KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Youth gained a larger voice in Mennonite Church USA decisions July 5 as delegates approved a bylaw change allowing more 16- to 21-year-olds as voting delegates.
Congregations may now appoint one youth in addition to their regular number of delegates. Conferences and racial-ethnic groups may appoint two.
Eighteen youth already serving as nonvoting delegates in the Step Up program exchanged high-fives after being called to the stage as the assembly applauded the decision.
The bylaw change passed with six dissenting votes out of 495 delegates registered.
The Step Up participants said the older delegates had welcomed them.
“When I was brave enough to say something they listened by my opinions,” said Graciella Odelia of Philadelphia.
Alyssa Nolt of Shickley, Neb., said, “The delegates at my table have shown a positive response to including me and respecting me as an individual and hearing my thoughts.”
Aubrey McClanahan of Crawfordsville, Iowa, said, “I’m thankful to the people at my table for being patient with me and to Central Plains Conference for supporting me and preparing me to be a part of the bigger church.”
Resolution on migrants proposed
Also on July 5, leaders announced a resolution developed by delegates during the convention. A “Churchwide Statement on the Abuse of Child Migrants” received the required 50 signatures and will come to a vote Saturday morning.
The resolution condemns “the treatment of immigrants families and children at the border, as well as around the nation, [as] a horrific violation of the Image of God and God-given human rights.”
“We stand against the traumatic separation of families, the deprivation of basic human needs and the detention of migrants,” the resolution states.
It calls the denomination to “stand alongside the undocumented members of our denomination” and to “seek connections with immigrant communities in our contexts and to support those in sanctuary and the thousands of families whose loved ones have been deported.”
Michael Danner, associate executive director for church vitality and engagement, gave an update on discernment about the Membership Guidelines, which have been a point of contention due to their regulations on same-sex marriage.
Delegates were asked to discuss at their tables and respond in writing whether their constituents considered it important to have “a two-year biblical discernment process, culminating in a delegate decision on the status of the MC USA Membership Guidelines in 2021,” and whether the constituents would give time and energy to that process.
A plan for a two-year discernment process is being drafted, with input from LGBTQ advocacy groups, Danner said.