Mennonite Church Canada laid off five staff members on Nov. 28, as part of the cost-saving restructuring efforts that fall under the banner of the Future Directions Task Force. While decisions on the task force’s final report will only be made at Assembly 2016 next summer in Saskatoon, a projected budget shortfall of nearly $300,000 this year required immediate action, MC Canada stated in a news release.
The names of those laid off have not been made public. Two were full-time, three were part-time. They included people from the finance, human resources and Christian formation departments, the latter of which includes Sunday school curriculum development and the resource centre.
Along with related program reductions, the changes are expected to save more than $500,000 over two years.
While reductions were no surprise, concerns were raised on social media and elsewhere about the manner of the lay-offs. At least some of the five were relieved of all duties immediately upon being notified and provided transportation home. Severance packages in line with MC Canada policy will be paid out.
In response to concerns, MC Canada spokesperson Dan Dyck said via e-mail that released staff were treated with “sensitivity and caring.”
On Dec. 1, MC Canada executive di-rector Willard Metzger posted a letter online responding to some of the concerns. “Great care was taken in informing affected staff,” he wrote. “An offsite location was selected to provide privacy and rides were offered to remove any concerns about transportation.”
“Such an immediate end to an employment relationship does not allow for a completion of projects,” he added.
The letter also expressed thanks to the released workers, saying their work was “an expression of worship.”
Kirsten Schroeder, the former head of human resources, was among those released. In a Facebook post, she sought to diffuse the anger that some have expressed toward MC Canada leaders. Schroeder, who was not party to decisions about who would be released or how, believes it is important to hold the church to account, but feels that no injustice was done in this case.
She said of the decision makers, “I know these people love and care for me.” Their decisions were in essence the decisions of the broader church. “The churches have spoken with their financial support,” she wrote, “and we know that the church has to change.”
Update from Mennonite Church Canada, Dec. 16, 2015:
With the reduction of staff and associated programs at Mennonite Church Canada weighing heavily on his mind, Executive Director Willard Metzger cancelled his trip to Paris for the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference, Nov. 30 – Dec. 11, 2015.
"Given our financial situation and the necessity of immediate staff reductions, I need to be available to navigate through this painful transition with staff,” says Metzger.
Metzger has frequently stated that he believes God calls the church to be active on the climate justice agenda. He was invited to attend the climate change conference in Paris as a representative of the Canadian Council of Churches, where he serves as a vice-president.
“We fully support Willard’s decision to be with staff at this time,” says General Board Moderator Hilda Hildebrand. “We invite your prayers for everyone involved and for the Spirit’s leading as we move forward.”