What’s new with Mennonite World Conference?
A great deal: a new president and vice-president, a new general council and executive committee, new member churches, growing youth involvement, a new treasurer from Paraguay, a revised constitution, and four new commissions ready to work.
The business of MWC was done by its general council and executive committee at meetings held in conjunction with the global Assembly 15, July 14-19, in Asuncion.
Danisa Ndlovu of Zimbabwe, previously MWC vice-president, was installed as president for six years. He succeeds Nancy Heisey of USA who served as president since 2003.
Janet Plenert of Canada, who earlier chaired the Global Mission Fellowship, was elected vice-president for six years.
The general council elected a new executive committee from its members, consisting of two people from each continental caucus. For the first time, the African caucus chose a woman, Mawangu Biavula Ibanda of DR Congo, as one of its representatives.
The new executive committee accepted by consensus a report from AMIGOS, the young adult team, and its nominations for a Youth Task Force to operate for one year. AMIGOS organized the Global Youth Summits in Zimbabwe and Asuncion, and maintains electronic contact with youth around the world.
Four new members
Four national churches (conferences) were accepted as full members of MWC: the Vietnam Mennonite Church, Brethren in Christ Church in Mozambique, The Gilgal Mission Trust (Mennonite Church) in India, and the Bible Missionary Church in Myanmar.
Churches must apply for membership and meet eligibility criteria. They must be an organized church for at least 5 years, have 500 or more baptized members and at least 2 congregations, and affirm MWC’s vision, mission, and shared convictions.
Spain has an association of small Anabaptist churches with less than 500 members but was granted decision-making rights on the general council until their membership as a special case is determined.
For the first time, management of MWC’s finances has moved to the Global South with the appointment of Ernst Bergen of Paraguay as treasurer. Paul Quiring of USA concludes 11 years as treasurer.
MWC’s income, investments, and expenses have increased dramatically over the past decade, to some US$1.2 million at the end of 2008, with positive fund balances. Assembly 15 finances are not yet final.
The general council has about 116 members named by member and associate member churches. Work completed by the previous general council included adopting a revised constitution that defined term lengths for specific positions and enlarged the functions of continental caucuses.
Four commissions have been developing over several years, and appointments to them were approved by the general council. Discussion between MWC and the Global Mission Fellowship concluded with the formation of the mission commission, to be chaired by Richard Showalter of USA.
Other commission chairs, named earlier, are: deacons, Cynthia Peacock of India; faith and life, Alfred Neufeld of Paraguay; and peace, Mulugeta Zewdie of Ethiopia.
The general council also approved the merger of MWC’s Asia caucus and the Asia Mennonite Conference.
A shift of some administration to the Global South is under consideration.
A study is underway to determine the time and place for the next gathering. A major celebration is anticipated in Europe in 2025, to mark the 500th anniversary of Anabaptism and the 100th anniversary of the Mennonite World Conference.
In May 2012, Larry Miller will conclude 22 years as MWC general secretary.