Tag Archives: anti-racism

Doing Kingdom Work

By Noel Santiago

Hope for the Future is a unique gathering in that it brings together leaders of color and white leaders who work and serve in MCUSA agencies, institutions and organizations, to intentionally focus the work of intercultural transformation in the church. While it’s primarily focused on the agencies, institutions and organizations of MCUSA, the hope is to eventually impact all parts of the church. This gathering grew out of needs being felt by people of color in church-wide leadership positions who continually encounter systemic racism in a multiplicity of ways.

Franconia Conference leaders of color attendees included Danilo Sanchez, Ertell Whigham, Colleen Whigham-Brockington and Noel Santiago

This year, the sixth Hope for the Future gathering took place February 2-5, 2017 in Hampton, Virginia. Approximately 75 persons gathered from across the United States. Persons of Native American, African American, Asian, Hispanic, and other backgrounds as well as Swiss, Germanic, Dutch, and other ethnicities were present.

The theme of this year’s gathering was “Doing Kingdom Work”. Carlos Romero, Executive Director of Mennonite Education Agency and member of the Hope for the Future planning committee, framed the work for the weekend stating, “We have come together for such a time as this,” speaking to today’s political climate.

These tensions felt today are not new. In the 1970’s, when there seemed to be momentum among people of color in leadership within the denomination, most of the positions of people of color were eliminated under what was called “restructuring.”  This led to a handful of leaders of color in the Mennonite Church feeling the need to meet for mutual support and counsel.  When other leaders of color became aware of this gathering, they voiced an interest in participating in such a forum/conversation.  Out of this grew Hope for the Future.

The purpose for these gatherings was formulated as follows:

  • To gather as a worshiping community of faith to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church through the leaders of color within Mennonite Church USA system.
  • To provide a safe setting to assess the present reality and experiences for leaders of color within Mennonite Church USA system.
  • To put forth a plan/strategy/call for deepening awareness and ownership of the ongoing transformation of Mennonite Church USA.
  • To collect learnings from leaders of color to create a forum to bring about the next level of transformation for Mennonite Church USA.

To not have history repeat itself it is important for both people of color and the white culture, to be intentional about inviting and retaining people of color.  Hope for the Future allows space for discussion on how various things impact people in different ways.  This year, discussions focused on what it means to be a peace church in consideration of the lived reality of people of color in this country, how to monitor and change when policies are being implemented inconsistently, and visioning for Hope for the Future.

Because of the work being done through Hope for the Future since 2011, this year’s gathering also called for reporting by MCUSA agencies, institutions and organizations on their progress on policies and practices that address the hiring and retaining of persons of color within their respective organizations. While much progress has been made, there is still much to do.

Hope for the Future is not a one-time event, gathering, conference or what have you. It is about the lived experiential realities people of color encounter on a day to day basis in our church. Our hope is that the ‘kin-dom’ of God will come on earth, in our church, as it is in heaven. To this end, we hope for the future!

For more about the 2017 gathering, check out Hope for the Future: Together For a Time Such as This, in The Mennonite.

“Make the Crooked Path Straight”: Witness & justice within MCC

by Sharon K. Williams

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is recognized around the world for its stellar work, as its tagline says, in “relief, development and peace in the name of Christ.” MCC’s distinct commitment to following biblical principles of peace, justice, and nonviolence makes it somewhat unique. Other organizations aspire to MCC’s example and are grateful for MCC’s partnerships. MCC staff and workers are attracted and committed to the clear articulation of these principles.

Ewuare Osayande speaks about justice and witness within Mennonite Central Committee at Nueva Vida Norristown New Life Mennonite Church.
Ewuare Osayande speaks about justice and witness within Mennonite Central Committee at Nueva Vida Norristown New Life Mennonite Church.

But MCC staff persons of color have had a different experience within the organization. When problems or disagreements arise, they often find themselves bound by a system that refuses change, and maintaining the status quo so as not to disturb some constituents becomes more important than following MCC’s own just policies. This is especially the case for persons who are called to lead antiracism and anti-oppression ministries within the institution.

