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General Board works toward secure financial future: Update

   

April 30, 2003
-by Dan Dyck

Winnipeg, Man.—“How have the changes we have made affected our sense of what it means to be Mennonite Church Canada?”

While this question will continue to be answered over the coming months, it did help shape General Board meetings here on April 24-26, as members worked through a heavy agenda and considered weighty decisions that will continue to guide the recovery of financial stability and membership trust.

Significant agenda items included monitoring of: matters affecting financial performance, a meeting with the external auditor, reviewing executive staff needs in light of reduced program, the Canadian Mennonite subscription support formula, funding to Canadian Mennonite University, new committee/board appointees, and assembly related issues.

Monitoring Financial Performance

Consensus decisions included a request from General Board (GB) to have the Financial Policy and Audit Committee (FPAC) review monthly statements and report these statements to the GB on the 15th of each month. In addition, the GB ordered an immediate review of MC Canada’s Finance Department to assess the skill and staff levels required, to identify the skills of existing staff, and to determine any additional skills required for smooth functioning and timely financial reporting, and to correct for any deficiencies that may be found.

To achieve this, the GB approved the hiring of an independent consultant to work with the FPAC and general secretary, Dan Nighswander, on this review. The results of the review are to be available in time for the MC Canada assembly in July 2003 “if at all possible”.

Meeting with the External Auditor

The GB met with Aaron Penner, representing MC Canada’s external auditors, KPMG, to discuss the financial audit and any actions that might be helpful as the 2003-04 budget is finalized. Penner commented on the change in the nature and complexity of MC Canada’s operations and programs, and that this has had an impact on the financial statements being prepared for fiscal year 2002-03 and the budget for 2003-04 (see the March 24 and April 7 issues of Canadian Mennonite, and the From our Leaders column in the May 5 issue, for previous reports).

Executive Staff Review

The GB spent over half a day analyzing executive staff needs in light of reduced program. They noted that a major review of all MC Canada structures was previously scheduled for 2004 and that will include an assessment of executive staff needs.

For the present, the GB recognizes that executive staff work load remains high due to staff and program changes determined at the March 2003 Leadership Assembly. Some of these changes, in fact, shifted responsibilities up the organizational ladder, so that executive staff now has more direct supervision as they oversee programs in transition and attempt to prevent a few critical pieces of program from falling through the cracks entirely.

The GB also acknowledged that stability in leadership is important during a time of significant change. Councils had already called for continuation of executive staff at full time levels, and GB agreed that any adjustments will be made in consultation with the councils. In the meantime, Dan Nighswander will work with executive staff, in consultation with Councils, to adjust executive leadership job descriptions in the short term to accommodate program changes that have already taken place.

The Board also completed a review of Dan Nighswander’s work, which was initiated after the March Leadership Assembly. As part of this they received a statement from Nighswander acknowledging actions he could have taken to avert the financial crisis and identifying corrective actions he has taken to address the causes and effects of the recent turmoil. In a unanimously approved statement, the General Board thanked “…Dan Nighswander for his continuing work in response to the Board’s direction from the Leadership Assembly, and assures him of the General Board’s confidence in him as General Secretary of Mennonite Church Canada.”

Canadian Mennonite subscription support formula

Three hours of the meeting were given to conversations with the Executive of the Canadian Mennonite Publishing Services Board which publishes the Canadian Mennonite.

Canadian Mennonite derives 40% of its funding through advertising revenues and fundraising. Of the remaining 60%, half comes from MC Canada and the remaining half is shared by the five area conferences, pro-rated by membership figures in each area conference.

All area conference moderators affirmed the value of the CM and the subscription support from area conferences and MC Canada, for any members wishing to receive the magazine. Three area conferences (Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, Saskatchewan, and Alberta) are committed to contributing their full share of the costs, according to the subscription support formula. Two (Mennonite Church British Columbia and Manitoba) are reviewing how they can best support the publication in the coming year.

Ron Rempel, editor/publisher, also reported on initiatives he is exploring to better involve the non-traditional ethnic groups in MC Canada.

Funding to Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) and Canadian Mennonite University (CMU)

Jake Harms, CMBC co-chair of the CMU board and other CMU representatives met with the GB to discuss its funding cutback and to explore whether the cutback reflects the changing relationship of CMU to MC Canada, whether the GB is in a position to reconsider its decision, and whether the lost funding might be re-instated in the future.

Moderator Henry Krause noted that the cuts to CMU, while significant, were less dramatic than the reductions in some other program areas, highlighting the complete elimination of Christian Service Ministries. He spoke of the relationship between MC Canada and CMU as being “new”, in contrast to Harms’ language of “distancing”.

While no decisions about funding were made, both the CMU board and the GB agreed to continue in dialogue to clarify the nature of CMU’s relationship to MC Canada and what implications this might have for future funding.

New Appointments

Andrew Reesor McDowell (Ontario) has been appointed as member at large to the GB. He will also be the GB’s representative to Mennonite World Conference. Clare Schlegel (Ontario) is nominated to take over from Bruno Friesen (Alberta) as Treasurer and chair of the FPAC. John Wiebe (Manitoba) continues, and Ingrid Peters Fransen (Manitoba) will fill the remaining position on FPAC.

Assembly Planning

Plans for St. Catharines 2003 were reviewed. Plans for a bi-national assembly in 2005 remain in discussion.

Summary

Board members spent some time reflecting what they’ve heard in the broader MC Canada church family in regards to the cutbacks. There continue to be some questions about “what happened” and “what are you doing to prevent this from happening again.” Staff reported on discussion meetings scheduled in several areas of the church to address these questions on a more personal level, in addition to ongoing communication through Canadian Mennonite and other venues. Board members also reported that there are feelings of both lament and opportunity—lament over lost ministries, and an opportunity to re-focus the priorities as MC Canada continues to identify those activities critical to a national church in partnership with area conferences, schools, bi-national bodies (Mennonite Publishing Network and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary), and other partners (MC USA/Mennonite Mission Network, Mennonite Central Committee, and others).