Surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation, Mennonite World Conference’s Executive Committee (EC), regional representatives, YABs Committee, senior staff and development volunteers met at Camp Squeah in British Columbia, Canada, for annual governance deliberation.
The joy of gathering in person 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 from all but one of the invitees from Africa and another from Asia.
“It was very disheartening to see so many visas either delayed or denied by the Canadian government,” said David Martin, volunteer development consultant. “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. MWC will need to find creative ways to address these challenges so that we can truly function as a global communion of faith.”
Words for the vision
Facilitator Betty Pries (CEO of Credence & Co.) led brainstorming sessions on a new tagline for MWC. “Betty helped us find fresh words for our vision. This process complemented the continued discussion of a name change for MWC,” said César García. The EC will give a name change recommendation to the General Council in 2025.
MWC member churches now number 108. The EC approved the recommendation to move two national churches to inactive status due to failure to engage (Concilio Nacional Menonita Faro Divino in Dominican Republic; Liga de Iglesias Anabautistas de Bolivia). Mennonite Church Burundi was accepted as a full member. (See “How to join the family” to learn more about MWC’s membership process.)
Greater youth involvement
The new YABs Committee proposed more youth involvement. Their adapted Terms of Reference (TOR) suggest youth delegate representatives (age 18-30) on the General Council, and integration of the Global Youth Summit into the main Assembly. After the EC’s acceptance, the decision goes to the General Council in 2025.
The Executive Committee also approved audited statements and financial report for 2022 and the budget for 2023, and Terms of Reference for the emerging Networks.
More faces involved
Many servants contribute their energy and talents to the global church through MWC.
Commissions were filled out with the appointment of General Council representatives Reinhard Kummer (Mennonitische Freikirche Österreich, Austria) to Deacons and Kari Traoré (Église Évangélique Mennonite du Burkina Faso) to Peace.
MWC’s memorandum of understanding with Mennonite Central Committee was updated and renewed for another five years. Delegate Werner Franz (Vereinigung der Mennonitengemeinden von Paraguay) completed his term as MWC representative to the Joint Ministry Council, replaced by Danisa Ndlovu (Brethren In Christ, Zimbabwe).
John D Roth received a gift and words of thanks. He served as secretary of the Faith & Life Commission since its beginning in 2009, and later took on the role of Commission secretaries coordinator, until end of March 2023. He continues to organize Renewal events, including the upcoming commemorations of Anabaptist beginnings in 2025, and to serve as the secretary of the MWC ecumenical dialogue with the World Communion of Reformed Churches. Anicka Fast began serving as Faith & Life secretary in April 2023. J Ron Byler takes on the role of Commissions secretaries coordinator.
Pilar Aguirre of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, began as Development Executive in March. “This rounds out our development team as we continue to work toward our goal of building the global church together,” says Bruce Campbell-Janz. Fluent in Spanish and English, she has extensive experience with nonprofits, having more recently worked with ShareWord Global as project manager for Latin America and the Middle East.
The Executive Committee unanimously supported offering an open-ended term for César García to continue in his role as general secretary. “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,” says Lisa Carr-Pries, MWC vice-president.
César García accepted the call. Says Lisa Carr-Pries: “We are grateful for his commitment, his gentle, pastoral presence and his continuing service to the church.”
“At the EC meetings, business is conducted collegially with all members having equal chance to speak, unhindered by internet connections. The blessing of being together at these meetings is tremendous,” says Henk Stenvers, MWC president. “We recognize there is an environmental and financial cost to bringing people from around the world. However, our diversity finds its unity when we can know each other as friends sharing meals together.”