Ewuare Osayande, MCC US’s anti-oppression coordinator, has experienced this firsthand. In a public meeting held at Nueva Vida Norristown New Life (Norristown, Pennsylvania) on January 31, Osayande spoke of a “crooked path” where people of color and some white people as well have often been the focal point of practices within MCC that contradict its stated values and policies.

Osayande was aware of MCC’s justice commitments when he applied for the position. He also came to MCC with his eyes “wide open,” knowing of the previous struggles of people of color who have worked there. When another person was dismissed without due process last summer, Osayande had already been documenting stories from as far back as the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s, as well as MCC’s broken relationships with Vincent and Rosemarie Harding, the first MCC staff persons of color. Osayande began to draw the leadership’s attention to the overall lack of integrity in the employment relationships and processes—this call to accountability is one of the stated roles in the anti-oppression coordinator’s job description. Osayande’s concerns were met with attempts to silence him, and a letter of reprimand was placed in his personnel file without due process.

Osayande carefully followed the organization’s grievance policy step-by-step over a two-month period. Requests for conversation and explanation of the charges in the letter were denied. Left with no recourse, he began to go public with this situation and the historical experiences of people of color inside MCC. Only then did the leadership respond. Thus far, it’s been positively. Conversations have begun, and the letter has been removed.

During his talk Osayande identified three tiers of white privilege inside MCC. People who are white, Mennonite, and connected in the local area of the MCC offices generally receive the benefits of Matthew 18:15-18 principles of reconciliation and of giving and receiving counsel when problems arise. Persons of color, those from other Christian traditions, and who are not from the local MCC community often do not experience the same spirit of welcome and respect. People of color and white people who have called MCC toward a more authentic witness for justice within its own house are met with a double standard of expectations and micro acts of aggression that often result in burnout and/or dismissal.

As Osayande clarified throughout his presentation, this is not unusual behavior for Christian organizations and churches that are predominantly white in leadership and constituency. Addressing the hidden roots of systemic racism and oppression that still rise up is one of the greatest challenges. Few do it well. The most painful part, for those caught in its sweep, is the unawareness, silence, denial and oppression that results from unjust in-house practices.

“People of color are not looking for perfect white people, but for white people who are so connected to their hearts, who are willing to make mistakes and ask for forgiveness, knowing God’s grace is sufficient,” Osayande explained.

“It’s about the quality of white people’s hearts, about building capacity for a willingness to work for change, to truly create the ‘beloved community,’” he said, referencing a phrase coined by Vincent Harding and preached by Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The commitment of people of color in MCC is to follow our God, whose power is greater than white supremacy. Our commitment is to follow Jesus, to extend mercy, to show God’s love, to honor the God who spoke to the prophets saying, ‘I love justice.’ Isn’t this at least part of what it means to be Anabaptist?

“MCC leadership has shown signs of the possibility of change in the past few weeks. I am committed to establishing a more appropriate accountability process as long as MCC and its constituents are committed to it.”

Osayande encouraged MCC constituents to pray for the leaders of MCC, and to commit our support for just practices within the organization. The call to MCC is to “be true to what you said on paper” (Martin Luther King Jr., “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” April 3, 1968). Constituents understand that maintaining healthy employer/employee relationships can be difficult, because people’s very lives are affected by decisions made. It’s important to acknowledge that constituents do not agree on everything. But MCC supporters can strengthen MCC’s witness by humbly holding leaders accountable for justice with integrity, and encourage the organization as it works toward becoming antiracist and anti-oppressive in every aspect of its work—even when it’s uncomfortable. It’s work for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as minister of worship.

