The executive committee of Mennonite World Conference gathered July 28–Aug. 4 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for their annual meeting.
After careful study, the executive, composed primarily of new members elected at last year’s assembly in Paraguay, reconfirmed the 6-year cycle for those gatherings, suggesting eastern U.S. as a location for the 2015 assembly. The four commissions finalized in 2009 – faith and life, peace, deacons, mission – reported on their work. The executive urged them to work together to avoid duplication of efforts.
A search is ongoing for a new general secretary to replace Larry Miller, retiring in 2010 after 22 years in the role. In the meantime, MWC is moving toward better representation in each continental region, but is not yet in a position to simultaneously establish offices on each continent. An Unrestricted Fund budget of US$897,000 for 2011 calls for $150,000 to come from reserves designated for the transition period.
Enthusiasm generated by two Global Youth Fellowships held in conjunction with Assembly 14 in Zimbabwe and Assembly 15 in Paraguay led to plans for a new Young Anabaptists Network.
After hearing positive reports from MWC representatives who attended the Lutheran World Federation event in Stuttgart, the executive approved participation in two interchurch dialogues: bilateral conversations with Seventh Day Adventists on “lifestyles as Christians,” particularly the biblical understandings and practices of peace; and trilateral conversations on baptism with Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Catholic Church.
One reason for interchurch conversation, according to Miller, is to talk about the past. “We Anabaptists have often seen ourselves as heirs of martyrs,” he said. “We also need to see ourselves as members of the wider body of Christ.” The executive agreed to work further on what is being labelled a “healing of memories” project, dealing with themes such as the legacy of slavery and colonialism, and leadership and power transitions in the context of violence.
The meetings were hosted by Meserete Kristos Church of Ethiopia, which has 189,296 members in 518 local congregations, 867 church planting projects, and is “completely self-sustaining with no assistance from outside sources,” said MKC chair Tewodros Beyene. By June 2010, MWC member churches totalled nearly 1.2 million baptized members in 99 conferences in 56 countries.
The executive is composed of two representatives from each continent plus four officers: Danisa Ndlovu, Zimbabwe, president; Janet Plenert, Canada, vice-president; Ernst Bergen, Paraguay, treasurer; Larry Miller, France, general secretary.