With the World Health Organization using the word “pandemic” to describe global infection from the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), Mennonite World Conference leadership has cancelled the March Renewal 2027 public event and April executive committee meetings that were scheduled to take place in Abbotsford, B.C.
“We are cognizant of our global witness,” says César García, MWC’s general secretary. “We are choosing safety by postponing this event. Our executive committee members come from around the world; we would not want them to inadvertently transmit infection to a region of the world not currently affected, especially in regions with more precarious health care.”
Titled “Jesus Christ, Our Hope: Intercultural Conversation & Celebration,” the Renewal event—the fourth in a 10-year series of events commemorating the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement—will be postponed until 2022.
MWC’s executive committee will meet online to make the most urgent decisions. The executive committee meetings preceding the General Council and Assembly 17 in Indonesia in 2021 will be extended in length.
The members of the Renewal planning committee and MWC officers—including president-elect Henk Stenvers, a physician—assessed the current travel advisories; the infection rate in B.C.; and the potential risks to attendees at the event, both local participants and international guests, particularly the home communities upon the latter’s return.
“We regret not gathering together face-to-face and meeting with local church members in British Columbia,” says Nelson Kraybill, MWC’s president. “Although we trust God to keep us in health, we also believe God asks us to be prudent, and to care for the vulnerable. In a case of global infection, this means staying at home.”