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Mennonite Brethren HeraldVolume 45, No. 08June 9, 2006
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Anchored in the Word

Annual Convention of B.C. Conference of MB Churches • April 28–29 • Burnaby

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John Neufeld, reading from 1 Corinthians 1:18, encouraged leaders to “preach the blood, preach the cross.” He said, “Paul wants us to know that the cross has power. . . . Conversion means radical transformation, so if people aren’t changed, we rob the cross of its power.”

“It’s still about the message of the cross.” With this powerful theme, the annual convention of the B.C. Conference of MB Churches met April 28–29 at Willingdon Church, Burnaby. Business was conducted between times of worship and Scripture lessons taught by John Neufeld, senior pastor at Willingdon. Convention organizers felt strongly about anchoring the weekend in Bible teaching, saying, “the old records talk about how [convention attendees] came together to hear the Word of God, and we want to do the same.”

The Board of Management (BOM) brought two key recommendations to the floor: the freedom for churches to form separate legal societies, and a new provincial funding formula. Given the potentially divisive nature of the recommendations, leaders postponed a vote and called an extraordinary convention for October 14, 2006. Moderator Ron van Akker encouraged delegates to “dialogue, not debate,” and “to believe the best about people” during discussion.

The Board of Management also presented a status quo budget of $1.2 million. The board was reticent to increase budget lines due to diminishing financial support from churches. This left many provincial ministries unsure about the upcoming year, since an initial request for more than $1.4 million had been made. Any ministry contributions that exceed the status-quo income forecast will be distributed by percentage between camps, Columbia Bible College, Board of Church Extension, and the executive committee.

The 2005 fiscal year ended without a deficit, although income was far below the original budgeted amount.

Provincial minister Steve Berg communicated the executive board’s desire to create a new vision for the province. He presented the “B.C. MB Journey Wall,” a decade-by-decade overview of B.C.’s history, giving delegates a sense of the past and encouraging them to dream about the future. The executive board asked delegates to envision where the B.C. Conference will be in 10 years and how it can change to better facilitate local church ministry.

Church planting news

Geoff Neufeld announced his resignation as executive director of church planting for the Board of Church Extension (BOCE), saying his five years in that role were wonderful but the intense travel schedule had taken a toll on his family.

Delegates affirmed seven new churches planted under the auspices of Ignite Vancouver: Westside Church, Vancouver; Richmond Pacific Grace MB Church; Potter’s Hand Community Church, North Vancouver; North Shore Pacific Grace Mandarin; Gateway Community Church, Port Alberni; Pacific Church, Vancouver; Vancouver Vietnamese MB Church. Neufeld called church planters “courageous” for relocating their families to urban Vancouver, citing the many challenges of moving to a big city and finding affordable housing in an ever-inflating market.

Societies question

A task force created by the BOM advised the conference regarding the possibility of creating individual church societies rather than remaining under the legal umbrella of the B.C. conference. After their theological analysis of relevant issues and consultation with several risk management experts, the task force recommended that the conference not pursue creating individual societies at this time.

However, the final decision will be in the hands of delegates. The move to postpone a vote on the official recommendation indicates on-going disagreement over the issue. Van Akker assured delegates that the question has been on the table for several years and indicates no desire on the part of individual churches to leave the conference.

New funding formula

The BOM proposed a new funding formula to delegates. Currently, the province uses a per member levy system. The BOM is now recommending using a percentage of a church’s revenue to calculate yearly provincial financial support.

Ron Geddert announced a new camp fundraising campaign to more than 325 delegates and guests at the B.C. MB convention.

Ron Geddert announced a new camp fundraising campaign to more than 325 delegates and guests at the B.C. MB convention.

For some churches, this will result in a dramatic increase in requested support. For others, it will result in a reduction of their level of support. Although the board realizes a new funding formula will not guarantee greater financial commitment from churches, it anticipates a percentage calculation will positively influence the commitment level of churches and create a “fairer” system.

Everest for kids

Fundraising efforts reached new heights as the Board of Camp Ministries introduced a new campaign called Everest for KidsOutside link. In April 2007, a group will embark on a 23-day trek to Everest Base Camp, hoping to raise $300,000 to provide camping experiences for children. At present, five provincial camps (with Likely Chapel Bible Camp on Quesnel Lake being a new acquisition for the province this year) serve more than 4,500 campers each summer, although they turn away many hopeful participants due to space restrictions. Individual pledges or corporate sponsorships can be made at their website.

Other business

  • Delegates voted to dissolve the Board of Church Ministries.
  • Conference minister Steve Berg reported that his team is near completion of a Best Practices Manual, which includes risk management and employment standards for churches.
  • Columbia Bible College’s vice-president Ron Penner reported a rebound in enrollment at the school with increases in several programs. He highlighted the importance of Bible colleges, saying nearly two-thirds of youth step away from their faith in secular universities and schools.

Laura Kalmar

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