New generation of planners feels freedomby Laurie Oswald Robinson
When the former General Conference (GC) Mennonite Church and the former Mennonite Church (MC) held their premerger, joint convention at Wichita (Kan.) ’95, Rachel Swartzendruber Miller was a teenager.
Today, she is director of convention planning for Mennonite Church USA, which was formed when those churches merged in 2002. During planning for the past several conventions, including Pittsburgh 2011––Mennonite Church USA biennial convention––she has seen how time can blur old distinctions, while not entirely erasing them.
Youth worship planning committee members display the Pittsburgh 2011 convention poster. Front, from left: Marisa Alemán-Cantú, Glen Guyton. Back, from left: Andrew Gordon, Shelly Miller, Grace Pam, M. Jeremy Ours and Shé Hall. Photo By Laurie Oswald Robinson.
She and other Mennonite Church USA leaders who grew up in the 1990s feel freer to shape conventions around the future of the merged church, even as they are reminded of the MC-GC histories and tensions that fired the forging of transformation.
"According to the Mennonite Church USA bylaws, we are directed to choose convention worship planning committees based on certain ratios," Miller says. Those ratios include 50/50 women to men, 20/80 racial/ethnic people to Anglo/European and 40/60 former GC to MC backgrounds.
"But it's getting harder and harder when selecting planning committees to even tell who was GC and who was MC," she says. Given the natural evolution of the merger, Miller is glad the 40/60 GC to MC mandate for convention planning appointees ends in 2011.
"We want to choose people for the gifts they bring to the table, rather than using premerger paradigms that divide us," she says. "In doing that sensitively, I believe God's Spirit would have us trust that at the end of the day, the two traditions will be equally represented."
Glen Guyton, associate executive director for constituent resources for Mennonite Church USA, also feels that former GC-MC distinctions are fading. And they have never held as much value among racial/ethnic groups and congregations, who often have been occupied with other priorities.
"The racial/ethnic groups have tended to be more regional, even binational, in focus," Guyton says. "For example, the many Asian groups include members from Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. Often, the MC-GC divisions don’t apply. If you are an Asian immigrant who comes to America but still feels ties to your native land, the geographical borders—let alone the former denominational boundaries—won't mean as much to you."
Ervin Stutzman, executive director for Mennonite Church USA, agrees that this new season calls for new trust and openness. Yet the church should not expect itself to erase those distinctions entirely, he says. "These distinctions keep us aware of the social—and organizational—realities that have shaped us to be who we are," he says. "For example, GCs as a general rule had more relational connections to Canadian Mennonites, and that is a rich legacy."
Stutzman, who served as moderator of the emerging Mennonite Church USA from 2001 to 2003, is now at the helm of the merged church.
"It's certainly true that MC-GC distinctions aren’t important among our youth, who were not involved in matters pertinent to area conferences in the former churches," he says. "The younger a person is, the more likely it is that he or she will not be concerned with these issues.
"But it's equally true that some constituents will think about these things for years to come, and that doesn't have to be a bad thing. These distinctions will always matter on some level, because they keep us mindful of the positive formation of history," he says.
- A bridge builder
- In our singing
- Amazing grace that saves Christians
- When you chair the committee
- Unity: A reflection on Ephesians 4:1-16
- The journey is the destination
- Standing in the doorway
- Loving those who annoy you
News stories, digests and Meno Acontecer
- MVS participant killed in bicycle accident
- Sara Wenger Shenk inaugurated as seminary president
- MC USA offices take shape
- Mural captures life of Christ
- MMA gets new addition and new name
- Garden boxes grow more than vegetables
- San Francisco pastor disciplined
- Leaders struggle with Phoenix convention decision
- Executive Board receives conflicting advice on Phoenix convention
- Finding Mennonite Church USA
- New generation of planners feels freedom
- MC Canada confronts Indian schools legacy
- MCC won't coordinate global relief efforts
- CPT report challenges U.S. reading of Iraq
- Mennonite radio program exceeds goals
- Four women leave legacies
- Voluntary vulnerability leads to growth
- ¡Bienvenidos al Meno Acontecer de octubre, 2010!
- Educación Menonita ...
- IBA celebró su retiro anual de estudiantes
- Seminario Bíblico Anabautista Hispano (SeBAH)
- Foro de líderes en Pittsburgh
- ¿Sabía de la lucha de Isabel Castillo?
- Resumen acta reunión directores de MEA
- Oficinas de Newton a consolidar espacios
- ¿Pittsburgh 2011? ¡Allí vamos!
- ¡Nueva Publicación de la Biblioteca Meno!
- Sección de Reflexiones pastorales
- Del pastor Samuel Morán ...
- Del doctor Eliseo Nuñez
- Lessons from 'American Pickers'
- Witnessing for peace within an empire
- Who speaks for me?
- Jesus' way when everyone else is wrong
- And we have no weapon for that
- Readers respond: Should Mennonite Publishing Network plan now a new hymnal by 2016?
- Grace to you
- Talking with each other
- First things first: First give a greeting of peace
- October reviews
- Why do I bother?
- Boycott Arizona?
- Correction on MWC news
- Allaying fears
- Appreciates ethnicity
- Orthopraxy, not orthodoxy
- White will enrich Bethel College
- Wants more obituary information
- Thanks for Myron Schrag piece
- Thanks for articles on child safety
Brides to the Cross
Pittsburgh 2011 will be held July 4-9, 2011, in downtown Pittsburgh. The theme, "Bridges to (the) Cross," is inspired by 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 and by the many bridges that span the City of Three Rivers. The theme is twofold: first, as instruments of Christ's reconciliation, we have many "bridges to cross." Second, God calls us to be ambassadors for Christ and to serve as "bridges to the cross."