Since the beginning of this century, the Mennonite Church* has grown, has changed, and has sought to be faithful in word and deed. During this time, Mennonites have also become less isolated from other North American churches and from the broader society. Some of these changes have been for the good, some have been mixed, some need correction. Discerning which have been good and which need correction depends in part on the kind of leadership the church gives, receives, and accepts.
The Christian churches, including Mennonites, face important challenges and opportunities for witness and service in the last two decades of the twentieth century. Some of these challenges and opportunities can become occasions for renewal, for growing in faithfulness to Christ, and for mission in today's world. Some may become an occasion for taking directions which hinder faithful witness and service. The direction Mennonites take in the coming years will depend in part on the kind of leadership we expect, encourage, are given, and accept.
In leadership and leadership authority, as in all areas of Christian faith and hope, we are called to renew our minds rather than to be conformed to the pattern of the age, (Romans 12:2). We are called to have the same attitude that was in Christ Jesus who took the nature of a servant, (Philippians 2:5). This means that we look to Jesus Christ who is the revelation of what leadership and leadership authority is called to be in the church. By following Christ as revealed in the Scriptures we need not choose authoritarian leadership and leadership without authority. Both conform to the spirit of the age. Instead, we may renew our vision of Jesus Christ, the servant leader, and of leadership ministries in the New Testament.
For these reasons, this study sought to summarize the distinctively New Testament characteristics of leadership and leadership authority. These led to guidelines for evaluating the patterns of leadership in Mennonite congregations. According to these guidelines, some aspects of these patterns should be continued, others would best be changed.
The study also responded to several other concerns raised by congregations and conferences: ordination, women in ministry, and the relation of congregational and conference authority. In some cases, the study proposed specific conclusions and practical applications. In others, it proposes matters which should be carefully considered as congregations continue to seek God's leading on leadership issues and practices.
During the past two years, congregational and conference groups, as well as individual members and church leaders, have given counsel as part of this study process. Some of the counsel led to changes in the original study paper; some seemed to confirm its direction and content; some challenged specific points or the general approach. Further counsel and evaluation, as the study is used in the churches, may be sent to the Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries.
As a community of believers, we can look back in gratitude for God's faithfulness in calling forth men and women to minister in the church's life and witness. As we look forward, we remain confident that God will be faithful in the future as in the past. Leadership and leadership authority in the church ultimately come from and depend on God's grace and continuing mercies.
Seven Articles of
Schleitheim (Anabaptist, 1527)
Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632)
Mennonite Confession of Faith (Mennonite Church, 1963)
Biblical Understandings Concerning Women and Men (Mennonite Church, 1975)
Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (Mennonite Church/General Conference Mennonite Church, 1995)
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
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