Living on mission through collaboration, accountability and blessing
The Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (OCMBC) convention explored the theme of living on mission through discussions about collaboration, accountability and blessing.
OCMBC board chair Karen West said, “Convention reminds us that God calls us to a cause that is bigger than any one church or city. We can do more together for the sake of His name than we can individually.”
The 83rd annual convention, which took place February 21–22, 2014 at New Hope Church Niagara, St. Catharines, hosted 122 registered delegates who represented 22 of OCBMC’s 27 current member churches.
Executive director Ed Willms said that over the past year, the conference clarified its reasons for existence and developed the following mission statement: “OCMBC exists to glorify God by multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ through our member churches, facilitating collaboration, providing accountability and encouraging blessing.”
Willms asked delegates: What if we chose to live collaboratively? What if we shared resources? What if we regularly prayed for each other? What might God do with this bunch of people?
Rather than living in isolation and building competitive silos, he encouraged churches to work together with a spirit of collaboration, accountability and blessing. “We believe this brings a smile to our Father’s face,” he said.
Vice-chair Kevin Bayne said accountability is essential to the mission of multiplying disciples because it allows the church to maintain its distinctiveness from the culture around it.
“When we walk in the ways of this world, we lose our distinctiveness to it. When our lifestyles cause the church to lose its distinctiveness, the church loses its power and authority to speak into the culture.”
One of the gifts God has given churches is to call each other back into community, said Bayne.
Chris Stevens, pastor at The Gathering in Ottawa and OCMBC board member, explained that blessing is the act of bestowing a divine gift or favour on someone. In the context of the church, blessing happens when Christians keep in mind the king and the kingdom they are serving.
“The world is watching what we do. Don’t lose sight of what we’re trying to do in our nation,” said Stevens. “Be about His kingdom, where He is king and where He alone is king.”
Keynote speaker Randy Friesen, general director of MB Mission, encouraged delegates to consider whether they were “all in” for Jesus. He reflected on what can be learned from Jesus’ model of growing in faith so that disciples are not just healthy themselves, but are being used by God to multiply the kingdom.
As OCMBC strives to be a conference that glorifies God by multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ, Friesen challenged delegates to remember that “the key to multiplication is being sourced in Jesus, finding life in Him, surrendering our lives to Him and saying ‘we’re all in.’”
The Journey Ottawa was received into full membership of OCMBC and The Access Centre Ajax was reaffirmed as a full member church.
Additionally, associate membership status was granted to: Reconnect Barrhaven Community Church and Free Church Toronto.
Ron Willms, chair of the nominating committee, reported that the committee completed the 2012 mandate of developing clear policies and procedures for the nomination and election processes.
Karen West was re-elected as board chair and the slates of candidates for both membership-at-large and the nominating committee were acclaimed.
New bylaws were approved allowing the Bethesda board to include three members who may not be active in a member church of the conference. The bylaws were amended to reflect Bethesda’s ministry for people with developmental disabilities to a broad constituency.
A motion was approved recommending that the board of directors for Tabor Manor also be the board of directors for Pleasant Manor Retirement Village, Mennonite Brethren Senior Citizens Home Inc., The Pleasant Manor and Tabor Manor Foundation, and The Pleasant Manor and Tabor Manor Support Association.
The OCMBC 2014 operating budget of $348,500 was approved.
- Gord Fleming, national director of C2C Network, invited delegates to pray for church planters from Victoria to Halifax. C2C Network regional director for Ontario, Greg Laing, spoke about two new ministry hubs – spaces for training, ministry, prayer and study – now open in Ottawa and Toronto. Laing reported there are six new or emerging church plants in downtown Toronto.
- OCMBC has $50,000 available to support church ministries, reported Michael Stork, ministry development fund committee chair. There is only one year of full funding remaining and Stork asked for prayer that continued funding will be raised.
- The OCMBC faith and life team, chaired by Richard Martens, is developing plans to credential 30 new pastors.
- Ed Willms, OCMBC executive director, announced that the Ontario conference is sending out four missionaries globally for long-term mission through MB Mission: Sean Fast (Grantham MB), Doug and Deanna Hiebert (Cornerstone Community) and Jill Ramer (Waterloo MB).
- Ed Heinrichs and Andrew Hiebert from Camp Crossroads shared that more than 850 people attended camp last summer and 40 children accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Almost 100 community members attended a Christmas dinner in Torrance hosted by camp staff.
- John Bryan, spiritual life director at Eden High School Spiritual Life Centre, said that the school’s 873 students represent 873 stories that are served by the centre’s mission “to impact the lives of our students by directing them to Christ.”
- Rick Cober Bauman, executive director of Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, reported that five churches are partnering with MCC to share God’s love with temporary migrant workers. He suggested that the MB church, as an historic peace church, has an opportunity for a peace witness in a Canada that has a young population of veterans.
- Joan Hyatt, representative from the Sexual Misconduct and Abuse Resource Response Team, reported the team provides resources and support to constituents and congregations working through sexual misconduct or abuse.
- Willy Reimer, CCMBC executive director, shared the draft mission statement CCMBC is working on: To multiply Christ-centred churches to see Canada transformed by the good news of Jesus Christ.
- Ron Toews, Resourcing Churches Developing Leaders director, highlighted www.leaders2learners.ca, a new online community that offers assessment, coaching, resources and online learning opportunities for MB churches and leaders.
- MBBS Canada enrolment manager Sherman Lau shared the seminary is no longer in start-up mode, a degree-granting charter was received in 2013 and a graduate school of theology and ministry has recently been started in conjunction with Canadian Mennonite University.
The convention concluded with prayer for the ministries and people involved in ministry.
In his concluding comments, OCMBC vice chair Kevin Bayne encouraged delegates to continue to have a heart toward one another that blesses, prays for and celebrates God’s work in each other. “In order for the kingdom of God to thrive, we need all of us to be ‘all in,’” said Bayne.
Ellen Paulley is the communications coordinator for the Canadian Conference of MB Churches