Global Anabaptist service entities consider how best to work together

News Service
August 30, 2011
Global Anabaptist service entities
consider how best to work together
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—In an historic event, representatives of Anabaptist churches and organizations from around the world involved in service in some way gathered here August 6-9, 2010, to consider how they might work together more effectively.
The consultation, the first ever of its kind for Anabaptist service groups worldwide, drew 53 participants from 27 agencies, departments, or committees of Mennonite World Conference (MWC) member churches. From 18 countries and all continents, more than 80% of the total global Anabaptist membership was represented in some way, according to Reg Toews, Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada, one of three consultation facilitators.

As outlined by Pakisa Tshimika, MWC Global Church Advocate and another of the facilitators, this consultation grew out of previous conversations on diakonia or service held in connection with the MWC General Council in Pasadena, California, USA, in 2006. At that time, the General Council had approved a gathering of service entity representatives to explore how they could work together on common questions, concerns, and programs.
Participants soon agreed that they wanted to work together in the future. They called for “a space or entity under MWC auspices in which every member relates in an interdependent way in order to more effectively serve the church and the world.”
They also agreed they would support this new endeavor with finances, personnel, gifts, and skills. With equal access to service entities and churches in both the North and the South, the new initiative is to focus on both local and global connections while maintaining each participating agency’s identity and autonomy.
Exactly how all this should be carried out took most of the two-day discussions, both in small groups and in plenary sessions.
Conversations centered around four models presented by the facilitators, another of whom was Phyllis Toews of Canada. The models:
·         process: continue to improve what we are already doing together, gradually growing into something better;
·         ad hoc: appoint a committee to call the group together as need arose;
·         new: create a new structure, such as a council or network, to provide information, accountability, and ways of working together;
·         transformation: redesign a current organization to become a global, coordinating body.
Discussion of the latter centered on Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), the largest agency participating in the consultation. While some favored asking MCC to assume responsibility for global coordination of service activities, the majority wanted MCC to remain a North American organization coming to a new global entity as an equal partner even with its larger size and operations.
In the end, consultation participants focused on a new network or entity and asked MWC to facilitate its creation. They agreed to appoint “a provisional task force,” charged with gathering and disseminating information about current Anabaptist service activities and planning for future consultations or even activities. The task force will be under the direction of MWC during its initial mandate, until May 2012.
Representatives noted, however, that these plans are subject to approval by their sending bodies. Approval or rejection, feedback and comments are due by the end of 2010.
During the consultation, participants were reminded of the possible risks of being involved in service when they learned of the death of MCCer Glen Lapp in Afghanistan, which happened as they gathered in Ethiopia.
Lapp’s death was announced and prayers for the family and MCC took place at the Misrak Addis Ababa Meserete Kristos Church, which consultation participants attended on Sunday, August 8.
Lorne Peachey, MWC staff writer
Photos available on request :
  1. Participants in the service consultation. MWC photo by Markus Rediger.
  2. Small group discussion (left to right: Edgardo Sanchez (Argentina), José Luis Azurdia (Guatemala), Angela Oliveira (Brazil); Janet Plenert (Canada), Pascal Kulungu (DR Congo) MWC photo by Markus Rediger.
  3. Consultation participants worship with the Misrak MKC congregation in Addis Ababa. MWC photo by J. Lorne Peachey.
Mennonite World Conference is a communion (Koinonia) of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness.