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Formation Council recommends approving merger of Mennonite Publishing Network and Third Way Media

   
 


Dave Bergen, executive secretary of Christian Formation

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Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Publishing Network joint release
October 29, 2010

Waterloo, Ont. and Winnipeg, Man.—Qualified support for the integration of Mennonite Publishing Network (MPN) and Third Way Media—that’s what was expressed by the Mennonite Church Canada Formation Council, meeting October 19 at the Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp in south-western Ontario.

“We think the merger of MPN and Third Way Media makes good sense, and there is a lot of good will on our part for it,” said Dave Bergen, executive secretary of Christian Formation after the meeting.

But, he added, “we have concerns over how Canada and Canadian issues will be reflected by, and incorporated into the culture of the new organization.”

During the meeting, the Council heard a presentation by Ron Rempel, executive director of MPN, and Sheri Hartzler, interim co-director of Third Way Media. In addition to describing the process leading to the merger, Rempel and Hartzler also provided information about the work of Third Way Media.  From 1956-86, Third Way predecessor, Mennonite Media Ministries, had staff in eastern Canada. Third Way Media’s Third Way Café, a popular web site and discussion forum, has featured Canadian writers since 2001. Of the average 9,700 monthly visitors to the site, about 1,000 are from Canada, a figure proportional to Canada’s relative population.

Phil Bontrager, chair of MPN’s board, also addressed the Council. The new entity, he said, will have enhanced ability to serve “the church’s missional calling.” Bontrager went on to describe the merger as the best option for future success for MPN and Third Way Media. Also participating in the meeting was Joan Pries, one of the three Canadian MPN board members who endorsed the plan and provided a written summary of the MPN board discussion.

Although the Council affirmed the merger, members expressed concern about whether the new organization would have a strong presence in Canada, whether it would adequately reflect Canadian culture and issues, and that the move from MPN’s Scottdale, Pa. office to the Third Way Media office in Harrisonburg, Va. could make it seem even more distant from Canadians.

In response, Bontrager stressed that the new organization values “our relationship with Mennonite Church Canada . . . we understand ourselves to be a binational agency.”

Rempel noted that the new organization intends to maintain a strong Canadian presence through staff in Canada and by continuing to operate a Canadian distribution centre.  The yet-to-be-named organization is open to discussions about the centre’s location, which is now in Waterloo, Ont.

After an open and candid discussion with the MPN-Third Way delegation, the Council agreed to recommend that the Mennonite Church Canada General Board approve the merger.  The Council further recommended that the new entity ensure Canadian involvement not only in governance but also in staffing, operations, planning and production, and establish a review process to monitor the health and effectiveness of the organization in pursuing its binational mandate.

Andrew Reesor-McDowell, the moderator of Mennonite Church Canada, said that he will ask the General Board to respond to the Christian Formation Council recommendations as soon as possible. He added, “I am very pleased how MPN is working at challenges it faces for the future. The case for merger appears to make sense and appears to be a positive approach with potential synergies. We value the work of MPN.”

Mennonite Publishing Network is the publishing ministry of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA. For more information, contact MPN executive director Ron Rempel, 490 Dutton Drive, Unit C8, Waterloo, ON N2L 6H7, (519) 747-5722, rrempel@mpn.net