Church summit points way ahead for MCC

In Akron, Pa., Jan. 31–Feb. 1, key stakeholders of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) reached crucial structural agreements that support MCC’s worldwide ministry for the 21st century.

That work, in about 60 countries at present, will continue unabated, according to Arli Klassen, executive director of MCC binational. “Supporters in Canada and the United States, along with global partners, will continue to be engaged with MCC’s ministry in the name of Christ, ” Klassen said.

Nine of the 13 denominations that support the Canada, U.S., and binational MCCs; the 12 MCC agencies in Canada and the United States; and Mennonite World Conference sent a total of 62 representatives.

The summit marked a major threshold in MCC’s New Wine/New Wineskins revisioning and restructuring process.

“We are forging a renewed partnership,” said Neil Janzen of Winnipeg, Man., chair of the MCC Canada board.

The agreements – on agency roles, program administration, and accountability to the church – will be written into bylaws and covenants expected to be endorsed in 2011, along with recommendations for a streamlined structure that will be implemented in 2012.

The work of MCC around the world will be collaboratively led by both MCC Canada and MCC U.S., taking over from the current binational MCC, which will end as an organization. The anticipated timing of this transition is early 2012.

A standing committee of the Canada and U.S. boards will foster and facilitate collaboration between MCC Canada and MCC U.S.

The summit agreements strengthen MCC’s accountability to its supporting denominations through renewed board representation. At least two-thirds of the membership of each MCC board will be official representatives of Anabaptist denominations in Canada and the U.S.

Participants also spoke to MCC’s role in global witness and service, endorsing MCC’s participation in the proposed new Global Anabaptist Service Network. (The Global Anabaptist Service Consultation convened by Mennonite World Conference in August 2010 decided to appoint a task force to explore a new global network.)

Herman Bontrager of Akron, Pa., chair of the binational MCC board, said an important intent of MCC restructuring “is to continue and deepen the mutual accountability of the global family of faith.”

“For 90 years MCC has…brought Mennonite and Brethren in Christ people together in responding to human need and building peace. It has been a vital instrument in connecting…with our counterpart churches in the rest of the world,” said Bontrager.

MCC’s “New Wine/New Wineskins: Reshaping MCC for the 21st century” process included listening to and consulting with more than 2,000 people from 50 countries.

MCC U.S. board chair Ann Graber Hershberger, of Harrisonburg, Va., was impressed by the summit’s interchange and sees the ongoing value of MCC’s close relationship with other parts of the church. “It is a rare privilege to participate in a meeting where church leaders discern with each other and MCC about what we are called to do as a Christian community. We ask church leaders to continue to walk with MCC in our shared ministry.”

Cheryl Zehr Walker is director of communications for MCC and interim director of communications for MCC U.S.

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