They’re not exactly twins, but there’s a fitting convergence in the fact that Mennonite World Review Inc. and Mennonite Central Committee share a birth year. Several weeks ago, they held centennial celebrations in Kansas six days apart.
On Feb. 29 it was MCC, with an event at Tabor College that recognized the role of a front-porch meeting at the Hillsboro home of Mennonite Brethren leader P.C. Hiebert that led to MCC’s founding (MWR, March 9).
On March 6 it was MWR Inc., with an annual meeting at Kauffman Museum in North Newton that looked back in gratitude to those who shaped the company’s ministry and forward in anticipation of historic change.
It seems 1920 was a good year for initiatives to bring Mennonites together. Both MCC and MWR Inc. emerged from a desire to connect scattered groups who had little contact and almost no history of cooperation.
For the founders of MCC, the task was urgent: The needs of Mennonites in Ukraine, suffering due to famine and war, exceeded the capacity of any single North American Mennonite conference to respond. Mennonites needed a “central committee” to organize a relief program on a scale never attempted before.
For the founder of MWR Inc., the vision had been fermenting for more than 20 years. Since the 1890s, H.P. Krehbiel, a Kansas pastor and entrepreneur, had dreamed of publishing a newspaper “devoted to the advancement of every branch of the Mennonites.”
With support from contributors in Kansas and Oklahoma, Krehbiel established the nonprofit Herald Publishing Co. in Newton, Kan. (renamed MWR Inc. many years later). Starting with a German newspaper, Der Herold, followed in 1923 by an English counterpart, Mennonite Weekly Review, Krehbiel raised a beacon for a united Mennonite witness.
A century of change has led MCC and MWR Inc. in directions their founders could not have imagined.
From an initial mandate to answer a plea for help from Mennonites in Soviet-controlled Ukraine, MCC grew into a worldwide relief, development and peacebuilding organization.
From a heavily local paper in its early years (some advertisers didn’t list an address or town; they assumed readers knew they were in Newton), MWR spread across the country, bridging the gaps of Mennonite divisions.
For decades this expansion progressed as Krehbiel and his successors hoped. But today the digital revolution in publishing threatens the survival of legacy periodicals in ways unforeseen even 25 years ago.
Meanwhile, MCC grew to become the leading organization that mobilizes grass-roots Anabaptist cooperation. For some, it came to symbolize Mennonite identity itself. But today it too confronts a changing context in which faith-based institutions no longer can take their constituents’ loyalty for granted.
At joint meetings last June in Ukraine, MCC U.S. and Canadian board members said it was increasingly important to tell MCC’s story in Anabaptist circles and to work at attracting support among young people and members of other faith traditions.
In this mandate to tell a story of hope with renewed purpose, MCC’s and MWR’s missions converge. Meeting human need, as MCC does, requires communication that spurs us on toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24). Sharing the gospel in word and action draws upon sources of information and inspiration, collected and amplified by writers and editors, to be spread around the world.
Beginning in September, MCC will have a new companion on the journey: Anabaptist World Inc. A merger of MWR Inc. and The Mennonite Inc., the new publishing ministry will be the leading independent source of Mennonite news and commentary, in print every three weeks and online with timely content every day.
As work continues to develop Anabaptist World magazine and its digital platforms, we’re pleased to introduce the Anabaptist World name and its tagline, “Mennonite news, inspiring stories.” This phrase defines the purpose that drives the merger: to inform and inspire — or, as the writer of Hebrews says, to spur on — the Anabaptist movement’s united witness.
Anabaptist World will build a community where anyone interested in Anabaptism can join an inclusive vision of what God’s people can do together. It’s a vision we share with MCC, with whom we expect to walk together for many years to come.