Board discusses MennoCon19 success, Membership Guidelines process

By MC USA Staff

Mennonite Church USA logoDALLAS, Texas (Mennonite Church USA) — The success of MennonCon19, improving MC USA communications and discernment over the Membership Guidelines process, were among the issues the Executive Board discussed during its meeting Sept. 5 – 7 in Dallas, Texas.

Executive Director Glen Guyton reported that MennoCon19, July 2-6 in Kansas City, Missouri, was a phenomenal success despite a $112,000 loss because of fewer attendees.

There were 2,839 registrants compared to 3,200 at the 2017 convention in Orlando. Fewer attendees caused concern, but ultimately didn’t dampen enthusiasm or satisfaction among conventioneers, Guyton said. The lively joint youth-adult services, and Bible study as part of delegate sessions were among the additions attendees praised, Guyton said. However, the fewer conventioneers caused the denomination to pay an additional $162,000 for unused hotel rooms. That amount may be reduced by 40 percent pending ongoing negotiations.

“We would have made $51,000 if not for the hotel attrition,” Guyton said.

Guyton, who previously served as chief operations officer and director of Convention Planning, said cutting more than $127,000 in expenses this year helped lesson the deficit. He also noted the generosity of Everence that sponsored one of the lunch meals. Guyton and Moderator Joy Sutter praised the efforts of MC USA staff, led by veteran Scott Hartman, MC USA director of Event Planning, who ran his first convention.

Hartman told the board that initial planning for MennoCon21 July 6-10, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio, has begun. He revealed the theme is “Bring the Peace,” which was introduced by Guyton in his closing sermon at MennoCon19. Promotion of MennoCon21 will likely begin in early 2020, Hartman said.

The board approved a staff proposal to hold a two-day advisory meeting to generate options for how MC USA might discern the future of its Membership Guidelines. Michael Danner, MC USA associate executive director for Church Vitality, said the advisory group will consist of MC USA constituents selected to ensure balance of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and theological perspective. The outcomes of this group will be presented to the Executive Board who will decide how best to lead the denomination through the discernment.

Improving communication was an ongoing theme at the meeting. Newly appointed Chief Communications Officer Wil LaVeist updated the board on the strategy to improve inter-agency collaboration initiated by Guyton in partnership with Stanley W. Green, executive director of Mennonite Mission Network. LaVeist, who is also senior executive for advancement for Mission Network, began his additional MC USA role Aug. 5. LaVeist updated the board on a meeting he convened Aug. 23 at the Elkhart, IN office with the communications staffs of the Executive Board and Mission Network. He outlined the strategy of how the communication teams would be more intentional about planning to collaborate on relevant projects across the agencies, including Mennonite Education Agency (MEA), MennoMedia and Mennonite Health Services, as well as Everence. LaVeist said he will also meet quarterly with agency communication leaders including Everence Vice President of Marketing Madalyn Metzger, who also participated in the Aug. 23 meeting with Marketing Manager Sarah Alverez Waugh.

Iris de León-Hartshorn, associate executive director for Operations, led the board through an exercise on understanding the importance of intercultural communication, particularly when dealing with conflict. People tend to approach conflict resolution differently depending on their cultural upbringing, de León-Hartshorn said. Knowing and respecting the different cultural tendencies and understanding how to respond appropriately, improves the likelihood of resolving conflicts successfully, she said.

The board received updates on the searches to fill executive director positions for Mission Network and MEA. Mission Network search committee chair Lee Smucker said the committee is evaluating feedback from surveys it sent out and will soon move to its second phase. The goal is that the sixth and final phase – where the candidate will be hired and announced – will occur in Spring 2020. The next search committee meeting is Sept. 14-15.

MEA Board Chair J. Richard “Dick” Thomas told the Executive Board that Interim Executive Director Tom Stuckey will remain in the position through 2021. The decision was made to give the board’s search committee more time for clarity and to maintain continuity as MEA restructures and defines its new direction. That clarity will help improve the search for the right leader, Thomas said.

The Executive Board also discussed and agreed to support MEA’s “call to prayer and action,” issued in August, asking constituents to support Mennonite schools. .

Sutter welcomed newest members to the board, Jon Carlson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Todd Lehman of Hesston, Kansas.