By The Mennonite, Mennonite World Review and Mennonite Church USA
The board of directors of The Mennonite, Inc. (TMI), decided Nov. 13 to withdraw from exploring a merger with Mennonite World Review, Inc. (MWR).
“This action comes following the inability of TMI and Mennonite Church USA representatives to agree on terms related to the proposed merger,” says Barth Hague, TMI board chair. “The TMI board is committed to maintaining a healthy relationship with the MC USA Executive Board and to faithfully serving the members of MC USA.”
TMI, a nonprofit incorporated separately from the denomination but whose board is responsible to the MC USA Executive Board, publishes the MC USA monthly magazine. Article X.4.a of the MC USA bylaws says, in reference to TMI, “Its mission is to help readers glorify God, grow in faith and become agents of healing and hope in our world. Its goals are to provide a forum for the voices within the denomination, to promote the ministries of, and to support identity-building for MC USA, and to offer an editorial voice distinctive from but collaborative with other leadership voices within MC USA.”
MWR, a nonprofit based in Newton, Kan., publishes an independent biweekly newspaper serving diverse Anabaptist groups. MWR is “an independent ministry of Christian journalism serving Mennonites and the global Anabaptist movement.”
Both TMI and MWR manage digital platforms.
In April 2017, TMI and MWR representatives began working on the merger proposal, which would have created a new independent media organization. Each organization’s board approved the merger in principle in March. TMI representatives shared the proposal with the MC USA Executive Board in April, and after that TMI and MC USA representatives began working through the terms of the proposed merger.
Following feedback from an October meeting of the Constituency Leaders Council, the Executive Board voted at its Nov. 1-3 meeting to delay further action on the proposed merger process between TMI and MWR until the final agreement of merger was developed and reviewed. The Executive Board’s action also noted that the Executive Board reserved the right to approve or disapprove of the merger.
“The Executive Board affirms the contribution made by an independent journalistic presence in the broader Anabaptist community,” says David Boshart, moderator of MC USA. “At the same time, MC USA needs a sustainable communication strategy that will support our conferences and congregations in advancing the mission of MC USA.”
Plans that were underway for a special MC USA Delegate Assembly meeting on Nov. 26 to discuss the proposed merger are now canceled.
“Although our agencies and entities have some autonomy, as leaders of MC USA our first responsibility is to the mission of this denomination. I am committed to the members of MC USA,” says Glen Guyton, executive director of MC USA. “As we negotiate change and right-size our institutional structures we can never forget that it is the people whom we serve that own the resources and who will ultimately determine our success. It is this denomination that we are accountable to.”
MWR’s corporation members needed to approve the proposal for the merger to take place. Plans for the approximately 140 members to vote on the merger at their 2019 annual meeting are now canceled.
Paul Schrag, MWR editor and publisher, says: “In March 2017 when I suggested exploring a merger, I believed we needed a spark to discuss creative new ways for independent Mennonite journalism to thrive in a fast-changing media environment. Even without a merger, the process has generated ideas that hold potential for working together in ways that can benefit members of MC USA and other Anabaptists.”
MWR board President John Longhurst added: “All media are facing challenges today. Whether through a merger or other ways, publications need to find new ways to communicate to the next generation if they want to continue to serve the church and be a witness to the world.”
Sheldon C. Good, TMI executive director, says: “I believe a merger of TMI and MWR would have created the best possibility for a sustainable organization. In cooperation with MC USA leaders, TMI will continue to seek creative, collaborative ways to make TMI’s mission sustainable. I want to thank readers for their ongoing support, encouragement, and financial gifts.”