“The church will slow down the work of Mennonite Central Committee,” someone told me at the 2008 MCC New Wine, New Wineskins consultative meeting in Winnipeg. “If we want to be a more effective NGO, we need to act independently from the church,” he continued.
Yes, the church may not be very effective in fulfilling NGO standards of professional management and structure, but it nevertheless embodies God’s method of real and long-lasting social transformation.
Furthermore, mission, from the Anabaptist point of view, is done by the church in the world as a witness to Christ. It cannot be delegated to specialists or independent institutions.
Both MCC and MWC share this viewpoint, undergirding years of collaboration.
Both MCC and MWC started in response to violence and persecution that Mennonites were facing in Europe and Russia in the 1920s.
MCC began in 1920 as a service arm of churches in North America to support Mennonite refugees affected by war and famine in present-day Ukraine.
In 1925, MWC emerged as a way of bringing Mennonites together, affirming a cross-cultural faith in Jesus capable of overcoming nationalism and racism.
Over the course of their histories, both MCC and MWC emphasized inter-Mennonite solidarity, shared leaders, supported each other and connected churches around common goals. These converging purposes arise from the Anabaptist ecclesiological understanding of mission.
Mission at the centre
Christ ushered in a global and multicultural eschatological creation. It overcomes nationalisms and other boundaries, facilitating interdependence, care and love for one other. By becoming a global communion, MWC manifests this eschatological reality today.
As a global church in the Anabaptist tradition, MWC is a place where all member churches sit together with mutual authority regardless of their ethnicity, financial capacity and Anabaptist distinctives. It is a place where theology, service, education, peacemaking, church planting, health care, pastoral care, worship, ministries of women and youth and other ecclesial activities happen globally and cross-culturally. It is a global alternative community to the states of this world.
New possibilities of global, inter-Anabaptist collaboration have emerged over the past decade between MWC, MCC, and other Anabaptist agencies in the Global Anabaptist Service Network (GASN): coordinating multiagency responses to natural disasters or other crises, serving jointly in cross-cultural ministries, supporting national churches in creating their own service structures and helping Anabaptist service agencies build their own capacity.
As we look to MCC’s – and soon MWC’s – second century, let us dream together about multicultural Anabaptist teams serving together to provide relief, education, health, peacemaking, church planting, and social development. That is God’s call for our church and mission.
—A Mennonite World Conference release by MWC general secretary César García. The full version of this article will appear in the fall 2020 issue of Intersections: MCC theory and practice quarterly, published by Mennonite Central Committee. Used by permission.