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2011-01-01 issue:

Convention 2013 will be held in Phoenix

by Anna Groff

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Mennonite Church USA's convention in 2013 will be held in Phoenix.



During its Jan. 7-9 meeting in Tampa, Fla., the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board affirmed the decision to hold the convention in Phoenix, a site first selected in January 2009.

However, the EB also committed to finding ways to offer an additional location for delegates who will not attend "because of conscience or concerns for safety," due to Arizona's controversial immigration law.

Thirteen board members voted for the recommendation and three against it. The three who voted against were: Juanita Nunez, Elizabeth Soto Albrecht and Samuel Voth Schrag. Two EB board members were absent.



In a December 2010 letter sent to Mennonite Church USA leaders, Iglesia Menonita Hispana (Hispanic Mennonite Church) leaders made it clear they want to abstain from Arizona.
 
"If the Phoenix site is chosen," they wrote, "we will bless the people who will be attending the event and will continue to pray. While we are blessing the people and the event, it does NOT mean we endorse the decision."

Prior to the decision, the EB and its staff spent several hours deliberating about the decision in several closed sessions over two days. They shared personal stories, asked difficult questions, prayed, worshipped and brainstormed creative ways to address the fact that some delegates will not attend.



"We are committed to work on creative ways to include those delegates who because of conscience or concerns for safety will be unable to gather with the church in Phoenix," says the EB's resolution on the decision, "and at a minimum to find a satellite location at which delegates can participate in the delegate work of the assembly."


The EB also reaffirms its commitment to the 11 action items described in the recommendation regarding the churchwide convention in 2013. 


The first-ever meeting of Mennonite racial/ethnic leaders is meeting today and tomorrow for a gathering called "Hope for Change ... Hope for the Future."

More than a dozen of these attendees met with the EB on Jan. 9 to discuss the Phoenix decision.



Carlos Romero, director of Mennonite Education Agency, asked about the "satellite location" mentioned in the resolution and if it is intended for delegates only, other adults or youth.

Glen Guyton, Mennonite Church USA's associate executive director for constituent resources, responded that the plan for a satellite location for the 2013 convention is still in the early stages. The convention staff will invite input on what it should look like.

"It's still in flux," said Guyton. "I'm open to the possibilities."


Pittsburgh experiment

At Pittsburgh 2011, the delegate assembly may set aside church statements for conversation, discernment and missional church discussions.


During its meeting, the EB also passed a recommendation for a new model of "ongoing discernment rather than a more mainline denominational model adopting church statements that may be viewed as controlling rather than empowering," according to the board docket. Mennonite Church Canada has worked at this model at their gatherings. 



J. Richard (Dick) Thomas, Mennonite Church USA's moderator-elect, said he hopes delegates see this experiment as empowering to delegates.

A paper by Dale Schrag of Bethel College, North Newton, Kan., on "Conflict in the Academy" influenced this recommendation, Thomas said. Schrag's paper raised concerns that schools tend to promote a culture of debate with winners and losers rather than a culture of dialogue.





Thomas said some delegates enjoy the debate and will miss that, but others hesitate to be delegates because of that culture. 

"You do not gain by forcing everyone to talk about controversial things," Thomas said.

The important question is, "How does this experiment enhance our journey to be a missional church?" Thomas said.





As one part of this experiment, the Conversation Rooms planned for Pittsburgh 2011 will offer a place for mediated dialogue on topics such as human sexuality, immigration and more. (Click here to read about the Conversation Rooms).

"We see [the rooms] as an extension of the delegate body," Thomas said. "Conversation Rooms would be open and functioning for delegates to attend."

Ed Diller, moderator of Mennonite Church USA, supports the Pittsburgh Experiment recommendation because "missional church theology calls us to do things differently," he says. However Diller described three responses he predicts delegates may have to the recommendation.

First, some will say this recommendation as a way to keep delegates from doing their work. Second, there are histories of various bodies working in different ways. Third, some people are accustomed to Robert's Rules of Order and will miss using them. Other board members affirmed Diller in naming these potential responses, and still moving forward with the experiment.



"We're going to have to have two or three alternate plans," he says. "It's an easy decision to make and a hard one to implement."



Board members affirmed and expressed excitement for the recommendation.

Addie Banks, a member of the EB executive committee, said, "This experiment will have delegates enter into a missional church experience. People will come away with that."

The EB’s next meeting is at Portland Mennonite Church April 14-16. 

