Akron, Pennsylvania, USA – They toured the site of the next global assembly and imagined the global faith family worshipping and relating in that space. They explored ways to increase funding of Mennonite World Conference as a growing global movement. These were several of the tasks that engaged members of the MWC Executive Committee during meetings held here 23-28 May.
The next Assembly – the 16th – will be at Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA, 21-26 July 2015. Organizers say they are expecting around 6,000 participants and the site itself could handle up to 11,000. They said they will get a better idea of numbers once registration begins in August 2014.
“Walking With God” was the assembly theme agreed on after several rounds of intense discussion. A smaller task group had proposed “Walking in the Light of God.” Some liked the Biblical language, drawn from Isaiah. Others saw “light of God” as “insider” language and wanted a theme that would communicate to people both inside and outside of the church. Also in the discussion was a formulation emphasizing unity and diversity: “Many Members, One Body” or “Many Clans, One Tribe.”
The Executive Committee also appointed the members of the Program Oversight Committee for the 2015 Assembly (see related story) and heard plans for the Global Youth Summit – for youth age 18 and over – which will be held 17-19 July 2015 at Messiah College near Harrisburg.
Growth in networking capacity
One indication of MWC’s growth is the involvement, since 2010, of commission representatives in the Executive Committee meetings. In addition, this year candidates for some continental representative staff positions came to the meetings. These organizational structures have been put in place to help MWC be more than a global assembly every six years.
The leaders of the four MWC commissions – Deacons, Faith and Life, Mission and Peace – talked about how to accompany member churches in difficult times and how to help the global MWC community strengthen its Anabaptist identity. They made plans to add new resources to the Global Shelf of Anabaptist Literature. And they talked about ways to relate with existing service and mission networks and a growing number of other networks – for example, education, health – that would like to connect in some way with MWC.
The secretary for each commission has a part time salary – for less than one day per week. The other work is done by volunteers. The commissions have met in person only once since they were established in 2009. All commissions are hoping to meet in person at least one more time before the 2015 assembly, but funds are limited.
Continental caucuses are making plans to select part time staff so that they can set aside time to connect with churches in their respective continental regions. At this point, there is a half time staff position, held by Lynn Roth of Harrisonburg, Virginia, to relate with North American MWC members.
Also present at the Akron meetings were candidates for a part time – one day per week – regional representative position for Europe, and also for Asia and the Pacific. Given the geographic spread of Asia and the Pacific, the plan calls for a part time position in each of three regions in the area.
César García, general secretary, said he hopes that the continental representative positions for both Europe and Asia and the Pacific can be in place by the end of 2013 – if funds can be found. He would like to see similar positions in Africa in 2014 and Latin America in 2015.
One lunch a year idea
“An excellent car, but little fuel.” This is how treasurer Ernst Bergen described the situation currently facing MWC. He spoke highly of the qualified people on staff, on commissions and on the Young Anabaptists Committee. “But all these groups cannot work as they would like to, because they lack money.”
MWC has prepared an “opportunities budget” to identify the costs of increasing its networking capacity through initiatives such as regional staff appointments and increased commission activity. Until additional money is raised, however, MWC is committed to a balanced budget and the “opportunity” plans will not be implemented.
In response to the financial challenge, the Executive Committee took an initial step in reviewing the current per member Fair Share formula which is designed to cover the unrestricted or operating budget and the Travel Fund – a total of around $985,000 per year. According to reports, however, only about 25% of this amount comes in, since not every member conference pays the requested amount.
Other revenue for the unrestricted budget comes from individual, business and congregational donations. In addition, MWC needs to raise money for a number of restricted funds such as the Assembly Fund, Global Church Sharing Fund and Global Youth Summit Fund.
“No one is so poor they can’t give the equivalent of one lunch per year,” noted César García. If that were to happen, he added, the budget goal could be achieved. The idea was picked up by a number of others, who added the suggestion that congregations be invited to plan communal meals and to ask persons to contribute the equivalent cost of a lunch, however that is calculated in each country.
Staff were asked to do further work on how the “lunch per year” idea might be implemented. They were also asked to continue imagining ways in which the Fair Share formula could be made more effective. Any change to the funding formula would not come into effect until 2016.
Among other actions, the Executive Committee
- affirmed the appointment of Rodrigo Pedroza García of Mexico as the new chair of the Young Anabaptists Committee, replacing Kristina Toews, who is now serving as web communications worker in the MWC office in Bogotá, Colombia, and has been replaced as North American representative on the YABs Committee by Lani Prunés of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
- asked the Asia Caucus to prepare the World Fellowship Sunday materials for a Sunday close to January 21, 2014, which is the anniversary of the first Anabaptist baptism in Zurich, Switzerland in 1525;
- decided to create a task force to propose how MWC should celebrate its 100th anniversary and the 500th anniversary of the first Anabaptist baptism in 2025, and also how it should participate in and collaborate with other church anniversaries occurring in the 10 years leading up to 2025, for example the 2017 500th anniversary of the Lutheran reformation;
- planted a tree on the grounds of the Mennonite Central Committee Welcoming Place in Akron, Pennsylvania;
- visited and spoke in numerous Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in the vicinity of Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Sunday 25 May.
News release by Ron Rempel, Chief Communications Officer
Mennonite World Conference is a communion (Koinonia) of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness. MWC membership includes 101 Mennonite and Brethren in Christ national conferences of churches with 1.3 million baptized members.