Delegates reappoint Wiebe, discuss “global elders”
Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, USA — Representatives from 21 national Mennonite Brethren conferences from around the globe met for the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) annual summit 26–29 July 2015 at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
The 2015 summit highlighted ways in which the 25-year-old organization has grown and is shifting beyond fellowship to providing guidance and accountability to its member conferences.
The country reports that punctuated each session remain a highpoint. The mutual support 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 service of foot washing, prayer and communion, a highlight for many delegates.
Wiebe affirmed, global elders considered
ICOMB representatives voted unanimously to appoint David Wiebe of Canada (ICOMB’s first full-time executive director) to a second three-year term. Representatives strongly affirmed Wiebe’s leadership, only cautioning against over-work
Delegates discussed establishing “global elders” to provide spiritual, theological and practical leadership among member conferences, a conversation begun in 2013. 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.
ICOMB conferences in Angola, India and Mexico are currently 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,” said Wiebe. “Community and identity are also very important, and sometimes ICOMB is asked to have a stronger voice.”
ICOMB exercised that voice during the 2015 summit. The executive committee determined that, in spite of reconciliation efforts, the current leaders of Igreja Evangélica dos Irmos Menonitas en Angola (the Mennonite Brethren church in Angola) were 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 their leaders.
Building on its experience holding education consultations in DR Congo in 2009 and internationally in 2007 and 2011, ICOMB helped to organize a global education conference for primary and secondary educators prior to the MWC assembly.
The ICOMB summit began with a worship service attended by international Mennonite Brethren participants from the MWC assembly, some of who remained as guests for the meetings.
MWC general secretary César García, a Mennonite Brethren from Bogotá, Colombia, joined ICOMB for dinner Monday and answered during the evening session.
The executive committee recommended ICOMB members that are not members of Mennonite World Conference “consider MWC membership on its own merits.”
Connie Faber is editor of the Christian Leader, the magazine of the U.S. Mennonite Brethren.
*Click here for more information about the situation in Panama.