Tag Archives: delegates

Delegates discuss collaboration in time of anxiety

Candlesby Emily Ralph, associate director of communication

Franconia Conference delegates gathered February 8 at Franconia Mennonite Church, Telford, Pa., to brainstorm ways of building relationships and collaboration in ministry and mission as part of a two-year direction toward growth and discernment as a community.

After a time of worship and reflection, delegates prayed for their congregations, the conference and denomination, and institutions of the church that are in difficult processes of discernment recognizing the tensions across the denomination related to human sexuality.  Conversation then turned to identifying areas for mutual support and engagement; sharing ways that the conference community can strengthen relationships to open possibilities for healthy conversation and collaboration.

“We again recognize that God has gifted our conference with great diversity,” said Marta Castillo, assistant moderator.  “Our Anabaptist commitments to reconciliation and community invite us to stay united in the midst of diversity….  So we again today commit ourselves to live openly and with integrity as brothers and sisters.”

Conference executive Ertell Whigham shared the intention of LEADership Ministers to reintroduce the principle of leadership clusters, where pastors from diverse congregations regularly meet together for support and networking.  To make this more feasible for pastors, the School for Leadership Formation will scale back the number of other events pastors are encouraged to attend.

Table groupsSome delegates enthusiastically supported the reimplementation of clusters and encouraged conference staff to explore ways to also engage between all congregation members rather than only credentialed leaders.  Some dreamed of ways for members of diverse congregations to partner beyond ministry—to have fun together, worship, and play.  Others questioned how we discern which issues to prioritize in mission together.

“Are we taking seriously the issues that we ought to be taking seriously?” asked Josh Meyer, associate pastor of Franconia congregation.  “We were reminded of Matthew 23 where Jesus says, ‘… you neglect the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, faithfulness.’  How can we as churches, as a conference, be more committed to justice, mercy, faithfulness?”

Meyer’s table group wondered if the conference could focus together on matters of justice instead of division, working, for instance, on an issue that many are passionate about: combatting human trafficking.  Since one goal of the morning’s gathering was to build relationships around a common area of mission and call, Whigham asked delegates whose congregations are interested in working together against human trafficking to raise their hands so that they could network on the spot.  Delegates from a dozen congregations responded.

“Sitting down and talking to one another is a good thing,” reflected conference moderator John Goshow.  “I think we’re enjoying one another’s company this morning [which] demonstrates why we need to do more of that than we’ve done in the past.”  He encouraged delegates to continue to pray for the denomination in days ahead.  “This call for prayer does not need to end today.  Our church needs the continued prayers of all of us.”

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Delegates to continue discernment around vision

delegates praying 2013
Franconia Conference delegates spent time conferring and praying together at Conference Assembly 2013. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

by Emily Ralph, associate director of communication

Harleysville, PA — Franconia Conference delegates are invited to gather on Saturday, February 8, 2014 for a time of continued conversation and discernment around the vision and future direction of the conference and to recommit to healthy relational engagement with one another in the midst of difference.  The gathering, which is open to all delegates, will include a time of corporate worship, review of table feedback from November’s Conference Assembly, and discerning next steps as a conference that has and will continue to grow increasingly diverse.

“There were so many thoughtful comments and insights mentioned at Conference Assembly that deserve our attention, discernment, and renewed commitment,” said assistant moderator Marta Castillo (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life).  “The purpose of the February 8 meeting is to continue the animated, enthusiastic, and participatory conversation about our shared convictions and vision for moving forward together in 2014 and beyond.”

At Conference Assembly, held on November 2, 2013 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa., delegates were invited to give feedback on a statement written by the board, which addressed the growing diversity of the conference and encouraged discernment on the congregational level, while maintaining conference unity, saying, “We believe our witness is strengthened when energy is put into celebrating our shared convictions.”

In addition to table discussions around the statement, the delegate body also shared stories of where God is at work in congregations, communities, and the conference.  In a bonus workshop session, over a hundred delegates gathered to further discern God’s calling for 2014 and beyond.

