MWC reports a good year

September 1, 2010 | God at work in the Church | Number 17
By J. Lorne Peachey | Mennonite World Conference Release
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

“Mennonite World Conference is in good shape. There are no crisis areas. What we agreed to do, we have been able to do.”

With those words, general secretary Larry Miller, who will leave his post in 2012 after more than two decades of service, summarized the work of MWC to the Executive Committee when it gathered in Addis Ababa this summer for its annual meeting.

New commissions

Finalized in 2009, the four commissions—Faith and Life, Peace, Deacons and Mission—each reported to the Executive Committee that they have begun their work electronically and in person. All have plans for future work:

• Faith and Life Commission is anticipating surveying member churches on practices related to baptism and the Lord’s Supper;

• Peace Commission has plans for a study of peace practices in Anabaptist-related churches globally;

• Deacons Commission has identified two or more global Anabaptist deacons in each continent to be available especially in times of crisis; and

• Mission Commission announced plans to hold a Global Mission Fellowship event in 2013 somewhere in Asia.

Budgets and opportunities

While MWC is currently in good financial shape, it is not yet in a position to simultaneously establish representation and offices on each continent, treasurer Ernst Bergen of Paraguay told the committee. This plan has been listed in MWC’s financial projections as an “opportunity,” along with several other things that MWC will do as funds become available.

Income for current operations is meeting expenses, said Karen Martin-Schiedel of Canada, MWC’s director of finance and administration. But because of additional costs due to changes facing MWC, an “unrestricted fund” budget of $897,000 (all funds in US dollars) calls for $150,000 to come from reserves designated for the transition period.

Engaging youths

MWC’s staff liaison for youth, Elina Ciptadi-Perkins, and Ayub Omondi Awich of Kenya, African representative on the Youth Task Force, met with the Executive Committee to outline plans for a new Young Anabaptists Network to work with young people in five areas: networking, fellowship, capacity building, decision-making and Anabaptist identity.

“Young people are interested in MWC and want to be involved,” Ciptadi-Perkins said.

The group comes with an $85,000 surplus from the Global Youth Summit held in Paraguay in connection with Assembly 15.

Inter-church dialogue

After hearing positive and emotional reports from the MWC representatives who had just come from the Lutheran World Federation event in Stuttgart, Germany—at which Lutherans apologized for the legacy of the persecution of Anabaptists in the 16th century—the Executive Committee approved participation in two inter-church dialogues:

• Bilateral conversations with the World Conference of Seventh Day Adventists on “lifestyles as Christians,” particularly the biblical understandings and practices of peace; and

• Tri-lateral conversations on baptism between the Lutheran World Federation, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Catholic Church, and MWC.

Both dialogues are to begin in 2011.

Representatives from Latin America, while approving, urged caution. “Given the reservations that some of our churches have, because of persecution from the Catholics in the past and statements which continue to this day, it’s very important that the objectives for dialogue be very clear,” said Edgardo Sanchez.

MWC growing

As of this June, MWC member churches totalled nearly 1.2 million baptized members, an increase of 30,000 over the previous year. These members worship in congregations in 99 conferences in 56 countries. Baptized membership in all Anabaptist-related churches, both MWC members and those not members, totalled 1.67 milllion.

The largest of these national churches is Meserete Kristos Church of Ethiopia, which hosted the Executive Committee sessions.

“We now have 189,296 baptized members in 518 local congregations,” MKC chair Tewodros Beyene reported. MKC also has 867 church-planting projects.

MKC executive secretary Kenna Dula described how the church began 60 years ago out of missionary work by the Lancaster (Pa.) Mennonite Conference. In 1982, when the church went underground because of persecution by the then-communist government, it had 5,000 members. MKC emerged in 1991 “from the dark time of persecution” with a membership of 50,000. And it has been growing ever since.

“God has been very good to us,” said Beyene. “In spite of the challenges, MKC is now completely self-sustaining with no assistance from outside sources.”

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