Tim Geddert who led so well, listened carefully and travelled many miles.” The delegates affirmed Wall’s remarks with their applause.
Keynote speaker Ed Stetzer encouraged USMBs to continue church planting among the least reached, or what he called, “going into the divots of the waffle.” Planters reported on their work among Filipino people in Las Vegas, Nev.; Russian and African immigrants in Spokane, Wash.; and Mormons in Utah and South Texas. The convention honoured Ed Boschman, USMB executive director since 2007, for 40 years of service as a pastor and conference leader with a footwashing and standing ovation.
—based on reports by Connie Faber