Tag Archives: MC USA

Representing Conference in National Conversations

by Mary Nitzsche, Associate Executive Minister

Angela Moyer, assistant moderator, Danilo Sanchez, Youth Formation Pastor, and I represented Franconia Mennonite Conference at the biannual Constituency Leadership Council (CLC) February 28-March 2. Others attending from Franconia Conference included Joy Sutter, Moderator Elect of Mennonite Church USA, and Buddy Hannanto, representing the Indonesian Mennonite Association.

(L to R) Buddy Hannanto, Mary Nitzsche, Danilo Sanchez, Joy Sutter and Angela Moyer.

The CLC is comprised of representatives from each area conference, churchwide program agency, and constituent group. While not a decision-making body, CLC serves as a forum for discernment, conversation, and networking. This group of 50-60 persons function as denominational elders offering counsel to the Executive Board on issues of faith, life and churchwide statements. Glen Guyton, Executive Director of MC USA, emphasized CLC’s importance, acknowledging that our “concerns are heard and taken seriously.”

An emphasis of CLC is building relationships of trust among executive board representatives, conferences, racial/ethnic groups, and churchwide program agency leaders. Sitting around tables, sharing personal and ministry stories, worshipping and sharing communion, eating meals together, discussing important matters of our common life, and playing group games remind us of the covenant we hold—to be the presence of Christ and share in Christ’s reconciling mission with each other and in our communities and places of ministry.

Angela Moyer commented that, “attending CLC helped me learn to know our new denominational leaders. God has given us a gift in these leaders, who have passion for God and the church, and a vision for our denomination.”

Lively, yet respectful, conversations centered around two key issues: a review of the MC USA membership guidelines and an update of the potential merger of The Mennonite and Mennonite World Review (a decision delayed last fall to process the concerns raised by CLC).

Barth Hague, chair of The Mennonite’s board, gave a brief update to inform CLC of the recent decision to resume the merger process.

The membership guidelines, which were implemented in 2001 and reviewed in 2013 and 2015, are once again an issue for the MC USA delegate body to consider at MennoCon19 in Kansas City this summer. Eight recommendations for the Executive Board’s consideration were discerned around eight table groups utilizing the “Six Thinking Hats” approach to decision-making. This approach provided opportunity to depart from a predictable pattern of debate. Instead, the guidelines were processed from six different perspectives: neutral, optimistic, critical, emotional, innovative, and process oriented. I found this process helpful since everyone at the table was speaking from the same perspective for an allotted time, allowing us to shape a unified recommendation. In Danilo’s words, “Even though there were disagreements around the table, everyone was respected and valued.”

Angela, Danilo, and I were honored to serve as Franconia Conference representatives at CLC. Danilo summarized our shared experience and reflections well, “Throughout our meetings, it was evident that every pastor and leader who attended CLC loves the church and loves Jesus. Through CLC, I gained a trust and confidence in our denominational leadership. I believe their desire is for MC USA to be faithful followers of Jesus and to be an Anabaptist witness to the world.”

Looking Ahead to Convention

Photo courtesy of MC USA

It is time once again for our biennial Delegate Assembly, scheduled for July 2-6 in Kansas City. The Delegate Assembly provides the opportunity for our MC USA family to assemble for worship, fellowship, prophecy, relationship building, understanding and deepening our commitment to Christ and each other. In 2019 we will focus on equipping our church leaders for mission while we discuss major issues of policy and discern next steps for the national conference. It is important that the voice of our constituency be heard as we gather together from all parts of the church. The Delegate Assembly is your opportunity to not only speak to the establishment of general policies and the development of programs to carry out those policies. But it is an opportunity for you to connect with and listen to the various members in our great and diverse denomination.  Come see and hear what is next for MC USA. Join in helping our denomination live into its call. Meet Mennonites from all over the United States and learn how they are living into the commitments of the Journey Forward process.

Select your delegates now!  Refer to the Information for Delegates to learn about the delegate selection process and registration.

Photo courtesy of MC USA

Other materials for the delegate assembly will be posted on this webpage as they become available. 

In addition to delegate business, the delegate session at Menno-Con 19 will be featuring a teaching session each day with Tom Yoder Neufeld.  Tom is Professor Emeritus from the University of Waterloo.  He is the author of the commentary on Ephesians part of The Believers Church Bible Commentary series.  The delegate session will also feature stories from congregations across our denomination that give life to our Renewed Commitments from the Journey Forward.

I hope to see you in Kansas City this summer.

