by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister
The convergence of weather systems led to predictions of two to three feet of snow in New York City and along the eastern seaboard and all systems went on alert on Monday, January 26. Streets were cleared of traffic, and people were instructed to stay home. The convergence of personal life systems is clearing out the full-time ministry staff at Western District Conference (WDC) representing 35 years of institutional memory.
Gilberto Flores is retiring on January 31 with a few assignments carrying over into February. He and Rosa will settle in their homeland of Guatemala. Early weather reports are indicating that new ministry opportunities await Gilberto in Central America, and we are exploring how WDC might connect with those possibilities.
Marlene Bogard, after serving Western District Conference in a variety of assignments over 25 years is completing her work as Minister of Christian Formation, Director of the Resource Library, and Director of Annual Assembly on February 28. She will become the Executive Director of Mennonite Women USA. The new assignment makes it possible for her and Mike to relocate to Oregon to be near family including their new grandson, Marlow.
And, I will be completing my five-year term as Executive Conference Minister on June 30 and moving into retirement and new opportunities of service in the kingdom of God. As Gilberto notes the word for retirement in Spanish means jubilee, Sabbath years of resting in God and serving in new ways. As the forecast of these changes emerged, it seemed a bit overwhelming, but clarity about the future is taking shape.
Howard Garver has been appointed by the Executive Board as the new Associate Conference Minister for Texas and as Director of Church Planting. He will spend a couple of weeks traveling with Gilberto in January and February meeting the churches and pastors in his sphere of responsibility. This week Howard is participating in Pastor’s Week at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary around the theme “What Is an Anabaptist Christian?” He also took the one day seminar on Mennonite Polity with Janeen Bertsche Johnson. Howard is currently serving as Transitional Pastor at Bayshore Mennonite Church, Sarasota, Florida. He is beginning with one week per month, then moving to half-time in April and full-time in September.
The WDC Executive Board has decided to wait with filling the Minister of Christian Formation role until the new Executive Conference Minister is appointed and an evaluation of overall staffing is completed. In the meantime, Katherine Goerzen has been appointed to head up the Anabaptist Faith Formation event on June 12-13, and I will be appointing an Interim Resource Librarian.
The Search Committee for Executive Conference Minister has posted a job description at mennowdc.org and has announced the opening through a variety of channels. Potential candidates are asked to contact Sondra B. Koontz, Search Chair, 820 E 7th, Newton, KS 67114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Other members of the Search Committee are Anita Kehr, Johann Reimer, Norma Johnson, Violeta Ajquejay, Weldon Schloneger, and Ryan Koch.
This staff transition, may well be the “storm that wasn’t,” just like the northeasterner. I am confident excellent staff will be secured for the future and the writing of the next chapter of the WDC story. I expect that our very strong support staff, Nancy Funk, Phyllis Regier, and Sandra Martinez, will help bridge the transition. I also feel we have a strong Executive Board in place and excellent leadership at the Commission levels to carry on our tasks of
- Sustaining transformative pastors
- Resourcing healthy missional churches
- Networking Anabaptist church planting partnerships.
Pray for God’s guidance for WDC staff and leadership. “For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end” (Psalm 48:14).