MC USA director: ‘Be bold enough to speak’

Constituency Leaders Council discusses proposed merger of publications, prays for departing conference

Oct 29, 2018 by

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ELK GROVE, Ill. — For anyone in Mennonite Church USA who feels their voice isn’t heard, Glen Guyton advises: Be bold and speak up.

The Constituency Leaders Council meeting in Elk Grove, Ill., included an evening of games styled after Minute to Win It, where teams worked together to quickly complete tasks and have time for fun and laughing together. — Kayla Berkey/MC USA

The Constituency Leaders Council meeting in Elk Grove, Ill., included an evening of games styled after Minute to Win It, where teams worked together to quickly complete tasks and have time for fun and laughing together. — Kayla Berkey/MC USA

“Conservative or progressive, your voice is welcome in Mennonite Church USA,” said Guyton, the denomination’s executive director, at the semiannual meeting of the Constituency Leaders Council on Oct. 11-13. “You have to be bold enough to speak to what God has called you to believe.”

Guyton emphasized openness to diverse views after spending a week visiting Southeast Mennonite Conference, whose delegates voted Oct. 6 to leave the denomination.

There he heard some people say they did not feel their conservative perspectives were adequately represented in MC USA.

He invited anyone to contribute and share perspectives on the denomination’s Menno Snapshots blog in a respectful and scripturally based way.

Prayerful sending

Lee Miller, conference minister of Southeast Conference, shared an overview of the conference’s discernment process for ending its affiliation with MC USA. The CLC offered a sending prayer for Miller and Southeast Conference.

“Personally, I’m sad for leaving, sad for separation and division,” Miller said. “I hope and pray that MC USA will thrive in spreading God’s kingdom.”

Guyton said: “If you leave, leave in faith. We want to not only pay attention to the congregations that are leaving but the new churches that we are planting and how we are spreading the message of Christ.”

Church vitality

David Boshart, MC USA moderator, reviewed the polity, or organizational structure, of MC USA. He said MC USA has struggled to build a structure that functions in healthy ways.

“How can we think about polity in a way that makes each other more human to one another?” said Boshart. “We need a kind of relating that is always moving us toward healthy structures.”

In an overview of MC USA documents and Confessions of Faith in the Mennonite tradition, Boshart said new Confessions do not replace previous ones. Each is an attempt to describe Ana­baptist faith for a new time. Confessions are best understood as “what the church said when it last spoke as the church,” he said.

Publications merger

Guyton presented information about the proposed termination of The Mennonite Inc. as an entity of MC USA. This recommendation comes from a task force created by the board of TMI and Mennonite World Review Inc. to merge the two organizations.

As an entity of MC USA, TMI is not an independent company. Though it functions as fiscally independent, TMI is a ministry of MC USA, Guyton said. He said the Executive Board generally favors the merger, but there are numerous details to negotiate.

Guyton requested feedback about what gaps would be created by MC USA losing TMI. He also cited opportunities that could stem from the change, such as new partnerships, a smaller governance structure and increased innovation and creativity in how the denomination could fill communication gaps.

Sheldon C. Good, executive director of TMI, said the merger proposal was motivated by sustainability concerns due to declining subscriptions and advertising for both The Mennonite and MWR. The new organization would have a supportive relationship with MC USA, Good said.

CLC members discussed questions and responses, including ideas for strengthening the communication outlets of MC USA apart from TMI.

The Executive Board will discuss final details at a November meeting, taking into consideration feedback from the CLC.

2021 and ’23 conventions

Other updates included:

– Guyton gave an overview of MennoCon19, the 2019 convention in Kansas City, Mo., and announced the 2021 convention will be in Cincinnati and in 2023 will return to Kansas City.

– Guyton introduced the possibility of a special leadership assembly in 2020 to clarify the function of MC USA’s documents and discuss what they say about same-sex marriage. This proposal still needs review from the Executive Board and CLC.

– Iris de León-Hartshorn, associate executive director of operations for MC USA, announced that an updated version of the guidelines on sexual abuse and noncredentialed leaders is available on the MC USA website.

– Beryl Jantzi, director of stewardship education at Everence, gave an update on financial support programs, including that Everence has funds to continue its pastor debt-reduction program.

– Carlos Romero, executive director of Mennonite Education Agency, gave an update on the revisioned work of Peace Academic Center, formerly Hopi Mission School, in Kykotsmovi, Ariz.

The CLC, a group of denominational elders, includes area conference leaders, an Executive Board representative, constituency group representatives and agency and MC USA staff.

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