Leadership and Authority in the Life of the Church (Mennonite Church, 1981)
In 1976 the Mennonite Church General Board began working on the topic "Leadership and Authority in the Life of the Church" by appointing a task force and preparing for the presentation of the topic at the 1977 General Assembly. This assembly "strongly affirmed that the study be continued on the basis of the projected timetable" which was as follows:
A. Study plan submitted to General Assembly June 1977
This timetable was followed, resulting in the affirmation of the summary statement by the General Assembly at Bowling Green, August 11-16, 1981.
The General Assembly affirmed this document as a summary statement of current understandings in the Mennonite Church. It urged careful attention to the biblical principles identified in it and encouraged continuing conference and congregational study of issues on which further work is needed. The General Assembly called all members to an attitude of readiness to give and receive counsel in the work of the church. It gratefully affirmed the many gifts which the Spirit provides for the good of the body.
The General Assembly also recognized the need for further consideration of the role of women in leadership ministries and directed the General Board to appoint a committee to study and facilitate the process of the full participation of women in the leadership ministries of the Church.
This summary statement focuses primarily on the question of leadership in the congregation. By necessity it also includes the issue of leadership in other areas of intercongregational relationships. The task force chose to restrict the topic of authority to the leadership question rather than to include such matters as the authority of the Scripture, tradition, and doctrine.
This summary statement is intended as guideline and resource material for personal, congregational, or churchwide use.
[The task force that prepared this document was chaired by Ralph Lebold, then President of Conrad Grebel College, Waterloo, Ontario. Marlin Miller of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in Elkhart, Indiana was the writer of the text.]
[Statements by the Mennonite Church General Assembly state the understanding of the Mennonite Church at the time of the action. Statements have informal authority and influence in the denomination; they have formal authority as confirmed or endorsed by area Mennonite Church area conferences and/or congregations.]
Ivan Kauffmann, General Secretary Mennonite Church General Board
Changing practices and understandings often cause uncertainty and confusion in the life of the church. So do differences of understanding and practice on important matters. This is presently the case with North American Mennonites* with respect to leadership and authority in the church. However, differences and changes can also become challenges to greater faithfulness. They can lead to a clearer vision of the way to which God calls the church.
Both the uncertainty and the challenges have been voiced in conference consultations* and in the Council on Faith, Life, and Strategy.* Congregational and conference leaders have raised questions about our present practices and understandings of leadership and authority in the church. The Council on Faith, Life, and Strategy* asked for a better description of the believers' church* model of leadership and authority.'
Some major questions are:
1. What are the New Testament guidelines for leadership and the leadership
authority in the Mennonite Church,* especially in
relation to the ordained ministry?
This study is designed to serve as a tool for congregations and conferences which want to address themselves to the matter of leadership and leadership authority in the church. It is limited in two ways. Rather than attempting to consider all types of leadership in the church, it focuses on what has traditionally been called the ordained ministry in the congregation and its relation to conference. Rather than trying to cover all matters related to authority in the church, it concentrates on the authority of what has usually been the ordained ministry. It is hoped that this study can assist conferences and congregations as they seek God's leading in these matters. It is also hoped that it can contribute to a renewed commitment to the New Testament vision of leadership in the life of the church.
Seven Articles of
Schleitheim (Anabaptist, 1527)
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MLA style: Mennonite Church. "Leadership and Authority in the Life of the Church (Mennonite Church, 1981)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1981. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html.
APA style: Mennonite Church. (1981). Leadership and Authority in the Life of the Church (Mennonite Church, 1981). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html.