MC USA proposal affects The Mennonite
Board chair for The Mennonite, Inc., editor were excluded from meetings.by Gordon Houser
When Susan Sommer, who chairs the board of The Mennonite, Inc., heard about the recommendations of the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA to create one board, she was surprised. If this recommendation is carried out, the board she chairs—along with the agency boards of the denomination—will be dissolved.
In a March 26 interview, she said such a move would be a mistake, though “it will be for the members [of Mennonite Church USA] to decide through their delegates.”
Although such a move would affect The Mennonite, Inc., which is an entity, not an agency, of the denomination, neither she nor editor Everett Thomas were invited to the March 16-17 meeting where moderator Sharon Waltner and moderator-elect Ed Diller shared the recommendations with the executive directors and board chairs of Mennonite Church USA’s agencies.
The recommendations then went to the Constituency Leaders Council (see story, page 19), where The Mennonite, Inc., also was not represented. In June, all boards (including The Mennonite, Inc.) will meet in Columbus, Ohio, for further discussion.
“The Mennonite is owned by members of Mennonite Church USA, who share a common Confession of Faith,” said Sommer. “Within the membership there is a varied history—one as old as the Reformation and as young as yesterday.”
In such a membership there will be differences of opinion, she went on, and “somewhere in the mix of opinion, truth exists. I think Jesus gave us the ‘where two or three are gathered’ rule so we would hear these differences in order to learn the truth. The delegates understood this when they asked for some separation between the magazine and Mennonite Church USA leadership, making The Mennonite an entity rather than an agency—exactly so its reporting would be free to note differences.”
Thomas declined to comment on the proposed restructuring but noted that the purposes assigned to The Mennonite by Mennonite Church USA bylaws remain unchanged.
“I learned early in this role,” Thomas said, “that some want The Mennonite to be more closely controlled by Mennonite Church USA leaders and some want us to have greater distance from those same leaders. We have tried, however, to stay somewhere near the middle, between the two polarities. The tension this creates is not a problem to be solved but a dynamic to be managed.”
As discussions continue, Sommer said, the magazine will operate as it has. “The board has given the editor freedom to write what he wishes in the editorials in The Mennonite,” she said, and the editor’s point of view “may not be identical to the point of view held by the board of directors for The Mennonite, Inc.”—Gordon Houser
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