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New Wine: Shared statements a major step as MCC reshapes its future

Gladys Terichow
December 3, 2009

  

WINNIPEG, Man. – It was a historic moment when the delegate body at Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada’s annual meeting held here in November endorsed seven foundational statements to guide the work of MCC, the final of the 12 MCC entities to do so.
 
Arli Klassen, executive director of MCC binational (Canada and the U.S.), said the statements represent the first time these 12 entities have expressed a shared vision. “It is a sense of coming together in unity and affirmation of what God calls us to do. The statements bring new clarity that will inspire MCC’s work in the name of Christ. That is powerful, very powerful,” said Klassen.
 
The statements, also referred to as the “new wine,” were developed through a re-visioning and restructuring process called New Wine/New Wineskins: Reshaping MCC for the 21st Century. They articulate MCC’s identity, purpose, vision, priorities, approaches, values and convictions. The recommendations for the “new wineskins” – a new structure for MCC – are still in the development stages.
 
New Wine/New Wineskins was a listening and consultation process that involved more than 2,000 people from 50 countries participating in 60 meetings.
 
One of the core statements is MCC’s purpose – “MCC endeavors to share God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ by responding to basic human needs and working for peace and justice.”
 
“This is the statement that people should memorize,” said Klassen. “This is what we believe God has called MCC to do in its history and in the future. Now we have found shared words to express it.”
 
Klassen points to two key elements of the purpose statement – that the motivation for MCC’s mission is to share God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ, and that MCC intentionally works both to meet basic needs and for peace and justice. She notes that for the first time the words “in the name of Christ,” which have expressed MCC’s Christian witness for decades, are incorporated in its foundational statements.
 
MCC priorities identified through the New Wine/New Wineskins process are justice and peace-building, disaster relief and sustainable community development. The new statements, explained Klassen, both reflect MCC’s historic commitment to relief, development and peace and clearly state that peace cannot be built without addressing injustice.
 
MCC does its work in partnership with churches and other partner agencies and builds bridges to connect people and ideas across cultural, political and economic divides. “We don’t do our work just by giving out financial grants – we work at building relationships,” Klassen said.
 
MCC’s identity as a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches is strengthened through including in the statements the “Shared Convictions” of global Anabaptists as adopted by the Mennonite World Conference General Council in March 2006.
 
This is the first time MCC has had a statement of faith, Klassen said, noting that it has always drawn theology from the churches to which it is accountable. Many churches, she said, expressed strong affirmation for MCC including these shared Christian faith convictions in its foundational statements.
 
The MCC statements were developed by an Inquiry Task Force of 34 people that was given the task of engaging, listening to and representing the various MCC constituencies through summits and regional meetings. The group synthesized what it heard and offered recommendations. The recommendations were endorsed by a group of 95 people, representing the 12 MCCs and the church denominations they are accountable to in June 2009. The next step in the process was endorsement by the 12 MCC boards, MCC Canada’s annual meeting being the last scheduled.
 
Klassen said the MCC system-wide endorsement of the “new wine” foundational statements is encouragement for the next step in the process – consensus on a revised structure. The “new wineskins” recommendations are expected to be endorsed in 2011 and fully implemented in 2012.
 
“There were points of despair or frustration in this re-visioning process, but there also was always a sense of commitment to listen to God through the voices of the faith community. I believe the Holy Spirit has been at work, leading MCC,” Klassen said.
 

The full MCC foundational statements are at http://newwineskins.mcc.org.