Incoming moderator launches nationwide tour

IDA
Pastor Byron Pellecer, conference minister Owen Burkholder, Soto Albrecht, and executive director of MC USA Ervin Stutzman answer questions at Iglesia Discipular Anabaptista. Photo by Emily Ralph.

by Emily Ralph, eralph@franconiaconference.org

Mennonite Church USA’s incoming moderator Elizabeth Soto Albrecht has begun her journey around the United States to visit MC USA congregations. Soto Albrecht will receive her charge as moderator this Friday, the final day of MC USA’s Phoenix convention.

A native of Puerto Rico, Soto Albrecht is visiting some of the congregations that are not attending MC USA’s convention in Phoenix because of Arizona’s rigorous anti-illegal immigration legislation; she will also drop in at pastors’ breakfasts, home communities, and regional gatherings to listen to the concerns and hopes of the diverse people who make up Mennonite Church USA. Many of these events in the coming week will be streamed live on her website, JourneyWithElizabeth.com.

After several short trips in May and June to Norristown (Pa.), New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., Soto Albrecht, along with a three-person support team, began the three-week circuit on June 28 with a service of blessing and sending at James Street Mennonite Church in Lancaster (Pa).

During the service, Janet Breneman, Soto Albrecht’s pastor, presented the moderator elect with a photograph of the members of her home congregation, Laurel Street Mennonite Church, as a symbol of their presence with her, sending her and praying for her. Two days later, Soto Albrecht showed that photo to Lindale Mennonite Church (Harrisonburg, Va.) before she preached, saying, “I could not have taken this journey without my home congregation—they have made it possible.”

The sending service concluded with a prayer walk in the west side of Lancaster city. This was the second of what Soto Albrecht hopes to be many prayer walks on her journey; the first was with Philadelphia Praise Center in South Philadelphia. “It is so meaningful when those gathered in the church facility leave the comfort of those four walls and people witness our presence in the neighborhood,” Soto Albrecht observes. “We prayed for the peace of the city and people are more than willing to do that as part of their worship.”

In addition to preaching at Lindale, Soto Albrecht visited Iglesia Discipular Anabaptista (IDA) in Harrisonburg, where she spoke on discipleship and joined Ervin Stutzman, MC USA’s executive director, in a time of Q&A with the congregation.

Chapel Hill
Soto Albrecht visits with Isaac Villegas at Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship. Photo by Emily Ralph.

During that exchange, one member of IDA asked how those who remain behind will be remembered in Phoenix. “On the last night, we’re going on a prayer walk,” Soto Albrecht told him. Thousands of Mennonites will walk the streets, stopping to pray outside the detention center, and finally converge in a park to pray and sing together. “The prayer walk is the peace church making itself visible,” she said.

Both the prayer walk and Soto Albrecht’s keynote address Friday evening will be streamed live on her website.

After their Saturday and Sunday morning visits in Harrisonburg, Soto Albrecht’s team continued on to Chapel Hill, N.C., where members of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship, pastored by Isaac Villegas, made their way through five inches of rain and flooded roads to worship together.

“The ongoing message that I’ve been receiving is people affirming my decision to have this journey, saying, ‘We’re with you. We understand why you decided not to attend Phoenix and to instead have this long journey before arriving at the delegate session on Friday,’” reflects Soto Albrecht. “Those comments affirmed over and over again that this journey is part of God’s plan for us and how important it is that we connect with one another.”

At the same time, however, her thoughts and prayers are also with the delegates gathering in Phoenix and she looks forward to joining them on Friday for the final delegate session and evening worship.

Although only a few days into the journey, Soto Albrecht has already reconnected with many old friends and become acquainted with many new ones. “I’ve found that people are pleasantly surprised that I’m taking time to stop and join smaller churches or larger churches, to listen to them,” she says. “It is especially important to connect with Spanish-speaking congregations, to let them know that I know their struggles and that we are committed as a church to seek justice on their behalf. I’m looking forward to journeying with them in their struggle and to continue to be sent for and by them to Phoenix.”

