DENVER — The U.S. Mennonite Brethren national convention July 29‐30 was all about moving forward toward an unknown future.
The mission USMB leaders believe God has given them for the next 10 years focuses on three core commitments: local, national and global church multiplication/church planting/evangelism; intentional disciple‐making; and developing leaders. It uses a grassroots model that emphasizes serving local churches.
Delegates affirmed the vision and strategy, outlined in “Future Story” documents, and witnessed the first step in its execution: the installation of Don Morris as the USMB national director. He had been serving as interim executive director.
Morris used an illustration to emphasize his hope that the national conference will empower local churches. He described a hamburger meal that was initially disappointing because the burgers were plain. But then the group was invited to add condiments from a topping bar.
If local churches are the hamburgers, “USMB will be like the burger bar,” he said. “What do you need to add to your burger? If you don’t see what you need, ask. Maybe our churches can be better by the things that we [USMB] add. How can we help you beef up your burger?”
Information about the Future Story was kept under wraps until July 1 when a one‐page summary was emailed to all USMB churches. At the end of the first business session the morning of July 30, the full nine‐page document was posted online and emailed to all delegates.
Board chair Steve Schroeder summarized the strategy’s three commitments.
“To help give life to these three commitments, USMB will support and encourage networks of Mennonite Brethren churches to engage in collaborative efforts around one or more of these core commitments,” he said.
Schroeder highlighted two decisions made by the Canadian Conference of MB Churches in July that impact the USMB commitment to church planting.
The first decision was to form a task force to investigate merging its C2C Network church-planting ministry with MB Mission, the North American mission agency. Canadian delegates also approved a recommendation that C2C be allowed to expand its ministry to the U.S. Schroeder clarified that Mission USA will continue to partner with districts in planting churches and that C2C will assist as requested.
Getting on board
Business session presentations provided information about the Future Story but did not allow for delegate feedback. Discussion took place during two workshops hosted by the board. About 100 delegates attended workshops sandwiched between the two business sessions. While the majority of workshop attendees spoke in support of the new strategy, they also raised questions about implementation and offered suggestions.
Because the Future Story does not alter USMB bylaws or change the Confession of Faith, delegates did not vote on it.
“We’re simply asking if you can get on board with us,” Schroeder said. “We’re moving in this direction — the direction we think God is leading. Do you want to move with us?”
Later that afternoon, delegates officially answered his question. The minutes indicate all delegates stood when invited to do so as an indication of their commitment to stand with the board “as we move forward into this future story.”
“I am excited about what God has called us to,” Morris said. “This is an opportunity to be a conference of churches that is dynamic in our communities all around the country. While other denominations are struggling, we are saying, ‘God, we’re ready to go.’ ”
Convention attendance, including children, was 263, of which 120 were delegates.