This article was originally published by The Mennonite


From the editor

From time to time readers will suggest that we need to provide a more independent voice in our reporting and editorializing about Mennonite Church USA. The implication is that The Mennonite should function in a “watchdog” role, similar to the secular press.

Thomas Everett 2At times, Mennonite Church USA leaders have wanted us to go in the opposite direction and function more like corporate communication for the Executive Board and churchwide agencies.

We are in that middle ground between independent watchdog and corporate communication. But being in the middle is not a problem to be solved. Rather, it is a dynamic to be managed through good relationships.

A recent Executive Board action just made this middle-ground management easier. The significant changes initiated by this action are the result of conversations that first began in June 2008.

Two years ago, the Executive Board proposed the formation of one board for all the Mennonite Church USA program boards. They also proposed that the governing board for The Mennonite, Inc., become an editorial board—instead of a governing board—and The Mennonite the communication arm for this one large board.

While the proposal to form one large board eventually evolved into a less-radical “alignment” for all entities, a task force of six board members—three from the Executive Board and three from our board—worked for more than a year on the issues involved in having The Mennonite become the communication arm of the Executive Board. However, at the end of their efforts the task force could not see a way to establish a viable business plan while at the same time meeting the needs of the Executive Board.

Fortunately, through the leadership of Mennonite Church USA executives Ervin Stutzman and Marty Lehman, a new path has been proposed. On June 11, the Executive Board adopted the following changes to the interface between their leadership and our work:

1. Invite The Mennonite staff to function as the news bureau for Mennonite Church USA.

2. Invite The Mennonite into the center of communication planning and practice so that it can truly function as the official publication of Mennonite Church USA.

3. Ask the editor of The Mennonite to meet regularly with the Mennonite Church USA’s director of operations for ways to collaborate on communications projects and meet occasionally with the executive director to discuss developments within Mennonite Church USA.

4. Ask The Mennonite for a process to publish certain releases in wording specified with visible notations that these documents are “official communications” from Mennonite Church USA.

5. Invite the chair of the board for The Mennonite, Inc., and the editor to become full members of the Governance Council, a group of board chairs and CEOs.

6. Ask the Mennonite Church USA executive director to develop a covenant of accountability between the Executive Board and the board for The Mennonite; this will include an agreement for the director of operations to become a voting member of The Mennonite’s board of directors.

We, board and staff members, are grateful for this new path forward and appreciate the trust shown in this recalibration of our relationship.

At the same time, we know that it is still a middle-ground dynamic. We are committed to managing these dynamics through healthy and open relationships.—ejt

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