Future of WBI in doubt
The future of Winkler Bible Institute (WBI) will be decided at a Manitoba Mennonite Brethren Conference (MMBC) convention on Saturday, March 15. The convention will focus on the restructuring of WBI and the Winnipeg-based Concord College into one school. The only sure thing right now is that after it's all said and done, WBI will not be the same.
According to WBI president Paul Kroeker, there are two factors for restructuring, one of which is finances. "If our student numbers are low," Kroeker said in a recent interview, "it costs more to run the school." Only 40 students are registered at the present time, which is significantly down from last year's 64 students, and the 1980-95 average of approximately 76 students per year. The highest enrolment during this period was 108 students in 1986.
"Another (factor) would be the issue of conference unity," Kroeker continued. "If a small group of churches owns two schools, then they always feel that the group is being polarised, that one school is trying to attract students and money and that the other school is trying to attract students and money." MMBC also owns and operates Concord College.
Delegates at the March 15 convention will decide on one of two options concerning WBI. The first option is based on a recommendation by CRC, a review committee designed to look into the futures of both WBI and Concord College, both of which are owned and operated by MMBC. The recommendation reads as follows: "The CRC recommends that the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba establish one cohesive post-secondary Christian education program with multi-tracks: certificate, diploma, and degree programs." The recommendation goes on to state that the new school would be located in an urban setting, eliminating the 72-year-old WBI.
The second alternative is based on the recommendations of the WBI Board. This "Plan B" option includes the bolstering of the WBI program at the present Winkler facility. The amalgamation of schools would still take place but, instead of having the resulting school located in Winnipeg, it would be based at a revamped Winkler Bible Institute campus.
Winkler Bible Institute was founded in 1925 by Abraham H. Unruh for the purpose of training pastors for the new Canadian Mennonite Brethren Churches. It currently has up to 15 full- and part-time employees.