On Saturday, February 20, 2010, three Mennonite Church USA boards joined their voices in affirmation of the Joining together, Investing in hope campaign. Members of the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board, the Mennonite Education Agency board, and the Mennonite Mission Network board affirmed the recommendation of the Elkhart (Ind.) Offices Project Management Team to proceed with construction of the planned facility adjacent to the campus of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart.
This discussion took place three years and five months after the Joining together, Investing in hope campaign was initiated in September 2006. Since that time, $10.3 million has been given by generous supporters across the church. Those funds have already been used to provide a $150,000 grant to the Global Mission Fellowship, an arm of Mennonite World Conference, and $300,000 to the ministries of the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board. Mennonite Mission Network ministries received $5,350,000 as part of the campaign.
The $10.3 million also includes $4.5 million toward the capital goal of $6.65 million, leaving $2.15 million still needed in order to fully fund the construction of the facility. Campaign staff and volunteers are currently seeking support from congregations and members to meet this goal.
The three boards met together to review and discuss the recommendation from the Project Management Team. When the discussion was concluded, each board voted in turn as the other boards listened. The Executive Board was the first to vote and unanimously passed an action to authorize construction and take on a loan if needed. The Mission Network board acted next and passed the same action unanimously, and the Mennonite Education Agency board supported this conclusion by voting unanimously to proceed.
The recommendation presented to the boards concluded that there is still a strong need for less expensive and more functional office space for staff located in Elkhart, and the plan to meet these needs by building a new facility adjacent to the AMBS campus is still a logical solution. While the number of offices needed in the future is uncertain, the new facility would meet current needs with flexibility and capacity for expansion in the future if needed.
Other economic realities factored into the decision as well. Awarding construction contracts within the current economic climate will be less costly than initially expected. Although the potential to raise the additional $2.15 million needed to fully fund the project exists, Mennonite Church USA would be able to borrow $1.5 million if needed. If the loan were repaid from operating funds over 10 years, the cost of the new building would still be less per year than current facility payments.
In the future, Mennonite Church USA anticipates continued improvement in the ability to work with dispersed staff, but it is still less costly to keep core support and leadership functions in a centralized location. Mennonite Mission Network and Executive Leadership staff are currently located in dozens of communities across the United States and around the world. Continuing a combination of fixed support centers and dispersed ministry and constituent relations staff seems to be an effective model for the future.
The vote was preceded by prayer and followed by a celebratory song and prayer of thanks to God.
This decision paved the way for construction to begin in June. The date for the ground blessing is June 15, 2010.