All-boards meeting looks at Executive Board proposal
Most Mennonite Church USA agencies ask Executive Board to “slow down.”by Anna Groff
According to an Executive Board draft statement released on June 20, the current boards for Mennonite Church USA agencies would be dissolved in July 2009 and replaced with one Leadership Board.
The statement was released at an all-boards meeting in Columbus, Ohio, June 20-22; the gathering included the boards of Mennonite Mutual Aid (MMA), Mennonite Mission Network, Mennonite Education Agency (MEA), Mennonite Publishing Network (MPN), Mennonite Health Services Alliance and the board for The Mennonite, Inc.
At the meeting, most table discussion groups requested that the Executive Board slow down—or halt altogether—the restructuring process. Table groups also expressed apprehensions: the need and timing for the change, the “overconfidence” of the Executive Board, and the “managerial” aspect of a one-board model.
Arlan Yoder, board chair of MMA, said that “the train has already left” and asked the Executive Board to stop the train and “bring it back to the station.”
In response, Mennonite Church USA moderator Sharon Waltner said she sees the train stopping along the way and others getting on. After the meeting she cited examples of these “stops” as Executive Board meetings in September, January and April, the Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) meeting in October and meetings with agency boards and other “stakeholder” groups. (On June 22, the Executive Board decided to “defer” the plan.)
The Executive Board’s June 20 statement called for an integrated communications and funding system that includes The Mennonite, a church-wide operations staff person and one Leadership Board.
The proposed Leadership Board, comprised of 21 people, would lead Mennonite Church USA starting after the July 2009 delegate assembly in Columbus. The Leadership Board would be comprised of the following members: seven church-wide members, one member from each current agency, three conference representatives, one from Mennonite Central Committee or Mennonite Disaster Service, one from Mennonite Economic Development Associates, four from the Racial/Ethnic groups and one from Mennonite Health Services Alliance (see below).
The June 20 draft stipulated that no less than two members must be under 35 years of age when they begin their terms. Twenty-five percent would be underrepresented racial/ethnic people, 40 percent female and 40 percent male. During a two-year phase-in period from 2009-2011, the current boards would serve in advisory roles to the new Leadership Board.
The communications and fund-raising system would be led by one director. The current board of The Mennonite would evolve into an editorial board.
Joe Lapp, Mennonite Publishing Network board member, said MPN may benefit from the proposed structure. The Mennonite Mission Network board was the most directly opposed to the proposal.
“We affirm the Executive Board in taking leadership and holding up its vision,” said Bill Hochstetler, Mennonite Mission Network’s board chair, “[But] the Mennonite Mission Network board is in a very different place than the Executive Board on how to accomplish the desired outcomes. We desire real board-to-board dialogue. We propose a collaborative effort among the Executive Board, agencies, The Mennonite and CLC to achieve the desired outcome.”
James Rosenberger, board chair of MEA, said after the meeting, “We believe the educational mission which the MEA has been entrusted to fulfill, is central to the heart of the missional focus of MC USA. We interpret the EB proposal to move the agency educational mission to the center as supportive of this view, but believe coordinated, autonomous agencies led by the EB may be more effective.”—Anna Groff
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Compositon of proposed Leadership Board
7 - Churchwide members (including moderator and moderator-elect)
4 - One member from each of the four current MC USA agencies
3 - Conference representatives—one each from large,medium and small conferences
2 - One from MCC/MDS and one from MEDA selected by the other members of the Leadership Board
4 - People nominated through the Leadership Discernment Committee for the Racial/Ethnic groups
1 - Person from Mennonite Health Services Alliance