Reader Comments

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  • Posted by ATice at Sunday, January 09, 2011 at 11:10 PM

    This is sorely disappointing news. If there is a valid reason (beyond money) for retaining Phoenix it has yet to be communicated. This attempt at a "compromise" further marginalizes many in the denomination by putting them in a separate (but equal??) location. Until I see further explanation about this decision, I have to agree with Andy Alexis-Baker's critique: http://www.jesusradicals.com/becoming-anabaptist-a-protest-to-the-mennonite-church/

  • Posted by tratzloff at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 09:33 AM

    Disappointing decision and especially bad timing. Think Tuscon...

  • Posted by markvans at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    Disappointing. I know $500,000 is a lot of money, but seriously? Is this the sort of Mennonites we want to be? And I'm really confused about how centralizing decision making is particularly "missional." Perhaps we should stop getting consultations from missional experts from the Mainline. When was the last time you thought of the Mainline as being particularly "missional?"

  • Posted by lisagc at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    It's obvious that money is more important to the Mennonite power structure than justice for, and solidarity with, Latino brothers and sisters. The church is not as evolved as it would like to think it is. I am so very disappointed.

  • Posted by juanfmar at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    I have been following this story and am greatly saddened to know that the Mennonite Church USA has chosen not to stand with the undocumented community and with undocumented Mennonites in particular. So we are back to "separate, but equal."

  • Posted by jay at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    It is disappointing, but not surprising. Our mission has been seduced by Mammon/money. We are no longer willing to sacrifice, especially our money. What statement, to MCUSA and the world, would it be if the 'satellite' had more people than the convention? Are delegates, youth groups, etc., willing to demand a presence at the satellite location? Perhaps, if more people desire to attend the satellite location than the actual convention. . . .

  • Posted by sharonw at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    Disappointing,not surprising. This is how a white institution does antiracism work in its own racist way, & pitting people of color against each other. This has long-term implications for the future of our denomination--ministry, mission, publishing, etc.--essentially, we can be intercultural if it doesn't cost anything. Pittsburgh 2011 multicultural day celebration-- what's there to celebrate? Our cost-effective disunity? In Phoenix, how are white people going to make an effective witness about immigration when they can't include immigrants? @The Mennonite, why did you publish only the names of the dissenting votes? Who are you trying to protect?

  • Posted by markvans at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    Yes, it would be good to know who voted FOR. I have no doubt they had the best intentions. But c'mon. First we spend tons of money on a MMN headquarters in Elkhart (mission?) and then we pick Arizona (even after this shooting happens!) to save some money. We can do better. We MUST do better or our "witness" is fundamentally lacking in the strength to challenge the evils of our day.

  • Posted by VernR at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    I am pleased to hear about the engagement with a discernment process, in place of a more traditional simple statement-adoption practice (although I wonder if that is ubiquitous in main-line denominations). Discernment, gaining a sense of the unity and diversity of the whole body of gathering folks and attending to the heart of the Spirit among us, is very different then a matter of a statement, pros, cons, and voting (not that this is all that we've done in the past.). Simple statement-adoption can feel controlling. Discernment is still a use of power, but it is an attempt to be deeply empathic and alert to all who are gathered, while still finding ways to move toward action.

  • Posted by mcastillo at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 01:15 PM

    I am saddened by this news and struck by the irony of "The first-ever meeting of Mennonite racial/ethnic leaders is meeting today and tomorrow for a gathering called "Hope for Change ... Hope for the Future." Those who would be most affected by this decision, the Hispanic churches and leaders, clearly and graciously stated their position. How can these racial/ethnic leaders have hope for change if Mennonite Church USA does not honor their call for change? God forgive us if this decision was made based on the cost involved.

  • Posted by brycelm at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 01:36 PM

    As a leader here in AZ, I find myself both weeping (which, considering the context of the last few days in my city, I can hardly stop myself) and rejoicing. I weep because of the division this causes as is already witnessed here in the comments. I weep for the isolation and message that this does cause for many in the church, including my Latino brothers and sisters who are already so isolated. I weep that this is perceived as solely a monetary decision, and that we have to critique our structures on this point (a right a proper thing to do, but can also unduly make us cynical). What degree to which this played a role I cannot say but for saying all of the conversations I have been involved with on this issue, this was not a primary concern. But I also must too rejoice. I rejoice for the opportunity this represents as well. I rejoice to have my family coming to visit, to learn, to protest, and to speak. I rejoice in the possibilities (which may well be disappointed) that this also may represent. I do not have the option to boycott my state. I live in this mess. I am in the midst of these insoluble problems. My calling as minister of Jesus has placed me here, and here I must be. I am fervently aware of my need for consultation and identification with my brothers and sisters from other parts of the church. Especially in the last couple of days since a mass shooting my town, I have felt the isolation of being a troubled place. I have felt the powerlessness of the situation of being swept into the anger and hatred of the few, and it impacting the many. And I don't know what to do about any of it. I have come to realize that this is one of these situations which has no good answer to it. I honor the situation of danger that this represents for so many. I am not in direct danger, no. My calling puts me in solidarity with those who are, and finds me prepared to stand with those who are the next time the phone rings. I am the first to say that Arizona has sadly become a headquarters for what is worst in society. I also agree with the many who lament our comfortableness of wealth and power in the church. I just happen to be in position where just staying away is not an option. I don't have answers to any of this. But where I live, I also don't have the luxury of avoiding the issue either.

  • Posted by timjn at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 02:09 PM

    For the, the decision to go to Phoenix is a sad one, for many of the reasons mentioned in the comments above. I pray that it will be a wake up call for the Anabaptist community to shift its energy away from traditional Mennonite Church USA structures and towards imagining something new: http://www.themennonite.org/bloggers/timjn/posts/The_Phoenix_Decision_a_catalyst_for_something_new_to_rise

  • Posted by marlinz at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 09:03 PM

    In reading the comments which have been posted already it becomes obvious to me that probably most of you people never had to make large costly decisions{financial or in reputation]. It appears that most of you do not support the EX board of MC USA. I will agree that the dollar investment being made in the new headquarters building is rather high and difficult to understand the need for it. However it is much easier to criticize persons who MUST make the final decisions than it is to educate yourselves as to why the decisions are made as they are. Has it crossed your mind that it is possible in the next two years the law in Arizona may be completely different than it is today? Another location may have been chosen and it could have adverse laws put in place just days before the event. Every thing is subject to change. Since $ 500,000 is not a very large amount of money to some of you, when are you going to begin raising that amount of money? It seems to me that many times people would rather not make difficult choices,would rather have us be tolerant of all sorts of happenings in the church,find it rather easy to be criticle of those who must make the decisions.I speak from the experiance of 30 plus years of serving in leadership in a small community "missional" church where we work with marginalized low income persons on a regular basis. We were missional long before the term was invented. I have served on the board of a large non profit ministry for 30 plus years. I was part owner of a business for 30 plus years. Having said all this only to say I do have some experiance in life which has shown me that many things do not happen as planned and that most observers will criticize whatever the incharge persons decide will be done. My view has become: If you do not like the decision, educate yourself on the subject. give intelligent input and perhaps even volounteer to help make decisions. Lastly, I want to emphasis that decisions which look obvious, easy and logical NEVER EVER ARE EASY.

  • Posted by mbt at Monday, January 10, 2011 at 11:21 PM

    My profound sadness and confusion regarding this announcement is summed up with this Cry of Lament, found at: http://houstonmennonite.org/2011/01/10/phoenix-a-cry-of-lament/

  • Posted by mennonitetmail at Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    I'm disappointed too. Although I attended all the MC USA conventions for more than 25 years, this time I will plan on attending the alternate location. I hope there are a lot more who choose to do the same.

  • Posted by markvans at Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 04:17 PM

    marlinz...I'm not sure how being condescending helps anything. Your experiences may be valuable, but they don't "trump" the experiences of others. Isn't it possible to be well educated about the issues and still disagree? Perhaps even lament this decision? Arizona's laws may change in two years...for sure. But that doesn't change the effect of the decision now. $500,000 is a huge amount of money, but some things are more important than money.

  • Posted by cptcsd at Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 04:23 PM

    Tragic. So with a satellite location, we divide the church into those who think we should listen to the Hispanic caucus on this, and the rest. If you wanted to design a way to polarize the church conference and avoid interaction between conservatives and liberals, this would be ideal. Of course there was cost involved in boycotting Phoenix, but has anyone done estimates on how much it will cost to host the conference in two states, with electronic links and all to give the illusion of listening to those on the margin? And how much more will exhibitors spend to be represented in two locations? The EB should have asked Mennonites wanting the church to boycott Arizona to each pledge $100 toward the costs of shifting the site. This could have been done in advance, and then they would have known how much of the lost deposit was being covered by supporters of the move. Young adults and racialized members, you don't control enough money to sway institutional decisions.

