by Marlene Bogard, Executive Director, Mennonite Women USA
Mennonite Women USA is a constituency group of Mennonite Church USA. Basically, this means we are strongly affiliated and collaborate with the denomination, but we do not receive any funding. MW USA has its own budget, mission statement, staff and programming. The MW USA Board Chair and Executive Director are invited to the twice-yearly gatherings of the Constituency Leader’s Council (CLC) for discernment of matters pertaining to the entire denomination. Prior to the fall gathering of CLC on October 19-21, 2015, all participants were asked to respond to this question:
To what extent has the delegate assembly (decisions) at Kansas City affected your group/conference’s relationship with Mennonite Church USA?
And here is our response:
We mourn the loss of congregations and the perceived loss of unity. We acknowledge that we have always been, even before the merger of Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church, a body with great diversity in thought, theology and practice. We are aware that many emotions are present in the conversations on sexual identity and practice, staying or leaving the denomination, loyalties, and sustainability of the church. These emotions include fear, anger, loss, sadness, bitterness, discouragement and many more which often drive actions, some of which are deemed prophetic. Emotions are often the first to arrive on the scene and the last to heal. Mennonite Women USA staff and board has heard a wide range of emotions expressed regarding the delegate actions at Kansas City. Most are not positive. And yet the faithful spoke by their votes.
All the ministries of Mennonite Women USA encourage listening to women’s life stories and to offer healing and hope, essential elements for a holistic life in Christ. Our mission and vision statements also reflect these purposes. We will continue to offer seminars, events, conferences and retreats that offer encouragement, faith formation, and training in care and compassion. Our publications will continue to be centered in Christian Anabaptist faith, with a clear leaning toward the empowerment of women. We will make all our ministries, publications and staff available to all who are interested, regardless of their membership in Mennonite Church USA member churches. We remain strongly committed to affiliating with Mennonite Church USA, and we strive to support and empower all women who identify themselves as Mennonite worldwide.
With faith and hope,
While at the CLC, we received news of three area conferences of Mennonite Church USA who have either decided to leave the denomination or are close to making this decision.
Several more area conference leaders alluded to additional congregations leaving as well.
I know that there is much grief around these losses and many women have expressed to me their longings to continue to be strongly connected to MW USA, even if their church or their conference leaves. The statement Kathy and I crafted speaks clearly to this.
Mennonite Women all across the United States, please know: you always have a home with our organization. We remain committed to you!