This article is adapted from a piece I submitted to the Kansas City Star four years ago, the last time the Mennonite Church USA convention was held in Kansas City.
I wish I had a field guide to give Kansas City residents and businesses on how to spot, feed and care for the close to 3,000 Mennonites who will attend the biennial Mennonite Church USA convention July 2-6 at the Kansas City Convention Center.
Of course no such guide exists, nor could it exist. That is because the denomination I belong to (MCUSA) is made up of geographically and theologically diverse conferences, churches and peoples.
One cannot and should not make sweeping generalizations about membership within Mennonite Church USA. Our denomination is made up of urban, rural and suburban congregations. Every Mennonite has a different story of how they or their ancestors became Mennonite. Some of us have belonged to a Mennonite church all our lives, and others of us have come to the Mennonite church by way of a partner, a friend, a book, a website or by mistake.
Some Mennonites will arrive to Kansas City on trains, planes or bikes. And just in case there are any rumors going around, no, there will not be an increase in horses and buggies downtown.
MCUSA is made up of Anabaptist Christians. Amish, like Mennonites, trace their history to the 16th-century Anabaptists, but it would be erroneous to conflate Amish and Mennonites today. Some refer to Mennonites and Amish as distant denominational cousins.
There is nothing about our physical appearance that will identify us as Mennonites. That being said, some of our theological convictions do sometimes make us stand out in the Christian denominational landscape. Like all Anabaptists, we believe that Jesus was the one who transformed worldly greed, power, violence and ultimately death. The Mennonites I am most inspired by are those who take seriously prophet Isaiah’s vision: “They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (2:4)
We struggle, just like all people of faith, to respond to the injustices and human suffering experienced in this world. And despite our commitment to peacemaking, we experience conflict, division and controversy within our churches, conferences and denomination.
For example, just like a lot of Christian denominations, Mennonites are not of the same mind when it comes to LGBTQ justice. Personally speaking, I am supportive of the Pink Menno movement, and the way that movement has been a visible, vocal, and nonviolent presence supporting sustaining and furthering witness to the goodness of LGBTQ people. Next week at convention many of us will celebrate the 10th anniversary of this transformative movement. http://www.pinkmenno.org/
So with that, I invite you to check out this video about Pink Menno. It was created by another organization many of us at Rainbow support, Brethren Mennonite Council.