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Fall 2013 · Vol. 42 No. 2 · pp. 207–228 

Mennonite Brethren and the Gospel: A Theology of Mission on the Way

Doug Heidebrecht

A theology of mission entails theological reflection on the nature and task of mission by applying biblical teaching to the missiological issues facing the church. 1 If, as David Bosch observes, “one’s theology of mission is always closely dependent on one’s theology of salvation,” then an exploration of how a Mennonite Brethren (MB) theology of mission has developed would also reflect their understanding of the nature of the gospel. 2 The MB theology of mission has emerged through an active engagement with Scripture in the midst of changing contexts and realities. Hans Kasdorf describes this dynamic process as a “theology en route,” where successive layers of complementary theological emphases (salvationist, kingdom, Trinitarian, and holistic) merge to form a fuller understanding of mission. 3 This process was neither static nor is it finished and so MBs continue to face the challenge of discerning how Scripture, and the Good News it proclaims, guides their mission practice. Following a review of this MB journey, I wish to consider possible directions further reflections may take in the continuing development of a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission. 4 {208}

Mennonite Brethren have rarely acknowledged that peace and reconciliation are at the heart of the Christian gospel.


Although motivated by a profound biblicism nurtured by the zeal of spiritual renewal and a vibrant mission ethos, early MBs in Russia and North America demonstrated little interest in articulating an explicit theology of mission. 5 The 1900 bylaws of the newly formed American Mennonite Brethren Mission Union simply stated that their purpose was “to bring the Good News to heathen who know nothing of a living God and the redemption through Christ . . . and, as much as possible, relieve them from their distress.” 6 References to mission were virtually absent in the 1902 Confession of Faith, except for the brief recognition that one of the characteristics of the church was “preaching the pure Gospel in all the world.” 7 Nevertheless, MBs exhibited a pragmatic yet “an all-consuming passion for the salvation of souls,” which “simply sought to flesh out the biblical truths in terms of . . . missional witness in the world.” 8

The General Conference Committee of Reference and Counsel expressed a nascent theology of mission in 1943 when it highlighted the significance of Christ’s command found in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20), which subordinated all other missionary endeavors (education and medical care) to the goal of “the salvation of souls among the heathen.” 9 The impetus for emphasizing the priority of evangelism likely emerged as an attempt to clarify implications arising from the 1936 formation of a separate Board of General Welfare and Public Relations alongside the Board of Foreign Missions. 10

In 1947, for the first time since its formation almost fifty years earlier, the Board of Foreign Missions published a booklet of Guiding Principles and Field Policies, designed to unify the work of MB missionaries who had been essentially operating autonomously and “developing their own styles of operation and church polity on their own particular fields.” 11 The Board grounded the “aim and purpose” of mission in the Great Commission, which was exemplified in the book of Acts and supported by principles from the Epistles that were simply identified with a list of biblical texts. 12 The work of mission followed the pattern of presenting “the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone,” baptizing and receiving those who accepted the gospel into the church, teaching new converts all that Jesus had commanded, organizing believers into local churches, and finally uniting churches into an organized conference. 13 Mission was perceived to be inherently ecclesiological, with the church as both the goal and means of mission activity. 14 While the implicit character of a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission was clearly evident, the Board did not shy away from unequivocally emphasizing evangelism as the “underlying basis of all foreign mission activity.” 15 This emphasis was again highlighted in the Board’s 1954 General Conference report, where they stated that “the chief {209} criterion of successful mission work” was the faith response of converts to the gospel. 16

During the 1950s, the Board of Foreign Missions began to recognize that the widespread revolutionary changes sweeping the world since the Second World War, including a growing rejection of colonial imperialism, carried significant implications for their own understanding and practice of mission work. In 1957, the Board signaled a dramatic shift away from a station-centered, missionary-centered approach towards the strategic establishment of an indigenous church responsible for its own evangelistic outreach. 17 Their unease with a rather spontaneous approach, which simply called men and women “to bring the gospel to the millions who are lost” without any guiding strategy, highlighted the ambiguities in an unarticulated MB theology of mission.

The next two editions of the Board’s Guiding Principles and Practices continued to reflect the centrality of the Great Commission for a Mennonite Brethren understanding of mission. 18 The “central objective of the missionary program” was explicitly identified as the “planting of local churches as agents of evangelism” where a life of discipleship constituted “the basic testimony and strength of an evangelistic church.” 19 However, this ecclesiological focus also recognized a new emerging era in mission partnership where the “permanent aspect of the mission program” rested with the national churches contextualized within their own particular cultures. 20

The 1966 merging of the Board of Foreign Missions and the Board of Welfare and Public Relations into the Board of Missions and Services represented the conviction that “proclamation and welfare ministries ought to be integrated, since our Lord and the early Church were concerned with such a total ministry.” 21 However, despite an affirmation of the “missionary mandate as being a ministry to the whole man,” specialized ministries such as education, medicine, agriculture, and material aid were deemed “subsidiary to the major task of proclamation.” 22 The “proclamation of the Gospel” continued to be defined by the Great Commission, which involved “preaching Jesus Christ” and “teaching His disciples to do the things He has commanded,” thereby prioritizing humanity’s spiritual needs—alienation from God and redemption through Jesus Christ. 23


Ongoing questions about the relationship of proclamation and social action prompted the General Conference Board of Reference and Counsel to address the issue at its 1971 study conference. 24 Victor Adrian, challenging the longstanding MB prioritization of proclamation, called for the “inseparability of proclamation and social action” based on Jesus’ “concern for the total welfare of man” in his ministry and the “Gospel of the {210} kingdom” that reflected the “wholeness” of Christ’s concern. 25 Adrian’s paper became the basis for the 1972 General Conference “Resolution on Proclamation of the Gospel and Christian Social Responsibility.” 26 While the Resolution acknowledged that salvation through faith in Jesus Christ can only come through hearing—thus the concern for proclamation—it also affirmed that Christ’s call included “both proclamation (evangelization) and social action (alleviating human suffering and misery in the world)” because they were to be regarded as “inseparable tasks.” 27