Glen Guyton, Executive Director
Mennonite Church USA

Renewed Commitments Document Released

Based on the outcomes of the Future Church Summit in Orlando 2017, the Journey Forward process began. Mennonite Church USA  executive director-to-be Glen Guyton says this process, “fulfills a promise to engage the denomination and give voice to the members of MC USA as they live out the mission of the church in their context.” Birthed from this process, a draft document Renewed Commitments for MC USA has been released by MC USA. The Renewed Commitments document, along with a study guide, will be sent to all congregations on June 1.  Read more about the document release in The Mennonite, or see the Journey Forward FAQ here.

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.

Franconia Conference’s Joy Sutter Nominated as MCUSA Moderator-elect

joysutterFor the past few months, Joy Sutter of Salford Mennonite Church has been chairing the executive minister search committee for Franconia Conference. This past week it was announced that she is the nominee for moderator-elect of MCUSA. Her name was put forward by the MCUSA executive committee and affirmed by the Constituency Leadership Council (CLC) this past week. If affirmed by the delegates at the 2017 Convention, Joy will serve for two years as moderator-elect and then two years a s moderator.

For more information and to hear why her name was put forward visit: http://mennoniteusa.org/news/sutter-nominated-as-mennonite-church-usa-moderator-elect/.

Delegates Discuss Hot Topics During Heatwave

by Colin Ingram, Conference Communication intern

“I’m glad that you took time out on our first heatwave of the summer to talk about some potentially hot topics,” Steve Kriss, LEADership Minister at Franconia Conference said to Conference delegates on Thursday, June 11th. The delegates had gathered at Christopher Dock High School to review delegate responsibilities and discuss MCUSA Convention 2015 resolutions. Some were delegates for Convention, while others were delegates for Conference Assembly.

With only two weeks left until Convention, the delegates sat at five tables discussing upcoming resolutions to be voted on at Convention.  The 36 attendees also reviewed the roll and call of a delegate. A total of 230 delegates will represent the Conference between Convention and Conference Assembly.

“We have gathered here this evening to discuss important matters in the Mennonite Church,” Conference LEADership Minister Noel Santiago said.

After opening remarks from Conference Moderator, John Goshow, Santiago led the delegates through a reflection on the role of delegates leading into a time of Scripture-based devotion.

Questions were then posed to the delegates in a time of table discussion facilitated by John Stoltzfus, Conference Youth Minister.

“Together, [with] our collective wisdom we can come together and new insights and revelations can emerge as we lean into each other,” Stoltzfus said.

DelegateMeeting 6-18-15Moving between tables they discussed five questions World Café style, a discussion engagement style that seeks to obtain different perspectives between persons. Particularly, the delegates discussed the Status of the Membership Guidelines and Forbearance in the Midst of Difference resolutions.

“What we discussed here tonight was the resolutions,” John Nyce, conference delegate for Franconia Mennonite Church, said. “Depending on how those are either rejected [or] accepted will certainly set the agenda for November (Conference Assembly).”

Multiple concerns were expressed on the Membership Guidelines Resolution. In general, the resolution was considered by some as complex, unclear, and unneeded, while others found it values mutual accountability,  the Confession of Faith, and common commitment to mission. However, some expressed concern that four years is too long for the delegate assembly to set aside considering changes to the Membership Guidelines.

Opinions on the Forbearance Resolution ranged between beliefs that it is a call for patience with each other and that it is “kicking the can down the road.” Some delegates found it wise and a seemingly biblical image of unity. However, some expressed that the ambiguity leaves them wondering how far it goes.  Concerns regarding the Forbearance Resolution included that it may open the way for people to do “what they want”, though some believe the resolution reflects the value to search for wisdom with love and unity, having Christ as the center.

Overall, the discussion allowed delegates to further understand the resolutions and hear one another’s perspectives.

A lot of questions still remain from delegates, but the Conference is working on clarifying as much as they can before Convention. The Conference has begun planning for Conference Assembly preparing for how to address what may or may not happen in Kansas City. Communication will be shared with constituents as it becomes available.

Kendra Rittenhouse, Salford Mennonite Church, believed the discussion will bring Franconia Conference unity despite differing views. Moreover, as a first time delegate, she has a positive outlook on Kansas City Convention and the anticipated delegate interactions.

“I am expecting God to work. I am hoping that we can still hold onto one another even though we don’t agree, and that somehow we can roll through this new era [and] still have Christ as our focus,” Rittenhouse said.

A video of the event can be found here. Also, a transcript of the discussion question responses can be found here.

