MC B.C. sees ‘life in the comma’

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Mennonite Church B.C. managed to accomplish in one day what used to take two.

Following last year’s precedent, the annual general meeting on Feb. 23 at Bethel Mennonite Church, Langley, combined both sessions for business and the LEAD conference for inspiration. Special speaker for the weekend was David Augsburger, professor of pastoral care and counselling in the School of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in California.

Augsburger opened the morning business sessions with a powerful devotional, citing the ancient Apostles’ Creed, which says in part that Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.”

He noted that the creed says nothing at all about Jesus’ life on earth; there is only a comma between his birth and death. “The comma is where it’s at!” he proclaimed. “It’s that comma that you and I live by as disciples. It’s that comma that contains all the healing. And oh what a comma!”

Mountainview Fund to meet budget shortfall

The business sessions proceeded smoothly and quickly. Video presentations from the various committee chairs (Church Health, Evangelism and Church Development, and Service, Peace and Justice) complemented written reports. Delegates approved an initiative from the Evangelism and Church Development Committee to plant a new Mandarin-speaking church in the central Surrey area, to be pastored by Jonathan and Grace Deng.

Delegates also approved the Leadership Board’s recommendation that the principal from the Mountainview Fund, created from the sale of the disbanded Mountainview Mennonite Church in 1996, be used to meet MC B.C.’s budget shortfall this year. The original intent was to spend only interest from the fund, leaving the principal intact, an arrangement that has worked until recently. However, delegates at last year’s sessions approved in principle to use principal funds when needed.

It was emphasized that this is a temporary arrangement for 2013. Roundtable discussions clearly indicated that delegates preferred to find ways to increase giving, rather than cut staff or programs. The delegate body agreed to use the funding transfer this year to meet budget, and to look at ways to increase giving from the churches.

A special delegate session to discuss future funding of MC B.C. is in the planning stages for later this year.

In other business, Lee Dyck of Chilliwack was affirmed as moderator for the coming three-year term, replacing outgoing moderator Dan Rempel.

LEAD conference highlights

Following lunch, the LEAD conference took place in the afternoon. Formerly, “LEAD” stood for Leaders, Elders and Deacons, and was held for church leaders on the day preceding the MC B.C. session. Holding it now on a Saturday and opening it to anyone, allowed more people to attend.

Much of Augsburger’s talk was based on his book Dissident Discipleship, which participants were encouraged to read beforehand. The two sessions focused on spirituality:

  • Where it comes from (within, above or below)
  • As mystery, mastery and mutuality.

He talked of resolute nonviolence and concrete service, challenging listeners to go beyond being Christ to the neighbour, to be able to see Christ in the neighbour.

“I hear a lot of Jesus as a marvellous inspiration and a matchless ideal and as the Saviour, but can I see him in the neighbour?” Augsburger asked. “Are we willing to love our enemy? Love everyone in the way of Jesus?”

He concluded by affirming the day’s experience that included being mutually nourished in many ways from the Word of God.

Lee Dyck, left, the new moderator of Mennonite Church B.C., talks with Ray Cymbaluk of Crossroads Community Church, Chilliwack, at the area church’s annual delegate sessions.

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