by Stephen Kriss
In June, I wrote a Mosaic response related to the outcomes of the Mennonite Church USA Special Delegate Session at Kansas City. In a second article, I outlined essentially nothing had changed in our relationships together as Mosaic Conference. Now we are preparing for our annual Assembly, six months after those denominational meetings, and the waters have not calmed for us as a community. It has become a difficult time to lead and navigate together. Yet, the steadfast love of God is still present.
In response to the Kansas City meetings, we planned a series of listening sessions in June. The sessions were well attended, but we needed a more focused and intentional effort to hear across the breadth and width of our conference. The Mosaic Board approved a Listening Task Force made up of gifted and committed leaders. I am grateful for their steady work. They set out to listen to every community and ministry. Though they didn’t accomplish that fully, some clear themes emerged which give a possible way forward together.
Meanwhile, some congregations and leaders have become increasingly frustrated. And some days that includes me. I have had numerous people repeat to me, “You have a tough job,” or, “I wouldn’t want your job.” I’m grateful for the recognition of the difficulty of the work. However, I am committed to walking us through this time together. We can do the difficult work, and we can do it while allowing the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — Galatians 5:22-23) to be cultivated within each of us and our communities.
We can do the difficult work, and we can do it while allowing the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — Galatians 5:22-23) to be cultivated within each of us and our communities.
The Task Force has done important work of taking time to listen and brought significant recommendations back to the Board. There is a sense of urgency within some of us. We live in a time of quick responses. We want to be responsive. At the same time, the transforming work of God often has a different sense of timeliness than we might often prefer.
As staff, we have begun to work in several areas that are highlighted by the Task Force. We are working on clarifying the information and needs to help us make good decisions. We do not all have the information we need. We will work to identify and define these issues in the next weeks and months.
I have been in conversation with key partners, including Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite World Conference, Everence, Mennonite Mission Network, Mennonite educational institutions, other MC USA Conferences, and leaders of other US-based Anabaptist networks. We want to be able to make informed decisions about our future together.
As Mosaic, our diversity is a strength and a challenge. We are being mutually transformed together as a community, yet at the same time we also struggle to fully understand how to listen and discern well in ways that will allow us to make decisions together. What we learned from Kansas City is that we are not at our best with processes that lead to divided votes resulting in winners and losers rather than inclusive discernment. Voting by ballot is one of the least communal forms of decision-making. I believe we can work at decision-making differently that is honest, patient, and maybe even joyful Spirit-work.
We are sharing the recommendations to the Board by the Task Force in preparation for the upcoming Assembly scattered sessions where we will hear more from Task Force members and continue conversations together. It’s excellent work. And it’s incomplete work. We still have work to do.
Mosaic Conference was born from our commitment to reconciliation; it has grown through our commitments to becoming missional and intercultural. We are now being tested in our formation and discipleship, how we make decisions about essential and tough issues together.
Our Mosaic vision to embody the reconciling love of Jesus in our broken and beautiful world is still unfolding even within us. We will physically gather to embody this for the first time next month in the midst of turmoil. Jesus will be present with us.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV)
Stephen Kriss is the Executive Minister of Mosaic Conference.