Mennonite Church USA Executive Director Glen Guyton used a surprising pop culture reference to launch his state of the denomination report to delegates at the MC USA Delegate Assembly, held in Kansas City, Missouri, on July 7-8, 2023.
“I believe that Buck Rogers, a 20th Century astronaut, thrust into the unknown of the 25th Century, serves as a metaphor for the transformative voyage that we are on as members of Mennonite Church USA,” said Guyton.
He explained that the denomination has experienced significant change since its inception in 2001. The number of conferences has dropped from 21 in 2001 to 16 in 2023. In the same period, the number of congregations has decreased from 840 to 509, and the number of members has declined from 130,000 to about 50,000.
“The landscape has shifted, and our challenges now demand our attention and our resilience,” Guyton said. “Twenty-three years later, we have awakened in a world vastly different from our rural, quiet-in-the-land, monocultural Swiss-German roots … but we shouldn’t despair. This is a moment of great opportunity.”
Guyton highlighted the diversity revealed in the demographics for MennoCon23, the Youth & Young Adult Climate Summit and the Delegate Assembly, which were held during the week of July 2. Of 1500 total participants,
- 14% were BIPOC.
- The majority were not male.
- 43% were under the age of 30.
- 300 youth and young adults participated in the Youth & Young Adult Climate Summit, exceeding initial projections.
“As torchbearers of a new era of MC USA, we have the power to shape the future of this institution [and] to infuse it with the vision and values that first drew us here,” he said. “We are believers in peace, community and reconciliation. We respond to adversity with love. We breach divisions with understanding. We combat hate with compassion, and we meet the challenges that are before us head on with faith. It’s time for MC USA to remember who we are at our core.”
Guyton offered advice for moving forward, saying “Our journey needs to be less about building and protecting a denominational bureaucracy with unsustainable structures and consolidated power. It is about empowering local members and creating a network of like-minded believers … and fulfilling the Great Commission.” The Great Commission is a reference to Jesus’ instructions to his followers in Matthew 28:16-20 to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
“Our historic peace church is needed now more than ever,” said Guyton. “Yes, the world needs our message of peace, love, community and reconciliation. But we cannot just preach these values; we must live them out. We get there through hard work, forbearing with one another, struggling through adversity and, most of all, keeping our eyes on Jesus,” said Guyton.
During the last worship service at MennoCon23, Guyton announced the theme for the next convention as “Follow Jesus.” The theme is taken directly from MC USA’s Renewed Commitments to follow Jesus, witness to God’s peace and experience the transformation of the Holy Spirit. Read Guyton’s Menno Snapshots blog, “Follow Jesus,” here.
Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, more than 500 congregations and approximately 50,000 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 Camille Dager, MC USA staff.