Tag Archives: Ervin Stutzman

From the moderator: In search of grace that transforms toward hope

At Franconia Conference Assembly 2011 delegates were invited to complete the sentence, my hope and dream for Franconia Conference is . . . 55 people responded to the invitation with the following hopes and dreams, “to better communicate with each congregation” . . . “to welcome and include all people regardless’ . . . ‘Unity, joy and effectively spreading the love and joy of God to the outside world” . . . “that it would be a community of those who find their home in God and live in hope with one another” . . . “to build a strong unified foundation from which to

“We are committed to move forward in a way that invites all the members of our congregations to join together.” build God’s Kingdom” . . . “not afraid to embrace new things” . . . “reconnect the people of Franconia Conference” . . . “to become a model community of grace and love, providing a safe place to explore God’s purpose” . . .”that in trusting relationships with each other and with God we can move with God’s guidance into our future, welcoming all, honoring differences, but unified in our core beliefs” . . . “For grace looking back, and hope looking forward with and among the delegates/congregations and the Conference board” . . . “that trust and confidence will continue to grow better conference leadership and congregation direction”.

This sampling of quotes from the delegates is cause for celebration and hope for our community of congregations and ministries. We share a desire for unity, a wish to be open to all persons, a commitment to be welcoming, a determination to find joy in our differences and in our similarities and a strong urge to engage in meaningful, direct and transparent communication.

Ervin Stutzman, MCUSA Executive Director, speaking at last year’s Assembly said, “Trouble plus grace equals hope”. This quote has particular relevance for our conference as together we have sought grace to transform our struggle into hope for today and the future. The Conference board is finding hope as it connects in a new way with all of our member congregations. The board has committed to meeting with the leaders of all Conference congregations within the next three to six months. These meetings are beginning to occur and the dialogue between congregational leadership and conference leadership has been valuable. We’re asking:

  • How can conference support the missional efforts of the congregation?
  • What conference activities has your congregation found helpful?
  • What additional services would be appreciated?

We are finding energy in the eagerness with which congregational leaders engage in the discussion.
We are finding hope in the recent restructuring of Conference staff and the appointment of Ertell Whigham to the role of Executive Minister. Ertell brings energy, passion, leadership skills and commitment to achieving the following priorities articulated by the Conference board and is appreciated and supported by other Conference staff.

  • Engage with the Franconia Conference Board in the work of the strategic transformation of Franconia Conference toward a missional, formational and intercultural Conference.
  • Build an energetic and unified staff team to support the work of Conference.
  • Build confidence within the constituency.
  • I am optimistic that Franconia Conference will move steadily toward achieving these priorities. We are committed to move forward in a way that invites all the members in our congregations to join together in the effort. This will require careful planning, clear communication and prioritizing a path of working respectfully with a shared commitment to become a community and Conference that reflects God’s dream for us together. We appreciate the ongoing prayer of the community as we move, trusting the transformative power of the Spirit on the Way.

Conference Assembly 2010 Reflections

Franconia Conference Assembly 2010 kicked off with the music of James Crumbly of Tampa, FL, along with a multiethnic worship team and multilingual worship to help celebrate the life of the conference community. Featuring input from Mennonite Church USA Executive Director, Ervin Stutzman, the highlight of the first night included welcoming a new congregation–Greensburg (Pa) Worship Center–into membership of the conference and Mennonite Church USA.

Saturday’s sessions included conversation around key issues for the ongoing life of Franconia Conference together as well as an invitation to dream of a future together. Congregational leaders told stories of how the LEAD platform for congregational oversight continues to emerge and shape the life of conference churches. New leaders were recognized and introduced to the assembly as well, including persons credentialed for ministry in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Georgia. Executive Minister Noel Santiago led a process of introducing and blessing new Conference-Related Ministries’ leaders.

Moderators John Goshow and Mim Book invited those gathered to continue toward a healing journey and hopeful future for the conference in the midst of a difficult time. Melissa Landis was recognized for her ongoing work in shaping Conference Assembly over the four last years. Randy Nyce, finance committee chair, opened the floor for questions around conference funding and responded as he was able, admitting that not all questions would be answered but that further responses would be developed by the conference board finance committee and shared with delegates in coming days.

Assembly 2010 Photos

Assembly Highlight Video


Conference Assembly 2010 from Tim Moyer on Vimeo.

