Organizing MC USA

Sep 25, 2017 by

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Reflecting recently at the funeral for Darrell Fast, who was moderator of the General Conference Mennonite Church when it was moving toward merger with the Mennonite Church, I was reminded of the changes in conference life since his retirement. I wonder if it might be an honor to his service to suggest a way forward in organizing Mennonite Church USA.

The merger brought two polities together, not always smoothly. Issues of sexuality and women’s place in ministry called for deep discussion, with authority issues intermixed. Area conferences have been taking more authority for ministerial decisions. The Executive Board has appeared to lose its authority.

One suggestion in the Integration Committee of the 1990s was an expansion of the conference system, adding three fairly free conferences to the two based in Newton and Elkhart and including Canada rather than have the two countries go apart. The General Board would serve as the communication body between the conferences. Already conferences were doing mission and making pastoral leadership decisions. Mission work was being delegated to them. The role of the GC and MC General Boards appeared to be eroding. When the proposal was taken to the West Coast, it was hooted down: “This hound won’t hunt.”

Today the hound is having pups all over the place. Churches are leaving conferences or aligning with conferences far away. It would serve kingdom purposes for these groups to work at the particular mission in their area. It sounds as if Canada is going in this direction. Communication between the groups could work on the meaning of Anabaptism as we grow in the Spirit together, bringing our own individual expressions.

Donald R. Steelberg
Wichita, Kan.

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