What Does MC USA Want in an Executive Director?

When a congregation goes through a pastoral transition, it has a lot of conversations. What do we want in a pastor? A good preacher? An activist? Someone who is good at visitation? Someone skilled in conflict resolution?

As Mennonite Church USA prepares to welcome a new executive director next spring, we ought to ask the same question: What do we want in an executive director?

We tend to think an executive director should be a pastor or a spiritual leader. But the executive director is not, as I’ve heard some people jokingly describe it, “The Mennonite Pope.” The executive director does not give spiritual mandates, define doctrine or appoint conference ministers. Instead, the job description includes supervising MC USA staff, serving as CEO and primary spokesperson, fundraising and monitoring spending. While many pastors do some of this in their positions, very few pastors go into ministry because they have fundraising, CEO or management skills.

The executive director is a management and business position. While it would be wonderful to find a candidate who is skilled at both management and ministry, the search committee’s primary charge is to find a skilled administrator. In the job description, “theological studies” and “ministerial credentials” are desirable qualities, not essential qualities.

We need church leaders with strong theological backgrounds. We also need church leaders with business skills; who understand strategy and marketing and can articulate strengths in ways that make people excited to be part of this group of peculiar Christians. Those may not overlap with pastoral skills like explaining Scripture through a sermon; greeting everyone on Sunday morning or visiting homes and hospitals.

The wide, clamoring, diverse body of MC USA must also change expectations of the executive director. Outgoing executive director Ervin Stutzman was often called in to keep this or that constituency in the church; to appease this or that group; to shepherd by speaking at conferences and gatherings. He was often expected to be a spiritual leader, to guide through challenging conversations about sexuality and the Confession of Faith. While the executive director has some role in shaping those conversations in a non-anxious way, the executive director is not hired to be the arbiter of orthodoxy.

As a nonhierarchical denomination, MC USA must resist the temptation to push a business leader into spiritual leadership. For that, look to the Constituency Leaders’ Council — the representative body of conference ministers, moderators and constituency group leaders who meet to “worship and pray together, encourage faithfulness, share ideas and resources, process concerns and discern direction on issues of faith and life,” according to MC USA resource documents.

The executive director faces a large challenge to navigate and unify the strong, diverse views of MC USA–and to restore trust during and after a major conflict. The new executive director is expected to be faithful to the Anabaptist vision and devout in his or her own spiritual walk. But that does not equate to a pastoral temperament or years behind the pulpit. The next executive director may very well come from the administrative staff of a denominational agency, be an educator in an Anabaptist institution, or an energetic Anabaptist entrepreneur.

The executive director can only be as good as the clarity of MC USA’s vision. Let us use these months of searching to discuss with each other our brightest vision of this beautiful, broken body of Christ.

 

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This post first appeared in the Mennonite World Review.

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Evana: The Other Churches’ Other Woman

First off, let’s admit that we’ve all been asshats, even if we haven’t named our Church after Luna Lovegood or Donald Trump’s wife. I’m not calling anyone in the Evana Network an asshat (or at least, only to the degree that all humans are; you say fallen, I say asshat). I don’t know any of their leadership, and the names I do recognize I’ve heard positive things about. But with the formal formation of an “Other Woman” (or other man, have it at your orientation) we now see the potential asshattery of the future in sharper focus.

So some churches went and formed the church they wanted to form. We’re not just talking about seeing other people, we now see the proverbial other woman that our conservative churches want to date. The potential for asshattery–on all sides–is unlimited. But sweet Jesus, if we cannot laugh at each other now, and laugh at ourselves, both of our denomination/networks are wholly screwed. So go on, Google image search Evana to your heart’s content–there’s some quality Lion King fan art out there, and we all need a good laugh. Continue reading

Sex and the Splitting Church: What Just Happened?

Talking to several people about Mennonite church Executive Board meeting Jan. 29-31, the conversation went like this: Wait, what happened? This week, Alabama became the 37th state to allow gay marriage–meanwhile, the Executive Board recommended maintaining the definition of traditional marriage through 2017. Wait, what happened?

I’m not on EB, but I am in the business of offering biased interpretations of church politics. And, this [expletive] backwards decision is actually a move forward. I’m an optimist. But stick with me. Here’s a few ways to look at what happened:

1. EB went back to the drawing board.
For the last 8 months or so, EB has been talking about a “structural solution” to our GLBTQ debates. Most of the objections to inclusion have been voices coming to be and saying, “He hit me; put him in time out.” EB has responded by saying, “I’m not your mom.” EB spent several months working toward a Not Your Mom Resolution–a resolution that would codify more clearly the power structure of MC USA and try to appease the conservative churches by maintaining a doctrinal stance that they could agree with, but allowing liberal churches to do their gay marriage thing, more or less without repercussion. Both liberals and conservatives called this bullshit, and at this meeting, EB admitted that a “structural solution” was, in fact, bullshit. Continue reading