No doubt the outcome of this summer’s resolutions will spark further discussion amongst Conference delegates.

Conferences Meet with MC USA Executive Director

Colin Ingram

Ervin Stutzman, executive director of Mennonite Church USA, met with Franconia and Eastern District Conference members on May 28 at Zion Mennonite Church. The meeting aimed to educate attendees on the MC USA structure and what is happening in the denomination, along with preparing delegates for the upcoming Convention.

“We are gathered this evening to know what it means to be delegates at Kansas City this summer,” Stutzman said.

About one-fifth of the 68 attendees to the meeting were first time delegates. Stutzman reminded delegates their role includes prayer, open discussion, and discernment regarding resolutions. A delegate job description can be found on the MC USA website.

One of the responsibilities of the delegates at the 2015 Convention, Stutzman pointed out, will be discerning what a “majority” is when approving resolutions. Previously, this has been 51 percent of delegates. MC USA is suggesting using a two-thirds majority approach. Delegates will be given time to discern what approach they would like to use prior to voting on the resolutions at Convention.

Throughout the evening, Stutzman highlighted parts of Mennonite Church USA: An Overview, the Purposeful Plan, the updated 2013 Membership Guidelines, and the five Resolutions.

Mike Derstine of Plains Mennonite Church said, “The Purposeful Plan was helpful to see exactly what they’re doing and to hear [Stutzman’s] desire to help the church focus on our common strengths and common vision.”

The Purposeful Plan contains the “seven priorities” of the MC USA Executive Board. Page 20 starts a list of the priorities and displays specific goals intended to fulfill them.

Stutzman reviewed the five Resolutions last. The first three resolutions were addressed individually: Israel-Palestine Resolution, Faithful Witness Amid Endless War Resolution, and the Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse. The other two resolutions relate to one another and therefore were talked about together. Those resolutions being the Resolution on the Status of the Membership Guidelines, and Resolution on Forbearance in the Midst of Difference.

The Membership Guidelines were reviewed before assessing the resolution regarding them. Number 3, 4, and 5 of Part I of the Guidelines were highlighted to show the relationships of authority between congregations, conferences, and MC USA. Stutzman made note that this is important to remember when considering the resolutions on the guidelines and the resolution regarding forbearance.

Stutzman also noted that Part III of the Membership Guidelines was added in 2001 and reviewed why and how it was added. He spoke of this section of the Guidelines being reviewed with the resolution as there is continued tension around the content of Part III.

Executive Board OKs two resolutions for Phoenix

Mennonite Church USA Phoenix Conventionby Gordon Houser, The Mennonite (reposted by permission)

At its last meeting before the delegate assembly in Phoenix in July, the Executive Board (EB) of Mennonite Church USA met April 4-6 in Kansas City, Mo., and decided to send to delegates two resolutions for their consideration.

One resolution, “Protecting and Nurturing Our Children and Youth,” seeks to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect and encourage the adoption of policies and practices to protect children and youth in the church community. Because of concern for liability issues, the board decided to recommend its adoption, “pending legal counsel.”

Another resolution, on creation care, calls for congregations and members to care for creation as part of the good news of Jesus Christ. EB members recommended this without discussion.

A third resolution, on Israel/Palestine, had gone to the Constituency Leaders Council’s meeting in March for discussion.

However, said Dave Boshart and David Sutter, co-chairs of the resolutions committee, “nearly all table groups at CLC discouraged or had significant reservations about presenting the resolution … to the delegate assembly.”

The committee did agree that the topic was important, and EB’s executive committee asked, What do we want to achieve?

Eventually, EB agreed on the following: “Executive Board desires to have conversation in the church which helps us understand both Israeli and Palestinian narratives and the Christian and American narrative in relation to them, and which helps us understand how we interpret the Bible in regard to these issues, particularly how we understand Christian Zionism.”

In an unprecedented occurrence, much of EB’s business time was spent in executive session, which means the press is not allowed to report on what is said.

In an April 8 email, moderator Dick Thomas said: “We spent about one-third of our meeting in either executive session or in session with agency staff and media present [but] where we requested no reporting of the conversation. Some of this conversation had to do with internal board processes and some with matters of discernment that will be reported after further conversation with individuals or groups that could not be at the board meeting.”

In other business, EB decided to reduced its number of meetings per biennium from seven to six, with one meeting in a non-convention year held by teleconference and the summer meeting in a convention year held at the convention site, with no meeting in the fall. EB members recognized the need for cutting budget but lamented the loss of meeting time.

Larry Hauder said, “It’s hard to build relationships with fewer meetings.”

