The International Community of Mennonite Brethren gathered for teaching, decisions and encouragement during its annual summit June 2-5 in Panama City, Panama, with the theme of strengthening the church.
“The ICOMB gathering builds a practical understanding that we are a global church family on mission together even though we are far apart on the planet,” said Ed Boschman, who represented U.S. Mennonite Brethren.
Each summit includes reporting from national leaders on how God is at work in their conference. Die Arbeitsgemeinschaft Mennonitischer Brüdergemeinden in Deutschland shared the joy of their ministry of service and evangelism among refugees from the Middle East in Germany. Hosts Iglesia Evangélica Unida-Hermanos Menonitas in Panama spoke of their struggle for safe drinking water and indigenous land rights. Leaders from Brazil and Germany presented workshops on church vitality.
Authority was a topic of discussion. ICOMB executive director David Wiebe made a case study of Igreja Evangelica dos Irmaos Menonitas en Angola, which suffered from embezzlement. ICOMB leaders coached Angolans through the process of engaging new leadership.
ICOMB is a fraternal body that encourages and trains. Representatives voted to hire a part-time associate director for Latin America, which comprises eight of the member conferences, to help the conferences and partner agencies to relate healthfully and foster church multiplication and leadership development.
ICOMB president Rudi Plett, a pastor with the Vereinigung der Mennoniten Brüder Gemeinden Paraguays, will end his term as president at the end of 2016 to become associate director.
“We are pleased with this arrangement,” said Boschman, noting that Plett is trilingual and from the Global South. “We had been thinking that this would be the ideal for the next season of ICOMB ministry.”
Plett will also serve half-time with MB Mission to develop mission capacity in the national conferences. Several Latin American conferences already have national and international mission efforts, and the Brazil conference relates with the church in Portuguese-speaking Angola.
With Plett’s shift from president to staff, the executive committee undergoes changes. In January, secretary Heinrich Klassen of Germany becomes president and Emerson Cardoso of Brazil joins the board as secretary. Wiebe will reduce his executive director role from full time to 60 percent in April.
Leaders in attendance represented 19 of the 21 ICOMB member conferences. Visa denials prevented delegates from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola from being present.