By Cheryl Zehr Walker for MCC Communications
The key stakeholders of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), meeting Jan. 31 to Feb. 1 in Akron, Penn., reached crucial structural agreements that support MCC’s worldwide ministry for the 21st century.
That work, in about 60 countries at present, will continue unabated, according to Arli Klassen, executive director of the binational MCC. “Supporters in Canada and the United States, along with global partners, will continue to be engaged with MCC’s ministry in the name of Christ, as they always have been,” Klassen says.
In his opening meditation to the summit of denominational and organizational representatives, Danisa Ndlovu, president of Mennonite World Conference and bishop of the Zimbabwe Brethren in Christ Church, called the gathering a unique opportunity to discern together what it means to be the church.
Nine of the 13 denominations that support the Canada, U.S. and binational MCCs; along with the 12 MCC agencies in Canada and the United States; and Mennonite World Conference; sent a total of 62 representatives. Ed Boschman, U.S. Conference executive director, represented U.S. Mennonite Brethren.
The summit marked a major threshold in MCC’s New Wine/New Wineskins revisioning and restructuring process. Participants reached agreement on important aspects of governance and management for the new MCC system.
“We are forging a renewed partnership,” said Neil Janzen of Winnipeg, Man., chair of the MCC Canada board.
The agreements—on agency roles, program administration and accountability to the church—will be written into bylaws and covenants expected to be endorsed in 2011, along with recommendations for a streamlined structure that will be implemented in 2012.
The work of MCC around the world will be collaboratively led by both MCC Canada and MCC U.S. They take over the role from the current binational MCC, which will end as an organization. The anticipated timing of this transition is early 2012.
A standing committee of the Canada and U.S. boards will foster and facilitate collaboration between MCC Canada and MCC U.S.
The summit agreements strengthen MCC’s accountability to its supporting denominations through renewed board representation. At least two-thirds of the membership of each MCC board will be official representatives of Anabaptist denominations in Canada and the U.S.
Participants also spoke to MCC’s role in global witness and service. The Global Anabaptist Service Consultation convened by Mennonite World Conference in August 2010 first considered an MCC proposal to facilitate relationships between and among Anabaptist service agencies worldwide, but decided instead to appoint a task force to explore a new global network. The Akron summit endorsed MCC’s participation in the proposed new Global Anabaptist Service Network.
Herman Bontrager of Akron, Pa., chair of the binational MCC Board, said an important intent of MCC restructuring “is to continue and deepen the mutual accountability of the global family of faith.”
“For 90 years MCC has been an inter-Mennonite agency that brought Mennonite and Brethren-in-Christ people together in responding to human need and building peace. It has been a vital instrument in connecting Canadian and U.S. Mennonites and Brethren-in-Christ with our counterpart churches in the rest of the world,” said Bontrager.
MCC’s “New Wine/New Wineskins: Reshaping MCC for the 21st Century” process included listening to and consultation with more than 2,000 people from 50 countries.
MCC U.S. Board chair Ann Graber Hershberger, of Harrisonburg, Va., was impressed by the summit’s interchange and sees the ongoing value of MCC’s close relationship with other parts of the church. “It is a rare privilege to participate in a meeting where church leaders discern with each other and MCC about what we are called to do as a Christian community. We ask church leaders to continue to walk with MCC in our shared ministry.”