  • Posted by Jandjeby14 at Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 10:34 PM

    This decision has focused on immigration issues. However,the passage of HB 2281 by the Arizona legislature is equally troubling and reflective of a hostile environment for some. It prohibits schools from offering instruction designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group or advocating ethnic solidarity. This can be used to eliminate some very significant programs. The decision about where to locate the convention is a difficult decision and I respect the persons and process by which it was made. I also highly respect the approach taken by Latino brothers and sisters in their letter to the church. I hope the convention can become a witness to justice and respect for ethnic and cultural identity and the diversity that indeed makes the church truly representative and responsive to every group within it. The International SS lessons recently focused on the word of God to people in an alien land. Let's listen carefully!

  • Posted by hutcherl@mac.com at Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    I am shocked, surprised and disappointed by the lack of faith and commitment of the members of the EB who voted to hold the convention in Arizona. I take pride in the inclusiveness of the Mennonite church, but this goes totally against it.

  • Posted by lisagc at Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 12:34 AM

    Marlinz, I didn't say, nor do I think, the decision was easy. I too have several decades of professional work under my belt (in the private sector and in a large nonprofit organization), and I've made big financial decisions as well. I am also a Latina who has been condescended to in the same chiding tone you employed, and frankly, I am growing weary of it. I *do* volunteer in my Spanish-speaking Mennonite congregation, I *am* informed about institutional and organizational issues within the church, and I *have* agonized over complex decisions, some of which were followed by criticism from others whom I felt didn't really understand the process. None of this lessens my sadness at this particular decision, however. Yes, situations change over time. Maybe the law in Arizona will be repealed, modified or struck down by the court. Maybe other states will enact their own versions of this horrendous law. But this isn't about what *might* happen between now and 2013. It's about who we are as a church, right here and right NOW. Sometimes living up to our convictions means taking a path that seems impractical. (Think "give away everything you own and come follow me.") Sometimes sacrifices and/or costly decisions are what's needed to help spur the very change we're hoping and waiting for. (Should we have told civil rights leaders back in the 1950s and 1960s just to wait until laws got better instead of marching and boycotting like they did?) "We may misunderstand," wrote Native American activist Vine Deloria, Jr., "but we do not mis-experience." This experience, and my understanding of it (limited though it may be) has me seriously questioning whether there is a place for me in this denomination. Lisa Guedea Carreno

  • Posted by Malinda Berry at Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    I have a dare for all of us: let's remember that 2013 is two years away from this coming July. That gives us time. Time to plan, time to organize, time to raise consciousnesses and awareness around a lot of issues that SB 1070 and the most recent events in Tucson bring to the forefront for our denomination that seeks peace and cultivates nonviolent alternatives to violent expressions of Christian faith and the human spirit. So here's my dare: Who in MC USA's midst (white folk and folk of color alike) is willing to step forward or be called forward to organize us so that those who gather in Phoenix 2013 can be unequivocal about the fact that MC USA is not okay with xenophobia, racism, economic exploitation, systemic injustice, and violent political rhetoric espoused in the name of the God of Christian faith? There is something in the city's very name, "phoenix," that gives me hope -- out of the ashes of our disappointment, I dare us to look for signs of Christ's resurrection. After all, the phoenix is an ancient symbol of the one who is our center, source, ground, and redeemer.

  • Posted by lisagc at Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    Thank you for your words of hope and your challenge, Malinda. -- Lisa Guedea Carreno

  • Posted by Matthewpsyoder at Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 08:48 PM

    I deeply appreciate Lisa’s challenge and Malinda’s dare. That is why I accept your call, Malinda, to begin organizing a non-violent direct action campaign for Phoenix 2013. And I nominate you as my co-planner if you will accept. Before the decision to keep the Phoenix location was finalized and before I read all of these posts, I had already begun compiling a list of my friends – community organizers, MC USA leaders, convention planners, and Mennonite leaders in Arizona – to contact about getting this project started. I support my Latino brothers and sisters who feel the need to meet at a separate location but since some of us will still be gathering in Phoenix, our witness to the peace and justice of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Savior – our Christian witness to the state – needs to be front and center at that event. I agree with marlinz that action is more difficult than complaining. So I invite everyone who has posted a response of disappointment, frustration, and critique to this article to put your faith into action; join me, and bring your friends who feel as you do. I can be reached at matthewpsyoder@mennonite.net. I will be on an MDS assignment in Louisiana this week and so I’ll be away from my desk. But after Sunday the 23rd I can also be reached at 509-659-0926 or 509-347-6847. I invite input, critique, and assistance from all as we move forward. I will not abandon my family of faith. But in light of the Executive Board’s decision, neither can I now remain quiet.

