Publishing/Third Way merge

Will bring together strengths in publishing, video, radio, internet

September 24, 2010 | Web First
By John Longhurst | A joint release of Mennonite Publishing Network and Mennonite Mission Network
Ron Rempel, who retires next summer as executive director of MPN after seven years, eliminated a legacy debt of almost $5 million; created a major new Sunday school curriculum, called Gather ‘Round; and brought costs under control through consolidation and downsizing.

Dynamic, innovative, fully-integrated and multi-media—that’s the goal of a new organization to be formed out of an integration of Mennonite Publishing Network (MPN), the publishing ministry of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, and Third Way Media, a department of Mennonite Mission Network.

The integration of the two organizations was approved on September 23 by the boards of MPN and Mission Network, meeting in Pittsburgh, Pa. The approval is subject to the affirmation of Mennonite Church Canada, part-owner of MPN, and the ratification of Mennonite Church USA Executive Board.

Mennonite Church Canada’s General Board and Formation Council will discuss the integration proposal later this fall. The Mennonite Church USA Executive Board affirmed the general direction of the proposed integration plan at its meetings in Pittsburgh.

The MPN and Mission Network boards also approved the creation of a reference group, made up of members of the MPN and Mission Network boards, to help shepherd the integration process.

In approving the integration, the two boards noted that the integration of MPN, which is based in Scottdale, Pa., and Waterloo, Ont., and Third Way Media, based in Harrisonburg, Va., will be beneficial for the church.

“We believe that this integration is in the best interest of the church,” says MPN Board Chair Phil Bontrager. “Both organizations are focused on serving the needs of the church, and extending its witness to the world.”

Adds Stanley Green, Executive Director/CEO of Mission Network: “We’re excited to be seeing the creation of a new high-quality, multi-media organization that can continue to provide resources for the church, and reach out to new audiences in new ways.”

The integration plan, co-authored by business consultant Allon Lefever and Duane Stoltzfus, who teaches media and communications at Goshen College, calls for a new name for the organization, and for the consolidation of as many operations as possible into one primary location to help improve efficiency and sustainability. The plan recommends that this location be in Harrisonburg, Va., with an on-site CEO.

While excited by the possibilities presented by the integration of the two organizations, MPN Executive Director Ron Rempel recognizes that “these changes will not be without some pain due to relocation and consolidation.”

But, he goes on to say, “we believe it is essential for the long term sustainability, and to enable us to better serve the church.”

Interim Third Way Co-director Sheri Hartzler agrees, adding that “working together will bring financial stability and, at the same time, reach a wider audience with the good news of the Gospel . . . this is an exciting time in the history of Third Way Media.”

The integration, she adds, “has the potential for increasing resources for the church, and being a powerful witness to our society.”

On the financial side, the integration will help both organizations work towards sustainability through cost savings, new products and services, and new marketing initiatives.

In the current fiscal year, MPN expects revenues of about $3.2 million from the sale of books, curriculum and other items, while Third Way Media expects just over $532,000, from grants, donations and sales.

Since Third Way Media has been a department of Mission Network for more than 50 years, the Mission Network has pledged financial support and services for the new organization to facilitate the integration, especially during the first five years.

The new organization will relate to both Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, and will retain a presence in Canada. It will also continue to offer products and services through existing brands such as Herald Press, Faith & Life Resources and Third Way.

For Lefever, the integration is an exciting opportunity to bring together the strengths of the two organizations in the areas of publishing, video, radio and the Internet.

“Each organization possesses an excellent reputation and a valuable endowment of quality content, primarily in the form of print and electronic media,” says Lefever, adding that it will bring together “skilled personnel who will be able to leverage expertise in print and online publishing, and in video, radio and Web production.”

The integration will also result in “significant synergy from this combined talent, along with delivery across a multitude of media channels,” adds Stoltzfus, noting that it will enable the new organization to “appeal to wider audiences, making it the media company of choice for creative Anabaptists.”

Dreams for the new organization include becoming a clearing house and center of Anabaptist content; working with communication and creative writing departments at Mennonite colleges and universities; partnering with other denominations looking to use media; and fostering new creative talent.

“The possibilities are many,” says Stoltzfus. “The key is bringing together a highly talented group of creative persons who can stay abreast of these opportunities—people who can create products and services to meet a future in the world of media that is, in many ways, still yet undefined.”

Adds Lefever: “I believe these two organizations can be successfully transformed into a combined and sustainable entity, and that they can use various media to equip the church to engage the world from an Anabaptist perspective, invite other Christians to consider Anabaptist-Christian perspectives, and invite individuals to consider Jesus.”

Ron Rempel, who retires next summer as executive director of MPN after seven years, eliminated a legacy debt of almost $5 million; created a major new Sunday school curriculum, called Gather ‘Round; and brought costs under control through consolidation and downsizing.

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The merger of MPN and Thirdway may make sense on one level, but it gives me the impression that by doing this, the Canadian voice is being squeezed out.

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