MCC board confronts ‘dissatisfaction’
Mennonite Central Committee hopes for new organization plan by 2009.by Tim Miller Dyck, Ross Muir and Dave Rogalsky for Meetinghouse
That there is “a fair bit of dissatisfaction” among its members and supporters over the “unwieldiness” of an organization that takes a minimum of six months to approve decisions— assuming all 12 boards are in agreement from the beginning—was acknowledged by Arli Klassen at the June annual Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) binational board meeting at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont.
Klassen, the fourth executive director in the past three years, introduced “New Wine, New Wineskins,” a new initiative that she hopes will allow MCC to reinvent itself.
Under Klassen’s leadership and the guidance of a nine-person steering committee, a 25-person inquiry task force will address three core questions with the broader MCC constituency next year: What is MCC’s purpose? To whom is MCC accountable? How should MCC structure itself?
Three “summits” are planned: one in the Philippines in late July, one in Winnipeg in September and another in Kansas next June—as well as at least 16 regional meetings. A Web site to post feedback will be available at the end of July.
It is hoped the process will provide a new “shared statement of vision, mission, values and strategic priorities,” a pamphlet states, as well as transformed relationships between MCC and its stakeholders and recommendations for the restructuring.
Klassen said there is a commitment to have the hoped-for outcomes in place before the Mennonite World Conference assembly in Paraguay next July.
A current memorandum of understanding between the 12 MCCs that allows the binational board “the freedom to assign program administration ... to one of the national MCCs,” and MCC Canada has asked to administer programming in Iran, Cuba, Afghanistan and North Korea.
The MCC binational executive board has granted MCC Canada the go-ahead in all but Iran.
In a discussion, where it was noted that MCC has a higher profile with the Vietnamese government than does the Vietnamese Mennonite Church, Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, member-at-large, said churches around the world have matured and are ready to take charge of their own programming.
As if to underline the need for more work on gender and racial equity in both hiring and governance, Klassen read an apology to Kathy Jackson, recently resigned human resources director and a woman of color. The apology noted that elements of racism and sexism continue in the structures of MCC.
In a discussion on another internal issue, the need for executive members to take 17 days a year away from work and to pay for expenses in advance and then claim them back was seen as a hardship for many who are not able to make such time commitments or who do not have the funds to pay up front.
Speakers all noted that MCC is willing to change and move toward equity, but that much work is needed by the majority of Euro-North American members to learn what inequity is and how they contribute to it.
While a draft equity policy contains percentage goals for both gender and racial membership on boards and the executive, many from minority communities spoke against such goals and instead called for education of all MCC communities.
MCC has an intriguing problem. It does not want to have more than four months operating capital in reserve. However, due to increasing levels of donations—from Canada in particular—and with the Canadian dollar at par, it has over six months in reserve.
To deal with this “problem,” a temporary expansion in programming has been authorized to spend nearly $8 million over the next few years.
Despite the extra cash on hand, Ron Flaming, director of international program development, notes staffing figures are in decline. In 1985, there were 496 MCC personal serving overseas, but only 245 today, he points out.
“We are cash rich, but people poor,” says Ryan Showalter of Lancaster Mennonite (Pa.) Conference.
As the culmination of the other 11 MCC annual meetings through the year, issues that come to the binational meeting have been worked through by staff and regional MCCs, and in many ways the binational session is a final test of consensus.
One such issue was an action item brought forward by MCC’s human resources department regarding salary ratio changes. In order to attract trained and experienced staff to upper level management positions, the ratio was changed from three times the lowest-paid staff level to five times (a 66 percent increase).—Tim Miller Dyck, Ross Muir and Dave Rogalsky for Meetinghouse
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