Despite the work of the Board of Reference and Counsel, the Board of Missions and Services continued to use prioritization language to describe its mission mandate. At the same 1972 General Conference convention, General Secretary Vernon R. Wiebe declared, “We will reaffirm our priority of church-planting evangelism. . . . We will remain steadfast in the conviction that the Good News is intended to meet the total needs of man but our every ministry will follow from the responsibility to give priority to man’s spiritual need.” 28 Prioritization language was also used in the 1975 Confession of Faith, which stated, “We believe that the command to make disciples of all nations is the primary task of the church.” 29

A dramatic shift in MB theology of mission emerged with the 1977 publication of Mission Principles and Policies, the first significant revision of the Board of Mission and Services theology since 1947. 30 Written by Paul Hiebert, this new approach was based on five theological positions, beginning first with the call to “proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.” 31 The ultimate goal of missions was not defined as evangelism, conversion, or even church planting, but rather “to glorify God and to proclaim His kingdom on earth.” 32 Within this framework, evangelism was important as the means of entry into the kingdom; churches became the avenue for proclaiming the good news; and concern for injustice, poverty, and suffering demonstrated God’s love for people in need. 33

Second, the Board affirmed the incarnation as “the model for communicating the gospel,” and recognized both the human dimension of divine revelation through Jesus and the socio-cultural processes in building the church. 34 Third, the church, as a global family and priesthood of all believers, was understood as “God’s chosen instrument to proclaim the kingdom of God on earth.” 35 This implied a believers church with “a deep commitment to search the Bible together” and equal relationships among the global family of churches that transcends “the ethnocentrisms of race, culture and nationalism.” 36 Fourth, God gives his people gifts to minister in his kingdom. And fifth, he calls leaders in his kingdom to be servants who do not follow the world’s example, which “stresses authority and manipulation.” 37 The primary tasks emerging from these theological positions include the building of churches that “are a glory to God and a witness to His {211} kingdom,” ministering to human needs where churches are being planted, and supporting ministries that strengthen the national church. 38


In 1980, a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission was again refocused, this time around a Trinitarian framework: the mission of God, the mandate of Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 39 This Trinitarian approach was explicitly linked to the revised 1975 Confession of Faith, which identified the active involvement of all three persons of the Trinity in mission. 40 Mission is “first and foremost” the task of God, who takes initiative because of his love for humanity to send his Son to save and to serve. 41 The mandate of Christ, also motivated by his love for humanity, “constitutes the core of the gospel for humanity’s total need” expressed in the narrative of his incarnation, life on earth, death on the cross, resurrection, and second coming. 42 Christ’s incarnation within “culture bound humankind” provides a model for the mission of the church as articulated in the Great Commission. 43 The ministry of the Holy Spirit convicts humans of sin, empowers the church in witness, and leads people back to God. 44 This Trinitarian mission creates missionary churches, which are witnesses to God’s kingdom and are his “instruments of reconciliation, peace, and justice.” 45 This is the first time that MB theology of mission linked mission with peace, again reflecting dependence upon the Confession of Faith, which declared that it is the church’s “evangelistic responsibility to present Christ, the Prince of Peace, as the answer to human need, enmity and violence.” 46

Finally, “the wholistic message of the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus and demonstrated in his incarnation” is reflected in his inaugural sermon in Luke 4:18–19. 47 “ ‘A most complete theology’ based on the whole of the Gospel” must entail a multifaceted approach to mission, which includes: proclamation of the Good News (kerygma); witness that seeks to persuade people to turn to God (marturia); dialogue with people of other faiths (dialegomai); instruction in discipleship (didache); fellowship characterized by love and peace (koinonia); and service in the world (diakonia). 48 The objectives flowing from this Trinitarian framework include giving “high priority to evangelism and church planting among unreached peoples,” providing leadership training and nurture for young churches, and addressing social concerns by “balancing proclamation with social, material and developmental ministries” as well as encouraging a peace witness. 49

The theological foundations articulated by the Board of Missions and Services in 1980 provided the framework for a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission for the next twenty years, although continuing revisions would reveal shifting nuances. A “Vision Statement,” added in 1990, declared, “the mission of the church is to carry the gospel to the {212} unevangelized of the world, calling on them to believe in Christ for salvation from sin and to follow him in faithful discipleship.” 50 This statement again returns to the Great Commission as central for defining mission, although further explanation also includes glorifying God and ministering to the needs of humanity as part of the goal of mission. 51 Another section, entitled “Motivation for Mission,” highlighted the MB impetus for involvement in mission—seeking God’s glory, loving God and sharing in his compassion for others, obeying the Lord’s command to proclaim the gospel, and anticipating Christ’s return. 52

The Trinitarian framework for mission was both clarified and expanded in the 1990 statement. God is identified as the “missionary God” who sent his Son and who in turn sent those he saves into the world as witnesses and servants. 53 Christ’s mandate—now summarized as the call to disciple all the nations—is modeled by his willingness “to cross cultural and social barriers, taking on the form of a servant and being made in human likeness.” 54 The description of the Spirit’s ministry was broadened considerably, where, as the “Spirit of mission,” he empowers both evangelism and Christian ministries. 55 The church is described as a “visible community of the kingdom of God,” which “bears witness to Christ through evangelism and through ministries of mercy.” 56 The “gospel of the kingdom” comprehensively spoke to the “total needs of humanity” including forgiveness, liberation from the power of sin and evil, fellowship with God, and social righteousness and justice. 57 The priority of three “integrally related” objectives continued to focus the efforts of MBs: evangelism and church planting; leadership training and nurture ministries; and social ministries. 58

In the 1997 revision, the “Theological Foundations of Mission” was relegated to an appendix with minimal changes from the 1990 edition. 59 The mission statement continued to be defined by the Great Commission, although now it was modified by three characteristics: “making disciples of all people groups, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ cross-culturally and globally, in Spirit-empowered obedience to Christ’s Commission and in partnership with local MB churches.” 60 The priorities of a Trinitarian theological framework remained focused on evangelism and the establishment of indigenous churches, leadership training and nurture ministries that are Anabaptist in orientation, and social ministries, specifically as an initial witness. 61 Social ministries were understood to be “integral in the building of churches that glorify God and witness effectively to the Kingdom of God” since they attend to the needs of the whole person, “particularly in situations of poverty,” and by seeking peace and addressing issues of injustice. 62 The perception that social ministries was “integral in the building of churches” represented a subtle reintroduction of prioritization language not explicit in previous statements. 63 {213}


