Your voice matters: An invitation to delegates

Glen Guyton is executive director of Mennonite Church USA.

Join us for #MennoCon19 to help shape your church and programs which allow us to fulfill our vision of healing and hope. It sometimes seems the people on the outside of our denomination value our ministry programs more those who make up MC USA. I regularly receive questions from those leaving or who have left MC USA wondering how they can still participate in our programs.

As part of our vision, MC USA still provides many ministry services to non-members and other denominations. But the members of MC USA play an important role in shaping what those programs look like and the governance structure of our program agencies and entities. One of the main ways that happens is through the delegate body.

“A Delegate Assembly shall be constituted as a denominational body representative of the constituency through area conference and congregational delegations. The Delegate Assembly, as a representative of the church, shall function in the following ways:

a. Provide opportunity to assemble for worship, fellowship, prophecy, acquaintance, and understanding, and to deepen Christian commitment.

b. Discuss and decide major issues of policy for the national conference and discern the voice and the Spirit in the midst of the Delegate Assembly.

c. Provide opportunity to speak to the establishment of general policies and the development of programs to carry out those policies.

d. Receive reports from the Executive Board, its committees, program boards, and councils. Reports shall be presented in writing and shall include financial accounting

e. Review current programs and act on program priorities as presented by the Executive Board.”

This year in Kansas City, a great deal of our time will be spent on areas a, c, d and e. It is good for us to come together to worship as part of our work. It reminds us that the even though we are governed by policies and procedures, we have a higher spiritual calling as people of God. Along with that, as we move into an era with new leaders, changing demographics and technological innovation, we need to review and update our bylaws. Sounds fun right? Maybe not, but it is important and necessary work. Organizations tend to drift if its members don’t pay attention to its policies and procedures. Unhealthy silos can form within the institution and members can become disenfranchised from the entities that were designed to serve them.

The delegate assembly is one way for you to hold the leaders, boards, agencies and entities accountable. It is a way to hold me accountable.

While I personally believe we have too much structure and governance in our system, while we have it, we need to work within that structure with transparency and integrity. What should you do if you care about the future of MC USA and its respective programs:

  • Encourage your constituency leaders, conference leaders, and congregational leaders to appoint qualified, diverse and informed delegates.
  • Read the bylaws of MC USA, our program agencies and entities. Be smart about the power you have.
  • Be prepared if you are selected as a delegate.
  • Be brave. Be bold if you are delegate. Some may not think of the delegate assembly room as a safe space, but it may have to be a brave space. Church is messy. Leadership is messy. I ask that you be brave with me. Let’s take some risks as did the early Anabaptists and struggle for the church that we believe is possible and necessary.
  • Volunteer to serve on various churchwide boards. The delegate assembly appoints people to many of our boards. We always need qualified and willing volunteers. We especially need names of people under 40 and people of color.
  • Donate to support ministries that you care about and have programs that support your values. Our giving guide has more information on where your money goes.
  • Show up at convention and let your voice be heard. It is your right as member of MC USA.

MC USA exists to provide a sense of larger community, creating a common identity for ourselves and to encourage teamwork and effective partnerships between all parts of the church. Organizational drift and proclamations of independence undermine that cohesiveness and our ability to witness to the world. Communications it the key to creating community and identity.

One of the items that I hope to unveil at the delegate assembly is a new collaborative communication strategy in which our agencies share resources, staffing and information to create an enhanced communication channel that fully supports the vision of MC USA, embraces intentional diversity, is not solely dependent of subscriptions and maximizes the use of technology to increase the reach of information to our members and beyond. At this point in time in our denomination, we need greater collaboration. Social media has made communication easier, though not necessarily better. When our denomination was created, access to news and information was limited. Now anyone with a keyboard can share “news” and “investigate.” While journalism will continue to serve a vital role within MC USA, we need a strong communication strategy that promotes MC USA’s ministries and identity that is fully supported by the church. I believe the delegate voice is important in churchwide matters such as this. What is the best way for us the be the church that God has called us to be?

I look forward to seeing you in Kansas City this July. Make sure you register for convention now and let us know if you are going to be a delegate. Lunch is included this year, and the first 2,000 registrants get the new MC USA hymnal for free. Your voice matters, use it.

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Create opportunities for others to attend MennoCon19 by visiting MC USA’s Give page and clicking Convention Scholarships.