MCEC welcomes five churches at annual gathering

June 7, 2024 | News | Volume 28 Issue 8
CM Staff |
Lemington, Ontario
Shalom Worship & Healing Centre, Windsor has joined MCEC.

Over 200 people from 75 of the 110 Mennonite Church Eastern Canada congregations attended the MCEC annual gathering at the UMEI high school in Leamington, Ontario on April 26 and 27.


During the sessions, MCEC welcomed five congregations as provisional members, marked the 200th anniversary of two churches, discussed a major new study on youth engagement and grappled with a deficit. Worship was led by Ingrid Loepp-Thiessen and Ruth Boehm, while the two keynote addresses were delivered by Doug Klassen, executive minister for Mennonite Church Canada.


On Friday night, Klassen told the story of how belonging to a faith community of trusted, faithful people was vital to his own discovery of God’s calling for his life. Referencing the first chapter of 1 Thessalonias, and a pivotal moment in a Vineland feed mill, Klassen said “the path forward was prepared by the community.”


On Saturday, he tied into the story of Tyler Wiggins-Stevenson, who, at the moment his human efforts to create change shattered, heard God say, “The world is not yours to save or condemn; only serve the one who is saving it.”


Down to business

The MCEC executive team presented its “Growing into the Future” strategic plan, founded on four priorities: relevant resources, strong evidence, intentional growth and sustainable organization.


“Youth Engagement in the Church,” a major study commissioned by MCEC, was discussed. See pages 22-23 for details. Considerable time was spent discussing finances. With both revenue and expenses below budget in the year ending January 31, 2024, MCEC reported a deficit of $420,000. The result was $86,000 better than had been expected and “something to be celebrated,” said Laurie Castello, MCEC’s new Operations and Finance Director. Revenue of $2.03 million was $87,000 lower than expected but expenses were $183,000 under budget.


Of MCEC’s $2.43 million in expenditures last year, 55 percent was passed to partner ministries such as Mennonite Church Canada, Mennonite schools and camps and Canadian Mennonite for subscriptions to this magazine. 


The remaining 45 percent of expenses, or $900,000, was used directly by MCEC.


MCEC covers operating deficits by drawing from its Faithful Steward Fund (FSF), a fund created out of bequests and estate gifts. By policy, the annual transfer was pegged at a maximum of 10 percent of the fund balance, but last year delegates approved a change that allowed for $204,000 to be drawn from the fund, an extra $41,000 above the 10 percent previously allowed. 


In 2023-24, the draw was $420,000, bringing the fund to a balance of $668,000. 


In his report to delegates, moderator Ben Cassels wrote that, “MCEC’s financial situation raises concerns despite ongoing generous donations. Decreasing congregational budgets pose challenges, emphasizing the need for MCEC to strike a balance between maintaining reserves, wisely utilizing bequests, and funding staff and programs to implement the new strategic plan for a sustainable future.”


During discussion about the strategic plan, some delegates expressed concern. 


Victor Klassen of Stirling Mennonite Church in Kitchener noted: “The strategic plan talks about new things but should also talk about old things we will not do.” 


In discussion about the 2024-25 spending plan, which called for another $394,000 draw from the FTF, several delegates expressed concern about the size of the deficit and the rapid drawdown of reserves. Richard Steinmann, chair of the Finance & Audit Committee, said the committee “had the exact same concerns” but believes the proposal for 2024-2025 is reasonable.


In closing discussion, Cassels reiterated that the Executive Council had heard the concerns and that MCEC would “reduce costs even further in the coming year.”


Delegates also passed a motion to merge the FSF with another bequest fund called the Legacy Initiatives Fund (LIF), and create a new policy surrounding its use.


The LIF was formed in 2013 from proceeds of a large bequest consisting of property that had to be sold. Initial estimates valued the bequest at a few million dollars. A volunteer advisory board recommended spending the bequest over 10 years; tithing to the larger church through Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite World Conference and funding entrepreneurial or experimental church endeavours proposed by congregations across MCEC. 


A decade later, the bequest has yielded revenue of $12 million. Just over $9 million has been disbursed, leaving a current balance of $2.3 million. More properties remain to be sold, with the next instalment expected in three to five years.


With the original timeline of 10 years having past and with more revenue yet to come, MCEC will close the LIF program and merge remaining funds with the FSF to create a regular income stream for MCEC. Income from the new fund is not expected to exceed 20 percent of MCEC revenue. 


Tithing to the larger church will continue as revenue comes in. An investment committee was formed to oversee the transition and establish policies for the fund. Delegates approved the proposal.

Shalom Worship & Healing Centre, Windsor has joined MCEC.

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