Concerns about centralizationby John W. Eby, Dillsburg, Pa.
I am one of those who have grave concerns about the move to centralize the organizational structure of Mennonite Church USA (“Executive Board Wants Radical Changes for Mennonite Church USA Structures,” April 1). It seems to rest on the assumption that unity is rooted in organizational structure when unity really grows from a shared vision and mission, a sense of ownership and broad involvement in programs and activities. The move toward centralization ignores broad social forces driving a burgeoning increase in parachurch organizations. Mainline churches are declining, while new congregations that are responsive to members’ needs are growing.
Members identify far more with the programs and agencies of the church than with the central administration. Members want personal involvement in ministry. They want to follow their financial contributions with hands-on activity.
The “messiness” and inconvenience of members receiving numerous requests for money and reports of program activity is balanced by the sense of relationship to specific programs and the freedom to pick and choose which to support.
The strength of decentralization is experienced in the vitality of Eastern Mennonite Missions and Virginia Mennonite Missions and the Mennonite colleges. The diversity and local relevance that comes because each has its own board and does its own recruiting and fund-raising is a strength that facilitates a kind of responsiveness that is not as possible in a centralized structure.
Of course, there needs to be some central administration that coordinates but does not control. A centralized administrative structure may seem to be more efficient in the short run but I would guess less effective in the long run.
Editor’s note: This letter is in response to a March 19 statement released by the Executive Board that proposes to create one board for Mennonite Church USA and discontinue separate boards for Mennonite Mission Network, MMA, Mennonite Education Agency and Mennonite Publishing Network.
Associated Issue: Faithful followers - April 1, 2008
Associated Article: Executive Board wants major changes for Mennonite Church USA
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