Greensburg Worship Center Profile Video

Greensburg Worship Center Profile from Tim Moyer Media on Vimeo.» Access online docket materials

Mennonite Church USA announces new leadership team

By Annette Brill Bergstresser

Mennonite Church USA — Ervin Stutzman, who began Jan. 1 as executive director of Mennonite Church USA, has named his new leadership cabinet. This team will focus its work on the four churchwide priorities approved by the Executive Board in 2006: witness, anti-racism, leadership development, and global connections. Team members will work out of five states—Kansas, Texas, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia.

“It’s a new thing to focus the roles of the cabinet members around the stated priorities of the church, while also maintaining the core services,” Stutzman said. “This is a very dedicated, committed team, and I really look forward to working together with them to make a significant contribution to the life of our church.”

These appointments conclude a comprehensive workplace review that Stutzman initiated in the spring as part of a six-month process of “listening around the church.” The review included all Mennonite Church USA staff members employed directly by the offices that Stutzman supervises, but did not include agencies of Mennonite Church USA, which conduct their own reviews. Stutzman’s goal was to complete the appointments by Sept. 1.

The new cabinet consists of:

-Shelley Buller—executive assistant. Buller coordinates Stutzman’s schedule and plans logistics for the Executive Board and Constituency Leaders Council. She works as part of a six-person team to plan Stutzman’s travels, particularly those involving church relations. Buller has served in her present position as executive assistant for 32 years (formerly serving the General Conference Mennonite Church). She has an associate’s degree in business from Emporia (Kan.) State University and is a member of Tabor Mennonite Church, Newton, Kan.



– Glen Guyton—associate executive director for constituent resources. Guyton oversees the Finance, Convention Planning, Information Technology, Intercultural Relations, and Resource Advocacy departments. He will relate with Mennonite Publishing Network. He also will give leadership to the churchwide priority of anti-racism work.

Guyton felt a call to ministry after completing four years as an officer in the United States Air Force. His participation in the Mennonite Church moved him to withdraw from the military as a conscientious objector. With his wife, Cynthia (Cyndi), Glen served as youth pastor and in other ministry roles for more than 17 years at Calvary Community Church in Hampton, Va., before joining the staff of Mennonite Church USA as denominational minister for intercultural relations in 2009. He has worked with Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., to create mentoring programs to promote theological training for high school youth. He also has worked with the former Warwick District of Virginia Conference to develop peace and justice programs for urban youth and to provide students with alternatives to military service.

Guyton holds a bachelor’s degree in management from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and a master’s of education from Regent University, Virginia Beach, Va. He recently moved to San Antonio, Texas, and will work from the DOOR house.

– Marty Lehman—associate executive director for churchwide operations. Lehman oversees the Church Relations, Communications, Development and Human Resources departments. She also works with The Corinthian Plan, Church Extension Services, and the Historical Committee. She is responsible to coordinate alignment among the various churchwide agencies.

Lehman has worked for Mennonite Church USA since 2004, serving in areas including funding, stewardship and finance. Prior to that she was the President and CEO of Adriel, a Mennonite Health Services (MHS) Alliance organization in West Liberty, Ohio. Lehman earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in public affairs with an emphasis on administration of non-profit organizations from Indiana University – South Bend, and has taken courses at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind.

Lehman works out of the Elkhart, Ind., office, and is a member at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind.

– André Gingerich Stoner—director of holistic witness, director of interchurch relations. Stoner will help nurture a web of evangelism, justice and peace witness throughout the church, working closely with Mennonite Mission Network staff. He will give leadership to the churchwide priorities of witness and the interchurch dimension of global connections.

Stoner has served as director of interchurch relations for Mennonite Church USA on a part-time basis since 2005. He has been part-time pastor of missions at Kern Road Mennonite Church in South Bend, Ind., since 1994, where he provided leadership for the congregation’s varied and numerous outreach and witness efforts. He will end that role in October as he transitions to full-time work for Mennonite Church USA.
Stoner, who was born in Luxemburg to missionary parents, attended Bethany Christian High School, Goshen, Ind.; and Eastern Mennonite High School, Harrisonburg, Va.; and he holds degrees from Swarthmore (Pa.) College and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart. From 1984 to 1991, he served with Mennonite Central Committee in peace ministry in West Germany and helped found the Military Counseling Network. Stoner works out of the Elkhart office.

– Terry Shue—director of leadership development.

Shue will give attention to the leadership development priority, seeking to invigorate the Culture of Call and develop connections with ministry training programs as well as business leaders. He also will oversee the ministerial calling system and supervise a denominational ministry team.

