Tag Archives: Iglesia Menonita Hispana

Mennonite Church USA delegation invites prayer for Phoenix visit

Deuteronomy 24:17-18 (NIV)

17Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.18Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.

Purpose of trip

In response to concerns raised by Iglesia Menonita Hispana, Mennonite Church USA’s Executive Board is sending a delegation to Phoenix, Ariz., to witness “on the ground” the effects of Arizona’s new immigration law, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.

Phoenix currently is the location for the denomination’s 2013 convention.Phoenix city government leaders, who have expressed their disappointment with the new legislation, extended the invitation to the delegation to come; the Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau will cover expenses for the trip.

The group will meet with city officials, convention planners, local Hispanic and Mennonite Church USA congregations, and human rights workers who specialize in immigration. Delegation members will gather information about the potential multi-faceted impacts of holding the denomination’s 2013 convention in Phoenix, and will discern options for staying in Phoenix, finding a different location, or canceling the 2013 gathering.

On Friday evening, Mennonite Church USA Phoenix-area churches will join delegation members for a forum on immigration to discuss the issues and guiding principles surrounding the Phoenix 2013 decision.

As Mennonite Church USA contemplates next steps, we are committed to our stated priority of honoring the dignity and value of all Racial/Ethnic people in Mennonite Church USA, ensuring just and equitable access to church resources, positions and information as manifestations of the one new humanity in Christ. As we seek to become an anti-racist church, the dominant group must be accountable to the Racial/Ethnic constituency in decision-making processes. Our delegation will model this accountability. In light of Arizona’s new legislation, living into this priority requires that we find specific ways to honor and support our Latino brothers and sisters and other immigrants who are part of Mennonite Church USA. Our efforts and decisions must be focused on allowing God’s healing and hope to flow through us into the world.

—Glen Guyton, director for constituent resources, Mennonite Church USA

God’s love has no borders

Ervin R. Stutzman, executive director, Mennonite Church USA
June 2010

In the last few weeks, debates about immigration have flared up all across the United States. The passage of the SB 1070 immigration law in Arizona has prompted other states to consider similar measures to control immigration. In response to the strong feelings across the nation, President Obama recently took action to secure the border between the U.S. and Mexico. I grieve that these actions deeply affect my brothers and sisters in the congregations of Iglesia Menonita Hispana, a valued part of Mennonite Church USA. I have been hearing stories from congregations that are losing many beloved members because of pressure from the government.

As a church leader, I rely on our denomination’s 2003 statement on immigration to guide my response to this situation. Also, the following words from hymn 374 in Hymnal: Worship Book, (a Mennonite Church USA English hymnbook) echo my own prayer for Mennonite Church USA and our nation: “Forbid false love of country, that blinds us to your call, who lifts above the nations the unity of all. Create in us the splendor that dawns when hearts are kind, that knows no race nor station as bound’ries of the mind; that learns to value beauty, in heart, or mind, or soul, and longs to bind God’s children into one perfect whole.”

The Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA recently voted to use money from the building campaign for Racial/Ethnic groups, including Hispanics. We will designate 10 percent of any money coming to our office building fund after the ground blessing, which took place on June 15. This money can be used for immigration concerns, education, or help with church facilities.

Currently, we have plans to meet in Phoenix, Ariz., for the 2013 convention of Mennonite Church USA. Because of the new law in Arizona, we are reconsidering this choice.

Glen Guyton, associate executive director of constituent resources, guides intercultural relations in our national conference. Glen has prepared the following announcement about the decision to be made:

Mennonite Church USA is very concerned about what is happening in the state of Arizona and the precedent it may set for other states. A just and humane immigration policy is needed in our nation and the passage of Arizona SB1070 may be a tipping point in our country. Only God knows which way our country will lean.

The question on the minds of many in the Hispanic community is, “Why hasn’t Mennonite Church USA made a decision to move the 2013 convention to another city?” To many of our Hispanic brothers and sisters, the decision is easy: “Don’t go to Phoenix, because we will not go. We do not feel safe.” Iglesia Menonita Hispana (IMH) has made its position clear, and the leadership of the church has heard the message. While we truly have love, respect and empathy for the Hispanic members of our church family, there are several reasons why the church has chosen to take some time to make a decision about the location.

1. Exposure to all Mennonite Church USA members. We believe the issue of immigration is far greater than the location of our 2013 churchwide convention. This decision will provide an opportunity to bring immigration to the forefront of our church. For many years, Mennonite churches in Arizona and in our Hispanic
communities have been dealing with immigration issues. Our Hispanic churches are losing members in great numbers because of the poor economy and the changing political climate. Deciding on a convention location will expose the
broader church to the negative effects of current U.S. immigration policy and the proposed Arizona law, which many feel will lead to racial profiling.

2. Discussion and discernment. Because this decision affects our entire church family, it requires discussion and discernment by leaders all across the church. A gathering called the Leaders Forum had already been planned for September 2010, and now the 2013 convention location will be a central topic of discussion and discernment. Nearly 250 leaders from conferences, agencies and Racial/Ethnic constituency groups will be involved. When we gather together face?to?face in worship and prayer to discuss things as Christian sisters and brothers, a clarity often comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to hear the hurts, fears, hopes and dreams of all who will be affected by the passage of this law in Arizona. The leadership of the church feels that using the next few months to discern and discuss immigration, the new Arizona law, and
the historical circumstances surrounding the passage of SB1070 will ultimately facilitate a sense of synergy around the final decision. It is important that we understand “why” when the final decision is announced.

