Representatives of Mennonite Church USA’s (MC USA) Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) spoke about the joys they are experiencing, the challenges they are facing, and their hopes for the future at their recent meeting on Oct. 21-22, 2022, via Zoom.
MC USA Moderator-Elect Jon Carlson chaired the CLC virtual gathering of leaders, which included representatives of the 16 area conferences, denominational program agencies, constituency groups and members of the Executive Board staff.
The CLC also welcomed a new constituency group, the Queer Constituency Council (QCC), which serves the needs of LGBTQ Mennonites as they connect with MC USA’s vision and mission. Randy Spaulding and Annabeth Roeschley represented the QCC.
CLC representatives spent two and a half hours engaging in small group and plenary conversation around a series of questions: How are you experiencing conference or constituency group life right now? What joys can we celebrate together? What burdens can we bear with one another?
Representatives named similar challenges, including pandemic-related decreases in membership and resources, internal polarization, struggles for marginalized voices to be heard, congregations seeking new affiliations, pastor fatigue, leadership transitions, and a need for more pastoral candidates – especially for part-time and bi-vocational pastors.
Leaders also reported that, despite the challenges, they were finding joy and inspiration in service projects, annual in-person celebrations, stories of God’s presence and guidance, new faith formation initiatives, peace and justice work, cultivating and nurturing new faith communities, the emergence of new leaders and growing in their intercultural witness.
Some of the news that leaders shared included:
- A successful thrift store in Los Angeles is helping to fund missions work.
- A new Swahili Mennonite church has asked to join Ohio Mennonite Conference.
- The Leadership Council of Allegheny Mennonite Conference is engaging in intercultural and antiracism training, which they describe as “transformative work.”
- A church in Mississippi is working to refurbish its building with the help of another congregation and a Mennonite Mission Network Youth Venture group.
- Eleven Hispanic pastors and leaders graduated from Mennonite Education Agency’s Instituto Bíblico Anabautista (Anabaptist Biblical Institute – IBA) and the Seminario Bíblico Anabautista Hispano (Hispanic Anabaptist Biblical Seminary) in September.
- Mountain States Mennonite Conference has partnered with RAWtools to host buyback events that have taken more than 1,000 firearms off of the streets this year.
New resolutions process
Carlson, who serves as chair of the Resolutions Committee, addressed questions about the new guidelines for organizational and church statement resolutions that were adopted unanimously by the Executive Board at their meeting on Sep. 29-Oct.1, 2022. Carlson said that the updated guidelines:
- Clarify the distinction between organizational resolutions and churchwide statements.
- Use more creative and nuanced processes for churchwide statements (gradients of agreement).
“Part of the goal of this is to drive more honest conversations about how power works and where power resides within our structure,” said Carlson, “so that we can be clear what authority delegates actually have and how can they best exercise the authority that they’ve been given.”
The submission deadline for resolutions for the July 2023 Delegate Assembly is Jan. 9, 2023. The new guidelines will be published on the MC USA website soon.
Proposed triennial Delegate Assembly
Carlson also presented the Executive Board’s proposal to hold the Delegate Assembly every three years instead of every two years. He pointed out that the proposed three-year cycle:
- Better aligns with who we are as a denomination right now and the size of our denomination.
- Gives the Executive Board staff more time to enact delegate decisions.
- Creates the potential for additional regional gatherings.
- Reduces risk exposure.
Guyton said that the three-year cycle would impact service terms for denominational positions, such as moderator, moderator-elect, Executive Board members and other denominational board positions.
In other business, Alicia Manning, chair of the CLC Gifts Discernment Committee and a representative of the African American Mennonite Association, shared the names of CLC Gifts Discernment Committee members for this term:
- Joanne Dietzel, representing Atlantic Coast Conference
- Beny Krisbianto, representing the Indonesian Mennonite Association
- James Rissler representing Central District Conference
- Ryan Koch representing Mountain States Mennonite Conference
The role of the Constituency Leaders Council Gifts Discernment Committee is to assemble nominees for the CLC vice chair, worship facilitator and secretary, as well as the MC USA Leadership Discernment Committee. The committee also identifies two members of the MC USA Resolutions Committee, who are approved by the Executive Board.
Amy Gingerich, executive director and publisher at MennoMedia, shared updates on the agency’s work on the Anabaptism at 500 project. John Roth, project director, and Mollee Moua, managing editor, extended an invitation to MC USA constituents to gather a small study group to read the Bible together and to contribute insights in the form of marginal notes for a new Anabaptist Bible that is part of the Anabaptism at 500 project. For more information, visit https://anabaptismat500.com/
The next meeting of the CLC will be in person on March 23-25, 2023, in San Antonio, Texas.
CLC is a gathering for conferences and recognized constituency groups: to worship and pray together, to encourage faithfulness, to share ideas and resources, to process concerns, and to provide discernment and give counsel to Mennonite Church USA Executive Board, MC USA delegates, and the broader church on issues of life and faith in Mennonite Church USA. The relationships nurtured at CLC strengthen the life of the denomination.
Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, approximately 540 congregations and 56,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 59 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana and Newton, Kansas. mennoniteUSA.org
Written by MC USA staff