By Barry Bartel, Conference Minister Team Coordinator
When I start on a committee or board or job, I want to understand the foundational documents. Why do we exist? Are we true to our mission? My legal training may lead me to ask these questions, but they are questions important for all of us. As Christians, we look to the Biblical text and the witness of God’s people as foundational, and John Sharp will help us think about the Bible as Story in the April Forum.
As a conference, an additional document is foundational. Allow me to stress some aspects of our conference (legal) Bylaws that even non-lawyers should take seriously. I’ll leave the requirements for quorum and how to select committee members and requirements for withdrawing from the conference to the Leadership Board. Sorry Ken! I’m not in a position to offer legal advice!
But do you know where our conference vision is stated? By now you’ve guessed – it is the first statement in our Bylaws. The Preamble states that “the vision of Mountain States Mennonite Conference is to pursue God’s dreams by the power of the Holy Spirit in the way of Jesus Christ.”
In a recent meeting of the Leadership Board and the Conference Minister Team, we considered the direction and energy of the conference. The group agreed that this vision still guides us well!
How do we do this? The second statement in our Bylaws defines our role as a conference, which is to encourage, collaborate, and conduct. The Mission Statement states that our conference “exists to encourage growth in Christian spirituality and faith, collaborate on mission activities, and conduct official functions as assigned by its member congregations and parent denomination, Mennonite Church USA.”
Many people around the broader church know Mountain States for the idea of “relational accountability.” This concept is enshrined in our Bylaws in one place. Article III, Section 2(A) defines the Purpose of our Faith and Life Forum:
Foundational to our polity of relational accountability, member congregations of MSMC shall participate in regular meetings for discernment of faith and life issues. The purpose of this body is not to make binding decisions, but to discern issues important to our faith and life in our home communities, the Rocky Mountain region, and throughout the world.
This requirement is so foundational to our life as a conference that the Bylaws outline what happens if a congregation “fails to be represented at two consecutive conference-wide meetings (annual Faith and Life Forums and annual delegate assemblies).”
I appreciated learning from Vern Rempel (member of the Futures Committee that formulated the foundational ideas in 2005) that the term “relational accountability” was intended to incorporate the idea of “proximity.” We must relate to each other, or be in proximity with each other, in order for us “to pursue God’s dreams by the power of the Holy Spirit in the way of Jesus Christ” as a conference.
How will we breathe new life into our conference vision and mission in 2018?