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Envisioning MCC's future

Marla Pierson Lester
October 28, 2008

AKRON, Pa. – Be part of conversations shaping the future of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

Through "New Wine/New Wineskins: Reshaping MCC for the 21st Century," a process meant to discern God's direction for the organization, Mennonites and MCC supporters from throughout the world are invited to comment on when MCC is at its best and to share their dreams for MCC's future.

"There is an open invitation to anyone who would like to engage with us in this journey," says Rolando Santiago, executive director of MCC U.S.

The New Wine/New Wineskins process, which lasts through June 2009, draws its name from Jesus' words – repeated in three of the Gospels – about the importance of putting new wine into new wineskins. It involves listening to the voices of MCC supporters, churches, mission partners and board and staff members across the globe in creating a common vision and revised structure for MCC.

A global process
An Inquiry Task Force, composed of 34 people from five countries, will bring together reflections from meetings across the world, including Canada and the United States, and from individual interviews and comments submitted via the Web.

New Wine/New Wineskins is organized around three core questions about purpose, accountability and structure – What task is God calling MCC to in the 21st century? Who is "the keeper of the MCC soul?" What structure will ensure that MCC values and principles are effectively expressed at every level and drive exemplary programming?

So far summits have been held in the Philippines and Canada, as well as regional meetings in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe.

"We want to focus on what the international church, global partners and people in Canada and the U.S. all think together about what God is calling MCC to be and do in the 21st century," says Arli Klassen, MCC executive director.

In October, Don Peters, executive director of MCC Canada, was part of a regional meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, where MCC partners and staff from six southern African countries met for three days to talk about MCC at its best and MCC’s future. "I was really impressed by the contribution and commitment that partners, not only staff, made to this process," Peters says. "There is such a very strong commitment to MCC."

Through the remainder of 2008 and the first few months of 2009, meetings will be held across Canada and the United States. Regional and provincial MCC offices are organizing some meetings, but interested supporters of MCC are also encouraged to form their own.

A wide invitation
"Anyone can get together a group of people who are interested in MCC and let us know what you think," invites Klassen. "We also invite people to pray for the process, for all who are involved and for unity and clarity."

The Web site, mcc.org/newwineskins, includes outlines for meetings of two hours, four hours or a full day, as well as instructions for individual interviews. Each group submits its own results through the Web. Like the summits and regional meetings, these meetings are built around questions designed to draw out when MCC is at its best and how to build on that for the future.

The Viewpoints section of the Web site, mcc.org/newwineskins/viewpoints, gives individuals the opportunity to post comments – and also to read what others have posted. The site overall, Klassen notes, is really meant to draw comments and reflections and to help spark conversation.

"I hope people are talking to each other and not just to us, that there's dialogue happening – on the Web site and face-to-face – about where MCC should go in the future," she says.

The combination of Web site feedback, as well as feedback from summits, meetings and other interviews, will be synthesized by the Inquiry Task Force.

Discerning God's call
In March 2009 the Inquiry Task Force will meet to discern directions and recommendations from all the feedback gathered. Klassen stresses that this is about more than simply tallying votes. "It’s a spiritual discernment process of listening to the data and discerning together where God is leading us," Klassen says.

After the meeting, information on future directions and recommendations will be circulated and posted on the Web site. Klassen notes people will be invited to comment on those in April and May. On June 3-5, a third summit in the United States is meant to reach agreement on God’s call to MCC for both vision and structure.

Peters says he hopes people will continue to dream big – thinking not only of MCC's future, but of their wider vision for how God’s kingdom can take shape on earth. "We haven't stepped back for a long time to ask ourselves, what is the vision of the world that we want to see," Peters says. "What does the world look like that we're working for and what is the role of MCC that will move us toward that vision?"

Santiago, for his part, hopes the answers to that come from a broad range of voices. "I want to reiterate the open opportunity for any individual or any group that wants to support this process to get engaged and participate," he says. "It's my deep conviction that MCC will benefit and be enriched when we have a wide engagement of supporters and partners and staff and board members."

Learn more at mcc.org/newwineskins. In addition to posting comments under the Viewpoints or Contact Us section, the site includes Grapevine, Klassen's blog about New Wine/New Wineskins, as well as stories and interviews of participants from previous summits and more details about the process.