Shue served as pastor at Kidron Mennonite Church for 13 years; prior to that he pastored at Pine Grove Mennonite Church, Stryker, Ohio. He also has been on the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA and on the board of Goshen (Ind.) College. Shue studied at Hesston (Kan.) College; Bethel College, North Newton, Kan.; and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart. He will work from an office at the Central Christian School at Kidron.

God’s love has no borders

Ervin R. Stutzman, executive director, Mennonite Church USA
June 2010

In the last few weeks, debates about immigration have flared up all across the United States. The passage of the SB 1070 immigration law in Arizona has prompted other states to consider similar measures to control immigration. In response to the strong feelings across the nation, President Obama recently took action to secure the border between the U.S. and Mexico. I grieve that these actions deeply affect my brothers and sisters in the congregations of Iglesia Menonita Hispana, a valued part of Mennonite Church USA. I have been hearing stories from congregations that are losing many beloved members because of pressure from the government.

As a church leader, I rely on our denomination’s 2003 statement on immigration to guide my response to this situation. Also, the following words from hymn 374 in Hymnal: Worship Book, (a Mennonite Church USA English hymnbook) echo my own prayer for Mennonite Church USA and our nation: “Forbid false love of country, that blinds us to your call, who lifts above the nations the unity of all. Create in us the splendor that dawns when hearts are kind, that knows no race nor station as bound’ries of the mind; that learns to value beauty, in heart, or mind, or soul, and longs to bind God’s children into one perfect whole.”

The Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA recently voted to use money from the building campaign for Racial/Ethnic groups, including Hispanics. We will designate 10 percent of any money coming to our office building fund after the ground blessing, which took place on June 15. This money can be used for immigration concerns, education, or help with church facilities.

Currently, we have plans to meet in Phoenix, Ariz., for the 2013 convention of Mennonite Church USA. Because of the new law in Arizona, we are reconsidering this choice.

Glen Guyton, associate executive director of constituent resources, guides intercultural relations in our national conference. Glen has prepared the following announcement about the decision to be made:

Mennonite Church USA is very concerned about what is happening in the state of Arizona and the precedent it may set for other states. A just and humane immigration policy is needed in our nation and the passage of Arizona SB1070 may be a tipping point in our country. Only God knows which way our country will lean.

The question on the minds of many in the Hispanic community is, “Why hasn’t Mennonite Church USA made a decision to move the 2013 convention to another city?” To many of our Hispanic brothers and sisters, the decision is easy: “Don’t go to Phoenix, because we will not go. We do not feel safe.” Iglesia Menonita Hispana (IMH) has made its position clear, and the leadership of the church has heard the message. While we truly have love, respect and empathy for the Hispanic members of our church family, there are several reasons why the church has chosen to take some time to make a decision about the location.

1. Exposure to all Mennonite Church USA members. We believe the issue of immigration is far greater than the location of our 2013 churchwide convention. This decision will provide an opportunity to bring immigration to the forefront of our church. For many years, Mennonite churches in Arizona and in our Hispanic
communities have been dealing with immigration issues. Our Hispanic churches are losing members in great numbers because of the poor economy and the changing political climate. Deciding on a convention location will expose the
broader church to the negative effects of current U.S. immigration policy and the proposed Arizona law, which many feel will lead to racial profiling.

2. Discussion and discernment. Because this decision affects our entire church family, it requires discussion and discernment by leaders all across the church. A gathering called the Leaders Forum had already been planned for September 2010, and now the 2013 convention location will be a central topic of discussion and discernment. Nearly 250 leaders from conferences, agencies and Racial/Ethnic constituency groups will be involved. When we gather together face?to?face in worship and prayer to discuss things as Christian sisters and brothers, a clarity often comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to hear the hurts, fears, hopes and dreams of all who will be affected by the passage of this law in Arizona. The leadership of the church feels that using the next few months to discern and discuss immigration, the new Arizona law, and
the historical circumstances surrounding the passage of SB1070 will ultimately facilitate a sense of synergy around the final decision. It is important that we understand “why” when the final decision is announced.

3. Contracts. While some want a quick decision to send a message to the state of Arizona, the financial impact of staying in or leaving Phoenix will not be affected by a few months. The 2013 convention is more than three years away. Making an announcement now will not benefit our Hispanic community any more than
making an announcement in early 2011. A formal announcement would trigger contractual obligations, numerous inquires, and limit the ability of our staff to negotiate with the various entities involved. There is not just one contract to cancel, but multiple contracts that would need to be changed. The liquidated damages of canceling these contracts could possibly exceed $500,000. In addition, at least 10 other states are considering legislation similar to Arizona’s. In some ways, announcing a decision too early could be reckless. It is not as simple as picking another city. Currently, the convention planning staff and the Office of Intercultural Relations are exploring all options, so that everyone in our church understands the impact of the final decision. The decision, whether it is to stay in Phoenix or move to another city, will have a serious impact on the
church—spiritually, relationally, and fiscally.

4. City of Phoenix. The city of Phoenix is paying attention to Mennonite Church USA. Recently, I visited the city of Phoenix with Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, director of convention planning. We met with the city manager, the chief of police, the vice?mayor, the convention bureau, and the three hotels with whom
we have binding contracts. Since Iglesia Menonita Hispana forwarded its formal request to change the convention location, the staff of Mennonite Church USA has been working at providing information to everyone involved and seeking a solution that will benefit the entire Mennonite Church USA family, of which Iglesia Menonita Hispana is a very important part. We shared with the city officials the concerns of IMH. We explained to them the concern about safety and the fears of what the law will mean. The city of Phoenix and its large Hispanic population have great disdain for SB1070.

5. Next steps. In the next step of our discernment process, members of the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA and members of the Executive Committee of Iglesia Menonita Hispana will travel to Phoenix to meet with city officials and local Latino community leaders to assess what is happening in the area.

We have to trust God that our discernment process will work in this matter. As an African-American, I am no stranger to discrimination. I empathize with my Hispanic brothers and sisters, and I cannot imagine what it feels like to live in fear of being deported from the country I love and call my home. I hope that everyone in the church understands that the pain and fear felt by our Hispanic constituency will not end with the decision of where we hold our 2013 churchwide convention. No, in the grand scheme of things, the decision of whether or not to go to Phoenix is quite small.

The bigger issues are: What are the guiding principles that will help us make this decision? How do we resource and care for Hispanic Mennonite congregations who are losing hundreds of members? How do we as a church make tough decisions, even if they only directly affect a small percentage of our members? What can we as a church do about immigration reform and the care for the stranger in our land? How committed are we to the priority of anti?racism in the church? Are we willing to sacrifice to become an anti?racist church? Can we as Racial/Ethnic people and Anglos still walk together in love and trust one another after the final decision is made? Ultimately, the decision where to spend five days in July 2013 will not mean much if we don’t do the hard work now. Now is the time for wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 24:3). Now is the time for all members of Mennonite Church USA to dwell together in unity and in prayer to begin the journey toward sharing a holistic witness to the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Glen and I welcome your response to this way of working to make this important decision about a possible change of location for the convention. If you have comments or questions, please contact Glen Guyton at GlenG@MennoniteUSA.org or 1?866?866?2872, ext. 23044.

MC USA Executive Leadership welcomes new staff and new roles

The month of February brought staffing changes in Executive Leadership.

Ervin Stutzman announced a move to a slightly different arrangement for executive staff which will replace the Associate Director role with two positions:

  • Director of Churchwide Operations and
  • Director of Denominational Support Services

Stutzman has appointed Marty Lehman to serve as director of churchwide operations. In her new position, Lehman will have responsibility for communication, development, convention planning, and church relations. She will also continue to give leadership to Historical Committee, finance/administration and The Corinthian Plan. In the long term, finance and administration will move to the new support services position. Lehman will continue to have her office in Elkhart and Kathryn Rodgers will serve as executive assistant.

On February 1, Leanne Farmwald began quarter-time with Executive Leadership as director of the Executive Leadership communication team along with her role as director of marketing and communication for Mennonite Mission Network. Following the denominational ministry model, we are excited about this new opportunity to collaborate and share leadership. This is an interim arrangement and will be reviewed in the coming months.

deidre_bias.jpgOn February 22 we welcomed Deidre (Summerton) Bias to the Executive Leadership staff. She joins the convention planning team in the role of convention communication coordinator.

Bias is responsible for writing all external print pieces related to convention promotion and marketing. She will also be working with the children and junior youth gatherings and taking on other logistical planning responsibilities as needed.

Bias is a Goshen/Elkhart native, a Goshen College graduate and attends College Mennonite Church. Most recently she worked for First Steps as the family outreach and public awareness coordinator. Her responsibilities included promoting the state-wide program which works with children, birth to three, who have special needs and their families. She loves to read and travel, and is always in the midst of planning the next adventure for her and her family. We are grateful for the energy and expertise that Bias brings to the convention planning team.