See summaries of table feedback, God@Work stories, and 2014 visioning conversations.

Conference Assembly 2013
Part of the February 8 meeting will be spent responding to a summary of delegate table feedback from Conference Assembly 2013. Photo by Bam Tribuwono.

“It is our hope that the February 8th gathering will result in bringing additional clarity to how we value one another and, given our diversity, how we work together towards a community and ministry that honors God as His John 17 people,” said Ertell Whigham, executive minister. “We look forward to gathering with a spirit of cooperation as we commit to working together while honoring God in our diversity.”

The February 8 gathering will take the place of Spring Training, an annual continuing education event usually required for all credentialed leaders.  “We believe that participation in this and possibly additional meetings this year is crucial to finding a healthy shared future together,” said Gay Brunt Miller, School for Leadership Formation director. “So attendance at these meetings will fulfill the 2014 continuing education guidelines for credentialed leaders.”  There will also be fewer resourcing events for pastors and Conference Related Ministry leaders planned in 2014, Brunt Miller added, “to give space in leaders’ schedules to participate in what seems most important this year.”

The gathering will be held on February 8 from 9 to noon at Franconia Mennonite Church; delegates are requested to RSVP by January 31st on the conference website or by calling the conference office at 267-932-6050.  For more information, delegates can talk to their congregation’s LEADership minister.  Snow date is February 15.

Resolutions are back, but with a difference


Executive Board issues guidelines for developing resolutions for Phoenix 2013

Mennonite Church USA Phoenix ConventionBy Annette Brill Bergstresser

After collecting input from across the church, Mennonite Church USA’s Executive Board (EB) has adopted a revised process for developing resolutions and church statements for adoption at the denomination’s biennial delegate assemblies. This new process applies to resolutions to be proposed for discussion at the Phoenix 2013 Delegate Assembly in July.

At the Pittsburgh 2011 assembly, delegates affirmed the “Pittsburgh Experiment,” a proposal from the EB to set aside discussions of church statements and resolutions at that assembly in favor of using a process to discern together a 10-year “purposeful plan” with goals and priorities for the church. Part of the motivation for the experiment was that questions and concerns had been raised across the church about the process used to develop and adopt assembly statements and the subsequent use of the statements.

“Following the Pittsburgh Experiment,” says Mennonite Church USA Moderator Richard Thomas, “we wanted a discernment process that would be open to all and would be based on biblical discernment at the local, area conference and national levels of our church.”

In the new process, any member of a Mennonite Church USA congregation—not just delegates to the assembly—may propose resolutions for consideration.

The revised guidelines offer a specific framework for developing resolutions based on the denomination’s vision and purpose statements and Purposeful Plan. (Developed in 2011, the Purposeful Plan is organized around seven churchwide priorities: Christian formation, Christian community, holistic Christian witness, stewardship, leadership development, undoing racism and advancing intercultural transformation, and church-to-church relationships.)

The revised guidelines also lengthen the process for bringing resolutions and create space for deeper discernment by involving the Constituency Leaders Council (CLC), an advisory board comprising representatives from area conferences and constituency groups that meets in the spring and fall.

According to Thomas, the impetus for the revised guidelines is to grow in the practice of faithful spiritual discernment.

“An important biblical model for this new way of discernment is to reach an understanding that ‘seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us’ (Acts 15:28),” he says.

Previously, delegates were able to bring resolutions to a Resolutions Committee during the days of the assembly itself, and this committee was the only group responsible for discerning how to proceed. For the 2013 assembly, resolutions must be received by the Resolutions Committee at least four months before the beginning of the delegate assembly. If the committee members determine that a resolution fits within the framework described above, they will submit it to the CLC, which will discern whether to bring it to the delegate body and recommend the percentage needed to adopt it. The CLC may also recommend that a resolution be considered at a later assembly if it requires more time for discernment.

