Now in its ninetieth year, the Mennonite Central Committee is one of the oldest relief organizations. Born in 1920 of an urgency to meet the needs of Mennonites and others in the Ukraine suffering from famine and civil war, MCC has grown global in its outreach. Arguably, MCC is now the most beloved of Mennonite institutions. As Mennonites became engaged in the work of MCC—sometimes hesitantly and reluctantly—once divided Mennonite groups have been drawn into patterns of amicable cooperation. The title, A Table of Sharing, intimates the presence of a Eucharistic spirit around the table of MCC service.
In his introduction, Editor Alain Epp Weaver offers a compact overview to this absorbing book. He has assembled a score of gifted scholars to contribute insightful and thoughtful essays on the story and program of an institution grappling with some of the most critical issues of the twenty-first century. All who have shared in the ministries of MCC will find essays that stimulate critical thought, stretch sensitivities, and inspire support. Invited to this table for rigorous discussion are not only Mennonites but all who are deeply concerned how the global affluent can relate with care and respect to the less affluent.
Two former Executive Secretaries of MCC, John A. Lapp and Ronald Mathies, lead off with a call to envision an MCC from an Anabaptist-nurtured global perspective, seeking close bonds to the evolving Mennonite World Conference and beyond to a wider circle of faith communities. Esther Epp Tiessen and James Juhnke correct MCC’s master narrative in recalling the perilous steps of cautious and separatist Mennonite groups edging their way into collaborative inter-Mennonite relationships and into larger ecumenical linkages.
a contemporary climate of negative attitudes toward institutions,
Donald Kraybill reports as “mystery” a study that reveals an incredibly
broad-based commitment among differing Mennonite groupings for the work
Steven Nolt describes how MCC has related to its “plain people” constituents and the need for nuanced understanding and responsiveness to the concerns and sensitivities of the Old Orders. Perry Bush reviews the salutary tension and complimentarity of the relationship between MCC and Christian Peacemaker Teams with the latter’s more confrontational stance toward principalities and powers.
Tobin Miller Shearer challenges MCC to extricate itself from embedded racial bias that continues to be unresolved. In a parallel way, Beth Graybill describes how in a male-dominated world MCC has slowly, awkwardly, imperfectly begun to include women in positions of leadership.
Nancy Heisey observes how in the twentieth century MCC has helped to make Mennonites a traveling people. In the context of globalization, how does one travel with the perceptivity, humility, and anticipation of a pilgrim? Malinda Berry invites us to the table as she reviews the amazing response to the More with Less Cookbook with sales of more than 800,000, perhaps the most “missional” of any Mennonite book. Three Colorado State University scholars examine the venture of SELFHELP crafts/Ten Thousand Villages in the context of the fair trade movement.
In concluding essays, time-honored ways of “doing good” are subjected to thoughtful scholarly analysis. Robb Davis poses for testing a series of paradigms of MCC’s development strategies. Is development largely an economic undertaking of moving resources from the haves to the have-nots or are there other priorities? William Reimer and Bruce Guenther wrestle in development planning with the use of Western rational models, which may be in tension with the cultivation of nuanced community relationships.
Thinking of Somalia, Rwanda, and Kosovo, Ted Koontz examines “just war” arguments used by those calling for military force to protect the innocent. If “relationships are the most important part of MCC’s work,” Terrence Jantzi calls for a theoretical framework for relationship building. A variety of ingredients emerge: focus on local community, low budget, simple living, multiple relationships, continuity of presence.
read the final essay by the Executive Director of MCC, Arli Klassen, as
an invitation to come to the table to join in reviewing thoughtfully
the mission and mandate of MCC. In responding to this call, we are
invited to come as pilgrims seeking to serve the hungry, hurting, and
fallen in a global community—this with the mind and spirit of Christ.
Copyright © 2010 by Cascadia Publishing House LLC