“God has anointed us to bring good news to the broken-hearted…and proclaim the year of God’s favour,” says J. Nelson Kraybill, MWC president, quoting Isaiah 61:1-4. “The past 10 months of COVID-19 have been disorienting,” he says, but notes how the narrative of the Old Testament shows God’s faithfulness to his people despite great hardship.
In online meetings 18–19 November 2020, the Executive Committee approved expansion of Mennonite World Conference’s structure to include new specialized networks. The third virtual session in 2020 replaced in-person meetings in British Columbia, Canada, that were cancelled due to the pandemic.
Struggling churches participate
In many of MWC’s national member churches, there is unemployment and hunger from shortages of food and income. This has led to contributions from member churches that are below budget, Chief Operating Officer Len Rempel reported. “We’ve been encouraged that, despite their difficulties, churches have responded saying, ‘we are struggling but still want to do what we can to participate in the global church.’”
MWC’s income level is behind previous years’, however, due to the cancellation of all travel since March, spending is also lower than in previous years. Up to 40 percent of MWC’s annual donations are usually received in November and December.
The postponement of Assembly to 2022 results in an additional year of expenses. Without making adjustments, Len Rempel projects a $150 000 deficit for Assembly. (Click here to meet Assembly staff.)
An extra-budget project in 2020, the COVID-19 response fund raised some $400 000 in collaboration with a dozen Anabaptist mission and service agencies. Member churches projects brought emergency relief to their communities in need of food and hygiene supplies due to the pandemic. (Click here to read more.)
Revisiting Conscientious Objection
The Executive Committee recommended further revision to a document the Peace Commission’s created on conscientious objection. This statement will go to the General Council for approval in 2022.
MWC has three kinds of official documents: statements, teaching resources and guidelines – all of which are located in the Reference Notebook, a resource for General Council and Executive committee leaders. (Click here to read MWC statements and teaching resources.)
The Executive Committee approved revisions to policy document on appointing specialists to MWC Commissions.
Collaborating with networks
Deliberation of the proposal to accept new emerging networks into MWC’s structure occupied much of the meetings. The Peace, Health and Education networks would expand MWC by creating an official relationship with their member organizations.
“The idea of networks is coherent with our vision cast in 2009 to be a global communion. Networks draw together Anabaptist agencies to exchange experiences and resources to improve their own work,” says César García, MWC general secretary. At that time (2009), the General Council created the four Commissions to enrich the church by proposing resource materials and projects related to Deacons, Faith and Life, Mission and Peace. It projected future expansion to include networks to connect Anabaptists specialists in fields like education and health.
Although the network’s operating funds flow through MWC, the networks would be responsible for their own fund raising through membership fees or grant applications. Each network would have a part-time staff coordinator and representation on a Commission.
Two networks are already part of MWC’s structure, through the Mission Commission. The Global Mission Fellowship has 71 members from Anabaptist church agencies involved in evangelistic, disciple-making and humanitarian/social activities. The Global Anabaptist Service Network has 57 members from church agencies and organizations committed to the holistic gospel of Jesus Christ and the mission of the church through service ministries.
“This proposal is in line with how MWC works – from the bottom up,” says Carlos Martínez-García, Latin America representative. “This is a way for the experts in these agencies to share their gifts with the global family.”
“It gives us more capacity,” says Lisa Carr-Pries, although she cautions setting up leaders for a task that is too large.
The proposal to add Education (GAPSEN and GAHEN), Health (GAHN) and Peace (GAPN) networks was approved with cautions registered by some Executive Committee members. The General Council will consider the proposal in 2022. If approved, the networks will be evaluated in 2027 for their continuing status.
“There are risks to increasing the size and complexity of MWC’s structure,” says Nelson Kraybill. “However, these networks are already going. We are delighted to take the opportunity to have them collaborate with MWC.”