Printer Friendly

The Communal Ethos of the Mennonite Central Committee: Testing the Bounds of Community in Kenya.

Mennonites have their North American roots in small, rural, agrarian communities--spaces that have nurtured their pacifism and communal ethos. But what happens when these values of communalism and mutual aid become institutionalized in an international peacebuilding and development organization? Do the commitments to others in the Mennonite community stretch to accommodate the new setting? Or is this communal ethos a limitation when working in other contexts? In the bureaucratic world of peacebuilding and development, a model that is driven by an agrarian sensibility and communalism may seem outdated. However, this article argues that the work of the Mennonite Central Committee in Kenya provides a case study for how a strong communal ethnos among Mennonites both benefits and constrains the agency's work.

My analysis is based on eight years of studying MCC and includes ethnographic fieldwork in Kenya in 2008-2009, 2015, and 2016, as well as more than one hundred interviews with MCC staff, partners, and beneficiaries. My own social location as both an insider to the Mennonite community and an outsider to MCC provided a rich basis from which to consider the bounds of community for a faith-based organization.

Background on Mennonites and the Mennonite Central Committee

The earliest roots of Anabaptism are traced to January 21, 1525, when Conrad Grebel and fourteen other followers of Ulrich Zwingli baptized one another in Zurich, Switzerland. (2) This group became part of the Radical Reformation movement and were persecuted for heresy. The emergent message of Anabaptism spread across Switzerland until the persecution forced many Anabaptists to flee to Germany. Menno Simons, a theologian and the namesake of the Mennonite church, joined the Anabaptist movement as it reached the Netherlands. Menno's series of pamphlets recounting the story of his own conversion and beliefs helped cement the early identity of the Dutch Anabaptist movement. Menno's followers called themselves "Menists" or "Mennoists" and later, "Mennonites." After ongoing persecution in Europe, the first group of Mennonites arrived in America in the mid-1600s, followed by subsequent waves of migration in the early 1700s, throughout the 1800s, and in the 1920s. (3) As they arrived in the United States, Mennonites primarily pursued an agrarian lifestyle in relatively rural areas. (4)

The Mennonite Central Committee was first organized as mutual aid to suffering Russian Mennonites in the wake of World War I. (5) The founding mission statement announced "a Mennonite Central Committee, whose duty shall be to function with and for the relief committees of the Mennonites in taking charge of all gifts for S. Russia, to make all purchases of suitable articles for relief work, and to provide for the transportation and equitable distribution of the same." (6)

From its founding, MCC represented a shifting constellation of different ways of being Mennonite. Some of its earliest founding figures came from the General Conference of Mennonites, the Mennonite Brethren, and the Mennonite Church--organizations representing three different configurations of what it meant to be Mennonite in North America, shifting between traditionalist and progressive modes of engaging with the world. (7) In fact, Paul Toews refers to the founding of MCC as part of an "inter-Mennonite renaissance," observing that this was one of the "voluntary networks [that] spanned the schisms of the past and frequently rendered denominational differences almost inconsequential." (8) My case study of three different types of Mennonites in Kenya--MCC, Eastern Mennonite Missions and Kenya Mennonite Church--reflects this assertion as each group negotiates internally and externally what it means to be Mennonite in Kenya.

MCC expanded in the 1940s in response to increased interest in service opportunities and a desire to aid in the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. MCC collaborated with the American Friends Service Committee and the Brethren Service Committee to provide an alternative to military service through the Civilian Public Service program. (9) As MCC moved beyond short-term relief operations and into longer-term peacebuilding and development work, it began to establish the organizational practice of working through local partners. Rather than designing and implementing its own projects, MCC relied primarily on grassroots organizations based in the local context for project design and implementation. Today MCC works in 56 countries around the world and partners with 515 local partner organizations. (10)

The Communal Ethos of Mennonites

Community is a pervasive aspect of Mennonite ecclesiology, hermeneutics, ordinances, church discipline, and mutual aid. Community remains a bedrock value for Mennonites, encompassing theological, ethical, and sociological facets of shared life and constructed from a web of both implicit and explicit commitments and covenants. In an examination of communalism in Anabaptism from its earliest days, J. Howard Kauffman and Leland Harder wrote that "the terms 'Mennonite church' and 'Mennonite community' were practically synonymous." (11)

Mennonites believe the salvation of individuals is tied to the community: "Man cannot come to God, except with his brother." (12) In his examination of Mennonites and cultural conflict, Fred Kniss argues that the twin paradigms of communalism and traditionalism--both of which are grounded in the centrality of community--define Mennonite life in the United States: "The paradigm of traditionalism holds that the locus of moral authority is the collective tradition.... The paradigm of communalism holds that the primary moral project is the community, the maximization of the public good." (13) Religiously and politically conservative Mennonites embrace the paradigm of traditionalism, while more socially progressive Mennonites gravitate towards the paradigm of communalism. However, both paradigms are rooted in the centrality of community.

Harold Bender, one of the intellectual bedrocks of Mennonite thought and institution building in the twentieth century, wrote:
Christian fellowship is to be sharply distinguished from superficial
and transient associations. The warm feeling between familiar friends
who meet regularly at church meetings, the bonds of an ethnic group
with a common language or cultural and historical background, the
awareness of a network of related families--all these may have
sociological and psychological value in adding to the bonds of loyalty
to a common faith which otherwise bind a church fellowship together,
but they cannot carry the life of the Christian community. (14)

Sociologist Calvin Redekop defines Mennonite community as "the network of interrelationships among persons who share the same history, who have the same symbolic system, who feel emotionally one with other Mennonites, and who tend to live in spatially defined areas." (15) Redekop emphasizes that this community has geographical, ideological, emotional, and relational elements.

Mennonite Ecclesiology, Hermeneutics, and Community

The Mennonite church is more thanjust a denomination. The "Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective" defines church as "the new community of disciples sent into the world to proclaim the reign of God and to provide a foretaste of the church's glorious hope" and "the household, or family, of God." (16) This definition demonstrates how Mennonites understand church and community as inseparable concepts superseding notions of a church as an institution, religious association, or building.

Leadership roles in the Mennonite church reinforce the importance of community and equality of persons. Mennonites embrace a New Testament "priesthood of all believers," in which the church is "a community of believers rather than a combination of lay and clerical classes" and "all believers are called to participate in the life and witness of the church, to share in mutual discipline and forgiveness, and to test the interpretation of Scripture and doctrine." (17) Mennonite churches ordain church leaders, many of whom are professionally trained (though seminary training represents a newer innovation), and authority in the local church remains corporate rather than individualistic.

Mennonites prefer a communal approach to reading the Bible, a theological innovation derived from the Reformation. However, while many Reformation churches valued trained theologians as scriptural interpreters, Anabaptists continued to locate authority in the gathered community and believed study of scripture is best done together. In What We Believe Together, a work commissioned by Mennonite World Conference in 2008 to reflect on the practices of Mennonites worldwide, Alfred Neufeld explains communal hermeneutics as "more enriching and less dangerous than an individual attempting it alone. No one has all the necessary knowledge and wisdom. In a congregation, we benefit by having women and men, young and old, rich and poor, different temperaments, and representatives of different occupational and professional segments." (18)

Still, this approach is not without disadvantages. Some scholars, like Lydia Neufeld Harder, observe: "Our theology has polarized the individual and the community, giving priority to the community. This meant that undue power was given to community leaders and that dominance of more marginal people could be justified by appealing to community needs." (19)

Mennonite Ordinances and Community

The emerging Anabaptist movement was initially distinct from the larger Reformation movement because of Anabaptism's emphasis on the Lord's Supper, baptism, and church discipline. All three rites in the Mennonite faith reinforce the centrality of the community.