“The reasoning here,” says Ervin Stutzman, executive director of Mennonite Church USA, “is that if the CLC can’t agree that it’s a worthy resolution to adopt, it’s probably not a good use of time to put it in front of a group 10 times that size.”

The Resolutions Committee will then work with the CLC’s recommendations—usually in interaction with those who initially submitted the resolution. The committee will determine which resolutions to take to the assembly, prepare a study guide for area conferences and congregations for discernment and prayer prior to the gathering, and distribute all related materials to delegates.

There are still other ways for resolutions to come to the delegate assembly. Resolutions proposed less than four months prior to the assembly will require signatures of 10 or more delegates from each of at least three different area conferences and must be approved by the EB. Also, at any time prior to the end of the delegate assembly, the EB and Resolutions Committee may each propose resolutions for action.

Donna Mast, conference minister for Allegheny Mennonite Conference, sees the change as an improvement.

“The new procedures for resolutions will help us think more carefully about the resolutions we choose to make,” she says.  She also affirms the fact that “conferences will have a larger voice in the making of resolutions through the voice of the CLC.”

The EB took action to adopt the revised guidelines for developing resolutions at its Sept. 20-22 meeting in Kansas City, Mo., and invited counsel from CLC members at the Oct. 22–24 CLC meeting in Wichita, Kan. The EB also moved to provide copies of the guidelines to all current pastors and all delegates who participated in the 2011 assembly, and to post the document online for church members who may wish to submit a proposal for consideration by the 2013 assembly. (See http://mennoniteusa.org/resources/statements-and-resolutions/)


Las resoluciones volvieron, pero con una diferencia
La junta ejecutiva presenta pautas para desarrollar resoluciones para Phoenix 2013

Mennonite Church USA Phoenix ConventionPor Annette Brill Bergstresser

(Iglesia Menonita de EE. UU.)—Luego de recibir opiniones de todos los sectores del cuerpo, la junta ejecutiva de la Iglesia Menonita de EE. UU. (de aquí en adelante, JE) ha incorporado un procedimiento revisado para desarrollar resoluciones y declaraciones de la iglesia en pos de su adopción en las asambleas bienales de delegados de la denominación. Este nuevo procedimiento se aplica a las resoluciones que se propongan para su discusión en la asamblea de delegados de Phoenix 2013, a realizarse en julio.

En la asamblea de Pittsburgh 2011, los delegados confirmaron el “Experimento Pittsburgh”, una propuesta de la JE para separar debates de declaraciones de la iglesia y resoluciones en esa asamblea que favorezcan el uso de un procedimiento de discernimiento conjunto del “plan con propósito” con metas y prioridades a diez años para la iglesia. Parte de la motivación para el experimento fue que en toda la iglesia habían surgido preguntas y dudas sobre el procedimiento utilizado para desarrollar y adoptar las declaraciones de la asamblea y el uso posterior de las mismas.

Richard Thomas, moderador de la Iglesia Menonita de EE. UU., dice: “Luego del Experimento Pittsburgh quisimos diseñar un proceso de discernimiento abierto a todos, basado en el discernimiento bíblico, en los distintos niveles de la iglesia: el local, el de la conferencia y el nacional”.

Con el nuevo procedimiento, cualquier miembro de una congregación de la Iglesia Menonita de EE. UU.—no sólo los delegados para la asamblea—puede proponer resoluciones para su consideración.

Las pautas revisadas ofrecen un marco específico para desarrollar resoluciones, basadas en la visión, la declaración de propósito y el plan con propósito de la denominación. (El Plan con Propósito, elaborado en el 2011, está organizado en torno a siete prioridades para toda la iglesia: formación cristiana, comunidad cristiana, testimonio cristiano integral, mayordomía, capacitación de líderes, deshacer el racismo y fomentar la transformación intercultural, y relaciones entre iglesias.)

