MCC Binational to disband in 2012
Joint Ministry Council will link MCC U.S. and MCC Canada.by Henry Neufeld
In an elementary school in Ethiopia, students received pencils as a gift from a missionary. One of the students, Zenebe Abebe, is now the executive director of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Great Lakes, based in Goshen, Ind.
Herman Bontrager, MCC Binational board chair, speaks with Arli Klassen, MCC executive director. Photo by Henry Neufeld.
He said he had no idea who had purchased, packed and mailed the pencils. Jesus words: “You are the light of the world,” took on new meaning; the pencil became the “light” for him.
That was in 1945. Years later he learned that the pencils came from MCC.
“The pencil affirmed my hope, I was encouraged, impressed and empowered to work hard,” he says.
Participants at the Mennonite Central Committee binational annual meeting June 10-11 in Abbotsford, British Columbia, listened to this testimony.
During the meetings, binational chair Herman Bontrager said, “MCC is an arm of the church; it is not a parachurch organization.”
He acknowledged that MCC has a weakness in how it relates to congregations. He also made a plea to retain a high regard for diversity, to focus on compassion rather than professionalism and to concentrate more on deeds than on words.
Arli Klassen, executive director of MCC, said MCC continues to have strong denominational involvement, with the United States comprising 60 percent and Canada 40 percent of the MCC constituency.
The meeting addressed some of the issues related to the implementation of the New Wineskins Strategy (NWS), a three-year process nearing its end. The restructuring will see MCC binational replaced by MCC U.S. and MCC Canada. Linking the two bodies will be a Joint Ministry Council comprised of representatives from MCC Canada, MCC U.S. and Mennonite World Conference.
To complete this process, bylaws for MCC Canada and MCC U.S. will need approval at the binational meeting this fall. If approval is given, MCC Binational will cease to exist at its final meeting in March 2012, making way for the two new country-based MCCs.
Responding to questions about how MCC U.S. and Canada will operate international programs, Klassen compared it to two parties owning one house.
“Each one can furnish their room as they wish,” she said.
Ron Byler, executive director of MCC U.S., sees the NWS process as an opportunity to strengthen relationships with churches and to streamline decision-making.
“MCC Akron will not be able to do everything it has done in the past,” Byler said.
The need for interdependence and collaboration increases as there’s an increasing gap between the constituency and what MCC promotes, said Klassen. This led to a discussion about two covenants.
A “Covenant for the MCCs in the U.S.” sets out the relationship between the area MCCs and MCC U.S. A second covenant draft sets out the relationship between MCC Canada and MCC U.S. Both covenants were approved in principle, with staff asked to work on the details.
Participants approved a change in the relationship between MCC U.S. and Ten Thousand Villages. The approval of the three MCC U.S. appointees to the Villages board is required for CEO appointments and changes to bylaws. Board members provided apprehensive affirmation for the changes.
Other business: Ron Flaming, international program director, said significant attention and resources were directed at disasters in the past year. MCC received more than $19 million for Haiti following its earthquake. He reported that 50 percent of MCC’s international workers are from outside North America.
Ken Langeman, director of financial services, reported a slight surplus in the past year and noted that proceeds from thrift shop sales have increased. U.S./Canada joint income exceeded $75 million. Donations from Canada continued to be strong, while donations from the United States showed a small increase, he said.
Jan Martens Janzen reported on issues of MCC worker safety. “MCC takes a lot of precautions to ensure safety of its workers,” she said, noting that local partners are important in decisions about MCC workers leaving.
“If workers feel uneasy and ask to leave (a country), we want them to leave,” she said. The January upheaval in Egypt resulted in all MCC workers being evacuated and then returning a month later.––Henry Neufeld for Meetinghouse
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