Editor’s note: This is the first article in a seven-part series by the presidents of Mennonite Church USA higher education institutions. From March to May an article by each president will be posted every two weeks. The entire series is available at themennonite.org/mhea. Sign up for our TMail newsletter and follow us on Facebook to receive the articles.
Greetings, readers. We welcome you to a new dynamic association of six institutions of higher education of the Mennonite Church USA. We are the MHEA—the Mennonite Higher Education Association. As the presidents of these Mennonite Church USA schools, we have begun to meet regularly for collegial support and institutional collaboration. We are staffed by Mennonite Education Agency.
One of our keen desires is to enhance the depth and richness of communication (frequency, variety of contexts, platforms and conversation partners) between the church and Mennonite higher education. To that end, we are collaborating with The Mennonite to produce a series of essays to introduce ourselves to you and speak to what compels us about our shared vision. The essays will appear at themennonite.org/mhea.
Between now and MennoCon19, the MC USA convention in Kansas City, Mo., each of us will share about our journey to the particular beloved institution we now lead and articulate what makes us eager to serve our church school and the wider denomination.
Most of us are relatively new to our positions. Like the church, communities and students we serve, we bring a variety of stories, experiences and perspectives to our work and leadership. We want to give you a glimpse of our bold and aspirational vision for the future of the church—a picture of the future that elevates our noble mission of preparing Anabaptist-educated leaders in every profession to serve and lead in our churches and communities at home and around the globe. We are eager to connect with you through these essays, and we look forward to meeting you in person at MennoCon19.
Jonathan Gering, president of Bethel College
Susan Schultz Huxman, president of Eastern Mennonite University
Joseph A. Manickam, president of Hesston College
Sara Wenger Shenk, president of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Rebecca Stoltzfus, president of Goshen College
Jane Wood, president of Bluffton University
MC USA vision of Mennonite higher education
The schools share the church’s commitment to Anabaptist values and theology and are committed to a mutually beneficial and vital relationship with the church. They desire to maintain and grow their Anabaptist Christian identity as foundational for outstanding educational programs.
Through the Mennonite Education Agency, MC USA partners with the schools by providing program support, prayers, finances and guidance for educational programs. The schools partner with the church to serve as missional centers by providing a Christ-centered, value-laden educational formation that shapes graduates to become leaders for God’s reconciling mission in church and society, both locally and globally.
The schools work collaboratively to recruit students, provide rigorous academic programs, vocational and professional formation and job placement. They seek to be affordable, with a focus on faith formation that is informed by Anabaptist Christian values of service, social justice, witness, peacemaking, hospitality, prayer and knowledge of the Scriptures.
As Christian faith-based learning communities, the schools make real the infinite worth and acceptance of every person. They endeavor to enact the biblical commandments to love God, self and neighbor and all of creation. They hold together—in creative tension—scholarship and faith, knowledge and love, wise judgment and welcoming embrace.
These schools form graduates who understand that the professional expression of their vocation will require deep roots in a living faith. Engaging the world’s toughest problems requires graduates to be grounded in the love of God and joyfully aligned with God’s reconciling mission in the world. They understand that character, accompanied by grace and humility, is more important than intellectual brilliance or professional success.
Inspired by the gospel’s vision of the reign of God, graduates are equipped to embody Christ’s love, participate in and lead vibrant congregations and witness to their faith. Within communities of learning oriented toward biblical visions of shalom, they are formed in practices of nonviolence and peacebuilding and are prepared to confront racism and other forms of discrimination, practice restorative justice and offer hope for the healing of brokenness and division.
This statement was approved by MC USA and MHEA schools.