Vision Statement (Mennonite Brethren Church, 1990)

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Vision Statement (MB, 1990)

Contents

Preamble

At the 1987 General Conference convention the Board of Reference and Counsel introduced a proposed vision statement for the General Conference. The background to this statement included the 1982 Mennonite Brethren Profile Study, the 1986 General Conference study conference on "The Mennonite Brethren Church as a Covenant Community," and the resultant 1986 Board of Reference and Counsel Visions/Goals Study. The purpose of the vision statement is to focus our attention and energy on three prerequisites of denominational unity: a common faith, a common mission and trusted leadership. This is not to say that these essentials of faith, mission and leadership have not been basic to Mennonite Brethren vision in the past, or to suggest that they are not the foundation of our present work. However, we must also be aware of changes in our society and also in our church. Thus, the form and expression of our vision must be revised from time to time to express more faithfully what we believe to be God's will for us in our present and future.

Since 1987 the proposed vision statement has been repeatedly revised. It was discussed at the Calgary study conference in 1987. It has twice been sent out to local congregations for study and comment. Conference agencies and schools have been invited to submit their responses. The statement has also been used as a working document at our annual pastors' orientations and the board has tested the statement with district and provincial leaders. We are grateful for the constructive critique we have received. Revisions have included a statement on worship and a clearer emphasis on the role of all believers in the task of evangelism and outreach. Every attempt has been made to express our vision in language that is concrete, positive and readable.

The delegates at this convention are being asked to adopt this vision for the Mennonite Brethren Church in the 1990s. We believe that God is calling us to renewed spiritual vitality and ethical faithfulness. Spiritual revival is fundamental to our goal of being a covenant people united in active commitment to a common confession and mission. The unity of confession and mission we seek can only be realized as Mennonite Brethren leaders agree with one another on the essentials of a faith and practice that is both Evangelical and Anabaptist. The vision we adopt at this convention can only be realized as Mennonite Brethren leaders, members and their agencies shape their efforts in the next decade according to the spirit and strategies of the following vision.


Vision Statement of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches of North America

Introduction: Mennonite Brethren are a people rich in memory. We have a 130-year history of faith and missions, community and education. Our tradition has served us well. We also have changed -- we have moved through several generations, from one continent to many continents, from one culture to many cultures.

We believe we are at the beginning of a new era in North America. We are no longer a close-knit rural group, but have moved to the cities. We have spread out geographically to become a worldwide people; there are more Mennonite Brethren in other countries than in North America. Our theologies and cultures are diverse.

We examined ourselves in two studies during the 1980s. The Mennonite Brethren Profile (1982) suggests that we are uncertain about our identity and are not practicing what we believe. The Board of Reference and Counsel (BORAC) Vision/Goals Study (1986) reported that we feel loyalty and commitment to the General Conference is weakening, that we as a people are conforming to North American culture, and that spirituality is declining in the churches.

The BORAC study also reported optimism about the future. We believe the Mennonite Brethren Church is being spiritually renewed, that church leadership will become more unified, that local congregations and ministries will grow stronger, that church structures will be streamlined, and that the church will be evangelistic and growing.

The purpose of this vision statement is to set goals and directions, and to suggest strategies, for the Mennonite Brethren churches of North America as we prepare for Century 21.

The Central Issue: The issue facing us is the question, what does it mean to be Mennonite Brethren people? What does it mean to be a Mennonite Brethren Church? What are the bonds that hold us together?

A church (denomination) is a group of congregations bound together by a common faith, a common mission and trusted leaders. In the past these common bonds defined our identity and held us together. We believe they still do. Mennonite Brethren identity is spiritual and theological. We believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, we believe the church is a covenant community of adult believers. We believe the mission of the church is to help all members follow Jesus in a life of discipleship. Our identity is also historical. We have a history of persecution, struggle, migration, missions and commitment that goes back to the Reformation of the 16th century.


Vision for Renewal and Ethical Faithfulness

Vision: The Mennonite Brethren Church was born of a renewal movement. The Spirit of God created a people with spiritual vitality and moral rigor. People were transformed spiritually and ethically.

God continually calls us to repentance from sin, complacency and excessive accommodation to culture. We believe that God is calling us to new levels of faithfulness and discipleship, to spiritual renewal with moral character and purity. We believe God is moving among us to close the gap between doctrine and ethics, between word and deed. When Christ gives us a new nature, that nature expresses itself in Christ-like character and conduct.

We have a vision for the continual renewal of the Mennonite Brethren Church. We believe God is doing a work of renewal, and that this renewal is spreading. We want to reaffirm that Jesus Christ is our Lord; our life derives from him.

Strategies: We believe God is calling us to a new commitment to the spiritual disciplines of regular Bible reading, prayer, meditation, fasting and quietness before him. We call on our pastors to provide leadership for our churches in spiritual renewal.

We believe that God wants to build a church of strong local congregations, which emphasize teaching and discipleship, body life and community, "need-oriented" ministries, evangelism and the acceptance of new people, moral integrity and purity, social compassion and involvement, and conference loyalty.

We sense new vitality and joy in worship in many congregations. New forms of worship are evident. We thank God for new life in worship. We encourage churches to be open to new forms and styles in worship, but also to be sensitive to established patterns and sensitivities among church members.

We exhort all individuals and churches to be open to the renewal of God's Spirit and to pray for such personal and corporate renewal. Let us join together in prayer and searching for the cleansing and empowerment of God's Spirit for the ministry he has given us in our world.