For Mennonites, the Lord's Supper symbolizes the relationship between members and between the church and God. The "Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective" describes it as a "covenant with God and with each other." (20) Communion celebrates members' "willingness to give their lives for one another" and their "common commitment and purpose." (21) The importance of the Lord's Supper cannot be understood outside the collective consciousness of communal life: "Eating bread and drinking juice is not just an individual experience of private devotion but an occasion for recognizing that God is present in the community of fellow believers." (22) Many Mennonite churches require all members to be at peace with one another in order to receive communion.

Like communion, Mennonites believe that baptism involves both individual and communal commitment. John Roth writes:
For Mennonites, the act of baptizing with water is always a public
event, done in the presence of the gathered congregation as a means of
formally integrating the believer as a new member into the community of
faith. Thus, Mennonite baptismal candidates not only confess their
faith in Christ; they also promise to place themselves in the 'care,
discipline and fellowship of the community.' They commit themselves to
give and receive counsel, to extend mutual aid, and to serve in the
broader mission of the church. A faith that is purely private or
subjective is incomprehensible within the Anabaptist-Mennonite
tradition. (23)

Baptism is a symbol of an individual's commitment to radical equality and reconciliation in a communal context. Additionally, baptism symbolizes the individual's willingness to participate in church discipline. When adults join the Mennonite church, they agree to be subject to the mutual obligation of giving and receiving church discipline.

Mennonite church discipline is based on mutual accountability. Mennonites feel responsible for other members of the community and committed to a common life, which sometimes requires "fraternal admonition" and accountability to one another. In early Anabaptist literature, discipline was described as "the ban" and had two functions: "confessing sin, forgiving it, and readmitting the sinner back into the congregation" and "a way to maintain holiness and purity in the church." (24)

Mennonite discipline is rooted in the belief that individual priorities can be "overridden or denied for the sake of externally imposed church order." (25) Church discipline works only in settings where individual members will accept sanctions for the greater good of the collective, a process that may be difficult in cultural contexts that value individualism. Church discipline may strike outsiders as harsh. However, it never relies on physical force but rather on the power of social ostracism and importance of group identity. As noted by Calvin Redekop, "The existence of a strong sense of community was fundamental for this sanction to have any power against the sinning individual.... Outside of the community context, the practice of shunning had absolutely no power." (26)

Mutual Aid

Membership in Mennonite community entails church discipline but also the reassurance of mutual aid--based on the idea that if one member of the community is suffering, all are obligated to help. This essential interdependence is born out of the conviction that communal life provides both accountability (church discipline) and solace (mutual aid). Harold Bender saw mutual aid as the true test of Christian fellowship in Mennonite communities: "If the fellowship really exists, it must express itself in joint action and common experience; it is not just a feeling the members have for each other, a vague sense of belonging together, a species of human friendship or a theological declaration." (27) Mennonite mutual aid is not a Rawlsian strategy designed to calculate how best to ensure one's own safety and well-being but rather a profound expression of faith and commitment to loving one's neighbor. (28)

Mennonite mutual aid operates both formally and informally. (29) While informal mutual aid may involve congregational support to a member of the community, formal mutual aid has been institutionalized in a multitude of Mennonite agencies, including retirement homes, mental health institutions, insurance companies, credit unions, Mennonite Disaster Service, and Mennonite Central Committee. (30) While historically mutual aid centered on informal assistance for local neighbors, today the definition of community has expanded to include people outside the local Mennonite group, including the religious and/or ethnic Other living far beyond the rural farmlands of North America.

The Community Ethic in the Mennonite Central Committee

In an assessment of the religious components of peacebuilding within the Mennonite community, Marc Gopin observes that Mennonites believe "that only through building relationships and local capacities over years can true transformation take place. This long-term building of a relationship of trust also seems to be a healthier response to the pain of local people than coming in for ten days and leaving with a combination of relief and guilt." (31) This description of the role of a communal ethos rightly positions it as not only a beneficial methodology through which the organization works but a principal value that is at the core of what Mennonites believe. An emphasis on community is not only pragmatic for the work of MCC; it reflects the core of what it means to be Mennonite and work for transformation. Gopin positions this ontological orientation in diametrical opposition with theorists like Hobbes or Machiavelli, who posit that encounters with the Other are bound for violent conflict. He suggests that this represents a different way of being in the world, one that drives us toward seeing other human beings as worthy ends, rather than a means or obstacle to our own goals. Gopin writes, "Making the act of building human relations itself into an ethical or sacred task unifies, in principle at least, means and ends." (32)

In my case study of MCC's work in Kenya, the strong communal ethos provided a sense of trust among MCC workers. The density of the Mennonite community in North America was evident in the MCC community in East Africa. MCC volunteers often attended the same (usually Mennonite) universities, attended the same congregations, or served previous MCC assignments together. The 2009-2014 country representatives in Kenya had served previously in MCC-Nigeria with the head of the Food, Disaster, and Material Resource program. The head of the Generations at Risk program lived next door to former MCC-Kenya country representatives. The density of the North American Mennonite community replicated itself within MCC East Africa.

Mennonites within MCC saw this densely networked system as simply a happy coincidence or the natural result of a small but active North American Mennonite population that values both community and service. For them, these relationships created an atmosphere of trust born of familiarity. Meetings that might have had an air of formality became instead a friendly time to catch up and enjoy one another's company while also attending to practical business. Terrence Jantzi's theoretical framework of relationships in MCC suggests that an emphasis on building social capital is key to understanding MCC's approach to both peacebuilding and development work. (33) The framework indicates that deepening internal cohesion between groups of Mennonites as well as building solidarity in the form of external relationships outside the group are key tenets of MCC's approach to community. In the following sections, I examine how this internal cohesion functioned within MCC, as well as in the way it related to other groups of Mennonites in the region.

Community Construction within MCC

MCC emphasized relationship building between MCC volunteers to strengthen the Mennonite communal ethos. While any organization might create team-building events, MCC encouraged volunteers to relate as friends and family, not just colleagues.

The sense of belonging to the MCC family began for volunteers at the orientation in Akron, Pennsylvania. This lasted one to three weeks depending on the level of the MCC assignment and typically included fifteen to forty participants who were beginning MCC service terms domestically and abroad. During orientation, new workers participated in small-group discussions, Bible study, and introductions to MCC policy. The ideological function of orientation was to create a new sense of identity for MCC staff, bonding them both to the fellow workers attending orientation and symbolically to MCC as an institution.

The MCC idea of community is based on a notion of shared identity and equality and included everyone from MCC leadership to janitorial staff, who all attended the initial part of the orientation together. Each shared a responsibility to one another, and orientation was the rite of passage marking the beginning of a time set apart from the rest of life. At the conclusion of MCC service, workers returned to Akron for a reorientation session with the same group.

New membership into MCC was marked by a commissioning service at the conclusion of the orientation. Just as baptism seals Mennonites to the church community, commissioning formally created a covenant between volunteers and MCC. Once the volunteer arrived at their assignment, participation in the life of country program team began. MCC community life was built around team meetings and retreats. The meetings served pragmatic, organizational functions, but since most information was also shared electronically, the primary purpose of team meetings seemed to be social. Team members usually shared meals and discussed their assignments and their lives.

