MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Representatives from 21 national Mennonite Brethren conferences from around the globe met for the International Community of Mennonite Brethren annual summit July 26-29 at Messiah College.
The summit highlighted ways the 25-year-old organization has grown and is shifting beyond fellowship to providing guidance and accountability to its member conferences.
The mutual support these leaders derive from each other was evident as they huddled to pray after sharing the pain of ministering to war-torn Ukraine or the excitement of turning a brothel into an outreach center for former prostitutes in Brazil. The sharing culminated in the closing footwashing, prayer and communion service.
ICOMB representatives voted unanimously to appoint David Wiebe of Canada — ICOMB’s first full-time executive director — to a second three-year term. They affirmed Wiebe’s leadership, only cautioning against overwork.
“When Dave visits us, he is so tall but so humble,” said Yoshifuma Tanaka of the Japan MB Conference.
Delegates discussed establishing “global elders” to provide spiritual, theological and practical leadership among member conferences, a conversation begun in 2013.
Delegates raised concerns about the importance of building trust and acknowledged that conferences do not “do church” in the same way.
They suggested ICOMB serve as a mediator rather than an authority figure in times of conflict and pursue a biblical model for sharing authority and resolving conflict.
“We should not be discouraged when we don’t find easy answers,” said Victor Wall of Paraguay.
ICOMB conferences in Angola, India and Mexico are navigating internal conflicts. Wiebe said ICOMB is testing ways it can support and guide the national conferences as they seek to resolve differences.
“Mission can’t entirely hold us together,” Wiebe said. “Community and identity are also very important, and sometimes ICOMB is asked to have a stronger voice.”
ICOMB exercised that voice during the summit. The executive committee determined that, in spite of reconciliation efforts, the current leaders of Igreja Evangelica dos Irmaos Menonitas en Angola (Mennonite Brethren church Angola) are no longer in good standing with ICOMB.
Wiebe emphasized that the problem is with specific leaders and not the Angola conference. He asked delegates to pray for the conference and its leaders.
The ICOMB summit followed the Mennonite World Conference assembly July 21-26 in nearby Harrisburg.
Building on its experience holding education consultations in Congo in 2009 and internationally in 2007 and 2011, ICOMB helped organize a global education conference for primary and secondary educators prior to the MWC assembly.
During the summit, Victor Wall, ICOMB’s education facilitator, reported on the education conference and other ICOMB education projects.
MWC general secretary César García, a Mennonite Brethren from Bogotá, Colombia, joined ICOMB for dinner July 27 and answered questions posed by ICOMB representatives during the evening session.
In other business, ICOMB delegates:
- Received a report from the executive committee that outlined current ICOMB financial accountability policies;
- Recommended that ICOMB members that are not members of MWC “consider MWC membership on its own merits”; and
- Reported that guidelines on a sabbatical policy for pastors and national church leaders are being developed.
The 2016 summit will be held in Panama. MB Mission will work with ICOMB to host a mission and prayer consultation in 2017, likely in Thailand.