Phil Gunther Affirmed
On September 17th a Special Convention of the Saskatchewan Conference of M.B. Churches was held at Forest Grove Community Church, Saskatoon. Delegates voted to call Philip A. Gunther, currently the Senior Pastor at Parliament Community Church in Regina, to serve as their new Directory of Ministry. Gunther fills the vacancy left after the resignation of Terrance Froese in January.
Gunther brings 25 years of pastoral ministry experience in both rural and urban settings as well as over twelve years of service with the Saskatchewan Conference including roles as Executive Secretary, Assistant Moderator and Moderator.
The following is an abbreviated version of Gunther’s address to the Special Convention after he and his wife Janine were commissioned…
“My sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus, I greet you with the words of Psalm 18:46: “The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock! May the God of my salvation be exalted!”
Janine and I are honored and humbled to receive your affirmation. We thank the Lord for His faithfulness in this journey. I feel blessed to follow in the footsteps of former SKMB Conference ministers Ralph Gliege and Terrance Froese.
The call to the role the SKMB Director of Ministry had its genesis in the Spring of 2015 even before the position became available. It was at that time Janine and I sensed God’s Spirit moving us to a ministry unlike the pastoral ministry we had engaged in for the past 25 years. After a spiritual retreat where we sought the Lord regarding our future, we received a revelation from Him: In May 2016 we would know His will.
After receiving news of Terrance Froese’s resignation in December 2015, God’s Spirit began to draw us to consider this ministry with the SKMB.
Our posture at the time was not one of being open to further ministry in Saskatchewan. Both Janine and I called upon the Lord to make clear His plans for our lives specifically through the unsolicited affirmation of others. Those affirmations to this day have not stopped coming; neither did the Lord’s ongoing revelations to us. We committed to be obedient in what was unfolding.
In May of 2016 I submitted my name to the SKMB Search Team in fulfillment of the Lord’s revelation exactly one year earlier and the strong affirmations of God’s people.
As I read the history of the Saskatchewan Mennonite Brethren from Harold & Neoma Jantz’s book, Rooting The Faith, where they recounted the pioneering work of our Mennonite Brethren fore parents, I could not help but to think that we as the SKMB of 2016 have a rich history of kingdom work upon which to keep building.
Our time of being pioneers is not yet done! Our time of being at the forefront of kingdom work has not ended! Sisters and brothers the same Spirit who moved in the hearts of our fore parents here in Saskatchewan to Gospel work continues to inspire us to even greater achievements.
His prayer is that we do it together – the rural church, the city church, the large church, the small church, the healthy church, the struggling church, the newly planted church and the mature church. We are indeed on mission together! This sentiment not only captured the hearts and imaginations of our faith parents here in Saskatchewan, it was central to Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer (John 17:20-23): “My prayer is not for [my disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one….”
Friends, it is when we as a conference of churches stand together as ONE that we will fulfill this prayer of our Lord Jesus – that the LOVE of God will be known in our Saskatchewan villages, towns and cities. This is my passion, that we all see ourselves as being ON MISSION TOGETHER!
What you should know about me is that I serve together with Janine. I may bear the title ‘Director of Ministry’ but we share the call to its expression. I completely affirm the M.B. Confession of Faith. I affirm and am committed to the SKMB mission, preferred culture and guiding principles. I am anchored to the Scriptures, moored to our Anabaptist theology and secured to our M.B. distinctives.
Under the banner of On Mission Together my key objectives are…
- To be quick to listen, slow to speak and immersed in prayer.I want to understand and support the SKMB ministry teams. To understand the office of the Director of Ministry. To understand the SKMB constituency.
- To establish a solid, healthy and fruitful relationship with the Executive Board, assisting them in their work of drafting a governance manual and establishing other governance matters needed to lead effectively.
- To conduct an assessment of the current practices of the SKMB office with a goal of becoming increasingly effective in inspiring, empowering and supporting.
- To implement a strategic communication plan that seeks to inform our camps and churches of their respective ministry efforts, needs, successes and challenges. To accomplish a sense of being On Mission Together we need to know each other. A key part of this strategy will be shifting the work of our Director of Ministry Support to focus on communications (collecting and disseminating about life in our camps and churches).
- To continue being as active as previous Directors of Ministry in the life of our camps and churches: attending special events, connecting with pastors, directors and other leaders.
- To build upon our existing cluster meetings for pastoral care.
- To work with our ministry teams to foster their efforts and move us ever closer to functioning synergistically.I believe the area of discipleship and church planting will be the greatest challenge and also reap the greatest rewards.
- To practice good stewardship and seek a sustainable and viable financial future for the SKMB while at the same time encouraging our leadership to invest financially in church planting, discipleship training plans, Christian education bursaries, camp leadership programs and special projects that accomplish our collective mission and ministry.
- I am highly motivated to build a strong bond with Alberta and Manitoba MB leaders – we have much to gain from an alliance of prairie provinces.
- I am specifically committed to listening and acting upon the hopes and plans rural churches have for outreach and multiplication.
- I see our camps as incredible spaces for evangelism and discipleship. I want to invest time and energy into growing this ministry arm of the Conference.
- To establish a set of Ministry Service Targets. We recognize the SKMB’s office success depends on ministry excellence and competent administration for the purpose of inspiring, empowering and supporting churches and ministries of the conference in multiplying missional disciples, leaders and churches.
- To foster partnership with our CCMBC partners. My approach will be one of well-discerned collaboration. We have much to gain being On Mission Together with our national leaders. I am keen to engage national leadership regarding a C2C Regional Director and an L2L Director for SK.
I share all of these key objectives with the sober awareness that they find their source in a finite person (me) and have yet to be tested in real time and space. I understand that these objectives could be misplaced.
I am open to your counsel about what is good, what is bad, what needs adjusting and what is missing. I will strive to be transparent and forthcoming, always cognizant that my authority comes from you, those whom I seek to serve.
Lastly, I have asked for and received from our Executive Board affirmation to serve as Director of Ministry out of Regina until March 2017 when an assessment of its effectiveness can be made. I would like say that this is ‘cutting edge’ but the truth is our brother Ralph Gliege’s ministry base was in Hepburn from 1992 – 1999. I want to articulate that this is a strategic decision. My rationale is simply that we have the opportunity to set a new posture as a Conference in terms of the Director of Ministry’s relationship with the churches and camps. I suggest we are seeking a fresh way of doing Conference ministry. What better way to telegraph this tangibly than by placing the Director of Ministry in a new geographic location.
As we go from here, I look forward to serving you together with our Executive, Pat and Alex. Janine and I covet your counsel, patience, grace, and prayers as we take the next steps of being On Mission Together.
God bless the SKMB.”
Rev. Philip A. Gunther
Director of Ministry
Saskatchewan Conference of M.B. Churches