This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Opinion: Bridging the differences

For the broader Mennonite community, the work of Mennonite Central Committee often looks like relief sale auctions, Ten Thousand Villages stores and quilt blitzes.

And all carry out the mission of MCC: a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches sharing God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ by responding to basic human needs and working for peace and justice.

But the work of MCC also looks like six denominations, four regional boards and nearly 90 board members meeting in Akron, Pa., for the U.S. all-boards meeting, held every three years: A meeting that welcomed students from six Anabaptist colleges this year to join in the visioning work of MCC.

Set to celebrate its centennial in 2020, MCC has seen almost 100 years of service, but the board has not always had enough diversity, which is one reason for bringing the young voices of college students to the table.

And that is just what the executive director of MCC Central States, Michelle Armster, reminded board members Oct. 20-21 when sharing from the theme chapter for this year from Romans 12: “So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God.”

Armster said we have forgotten that when these words were written, “you” did not mean just one person but “you all.”

The work of MCC is not something that can be done alone. Its mission envisions communities worldwide in right relationship with God, with one another and with creation.

MCC calls on all to participate in an attempt to serve all who are in need or have been persecuted.

To live peaceably with all was the challenge posed by MCC U.S. executive director J Ron Byler.

The meetings in Pennsylvania represented a yearning for continued diversity and a recognition of the work that still needs to be done.

An Intercultural Development Continuum assessment helped members analyze their cultural competency, something that we must acknowledge we aren’t born with. This cultural humility asks: Do you miss difference, judge difference, de-emphasize difference, comprehend difference or bridge across difference?

We want to build bridges across the differences.

And some progress is evident in the inclusion of board members of color, in the new MCC- sponsored shirts sporting the popular phrase, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” as well as the celebration of almost 100 years of work.

The yearning for diversity continues. MCC asks, “How do all of our cultures contribute to serving as board members ‘in the name of Christ?’ ”

The guiding principles of MCC Central States say we must address injustice and abuse of power, take risks, challenge the status quo and love our enemy.

The U.S. all-boards meeting concluded with those challenges in mind, but with one idea at the forefront.
MCC is a body with many members. We must continue to engage all of those voices on the road to providing relief, development and peace in the name of Christ. And as MCC welcomed college students to the table, a step to engaging more voices began.

Mackenzie Miller is a Hesston College student intern at MWR and a student representative on the MCC Central States board.

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