Each country program gathered annually, often with other MCC programs in the region, for a retreat. Like team meetings, retreats built community and reinforced a sense of solidarity and support. Through worship, shared meals, games, sports days, and talent nights, MCC staff members reminded themselves of their allegiances and love for one another in community. In addition to being a holiday, the retreat was a time to share and process frustration, sorrow, anger, grief, and homesickness. If orientation echoed the Anabaptist baptism and entry into community, then meetings and retreats functioned as the symbolic sharing of communion, strengthening the bonds of love and support within the community.

The MCC-Kenya teams described their team as "family-like," and MCC volunteers tended to see one another as family members or friends rather than as colleagues. Jonathan Pageau described how orientation created this sense of loyalty and belonging:
MCC tells you stories and makes you feel like you are joining something
that is very deep and very rich. It's all about these people, and they
know the names, and it's not just like they're telling the story of the
organization but it's almost like they are telling their family story.
So you feel this intimacy right away. (34)

MCC reflected the Mennonite ethos of community by structuring much of its organizational life around building deeper and more profound relationships with one another. These relationships served as social, psychological, emotional, and spiritual support, not merely bureaucratic relationships between coworkers.

However, these relationships were not only built on affirmation. Guided by the Mennonite obligation to correct one another, MCC volunteers also engaged in mild forms of Mennonite discipline. If one team member perceived behavior of another as outside the norms of the community, there would often be a confrontation. One worker explained her experience with Mennonite disciplining in MCC: "Community is so great, but it's hard too. People can be petty. It's good that we challenge each other and ourselves. Staying accountable to the community is helpful but it also means that we are constantly challenging ourselves." (35) Typically these confrontations took place privately, by email or letter. In general, I found many volunteers to be conflict avoidant; conflict could simmer for weeks before a confrontation took place. The disciplining that I observed never went beyond an individual level of engagement.

The MCC community was not without drawbacks. Volunteers were expected to privilege team connections over those with other expatriates and in some cases, people from home. While many international development workers develop informal solidarity networks between expatriates, MCC's forms of community took this a step further. MCC workers were sometimes told that their team members and their Kenyan colleagues should serve as their primary community. Mennonite values served as boundary markers demarcating who was part of the community and who was not. While this strengthened bonds between volunteers, it simultaneously excluded those outside MCC. Within the aid sector, much work is often accomplished by networking with other NGOs, but MCC remained largely isolated from these arrangements. (36)

Benefits of Mennonite Community

Despite the way that the world may see Mennonites as unified, within the Mennonite community, there is little ideological unity. Nonetheless, while what Peter Berger might refer to as "the sacred canopy" of Anabaptist identity presents challenges, there are also benefits to this multiplicity of Mennonites in Kenya. (37) Marc Gopin observed: "The Mennonite creation of community gives peacemakers the tools to endure great psychological stress. Communal support allows them to engage in peacemaking for extended terms which they believe in spiritually and which also may be far more effective than short-term engagements." (38)

The Mennonite emphasis on community was particularly well received by MCC's Kenyan partners. East African cultures generally value relationships and place great importance on community. (39) Therefore, MCC's interest in developing and sustaining community was a comfortable match for the culture. One of the most frequent descriptions I heard from Ugandans and Kenyans in describing their relationship with MCC was "like family"--a demonstration of the sense of kinship created in the midst of difference. One MCC partner, Lucy Gacheru in North Kinangop, Kenya, urged me to "feel at home--if you are with MCC, you are part of our family." (40) Partners explained that MCC was "more flexible and relaxed... not like other NGOs where it is only business--with MCC it is like you are with family." This family-like set of relationships was usually evidenced by seemingly small details--MCC conducts meetings over shared meals with partners, partners felt welcome to drop by the MCC offices without appointments, and MCC called partners simply to check how their families or villages were faring without another agenda.

From MCC's perspective, formation of familial bonds between volunteers and local communities served both ideological and pragmatic purposes. Ideologically, building kinship resonated with the Mennonite sense of community. Pragmatically, MCC shifted some of the burden of care from itself to the local community. Due to the remote areas and harsh living conditions, volunteers were dependent on their hosts for their security and well-being. Country representatives stressed that local communities should be volunteers' primary source of information on issues like health and security as well as more trivial concerns like shopping, appropriate clothing, etc. Volunteers were instructed that all questions should be directed to their local boss, host family, coworkers, or neighbors before MCC itself. This policy seemed to build trust and loyalty between the service worker and their community. One couple told me, "We feel so safe living here--we don't even lock our doors! I know that this area is known for crime, but I also feel that the whole community is watching out for us." (41)

Not Mennonite in MCC?

One way to understand the salience of Mennonite community in MCC is to look at the experience of non-Mennonites in the organization. Membership in a church community is a prerequisite for MCC service, though applicants need not be Mennonite. However, the same Mennonite ethos that binds MCC staff together sometimes felt like a source of exclusion for those volunteers who did not share it. Non-Mennonites were sometimes known informally as OTMs (Other Than Mennonites), a term which assumed Mennonite identity as normative. At the time of my research, approximately one third of MCC staff worldwide were OTMs. Most joined MCC because they believed in MCC's values, particularly peace and community.

By 2009, Jonathan Pageau and Marti Vrastiak had been working for MCC-Congo and MCC-Kenya for more than seven years and seemed to exemplify the Mennonite commitment to service. But their application took more than three years to process, despite their strong qualifications. In their case, not being part of the Mennonite community acted as a barrier.
We waited for three years. We just kept waiting. We knew that the
application had gone to the Winnipeg office but we never heard
anything.... Finally we had to get on with our lives. We bought a house
and furniture. Two weeks later MCC called. What had happened was that
we have friends who are ethnic Mennonites who have two aunts who work
in the Winnipeg office. And during Christmas time they went back home
and talked to them about our situation and their aunts went straight to
this person [who had their application] and this person said, "Yes, it
has been on my desk for like two years. I just didn't know what to do
with it." (42)

In this case, it appears that having Mennonite connections strongly influences the MCC recruitment process. Before they connected with a Mennonite patron, Jonathan and Marti's application seemed stuck in limbo; only after intervention from within the Mennonite community did their application move forward.

Other non-Mennonites note the frequency with which "the Mennonite name game" is played--that is, the desire of Mennonites, upon meeting someone new, to try to figure out if they know any common acquaintances. One OTM felt this was the biggest drawback of not being Mennonite: "You mention someone and immediately they ask, 'Is that the brother of this person?' There are all these Mennonite connections." Several OTMs described the Mennonite name game as "alienating." OTMs felt it was not theological issues that separated them from Mennonites but rather cultural issues such as communication styles or assumptions about knowledge.

One OTM described what their experience working in a Mennonite institution felt like:
The thing about MCC--about Mennonites in general--is there is this
whole informal communication thing. There is this whole idea that there
are things that you should know and that you should be connected in
certain ways, and it is just kind of taken for granted. And so when you
are from the outside, you just have no idea of what these kind of
things are. So because of that I think you miss out on a lot of the
things that are going on in MCC or in the Mennonite world because you
are just not connected. People don't do it out of spite or out of a
desire to exclude--it is just... people don't even think that there are
things that you don't know. (43)

Other OTMs differentiated between their non-Mennonite identity in East Africa and how they might be perceived if they worked for MCC in North America: "In the field, it is no big deal whether we are Mennonite or not but it would be hard not to be Mennonite if I worked in Akron, where the politics of Mennonite conferences matter, or if I had to have a lot of constituency contact--I would never want to do that." (44) Some OTMs questioned whether they would be allowed to advance beyond a certain point in their career with MCC: "In some ways I feel really comfortable in MCC and welcome but at the same time I realize there is sort of a glass ceiling. I wouldn't want to go beyond a certain point, and I think MCC wouldn't want me there." (45)

While OTMs seemed to question whether they were truly part of the Mennonite family, Mennonites within MCC seemed unbothered by this issue. There seemed to be no fear that the non-Mennonites would compromise the direction or ideological scope of MCC. MCC's recruitment value screens--a commitment to nonviolence, an active faith and membership in a church--ensure OTMs are aware of what they are committing to and have in fact chosen to serve with MCC because of its values.

