ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Church USA) – The Mennonite Church USA biennial convention comes to Florida this summer, taking place July 4-8 at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center with the theme “Love is a Verb.” More than 3,000 delegates, staff, youth and others from across the country are expected to attend.
The convention is one of the high points of community life for the church as well as its highest legislative gathering. The event brings together representatives from the church’s congregations in 19 area conferences spanning the United States to make decisions for Mennonite Church USA.
“I believe there is great value when the people of God come together,” said Glen A. Guyton, chief operation officer and director of convention planning for Mennonite Church USA. The theme for Orlando 2017 reminds us that for Christians, love is more than just talk and meeting. It’s putting your faith into action.”
Many activities happen outside the business hall, and some are open to the public with walk-in registration available. Worship is a highlight of the week, with keynote speakers this year including noted youth ministry expert Mark DeVries, author/theologian Rachel Held Evans, social media guru Crystal Washington and many Mennonite leaders. Outside of worship, Ted & Co. — a Mennonite drama group featuring actor Ted Swartz — will present a new play based on the “Doctrine of Discovery” and issues involving indigenous peoples. Mennonite Women USA will hold events celebrating that organization’s centennial.
Youth from across the church participate in some separate worship times, workshops and other events while joining the larger body for some parts of the schedule.
In the midst of all the activities, an exhibit hall will feature displays and interactive activities from various agencies, schools and groups connected to the church. Service opportunities with Orlando-area organizations, educational seminars, receptions hosted by the Mennonite colleges and universities and other special events will also be featured.
This convention is a bit unusual, as delegates will consider only one formal business item – a resolution on Israel/Palestine that was tabled at the 2015 convention in Kansas City, Missouri. The resolution calls for peacemaking and relationship-building in the region. The remainder of the business time will be devoted to the “Future Church Summit,” an opportunity for a wide range of voices to ponder what the future of the church might look like.
“The Future Church Summit is an opportunity to take a risk and see where we go from here,” Guyton said. “It is about Mennonite Church USA dreaming together about what we can and should be doing based on our calling as Anabaptist followers of Jesus Christ.”
Mennonite Church USA is part of the Anabaptist faith tradition, a Christian movement that traces its roots to 16th-century Europe. Today it has approximately 75,000 members in the United States, including 26 Florida congregations. Sister churches and mission areas exist around the world. For more information, visit www.mennoniteusa.org.
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