(Appeared first in Mennonite Mission Network’s Beyond Ourselves, June 2012. Shared with permission.)
By Ervin Stutzman
This issue’s focus on being called by God prompted me to reflect on my own sense of call to the office of executive director of Mennonite Church USA. The first words of our denominational vision statement say: “God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ.” We are to follow wherever God leads, even in pursuit of a new ministry or mission.
I would not have taken this role without clarity from God and the church. Even as things became clear, the decision to accept was not made quickly or easily. In January 2009, a search committee member suggested that I consider the role. While praying afterward, I sensed the Spirit urging me to consider. Several factors made pursuing the new role difficult, the biggest being that I would have to leave my post as dean at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, which I loved. I was energized by EMU’s mission. I felt a deep bond to the broader campus; all five members of our family are alumni. My wife, Bonnie, and I love the Shenandoah Valley and live in a home that we designed to take us far into our retirement years. We also love Park View Mennonite Church, where our faith is deeply nurtured and we have many opportunities for ministry.
Five primary reasons sealed my acceptance of the invitation from Mennonite Church USA:
- I love Mennonite Church USA and I want to see it prosper.
- My gifts, interests and experience seemed like a strong fit.
- The search committee issued a unanimous recommendation, and the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board issued a unanimous call. The search process was extremely thorough and Spirit-led.
- I sensed an unmistakable inner call from God through prayerful discernment.
- A “clearness” committee (which included my wife, my pastor, my spiritual director, a spiritual friend, and a mature member of the seminary faculty trained in spiritual direction) confirmed that I had considered the necessary factors for hearing God’s call to this role. A member of the search committee met with the clearness committee to relay the call of the church. It was a holy moment when the group affirmed that God had called me “for such a time as this.”
In a task as challenging as my current role, I take great comfort in knowing that I am following God’s call. I trust that every mission worker has that same assurance.