Delegates at the Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City, Mo., in July will consider a recommendation to adopt a triennial schedule for national delegate assemblies, which currently meet every two years.
The MC USA Executive Board unanimously approved the recommendation at its meeting April 13-14 in Los Angeles.
Leading factors in proposing a three-year cycle are “the pace of change and our capacity to effectively implement delegate decisions,” said Glen Guyton, the denomination’s executive director. “We need time to work at new initiatives and also provide information to the broader church about the decisions that we make.”
Less frequent meetings could also save money. Guyton estimated holding two delegate assemblies rather than three in a six-year span would reduce the cost by 30%.
Although the proposal only affects delegate assemblies, national conventions, which feature worship services and other events, likely would follow the same schedule, Guyton said.
A triennial schedule has a precedent. The General Conference Mennonite Church, which merged with the Mennonite Church to create MC USA and Mennonite Church Canada in 2002, met every third year. The first triennium would be 2023-26.
In another agenda item for Kansas City delegates, the Executive Board voted to recommend changing the status of Everence and Mennonite Health Services Association from denominational agencies to ministry partners.
In the new relationship, MC USA would have less oversight over Everence and MHS Association.
Everence is a financial services organization that relates to several denominations. MHS Association supports Mennonite and other Anabaptist health and human service providers.
Kenneth Hochstetler, Everence president and CEO, said the potential change “won’t diminish the deep relationship Everence has with the denomination. Instead, it’s a recognition of how people and congregations are doing church differently and that we need to adapt so that both Everence and MC USA can meet respective member needs.”
Another action reveals the Executive Board’s role in events that led to the March resignation of Mike Sherrill, executive director of Mennonite Mission Network.
By approving the minutes of their January meeting, the board made public an action taken after an executive session: “A vote of no confidence was given” on Sherrill, and the MC USA Executive Committee would “work in support of the MMN board to address the concerns discussed in the executive session.” Staff and Executive Board members have declined to share additional details.
Looking toward this summer’s convention, the board discussed a decision by the resolutions committee not to bring to delegates a resolution that reaffirms a 2015 statement on forbearing with each other amid disagreement.
Moderator-elect Jon Carlson of Leola, Pa., said the resolution was proposed by a progressive congregation in Virginia that wanted to reassure traditionalists that they are welcome and respected even though delegates passed an LGBTQ-affirming resolution in 2022.
Carlson said the resolutions committee did not feel the resolution moved the conversation forward in a meaningful way because it restated what a previous resolution already said.
Board members did not dispute the resolution committee’s decision but discussed how they might change the perception that those who hold traditional views on LGBTQ issues are no longer welcome.
Karen Zehr of Wichita, Kan., said reaffirming forbearance would be a good idea, but “maybe we don’t need another resolution to do it.”
Carlson suggested, “If something like this needs to be said, maybe it is the Executive Board’s responsibility and not the resolutions committee.”
Todd Lehman of Hesston, Kan., added that the underlying question was, “How can we as a church practice compassionate relationships with one another?”