Mennonite Church USA announces MennoCon23 worship speakers


written by Jessica Griggs, originally published by Mennonite Church USA

ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Church USA) — The MennoCon23 worship planning committee has released the names of the worship speakers for the July 3-6 Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) denominational convention, which will take place at the Kansas City (Missouri) Convention Center. The convention’s overall theme is “#BeTransformed,” which is inspired by Isaiah 43:19-21 and 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Worship speakers include Nelson Okanya, Brian Moll, Iris de León-Hartshorn, Dianne Garcia and Jon Carlson. Each speaker will provide the main message for one morning or evening session and will focus on the event’s worship theme, “Transformed by the Spirit,” by exploring the many ways transformation may occur.

Glen Guyton, executive director of MC USA, said, “We chose a variety of gifted speakers with a breadth of experiences in MC USA. We desire to feature speakers who represent the wonderful diversity of MC USA.”

Monday evening, July 3: Nelson Okanya

Nelson Okanya is currently the Global Missions President for the Center for Serving Leadership in Pittsburgh. He is also the chair of the Global Mission Fellowship, a support network for Anabaptist-related churches and mission groups, facilitated by Mennonite World Conference. Previously, Okanya served as a pastor and the president of Eastern Mennonite Missions. He holds a Master of Divinity from Eastern Mennonite Seminary and a doctorate in intercultural studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He attends James Street Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

“I am excited to worship together with sisters and brothers from across the country and be encouraged through food, discussions and communal learning!” said Okanya.

He will use Psalm 139:23-24, Romans 12:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 5:17 to speak about the lifelong nature of transformation on Monday evening.

Tuesday morning, July 4: Brian Moll

Brian Moll is the pastor of Cincinnati (Ohio) Mennonite Fellowship. Before taking on this role, Moll worked as the executive director of faith-based organizations in New York and San Francisco, California, that addressed issues related to employment difficulties for people with criminal histories, and homelessness. He also founded and led a church in New York. Moll holds a Doctor of Ministry in public theology from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey; a Master of Arts in ministry, leadership and culture from Fresno (California) Pacific University; and a Bachelor of Science in biblical studies from Cincinnati Christian University.

Moll said, “To me, ‘#BeTransformed’ means to experience something or learn something that fundamentally shifts the way you live your life and/or see the world around you.”

On Tuesday morning, Moll will use the stories of Jonah, Ananias (Acts), and Peter and Judas’ denials of Jesus to speak to how fear hinders transformation.

Tuesday evening, July 4: Iris de León-Hartshorn

Iris de León-Hartshorn is the associate executive director of Operations and the director of Human Resources for MC USA. Prior to her current role, de León-Hartshorn served as the MC USA director of transformative peacemaking, the MC USA director of intercultural ministries, the conference minister of Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference, and the Mennonite Central Committee director of peace and justice, as well as serving as a member of the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) executive committee. She holds a Master of Arts in conflict transformation and peacebuilding from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She is a member of Portland (Oregon) Mennonite Church.

During Tuesday evening worship, de León-Hartshorn will use Matthew 16:13-20 to share about Peter’s journey of transformative healing as a follower of Jesus.

Wednesday morning, July 5: Dianne Garcia

Dianne Garcia is the pastor of the Roca de Refugio church in San Antonio, Texas. Before becoming a pastor, she was a camp director, a teacher and teacher coach, and a gardener. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Master of Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education, both in Boston, Massachusetts. She is currently pursuing a degree to become a licensed counselor.

She said, “Transformation means becoming who God means for us to be. We are transformed from isolation to connection, from distraction to presence, from being self-serving to being community-focused, from judgment to love. Transformation is a process that we constantly enter into and that we never finish. We are always becoming. We are always growing closer to God.”

On Wednesday morning, Garcia will explore the idea of mutual transformation, using the stories of Ruth and Naomi in Ruth 1:15-22.

Thursday morning, July 6: Kaleidoscope of Generations

The Kaleidoscope of Generations is a panel that includes representatives from several generations. MennoCon23 worship leaders Ana Alicia Hinojosa and Jeff Hochstetler will lead the panelists in a discussion about what the church looks like from the perspective of their respective generations, how transformation is influenced by one’s peers and what it looks like to be a church that moves forward together, while being transformed by the Holy Spirit.

On Thursday morning, this panel will use Deuteronomy 34:1-9 and Acts 15:22-35 to exemplify how transformation can take a long time to happen. They will discuss the idea that, while someone might have begun the process of transformation, they may not see the fruition of that transformation, because it may not occur until the next generation.

Thursday evening, July 6: Jon Carlson

Jon Carlson is the current moderator-elect for MC USA and will step into the role of moderator following the conclusion of the July 7 Delegate Assembly. He has served on MC USA’s Executive Board since 2019 and is on the board of directors for Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Mennonite Schools. Previously, Carlson also served as the assistant moderator for Atlantic Coast Conference. Currently, he serves as the lead pastor of Forest Hills Mennonite Church in Leola, Pennsylvania. Carlson is completing his Master of Divinity form Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Carlson said, “I’m excited to speak at convention, because I love the Mennonite church! I’m so thankful for the ways that I have already experienced transformation in this amazing church body, and I’m eager to see how God continues this transforming work, as we journey forward together.”

Carlson will speak during the final worship session, on Thursday evening. He will talk about how transformation can happen through community, using Exodus 1:15-21 and Matthew 5.

Convention worship is an intergenerational experience that all MennoCon23 registrants are encouraged to attend. MennoCon23’s worship leaders are Ana Alicia Hinojosa and Jeff Hochstetler, and Onan Alvarez will lead the band during the worship sets.

Find the MennoCon23 schedule of events here.

Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, approximately 540 congregations and 56,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 59 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana, and Newton, Kansas.



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