Institutional Friends

While working outside their home context might push MCC towards relationships beyond the Mennonite community, MCC often linked with historically Mennonite organizations, which provided MCC with partnerships based on shared values. Many of MCC's local partner organizations were sent for peacebuilding and development training from the African Peacebuilding Institute, the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, or Eastern Mennonite University--institutions with strong Mennonite ties. This reflects the work of sociologists who analyzed the power of in-group networking, utilizing informal ties between individuals and organizations. (46)

William Riemer and Bruce Guenther's examination of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) highlights the role of Mennonite community in shaping relief and responses to humanitarian crises through working with "trusted and like-minded agencies." (47)

CFGB was an ecumenical donor originally founded by MCC Canada and a major funder and partner of several projects with MCC in Kenya. At times, MCC-Kenya received over half of its funding through CFGB. In 2009, CFGB was the sole funder of the MCC-Kenya food-for-work projects and provided over half the funds for the two MCC-Kenya partners building sand dams--Excellent Development (EDK) and Sahelian Solutions Foundation (SASOL).

MCC's relationship with CFGB was largely based on the shared Mennonite heritage of both institutions. The kinship between the two is evident and serves the interests of both. CFGB's motto is "a Christian response to hunger" and its mission statement declares that it:
is rooted in the belief that humankind is created in the image of God
and that it is God's desire that no person should go hungry. The
availability of food and access to that food is fundamental to life
itself. Food is required to sustain life, to provide the strength for
work, and to share in the fellowship of one's family and community. (48)

Not only is this a clearly faith-based statement but it also emphasizes Mennonite community. CFGB lists ten Christian values that guide its work: right to food, justice, human dignity, equality, compassion, generosity, stewardship, peace, right relationships (a spirit of humility and mutuality), and unity. (49) CFGB is not directly involved in peacebuilding, but the inclusion of peace on this list is another indicator both of its kinship with MCC and its Mennonite roots.

Working within the extended Mennonite community provided clear benefits to MCC. MCC received significant funding from CFGB without compromising its values. Much of the CFGB staff was Mennonite and interacted in the same social circles and church gatherings as MCC workers in Canada. Therefore, while CFGB was the type of large bureaucratic organization that MCC typically avoided, because of its Mennonite identity, MCC continued to receive significant funding and resources from it.

However, the ongoing relationship with CFGB also constrained MCC work. CFGB moved decisively towards "results-based management" and demanded increasing amounts of paperwork and reporting from MCC. (50) CFGB relied heavily on logical frameworks ("logframes"), indicators, and assessments to guide its work and funding decisions. (51) These requirements introduced additional complexity into MCC's reporting system. It is also possible that in choosing to build community with one institution, MCC created difficulties for partner organizations with whom it also desired community. I saw MCC workers making efforts to shield the partner organizations from the burden of CFGB paperwork by hiring an outside consultant or taking on extra work themselves. MCC believed local partners should concentrate on programming rather than bureaucratic reporting requirements.

Relations with Eastern Mennonite Missions

In an examination of the missiology of MCC, Stanley Green and James Kraybill discuss the complex relationship the organization negotiates with the idea of evangelism and service. (52) They conclude that there are six different responses that might characterize a missiology of MCC that present in different ways in different contexts, including service preparing the way for evangelism, service and evangelism as mutually reinforcing, service and evangelism as in conflict. In the case of MCC in Kenya, two of these responses were clearly evident--service and evangelism in conflict and service is more important than evangelism). These responses were accentuated by the presence of a wider Mennonite community in the region--Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) and a local Kenya Mennonite Church (KMC), both of which were more invested in the idea of evangelism than MCC. MCC's relationship to both of these organizations demonstrated how Mennonite community is tested and challenged. Neither EMM nor KMC represented partners that MCC would be drawn to if it were not for their Mennonite identity. In both cases, Mennonite community demanded that MCC relate to both organizations even when it complicated their work. The fragmentation of Mennonite identity in North America was echoed in the relationship between EMM and MCC. The conflict between these two organizations in Nairobi was seemingly not entirely of their own making but reflected the ongoing negotiations around Mennonite identity back in North America between different conferences and ideological orientations.

EMM was formed in 1894 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and continues to be based in Salunga, Pennsylvania. EMM described its mission as "to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in places of spiritual darkness, especially in places where the church is weak or nonexistent." (53) EMM has worked in Africa since 1934, and Kenya was one of EMM's most active African programs; it primarily focused on strengthening and encouraging KMC. The assignments of EMM workers varied and included teaching in an international Christian school, teaching peace studies at a local evangelical university, and maintaining a guesthouse or presence ministry among Somalis in Nairobi. Like MCC, EMM also utilized non-Mennonite volunteers for service, though this was not something that most MCC workers acknowledged. (54)

On the surface, it appeared that MCC and EMM shared quite a lot in common. Both were North American Mennonite organizations guided by professed Mennonite values. Both organizations had offices within walking distance of one another in Westlands, Nairobi. Because the North American Mennonite world is relatively small, many people on either team had connections to the other organization through people they knew at home in North America. In the beginning of their engagement in Kenya, EMM and MCC shared leadership and office space. However, both institutions evolved from this type of sharing, and at the time of my research, the two agencies shared one partner--the Kenya Mennonite Church. Despite common ties, there was discord and tension in the relationship between MCC and EMM. This was a case in which Mennonite community complicated the relationship between the two organizations.

While each group was superficially friendly to the other, stereotypes between the institutions abounded. It is important to note that in my ethnographic fieldwork, the patterns that I observed emerged over months of studying MCC and interviewing both EMM and MCC workers. When a stranger inquires about the relationship between the two, both agencies report that the two bodies are doing separate work but are friendly--in fact, I watched that response unfold several times over the course of my fieldwork. However, a very different picture emerged in interviews and in the course of daily interactions. The observations presented here are the result of interviews primarily in 2008-2009, and in all cases, comments about the relationship between EMM and MCC were requested to be anonymous. This is another telling aspect to the complicated nature of Mennonite community in East Africa.

MCC volunteers were anxious to avoid being seen as missionaries, and many saw evangelism as linked with colonialism. This echoes the evaluation Marc Gopin offered of Mennonite peacemaking: "It appears that a number of people who engage in peace work are uncomfortable at the very least with the most aggressive interpretation of mission, namely the active process of converting as many people to Mennonitism or Christianity as possible. Some are uncomfortable with proselytizing altogether, while others are committed to mission in the sense of a religious calling and are looking to define peace work as mission." (55) Some MCC volunteers flatly rejected the mere suggestion that their work could be considered missionary: "I typically despise the word/idea 'missionary.'... I dislike my work being categorized in general, and I intensely dislike it being categorized as 'mission' or as a 'missionary' in particular." (56)

Many volunteers expressed discomfort with the term missionary because they felt it implied colonialism or imperialism and preferred the term service worker. MCC-Kenya member Alvera Stern elaborated on her reservations about the term missionary:
I think service worker is a better term. MCC doesn't like the term
missionary. I am not here to evangelize--I am here to serve. A
missionary would be expected to do preaching, teach Sunday school, and
do village visits. No one here expects that of me. (57)

Stern casts mission in diametrical terms with service. Despite the fact that most missionaries also embrace service, for many MCC workers, mission and service remained in direct opposition, which complicated their perception of a fellow Mennonite institution with "missionary" in its very title.

