Photo: Delegate sessions in Orlando. Photo by Vada Snider.
In Saturday’s final delegate session, July 8, Samuel Voth Schrag, a member of the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board and chair of the resolutions committee for Orlando, introduced a resolution on the outcomes of the Future Church Summit. The resolution was tested by the design team who planned the FCS and the Executive Board, he said.
During the Future Church Summit, participants helped identify common projects for the church to work on together in the future and markers of what it will mean to follow Jesus as Anabaptists in the 21st century.
The proposed resolution read: “We the delegates of Mennonite Church USA affirm the collective work of the Future Church Summit, and we receive the FCS Theme Team’s report as the direction of our national body. We commend this report to the Executive Board, our churchwide agencies, area conferences and congregations as a guide for living into God’s calling for our church.”
Moderator-elect David Boshart said the report will be looked at by the Constituency Leaders Council, a gathering of area conference and constituency group leaders across the church, and there will be a check-in at the next delegate assembly, at Kansas City, Missouri, in 2019, to see how the work is developing.
After a time of discussion at table groups, individuals came forward to make comments. Some delegates noted that young adults were not as well-represented in the delegate body as they were in the FCS process.
“This group does not represent the full body,” said Renee Reimer, delegate from Rainbow Mennonite Church in Kansas City, Kansas. “There aren’t youth here.”
Several individuals voiced opposition to the word “direction” in the resolution and Kurt Horst, Whitestone Mennonite Church, Hesston, Kansas, suggested the resolution be tabled for two years.
“We’re too soon in this process to set a direction,” said Walt Morton, delegate from Wadsworth, Ohio.
Sandra Montes Martinez, moderator for Iglesia Menonita Hispana, said, “We [IMH] are concerned about the word ‘direction.’ We need to qualify the word ‘diversity’: Ethnic and theological diversity are different.”
In response to the feedback, Voth Schrag then brought a friendly amendment to the resolution wording from the resolutions committee. The new resolution read as follows: “We the delegates of Mennonite Church USA affirm the collective work of the Future Church Summit, and we receive the FCS Theme Team’s report. We commend this report to the Executive Board. We intend that this report be a dynamic document that is offered to the church to guide further discernment for living in God’s calling in agencies, conferences, constituency groups and congregations.”*
The vote passed with about 10 opposed and eight abstentions.
Some individuals expressed concerns about the change in language and the process that led to the friendly amendment.
“What used to be done in back rooms to control the outcomes and processes of Mennonite Church USA has just been done in public at the Mennonite [Delegate Assembly],” said Carol Wise, director of Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests, in a post on the Pink Menno Facebook page. “Let’s continue to challenge our leaders for more transparency and accountability.”
Sarah Thompson and John Stoltzfus, members of the convention prayer team, prayed for the assembly.
The convention anti-racism team gave a report, naming that there was little representation of people of color during open mic times; the history and timeline exercise that was part of the FCS process excluded particularly the experiences of Latinos and Asian Americans; both in the timeline and in FCS great harms to people of color surfaced and were named; and while there was an attempt to have people of color serving in various leadership roles throughout the week, the church can still do better.
The session also included greetings from leaders in the Tanzania Mennonite Church. Boshart took on the role of moderator, replacing Patricia Shelly, and Joy Sutter became moderator-elect.
*Correction, July 10: A previous version of this story cited an incorrect version of the final resolution. The version published here represents the final wording passed by delegates.