Laura Brenneman, Terry Brensinger and Dennis Edwards are the featured speakers for “The Bible through Anabaptist Eyes: Christ at the Center,” on Saturday, April 18, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Penn View Christian School.
The three Anabaptist biblical scholars will interact with participants through presentations and discussion.
Laura Brenneman will start with “Biblical Interpretation in an Anabaptist Perspective: Joshua, Jonah, Jesus.” She teaches at Eastern Mennonite University and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, as well as the University of Illinois, including a program in a men’s prison. Brenneman previously taught religious studies at Bluffton University, and is the co-editor of Struggles for Shalom: Peace and Violence across the Testaments.
Terry Brensinger will present on “Reading the Old Testament with ‘New Eyes.’” He is vice president of Fresno Pacific University, dean of the Biblical Seminary, and professor of pastoral ministries. Brensinger is best known to Mennonites as the author of Judges, in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series by Herald Press. He previously taught Old Testament studies and chaired the Biblical and Religious Studies Department at Messiah College (Grantham, Pennsylvania). Brensinger is an ordained minister in the Brethren in Christ Church and trained spiritual director. Most recently, he served as the international pastor/teacher for the International Brethren in Christ Association, a position that took him around the world to train pastors.
Dennis Edwards will teach about “Word and Spirit: Interpreting the New Testament.” He is the senior pastor at Sanctuary Covenant Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. A biblical scholar and chemical engineer by training, Dennis has been in urban ministry for more than two decades, having served at churches in Brooklyn, New York and Washington, D.C. He has taught New Testament studies at St. Mary’s Seminary and University and Bethel Seminary of the East.
“The Bible through Anabaptist Eyes” is sponsored by Franconia Conference’s Ministerial Committee, in response to conference delegates’ interests in biblical interpretation from an Anabaptist perspective. This free event is open to everyone; credentialed leaders, teachers, delegates and lay leaders are especially encouraged to participate.
Registration is required; to register, go to the conference website or call 267-932-6050, ext. 110 or 610-277-1729. Donations for lunch will be accepted.
Penn View Christian School is located at 420 Godshall Road, Souderton.
Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as minister of worship.
Steve Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation, provided this update from the March & April meetings of the Credentials and Ministerial Committees:
Hadi Sunarto (East Rutherford, NJ) was approved for a license for specific the ministry of deacon at Philadelphia Praise Center.
Krista Showalter Ehst (Bally, PA) was approved with a license toward ordination to serve as pastor at Alpha (NJ) Mennonite Church.
Bill Martin was approved with a license toward ordination and to serve as associate pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church.
Danilo Sanchez (Whitehall congregation) was approved to serve as Allentown area youth minister with a license toward ordination.
Donna Merow was approved for ordination and continues to serve as pastor at Ambler (Pa) Mennonite Church.
Several new members have been added to the Ministerial and Credentials committees.
Mike Clemmer (Towamencin) and Marlene Frankenfield (Salford) have been named to the Ministerial Committee. Heidi Hochstetler (Bally) resigned her position from the committee earlier this year. Continuing Ministerial Committtee members include: Verle Brubaker (Swamp), Ken Burkholder (Deep Run East), Carolyn Egli (Whitehall), Janet Panning (Plains), Mary Nitzsche (Blooming Glen), Jim Williams (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life).
Aldo Siahaan (Philadelphia Praise) and Marta Castillo (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life) have been named to three year terms on the credentials committee. Continuing committee members include: Rose Bender (Whitehall), Verle Brubaker (Swamp) and Mike Clemmer (Towamencin).
Steve Kriss began serving as Conference staff liaison for both committees since the retirement of Noah Kolb late in 2013.
For Noah Kolb, the journey has moved in unexpected places, bringing challenges and blessings alike. Reflecting on a 45 year ministerial career—the most recent 14 of which he spent in Franconia Conference leadership—Noah says, “I could not have dreamed this path and in many ways it has felt like God has nudged and moved me along step by step.” As Noah anticipates his retirement years, he continues to experience those divine nudgings, offering words of wisdom from his ministerial work.