  • Posted by ATice at Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 11:30 PM

    My feeling at this point is that those of us who are angered or frustrated by the Phoenix decision should do what I hoped the EB would have done in the first place: follow the recommendation of IMH. They should have the lead on this. I suspect that will mean that many of us attend the satellite convention.

  • Posted by JeanKH at Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    How does the Phoenix decision square with the 4 churchwide priorities (affirmed for the period 2006 - 2020) of Witness, Anti-racism, Leadership Development, and Global Connections? How these 4 items figured into the decision-making process we don't know, but they may offer useful guideposts for those disappointed and imagining healthy, creative responses. Here's the link to the denomination's articulation of its commitment to witness, anti-racism, leadership development, and global connections: http://www.mennoniteusa.org/Home/ChurchwidePriorities/tabid/72/Default.aspx

  • Posted by dhwert at Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 07:03 PM

    Friends, If you wonder whether there is a valid reason for the decision "beyond money", please read the Recommendations document linked to in the article above: http://www.mennoniteusa.org/Portals/0/Convention2013/2013Recommend.pdf That may not be fully satisfying, but it shows the thinking, in considerable detail. Like marlinz, I can get frustrated with the comments here that seem to project all sorts of bad faith onto the EB members. They are fallible servants of the church, like all of us. The big difference is that they spend many days and weeks of their personal time to serve the church, only to be criticized by those who are not as fully informed of all the difficult aspects of the decision. To cast stones at them for what must have been a heart-wrenching decision feels very unfair and unkind. As for the argument that it's "all about money," I think it's a reasonable thing to discern whether there are better ways to spend $400,000 (the figure I've seen). Perhaps for the "Commitments" listed in the Recommendations document, or the items recommended by the IMH? I may get castigated for even raising a pragmatic question, but do we know how many undocumented church members usually attend convention, if any? With the costs of travel and time off, as well as the risks of traveling anywhere as an undocumented person, my sense is that the number would not be high. If the number is 5 or 50, would this make a difference? By the way, the point about "copycat" laws in other states is valid. In Oregon, such bills have already been submitted in the state legislature. Hopefully they won't pass, but the point is that this is an issue that's not going away. If we care about immigration reform, let's do something positive and proactive, not run away from the problem. (But anyone who doesn’t feel safe coming to Phoenix should not come.) - Dave Hockman-Wert, Corvallis, Oregon

  • Posted by somasoul at Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 09:05 AM

    Thank you, Dave, for your continued voice on this subject. Many folks, including myself at first, were quick to pass judgement and become hostile. We need to remember, MCUSA didn't make this law. We didn't schedule the event after the law was passed. The most vocal opponents wish to run away from this fight. Even CPT, the organization that should be clamoring to move the event to 2011, is withdrawing its presence. You can't make peace where peace already exists. And you can't bring light into a lit room. The Phoenix event is a chance to put our light on lampstand and take the message of the Gospel, the message of hope to the oppressed, where it very well may be needed most. You play the hand your dealt. Too many are folding out before they even look at their cards. This is a wonderful time to share MCUSA's core messages. Instead of increasing in Christ's love and sharing his divine message, too many people are becoming bitter, hopeless and enraged.

  • Posted by Yvonne Diaz at Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 07:54 PM

