SAN JOSÉ, Calif. (Mennonite Church USA) — The Mennonite Church USA Executive Board reached a consensus Sept. 21 to move forward with a capital campaign to raise funds for a new building adjacent to the campus of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind.
The building will house Mennonite Church USA Executive Leadership and Mennonite Mission Network offices along with other Mennonite Church USA organizations that choose to locate there. Board members indicated the Mission Network is the only Mennonite Church USA agency equipped to lead and conduct a capital campaign of this magnitude and has been entrusted to lead that process, keeping the Executive Board and Executive Leadership staff involved and informed.
A timeline of the Great Lakes office building
1974 – Greencroft, Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries, Mennonite Board of Education and Mennonite Board of Missions buy the former Hotel Elkhart, a nine-story building at 500 S. Main St., Elkhart, Ind., constructed in 1923. The ownership group converts the hotel to offices and residences.
October 1996 – Elkhart Housing Partnership takes ownership of the building now known as Greencroft Tower from the Mennonite group. The Mennonite offices continue to rent space in the building.
July 2001 – At Nashville 2001, delegates from the former General Conference Mennonite Church and the former Mennonite Church agree to form Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. The former Commission on Home Ministries, Commission on Overseas Mission and Mennonite Board of Missions merge to form Mennonite Mission Network with offices in Elkhart, Ind., Harrisonburg, Va., and Newton, Kan.
February 2002 – Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada are formed.
January 2003 – The Mennonite Church USA Executive Board encourages executive staff to examine relocating the Elkhart office to Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.
February 2004 – A local commercial real estate firm completes a feasibility study examining 15-year costs of remaining at 500 S. Main St., building at AMBS, building at another location or acquiring and renovating another space. The AMBS option is shown to be most cost-effective.
October 2004 – The AMBS board invites Mennonite Mission Network to purchase land on the southeast corner of its property.
February 2005 – The AMBS board agrees to sell the property to Mennonite Church USA.
April 2005 – Mennonite Mission Network board of directors enters into an option to purchase property from AMBS. Executive Board endorses the actions at its meeting later in the month.
February 2006 – Executive Board and Mennonite Mission Network board of directors agree to work in full partnership with each other on a potential capital campaign.
July 10 – The Mennonite Mission Network board of directors expressed readiness to move forward on a capital campaign.
September 21 – Executive Board approved the capital campaign for a new office building.
Spring 2009 – Anticipated groundbreaking on the AMBS campus.
Spring 2010 – Anticipated moving date for Elkhart-based Mennonite Church USA Executive Leadership and Mennonite Mission Network offices.
“The affirmation to move forward with this campaign by both the Executive Board and the board of Mission Network forms an important partnership of those two boards and their staff, aimed at securing infrastructure needed to further the missional calling of Mennonite Church USA,” said Jim Schrag, executive director for Mennonite Church USA.
“We believe that the decision just made will enable us, if we are successful in this campaign, to free up significant resources for programs to more fully accomplish the vision of becoming a people of healing and hope in this world,” said Stanley Green, executive director for Mennonite Mission Network.
The Executive Board authorized the Mission Network to engage and lead the $9.3 million-capital campaign for the new Elkhart facility. Of that $9.3 million, $6 million will be for capital costs, including land, construction and furnishings; $2.8 million will create an endowment to pay for building operation and maintenance; and $500,000 will cover fundraising costs. The Mission Network will hold the title for the building on behalf of all partners.
Donors will be asked to pledge ongoing annual fund support for the Mission Network and Executive Leadership to ensure the campaign does not divert money from current ministries. Campaign leaders intend to raise about $6.5 million, over three years, for ongoing ministry and mission programs: $2 million per year for Mission Network programs, $50,000 per year for Global Mission Fellowship and $100,000 per year for Executive Leadership ministries.
The Executive Board discussed the capital campaign proposal at its July meeting in Aurora, Colo., where the group decided it wanted more information and an opportunity to gather input from across the denomination before moving forward. Since then, input was gathered from area conferences and constituency groups and then presented to the Executive Board.
“This approval comes after a vigorous and thorough examination of the research and proposal in the last two meetings of the Executive Board in July in Aurora, and this last weekend in San José,” Schrag said. “A consensus was reached, and the board spoke its approval with one voice, even as it took care to understand the particular viewpoint of each board member.”
The Executive Board agreed from the beginning that the current Elkhart office facilities were inadequate and a change was needed. Associate executive director for Mennonite Church USA Ron Byler described the deteriorating situation, including persistent water damage, that may make it difficult to remain in the current location until the new building is scheduled to be completed. Deliberations on whether the proposed building project was the best direction to move were wide ranging and intense, balancing questions of economics, flexibility, location, constituent perceptions and the future in general.
Moderator-elect for Mennonite Church USA Sharon Waltner said she was encouraged by the consensus-building process used.
“It was a pleasure to lead the board through a rigorous consensus process where all the ideas and concerns were put on the table,” Waltner said. “I felt the board members were very respectful of each other and were committed to the process of consensus for the good of the whole.”
Lee Schmucker, chair for Mennonite Mission Network’s Board of Directors, thanked the Executive Board for its time and discernment.
“Thank you for taking this step in faith,” Schmucker said. “We’re looking forward to partnering with you and taking this step together.”
At the completion of this campaign and building project, Mennonite Church USA will own churchwide offices in several locations – in Newton, Kan.; Harrisonburg, Va.; Goshen, Ind.; Scottdale, Pa.; and Elkhart, Ind.
Ryan Miller, news director for Mennonite Mission Network, contributed to this report.