MC USA Delegate Assembly looks at the state of the church; messiness of unity

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Mennonite Church USA) — “The church is a mess. Thanks be to God.” With this as a title and refrain, Tom Yoder Neufeld, professor emeritus of Religious Studies at Conrad Grebel University College, set the tone for a Scriptural study on unity on the first day of the Delegate Assembly at MennoCon19. Neufeld drew attention to Scriptural passages where God gathers in all of creation and draws together what has been scattered. The unity of Christ is not achieved through agreement; rather, it is missional and messy, Neufeld said.

“I want to put front and center the image of God who wishes to gather together from the edges of the cosmos. The church is that space where that gathering happens,” said Yoder Neufeld. “And we’re not really equipped yet to deal with what happens when God starts gathering.”

More time for equipping is planned for this week’s delegate sessions, with Yoder Neufeld leading two more sessions to further explore the question of unity within the church. The agenda is designed to be more generative than procedural this week, said David Boshart, moderator of MC USA, as he began the session.

Glen Guyton, executive director of MC USA, offered a State of the Church address, where he discussed the importance of mentorship and involving youth in the work of the church. He introduced a proposed bylaw change that would make youth full voting delegates, which delegates will vote on during their morning session on Friday, July 5.

Guyton also critiqued what he called “mechanical authority” in the church, urging a transition toward relational authority and intentional assessment of how church members relate to one another.

“Will we remain relevant or will internal positional politics distract us from our vision of healing and hope?” Guyton asked.

Members of the Journey Forward Writing Team presented results of the Journey Forward feedback survey, which collected responses on the process and the Renewed Commitments that names three main commitments to (1) follow Jesus, (2) witness to God’s peace and (3) experience the transformation of the Holy Spirit. The survey showed 95% of participants agreed that the commitments “capture the core of who we are as MC USA, while allowing space for diverse expressions of Anabaptist-Mennonite faith.”

The delegate session ended with a table group discussion around the question “Based on how you read scripture, if Jesus were to walk into your town today, where would he go, what would he say, what would he do?”