HARRISBURG, Pa. — In four days of meetings just prior to the July 21-26 Mennonite World Conference assembly, the General Council took additional steps in the journey toward interdependence in the global communion.
General secretary César García said true maturity is not reached when one is independent in all areas of life.
Rather, it happens “when one is capable of giving and receiving, of sharing with others what one has, as well as appreciating what others can bring to the table . . . in other words, when a person is interdependent,” he said.
The General Council meeting included around 120 representatives from MWC member churches around the world. About half of their time involved sharing stories and reflecting together on themes of unity and diversity.
Alfred Neufeld of Paraguay examined lessons from four historical areas of conflict: the ethnic versus the missionary church, militarism, the emerging versus the “departing” generation, and revival pietism versus enlightenment liberalism.
Fernando Enns of Germany reflected on the difference between cheap and costly unity.
“It is not we who create unity,” he insisted, “but unity is created by participating in God’s relation of love.” The challenge, he added, is to determine the limits of diversity. The only basis for divisions, he suggested, is whenever the lordship of Christ is questioned. On most other matters, he urged forbearance of differences.
Martin Junge, the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, emphasized that the church is always both local and global. A focus on only the local (contextuality) without the global (catholicity) leads to provincialism, he declared. And a focus on the global without the local leads to imperialism.
General Council members shared stories from Ukraine, Zimbabwe, Panama, Angola, Venezuela, India, South Korea and other countries. A common theme was an expression of appreciation for prayers and expressions of solidarity from other MWC member churches.
In their business sessions, the General Council sought to strengthen the organizational structure that makes global relationships possible.
According to García, MWC wants “to develop a global structure that, like the skeleton of a living organism, facilities the growth and development of this interdependent being we call MWC without drowning it with excessive institutionalization.”
Such a structure seeks to avoid being rigid and exactly the same in every local context.
“We seek to be sensitive to the reality of our congregations in each region, molding ourselves according to the different realities our community faces,” he said.
Each of the four MWC commissions — Faith and Life, Mission, Peace and Deacons — which have been in place for only the past six years, reported on their vision and work, which included a wide range of involvements with only limited funds.
The General Council also heard that relations with and among member churches have been enhanced through the work of regional representatives on each continent. As finances permit, plans call for appointing additional regional representatives in Africa and Latin America.
To fund the work of MWC, each member church is asked for a “fair share” contribution based on the “purchasing power parity” of each country. All contributions from individuals and congregations of MWC member churches count toward their fair share.
In an evening gathering, the General Council expressed appreciation for Danisa Ndlovu of Zimbabwe, who is completing his six-year term as MWC president. Incoming president Nelson Kraybill of the U.S. began his term as president immediately after the assembly. The General Council also elected Rebecca Osiro of Kenya as MWC vice president, to succeed Janet Plenert of Canada.