Bogotá, Colombia – MWC’s Renewal 2027 event in Augsburg, Germany, was bookended by meetings of its decision-making bodies and working groups, including a face-to-face gathering of the four Mennonite World Conference (MWC) Commissions: Deacons, Mission, Faith & Life and Peace.
Commission members are volunteers from around the world who represent the General Council or bring expertise in caring, service, theology and peace work guides Mennonite World Conference in proposing resources and facilitating fellowship within MWC networks. The Commissions have eight members (nine on the mission commission) including a chair and a part-time staff secretary.
Networking for mission
The Mission Commission discussed terms of reference; “God’s People in Mission: An Anabaptist Perspective,” a mission theology statement approved in 2015; and the creation of an MWC book of guidelines for mission based on the mission theology statement. They also planned for the next meeting in Kenya in 2018 which will include training and decision making with members of its extended networks, GASN (Global Anabaptist Service Network). and GMF (Global Mission Fellowship).
Furthering study of faith and life
The Faith and Life Commission spent much of their time hearing each other’s perspectives on what it means to encourage “mutual accountability.” They also addressed several other initiatives to promote theological development in MWC, including the emerging network of women theologians and on-going efforts to connect itinerant teachers with MWC member churches.
The Commission also responded to a report on the recently concluded trilateral dialogues on baptism with the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and it continued to refine documents on a rationale for ecumenical dialogue; a policy for addressing controversial issues; and a framework to help member churches discuss a possible name change for MWC.
Resourcing for peace
The Peace Commission has numerous resources for individuals, congregations and national churches. The Commission continues to work on a statement of solidarity with Indigenous People and has begun drafting a statement on conscientious objection. They reviewed the existing guidelines for political advocacy and internal conflicts, and continued the early development toward the possibility of a Global Anabaptist Peace Network with the hope for an steering gathering in Kenya in 2018.
For Peace Sunday (closest to International Day of Peace, 21 September), the Peace Commission will develop worship resources focused on the theme of “building bridges” in 2017 and on “hospitality to the stranger” in 2018.
Caring for churches
At their meetings, the Deacons Commission clarified their own function and roles and that of global deacons. A new roster of these senior church leaders (who are familiar with the wider work of MWC and approved by their conferences) will be assembled to respond to situations that require attention from MWC. Over the past year, the Deacons Commission sent letters of encouragement to churches, such as those in earthquake-affected Japan, Ecuador and Tanzania. In conjunction with the Communications team, the Commission launched a Prayer Network in June 2016 that sends an email every two months and also receives and responds to personal requests.
There were no Deacons visits in 2016 but the Global Church Sharing Fund gave financial support to projects in Angola, Nicaragua, Colombia, Tanzania and India, and to churches in Ecuador after the earthquake. Secretary Henk Stenvers reported on the Deacons visit to South America in January 2017: he and YABs Committee member Oscar Suárez visited the Cono Sur meeting in Argentina, then were joined by global deacon Bishop Ephraim Disi of Malawi to visit earthquake-affected areas in Ecuador.
In addition to participating in other meetings and leading devotionals at the Executive Committee meetings, all Commission members toured the city of Augsburg with a historian who explained the stories of Reformation and Anabaptist events.
“As the heart of our global body, the MWC Commissions pump gifts, materials and resources,” says general secretary César García. “They share with each member the required life that makes possible new developments and growth in our living body, our global church.”
—Mennonite World Conference release