The 1999 Confession of Faith provided a much more extensive holistic theology of mission than its predecessors. 64 The continuing focus on a Trinitarian involvement in mission highlighted the Father sending the Son for the salvation of the world, the Son proclaiming the reign of God through word and deed by bringing good news to the poor and triumphing over sin, and the Spirit convicting people of sin and empowering the church as witnesses. 65 The total domination of humanity by the power of sin was understood to disrupt God’s purposes and alienate “humans from God, and thus from creation, each other, and themselves.” 66 Salvation is God’s initiative to “accomplish deliverance and healing, redemption and restoration in a world dominated by sin” by reconciling “the world to Himself by the atoning blood of Jesus.” 67 The church “makes Christ visible” and “witnesses to God’s reign in the world,” thus revealing “God’s saving purposes to the world.” 68

For the first time, the Confession brought together the Great Commission and the Great Commandment as the biblical basis for mission and as a means for integrating “telling the good news” and “doing acts of love and compassion.” 69 The “Commentary” recognized that since Christ gives “meaning to the gospel both in words and by example,” the church’s “integrated witness of deeds and words” must include the following: the witness of commitment as a transformed community, the witness of love through practical expressions, the witness of community before a watching world, the witness of peace and justice, and the witness of words regarding the good news of Christ. 70 The “Pastoral Application” called for understanding “the gospel in terms of both evangelism and social concern” because “the good news of God’s reconciling love is holistic, encompassing spiritual, social, relational, and physical aspects of human experience.” 71 Since “God in Christ reconciles people to Himself and to one another,” believers seek to be agents of reconciliation by demonstrating Christ’s love through their care for the poor, alleviation of suffering, promotion of justice, peace-making, and resistance of exploitation of the earth and people. 72 At the same time, MBs believe “the saving grace of God in Jesus is the only means of reconciling humanity with God,” which calls them to “proclaim Christ as the only way of salvation to all people in all cultures.” 73

Following the dissolution of the bi-national General Conference structure in 2002, the board of Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services International (MBMSI) developed a strategic vision that continues to give expression to the understanding of mission articulated in the 1999 Confession of Faith: “MB Mission has a vision to see churches planted among the least reached people groups (Great Commission) where the church has a holistic witness bringing spiritual, emotional, social and physical transformation {214} to lives, families and communities (Great Commandment).” 74 The recent name change to “MB Mission” signals a holistic emphasis that no longer makes a distinction between “missions” and “services,” but brings them together under the rubric of mission. MB Mission’s theology is currently reflected in a set of interpersonal and organizational values, which highlights “Christ’s commission to make disciples of all nations by embodying a whole-hearted love for God and a self-giving love for others” through a transforming community, which serves as “both the vehicle and outcome of global mission.” 75 “Holistic church planting” means that as church communities form around faith in Jesus, people will “experience growth and truth in all areas of their lives.” 76 The significance of intercessory prayer is emphasized, highlighting dependency upon Jesus, listening to God’s voice, and participation in “the work and the battle of the ministry.” 77 The strategic direction and values of MB Mission find expression in four services: mobilization, training and team health, church planting, and mission capacity building. 78

While “holistic” language pervades MB Mission’s value statements, a separate component of the organization is focused on community development and seeks to provide “greater clarity around the idea of what it means to do ‘holistic church planting.’ ” 79 It is here where a theology of God’s reign is explicitly identified as the biblical framework undergirding the holistic nature of MB mission expressed in “Christian acts of love, justice, healing, peacemaking, service, and proclamation,” which then leads to transformation and the “restoration of God’s creative design.” 80 Holistic ministry, as a visible sign of the “in-breaking kingdom,” maintains that “the demonstration and the proclamation of the gospel are integrally linked, so that efficacy of one is contingent on the other.” 81 The church, as the locus of God’s redemptive activity, is viewed as the primary agent of community transformation. 82 God’s special concern for the poor requires both caring for people and empowering them to achieve their own goals. 83

A Trinitarian framework for an MB Mission approach to church planting is articulated by Ray Harms-Wiebe: “The Trinity . . . provides the relational model, creative life, and sure foundation for global church planting.” 84 Harms-Wiebe identifies the source of the salvation message in God’s love, Jesus’ incarnation and sacrificial service as the model for participation in mission, and the Spirit of God as the One who “creates, shapes, and empowers the church to carry on God’s mission.” 85 The implication is that God’s call to participate in his mission requires listening to God’s voice, responding to the leading of the Spirit, and engaging in the process of community discernment. 86 Harms-Wiebe also highlights the significance of the communal character of the Trinity existing in “intimate, eternal relationship” for the church as the “reflection of the Godhead on {215} earth.” 87 This is represented in the formation of mission teams that reflect the Trinity in their relational life as well as in the complementary five-fold gifting (Eph. 4:11) that conveys the fullness of God’s mission activity: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. 88

The 2004 “Confession of Faith of the International Community of Mennonite Brethren” (ICOMB) also offers a Trinitarian framework for holistic mission within a narrative that depicts how God works in the world. 89 God first “acted to establish a covenant people . . . to serve as a light to all nations.” Then God the Father sent Jesus who “inaugurated the reign of God, proclaiming repentance from sin, announcing the release of the oppressed and good news to the poor, and calling disciples to follow his way as a new community.” 90 Finally, “through the Spirit, God established the church, the body of Christ, to proclaim God’s reign and to give witness to the new creation.” 91 The church as the agent of both transformation and reconciliation calls people to repentance and conversion, promotes righteousness, is faithful in suffering, and shares generously with those in need. 92

The mission of Jesus, who came announcing the Kingdom of God, “was to reconcile humans with God, each other, and the world.” 93 The Great Commission and the Great Commandment are again held together as the call to participate in God’s mission both “by telling the good news and by doing acts of love and compassion.” 94 Since “peace and reconciliation are at the heart of the Christian gospel,” churches model the “in-breaking of the Kingdom of God” by their commitment to the way of reconciliation, which seeks to “defend the weak, reduce strife, care for the poor, and promote justice, peace and truth.” 95 At the same time, the Confession also clearly states, “since Jesus is the only way of salvation, the evangelistic imperative is given to all believers.” 96


The dynamic development of a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission reveals how the various theological emphases that have arisen over the years have merged together to form a multi-faceted approach to mission and a rich understanding of the gospel. Several themes emerge, which begin to articulate a unique MB approach to mission: the priority of the Great Commission; the significance of the incarnation as a model for contextualization; a recognition of the need for holistic witness, an emphasis on mission as both ecclesiology (church planting) and kingdom building, the importance of partnership in the midst of globalization, and the significance of a Trinitarian framework for mission practice.