Conference leaders join multicultural national gathering

Hope For The Future 2013
Roy Williams, a Mennonite Education Agency board member and former Mennonite Church USA moderator; and Madeline Maldonado, associate pastor at Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Arca de Salvación in Fort Myers, Fla., and a Mennonite Mission Network board member, participate in small group discussions during the Hope for the Future II Conference. (Photo by Carol Roth.)

Racial/Ethnic leaders from Franconia and Eastern District Conferences joined Mennonite Church USA leaders from around the country at the “Hope … for the Future II: Persevering with Jesus” conference, January 25-27 in Leesburg, VA.  According to the conference’s press release, the purpose for the event was to “encourage unity, celebrate the denomination’s multicultural progress, and begin outlining specific ways to help the entire church thrive as its membership rapidly becomes more diverse.”

Yvonne Platts, a leader in Nueva Vida Norristown New Life (Franconia) attended with Ertell Whigham, Franconia’s Executive Minister, Ron White, Eastern District’s moderator, and Noel Santiago, Franconia’s Minister for Spiritual Transformation.  The conference had an atmosphere of solidarity, Platts reflected, even a lightness of spirit despite the heaviness of the topic and weariness of travel.  “I am always moved by the gatherings that bring people of color together in a significant way,” she said.  It was a “chance to celebrate just how far we’ve come as a people of faith in helping the church to live out its call.”

White was particularly struck by the call to unity, noting that “our future work as a multicultural group will only go as far as our unity will allow.”  In order to experience and express that unity, leaders need to learn about and understand one another’s cultures, he added, which could be a challenge since the diversity within the church is great. “It has to start with how we best demonstrate that we care about each other,” he said.

The conference included recognition of the number of positions filled by leaders of color on the national level, including positions in the denomination as well as in Mennonite agencies.  It is a sign of progress, observed Whigham.  “We are positioned to speak into the culture while the culture may not necessarily embrace what we bring.”  Meeting together with other leaders and sharing similar experiences was powerful, he said.  It was a time of naming the difficulty of leading as a person of color in the midst of the dominant white culture, “not to beat up on our white brothers and sisters,” he said, “but describing a reality … they might not be aware of.”

Representation in positions of leadership is increasing, but is still not what it needs to be, noted Whigham.  A number of young leaders at the conference—gifted, intelligent, visionary leaders—“said to us older folk, ‘Don’t give up—we commit ourselves to take the baton and keep moving forward, standing on your shoulders and continuing to engage,’” Whigham said.  “That was hopeful.”

That raises the question of how current leaders are working to expand the leadership capacity in people of color within the Mennonite Church, White said.  “Are we putting our young people of color in position to be our future leaders and how can we best equip them and create effective leadership among our cultures, and what can we do to support each other in this work?” he asked.

A highpoint in the conference was a sendoff blessing for John Powell, who recently retired after 23 years of anti-racism work with Mennonite Mission Agency.  It was a bittersweet moment for Platts, knowing that “his work and that of others confronting the powers-that-be to look at systemic racism has gotten us this far and in the room together but there still exist huge … challenges to overcome.”

The future challenges could be overwhelming, but Platts remembers the words of one of the songs they sang together: “The journey is long.”  Going forward, she said, she will hold onto those song lyrics and “pray for the wisdom, strength, and knowledge about how to best work with others to advance the kingdom of God in my church community and … conference.”

Read the press release from Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Mission Agency, and Mennonite Education Agency, the conference’s sponsors.

Dignity & Hope: Moving Toward Equal Access in Norristown

NVNNL Voter ID clinics
Sharon Williams and Donna Windle train volunteers from Montgomery County to run a voter/photo ID clinic. Pictured, counter-clockwise from the left, Williams, Windle, Rita Heinegg, Carol Newman, G. Hulings Darby, and Dot Martin. Photo by Ertell Whigham.

by Samantha Lioi, Minister of Peace and Justice

It started with a simple Facebook exchange. Donna Windle of Nueva Vida Norristown (Pa.) New Life noticed a friend’s comment reacting to controversy over recent  laws requiring the presentation of a government-issued  ID to vote.

