Listen, debate, decide

From Our Leaders

April 13, 2022 | Opinion | Volume 26 Issue 8
Darnell Barkman | Mennonite Church B.C.
(Image by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay)

In a few months Garry Janzen, the executive minister of Mennonite Church B.C. will retire. He’s served MC B.C. for 14 years in that role.

When he informed MC B.C. leadership about his upcoming retirement, we gathered to create a hiring process.

How will we discern God’s will for a future candidate?

This isn’t just a hiring process; this is discerning God’s guidance for his church.

MC B.C. practises team leadership, and the executive minister is our public, identifiable leader, representing our connection to God and one another as a regional body. The executive minister is a leader who reminds us of how we interpret and embody God’s will by looking back to the past and walking forward into our future.

We crafted a task group to discern candidates. We tapped leaders that represented men and women, global perspectives and human resources backgrounds, and we started to practise community discernment. The theological name for it is “the priesthood of all believers.”

So far in the process, we’ve:

  1. Listened to God in Scripture and prayer.
  2. Surveyed MC B.C., looking for priorities.
  3. Listened to respected and wise leaders from the past generation.
  4. Listened to people in positional leadership.
  5. Consulted MC Canada resources.
  6. Reflected on our founding documents and priorities.
  7. Spoken with the broader church.

The process reminds me of the early church in Acts 15. They had a big decision to make about the future of the church. They did it by reminding one another of how God had moved in the past through the law, and how God revealed himself to the church through the Holy Spirit, and that they would listen to one another to complete the process.

The Acts church debated and, with wisdom from God, the elders listened intently to how God was moving among them. Then they made a decision.

My prayer for MC B.C.’s executive ministerial search, and all similar discernment processes and searches in MC Canada, is that we continue to work to discern as a body:

  1. Listening to the Spirit and Scripture.
  2. Listening to the church body.
  3. Moving forward in faith towards the conclusion and confession of the Jerusalem Council: “The Holy Spirit has led us to the decision . . . .”

I believe that future participation in our congregations, our regional churches and our nationwide body will be directly related to Jesus followers’ learning to listen to one another. We need to grow in learning to discuss openly and to have honest and mature conflict in decision-making processes. Christ’s peace is not silence; it is a trusting process with truth and honesty in love.

Mature conflict isn’t easy in our time or any time. Polarization and division are big global problems, but we are Jesus’ good news people. We are Christ’s body. The church will look and smell like Jesus in our world as we grow into disciples who can have healthy discussions in a trusting community while making important decisions together.

Please pray for us as we continue the executive ministerial search process in MC B.C.

Darnell Barkman pastors Yarrow United Mennonite Church, an MC B.C. congregation.

Read more From Our Leaders columns:
‘It is hard to be afraid when you understand’
Life can be real
Joining the Office of Fun
Fatigue, polarization, uncertainty
Passing on what we have received

(Image by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay)

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