Las pautas revisadas también amplían el procedimiento para la presentación de resoluciones y crean espacio para un discernimiento más profundo al incluir al Concilio de Líderes Constituyentes (CLC, por sus siglas en inglés), un gabinete de asesores compuesto por representantes de conferencias regionales y grupos de constituyentes que se reúne en primavera y otoño.

Según Thomas, el ímpetu de las pautas revisadas es el de crecer en la práctica de un fiel discernimiento espiritual.

El dice: “Un importante modelo bíblico para esta nueva forma de discernimiento es lograr una comprensión que ‘nos parezca bien al Espíritu Santo y a nosotros’ (Hechos 15.28)”.

Antes, los delegados pudieron presentar resoluciones ante el comité de resoluciones durante la propia asamblea, y este comité fue el único grupo que estuvo a cargo de discernir cómo proceder. Para la asamblea del 2013, las resoluciones deberá recibirlas el comité de resoluciones al menos cuatro meses antes del inicio de la asamblea de delegados. Si los miembros del comité determinan que una resolución cabe dentro del marco descrito arriba, lo presentarán ante el CLC, el cual discernirá si deben llevarlo ante el cuerpo de delegados y recomendar el porcentaje necesario para adoptarla. El CLC también puede recomendar que una resolución sea tratada en una asamblea posterior si requiere de más tiempo para el discernimiento.

Ervin Stutzman, director ejecutivo de la Iglesia Menonita de EE. UU., dice: “La idea es que si el CLC juzga que se trata de una resolución que no vale la pena adoptar, es probable que no sea sabio emplear tiempo para tratarla en un grupo diez veces mayor”.

De esta manera, el comité de resoluciones trabajará luego con las recomendaciones del CLC—generalmente en interacción con aquellos que presentaron la resolución. El comité establecerá qué resoluciones llevará a la asamblea, preparará una guía de estudio que ayude a las conferencias regionales y las congregaciones en, el estudio y discernimiento previo al encuentro, y distribuirá todos los materiales relacionados entre los delegados.

Existen otros modos de llevar resoluciones a la asamblea de delegados. Las resoluciones propuestas menos de cuatro meses antes de la asamblea requerirán firmas de diez o más de los delegados de al menos tres conferencias regionales, y deben estar aprobadas por la JE. Además, en cualquier momento previo al final de la asamblea de delegados, la JE y el comité de resoluciones pueden proponer resoluciones de acción por separado.

Donna Mast, ministra de la conferencia Allegheny Mennonite, considera que el cambio es un avance.

“Los nuevos procedimientos para las resoluciones nos ayudarán a pensar más cuidadosamente acerca de las resoluciones que elegimos elaborar”, dice. También afirma que “la opinión de las conferencias será mayor al crear resoluciones a través del CLC”.

La JE adoptó las pautas revisadas para el desarrollo de resoluciones en su reunión del 20 al 22 de septiembre en Kansas City, Misuri, y recibió recomendaciones de los miembros del CLC en la reunión de dicho grupo llevada a cabo del 22 al 24 de octubre en Wichita, Kansas. La JE también repartió copias de las pautas a todos los pastores actuales y todos los delegados que participaron de la asamblea del 2011, y publicó el documento en internet para aquellos miembros de la iglesia que deseen presentar una propuesta para su consideración en la asamblea del 2013. (Ver http://mennoniteusa.org/resources/statements-and-resolutions/)


Traducción: Alex Naula, Zulma Prieto

Assembly Scattered 2012: How do we discern together?

On October 16, Executive Minister Ertell Whigham and LEADership Minister Jenifer Eriksen Morales led a training for conference delegates.  Delegates discussed methods for corporate discernment in their congregations, how to prepare themselves and their congregations for Conference Assembly, and the role and responsibilities of conference delegates.

Another training will be held on October 27, 9-11am, at Dock Woods Community (Fischer Auditorium) in Lansdale, Pa.  We hope you will be able to join us in person as we interact with one another around topics of discernment.  If you have a scheduling conflict, however, the video from the October 16th training is now available.

CA Scattered handout