MWC leaders strengthen connections in global bodyBy Byron Rempel-Burkholder Mennonite World Conference
BASEL, Switzerland — Anabaptist historical and theological roots were a strong undercurrent for the triennial gathering of the Mennonite World Conference General Council May 20-26 at the St. Chrischona Conference Centre near Basel.
The venue’s symbolism loomed large. Basel was a crossroads for persecuted and migrating early Anabaptists, and for a century and a half Mennonites and other theological heirs of the Anabaptists have come here for training in ministry.
St. Chrischona was the site of the first and fifth MWC assemblies in 1925 and 1952 — in eras when the faces were almost exclusively white. This year’s General Council, by contrast, counted 105 delegates from 48 of the 54 countries of MWC membership. About 80 percent of these were from the global South — along with 45 commission members and as many volunteers and guests.
“Revisiting Our Vision” was the banner for three papers presented by members of the Council’s Faith and Life Commission and approved as resources for MWC member churches in exploring holistic ministry, the Anabaptist tradition and the meaning of the biblical term koinonia (communion or fellowship).
The discussion papers and the council’s decisions were about new ways that global Anabaptists can be the church together in a rapidly changing world.
With the appointment last year of César García of Colombia as general secretary has come energy to adjust staff structures and working styles to anticipate even more networking among churches.
García introduced a revised staffing structure appropriate to the shift of MWC’s head office from Strasbourg, France, to Bogotá, Colombia. There are plans to have a staff representative in each of the five continental regions.
The council’s four commissions — appointed three years ago in Paraguay — were given new support and clearer mandates.
The Mission Commission took under its oversight the new Global Anabaptist Service Network, a group of indigenous service agencies from all of MWC’s five continental regions.
The Faith and Life Commission agreed to serve as a reference group for a Global Anabaptist Profile research project, to be headed up by the Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism at Goshen (Ind.) College.
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