The affirmation of a new executive minister highlighted the annual meeting of Mennonite Church B.C. at Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond on Feb. 25.
Ninety-eight percent of delegates approved the appointment of Shelby (Shel) Boese as executive minister, following an extensive search by the five-member search group. Boese and his wife Anne were introduced, welcomed and prayed for at the afternoon delegate session. Boese starts on Aug. 1. He succeeds Garry Janzen, who retired from the position at the end of December.
At the morning session, Mark Baker, the featured speaker at the Leaders Elders and Deacons (LEAD) conference the day before (see sidebar), gave his final presentation, entitled “Which courtroom shapes your understanding of the cross?”
In the business sessions, considerable discussion surrounded the 2023 budget, which includes a projected deficit of $119,000. Delegates wrestled with what this means for the future of MC B.C.
“A deficit just doesn’t sit well with me,” said Fran Hofenk of Emmanuel Mennonite in Abbotsford. “There has to be a strategy in place or we really need to cut something.”
Gary Heinrichs of Sherbrooke Mennonite in Vancouver said, “Any company that keeps cutting will eventually disappear. We need a strategy to grow.”
One suggestion for cutting expenses was to reduce support for Columbia Bible College, as only four students from MC B.C. churches are currently attending. Jesse Nickel, who attends Level Ground Mennonite in Abbotsford and teaches at Columbia, responded by naming several MC B.C. pastors who are Columbia graduates, and urged delegates not to discount the school’s value “just because numbers are small.”
Finance committee chair Tom Miller acknowledged the challenge. “We fully recognize [operating in a deficit] can’t continue,” he said, while noting that eliminating such programs as church revitalization would curtail programs already in place. He noted that church attendance has shrunk, some congregations have left, and not all congregations support MC B.C. financially. He encouraged delegates to go back to their congregations to re-evaluate their giving policies regarding the regional church.
Delegates also approved creation of a half-time youth-coordinator position once funds are available from the sale of the Peardonville property in Abbotsford.
Delegates also said goodbye to three churches that closed their doors (Bethel Mennonite, North Shore Japanese and Vietnamese Christian) and one that withdrew from MC B.C. (Vietnamese Grace Mennonite).
Reflecting on the weekend, moderator Gerry Grunau cited the hiring of Boese and the approval of a youth-coordinator position as highlights. “We give thanks to God for presenting Shel Boese to be the next MC B.C. executive minister and for the affirmation of his appointment by the assembled delegates,” Grunau said. “The time spent with Mark Baker . . . was formative as we talked about the ‘Centered-Set Church’ and the potential impact on MC B.C. congregations. The entire weekend was blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit providing hope and inspiration.”
LEAD conference: The centred-set church
“Jesus, Be the Centre” was the focus of Mennonite Church B.C.’s LEAD conference at Peace Mennonite Church on Feb. 24. The event featured speaker Mark Baker, professor at Fresno Pacific University and the author of Centered-Set Church.
Baker talked about the difference between bounded, fuzzy and centred churches. In a boundary set church, he explained, a clear line distinguishes Christians from non-Christians. A “fuzzy church,” Baker said, is somewhat the opposite of a bounded church, where erasing of the line erodes the church’s sense of identity and results in “whateverism.” In a centred church, people’s relationship with the centre, Jesus, determines belonging.
In a centered-set church, “there is less need to play boundary games,” Baker said. He challenged his listeners to ask: “About what am I most likely to be bounded?”
At the plenary session at the AGM the next day, Baker used a courtroom metaphor to talk about God’s justice in Hebraic and Western terms. Does justice means appeasement (God punishing Jesus for taking on the sins of the world) or recompense/payback (Is God’s justice fundamentally retributive or restorative?).
—Amy Rinner Waddell
Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in B.C.? Send it to Amy Rinner Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org.