For their part, EMM workers often questioned whether MCC was sufficiently faith based. Both groups embraced Biblical pacifism stemming from their Mennonite heritage, but the theological orientations of their volunteers differed. MCC workers tended to be more theologically liberal, and EMM workers tended to be more theologically conservative and evangelical. This difference may be rooted in the fact that historically EMM was associated with only one conference--the Lancaster Conference--which has traditionally been a conservative Mennonite conference in the United States, while MCC tended to draw politically liberal volunteers from all conferences in North America.

When asked to describe the differences between MCC and EMM, without hesitation all the MCC volunteers pointed to EMM's church-planting work as the most significant difference. However, none of the EMM volunteers saw the difference that way. EMM volunteers identified the differences as follows:
EMM is personality driven, and MCC is program driven. EMM picks a
person they like, and then lets them define their own job. MCC picks a
job and hopes to find a professional person to fill it. (58) EMM goes
deeper into the culture. The language learning is stronger. (59)

Others noted that MCC is more structured and has clear standards and expectations for a person's service, while EMM is more open ended. EMM staff raised their own financial support in the United States, while MCC workers were funded by MCC. (60)

One leader within MCC described the difference this way: "From the highest leadership level we know that the executive directors of both organizations are committed to continuing the relationship. We have to remain friends with them. And there are some personal relationships that are good. There is a mandate from above that we need to be friends. But this is difficult on a working level. EMM is haphazard--we don't actually know what they do. MCC has procedures for doing things. They have different work, and neither party is enthusiastic about the other." This frank explanation captures the sentiments held by many but what is telling is that there is a mandate from a high level for the two organizations to be friends. Using the term friends reflects the communal nature and importance of relationship between these two Mennonite entities.

In theory, the roles for EMM and MCC are very clear, with EMM engaging in spiritual development and church planting and MCC doing peacebuilding and development work. One person summarized it succinctly, saying, "EMM is about the word, and MCC is about the deed." (61) However, grey areas abounded, and there was little clarity as to how the two institutions should interact. While MCC was primarily a relief, development, and peacemaking agency, in Kenya it also supported the seminary tuition of some Kenyan Mennonites, and often MCC volunteers preached or gave seminars in Kenyan churches--all roles that would seem to be the purview of EMM. While EMM was primarily engaged in evangelism, church support, and church planting, in Kenya it also supported health and education projects and provided peace classes at a university--all roles that typically were the domain of MCC. I asked several Kenyans who interacted with both EMM and MCC to describe what each did, and with the exception of direct employees of either institution, no one could explain the differences between the two groups. It is interesting to note that the organizations share a focus on being led by Kenyans and that while MCC workers tended to view EMM workers as evangelizing missionaries, EMM is much more focused on supporting the church planting ambitions of the Kenya Mennonite Church, a methodology not unlike MCC's work through partner organizations.

A situation that demonstrated this ambiguity arose in April 2009, when violence broke out in Ogwedhi between Luo and Maasai people. Concerned residents phoned both MCC and EMM to request help. EMM had planted churches and done reconciliation work in the community in the past but did not have an active presence there at the time of the violence. MCC had not worked directly with the community before. This was a case in which the expertise of MCC was a good fit and the previous relationship of EMM was a good fit. However, it was not clear whether the agencies could work together. The questions that each agency asked to gain more information about the conflict were revealing. Most of the questions from the EMM representatives concerned how the local Mennonite church fit into the picture--who the bishop was, which jurisdiction the church was in, and which missionaries had spent time there. The MCC leadership primarily tried to decide what type of peacebuilding activity would be appropriate and which type of mediator would be best. Neither agency had available funds for this project. Both resolved to make phone calls and gather information. In the end, the crisis resolved itself without intervention from either MCC or EMM.

When I asked EMM and MCC workers if the two agencies conflicted, the most common response was uncomfortable silence and then an explanation of what most termed "a historical conflict." Others noted that there might be personal conflicts but not organizational ones. However, the conflict did not always seem historical or personal in nature, and boundary activation was obvious on both sides. I observed two institutions with fundamentally different agendas forced to relate due to a common North American Mennonite identity. The narcissism of minor difference means both groups experience conflict with the other in the places where their work overlaps. (62) If the two organizations did not share a Mennonite identity, both organizations would pay little attention to the other. However, the Mennonite communal ethos forced the two organizations together, resulting in friction. This tension derived from a shared Mennonite value system that is interpreted differently by each organization. EMM's approach to peace was more spiritualized, often referring to "the peace which only comes from Jesus" or "peace in my heart." Cooperation occurred sporadically, but generally, both agencies chart separate courses. It was precisely because they shared Mennonite identity that they felt required to relate to one another--an association that both agencies found confusing at best.

Despite their different orientations, the drive to build internal cohesion and Mennonite community pushed individuals within both organizations to continue to interact. One of the most interesting sites of this engagement was the Mennonite Guesthouse (MGH)--recently renamed Amani Gardens Inn--in Nairobi. This merits further examination as it is a specific physical space that holds important meaning for both groups. First opened in 1964 as a guesthouse for missionaries, MGH has always been managed by EMM. At any given time, only a few guests were either Mennonite or affiliated with MCC or EMM, yet the guesthouse was full of North American travelers who associated "Mennonite" with the hospitality and welcome of an expatriate community. MGH had no website and no published contact details; it relied solely on word-of-mouth referrals, typically among Mennonites and missionaries in the area. Nonetheless, it was often filled to capacity. The lush grounds included a garden and four private homes that housed EMM volunteers. While MGH was officially EMM space, MCC frequently used the beautiful grounds as a meeting space.

In 2015, MGH was renamed Amani Gardens Inn, and it adopted a much more entrepreneurial business model that featured heavier branding, more advertising (including a website), a conference center, additional rooms, and a restaurant. The price of rooms significantly increased. Most of the homes used for EMM volunteers were demolished, and a luxury apartment building (Sky View Gardens) intended to generate income for EMM began to be built on the grounds. These changes met with varying responses from the Mennonite community in Kenya--everything from dismissing the project as extravagant and accusing EMM of selling out its Mennonite heritage to seeing the project as the only logical way that EMM could continue to fund its missions in a world of shrinking organizational budgets.

Tea continues to be served at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. every day, and small markers of Mennonite identity persist--like the Anabaptist books in its library and the WiFi password, which is recognizably Mennonite. But the increase in room prices means that MCC workers no longer stay there regularly. One MCC-Kenya staff member remarked, "It's a beautiful place, I wish I could stay there, but we can't afford it anymore." While many former EMM workers were equally dismayed by the perceived corporatization of the space, this business model was often interpreted by MCC workers as further evidence of the ideological differences between EMM and MCC.

During my fieldwork in 2008-2009, there were two weekly social encounters between EMM and MCC workers. On Sunday evenings, MCC and EMM workers in the Nairobi area gathered in the MGH garden for a potluck and informal conversation. This was an entirely North American affair and was framed not as a meeting but just as a chance to hang out. There was some debate as to the origins of this tradition, with longtime residents noting it was historically an EMM gathering some two decades old and others claiming it was a new occurrence, intentionally designed as a time for parents with children to spend time together. On Fridays, MCC and EMM staff met in the MCC-Kenya office for "Community Lunch." There was no formal agenda, though general announcements were shared.

