There are some things we’d like you to know about U.S. Mennonite Brethren, and we’d like to know what you think of the direction we’re setting for our denomination. The U.S. Conference Leadership Board will be meeting this spring and on the agenda will be budget development and planning for the future. We’d like your feedback in preparation for this meeting.
Who are we?
Last year the Leadership Board adopted an identity statement for the U.S. Conference that says: “We are a family of churches committed to living, loving and serving in our troubled world as we share the life-giving message of Jesus.” Our identity clarifies that we have committed to being “in the world but not of the world,” just as Jesus prayed that it would be (John 17). We have chosen to partner with Jesus in his mission to bring life.
Why do we exist?
The mission statement we adopted last year says that U.S. Mennonite Brethren “partner as one family serving one Lord on one mission, for the transformation of individuals, families and communities.” Our mission statement is loaded with meaning. Christ is the center. We are family because of our common adoption as daughters and sons of God. We are family because such a relationship provides for us the privileges of accountability, collaborative partnerships and mutual support.
And we are "on mission" with Jesus to seek and to save the lost and to make disciples. When Jesus changes a heart and gains a disciple, lives are transformed. The first life changed is the obvious one, and then families and communities are impacted as the good news spreads.
What are our membership realities?
We are a family of about 35,000 members in around 200 churches in five districts. Since 1995 we have added 60 churches and closed eight. Most of our growth has come from the “adoption” of congregations comprised of recent immigrants.
Today, half (109) of our congregations are Anglo, 35 are Slavic, 34 are Hispanic, eight are Ethiopian, six are Korean, six are African-American, three are Japanese, two are Native Indian, two are East Indian and one is Chinese.
The U.S. Conference is divided into five regional conferences. The Pacific District Conference has 120 congregations and includes Arizona, California, Oregon, Utah and Washington. The Central District has 24 congregations and covers the largest geographic area: Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska and North and South Dakota. The Southern District has 38 congregations in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. The North Carolina District has six congregations and the Latin American District has nine churches in South Texas.
How does the U.S. Conference add value to Mennonite Brethren congregations?
We provide national leadership, vision development and ministry coordination. We represent the U.S. Conference to the International Community of Mennonite Brethren and other Anabaptist and Christian partners, including Mennonite World Conference, Mennonite Central Committee and National Association of Evangelicals.
Through Mission USA we invest in church planting and/or renewal in each of the five district conferences. We publish a monthly magazine that is made available to every U.S. Mennonite Brethren household.
We partner with MB Foundation to promote effective kingdom stewardship. We collaborate with our educational institutions—MB Biblical Seminary, Fresno Pacific University and Tabor College. Through MBMS International we partner for global mission.
What are our financial realities?
Our annual budget is $903,000.
Only 39 percent of our congregations contribute to the U.S. Conference; they provide about $450,000. The U.S. Conference executive director and Mission USA director raise about $290,000. Our monthly magazine generates $40,000 in advertising income. We appreciate the annual support of MB Foundation in guaranteeing $50,000. Interest earnings, endowments and other sources generate $50,000.
So what do you think?
Are we correctly describing our identity and vision? How can we better convey that our denomination has valid grounds for existence? Are we going in the right direction? Does this look and sound good and right to you? Given current economic realities, what should be reviewed or changed?
I’ll say it again: We are one family, serving one Lord together to accomplish his plan for such a time as this. We are blessed, as a national conference, because we know that God’s hand is on us. While I absolutely believe that we exist for good, right and godly reasons, I am all ears to your thoughts. Share your ideas and concerns with me over coffee or an e-mail.