(Mennonite Church USA) — The Mennonite Church USA Executive Board has developed updated guidelines for proposed resolutions that serve as “Church Statements.” These statements, which “receive broad support across the church and give direction for Christian faithfulness” often speak to a current issue and provide a vehicle for witness, study, discussion and awareness.
Changes to the guidelines include:
• making the Executive Board’s Resolutions Committee a standing committee of the board,
• providing greater online access to proposed resolutions and more opportunities for feedback,
• limiting the number of resolutions that can be adopted at any given Delegate Assembly,
• allowing proposed resolutions to be brought to an assembly for discussion only, and
• encouraging the development of resolutions at any point during a biennium, not just immediately before an assembly.
The last change is perhaps the most important, Mennonite Church USA executive director Ervin Stutzman says.
“The most significant advantage of these proposed changes is to remove the time crunch that tends to produce hurried last-minute submissions and revisions, undue pressure to fit it into a crowded delegate agenda and lack of time for genuine discernment,” Stutzman says. “Further, the proposed process will likely garner greater participation in the churchwide discernment process, resulting in better preparation for a deciding vote by the delegates.”
The guidelines identify three key elements that should be part of any proposed statement: Does it “enable us to join God’s activities in the world?” Does it “enable us to live and act in ways that allow God’s healing and hope to flow through us to the world?” And does it advance the church’s stated vision and purpose?
It should also be true to the church’s particular ecclesiology. Any individual can propose a statement/resolution, but it must receive approval from a congregation, area conference or recognized constituent group in order to receive churchwide consideration.
Any proposed statement that receives the required approval would come to the Resolutions Committee, which can request improvements in the text or recommend statements to the Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) for further consideration. A resolution must come to the committee—with a written statement of background and rationale—at least six months before an Assembly in order to potentially be considered at that Assembly. The Resolutions Committee or the Executive Board can draft statements on its own, as well, to meet a perceived need.
The CLC, in turn, recommends up to three resolutions for adoption by the Delegate Assembly each biennium (and possibly a fourth for discussion only), along with the percentage of affirmative vote necessary for that adoption to occur and “the degree to which the proposed resolution is intended to be binding on conferences and congregations of Mennonite Church USA.” The CLC’s recommendations can be overridden if at least two-thirds of delegates vote to do so. Proposed resolutions will be posted and distributed with an opportunity for feedback prior to the Assembly. The CLC can also recommend a proposed statement be circulated to congregations and conferences for study only.
The guidelines call for close attention to discernment throughout the process and openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit, beginning before a proposed statement is drafted and continuing through the Delegate Assembly. They also encourage setting the discernment in a context of worship, intentionally building community and providing safe space for differing viewpoints.
Due to the unique structure of the 2017 Delegate Assembly in Orlando, which will feature a minimal agenda and instead focus on the nature and identity of the denomination and its future, it is anticipated that no new resolutions/statements will be accepted for consideration this year. (Delegates will only consider a statement on Israel/Palestine tabled at the 2015 Assembly in Kansas City.) The CLC could still approve statements for posting and discussion now, however, with potential further action later.
The full “Developing Resolutions for Mennonite Church USA” guidelines can be found in the online Resource Center.
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—Mennonite Church USA staff