3. Contracts. While some want a quick decision to send a message to the state of Arizona, the financial impact of staying in or leaving Phoenix will not be affected by a few months. The 2013 convention is more than three years away. Making an announcement now will not benefit our Hispanic community any more than
making an announcement in early 2011. A formal announcement would trigger contractual obligations, numerous inquires, and limit the ability of our staff to negotiate with the various entities involved. There is not just one contract to cancel, but multiple contracts that would need to be changed. The liquidated damages of canceling these contracts could possibly exceed $500,000. In addition, at least 10 other states are considering legislation similar to Arizona’s. In some ways, announcing a decision too early could be reckless. It is not as simple as picking another city. Currently, the convention planning staff and the Office of Intercultural Relations are exploring all options, so that everyone in our church understands the impact of the final decision. The decision, whether it is to stay in Phoenix or move to another city, will have a serious impact on the
church—spiritually, relationally, and fiscally.

4. City of Phoenix. The city of Phoenix is paying attention to Mennonite Church USA. Recently, I visited the city of Phoenix with Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, director of convention planning. We met with the city manager, the chief of police, the vice?mayor, the convention bureau, and the three hotels with whom
we have binding contracts. Since Iglesia Menonita Hispana forwarded its formal request to change the convention location, the staff of Mennonite Church USA has been working at providing information to everyone involved and seeking a solution that will benefit the entire Mennonite Church USA family, of which Iglesia Menonita Hispana is a very important part. We shared with the city officials the concerns of IMH. We explained to them the concern about safety and the fears of what the law will mean. The city of Phoenix and its large Hispanic population have great disdain for SB1070.

5. Next steps. In the next step of our discernment process, members of the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA and members of the Executive Committee of Iglesia Menonita Hispana will travel to Phoenix to meet with city officials and local Latino community leaders to assess what is happening in the area.

We have to trust God that our discernment process will work in this matter. As an African-American, I am no stranger to discrimination. I empathize with my Hispanic brothers and sisters, and I cannot imagine what it feels like to live in fear of being deported from the country I love and call my home. I hope that everyone in the church understands that the pain and fear felt by our Hispanic constituency will not end with the decision of where we hold our 2013 churchwide convention. No, in the grand scheme of things, the decision of whether or not to go to Phoenix is quite small.

The bigger issues are: What are the guiding principles that will help us make this decision? How do we resource and care for Hispanic Mennonite congregations who are losing hundreds of members? How do we as a church make tough decisions, even if they only directly affect a small percentage of our members? What can we as a church do about immigration reform and the care for the stranger in our land? How committed are we to the priority of anti?racism in the church? Are we willing to sacrifice to become an anti?racist church? Can we as Racial/Ethnic people and Anglos still walk together in love and trust one another after the final decision is made? Ultimately, the decision where to spend five days in July 2013 will not mean much if we don’t do the hard work now. Now is the time for wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 24:3). Now is the time for all members of Mennonite Church USA to dwell together in unity and in prayer to begin the journey toward sharing a holistic witness to the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Glen and I welcome your response to this way of working to make this important decision about a possible change of location for the convention. If you have comments or questions, please contact Glen Guyton at GlenG@MennoniteUSA.org or 1?866?866?2872, ext. 23044.

Mennonite convention planners discern response to Arizona immigration bill

Mennonite Church USA

The location for Mennonite Church USA’s 2013 convention — Phoenix, Ariz. — is being called into question because of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which passed April 23.

Two weeks before news of the Arizona immigration bill hit national headlines, Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, director of convention planning for Mennonite Church USA, met with the Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau to discuss her disappointment with and concern about the upcoming change in legislation.

“We want all parts of Mennonite Church USA to feel welcome at convention locations,” Swartzendruber Miller said. “Our national convention is meant to be a reunion of Mennonite brothers and sisters from across the country, representing many ethnicities. This bill does not send a welcoming message.”

Arizona Senate Bill 1070 — the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act — declares that it is a crime to reside in Arizona as an illegal immigrant and that law enforcement has the right to demand proof of legal residence from people suspected of having illegal immigrant status. In Arizona, 30 percent of the population is Hispanic. Since the bill passed, demonstrators have lined the streets of downtown Phoenix, protesting that the bill legalizes racial profiling. Phoenix’s mayor, Phil Gordon, released a statement describing the immigration bill as “unconstitutional”

Mennonite Church USA Executive Leadership has been in conversation with racial/ethnic leaders within the church to discern the most appropriate course of action regarding the convention location.

“As a church, we intend to stand alongside and support our Hispanic brothers and sisters who are deeply affected by this new law,” said Ervin Stutzman, executive director of Mennonite Church USA.

Yvonne Diaz, executive director for Iglesia Menonita Hispana, shared her disappointment with the Arizona bill in a recent letter to church leaders.

“I grieve the effects of this law on our Latino congregations and all Latinos in the United States,” Diaz wrote. “At the same time, I also have hope that Mennonite Church USA will rise to the task of supporting immigrant brothers and sisters. Let’s use our creativity to figure out how this can be a teaching moment for the whole church.”

While several binding contracts for the 2013 convention have already been signed — the choice of Phoenix as the site was finalized in January 2009 — Mennonite Church USA’s Executive Committee, Convention Planning and Intercultural Relations will continue to focus on this issue in the coming months, remaining in conversation with the city of Phoenix and racial/ethnic constituents of the church.

“Our hope is to support the racial/ethnic persons of Mennonite Church USA and to give hope to the congregations of Pacific Southwest Conference, specifically those in Arizona who are feeling the brunt of this legislation,” Swartzendruber Miller said.

Regarding next steps for convention planners, Swartzendruber Miller noted, “The question we will be grappling with is, ‘Will we be helping the situation by refusing to meet in Phoenix to show that we are resisting this unjust law? Or, is God calling us to face this injustice by being a present witness of healing and hope in the Phoenix community?’”