Her friend said she would get IDs for people quickly, to show how easy it was.  Windle—a social worker serving as Assistant Director at Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center of Montgomery County—knew from wading through hours and days of red tape that it was much more involved than her friend might think.

At that moment, she remembers, “I hit send and heard God’s voice say, You have the skills…why don’t you do something about it?”

Windle approached a Bible study group in her congregation that shares her concern for justice. She and Sharon Williams decided they would run a clinic on the second Saturday of each month for people in Norristown who needed assistance in applying for a government-issued ID.  Many people who’ve come are working two or three jobs, don’t have a case worker, and don’t have the time to spend navigating the system and learning the changing requirements for IDs.  They also might not have the money to pay for out-of-state birth certificates or replacement/renewal ID cards.

Transportation to ID-issuing centers is a challenge for many eligible voters because of low income, lack of access to a vehicle, and in rural areas, few options for public transportation.  Many ID-issuing offices are open infrequently, or only during working hours, so that those in poverty who are working would have to take time off to apply for an ID.  According to Keesha Gaskins and Sundeep Lyer of the Brennan Center at NYU’s law school, “1.2 million eligible black voters and 500,000 eligible Hispanic voters live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. People of color are more likely to be disenfranchised by these laws since they are less likely to have a photo ID than the general population.”

Not only that, but not all IDs are free. The free “voter only” IDs are not useful for other things and, depending on the documentation needed to get a photo ID – such as an out-of-state birth certificate – the cost of obtaining the ID can be prohibitive for low-income people.  Birth certificates alone range from $8-50.

Knowing the political landscape, before beginning their clinics the two women contacted the offices of both the Republican and Democratic parties to let them know their plans and to be clear that they were non-partisan.  In fact, Windle says, while helping people get an ID for voting is important, it is not her only or even her primary concern.

“Voter ID is important, but in general, people need an ID.  You can’t get a job, housing, or travel if you don’t have it,” she said.  Many of those who come to the clinics fall within the Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) definition of people who are precariously housed—“like Jesus,” says Windle, they piece together their housing needs by sleeping on friends’ couches or renting a room until their money runs out.

Likewise, some who come to the Norristown clinic don’t care about being registered to vote; they just want to get their ID and get going.  Windle remembers a volunteer saying, “’But she’s not going to vote.’ I said that’s fine; I didn’t ask her to vote. . . . It’s about building relationships, taking care of getting what she needs.  Her main concerns are where is she going to eat, where will she find a bathroom, and where is she going to safely sleep.  Voting is too high a [goal] at this point.”

As word got around about the clinics, volunteers came from Pottstown, Philadelphia, Harrisburg and even Boston. Since the clinics began in May, Windle and Williams have trained over 70 people to operate clinics in their home communities.  Working alongside the volunteers has also been an unexpected opportunity to educate about issues of poverty and racism, and to share Nueva Vida’s testimony.

The church has received donations to support the clinics. Grants from Franconia Conference and a black fraternity, designated for work on justice issues, covered supplies and money orders for photo ID renewal/replacement cards. To avoid abuse of their small system, the money orders are made out to PENNDOT.  Donors have also provided snacks, pizza gift cards for volunteers’ lunches, and stamps.

Realizing that the need goes much deeper than the desire to exercise the right to vote, they plan to continue to offer clinics once per quarter after the election.  Windle continues to hold both values as she works.

“More will be coming; am I going to get them all registered to vote? No,” she said. “But they will get their ID’s and the things they need… I don’t want them to be denied the right to choose who is representing them because they can’t afford an ID.”

Although Windle wants every eligible voter to have the chance to vote, she is concerned for the bigger picture of their quality of life and their struggle to provide for themselves.  This long view, valuing people’s dignity and holding hope for the livelihood of other Norristown citizens, enlivens Nueva Vida’s ongoing work, partnering with a God who became “precariously housed” to bring the kingdom of love and justice near.

