This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Mennonite Church Canada scales back

Mennonite Church Canada has begun to implement changes proposed by its Future Directions Task Force (FDTF) as a result of pressing financial necessity.

Although the recommendations require final approval from Area and National Church delegates, a significant donation revenue shortfall has required Mennonite Church Canada to already begin implementation of the plan, which involves reductions in ministry programs as well as home office staff.

As of Oct. 31, 2015, Mennonite Church Canada has experienced a donation shortfall approaching $300,000. It had planned on projected donation income of almost $3.4 million for the current fiscal year.

“Although a reduction of ministry and staff is always painful, our financial reality necessitated immediate action,” stated Willard Metzger, executive director.

As of Dec. 1, five national home office staff have been released, with corresponding reductions in programming that relate to Christian formation, human resources, and the finance department, Metzger said. Staff being released will receive severances as per personnel polices already in place. Additional changes and adjustments to program and staff can be anticipated in 2016, he added, as more detailed implications of the FDTF’s recommendation become clearer.

In a Dec. 1 letter to Mennonite Church Canada, Metzger wrote, “I feel good about the direction for our national and area churches proposed by the Future Directions Task Force. I think the new envisioned system will serve our congregations well and provide a solid platform to live into our growing secularizing society. However, the transition to a much smaller system will be painful. Please pray for our entire staff team as some begin the task of finding new employment and others find the strength to help transition to the new reality.”

In a Facebook post today, Kirsten Schroeder, former director of human resources for Mennonite Church Canada wrote about the painful cuts, including the loss of her own position: “For one-and-a-half years my colleagues and I have been kept informed of the need for a radical transformation of the Mennonite Church Canada offices. Nonetheless, it was a shock to us all when we were told that announcements about job cuts would happen within the week…So many people have expressed their love and support for me by being angry at my employer. How lovely it is to be so loved and unconditionally supported. Thank you! But your anger is hurting me. This is not just an employer, this is the church, and we are called to be a contrast community. We don’t need to find someone to blame, we need to seek justice and love.”

When created, the FDTF was given the mandate of responding to two questions: What is God’s spirit calling us to in the 21st century? and What are the best ways to thrive and grow? At its meetings on Nov. 14, the General Board received the FDTF’s Report.

The General Board approved in principle the FDTF’s recommended direction. The new structure envisions a newly constituted national entity that will function under a mandate led by the area churches in a collective covenant to collaborate with each other in engaging God’s mission in their respective regions. The five covenanting area churches are Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.

The new national entity will focus more strongly on supporting, resourcing and equipping area church leaders to empower and enable the mission of local congregations in local, regional and global contexts. A key principle in the FDTF’s findings is that congregations are increasingly becoming the locus of missional activity in their communities and beyond.

National church ministries are almost entirely funded by congregational giving and individual donations.

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