Each of these Mennonite gatherings was a source of both comfort and ambiguity for MCC volunteers. On one hand, MCC workers expressed a sense of appreciation for the opportunity to share fellowship and relax in the comfort of Mennonite community. However, the drive to see the local African community as the primary community also created a sense of guilt around these events. MCC staff felt that spending time with other expatriates might be shameful, a breach MCC's commitment to their African neighbors. Thus, Mennonite gatherings sometimes became sites of Mennonite discipline. Nonattendees would not directly denounce attendees but openly expressed their disapproval, saying for example, "I didn't come to Africa to hang out with other North Americans." While relations remained friendly during the gatherings, in interviews, both EMM and MCC workers expressed their frustration and irritation with the other agency to me--and at the same time insisted on anonymity because neither wanted to be seen as criticizing the other group.

However, as the informal relationships between EMM and MCC began to weaken, both gatherings were eventually canceled, and by the time of my fieldwork in 2015-2016, only one North American was still working in the region who had attended and remembered the events. When I inquired as to why these events no longer took place, I was told people "lost interest." By 2016, the friction between the two agencies seemed improved but there was very little contact between workers of either organization.

Despite the organizational tension between the two groups, one powerful symbol of unity and Mennonite community endured. On the first Sunday of every month, Amani Gardens hosts a Mennonite hymnsing, which is attended by Mennonites in the Nairobi area including EMM staff, MCC staff, other expatriates living in Nairobi or staying at the guesthouse, and other interested parties. The hymns are all in English and all drawn from two Mennonite hymnals. The hymn-sing is informal but also has a sense of ritual, which often includes closing with the ubiquitous favorite Mennonite doxology "606" (63) and a breakfast potluck afterward.

"606" is a shibboleth of Mennonite community and has jokingly been referred to as "the Mennonite National Anthem." (64) While neither the words (a doxology written in 1709 by Thomas Ken) nor the tune (Boston Handel and Haydn Society Collection from 1830) are originally Anabaptist, this popular, four-part choral hymn is frequently sung in Mennonite congregations in North America. (65) The hymn appeared in the first hymnal used jointly by both the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church, which situates it as an interesting artifact in Mennonite community in the midst of conflict. (66) In the new, most widely used Mennonite hymnal, "Praise God from Whom" is no longer number 606 but rather 118. However, in a ritual which proves quite confusing to non-Mennonites, this song is still referred to as "606" or sometimes "old 606," a linguistic marker of insider Mennonite knowledge. Outsiders to the Mennonite faith find the song technically difficult (especially given its staggered entries) and challenging to sight-read, but most North American Mennonites grow up hearing and singing 606 regularly. The ease with which 606 is sung at Amani Gardens is a testament to the Mennonite identity of the MCC and EMM community gathered there and a symbol of the vestiges of a communal ethos binding Mennonites together.

What makes the complicated negotiation of Mennonite community in Kenya particularly interesting is that this tension was acutely felt by the North Americans in both groups but almost imperceptible to the Kenyans that worked with either group. I asked several MCC partners whether they saw MCC as a missionary organization and found that just over half simply said yes. This means that what is perceived as a key difference between MCC and EMM for MCC volunteers holds no resonance whatsoever for many of their own partners and beneficiaries. A few elaborated, noting, "MCC is a missionary organization that does peace work and provides hope" (67) or "MCC is a missionary organization but it does something more practical than most missionaries, and its work is felt at once on the ground level." (68)

Relations with the Kenya Mennonite Church

The Mennonite communal ethos dictates that when a local Mennonite church exists in countries where MCC works, MCC should relate to it. MCC country representatives are not generally given more specific direction on what form this relationship should take, and many country representatives find relating to local Mennonite churches one of the most difficult aspects of their work. MCC-Kenya has related to KMC since MCC first began work in Kenya.

KMC is a missionary product--not of North Americans but of the Tanzania Mennonite Church. (69) Originally founded in the early 1940s, KMC has more than 11,000 members and more than 140 congregations, primarily in Nyanza province. Churches were funded through tithing and unrestricted block grants from EMM. MCC funded certain projects of the church.

Both sets of MCC-Kenya country representatives described engaging with KMC as obligatory, "not an option but a must." (70) However, KMC did not meet the standards MCC typically used as requirements for partnership--that is, if KMC was not considered part of the Mennonite community, it would not be considered an attractive organization for MCC partnership. It was the principle of mutual aid, based in a sense of Mennonite community, that drove this relationship. One set of MCC-Kenya leaders refrained from using the term partner to refer to KMC, and MCC did not directly fund KMC but instead funded a few of KMC's programs--namely an HIV/AIDS program in Kisumu, two schools associated with Mennonite churches, and several short-term projects. MCC-Kenya's funding went directly to the programs rather than the church because while kinship ties exist, MCC did not trust KMC sufficiently. One MCC leader commented, "KMC is not yet at a place where we feel confident that they could handle the funds." (71) MCC doubted KMC's institutional capacity to execute programs successfully or their dedication to development, as the bishops' vision primarily concentrated on church planting (which MCC refuses to fund).

The difficult relationship between MCC and KMC was demonstrated by the 2008-2009 Generations at Risk (GAR) program in Kisumu, which was later discontinued. GAR worked on HIV/AIDS prevention, stigma reduction, support groups, peer education, and counseling. At first glance, this looked like a highly successful MCC partner. However, the GAR project was a stumbling block for MCC-Kenya, as KMC's management of GAR was problematic. KMC had a small advisory committee chosen by the bishops to oversee GAR's work, but beyond that, the church had little involvement. GAR was not listed in the KMC annual report, KMC did not fund it, and there was no attempt to involve KMC members in the day-to-day needs of the program. MCC's perception was that the attention and interest of KMC was evangelism, not care for the vulnerable. From the perspective of MCC, Mennonites should be involved in service, and KMC should assist the GAR projects. From the perspective of KMC, MCC was a powerful, wealthy North American institution with a responsibility to aid Kenyan Mennonite kin. While MCC wanted to help, it refused to own or control the GAR program because this is not its methodology. Neither MCC nor KMC showed an interest in managing GAR--and both based their reluctance on an interpretation of Mennonite values.

People involved in both the GAR program and KMC described the situation:
MCC has been struggling with how to relate to KMC, and it has not been
a partnership kind of relationship. It appears like MCC is working for
KMC, which MCC is uncomfortable about. (72)
They [KMC] don't see this activity as part of the work of the church.
They don't promote it; they don't see this as their calling in the
world. (73)

However, regardless of the poor fit between MCC's priorities and KMC's reality, the two organizations continued to relate to one another. The 2008 country review for the MCC-Kenya program used the word "patience" three times in describing the relationship with KMC. (74) This patience was not based on pure benevolence on the part of MCC-Kenya but rather on the Mennonite community ethos, which demanded mutual aid between Mennonites.

When I returned to Kenya in 2015 and 2016, MCC was still managing the two education programs that included individual Kenyan Mennonite churches as the implementing partner. MCC was supporting two schools in high-density, poor areas in Nairobi (Menno Kids Academy in Mathare North and Mukuru Mennonite Academy in Embakasi) as well as a peace education project in Kisumu with close ties to KMC. In an increasingly rare example of EMM, KMC, and MCC all collaborating on a common project, Mukuru Mennonite Academy, while supported by MCC financially, also benefited from an EMM volunteer teaching peer mediation to students in 2015-2016.

