International Community of Mennonite Brethren

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The International Community of Mennonite Brethren – commonly referred to as ICOMB – is the global family of Mennonite Brethren national churches (conferences). ICOMB exists to facilitate relationships and ministries to enhance the witness and discipleship of its member national churches – connecting, strengthening and expanding. It was conceived at “Despertar,” an international mission convention held in Curitiba, Brazil in 1988. Officially launched in 1990 at the Mennonite World Conference Assembly in Winnipeg, Canada, under the name “International Committee of Mennonite Brethren,” it provided leaders of national churches a place to relate to one another as peers rather than as mission churches under the structure of Multiply (the North American mission agency formerly “MB Mission.”) The term “Committee” reflected the position of authority that the mission agency held over ICOMB at the time.

The role of ICOMB has been to develop the global Mennonite Brethren identity, to connect national church leaders through an annual assembly of leaders, and to strengthen national churches by coaching leaders through challenges they face (structural, developmental, conflict, lack of resources, etc.).

ICOMB has an executive committee, elected from national church representatives.

Historical highlights

  • 1990: Founding meeting in Winnipeg, Canada. Edmund Janzen ex officio Chair of ICOMB was elected chair of the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America.
  • 1992: Regional consultation in Paraguay. Representation shifted from continentally based to one member per national church.
  • 1999: Mission consultation in Buhler, USA sponsored by ICOMB, facilitated by the mission agency. Global relief fund established for national churches in emergencies (floods, earthquakes, etc.)
  • 2000: Funding formula established for each member to contribute a percentage of their budget, intended to make ICOMB self-sustaining.
  • 2001: International task force led by Heinrich Klassen (Germany, BTG) commissioned to write the International Confession of Faith. Approved in 2004.
  • 2005: Victor Wall of Asuncion, Paraguay appointed as first Executive Secretary (half time) at ICOMB Annual Assembly in Osaka, Japan. Name was changed from “Committee” to “Community”.
  • 2007: Appointment of Dalton Reimer of Fresno, USA as ICOMB Education Facilitator. First Global Higher Education Consultation was led by Dalton Reimer, held at Fresno Pacific University, Fresno, USA, and attended by approximately 40 representatives from higher education institutions operated (at least in part) by Mennonite Brethren national churches.
  • 2009: Primary/Secondary Education Consultation within Democratic Republic of Congo, led by Dalton Reimer and Pakisa Tshimika, to address the deteriorated condition of over 300 Mennonite owned and operated schools in DRC. Ten action points accepted included the commissioning of a curriculum to teach Anabaptist principles for children Grades 1-12.
  • 2010: Celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Mennonite Brethren movement. Major celebration held at Brake Bible School in Lemgo, Germany. History of MB conferences published: “Celebrating 150 Years: The Mennonite Brethren Church Around the World” written by leaders within each conference. Global Scholarship Fund established. A Memorandum of Understanding with MB Mission assigned administration of the Fund to ICOMB, with money held by MB Mission.
  • 2011: Second Higher Education Consultation, held at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, Canada, attended by approximately 50 representatives. David Wiebe appointed to serve as full time Executive Director at the annual ICOMB Assembly in Winnipeg, Canada.
  • 2012: Victor Wall appointed as Education Facilitator. Pakisa Tshimika and DRCongo Curriculum Committee chair Muaku Kinana launched “Programme de Cours de Religion” – the Anabaptist Principles Curriculum for Grades 1-12 in the Mennonite school system.
  • 2017: “Thailand 2017” – ICOMB Global Mission Consultation held in cooperation with MB Mission in Chon Buri, Thailand, attended by 230 leaders from ICOMB members and emerging national church conferences. Missiology compendium called “The Church in Mission” jointly published with the mission agency for this event.
  • 2018: Rudi Plett of Asuncion, Paraguay was appointed as Executive Director of ICOMB at the annual ICOMB Assembly in Vienna, Austria.

Confession of Faith

The writing of the ICOMB International Confession of Faith established ICOMB’s identity apart from the mission agency (a program of Canada and USA MB churches), and simultaneously established ICOMB as the emerging international authority for its national church members. All members reviewed and unanimously accepted the Confession. The International Confession is compatible and complementary to all national churches’ Confessions. It reflects both the narrative communication style characteristic of the global south and the more punctiliar approach of the global north. The International Confession was made available to all new members as their confession, “as is” or as a template for those who wish to write their own. It has been translated into approximately 20 languages.

Funding

At the beginning, the mission agency funded all ICOMB meetings. Funding by the mission agency was ended by 2014. In 2020 a budget of approximately $200,000 USD was used to fund the travel costs to assembly, the salary of the Executive Director, and a few programs.

Global Scholarship Fund

This ICOMB program provides annual tuition grants to leaders in less-resourced member churches. Recipients are expected to return to their conference settings to serve in leadership development roles. The Fund is a key tool for strengthening national churches.

Authority

The authority of ICOMB is a work in progress. Several national churches have required intervention due to major leadership problems. All cases require significant consultation to balance the power of the Executive Director, the executive committee, the ICOMB assembly of leaders, and the autonomy of the national church in question. Multiply (the mission agency) does not necessarily participate unless it is sponsoring onsite workers. The shift from the mission agency to ICOMB is a significant transition for national church leaders.

Bibliography

Dueck, Abe J., ed. The Mennonite Brethren Church Around the World: Celebrating 150 Years. Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 2010. Available in full electronic text in English, German and Spanish.


Author(s) David Wiebe
Date Published April 2021

Cite This Article

MLA style

Wiebe, David. "International Community of Mennonite Brethren." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2021. Web. 25 Jan 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=International_Community_of_Mennonite_Brethren&oldid=171257.

APA style

Wiebe, David. (April 2021). International Community of Mennonite Brethren. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 January 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=International_Community_of_Mennonite_Brethren&oldid=171257.




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