In many ways, the various theological emphases that have shaped a particular MB approach to mission represent a response to ongoing developments in missiological thinking within the larger Christian mission {216} movement. 97 At the same time these shifting emphases highlight the need for further reflection by MBs regarding what a comprehensive theology of mission should look like. I wish to make several observations that offer avenues for further reflection regarding the application of biblical teaching to the continuing development of a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission.

First, the tendency of MBs to view mission primarily, and at times exclusively, through the lens of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20) has hampered their ability to articulate a comprehensive biblical theology of mission. 98 This is not to diminish the significance of the Great Commission in any way, but rather to highlight that it is not the sole biblical text that defines God’s mission in the world. Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Luke 4:18–19 (which appears and then disappears in MB reflections), Jesus’ commissioning of the disciples in John 20:21 (“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”), the concept of “witness” in Acts 1:8, and the “ministry of reconciliation” in 2 Corinthians 5:18 are only a few texts, among others, that must complement the Great Commission in the formation of a Mennonite Brethren understanding of the church’s mission. 99 Furthermore, the equating of the Great Commission with evangelism is a misreading of “disciple-making” within the larger context of Matthew’s gospel, and also fails to recognize the broader view of mission inherent within the Commission itself. 100 While an emphasis on the kingdom of God as well as the use of a Trinitarian framework offer a broader theological basis for mission, engagement with key “mission” texts could provide clearer biblical support for a more comprehensive theology of mission.

Second, the long-standing MB struggle with the tension between evangelism and social action points to the need for further reflection regarding the biblical vision for holistic mission. Over the years, MBs have used various terms to describe the relationship between evangelism and social action: centrality, priority, integrated, inseparable, primary, balanced, integral, and holistic. Yet, as Hans Kasdorf observes, “it is striking how often . . . [Mennonite] Brethren have felt the need to reaffirm the priority of evangelism.” 101 Perhaps just as remarkable are the many different ways in which MBs have attempted to integrate evangelism and social action: the gospel speaks to the whole person, the good news of the kingdom addresses a range of needs, the incarnation is a model for engaging culture, mission is a demonstration of God’s love, the whole gospel requires multi-faceted approaches, reconciliation is with God and each other, Jesus’ own life and ministry provides a holistic example, the transforming community is a model of the kingdom, and the nature of the Trinity requires complementary approaches to mission. While each of these attempts at integration provides a helpful perspective, MBs have not yet produced a theology of mission that incorporates {217} all of these various approaches into an inclusive understanding of holistic mission.

Part of the difficulty MBs have had with relating evangelism and social action has been their inability to realize that the “language of prioritization,” as Kasdorf perceptively observes, “is actually the language of polarization.” 102 Yet, over the last couple of decades, MBs have taken significant steps toward affirming that the “verbal witness to the gospel cannot be separated from practical demonstrations of love and action addressing human need.” 103 Nevertheless, the appeal by MBs to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment as the integrating lenses for mission represents a new development, which may be problematic in light of David Bosch’s counsel that “it is unjustifiable to regard the ‘Great Commission’ as being concerned primarily with ‘evangelism’ and the ‘Great Commandment’ (Matt 22:37–40) as referring to ‘social involvement’ ” 104 Bosch contends “it is unthinkable to divorce the Christian life of love and justice from being a disciple.” 105 This caution suggests there is need for continuing reflection by MBs regarding a biblical theology of holistic mission. 106

Third, while MBs have consistently defined mission ecclesiologically—that is, the church is both the means and the goal of mission—they have also struggled, particularly in North America, with articulating a shared theology of the church that can provide a unifying and guiding vision for local congregational life and practice. 107 This lack of a “thoroughgoing ecclesiology,” which is also characteristic of Evangelicalism as a whole, highlights the need for greater clarity regarding the nature of the church and how that is expressed through its practices within various cultural contexts. 108 This is particularly significant, first, because the vision to plant churches still begs the question regarding what kind of churches are actually being planted—what do we mean when we say we are planting MB churches? Second, our understanding of the church’s ministry and leadership, which facilitate the continuing mission of the church, emerges from our theology of the nature of the church, not the other way around. 109 Furthermore, greater clarity regarding the relationship between the church and the kingdom of God will contribute to a better understanding of how the church proclaims and demonstrates God’s reign. 110

Fourth, despite a historic emphasis on the significance of a peace theology, Mennonite Brethren have rarely acknowledged that “peace and reconciliation are at the heart of the Christian gospel.” 111 When MBs have identified peace with mission, they have typically linked their peace witness with the alleviation of suffering and the promotion of justice, and by doing so, have relegated peace to the “secondary” realm of social action. Yet the New Testament consistently portrays God as a God of peace (Rom. 15:33; 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20) who calls {218} the church to proclaim the gospel of peace (Acts 10:36; Gal. 6:15). “Proclaiming peace,” “making peace,” and reconciliation are integrally linked to Christ’s death on the cross, thus suggesting that reconciliation with God and between people are both essential aspects of the gospel message (Eph. 2:13–18; 2 Cor. 5:18–21). This understanding of peace and reconciliation challenges MBs to reflect further on the relationship of their peace theology and mission.

Fifth, the embrace by Mennonite Brethren of a Trinitarian approach to mission reflects the recent interest among twentieth-century Christians in the significance of the Trinity for both ecclesiology and mission. 112 A Trinitarian framework offers a rich context for theological reflection, and provides the “basis for an emphasis on the relational nature of God.” 113 Nevertheless, Stephen Holmes cautions that this renewal of Trinitarian theology depends “in large part on concepts and ideas that cannot be found in patristic, medieval, or Reformation accounts of the doctrine of the Trinity.” 114 In particular, Holmes demonstrates that the practice “of asserting ‘a social doctrine of the Trinity,’ a ‘divine community’ or an ‘ontology of persons in relationship’ can only ever be . . . a simple departure from the unified witness of the entire theological tradition.” 115 While the implications of Holmes’ assertion go far beyond a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission, his cautions at least should encourage MBs to reflect carefully regarding how their understanding is related to the historic doctrine of the Trinity.