Boundary Maintenance within the Mennonite Community

Anthony Cohen's work on community as "a symbolic, rather than a structural construct" helps to explain the difficulties MCC faces in relating to EMM and KMC. (75) While Mennonites agree upon the importance of community, they define the implications of community differently. MCC's relationship with EMM and KMC demonstrates that there may be a gloss of assumed Mennonite commonality obscuring real differences between the organizations. To an outsider, the values binding these three Mennonite groups together should overcome more minute differences between them. However, as Cohen notes, the referents of boundary within groups can be important to group members, while appearing invisible to outsiders:
Such categories as justice, goodness, patriotism, duty, love, peace,
are almost impossible to spell out with precision.... But their range
of meanings can be glossed over in a commonly accepted
symbol--precisely because it allows its adherents to attach their own
meanings to it. They share the symbol but do not necessarily share the
meanings. Community is just such a boundary-expressing symbol. (76)

In Kenya, there is a quiet struggle among MCC, KMC, and EMM to be the voice of Mennonites. Each group sees itself as the legitimate holder of Mennonite identity--KMC because they are Kenyan and Mennonite, EMM because they are trying to expand the Mennonite world, and MCC because they are engaging in peacebuilding and relief activities that Mennonite faith calls them to. If Mennonites did not believe in the value of community, MCC would likely part ways with both EMM and KMC. However, MCC believes in the obligations and responsibilities inherent in the Mennonite community and this belief compels it to continue relating to both.

Cohen observed that boundary "assertiveness is likely to intensify as the apparent similarity between forms on each side of the boundary increases." (77) This appears to be the case with the Mennonites in Kenya. To the average Kenyan, EMM and MCC appeared nearly identical--both were predominately white, North American, Mennonite organizations with a belief in pacifism, community, and humility. However, for members of each group, the differences between them felt significant and were a source of friction. This reinforces Cohen's observation that "the finer the differences between people, the stronger is the commitment people have to them." (78) Therefore, the difference between "spiritual peace" and "practical peace" was highlighted for EMM and MCC, and the commitment to service versus mutual aid was tested for KMC and MCC.


The case of the Mennonite Central Committee demonstrates that the ethos of communalism is not lost when transformed into a peacebuilding and development institution. This ethos provides a framework for solidarity that is useful for MCC's work, but the need to relate to other Mennonites also presents challenges that other peacebuilding and development organizations do not face.

The sense of community created by MCC often serves pragmatic purposes--to provide emotional support for MCC workers, foster closer bonds with Kenyan partners, and create pleasant working relationships with colleagues. However, the primary driver behind MCC's desire to cultivate and sustain relationships is based on the intrinsic value of community in the Mennonite faith. Community is thus rarefied and comes to symbolize a form of relationship that is not only useful but in fact, holy.

Despite the salience of community for Mennonites, in a challenging context outside of the traditional bounds of Mennonite agrarian communities, community with other Mennonites is often complicated. The malleability of Mennonite community means it is utilized differently in different contexts. In contexts where similarity is the basis, boundaries are often contested as differences are highlighted. In these situations, community is used to create cohesion and solidarity between MCC workers and to mute conflict and stay in relationship with EMM and KMC.

However, the communal ethos also provides MCC with institutional partners that share its values, and the powerful draw of relationships between MCC workers serve as a source of personal comfort and camaraderie. While secular organizations may embrace similar practices, the communal ethos of MCC is firmly rooted theologically and sociologically in its Mennonite identity.


Dr. Emily Welty is an academic, ecumenist, and artist living and working in New York City. She is the Director of Peace and Justice Studies at Pace University, where she teaches classes focusing on nonviolence, humanitarianism, and reconciliation and transitional justice. Her research focuses on the religious dimensions of peacebuilding with an emphasis on humanitarianism and nuclear disarmament, as well as nonviolent social movements. She is the vice moderator of the World Council of Churches Commission on International Affairs and is the chair of the Nuclear Disarmament Working Group. Emily is part of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize--winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), where she works on faith-based engagement in nuclear disarmament. She is the coauthor of Unity in Diversity: Interfaith Dialogue in the Middle East and Occupying Political Science. Emily is also a playwright and has worked with The Civilians, the Acting Studio at Chelsea Rep, and the Einhorn School of Performing Arts.

(1) I am grateful for the insights and feedback of both the reviewers of Communal Societies as well as the participants from the 2017 Global Anabaptist Mennonite Symposium convened at Goshen College.

(2) For more on Anabaptist and Mennonite history, see Cornelius Dyck, An Introduction to Mennonite History (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1993) and J. Denny Weaver, Becoming Anabaptist, 2nd ed. (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2005).

(3) Ted Grimsrud, Embodying the Way of Jesus: Anabaptist Convictions for the Twenty-First Century (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2007).

(4) For discussion and statistics on how modernization affected the agrarian life of Mennonites in the 1970s and 1980s, see J. Howard Kauffman and Leo Driedger, The Mennonite Mosaic: Identity and Modernization (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1991) and J. Howard Kauffman and Leland Harder, Anabaptists Four Centuries Later (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1975). Both books argue that based on survey data, increased urbanization and materialism have not contributed to greater individualism and less communalism.

(5) For background on the Russian initiative, see Peter Hiebert and Orie Miller, Feeding the Hungry: Russia Famine, 1919-1925, American Mennonite Relief Operations under the Auspices of Mennonite Central Committee (Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Central Committee, 1929).

(6) Cornelius Dyck, From the Files of MCC (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1980), 15.

(7) Paul Toews, Mennonites in American Society, 1930-1970: Modernity and the Persistence of Religious Community (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1996).

(8) Toews, Mennonites in American Society, 268, 269.

(9) See Melvin Gingerich, Service for Peace: A History of Mennonite Civilian Public Service (Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee, 1949).

(10) Mennonite Central Committee, "MCC Annual Report 2017," accessed May 30, 2018,

(11) Kauffman and Harder, Anabaptists Four Centuries Later, 74.

(12) Robert Friedmann, The Theology of Anabaptism (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998), 81.

(13) Fred Kniss, Disquiet in the Land: Cultural Conflict in American Mennonite Communities (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1997), 6.

(14) Ibid.

(15) Calvin Redekop, Mennonite Society (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), 131-32.

(16) Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, Article Nine (Newton: Faith and Life Press, 1995).

(17) Marlin Miller, "The Priesthood of All Believers," The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, 1989, accessed 5 June 2017,

(18) Alfred Neufeld, What We Believe Together (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2008), 75.

(19) Lydia Neufeld Harder, "Postmodern Suspicion and Imagination: Mennonite Hermeneutic Communities," Mennonite Quarterly Review 71 (April 1997): 277.

(20) Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, Article 12.

(21) Arnold Snyder, From Anabaptist Seed: The Historical Core of Anabaptist-Related Identity (Ontario, Canada: Pandora Press, 1999), 32-33.

(22) John Roth, Beliefs (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2005), 134.

(23) Ibid., 68.

(24) Snyder, From Anabaptist Seed, 28, 29.

(25) Stephen Dintaman, "The Pastoral Significance of the Anabaptist Vision," Mennonite Quarterly Review 69 (July 1995): 320.

(26) Redekop, Mennonite Society, 133.