Noah was born and raised in a farming family in Spring City, Pa. He felt the call to ministry at a fairly young age, and this call was drawn out and affirmed by many people along the road. Noah names teachers, in-laws, mentors, and seminary professors at Goshen Biblical as central to discerning and following his call. Perhaps most significantly of all, Noah’s wife Sara has brought wisdom and counsel—as well as her own gifts of hospitality and relationship-building—that have helped Noah live into his calling. As he says, “I would not have wanted to do the journey without her.”
That journey took Noah and his family to many different ministerial settings. He spent 24 years in pastoral ministry: beginning part time at Pottstown (Pa.) Mennonite, moving to Swamp congregation (Quakertown, Pa.) for 11 years, and then serving the Bellwood Congregation in Nebraska for 5 years. The leadership skills he exhibited during those years resulted in his call into conference ministry. After serving as the only Iowa-Nebraska conference minister for a number of years, he returned to the east coast. Jim Lapp, his brother-in-law and a former conference colleague, remembers that transition. “Noah’s strength as a leader arises from his lack of pretense and aspiration for recognition and a genuine humility and gentle spirit,” Jim shares. “It was his strong churchmanship and character that led us to call him in 2000 to serve as part of the Conference Ministry Team [of Franconia Conference].”
Conference ministry brought its own set of challenges and learnings. For Noah, one significant area of growth was in conflict management. Noah grew up with very little understanding of conflict and became quite anxious when faced with it. As a pastor and conference minister, however, he was quick to realize that “wherever you have two or three gathered, there will be conflict.” Noah worked hard to wrestle with his aversion to conflict and to develop a non-anxious presence. He tried to create safe spaces where people could gather to talk and to share openly about their differences. As is so often the case, Noah remembers his times of helping congregations to move through conflict as some of the most difficult and rewarding moments of his career.
As he’s worked alongside congregations, Noah has realized the importance of building relationships. He believes leaders cannot be effective without building trust with their congregations. Undoubtedly shaped by the many mentors in his own life, Noah has worked to build this trust by prioritizing one-on-one relationships with pastors, taking the time to listen to their stories and to know them more deeply. One leader who has benefited from this relational approach is , currently leading Peace Proclamation Ministries International in India and a member of Plains congregation, where Noah and Sara also attend. “Noah has energized me with his natural ability as a servant leader,” says. “I have seen and experienced in him the qualities of gentleness and love.”
As he moves into retirement, Noah continues to model gentleness, strength, relationality, and the willingness to listen in the midst of difference. “We live with a lot of judgment towards each other and we don’t know how to receive and accept each other graciously as brothers and sisters in Christ even with our diversity,” Noah reflects. “One of my deep convictions is that we need to work at a greater understanding of God’s grace and mercy—that God has received and uses us amazingly in our brokenness and that we can extend that grace to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. My deep yearning is that we can somehow learn to do that much better—not a sense that anything goes, but an extending of mercy and grace and compassion to each other in the midst of our brokenness.”
While Noah has faced challenges in the last few years of ministry as he struggled with failing vision, his care and giftedness as a pastor to leaders has continued to shine through. “While it is indeed true that he is having a struggle with his physical eyesight, the spiritual eyesight of my brother continues to grow,” said Ertell Whigham, Franconia’s Executive Minister, at the 2013 Conference Assembly in November. “[Noah is] able to see the needs and the care and the encouragement and the guidance and the wisdom that our brothers and sisters who serve in ministry need. And so, while indeed there may be some struggles with [his] physical eyesight, I thank God for [his] spiritual eyesight…. I have truly been transformed through our intercultural interaction.”
The Ministerial Committee met on September 5 and November 7. At our September meeting, we welcomed Ubaldo Rodriguez as a new member of the committee. We took action to approve Kristopher Wint, associate pastor of Finland congregation, for a two-year ministerial license toward ordination and accepted the ordination credentials of John Stoltzfus, conference youth minister and campus pastor at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, from Illinois Conference.
At our November meeting, we approved Franco Salvatori, pastor of Rocky Ridge congregation, for a license toward ordination. The committee took action to change the ordination status of Dennis Detweiler and Bill Brunk from “active’ to “retired.” The policy to assist credentialed leaders with counseling expenses was reviewed and updated. We invited LEADership Ministers and the Credentials Committee to join us in reviewing the policies that guide who we credential.