Finally, the development of a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission, depicted above, essentially represents the reflections of MBs within a North American context. Since the 1950s, MBs in North America have recognized the need to work in partnership with national churches and conferences. Yet it was only in 1990 that the “insights and suggestions” of international leaders were acknowledged as contributing to the formation of a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission. 116 Just prior to this, the 1988 World Mennonite Brethren Mission Consultation had brought international MB leaders together for the first time in Curitiba, Brazil, thus providing an occasion for a global conversation. 117 This consultation also nurtured the impetus to create the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) in 1990 as an avenue for greater mutuality among national conferences. 118 Reflection regarding a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission must continue to be done at a global level, integrating diverse cultural and theological perspectives, which can encourage and support mission practice and strategy within the various national conferences. 119 This theology of mission, which seeks to represent the whole gospel, is also relevant for MB mission efforts in North America and offers churches a rich resource that can contribute to their local ministry and witness. {219}

The development of a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission over the years reflects a dynamic process where various theological emphases (salvationist, kingdom, Trinitarian, and holistic) have been woven together to produce a rich biblical understanding of mission. Nevertheless, the ongoing nature of this journey offers the challenge of discerning how Scripture will continue to guide MB mission practice. Observations of the journey so far suggest avenues for further reflection by MBs, which may contribute to the development of a more comprehensive theology of mission. It is this theology of mission, faithfully representing a biblical vision for mission, which must guide Mennonite Brethren mission strategy and practice.