(27) Harold Bender, These Are My People: The Nature of the Church and Its Discipleship According to the New Testament (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1962; reprint, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2003), 51.

(28) Joseph Kotva, "Mutual Aid as Practice," in Building Communities of Compassion: Mennonite Mutual Aid in Theory and Practice, ed. Willard Swartley and Donald Kraybill (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1998), 57-79.

(29) See Sue Schlabach and Glen Roth, Shared Burdens: Stories of Caring Practices among Mennonites (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 1993).

(30) See Redekop, Mennonite Society, 246-56; Keith Graber Miller, "Mennonite Mutual Aid: A Margin of Difference?" in Swartley and Kraybill, Building Communities of Compassion.

(31) Marc Gopin, "The Religious Component of Mennonite Peacemaking and Its Global Implications," in From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding, ed. Cynthia Sampson and John Paul Lederach (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 242.

(32) Ibid., 247.

(33) Terrence Jantzi, "A Theoretical Framework for Understanding MCC's Emphasis on Relationships," in A Table of Sharing: Mennonite Central Committee and the Expanding Networks of Mennonite Identity, ed. Alain Epp Weaver (Telford, PA: Cascadia, 2011).

(34) Jonathan Pageau, interview with the author, July 9, 2009, Nairobi, Kenya.

(35) Interview, February 15, 2010.

(36) Shirin Madon, "International NGOs: Networking, Information Flows, and Learning," Journal of Strategic Information Systems 8 (1999): 251-61.

(37) Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967).

(38) Gopin, "The Religious Component of Mennonite Peacemaking," 242.

(39) While it is difficult to make any generalizations about a continent as large and varied as Africa, the importance of community and relationships has been widely noted as central to many different cultures within Africa. African scholars from a range of disciplines have written about this, often using the framework of "ubuntu" as an organizing principle. The importance of community in African thought can be seen in intellectual and social history from Leopold Senghor's Negritude movement to Julius Nyerere's Ujamaa system. See John Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy (New York: Praeger, 1969); Ifeani Menkiti, "Person and Community in African Traditional Thought," in African Philosophy: An Introduction, ed. Richard Wright (New York: University Press of America, 1984); Kwasi Wiredu and Kwame Gyeke, eds., Person and Community (Washington, DC: Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 1992); and Nhlanhla Mkhize, "Ubuntu and Harmony: An African Approach to Morality and Ethics," in Persons in Community: African Ethics in a Global Culture, ed. Ronald Nicholson (Scottsville, South Africa: University of KwaZulu Natal Press, 2008).

(40) Lucy Gacheru, interview with the author, May 11, 2009, North Kinangop, Kenya.

(41) Interview, June 8, 2009.

(42) Jonathan Pageau and Marti Vrastiak, interview with the author, July 9, 2009, Nairobi, Kenya.

(43) Interview, July 9, 2009.

(44) Interview, January 14, 2009.

(45) Interview, January 14, 2009.

(46) Alison Gilchrist and Marilyn Taylor, "Community Networking: Developing Strength through Diversity," in Contested Communities: Experiences, Struggles, Policies, ed. Paul Hoggett (Bristol, UK: The Policy Press, 1997); Barry Wellman and Stephen Berkowitz, eds., Social Structures: A Network Approach (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

(47) William Riemer and Bruce Guenther, "Relationships, Rights and 'Relief': Ninety Years of MCC's Integrated Response to Humanitarian Crises," in Weaver, A Table of Sharing, 359.

(48) Canadian Foodgrains Bank website, accessed May 30, 2018,

(49) Ibid.

(50) For a lengthier discussion, see Alain Epp Weaver, "A Missiological Shift? Reflections on the Introduction of Results-Based Management within Mennonite Central Committee," Mission Focus 14 (2006): 28-42.

(51) The CFGB instructions and template for submitting a proposal is seventy pages long. By contrast, MCC's required concept papers in 2009 were two to three pages and general plans were five to ten pages.

(52) Stanley Green and James Kraybill, "The Missiology of MCC: A Framework for Assessing Multiple Voices within the MCC Family," in Weaver, A Table of Sharing.

(53) Richard Showalter, As the Waters Cover the Sea (Salunga, PA: Eastern Mennonite Missions, 2001), 1.

(54) It should be noted that MCC was the primary focus of my ethnographic work, and my focus on EMM only extended to their interactions with MCC. It may be that EMM volunteers who are not Mennonite feel the same pressures that OTMs in MCC feel, but it was beyond the scope of my research to examine that dynamic.

(55) Gopin, "The Religious Component of Mennonite Peacemaking," 236.

(56) Personal correspondence with the author, February 2, 2009.

(57) Alvera Stern, interview with the author, June 9, 2009, Kola, Kenya.

(58) Interview, July 3, 2009, Nairobi, Kenya.

(59) Interview, June 3, 2009, Nairobi, Kenya.

(60) While this has not always been the case, by the time of my fieldwork this was an established difference between the two organizations as observed by both MCC and EMM workers.

(61) Interview, May 25, 2009, Nairobi, Kenya.

(62) See Michael Ignatieff's examination of the role of small differences in the conflict between Serbs and Croats, drawing on Freud's work on the narcissism of minor difference. Michael Ignatieff, The Warrior's Honor: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience (New York: Owl Books, 1997), 34-71.

(63) Hymnal: A Worship Book (cooperatively published by Brethren Press: Elgin, IL; Faith and Life Press: Newton, KS; and Mennonite Publishing House: Scottdale, PA, 1992).

(64) For more on the evolution of "606" and its place in Mennonite life, see Jonathan Dueck, "Making Borrowed Songs: Mennonite Hymns, Appropriation and Media," in Christian Congregational Music: Performance, Identity and Experience, ed. Monique Ingalls, Carolyn Landau, and Tom Wagner (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2016).

(65) For more on American Mennonite hymn singing, see Rebecca Slough and Shirley Sprunger King, Nurturing Spirit Through Song (cooperatively published by Telford, PA: Cascadia; and Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2007).

(66) Joint Hymnal Committee, ed., The Mennonite Hymnal (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1969).

(67) Personal correspondence with the author, June 30, 2009.

(68) Interview, June 30, 2009, Nairobi, Kenya.

(69) For more on KMC, see Francis Ojwang and David Shenk, eds., Forward in Faith: History of the Kenya Mennonite Church (Kenya Mennonite Church, Nairobi, 2015). For a longer history of the formation of the Mennonite Church in East Africa, see John Lapp and Arnold Snyder, eds., Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts, 3rd ed., Global Mennonite History Series 1 (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 2006).

(70) MCC-Kenya Advisors Meeting, May 22, 2009, Nairobi, Kenya.

(71) Interview, May 1, 2009.

(72) Interview, July 4, 2009.

(73) Meeting, May 4, 2009.

(74) "A continued patient approach to the fragile structures of KMC" (5), "a great deal of patience with KMC" (18), and "patiently navigated the relationships with KMC" (18). Esther Bett and Jon Rudy, Mennonite Central Committee Kenya Country Review for the five-year period ending August 2008, September 2008.

(75) Anthony Cohen, The Symbolic Construction of Community (London: Routledge, 1985), 98.

(76) Ibid., 15.

(77) Ibid., 40.

(78) Ibid., 110.
COPYRIGHT 2018 Communal Studies Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Welty, Emily
Publication:Communal Societies
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6KENY
Date:Jun 1, 2018
Previous Article:From the Editors.
Next Article:Truth Seeker on the Holy Mount: DeRobigne Mortimer Bennett's Descent from the Shaker Feast Ground.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters