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Leadership Board redefines relationship with Everence

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The USMB Leadership Board will no longer nominate U.S. Mennonite Brethren representatives for the Everence Board of Directors. The Leadership Board announced the decision May 20, 2024, in a letter emailed to pastors, USMB church offices, district leaders and United States MB agency and ministry leaders.

Everence, originally known as Mennonite Mutual Aid, is an inter-Mennonite ministry offering health insurance, asset management, stewardship education, charitable giving and financial management services as well as financial services for churches and pastors.

The Leadership Board decision allows the two U.S. Conference of MB Churches representatives on the Everence board to complete their current four-year terms, if they so desire. Sylvia Penner, an attorney from Wichita, Kansas, began her second term in December 2023, and will complete that term. Jaime Rodriguez, Fresno, California, whose term expires in December 2025, will also complete his term.

MC USA resolution sets events in motion

The Leadership Board had been evaluating its participation on the Everence Board of Directors for some time and the evaluation took on new importance following  the July 2022 decision of Mennonite Church USA to accept a resolution titled, “A Resolution for Repentance and Transformation,” that moved the denomination’s stance on LGBTQIA individuals in a strongly affirmative direction.

“As Mennonite Brethren, we firmly stand on the biblical truth that marriage is one man and one woman in covenant relationship,” says Luke Haidle, Leadership Board chair, in an email to the CL. “The resolution is aggressively contrary to that truth. Moving forward, we are most excited about working with agencies that share our faith foundations.” 

While Everence serves 30-plus denominations and credentialing networks that have historic Anabaptist roots or relationships, one-fifth of its members and clients identify as affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. This means MC USA is the largest denominational group of Everence members and clients, although it is not the majority group.

Of the 12 current Everence board members, six are MC USA members, while two are members of USMB and one each are members of Brethren in Christ U.S., Church of the Brethren, LMC (formerly Lancaster Mennonite Conference), and Rosedale Network of Churches (formerly Conservative Mennonite Conference).

The Leadership Board letter summarizes the MC USA resolution as calling for “1) honoring all LGBTQIA relationships regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or marital status; 2) prescribing policies for program agencies prohibiting any restrictions; and 3) advocating for promotion of this theology when interacting with other denominations or faith groups.”

The letter states, “The (MC USA) resolution is considered by the USMB Leadership Board to be an aggressive and loud decree, which is ultimately unbiblical, going directly against our USMB Confession of Faith. For that reason, the USMB Leadership Board felt it necessary to reshape and re-define our relationship with Everence.”

At the time the resolution was passed, Everence was a program agency of MC USA and was accountable to the MC USA Executive Board and the new resolution, according to the Leadership Board letter.

“The passing of this resolution set in motion numerous conversations about how this resolution impacted USMB’s relationship with Everence for the future,” the Leadership Board letter says. “This involved members of the USMB Leadership Board and our national director having several conversations with members of the Everence board and leadership—which included discussions about how Everence would embrace or not embrace the stated principles of the adopted resolution.”

Relationships change

In October 2022, the USMB National Strategy Team recommended that the Leadership Board consider ceasing or altering USMB’s relationship with Everence and a year later, Oct. 3, 2023, the Leadership Board voted to discontinue nominating USMB representatives. In response to the MC USA resolution, the USMB Board of Faith and Life re-affirmed that marriage is a biblical covenant between one man and one woman.

On October 23, 2023, Everence became a ministry partner rather than an agency of MC USA. This change means the relationship between MC USA and Everence is more informal than it was previously, says Madalyn Metzger, Everence chief marketing officer, in an email interview.

“As a ministry partner, Everence is self-governing with service and operations continuing as before,” she says.

With the change in Everence’s status from MC USA agency to ministry partner, Metzger says the Everence Board of Directors is in the process of reviewing its governance structure and practices. 

Six decades of association

The U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches has been represented on the Everence Board of Directors since at least 1963. Those serving in this capacity have included:

  • A. Kroeker, 1963 – 1967
  • Edwin Karber, 1968 – 1979
  • Arthur Jost, 1981 – 1993
  • Nick Rempel, 1983 – 1995
  • Ken Enns, 1994 – 2005
  • David Faber, 1996 – 2007
  • Paul Quiring, 2006 – 2017
  • Larry Nikkel, 2008 – 2019
  • Jaime Rodriguez, 2018 – present
  • Sylvia Penner, 2020 – present

USMB has selected one denominational nominee to the Everence Board of Directors since at least 1963 and two nominees since 1981, according to Everence records.

“We are grateful that we’ve been able to serve the USMB constituency for more than 60 years, through our comprehensive insurance, investment advisory, banking, charitable, financial planning and stewardship education services,” says Ken Hochsetler, Everence president and CEO, in a statement to Christian Leader.

“We deeply value the connections we have with many USMB church members, families, congregations and organizations and are committed to remaining in relationship with all who are looking to incorporate their Anabaptist faith values with their financial stewardship decisions,” he says.

Everence, which began in 1945, reports that currently 1,300 members and clients are members or attendees of a USMB church and 60 Mennonite Brethren serve as Everence stewardship advocates. MB pastors have participated in Everence’s Pastoral Financial Wellness Program and USMB churches have received Sharing Fund matching grants, which are awarded to churches to help meet the needs of individuals in their church and local community.

In its letter, the Leadership Board encourages each USMB church to “re-evaluate its own relationship with Everence in light of the Mennonite Church USA resolution (affirming a LGBTQ worldview) and the USMB Leadership Board’s decision pertaining to future representation on the Everence board.”

The letter states, “We recognize that many individuals and churches continue to use Everence products and services. We also recognize that the Mennonite/Anabaptist community is relatively small. And while these tough decisions are made at the national level with national implications, ongoing conversations are typically amongst friends and acquaintances. This can make these national-level decisions challenging.” 

USMB stewardship ministry

While USMB has a 60-plus-year history with Everence, U.S. Mennonite Brethren have a financial stewardship history with MB Foundation that traces back to 1898 when an endowment fund was established under the management of the General Conference Board of Trustees. In 1957 a gift annuity program was initiated and in 1972 a denominational stewardship department was established to offer estate planning education, life income agreements, charitable trusts and a variety of gift plans. In 1990 the organization was incorporated as MB Foundation.

MB Foundation offers a variety of financial services to U.S. Mennonite Brethren ministries, districts, congregations and individuals, including planned giving services, fund management, loans and investment services. MB Foundation also provides a retirement plan for employees of MB churches, offers education grants for Mennonite Brethren interested in missions and vocational pastoral ministry, offers resources for church health initiatives and annually gives toward USMB operational expenses.

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