  1. Craig Ott and Stephen J. Strauss with Timothy C. Tennent, Encountering Theology of Mission: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), xix. See pages xviii and xx where the theology of mission is distinguished from mission theology (the missional dimension of the various theological disciplines) and missiology (a comprehensive term that includes theology and history of mission, anthropology, intercultural studies, mission strategy, world religions, and church growth).
  2. David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991), 393.
  3. Hans Kasdorf, “Toward a Mennonite Brethren Theology of Mission,” Mission Focus 16, no. 1 (March 1988): 3; and Hans Kasdorf, “A Century of Mennonite Brethren Mission Thinking, 1885–1984” (DTh diss., University of South Africa, 1986), 646. I will follow Kasdorf’s descriptions of the first three stages in the development of a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission. Cf. Harold Ens, Mennonite Brethren in Mission: Observations and Reflections, 1966–2006 (Winnipeg, MB: Kindred, 2010), 59–65.
  4. I am looking specifically at mission board statements, convention documents, and the various Confessions of Faith as a basis for this review.
  5. Kasdorf, “A Century of Mennonite Brethren Mission Thinking,” 603; and Kasdorf, “Toward a Mennonite Brethren Theology of Mission,” 1. Cf. A. E. Janzen, “The Development of Missionary Dynamic Among American Mennonite Brethren,” in The Church in Mission: A Sixtieth Anniversary Tribute to J. B. Toews, ed. A. J. Klassen (Fresno, CA: Board of Christian Literature, 1967), 155–77; Harold Jantz, “Pietism’s Gift to Russian Mennonites,” Direction 36 (Spring 2007): 58–73; and Doug Heidebrecht, “People of the Book: The Significance of Mennonite Brethren Biblicism and Hermeneutics,” Direction 40 (Fall 2011): 219–31.
  6. G. W. Peters, Foundations of Mennonite Brethren Missions (Hillsboro, KS: Kindred, 1984), 212. {220}
  7. “Mennonite Brethren 1902 Confession of Faith,” in One Lord, One Church, One Hope, and One God: Mennonite Confessions of Faith in North America, ed. Howard John Loewen (Elkhart, IN: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 1985), 166. Cf. the article “Concerning Baptism” on page 169, where the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18–20 and Jesus’ call to preach the gospel in Mark 16:15 are quoted.
  8. Kasdorf, “A Century of Mennonite Brethren Mission Thinking,” 608, 606. Cf. Gerhard Lohrenz, “The Mennonites of Russia and the Great Commission,” in A Legacy of Faith, ed. Cornelius J. Dyck (Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 1962), 171–91; and John B. Toews, “Early Mennonite Brethren and Evangelism in Russia,” Direction 28 (Fall 1999): 187–200.
  9. “Report of the Committee of Reference and Counsel,” Year Book of the 42nd General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1943), 72.
  10. See Peters, Foundations, 56–57.
  11. Ben Doerksen, “Mennonite Brethren Missions: Historical Development, Philosophy, and Policies” (DMiss diss., Fuller Theological Seminary, 1986), 129–130. On page 132 Doerksen notes, “the constitution of 1900, along with the 1909 and 1936 revisions, granted extensive liberty, authority and autonomy to the missionaries.” See Foreign Missions: Guiding Principles and Field Policies (Hillsboro, KS: Board of Foreign Missions of the Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America, 1947).
  12. Foreign Missions, 7.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Kasdorf observes that Mennonite Brethren “see themselves as ‘the church in mission.’ Their ecclesiology has simply not allowed them to think mission apart from church.” See “A Century of Mennonite Brethren Mission Thinking,” 592.
  15. Foreign Missions, 20.
  16. “Triennial Report to the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America,” Year Book of the 46th General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1954), 74. Salvation was characterized Christologically within a Trinitarian framework: belief that Jesus is the Son of the living God who is appropriated as one’s personal Savior and whose regenerative work enables the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  17. “Statement of the General Conference of the M.B. Church on the Effects of the Changes of Our Age on the World-Wide Missionary Assignment,” Year Book of the 47th General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1957), 41–43. See Foreign Missions, 7, where the Board identified the establishment and maintenance of stations and operation of institutions as the means by which Mennonite Brethren achieved their purposes. Cf. [J. B. Toews], Mennonite Brethren Missions Today: A Statement to the Brotherhood from the Board of Missions (Hillsboro, KS: Board of Missions, 1962).
  18. Guiding Principles and Policies of Mennonite Brethren Church Missions, 3rd ed. (Hillsboro, KS: Board of Missions of the Conference of the {221} Mennonite Brethren Church, 1963), 7. The second edition was published in 1961. Cf. Clarence Hiebert, “J. B. [Toews] as Missiologist,” Direction 26 (Fall 1997): 26–38.
  19. Guiding Principles, 7, 8.
  20. Ibid., 7. Cf. “Foreign Missions Report,” Year Book of the 48th General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1960), 49.
  21. “Concerning the Merger of the Board of Missions and the Board of Welfare and Public Relations,” Year Book of the 50th General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1966), 23.
  22. “Statement of Missions—Forward Thrust,” Year Book of the 50th General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1966), 104; and “Concerning the Merger of the Board of Missions and the Board of Welfare and Public Relations,” 23. This prioritization was reiterated in 1969, “In all that we do, we will be clear in our top priority: winning people for Christ and the establishment of His church. All other ministries are important, but subordinate to this.” See “Triennial Report of Mission/Services,” Year Book of the 51st General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1969), 50.
  23. “Concerning the Merger of the Board of Missions and the Board of Welfare and Public Relations,” 23. This approach is also reflected by George W. Peters, who identifies two biblical mandates—a cultural mandate and a gospel mandate—however, “in every instance the spiritual dominates.” See George W. Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions (Chicago: Moody, 1972), 166–68.
  24. See Agenda, Minutes of the General Conference Board of Reference and Counsel, December 3–4, 1970, 1. The issue appears to be motivated by concerns regarding church practice in North America rather than a debate about foreign mission practice. For examples of this discussion, see Clarence Hiebert, “World Missions and Ministries of Compassion,” in The Church in Mission: a Sixtieth Anniversary Tribute to J. B. Toews, ed. A. J. Klassen (Hillsboro, KS: Board of Christian Literature, 1967), 345–60; and Hans Kasdorf, “Proclamation and Social Action in Missions,” The Journal of Church and Society 5, no. 1 (Spring 1969): 24–32.
  25. Victor Adrian, “The Whole Gospel to the Whole Man: The Relationship of Proclamation to Social Action” (paper presented at “Issues Affecting the Life of the Local Church,” General Conference Board of Reference and Counsel study conference, Denver, August 15–17, 1971), 10, 14, 15, Papers and Essays, Box 6, Fld. F, No. 3, Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies (CMBS), Winnipeg. See pages 4–12 where Adrian spends considerable time reviewing the current Evangelical debate. See pages 3 and 12 where Adrian appeals to other Gospel texts (Matt. 25 and Luke 4) besides the Great Commission as the basis for a theology of mission. Cf. Victor Adrian, “The Whole Gospel to the Whole Man,” in “Discussions at Denver,” supplement to Mennonite Brethren Herald, 9 November 1971, 15–20. {222}
  26. “Resolution on Proclamation of the Gospel and Christian Social Responsibility,” Yearbook of the 52nd General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1972), 8–9.
  27. “Resolution on Proclamation of the Gospel and Christian Social Responsibility,” 8–9.
