Representatives of Mennonite World Conference shared testimonies of hope at Renewal 2028 and Executive Committee gatherings in British Columbia, though Canadian visa restrictions prevented several representatives from attending in person.
The joy of gathering after the pandemic years of Zoom meetings was tempered by sadness over Executive Committee members and regional representatives who were not present. Visa problems prevented attendance by all but one of the invitees from Africa and another from Asia.
Five international guests and one local speaker shared testimonies of Jesus Christ on March 25 at South Abbotsford Church. Nearly 30 congregations hosted MWC guests for the 2023 local iteration of Renewal 2028 events, which began in 2017 to commemorate the beginning of the Anabaptist movement nearly 500 years ago.
“Dear Mennonite World Conference: You are the angels sent by God to Myanmar,” said Amos Chin. “When we are down, you comfort us. You feed us when we are hungry. You help when we are refugees. You bring us a ray of hope when we are hopeless. The world forgets our condition, but you remember us.”
Event organizer John Roth delivered Amos Chin’s speech about the difficult conditions in Myanmar because he did not receive permission to enter Canada. “Ultimately, Jesus Christ is still our hope.”
“Living in a county where problems are like the air you breathe, it is not easy . . . but we are living,” said Tigist Tesfaye of Ethiopia. She delivered her speech by video because her visa was denied. She is tired of asking for prayer repeatedly, “but we have a Savior who is our hope.”
David Martin, MWC volunteer development consultant, said it was disheartening to see the government delay or deny so many visas.
“It is difficult for us to function as a worldwide communion of faith when the largest population of Anabaptists in MWC are not at the decision-making table,” he said. “MWC will need to find creative ways to address these challenges so that we can truly function as a global communion of faith.”
A Latin American representative was also prohibited from attending.
During meetings of the Executive Committee, regional representatives and the YABs (Young Anabaptists) Committee at Camp Squeah, general secretary César García accepted the offer of an open-ended term to continue in his role.
“We believe that César’s ability to hold generous space for diverse opinions, his deep commitment to his faith in Jesus Christ, his Anabaptist values and his strong belief in the unity of this worldwide communion make him the best leader to guide our global family of faith,” said MWC vice president Lisa Carr-Pries.
Mennonite Church Burundi was accepted as a full MWC member, and the Executive Committee approved the recommendation to move two national churches to inactive status for “failure to engage”: Divine Lighthouse Mennonite National Council of Dominican Republic and Anabaptist League of Churches of Bolivia.
Committee members brainstormed a new tagline to complement continued discussion of a name change for MWC. Commissions were filled out with the appointment of Reinhard Kummer of Austria to the Deacons Commission and Kari Traoré of Burkina Faso to the Peace Commission. Werner Franz of Paraguay was replaced on the Joint Ministry Council by Danisa Ndlovu of Zimbabwe. Anicka Fast replaced John D. Roth as Faith and Life Commission secretary, and J Ron Byler took on the role of commissions secretaries coordinator.