By Terry Shue
All relationships require an understanding of what is expected of each party in various situations. Healthy relationships know the value of talking about these expectations, and getting them out in the open early and often.
As new realities surface, re-visiting these understandings periodically to see what might need to be adjusted is a proactive way to retain a healthy relationship. Without such work, unknown and unspoken expectations lead to unnecessary frustrations and relational stress.
In the same way, a common understanding of how we do things in the church is a service to local congregations and persons in ministry leadership. Since its publication in 1996, “A Mennonite Polity for Ministerial Leadership” has served us well, identifying and articulating the agreed upon best paths for the well-being of all.
This work framed important conversations and understandings for congregations and persons from different Mennonite backgrounds. “The Polity Book”, as it is often referred to, has served our denomination in creating a place to guide us in needed understandings of best practices for the church in the area of ministerial leadership. Every pastor and church leadership team would do well to have a copy and be familiar with it.
With that said, in these past decades much in our world and the church has changed. At the time of the earlier writing, no one had heard of Mennonite Church USA and could not have imagined Tweets, Google or Facebook, nor the implications they would have on our lives. With these and many other changes in the past twenty years, we have decided to revise the polity handbook to reflect the current realities of today in the church and our world.
Building upon the good work of those who wrote the first edition, denominational ministers from both Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA are drawing upon their own experience as well as the wisdom of Area Church and Conference leaders who use the document extensively. These revisions name the new reality of the missional church we believe God is calling us to become as well as help reflect upon the effect this has on how we view the church and ministerial leadership in particular.
The intent of the content is not to be used as a strict rule book, nor is there any assumption that every possible ministry question is addressed in its pages. It is however our effort to build lasting relationships of respect and integrity between congregations and their credentialed leaders. Our prayer is that these efforts will help facilitate strong congregations and actualized pastoral leaders to more fully live out our vocational calling, together.
The revised handbook of pastoral leadership will be available in the spring of 2014.