Recommendation on Exploring MC/GC Integration (General Conference Mennonite Church, Mennonite Church, 1989)
Recommendation on Exploring MC/GC Integration (1989)
Recommendation on Exploring MC/GC Integration
In relation to the matter of cooperation between the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church, we affirm the following:
- We acknowledge that the Lord of the church is bringing us into close spiritual fellowship and increasing unity of faith and mission.
- We believe that it is in the will of God to heal the part of our history which is a story of division and conflict. We also believe that God would be pleased to bring together that family--the Dutch/North German/Russian and the Swiss/South German--who have come to North America and all persons who have become part of the Mennonite family.
- We therefore commit ourselves to enter into a time of deliberate exploration of integration, until 1995, during which we will work at the following cooperative tasks and directions:
- The articulation of a rationale for integration and the development of common vision.
- The undertaking in our congregations of a study of Christian unity.
- The writing of a conjoint confession of faith.*
- The development of a leadership polity statement that would achieve a degree of unity sufficient for harmonious working relationships as a unified denomination.*
- The formation of a model, or models, of denominational structure at the area conference, national, and binational levels that would bring together the strengths of our current structures.
- The continued movement toward integration of program activities and of area conference structures where the local situation makes it appropriate. In the case of program boards and agencies, we should pursue policies of program cooperation that move toward convergence but without the loss of separate denominational identities.
- The deepening of mutual understanding through exchanges of personnel, fraternal visits, common publications, and the like.
- We request that the current Committee on Cooperation conclude its work at Normal 89 and that a new conjoint committee be appointed by the General Boards to guide and implement the process outlined above, with regular reporting to the General Boards and the biennial/triennial assemblies.
- We propose that by 1995 we will discern whether or not to enter a period of actual integration of our two denominations based on the development of a complete plan for such integration.
* These projects are already in progress but are seen as important aspects of the exploration of integration.
Adopted by the General Conference Mennonite Church Triennial Session, August 3, 1989
Adopted by the Mennonite Church General Assembly, August 4, 1989
Commentary on the Text
The first joint delegate meeting of the General Conference Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church took place in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1983. The Statement on Inter-Mennonite Cooperation in North America approved at that time called for an inter-Mennonite committee to explore cooperation at the binational level. This was to include Mennonite Brethren, Brethren in Christ and smaller Mennonite denominations. The Council of Moderators and Secretaries decided to retain that mandate within its own agenda.
However, a joint meeting of the General Conference Mennonite and Mennonite Church General Boards in November 1985 led to the creation of an MC/GC Cooperation Committee. It met for the first time in December 1986. General Conference members included Ken Bauman, Loretta Fast, Jake Fransen, James Gingerich and Don Steelberg. Mennonite Church representatives included Willis Breckbill, George Brunk III, Kay Ann Fransen, Doug Snyder and Marianne Zuercher. Vern Preheim and James Lapp, the Executive Secretaries for the two denominations, served as staff members. Jake Fransen and Doug Snyder were the Canadians on the committee, though several other members had worked in Canada for periods of time. Doug Snyder (Waterloo, Ontario) and Loretta Fast (Newton, Kansas) co-chaired the committee.
This committee requested the preparation of several study papers: "Theological implications of Integration" by George Brunk III; "Practical and structural implications of Integration" by Vern Preheim; and "Mennonite polity: a comparison of the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church" by Ross T. Bender and C. J. Dyck.
The two denominations' General Boards then prepared the above recommendation for the 1989 joint sessions. After approval by both delegate bodies, an Integration Exploration Committee was appointed that brought a recommendation for denominational "Integration" to the next joint delegate meeting in 1995 held at Wichita, Kansas. The restructuring and merging of the two denominations (plus the Conference of Mennonites in Canada after 1995) ultimately resulted in the formation of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church U.S. at delegate meetings held in St. Louis, Missouri in 1999.
Context written February 2000 by Sam Steiner
Normal '89 workbook: Mennonite Church General Assembly, General Conference Mennonite Church Forty-fifth Triennial Sessions, August 1-6, 1989, Illinois State University, Normal, Ill. Newton, KS : General Conference Mennonite Church ; Elkhart, IN : Mennonite Church, 1989: IM-26 - IM-27.