SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Mennonite Church USA) — The Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) gathered in San Antonio, Texas, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2022, for its first meeting since the Special Session of the Delegate Assembly this spring. Executive Board members adopted a new resolutions process, responded to the actions of the Delegate Assembly, and proposed a new three-year cycle for future Delegate Assemblies. They also discussed shifting paradigms impacting the denomination’s approach to missions.
The work of the Executive Board was guided by the decisions and feedback from the 2022 Special Session of the Delegate Assembly and informed by the key findings of the soon-to-be published denominational survey, titled “The Mennonite Experience: MC USA Membership Study 2021-2022 by MC USA and Springtide Research Institute.” See the Executive Summary here.
New resolutions process approved
Moderator-Elect Jon Carlson, chair of the Resolutions Committee, presented the new guidelines for organizational and church statement resolutions. The guidelines offer greater clarity about the resolutions process and address concerns related to binary voting. The Executive Board voted unanimously to adopt the new resolutions guidelines for the 2023 Delegate Assembly and to extend the submission deadline for resolutions until Jan. 9, 2023, for the current cycle. The Resolutions Committee will share the updated guidelines with the CLC during its online meeting on October 21-22, 2022, prior to publishing them.
Process for new constituency group begins
The Executive Board responded to the May 2022 Delegate Assembly adoption of “A Resolution for Repentance and Transformation,” by unanimously approving a process for the formation of an LGBTQIA constituency group. The resolution requires that “the Executive Board consult with LGBTQIA leaders to create an LGBTQIA constituency group with representation on the Constituency Leaders Council and/or other denomination-wide leadership groups.”
Associate Executive Director Iris de León-Hartshorn presented the process proposal on behalf of the Executive Board staff and explained that the new constituency group will have representation on the CLC, but not on the Executive Board. This is consistent with other non-legacy constituency groups, such as the African, Belizean & Caribbean Mennonite Mission Association, the Indonesian Network, Mennonite Men and Mennonite Women USA. The formational process requires leaders of the LGBTQIA constituency group to provide information regarding their organizational structure and leadership. Pending completion of these requirements, the new constituency group could have representation at upcoming CLC meetings.
Executive Board responds to “For Justice” resolution
The Executive Board members participated in a training about mass incarceration, led by Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, MC USA denominational minister for peace and justice, and Karin Kaufman Wall, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Central States peace & justice coordinator, with assistance from Abby Endashaw, MCC Summer Service national coordinator. The training was a first response to the “For Justice in the U.S. Criminal Legal System” study resolution and was based on “You Got Booked,” an interactive learning tool developed by MCC.
“You Got Booked” provides participants with insights into the challenges in the U.S. criminal justice system and is one of the recommended learning tools highlighted in MC USA’s “Learn, Pray, Join: Mass Incarceration.” MCC is a ministry partner of MC USA.
Proposal for triennial Delegate Assembly
The Executive Board voted unanimously to present an organizational resolution to the Delegate Assembly to make the appropriate bylaw changes and policy switch from a biennial Delegate Assembly to a triennial Delegate Assembly, beginning in 2026.
Executive Director Glen Guyton presented the proposal, along with the staff’s recommendation to also hold the MennoCon convention every three years beginning in 2026.
Guyton pointed out the benefits of a longer three-year Delegate Assembly/convention cycle:
- Allows Executive Board staff and agencies more time and resources to respond to Delegate Assembly decisions and to explore new ways to engage youth and adults.
- More appropriate for the smaller size of the denomination and the Executive Board staff.
- May increase attendance, as the decreased frequency may make it more economical for congregations to participate.
- Reduces financial risk for the denomination.
- Eliminates conflicts with the Mennonite World Conference assembly schedule.
“What we heard at the last Delegate Assembly is that people want more opportunities to be together for discussion and discernment, not just for decision making,” said de León-Hartshorn. “The three-year cycle will give us the space to do that. If we have regional events, for example, anyone can be part of those conversations, not just delegates,” she added.
Elkhart building ownership transferred to MC USA
In accordance with a 2011 memo of understanding, the Executive Board unanimously approved a motion allowing MC USA to call for ownership of the title of the Elkhart, Indiana, office building and to take responsibility for building management. Mennonite Mission Network, an agency of MC USA, currently holds the title. The building houses the MC USA Archives and is occupied by staffers from MC USA Executive Board, Mennonite Education Agency, Mennonite Mission Network and ministry partner Anabaptist Disability Network.
The future of mission
Dr. Nelson Okanya, chair of Global Mission Fellowship, shared a presentation on trends in missions work, noting a paradigm shift from a colonial “mission to” philosophy to a more collaborative “mission with” approach.
He challenged the Executive Board, staff and agency CEOs to address questions, such as, “What priorities do we need to guide our efforts?” “Who needs to be at the table?” “Are we engaging our culture with competence?” “How do we do this together?” and “Are we structured for mission?”
“The Anabaptist story is a missional story,” Okanya said. He shared his vision for the future in which “local churches will recover their nature and their rightful role in the mission of God” and “national church leaders will become integral partners in ‘mission with.’”
Moderator Linda Dibble led a follow-up conversation that addressed the future of mission in MC USA as well as questions about how this relates to derived and international congregational membership.
Guyton reminded the Executive Board that, “While we have work and roles to do as we serve the body Christ, we must never forget that the salvation and hope of the Church comes through Christ and not our processes. Our job is not to be anxious [or] fearful …. Our job is to be faithful stewards of our calling.”
The next Executive Board will meet online via Zoom on Jan. 27-28, 2023.
Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, approximately 550 congregations and 59,000 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
By MC USA staff
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