Update: This article has been updated (9/3/2021) to clarify that Archie Eutsler, Kimberly Jost and Ruth Schale were not reappointed to the Multiply Board of Directors, and Jeff Gowling and Brent Warkentin resigned.
After repeated calls from the USMB Leadership Board for a “complete reset” of the Multiply Board of Directors, David MacLean, a Canadian who is the only board member who did not resign in September 2020 and who has been serving as chair, resigned his position on the board, effective immediately. MacLean submitted his resignation July 6, 2021.
USMB national director Don Morris notified pastors, leaders and constituents of MacLean’s resignation in a widely circulated letter dated July 20, 2021, that outlined the reasons for the Leadership Board’s petition.
“The reasons behind that request are not due to any inappropriate behavior by David,” Morris writes in the letter. “This petition for resignation was the result of long conversations … last fall and now recently about the position held by the USMB Leadership Board along with the Canadian Conference of MB Churches (CCMBC) Leadership Board that a complete Multiply Board reset was expected last fall, but never did occur” (italics by Morris).
The need for the reset to which Morris refers came following a tumultuous season for the North American Mennonite Brethren mission agency that dates back to 2016. That summer CCMBC, who owns Multiply jointly with USMB, formed a task force to explore merging the mission agency, then known as MB Mission, with C2C Network, a church planting ministry that began as the British Columbia MB provincial church planting board.
Merger approved, but proves costly
CCMBC approved the merger in 2018, and the new ministry was launched in January 2019 as Multiply, an “MB-based mission agency that serves cross-denominationally to facilitate church planting locally, nationally and globally.”
The merger did not go well, and in June 2019 the Multiply Board of Directors announced that the agency was releasing the church planting aspects of its ministry formerly known as C2C and was facing a “a significant gap between expenses and revenue for North American church planting.” In response to the $1.5 million deficit, 17 Multiply staff members were released, and the short-term mission program was revamped.
The Multiply Board of Directors, chaired by Brent Warkentin, Wichita, Kansas, requested that as its owners, USMB and CCMBC conduct a review of the mission agency. In late 2019, USMB and CCMBC appointed a task force comprised of four individuals from each national conference. The task force hired John Radford, of Transpectives Consulting, Inc., Canada, to conduct an in-depth analysis of Multiply’s culture, board functionality and senior leadership.
Recommendations include forming new board
The task force developed 18 recommendations based on Radford’s report. Radford’s report and the task force recommendations were submitted to the USMB and CCMBC executive boards in October 2020 and were affirmed. The Multiply board also received and affirmed all recommendations, including the immediate formation of a new Multiply Board of Directors as a first step in implementing the recommendations.
The Multiply Board of Directors includes four elected members from the U.S. Conference, four elected members from the Canadian Conference and members appointed by the board itself. The terms of USMB representatives Kimberly Jost, Hillsboro, Kansas, and Archie Eutsler, Wichita, Kansas, expired in 2020, as did the term of board-appointed member Ruth Schale, Bakersfield, California. The terms of Jeff Gowling, Bakersfield, California, and Brent Warkentin, Wichita, Kansas, were to expire in 2022. Eutsler, Jost and Schale were not reappointed, and Gowling and Warkentin resigned.
Three of the CCMBC board members had resigned earlier in 2020, leaving one representative and MacLean, who was appointed by the Multiply board. The remaining CCMBC representative resigned but MacLean did not. At the November 2020 Multiply board meeting, MacLean and Fred Leonard, Fresno, California, were elected as co-chairs of the fledgling board.
“This situation (MacLean’s ongoing service) was deemed unacceptable by the USMB Leadership Board in light of the board’s ultimate responsibility for assuring that all of the necessary elements were in place for facilitating recommended Multiply cultural shifts—the shifts that were addressed and revealed in the Multiply Task Force Review’s Report and subsequently discussed at length among USMB and CCMBC leadership,” writes Morris.
While CCMBC leaders did not support the USMB Leadership Board’s request that MacLean resign, the USMB Leadership Board persisted in its request, writes Morris in his July letter.
“USMB leaders felt strongly that in order for USMB churches and leaders to have full confidence in the new path forward for Multiply, … a complete board reset needed to have resolution, even though the USMB Board acknowledges that it has been nine to 10 months since this issue was first addressed and much Multiply Board activity, under David’s chairmanship, has occurred during that period of time.”
During a July 6 video conference Multiply board meeting, MacLean resigned “to allow for unimpeded progress and to alleviate further tension among leadership boards and national entities,” Morris reports. The Multiply board accepted his resignation.
Morris concludes his letter thanking MacLean for his service and requesting prayer for the Multiply board and staff. He also affirms USMB’s commitment to partnering with CCMBC in global missions.
“We believe the conflict surrounding this decision presents a real opportunity for our national conferences to forge a closer, more unified partnership as we process through our differences together, seeking to better understand one another and creating new, stronger pathways for connection,” Morris writes. “USMB is absolutely committed to this ongoing collaboration, believing it will help sustain Multiply for flourishing well into the future.”
Read Morris’ letter on the USMB website: https://usmb.org/portfolio/multiply-update-from-don-morris/.
The CL contacted Elton DaSilva, CCMBC national director, for a comment and learned he is out of the office for several weeks and not available for comment.
Securing USMB board representatives a challenge
Securing USMB representatives on the Multiply board has been a challenge. Leonard and Yvette Jones, Fresno, California, were appointed to the board in October 2020. Two months later, Jones and Leonard resigned because they were not in agreement with some of the Multiply board’s decisions. At the time Don Morris, USMB national director, said that the two chose to resign rather than create disunity.
Also appointed in October were Aaron Halverson, Olathe, Kansas, and Vivian Wheeler, Blaine, Washington. In June 2021, the USMB Leadership Board announced the appointment of Vince Balakian, Reedley, California, and Kathleen Sherman, Denver, Colorado, to the Multiply board.
CCMBC representatives are Maryanne Berge, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Chris Stevens, Waterloo, Ontario; Bill Seinen, Langley, British Columbia; and Wendi Thiessen, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
At its first meeting Nov. 9-10, 2020 the new Multiply Board of Directors acted on the recommendation that Randy Friesen transition out of the role of Multiply president.
In December, MacLean announced that Friesen would continue to serve until a new general director, formerly the role of president, was appointed.
In a March 24, 2021, letter to MB pastors and leaders in the U.S. and Canada, MacLean reported that as of April 15, Friesen would conclude his transitional leadership role with the mission agency.
Friesen’s 31 years serving Mennonite Brethren in global missions was celebrated with an online global event April 11, 2021, that was open to the public and in an April 13, 2021, online call with Multiply staff and mission workers.
While the search for a general director continues, veteran missionary Vic Wiens is providing interim coordination to the Multiply executive team.
Connie Faber joined the magazine staff in 1994 and assumed the duties of editor in 2004. She has won awards from the Evangelical Press Association for her writing and editing. Faber is the co-author of Family Matters: Discovering the Mennonite Brethren. She and her husband, David, have two daughters, one son, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law and one grandson. They are members of Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro, Kansas.