Serving Christ with our heads and hands

Dennis Edwards(To Mennonite Blog #2)

by Dennis Edwards, Sanctuary Covenant Church

“To Mennonite” means to translate faith in Jesus Christ into concrete actions.

I have been a believer in Jesus for over 40 years but for most of my life, Christian faith meant being able to recite the right doctrinal positions. I became keenly aware of this during my college years at a secular university and then later at a prominent Evangelical seminary. In both settings Christians often asked each other, “Do you believe_____?” and that blank would be filled by some debated issue such as “that woman can preach” or “in speaking in tongues” or “that Jesus will return before the Tribulation.”

Expressing one’s faith meant laying out the correct stance on an issue, one that was held by many of the popular Christian writers or teachers.  Models of the faith were people who spoke or wrote.  Those who “did” the faith were missionaries or saints who lived in some bygone era. I hardly ever heard people challenging each other in how we should live out our faith in the world.  As a matter of fact, when it came to living out one’s faith, the emphasis was on personal piety which meant avoiding certain noteworthy sins (such as extra-marital or pre-marital sexual activity, drinking alcohol, smoking, and gambling).

During a Christian Ethics class in seminary, the instructor, a known anti-abortion activist, spent about five out of ten weeks discussing abortion. When I asked about racism as a possible topic for the course, he sighed, rolled his eyes, and made it clear that it wasn’t really an issue for our class.

I was hurt as well as disappointed.  It seemed that Christian ethics was defined as having the right arguments on certain societal evils—but only those evils that seemed relevant to white evangelicals. By way of contrast, one of my first introductions to people who were “Mennoniting” was a presentation on dismantling racism. I was impressed that rather than just talking or writing statements—both good things—there was also activism. People were actively promoting an anti-racism strategy.

I realize that avoiding certain evils may continue to define Christianity for some people, and I dare say that for some “to Mennonite” may include that very perspective. I’m not naive to the reality that many Christians in America, including Mennonites, define holiness as simply avoiding certain sins.

By the time I decided “to Mennonite,” however, I was aware of relief and development work. I was aware of activism for justice. I was aware of the centrality of peacemaking—even loving one’s enemies. I took the opportunity “to Mennonite” as an invitation to join with others who believe that faith was to be demonstrated in acts of compassion, mercy, and justice. “To Mennonite” means to live at peace with all people. It means to love others as oneself while loving the LORD with whole hearts, minds, and strength. It means to care for the “least of these” because that is the way of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I must point out that sound doctrine is very important to me; I even have a PhD in Biblical Studies because I am passionate about what the Scriptures say and that we should “rightly divide” them.  I respect that there are Mennonite institutions where people can learn and have their academic interests nurtured. But I know that Christians are not just about what is in their heads. To me, “to Mennonite” means to serve Christ with our heads and our hands, flowing out of the love that is in our hearts.

Dr. Dennis Edwards was pastor of Peace Fellowship Church in Washington D.C., a partner in mission of Franconia Conference.  In May of this year, he moved to Minnesota to pastor Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis.  Blessings on your new endeavor, Dennis!

Next week, Donna Merow, pastor of the Ambler congregation, will share her experience of Mennoniting through simplicity and service.  How do you “Mennonite”?  Join the conversation on Facebook & Twitter (#fmclife) or by email.

Who am I?  (To Mennonite Blog #1)
Serving Christ with our heads and hands (To Mennonite Blog #2)
Quiet rebellion against the status quo (To Mennonite Blog #3)
Mennoniting my way (To Mennonite Blog #4)
Generations Mennoniting together (To Mennonite Blog #5)
Body, mind, heart … and feet (To Mennonite Blog #6)
We have much more to offer (To Mennonite Blog #7)
Mennonite community … and community that Mennonites (To Mennonite Blog #8)

Mennonite Church USA announces new leadership team

By Annette Brill Bergstresser

Mennonite Church USA — Ervin Stutzman, who began Jan. 1 as executive director of Mennonite Church USA, has named his new leadership cabinet. This team will focus its work on the four churchwide priorities approved by the Executive Board in 2006: witness, anti-racism, leadership development, and global connections. Team members will work out of five states—Kansas, Texas, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia.

