‘With sadness and lament’

Mennonite Church Canada announces reductions to staff and programming for 2012

April 27, 2011 | God at work in the Church | Number 9
By Rachel Bergen | National Correspondent
Winnipeg, Man.

In order to manage as yearly donations are decreasing, Mennonite Church Canada announced publicly on April 12 that, regrettably, it must reduce expenditures by terminating or altering positions and programs. The announcement comes a month after MC Canada councils met to identify the core responsibilities of the national church, those that are integral to its mission and values.

After the council meeting in March, executive staff examined staffing needs around these core responsibilities, and, on April 9, their recommendations were approved by the General Board to reduce expenditures by $415,000 by the beginning of next February and eliminate 3.4 full-time-equivalent (FTE) national church staff positions effective this Aug. 1:

  • Multicultural Ministries, headed by Samson Lo, is terminated, although certain projects will still continue as funding permits.
  • The director of Christian nurture position that is filled by Elsie Rempel is terminated, although Christian Formation resources will still be provided to the Resource Centre.
  • The youth ministry facilitator role filled by Anna Rehan will transition into a contract position.
  • Two executive level positions will be eliminated—executive secretary of church engagement, and executive director of international ministries, currently filled by Norm Dyck and Tim Froese, respectively.
  • Two volunteer positions on each of MC Canada’s three councils will be cut to help reduce travel costs for meetings.

Unfortunately, these cuts must be made, as “tweaking the budget” is no longer possible to minimize cuts, says MC Canada general secretary Willard Metzger. “There is sadness and lament for the necessity of these cuts,” adding, though, “It’s something we need to implement.”

The budget cuts are “not a shift in priorities,” Metzger stresses. “Mennonite Church Canada is just a smaller entity still aligned with its original vision and priorities.”

Many who have been laid off are being offered positions with less than full-time hours in different areas of MC Canada or in an area conference; however, they continue to be grieved by the loss of the programs they feel are important.

For Rempel, there is a deep mourning for the ministry she has served for the past nine years. “There is a great sadness in participating in the reduction of services of the wider church for the congregation,” she says.

Fortunately for her, the loss of her job will not be the kind of financial burden it is for her younger colleagues, including one with a large, young family to support.

Rehan’s work will transition into contract work every other year in correlation with the biennial youth assembly, but the networking between youth pastors across Canada that she facilitated will not happen.

For the terminated Multicultural Ministries program, although there won’t be a specific person to network with the multicultural churches, the area churches across the country have already embraced the growing edge of multicultural ministries. Karen Martens Zimmerly, MC Canada denominational minister, is also working on a Pastoral Leadership Development Task Force with a key focus on developing multicultural leaders.

Biennial assemblies being proposed

Another change being proposed as a result of the cuts involves holding national assemblies every two years, instead of annually. A proposal to that effect will be on the floor at the upcoming assembly in Waterloo, Ont., in July.

“To continue meeting every year, we would need to recoup an additional estimated $100,000 by structuring assembly registration fees to reflect the true cost of staff time in planning and hosting annual assemblies,” said Vic Thiessen, chief executive officer, in an April 12 press release.

According to Dan Dyck, MC Canada’s communications director, the cuts will mean the national church will have a reduced capacity to serve its constituency.

Metzger asks the members of MC Canada to remember its staff and leadership in prayer during this time of transition.

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