Executive director Ervin Stutzman noted that the Purposeful Plan, which guides the work of the church, did not say anything about “our need for God.”

The board agreed to add the following to the document:”We recognize that because of sin, all have fallen short of the Creator’s intent, marred the image of God in which we were created, disrupted order in the world and limited our love for others. Therefore, through the reconciling power of Jesus Christ, we seek to walk in righteousness, or ‘right-relatedness’ with God and others.”

And in the section under Holistic Christian Witness, they added the following sentence: “Our allegiance to Jesus Christ calls us to love our enemies, demonstrating our willingness to die for our convictions but not to kill for them.”

So, how does Ervin do that?

by J. Eric Bishop, Souderton

Ervin StutzmanErvin Stutzman, Executive Director for Mennonite Church USA, will be the guest speaker at this year’s assembly: God@Work, November 10 at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa.  Recently, Eric Bishop, a member of Souderton congregation and teacher at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, sat down with his friend Merrill Moyer, who has worked with Ervin for a number of years on the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board, to learn more about Ervin’s life and ministry.

Executive Board Member, Merrill Moyer, says, “Ervin has an energy level that I’ve rarely seen. There are seldom two consecutive minutes in a day when he isn’t doing something productive.” Moyer notes that even though there are twenty-one conferences in Mennonite Church USA, with a total of 900 congregations, Ervin “will know what’s going on in every conference and in many congregations as well.”

The biographical summary posted on the MennoMedia website is extensive in recounting Ervin’s many accomplishments:

Ervin R. Stutzman is Executive Director for Mennonite Church USA. Before taking on this role in January 2010, he served for nearly 12 years as Dean and Professor of Church Ministries at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, VA. He has also served the Mennonite Church in the roles of pastor, district overseer, missions administrator, conference moderator and, from 2001 to 2003, as moderator for Mennonite Church USA.

Ervin graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University. He holds master’s degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Eastern Mennonite Seminary. He received his Ph.D. from Temple University. His master’s thesis at Eastern Mennonite Seminary was “Biblical Interpretation in the Free Church: Appropriating Scriptural Truth Through Communal Discernment.” For his doctoral dissertation he wrote “From Nonresistance to Peace and Justice: Mennonite Peace Rhetoric, 1951-1991.”

Ervin was born a twin into an Amish home in Kalona, Iowa. After his father’s death a few years later, his mother moved the family to her home community near Hutchinson, Kan. Ervin was baptized in the Center Amish Mennonite Church near Partridge. Later, he joined the Yoder Mennonite Church.

Ervin married Bonita Haldeman of Manheim, Pa. Together they served for five years with Rosedale Mennonite Missions in Cincinnati, part of that time in voluntary service. Ervin was ordained to serve as co-pastor of Mennonite Christian Assembly. From there, the Stutzmans moved to Pennsylvania, where they were members of the Mount Joy Mennonite Church. They currently live in Harrisonburg, Va.

Ervin is a preacher, teacher and writer. His Herald Press publications include Being God’s People, a study for new believers, Creating Communities of the Kingdom (co-authored with David Shenk), Welcome!, a book encouraging the church to welcome new members, Tobias of the Amish, a story of his father’s life and community, and Emma, A Widow Among the Amish, the story of his mother. Ervin enjoys doing woodworking projects in partnership with Bonita. They have three adult children, Emma, Daniel and Benjamin.

Part of Ervin’s Life Purpose Statement reads: In response to God’s love expressed in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I purpose to follow after God with all my heart so that God may be glorified in my life at all times and in every way.

Stutzman’s approach to leadership reflects his desire to get to know the people he serves. An entrepreneur himself, Stutzman has a special respect for business leaders who are known for their organizational dynamics and their ability to provide direction for those they are charged with leading. While on his many road trips as Executive Director, he makes special efforts to meet with area business people for them to share their view of the church, and teach him about effective leadership and management.

Moyer calls Stutzman a “visionary thinker,” one who is also able to “translate that vision into something that people can understand.” Though he has offices in Elkhart, IN and in Newton, KS, Stutzman chooses to keep his residence and home office in Harrisonburg, VA, a choice that Moyer suggests helps the Executive Director to resist the “beltway mentality” that can easily form inside those two centers of Mennonite Church administration.

Having hosted Ervin in his Souderton, PA home during some of those church-business related road trips, Moyer says that Stutzman is “a humble guy who fits in well in varied surroundings,” and that he can “sit down at the table and talk all evening about his passion for Jesus and his vision for the church.”