“It’s a new thing to focus the roles of the cabinet members around the stated priorities of the church, while also maintaining the core services,” Stutzman said. “This is a very dedicated, committed team, and I really look forward to working together with them to make a significant contribution to the life of our church.”

These appointments conclude a comprehensive workplace review that Stutzman initiated in the spring as part of a six-month process of “listening around the church.” The review included all Mennonite Church USA staff members employed directly by the offices that Stutzman supervises, but did not include agencies of Mennonite Church USA, which conduct their own reviews. Stutzman’s goal was to complete the appointments by Sept. 1.

The new cabinet consists of:

-Shelley Buller—executive assistant. Buller coordinates Stutzman’s schedule and plans logistics for the Executive Board and Constituency Leaders Council. She works as part of a six-person team to plan Stutzman’s travels, particularly those involving church relations. Buller has served in her present position as executive assistant for 32 years (formerly serving the General Conference Mennonite Church). She has an associate’s degree in business from Emporia (Kan.) State University and is a member of Tabor Mennonite Church, Newton, Kan.

 

 

– Glen Guyton—associate executive director for constituent resources. Guyton oversees the Finance, Convention Planning, Information Technology, Intercultural Relations, and Resource Advocacy departments. He will relate with Mennonite Publishing Network. He also will give leadership to the churchwide priority of anti-racism work.

Guyton felt a call to ministry after completing four years as an officer in the United States Air Force. His participation in the Mennonite Church moved him to withdraw from the military as a conscientious objector. With his wife, Cynthia (Cyndi), Glen served as youth pastor and in other ministry roles for more than 17 years at Calvary Community Church in Hampton, Va., before joining the staff of Mennonite Church USA as denominational minister for intercultural relations in 2009. He has worked with Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., to create mentoring programs to promote theological training for high school youth. He also has worked with the former Warwick District of Virginia Conference to develop peace and justice programs for urban youth and to provide students with alternatives to military service.

Guyton holds a bachelor’s degree in management from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and a master’s of education from Regent University, Virginia Beach, Va. He recently moved to San Antonio, Texas, and will work from the DOOR house.

– Marty Lehman—associate executive director for churchwide operations. Lehman oversees the Church Relations, Communications, Development and Human Resources departments. She also works with The Corinthian Plan, Church Extension Services, and the Historical Committee. She is responsible to coordinate alignment among the various churchwide agencies.

Lehman has worked for Mennonite Church USA since 2004, serving in areas including funding, stewardship and finance. Prior to that she was the President and CEO of Adriel, a Mennonite Health Services (MHS) Alliance organization in West Liberty, Ohio. Lehman earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in public affairs with an emphasis on administration of non-profit organizations from Indiana University – South Bend, and has taken courses at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind.

Lehman works out of the Elkhart, Ind., office, and is a member at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind.

– André Gingerich Stoner—director of holistic witness, director of interchurch relations. Stoner will help nurture a web of evangelism, justice and peace witness throughout the church, working closely with Mennonite Mission Network staff. He will give leadership to the churchwide priorities of witness and the interchurch dimension of global connections.

Stoner has served as director of interchurch relations for Mennonite Church USA on a part-time basis since 2005. He has been part-time pastor of missions at Kern Road Mennonite Church in South Bend, Ind., since 1994, where he provided leadership for the congregation’s varied and numerous outreach and witness efforts. He will end that role in October as he transitions to full-time work for Mennonite Church USA.
Stoner, who was born in Luxemburg to missionary parents, attended Bethany Christian High School, Goshen, Ind.; and Eastern Mennonite High School, Harrisonburg, Va.; and he holds degrees from Swarthmore (Pa.) College and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart. From 1984 to 1991, he served with Mennonite Central Committee in peace ministry in West Germany and helped found the Military Counseling Network. Stoner works out of the Elkhart office.

– Terry Shue—director of leadership development.

Shue will give attention to the leadership development priority, seeking to invigorate the Culture of Call and develop connections with ministry training programs as well as business leaders. He also will oversee the ministerial calling system and supervise a denominational ministry team.

Shue served as pastor at Kidron Mennonite Church for 13 years; prior to that he pastored at Pine Grove Mennonite Church, Stryker, Ohio. He also has been on the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA and on the board of Goshen (Ind.) College. Shue studied at Hesston (Kan.) College; Bethel College, North Newton, Kan.; and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart. He will work from an office at the Central Christian School at Kidron.

Delegation offers statement after Arizona visit in consideration of plans for Phoenix 2013 assembly

August 12–13, 2010

We came to Phoenix as a step in the discernment process as to whether or not the Mennonite Church USA Convention 2013 should be held in Phoenix as planned. Our delegation was committed to listening deeply to each other, to the people with whom we met, and to the Spirit of God. Initially, our specific concern was AZ Senate Bill 1070 and the hostile environment it seems to have created. We are appreciative of the mayor, police chief, members of area faith communities, a representative of BorderLinks, and others who met with us to help us understand the situation and to respond to our questions. We particularly celebrate a meeting at Trinity Mennonite Church, with about 100 persons in attendance from local Mennonite congregations, and the positive way everyone engaged in honest, helpful conversation and discernment.

Together, as a delegation, we arrived at the conclusion that more important than the question of the location of the convention was the question, “How do we as one church walk together in solidarity and unity?” In the following months, further discernment will be needed to make the decision about the location of the 2013 convention.

We offer the following guiding principles for discernment and decision-making whether we go to Phoenix or not.

1. The decision needs to be made in the context of honoring our commitment to be one church in solidarity with each other.

2. We believe that:

a.   The convention will need to help us grow in our commitment to be an anti-racist church.

b.   The convention will need to be structured so we engage local communities around ques-tions raised by current immigration policies and racism present in our church and country.

c.   The convention offers opportunities for education, service and action for youth and adults so that we are further equipped with skills and practices to be one church in solidarity with each other and that we are equipped to engage our local communities with this witness.

In addition, we believe, there is a need to review the purposes of our biennial assemblies and to make changes necessary so that the delegate body is more fully reflective of the membership of the whole of our church.

As a delegation, we desire and are committed to take concrete steps to be one church that lives the biblical vision of the Lamb of God gathering persons from all tribes, nations and ethnic groups into one inclusive church. Thus we recommit ourselves to follow Jesus and to grow as communities of grace, joy and peace so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.

Delegation members included the following:

Executive Board members:
Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, Lancaster, Pa.; Tina Begay, Bloomfield, N.M.; Ed Diller, moderator, Cincinnati, Ohio; Charlotte Hardt, Spokane, Wash.; Juanita Nuñez, Ocoee, Fla.; Dick Thomas, moderator-elect, Ronks, Pa.

Iglesia Menonita Hispana representatives:
Nicolas Angustia, Brooklyn, N.Y.; David Araujo, Valparaiso, Ind.; Yvonne Díaz, Ligonier, Ind.; Madeline Maldonado, Lehigh Acres, Fla.; Juan Montes, Reedley, Calif.

Intercultural Relations Reference Committee members:
Leslie Francisco III, Hampton, Va.; Kuaying Teng, St. Catharine’s, Ont.

Mennonite Church USA staff:
Glen Guyton, San Antonio, Texas; Susan Mark Landis, Orrville, Ohio; Marty Lehman, Goshen, Ind.; Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, Phoenix, Ariz.; Ervin Stutzman, Harrisonburg, Va.

Racial Healing Task Group representative:
Lloyd Miller, Goshen, Ind.

Other representatives:
Gilberto Flores, Dallas, Texas; Saulo Padilla, Goshen, Ind.