Journey Forward: Embracing God’s hope for MC USA

(Mennonite Church USA) — At its first meeting of the 2017-2019 biennium, the Executive Board (EB) of Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) affirmed a proposal outlining the next steps in a new, two-year visioning process called Journey Forward — to discern and embrace God’s hope for MC USA in the 21st century.

 Journey Forward grows out of the work of the Future Church Summit (FCS) body in Orlando, opening up the outcomes of that conversation to an even broader level of engagement across the church.

According to the proposal brought by MC USA staff, the goal of the Journey Forward process is to develop a concise, one-page identity document based on the themes developed during the FCS that is descriptive of who we are and who we aspire to be as Anabaptists in the 21st century.

Read more about the FCS and the Outcomes Report here.

“Similar to the Future Church Summit, we are hoping for a high level of engagement across the church,” says Glen Guyton, chief operating officer and director of Convention Planning for MC USA. “We are opening up space for as many voices as possible and trust that this will be a Spirit-led, transformative conversation that strengthens our commitment to Christ-like relationships and a scripture-based common core.”

“We have faith that God will be at work in this critical moment for our church through the Journey Forward process,” says David Boshart, moderator of MC USA, “to move us forward, renew our commitment to being together in our differences, build greater trust among us and unify us with clearly discerned identity, vision and values.”

An initial draft of the identity document below will be processed by the EB, Constituency Leaders Council, area conferences and other groups this fall:

Journey Forward: Embracing God’s Hope for Mennonite Church USA

Vision: Healing and Hope
God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to grow as communities of grace, joy and peace, so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.

Core Values and Outcomes:

MC USA is…

…Grounded in the whole story of Jesus.
We live out our faith in radical discipleship to Christ.

…Transformed by the Holy Spirit in community.
We share our lives as a reflection of the fullness of God’s love and welcome to all people in diverse communities.

…Empowered to join in God’s reconciling work.
We extend healing and hope by witnessing to God’s vision of shalom for all creation and standing with the marginalized through truth and action.

A four-person writing team, whose members will be confirmed in October, together with the assistance of an eight-person reference council — Sara Wenger Shenk (Elkhart, Indiana), Steve Kriss (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Natalie Francisco (Chesapeake, Virginia), Hyun Hur (Pasadena, California), Felipe Hinojosa (College Station, Texas), Heidi Regier Kreider (North Newton, Kansas), Terry Zehr (Lowville, New York) and Jon Carlson (Leola, Pennsylvania) — will create a study guide to be sent out along with the identity document to every MC USA congregation by April 2018.

Congregations, small groups and individuals using the study guide will have the opportunity to participate in a survey and submit feedback by the end of 2018. Using this feedback, the writing team, in close consultation with the reference council, will update the identity document in preparation for testing and discussion at the 2019 Delegate Assembly in Kansas City.

The tentative timeline of the Journey Forward process includes six phases:

Phase one (Complete) — Seek affirmation from the Executive Board to move forward on a denomination-wide process to create a new vision and identity document for MC USA (Journey Forward: Embracing God’s Hope for MC USA) and a study guide for congregations (Pathways: A Study for the Journey Forward for MC USA) based on the Future Church Summit Outcomes Report.

Phase two (Oct. 2017) — Following board approval, invite a four-person writing team and an 8-10-person reference council to complete a draft of the Journey Forward identity document, incorporating feedback from the EB, CLC, MC USA national staff and the FCS Design Team this fall.

Phase three (Nov. 2017-Feb. 2018) — Plan regional events and online forums in partnership with area conferences and other groups as identified, to share and test the Journey Forward identity document. Feedback from these events will be shared with the writing team and reference council as they prepare to create the Pathways study guide.

Phase four (Feb.-April 2018) — Based on phase three feedback and in consultation with the reference council, the writing team will update the Journey Forward: Embracing God’s Hope document and create Pathways: A Study for the Journey Forward for MC USA, with flexible curriculum options ranging from 4-12 weeks for congregations or small groups in various settings. The writing team will also develop a survey to gather feedback (both online and paper versions). The EB and CLC will be updated on the process at their joint meeting in April 2018.

Phase five (April-Dec. 2018) — Each MC USA congregation will receive Journey Forward: Embracing God’s Hope and the Pathways study guide for discernment. All feedback from across the church will be due by Dec. 31, 2018.

Phase six (Spring 2019) — Based on all the feedback from across the church, and in consultation with the reference council, the writing team will update Journey Forward: Embracing God’s Hope for MC USA and prepare the final draft for the EB. The EB will prepare the final document for discussion by the Delegate Assembly at MC USA convention in July 2019.