Reporting on the activities and concerns of the U.S. Conference, our five regional districts, various denominational agencies and local Mennonite Brethren congregations is a priority undertaking for the Christian Leader. We enjoy telling the story of God at work among U.S. Mennonite Brethren.
I believe that anticipating what’s next is also central to the work of the Christian Leader. One of our tasks as editors is to put forward issues and direction the U.S. Mennonite Brethren Church should consider. Our priorities for this year are reflected in the topic list for 2009.
Evangelism: Interacting with our neighbors and coworkers as if we are missionaries who serve in foreign cultures is becoming a common approach to the Great Commission. Next month we will explore this idea that individual Christians should live “missionally.” The changes that occur in our lives when we encounter the resurrected Christ—and our longing to share the good news of our transformation with others—will be the focus of our Easter issue.
Core teachings: Evangelicals, says Christianity Today editor Mark Galli, have specialized in “Go and make disciples…” and have not been as strong at “… and teach them all that I have commanded you.” The church is called to evangelize and to teach. And so we want to feature articles that teach the core values of the Christian faith as understood in the Anabaptist tradition and expressed in our Confession of Faith.
This month’s focus on the Bible is an example of a historic Mennonite Brethren core value that is as central to our lives in the 21st century as it was to our founders. This year we will also look at how core teachings intersect with current events and contemporary culture. Affirmation of human life and stewardship of resources are two themes that evangelical Christians are discussing, and we want to reflect on these issues from our denomination’s perspective.
Throughout the year, we will also draw attention to the unique person and work of Jesus Christ, a core teaching of the Christian faith that is being discussed in our current culture.
Transformation: U.S. Conference leaders have called on us to be a denomination that partners together for the transformation of individuals, families and communities, and so this summer we will highlight the importance of healthy marriages. And in the news department we will continue to share stories of congregations that are making disciples in their congregation and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in their communities.
Our approach to these topics will not be neutral. Our primary writers will be Mennonite Brethren with expertise in the area they are addressing. These men and women, many of whom volunteered to write on a specific subject, will help us think about these topics—some of them potentially contentious—from a Mennonite Brethren perspective.
Some readers may wonder why we publish articles on subjects about which Mennonite Brethren disagree. Issues of faith and life are very important to us—they have eternal implications—and so it’s only natural that we feel strongly and passionately about them. At the CL we choose to express our unity by acknowledging the diversity of opinion within our denomination and by listening to one another with respect and humility.
These are our publishing priorities for 2009, and we look forward to exploring these topics. This year the CL editorial staff is pursuing an additional priority: formulating a communication plan for 2010 that addresses three goals. We are researching publishing something on a regular basis for Mennonite Brethren who read Spanish, regularly publishing something in Russian and attracting a new generation of CL readers.
While the number of publications will increase, the amount of money the U.S. Conference spends on publications will not. The Christian Leader budget will be reduced to fund these new publications, with the hope that future partnerships with district conferences or local congregations can provide some financial assistance. This means the CL will change. We are looking at reducing the number of pages published each month and altering the magazine’s frequency to free up money for these new projects.
As I talk with printing specialists and other denominational magazine editors, a common piece of advice I get is to involve readers in decisions about changes in content, design, frequency and format. So I invite and encourage you, as the opportunity presents itself, to be involved in this process.—CF