    I have read with interest all of the comments shared by a number of people. I would have some comments on some of the things people have said and hopefully some insight into some of the ideas presented. This is to us very sad and disappointing news. Many have not had the opportunity to engage in the many conversations we did and the agony, pain and dismemberment we feel. First, is addressing the "running away" from Phoenix by Latinos or others. We have a high percentage of undocumented people within our churches. Traveling around in this country is not a problem that just began with passage of this law. It has always been an issue not only in AZ but in many other states and became much more difficult since 9/11. Many of our undocumented brothers and sisters are employed in jobs that hardly allow any time off so attending convention much less conference meetings or any other type church meetings is almost impossible. Aside from the time and travel factors, there is also the cost factor. I realize this is true for many others also who are not Latinos. For those of us who are Latino and documented, it then becomes a matter of standing with the most vulnerable within our church. We choose to stand with them and their situation to be a support to them as brothers and sisters in the faith. We have been fighting for immigration reform and will continue to do that. This is a declaration of unity and standing with them because they have asked us to. Being presented with the idea of an alternate location for those who would not go to Phoenix - as Latinos we will not be considered as second class citizens of the kingdom and will not attend an alternate location as suggested. We are however thinking about an idea of having a separate convention and organized by those who wish to be there with our own speakers, worship leaders, etc. If we don't get to participate in the business sessions of the church, oh well, so be it! We too have questioned the priorities that MC USA has made and wonder how this decision supports any of them. While one of the main arguments for going is to be a presence and witness in AZ, I must admit I am very cynical. The reason is because of the history of peace/justice issue events at convention being poorly attended. In San Jose, it focused on immigration and only about 80 people showed up. I can tell you that the religious Latino community in Phoenix has the expectation that ALL of the thousands of attendees at this convention will be out in the streets protesting in some way. IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!!! What are you going to say to them when only a handful show up? We do believe in being missional - we have been doing it for years! We do believe in being a witness wherever we are - we have been doing that for years. Many just do not understand the kind of dangerous situation our people would find themselves in going there. My challenge to you is - how many of you are willing to get arrested while in Phoenix? You say you want to be a witness and presence for those that are undocumented in AZ - how about your witness and support to all the brothers and sisters WITHIN the faith that have asked you to consider them? We have been told by many that we have been gracious throughout this whole process. We don't know how else to be because that's what God calls us to be! We would never withhold a blessing for people within our faith community! We do NOT agree with the decision. We will NOT be present in Phoenix! If you would like to talk further with me about how we have come to this place - you may contact me at yvedk@aol.com

  • Posted by dhwert at Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 01:49 PM

    Yvonne, I appreciate your sharing here, and I appreciate IMH's clear communication on this issue. It is a blessing to the whole church.

    First, I want to stress that my comment about "running away" was not addressed to undocumented or Latino Mennonites. It was primarily addressed to the Anglos who want to boycott Phoenix 2013 out of a well-meaning sense of solidarity with oppressed people. While I understand your cynicism about whether Mennonites in Phoenix will be willing to participate in a mass action/event, isn't this true anywhere? In other words, if we moved the convention elsewhere, would we do any better? At least if we're in Phoenix, those who are willing can make clear, direct statements in support of immigrants and in opposition to Arizona's oppressive laws. If we didn’t meet in Phoenix, how much action in relation to immigration would be likely to happen? And if those who are most likely to act in support of immigrants boycott the convention (such as CPT), how much less strong will any action be?

    Frankly, I see it as easier for Mennonites to avoid standing up for the rights of immigrants if we *don’t* go to Phoenix, compared to if we *do* go. That is what I meant by “running away.” If we go, we force ourselves to face the problem. If we don’t go, we can avoid it more easily.

    Since you say that "attending convention ... is almost impossible" for our undocumented sisters and brothers in general, I wonder why changing venues makes a difference? For example, if very few undocumented brothers and sisters come to a "regular" convention, such as Pittsburgh 2011, then why should MC USA move the convention away from Phoenix? Or, more specifically, if MC USA *had* moved the convention away from Phoenix, would many undocumented people have attended? In other words, is the desire to hold the convention elsewhere primarily a symbolic gesture or a practical request? Both symbolism and pragmatism have value, but I think it behooves us to be clear about this.

    Finally, there is still a lot of time before July 2013. I would hope that all of us can take time to learn about what is happening in Arizona, see what happens between now and then both in Arizona and all over the country, and consider prayerfully what seems to be the best approach for each of us in terms of attending or not.

    Shalom, Dave

  • Posted by PhoenixRising at Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 08:39 AM

    This is all very confusing. I thought Phoenix was the problem. Now the Hispanics are saying they are going to have a separate convention? Is that what happens when we disagree in the church? That does not feel very gracious. Anytime people disagree with a minority group that makes us racist?

  • Posted by Mennonite Church USA Communications at Friday, January 21, 2011 at 11:36 PM

    As a person serving Mennonite Church USA in a staff role, I appreciate this forum for dialogue and the honest and thoughtful responses that have been shared. A number of you have referenced the Executive Board. You may be interested in reading a letter from three leaders who have been closely involved with this process to the groups that were specifically consulted in regards to the decision. The letter offers additional information about composition of the board and how the board members approached this difficult decision-making process. The PDF is at: http://www.mennoniteusa.org/Portals/0/Convention2013/Memo_to_Leaders_2011Jan18.pdf --Annette Brill Bergstresser, Mennonite Church USA Communications staff

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