  28. Vernon R. Wiebe, “Free to Win Many to Christ: General Secretary’s Report,” Yearbook of the 52nd General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1972), 27. The Board of Mission and Services chair also stated, “we agreed to be guided by three basic priorities, priorities which we believe to be in line with Scripture and the mandates received from our conference . . . Our first and foremost task is to evangelize and plant churches.” The other two priorities included transferring responsibility to national churches and assisting national churches in evangelism and leadership training. See Waldo Hiebert, “Servants for Jesus’ Sake: A Message from the Board,” Yearbook of the 52nd General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1972), 24.
  29. Confession of Faith of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (Hillsboro, KS: Board of Christian Literature, 1976), 16. The Confession included an article on mission, which also affirmed that “the Gospel is the power of God for salvation and is able to meet the total needs of man.” Cf. Herbert Brandt, “Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services: 1978 Triennial Report,” Yearbook of the 54th General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1978), 66.
  30. Mission Principles and Policies of the Mennonite Brethren Board of Missions and Services (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services, 1977).
  31. Ibid., 6, 7.
  32. Ibid., 7, 8.
  33. Ibid., 8.
  34. Ibid.
  35. Ibid., 9.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Ibid., 9, 10.
  38. Ibid., 10, 14, 15.
  39. Mennonite Brethren Missions in the 1980s (Winnipeg, MB: Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services), 1–3. Two other articulations of a Mennonite Brethren theology of mission were also proposed around this time: Hans Kasdorf, It’s Sunrise in World Mission: A Vision Statement from the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary (Fresno, CA: Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, 1984); and Peters, Foundations, 48–52. For further reflection on the growing awareness of missio Dei, see Hans Kasdorf, “ ‘Missio Dei’: Historical and Theological Perspectives,” Occasional Papers of the Council of Mennonite Seminaries and Institute of Mennonite Studies 2 (1981): 25–31. {223}
  40. Mennonite Brethren Missions in the 1980s, 1. See Confession of Faith (1976), 10–11. Cf. Walter Unger, “The Church of Christ: This We Believe 7,” Mennonite Brethren Herald, 16 September 1977, 24–25; and Hans Kasdorf, “The Mission of the Church: This We Believe 8,” Mennonite Brethren Herald, 30 September 1977, 26–27. Interestingly, Unger references Menno Simons regarding the nature of evangelical faith, something that, ironically, is never highlighted in any Mennonite Brethren mission statement: “True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant, It clothes the naked, feeds the hungry, Comforts the sorrowful, shelters the destitute, Serves those that harm it, Binds up that which is wounded, And has become all things to all men” (25).
  41. Mennonite Brethren Missions in the 1980s, 1.
  42. Ibid., 2.
  43. Ibid., 2–3.
  44. Ibid., 3. References to the role of the Spirit in mission had been minimal to this point. In the earlier statements, there is a passing reference to the “first witnesses going forth in the power of the Holy Spirit.” See Foreign Missions: Guiding Principles and Field Policies, 1; and Guiding Principles and Policies of Mennonite Brethren Church Missions, 7. In the 1977 Mission Principles and Policies, the Spirit’s role is identified as guiding the church in its understanding of Scripture and interpretation of the gospel in different cultural settings. See Mission Principles, 9.
  45. Mennonite Brethren Missions in the 1980s, 3.
  46. Confession of Faith (1976), 21. For acknowledgement of the dependence upon the Confession see Mennonite Brethren Missions in the 1980s, 10.
  47. Mennonite Brethren Missions in the 1980s, 4. Kasdorf also links the holistic message to the cultural mandate (Genesis 1:27–29; 2:15–17), which addresses “biological, ecological, economical, and ethical dimensions.” See Kasdorf, “The Mission of the Church,” 27.
  48. Mennonite Brethren Missions in the 1980s, 4–5.
  49. Ibid., 8–10. Additional objectives included establishing Mennonite Brethren conferences, recruiting and training missionaries, increasing stewardship responsibilities, fostering mission vision in churches, and creating an effective administrative organization (see pages 10–13). Interestingly, the Board asked Mennonite Brethren “theological schools to formulate and articulate a mission theology to be evaluated by the brotherhood” (see page 13).
  50. Vision for the Future: Goals for the 1990s (Winnipeg, MB: Mennonite Brethren Missions/Service, 1990), 8.
  51. Ibid., 8. Mission should express Christ’s vision for the world: indignation with “moral and spiritual blindness, its diseases, its death, its hunger and its violence”; and compassion for those victimized and helpless.
  52. Ibid., 13.
  53. Ibid., 9.
  54. Ibid., 9, 10. Interestingly, the reference to Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Luke 4 is dropped. {224}
  55. Ibid., 10. See pages 10–11 where engagement in persistent prayer for God’s visitation and empowerment is highlighted as the “highest priority for the Mennonite Brethren Church.”
  56. Ibid., 11. Recognition that responsibility for worldwide mission rested with the whole body of Christ provided the basis for working in partnership as national conferences and cooperating with other evangelical bodies.
  57. Ibid., 12.
  58. Ibid., vii, 23–26.
  59. “Appendix 1: Foundations,” Global Mission Guidelines: Vision, Priorities, and Strategies for Century 21 (Fresno, CA: Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services,1997), 28–31. A summary of the Mennonite Brethren theological foundations of mission is found on page 8. Changes of note: Christ’s mandate now defined as, to disciple “all people groups” rather than “all nations” (28), and reference to the priority of prayer as well as the six categories of kingdom activities is deleted (30).
  60. Ibid., 7.
  61. Ibid., 16–19, 20.
  62. Ibid., 18.
  63. The 1980 statement referred to “balancing proclamation with social, material and development ministries” and the 1990 regarded “social ministries as being integrally related to evangelism and church planting, and nurture ministries.” See Mennonite Brethren Missions in the 1980s, 10; and Vision for the Future, 25.
  64. Confession of Faith: Commentary and Pastoral Application (Winnipeg, MB: Kindred, 2000).
  65. Ibid., 7–8. Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Luke 4 is referred to as the example of integrating word and deed.
  66. Ibid., 45.
  67. Ibid., 55.
  68. Ibid., 66, 77.
  69. Ibid., 77. See page 78 and 83 in the Commentary section, which states, “Effective mission involves both word and deed. The scriptural design for representing God’s kingdom connects the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20) with the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37:40) . . . The gospel of God’s kingdom finds complete fulfillment in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.”
  70. Ibid., 79, 80–81.
  71. Ibid., 85, 86.
  72. Ibid., 131, 143, 164. See page 106 where discipleship is the context for demonstrating compassion and rejecting violence.
  73. Ibid., 187.
  74. “Strategic Direction,” MB Mission website, accessed May 9, 2013, This statement is defined as the “gospel of the kingdom.”
  75. “Core Values,” MB Mission website, accessed May 9, 2013, Interpersonal {225} values include: dependency on Jesus, risk-taking obedience, transforming community, relational integrity, and celebration. Organizational values include: the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, least reached people, holistic church planting, MB theology and family, and prayer and the Word of God.
  76. “Church Planting Values,” MB Mission website, accessed May 10, 2013, Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Luke 4 is used in support of going to the “least reached.”
  77. “Prayer Values,” MB Mission website, accessed May 10, 2013, Additional descriptions of values address the following areas: mobilization, training, member care, financial, and communication. See “About Us,” MB Mission website, accessed May 10, 2013,
  78. “Strategic Direction,” MB Mission website.
  79. “MBMSI Community Development: Core Values and Strategic Framework” (November 2010), 4.
  80. Ibid., 4–5. Cf. Ray Harms-Wiebe, “Mennonite Brethren Mission: A Brief Assessment of its Mission Theology and Praxis,” Mission Focus 20 (2012): 44–46.
  81. “MBMSI Community Development,” 5.
  82. Ibid., 5.
  83. Ibid., 6.
  84. Ray Harms-Wiebe, “Our Journey to Glory: MBMSI Church Planting Strategy,” 3rd Draft (2009), 3. Cf. Ray Harms-Wiebe, “Trinitarian Theology and Its Implications for Church Planting,” 3rd Draft; Ray Harms-Wiebe, “The Global Mennonite Brethren Mission Movement: Some Reflections and Projections,” in Renewing Identity and Mission: Mennonite Brethren Reflections After 150 Years, ed. Abe Dueck, Bruce L. Guenther, and Doug Heidebrecht (Winnipeg, MB: Kindred, 2011), 223–25; and Harms-Wiebe, “Mennonite Brethren Mission,” 43.
  85. Harms-Wiebe, “Our Journey,” 3. Cf. “Church Planting Values.”
  86. Harms-Wiebe, “Our Journey,” 3, 6–7; and Harms-Wiebe, “Mennonite Brethren Mission,” 43–44.
  87. Harms-Wiebe, “Mennonite Brethren Mission,” 46.
  88. Ibid., 43, and Harms-Wiebe, “Trinitarian Theology.”
  89. “Confession of Faith of the International Community of Mennonite Brethren,” in Knowing and Living Your Faith: A Study of the Confession of Faith, International Community of Mennonite Brethren, ed. Elmer A. Martens and Peter J. Klassen (Winnipeg, MB: Kindred, 2008), 123–28.
  90. Ibid., 123, 124.
  91. Ibid., 124. See page 126 where the Spirit also empowers believers “for a life of witness and service.”
  92. Ibid., 124.
  93. Ibid., 127.
  94. Ibid. {226}
  95. Ibid., 127, 128.
  96. Ibid., 127.
  97. See Peter M. Hamm, “What Can We Learn from Other Mission Strategies?” (paper presented at World Mennonite Brethren Mission Consultation, Curitiba, February 17–21, 1988), Papers and Essays, Box 18, Fld. F, No. 13a, CMBS, Winnipeg. Of significance are the three Lausanne congresses on world evangelization, which have resulted in three statements: The Lausanne Covenant (1974); The Manila Manifesto (1989); and The Cape Town Commitment (2010). See “The Lausanne Covenant” (The Lausanne Movement, 1974),; The Manila Manifesto (The Lausanne Movement, 1989),; and The Cape Town Commitment (The Lausanne Movement, 2011),
  98. Interestingly, while Peters equates the missionary task with the Great Commission, he defines this Commission by its various versions found in each of the four Gospels. See Peters, A Biblical Theology of Mission, 172–98. For a comprehensive biblical theology of mission, see Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010).
  99. Ross Hastings calls John 21:19–23 the “Greatest Commission” because it not only “connects theologically with the fullness of God’s mission in terms of creation and redemption,” but also because it “connects the mission of the church deep into the eternal purpose of the Godhead.” See Ross Hastings, Missional God, Missional Church: Hope for Re-evangelizing the West (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), 27.
  100. See Bernhard Ott, “Matthew 28:16–20 and the Holistic Mission Debate: an Anabaptist Contribution,” Mission Focus 14 (2006): 149–65. Cf. David J. Bosch, “The Structure of Mission: An Exposition of Matthew 28:16–20,” 218–48; and John Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), 23.
  101. Hans Kasdorf, “Centrality Instead of Priority: An Emerging Philosophy of Mennonite Brethren Missions,” Direction 16 (Spring 1987): 32. Cf. Hans Kasdorf, “Proclamation and Social Concern in Missions,” The Journal of Church and Society 5, no. 1 (Spring 1969): 24–32.
  102. Kasdorf, “Centrality Instead of Priority,” 34.
  103. Ott and Strauss, Encountering Theology of Mission, 145. Ott and Straus go on to state that to separate evangelism and social action “would be to undermine the credibility of the gospel and to be a living denial of the very message we proclaim.”
  104. Bosch, Transforming Mission, 81.
  105. Ibid.
  106. For example, see Evvy Hay Campbell, ed., Holistic Mission, Occasional Paper No. 33 (Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, 2005); Brian Woolnough and Wonsuk Ma, eds., Holistic Mission: God’s Plan for God’s People (Oxford, UK: Regnum, 2010); and Ott and Strauss, Encountering Theology of Mission, 137–61. {227}
  107. For example, see Edmund Janzen, “A Covenanting People,” Direction 15 (Fall 1986): 32–43; and John E. Toews, “The Nature of the Church.” Direction 18 (Fall 1989): 3–26.
  108. Stanley Grenz, Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000), 288. Cf. John G. Stackhouse, Jr., ed., Evangelical Ecclesiology: Reality or Illusion? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003); and Bruce L. Guenther, “Reflections on Mennonite Brethren Evangelical Anabaptist Identity,” in Renewing Identity and Mission, 47–82.
  109. John E. Toews, “Leadership Styles for Mennonite Brethren Churches” (paper presented at “Current Issues in Church Leadership,” General Conference Board of Reference and Counsel study conference, Clearbrook, May 8–10, 1980), 6, Papers and Essays, Box 6, Fld. N, No. 3, CMBS, Winnipeg.
  110. For example, see Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger, Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2009), 48–80.
  111. Confession of Faith (ICOMB), 127.
  112. For example, see Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1993); Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997); and Timothy C. Tennent, Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2010).
  113. Confession of Faith (1976), 9.
  114. Stephen R. Holmes, The Holy Trinity: Understanding God’s Life (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2012), Kindle Electronic Edition: Chapter 1, Location 240. Cf. Stephen R. Holmes, “Three Versus One? Some Problems of Social Trinitarianism,” Journal of Reformed Theology 3 (2009): 77–89.
  115. Holmes, The Holy Trinity, Chapter 9, Location 4610. For example, Holmes suggests that “social Trinitarians start from the analogy of persons in relation, insisting that the three divine hypostases are fully personal in the modern sense of the term, possessed of distinct centres of consciousness; they then attempt to develop an account of the unity possible to three such persons.” See Chapter 1, Location 683. Holmes is not arguing that this twentieth-century shift is necessarily wrong, only that it has taken place and is different from the “orthodox” description in the creeds.
  116. Vision for the Future, iv. Cf. Global Mission Guidelines, 4.
  117. See World Mennonite Brethren Mission Consultation, Curitiba, February 17–21, 1988, Papers and Essays, Box 18, Fld. F, CMBS, Winnipeg. Cf. “Study Conference Papers 1980–89,” Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches website, accessed September 11, 2013, For a reflection on Mennonite Brethren theology of mission, see Hans Kasdorf, “Clarifying Our Mission,” in Committed to World Mission: A Focus on International Strategy, ed. Victor Adrian and Donald Loewen (Winnipeg, MB: Kindred, 1990), 15–27. {228}
  118. See “A Brief History of the Formation of ICOMB,” International Community of Mennonite Brethren website, At the consultation, Nzash Lumeya called for a relationship of mutuality. See Nzash Lumeya, “Principles of Internationalization in the Mennonite Brethren Mission” (paper presented at World Mennonite Brethren Mission Consultation, Curitiba, February 17–21, 1988), 5, Papers and Essays, Box 18, Fld. F, No. 20, CMBS, Winnipeg.
  119. Interestingly, the Indian Mennonite Brethren Conference did not include an article on mission in its recent Confession of Faith. See R. S. Lemuel, ed., M. B. Confession of Faith: Faith, Life and Practices of M. B. Churches of India (Governing Council of the Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of India).
Doug Heidebrecht (PhD, Wales) is currently working in an international setting. Previously, he served as director of the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies in Winnipeg and as an instructor in biblical and theological studies at Bethany College in Hepburn, Saskatchewan.

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