At its last meeting before the delegate assembly in Phoenix in July, the Executive Board (EB) of Mennonite Church USA met April 4-6 in Kansas City, Mo., and decided to send to delegates two resolutions for their consideration.
One resolution, “Protecting and Nurturing Our Children and Youth,” seeks to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect and encourage the adoption of policies and practices to protect children and youth in the church community. Because of concern for liability issues, the board decided to recommend its adoption, “pending legal counsel.”
Another resolution, on creation care, calls for congregations and members to care for creation as part of the good news of Jesus Christ. EB members recommended this without discussion.
A third resolution, on Israel/Palestine, had gone to the Constituency Leaders Council’s meeting in March for discussion.
However, said Dave Boshart and David Sutter, co-chairs of the resolutions committee, “nearly all table groups at CLC discouraged or had significant reservations about presenting the resolution … to the delegate assembly.”
The committee did agree that the topic was important, and EB’s executive committee asked, What do we want to achieve?
Eventually, EB agreed on the following: “Executive Board desires to have conversation in the church which helps us understand both Israeli and Palestinian narratives and the Christian and American narrative in relation to them, and which helps us understand how we interpret the Bible in regard to these issues, particularly how we understand Christian Zionism.”
In an unprecedented occurrence, much of EB’s business time was spent in executive session, which means the press is not allowed to report on what is said.
In an April 8 email, moderator Dick Thomas said: “We spent about one-third of our meeting in either executive session or in session with agency staff and media present [but] where we requested no reporting of the conversation. Some of this conversation had to do with internal board processes and some with matters of discernment that will be reported after further conversation with individuals or groups that could not be at the board meeting.”
In other business, EB decided to reduced its number of meetings per biennium from seven to six, with one meeting in a non-convention year held by teleconference and the summer meeting in a convention year held at the convention site, with no meeting in the fall. EB members recognized the need for cutting budget but lamented the loss of meeting time.
Larry Hauder said, “It’s hard to build relationships with fewer meetings.”
Executive director Ervin Stutzman noted that the Purposeful Plan, which guides the work of the church, did not say anything about “our need for God.”
The board agreed to add the following to the document:”We recognize that because of sin, all have fallen short of the Creator’s intent, marred the image of God in which we were created, disrupted order in the world and limited our love for others. Therefore, through the reconciling power of Jesus Christ, we seek to walk in righteousness, or ‘right-relatedness’ with God and others.”
And in the section under Holistic Christian Witness, they added the following sentence: “Our allegiance to Jesus Christ calls us to love our enemies, demonstrating our willingness to die for our convictions but not to kill for them.”