A proposal released in the fall of
2017 by the Higher Education Future Church/School Relations Committee includes
the formation of the Mennonite Higher Education Association (MHEA). The
committee has recommended that a MHEA Beta edition begin to function Feb. 1,
2018. The MHEA has been affirmed by the boards of the six schools: Anabaptist Mennonite
Biblical Seminary (AMBS), Bethel College, Bluffton University, Eastern
Mennonite University, Goshen College and Hesston College. It has also been
affirmed by Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) and the Executive Board of MC USA.
MHEA Beta edition will initially be
chaired by Richard (Dick) Thomas of Lancaster, Pa., who is the current moderator
of the Future Church/School Relations Committee. MHEA has been established to
provide a vehicle to increase collaboration between the individual schools and
between the schools and MEA to advance educational opportunity and excellence
and to work at affordability.
of the schools and a representative of MEA will comprise the association, which
will meet several times per year. By starting MHEA Beta edition in February,
James Harder, President of Bluffton University, will be able to share his
passion and vision for the association with the five new college/university
presidents before his retirement on June 30, 2018. Sara Wenger Shenk, President
of AMBS and a member of the Church/School Relations Committee, will be part of MHEA
Beta edition and then continue as a member of MHEA. The association will be
fully functioning with its elected officers by July 1, 2018.
The MEA-appointed committee has made progress on its task of
recommending a revised mutual understanding and a common structure that will
support long-term connections and linkages between MC USA church-related
institutions of higher education and an educationally-supportive denomination.
The final proposal to MEA will:
Clarify those principles that will guide the
development of mutual understandings and a common structure for supporting:
commitments to and identity with Anabaptist/Mennonite faith and values.
and linkages between an educationally-supportive denomination (MC USA) and the
MC USA church-related institutions of higher education.
Recommend a common structure that clarifies
connections and linkages between MC USA church-related institutions of higher
education and an educationally-supportive denomination that will sustain
Anabaptist/Mennonite faith and values over the long-term.
Recommend a timeline for implementing the common
structure identified above.
“The demographic, economic and
cultural changes that are taking place, both in society and in our church, call
us to reexamine our relationship with the schools, while at the same time
providing the flexibility to respond to the changing landscape of higher
education,” said Carlos Romero, Executive Director of Mennonite Education
Agency. “We are working at the creation of something new that will require all
the parts to be willing to change. The underlying foundation is still the same:
the church and the schools want to maintain strong ties.”
Last fall, a draft proposal was
shared with the higher education institutions, Mennonite Church USA Executive
Board and the MEA. The committee is reviewing feedback from the schools, MEA
and the MC USA Executive Board to revise the proposed Statement of Arrangement,
taking seriously the feedback they received from the draft proposal released in
October 2017. The committee has
attempted to work at creating a new vision to define the future relationship
between the schools and the church, understanding the past polity and history
but not being defined by those, and proposing what the group feels will best
serve the schools and the church in the context of the present realities.
The primary purpose of the proposed
structure is to ensure the ongoing Anabaptist/Mennonite identity and mission of
the schools of Mennonite Church USA, so that church and schools can continue
together in higher education, despite the rapid changes that each are
said that the new structure will provide the flexibility to act quickly. “The
structure also provides new opportunities for MEA as it moves from focusing on
governance to empowering the schools as well as newly emerging partners, to
meet the various needs that educational programs serve for both MC USA and the
world,” said Thomas.
committee aims to have an updated proposal by February 1 to share with all the stakeholders.