Henry Garber was president of the Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities for 22 years. As president, he rarely voted; only when needed to break a tie. When he retired Garber was rewarded with an honorary life-time membership. on the board. Now he could speak in business sessions, but he could not vote. He said that he would rather have a voice than a vote.
I was ten years old when I was baptized. As with many others welcomed by the Mennonite Church I promised to “give counsel and receive counsel”. Baptism gave me a voice, and the Marion Mennonite Church gave me a vote in the annual business meeting of the church.
Much has changed in the Mennonite church in the seventy-nine years since my baptism, but the word “counsel” has endured in our church vocabulary. I heard it this past Sunday at the College Mennonite Church when two persons were received as members. As new members they now have both a voice and a vote.
(Pastor Phil Waite’s sermon this past Sunday was different from any I have heard on the book of Joshua. Click here to see and hear the service, and if you wish, skip the first 41 minutes for the sermon and reception of the new members.)
I’m not sure where and how the two new members will fit in their new church. I realize that I have many opportunities to use my voice in counsel as I recall the past and ask questions. But, I believe it can be fairly said that I am asked to vote only in the quarterly member’s meeting like most others. Then it is usually a voice vote, only rarely counted.
This post is not meant to rewrite CMC’s by-laws to give more opportunities for members to vote. Rather, I wish to call attention to how difficult it is for Mennonite Churches to peaceably make decisions. As a church increases in numbers the more difficult the process becomes. In addition, the Old Fool is concerned that each church member understands the value of his or her counsel and knows how to give counsel charitably and how to receive counsel cheerfully.
To be continued