Vision for Confessional Integrity

Vision: Mennonite Brethren are a confessional people. Our confessions of faith of 1902 and 1975 were centered in Christ and the Scriptures. They stand in a long line of confessions that go back to 1527. These confessions have bonded us. They have shielded us against fragmentation. They have given us a distinctive theology.

We believe that God is calling us to a new confessional integrity. We have a Confession of Faith, revised in 1975, that states the Mennonite Brethren understanding of the Christian faith. We believe it is imperative that the leadership of the Church - the pastors, teachers and conference officers - be in agreement with the Confession. We intend to work toward a new consensus about the Confession of Faith within the church.

We believe the Mennonite Brethren Church is a believers' church and a peace church. The church is a covenanting community. It confesses that the New Testament teaches peace, love of enemy and nonviolence. We believe that these teachings are biblical.

We believe the Mennonite Brethren Church is experiencing greater consensus and maturity about its theological distinctives. We believe that consensus about the Confession of Faith will mean greater tolerance for differences beyond the Confession.

The issues that divide us are small compared to the challenges to the faith in our culture. The real challenge facing the church in our time is to bear witness to the reality of God, Christ and the Spirit in word and deed. We have a vision for a denomination that will devote its full energies to sharing the gospel with men and women and to living faithfully in a culture that does not confess Jesus as Lord.

Strategies: We envisage more study conferences, especially with district-provincial and national leaders, to study the Bible and talk together about the meaning of our Confession of Faith.

We believe that our schools of theological education have been powerful bonding forces in our churches. We encourage our schools to uphold and teach our understanding of faith. We encourage all people preparing for the ministry of our churches to study in our Bible institutes, colleges and seminary.

We believe that all pastors and teachers entering our churches and schools should be asked to subscribe to the Confession of Faith.

We encourage the preparation of teaching materials that will help church leaders, pastors and teachers in the church disciple people in our churches.


Vision for Missionary Engagement

Vision: Mennonite Brethren always have been a missionary people. We believe that the Great Commission is the mandate of every Christian and every congregation. All men and women everywhere need to hear the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, to respond personally to God's gracious gift of salvation, and to become members of the body of Christ.

We affirm our missionary vision and history. We believe God is calling all believers to be witnesses to their neighbors and in their vocations. We believe that God wants all pastors and congregational leaders to lead their churches in missionary outreach and growth, as well as in the incorporation and discipling of new people.

Strategies: We believe that God is calling the Mennonite Brethren Church to a recommitment to be a missional people. We challenge our churches to 30 percent growth by the year 2000 (3 percent per year), and the church to establish a minimum of 15 new congregations per year in North America. We believe the church should grow to 65,000 members and 550 congregations by the year 2000. We also call the national conferences to target 10 major North American cities and plant 50 congregations among different ethnic peoples with various models of church.

The mission vision must embrace all people. We believe it is time to look beyond our current North American/overseas categories to view missions as the sharing of the gospel with unreached peoples on all continents. We challenge the church to double the missionary force by the year 2000 to bring the gospel to the unreached people groups wherever they live.

We believe that the missionary vision must be integrated with ministries of compassion and service. We call for an understanding of the gospel that is trans-cultural, that is pro-local and pro-global, for a gospel that addresses all human need in the name of Jesus Christ and that incorporates all peoples into the church of Jesus Christ.

A missionary vision increases the leadership demands of the church. We call for a strong program for equipping for ministry, and for the renewed practice of calling out people for ministry/missions. The vision outlined in this statement will necessitate 1,000 new full-time workers by the turn of the century. We believe that women must be called and affirmed for church ministries to meet the needs of the next decade. We must free, employ and bless all the gifts God gives to the church.

Renewal and greater missionary engagement also calls for a renewed faithfulness in stewardship. We call upon all church members to give a minimum of 10 percent of their income to the church. And we call upon all churches and church members to give priority to church ministries and programs before contributing monies to programs of other denominations and/or parachurch causes and ministries.


Vision for Structural Coherence

Vision: Mennonite Brethren identify themselves as local congregations and as a conference of local churches. We believe in the local church, and in the gatherings of the local churches for corporate discernment and decision-making. Conference times have been times of renewal, accountability to one another, consensus and commitment to the work of God.

We believe that we need greater unity within the leadership of the Church. Consensus is needed between the leadership of the local church and the conference about the vision and mission of the Church.

Strategies: We intend to work at greater consensus in the church through a series of study conferences, consultations, and the orientation of pastors not trained in Mennonite Brethren theological institutions.

BORAC has heard many voices calling for more visionary and bolder leadership from this board. The board intends to shape a vision for the General Conference beginning with this statement, and to set direction in the leadership it offers to the church.

We call for greater organizational unity. The Goals Study revealed significant concern for a clearer delineation and coordination of responsibilities as well as elimination of duplication in conference structures. Therefore, BORAC will bring a recommendation for conference restructuring to the 1990 General Conference.


Conclusion

We believe a new day is dawning for the Mennonite Brethren Church. Other denominations are embracing our vision. We believe we have a vision appropriate for our time. We call for a renewal of spiritual vitality and ethical faithfulness, for greater consensus in theology, for a new missional activism, and for greater structural unity. We believe it is a great day for a New Testament church with Jesus Christ as its center. We want to be such a church.

[edit] Bibliography

A Biblical Agenda for a Faithful Church: 58th convention of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, September 28-October 2, 1990 ... Winnipeg, Man. : The Conference, 1990: 20-26.

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