Approximately 300 delegates from throughout Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) gathered July 7-8, 2023, at the Kansas City (MO) Convention Center to discern together some aspects of the denomination’s future. Many of the attendees had participated in MennoCon ’23, held prior to the delegate assembly.
Each session of the delegate assembly began with worship music and a Bible study by Rev. Dr. Sarah Bixler. The Bible studies looked at different scenes from the Upper Room before Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion and after his resurrection.
After the first Bible study, the assembly was convened by MC USA Moderator Linda Dibble. An agenda and rules were adopted and minutes from the 2022 Delegate Assembly were summarized and approved. Then Sue Park-Hur, MC USA Director of Ethnic Engagement, led the delegates in a game of Mennonite bingo to get to know one another. After a break, Glen Guyton, MC USA Executive Director, gave a State of the Church message. After this, there was an introduction to the Agency Governance & Operational Alignment Resolutions being put forward by the Executive Board.
After lunch and a further time of singing and Bible study, delegates heard a report from the Mennonite Education Association and received and voted to affirm a slate of new members for various denominational boards and committees. Delegates then heard a report from Mennonite Mission Network and a testimony from the pastor of Koinonia Indian Mennonite Church (Clinton, OK) about how they are implementing their Peace and Justice Grant. After a break, Everence and Mennonite Health Services Association (MHS) gave reports about their work.
The delegates then voted on whether or not to modify the denomination by-laws to change the occurrence of delegate assemblies from every two years to every three years. To pass, the resolution needed to receive a two-thirds majority vote for adoption. The resolution failed by a very narrow margin. Many of those who spoke against the resolution cited a concern that youth would not be gathering as frequently and a general desire to meet more rather than less frequently.
Resolution two, to amend the bylaws to clarify the role of program entities, passed by an overwhelming majority. Before adjourning for day one, delegates began to provide feedback and counsel about resolution three, to change Everence and MHS from agencies to program entities.
Saturday morning began with singing and the final Bible study segment. Michael Danner, MC USA Associate Executive Director, gave an update on the development of new procedures to prevent and deal with incidents of abuse of various kinds in congregations. This was followed by a report from MennoMedia.
After a break, delegates moved on to floor discussion and voting on resolution three, to change the status of Everence and MHS from agencies to program entities. This resolution passed with an overwhelmingly positive vote.
After this, Ivanna Johnson from Boulder (CO) Mennonite Church spoke about how her congregation is using a peace and justice grant to partner with a nearby elementary school to provide resources and support for impoverished students. The MC USA Anti-racism team then gave its report and there was a report from the Corinthian Plan.
To close out the delegate assembly, Jon Carlson, pastor of Forest Hills Mennonite Church (Leola, PA) was installed as the new Moderator of MC USA. Carlson spoke about his desire to focus on three Mennonite values in the next biennium: peace, especially living at peace with one another despite deep differences; simplicity, especially in how we organize our work together; and family, emphasizing the ongoing transfer of leadership to younger generations.