Mennonite Church USA will hold assemblies on a three-year cycle if delegates approve a proposal from the denomination’s Executive Board.
The board unanimously endorsed the plan — which will go to delegates at the next convention, July 4-8 in Kansas City, Mo. — at a meeting Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in San Antonio, Texas.
Delegate assemblies, and the conventions of which they are a part, currently are held every two years.
Three-year intervals between delegate assemblies would begin with 2023-2026.
A triennial schedule would match the practice of the General Conference Mennonite Church, which merged with the Mennonite Church in 2002 to create MC USA and Mennonite Church Canada.
Executive director Glen Guyton cited benefits of a three-year cycle:
- It allows Executive Board staff and agencies more time and resources to respond to delegate decisions and to explore new ways to engage youth and adults.
- It is more appropriate for the smaller size, compared to 20 years ago, of the denomination and Executive Board staff.
- It might increase attendance, because having fewer conventions could make it more economical for congregations to participate.
- It avoids conflicts with Mennonite World Conference assemblies. The next MWC assembly is scheduled for 2028 in Ethiopia.
Iris de León-Hartshorn, associate executive director, said leaders heard that people want more opportunities to be together for discussion and discernment, not just decision making.
“The three-year cycle will give us the space to do that,” she said. “If we have regional events, for example, anyone can be part of those conversations, not just delegates.”
Also at the meeting — as reported in a denominational news release — the board unanimously approved a process for the formation of an LGBTQ constituency group.
The action responded to delegates’ passage, at a special assembly in May, of an LGBTQ-affirming “Repentance and Transformation” resolution.
The resolution requires the board to “consult with LGBTQIA leaders to create an LGBTQIA constituency group with representation on the Constituency Leaders Council and/or other denomination-wide leadership groups.”
The constituency group will have representation on the CLC but not on the Executive Board. The news release said this is consistent with other “non-legacy” constituency groups, such as the African, Belizean & Caribbean Mennonite Mission Association, the Indonesian Network, Mennonite Men and Mennonite Women USA.
The formation process requires leaders of the LGBTQ constituency group to provide information regarding their structure and leadership. Pending completion of these requirements, the new group could be represented at CLC meetings.
Moderator-elect Jon Carlson, chair of the Resolutions Committee, presented new guidelines for organizational and church statement resolutions. The guidelines offer greater clarity about the resolutions process and address concerns related to binary (only two choices) voting.
The Executive Board voted unanimously to adopt the new resolutions guidelines for the 2023 delegate assembly and to extend the submission deadline for resolutions until Jan. 9 for the current cycle.
The Resolutions Committee planned to share the updated guidelines with the CLC during its online meeting on Oct. 21-22 before publishing them.
Board members participated in a training about mass incarceration. This was a first response to the “For Justice in the U.S. Criminal Legal System” resolution, which delegates approved for study in May. The training was based on “You Got Booked,” an interactive learning tool developed by Mennonite Central Committee.
The board unanimously approved transferring ownership of the Elkhart, Ind., denominational office building from Mennonite Mission Network to MC USA. The building houses the MC USA Archives and is occupied by staff of MMN, the Executive Board, Mennonite Education Agency and Anabaptist Disability Network.
Nelson Okanya, chair of the Anabaptist group Global Mission Fellowship and a former president of Eastern Mennonite Missions, gave a presentation on trends in mission work. He challenged the board, staff and agency CEOs to address questions such as “Who needs to be at the table?” “Are we engaging our culture with competence?” and “Are we structured for mission?”
He shared his vision in which “local churches will recover their nature and their rightful role in the mission of God” and national church leaders will become partners in collaborative “mission with” rather than colonial “mission to.”