It took three impromptu songs to count the ballots and confirm the results, but Anabaptist leaders from around the world elected J. Nelson Kraybill president-elect of Mennonite World Conference at MWC General Council meetings May 20-27.
Kraybill is a pastor at Prairie Street Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Ind., and was president of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart from 1996 to 2008. He will replace President Danisa Ndlovu of Zimbabwe in three years at Assembly 16 in Harrisburg, Pa.
“We almost had a tie, but we do have a simple majority,” Ndlovu said of the choice between Kraybill and Markus Rediger of Switzerland.
It is the first time a president-elect has come from outside General Council membership. The MWC constitution had been modified at a previous meeting to allow a wider field of candidates. Though not a delegate, Kraybill was involved in crafting MWC’s Shared Convictions document.
“I can sense in just the short time I’ve been with you, this has been a worshipful time together,” said Kraybill, who arrived in Europe only a couple of hours before the election.
“I think the most important thing we do as Mennonite people is worship and call people together into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“What an honor and challenge to be called to this role. I look forward to learning from you, Danisa. Please be patient with me.”
Members of the executive committee and the North American delegation offered prayers of support for Kraybill and thanks for two strong candidates. After the prayers concluded, Rediger made his way up to the stage, where the two shared an embrace to thunderous applause.
“In the church there are no losers. There are no losers; there are only winners,” said Ndlovu. “We are all winners in Christ Jesus.”
A fair share
Much of the continental caucus and delegate sessions were dedicated to discussion of proposed “fair-share amounts” MWC members and associate members are asked to financially contribute from 2013 to 2015.
The amounts are based on church membership and each country’s per capita gross national product. For example, Mennonite Church USA is one of the larger churches with 103,245 members, and the U.S. has the highest per capita GNP with $41,557. Based on MWC’s 2013-15 needs of $2.98 million, MC USA’s fair share is 33.75 percent, or $1.008 million. Mennonite Church Canada’s fair share is 8.67 percent.
The U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches’ share is 11.6 percent, and the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches’ share is 9.13 percent. Those and other North American members’ shares total 78.67 percent of MWC’s requested income.
Most other fair-share percentages are at or far below 1 percent. MWC tends to receive less than half of the fair-share amounts it requests.
Many delegates expressed deep reservations about meeting the expectation. The proposed amounts were only approved with the inclusion of the possibility for negotiations about individual member’s obligations.
“We recognize that the formula used is not a perfect formula,” said MWC chief operating officer Len Rempel of Canada.
“Using one number for a whole country — we recognize that is not the most accurate approach.”
MWC vice president Janet Plenert of Canada agreed conditions can vary from region to region in a country and hoped some members recognized an ability to negotiate a higher contribution. She also noted widespread desire for a new formula system.
“We will record carefully that we have heard a significant call for that,” she said.
Assembly 17 Indonesia
Departing from traditional procedure, General Council delegates conditionally accepted an invitation from the Asian caucus to host Assembly 17 in Indonesia in 2021. The Indonesian churches asked nine years early — instead of six — to help with their preparations.
An official decision is contingent upon a feasibility study looking at travel, facilities and infrastructure.
“Only if there are significant problems would we go back and change that,” Plenert said.
Delegates also affirmed the executive committee’s decision to confer the title of general secretary emeritus on Larry Miller, who served as general secretary from 1990 until the end of 2011.
The General Council meets every three years. The Basil meetings drew 207 participants from 48 countries.
Tim Huber wrote this article for Meetinghouse, an association of Mennonite periodicals.
--June 1, 2012