Will succeed Thomas, who has served since November 2000
By Annette Brill Bergstresser
ELKHART, Ind. (The Mennonite)—The board of The Mennonite, Inc., has appointed Anna Groff of Tucson, Ariz., as interim editor for The Mennonite—the denominational periodical of Mennonite Church USA—and its related web and social media channels.
Groff, who has served as associate editor of The Mennonite since 2006, will begin her new role Feb. 1, working from Tucson.
She succeeds Everett J. Thomas of Goshen, Ind., who has served since November 2000 and will conclude his tenure on Jan. 31, 2014.
According to Barth Hague of Newton, Kan., chair of both the search committee and The Mennonite, Inc., board, Groff will function as the organization’s CEO, overseeing administration, giving leadership to staff and editorial content, maintaining close working relationships with denominational leaders and continuing to guide the transition of the magazine into the digital age.
“Anna brings strong editorial skills and training in management and finances to this role,” he says. “She knows Mennonite Church USA well and is energetic in the areas of web and new media. She’s the kind of person we need in this role right now.”
Hague says that Groff’s assignment would be for up to two years—a timeline established by the board prior to the search process—and that she could be a candidate for the permanent position.
Groff has a bachelor’s degree in communication/journalism from Goshen College and a master’s degree in public administration (nonprofit management) from Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz.
In addition to her work with The Mennonite, in 2013 she has worked as grant director for the White Mountain S.A.F.E. House in Pinetop, Ariz., a domestic violence shelter. She has also served as a board member for the White Mountain S.A.F.E. House and for the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE).
Groff has established connections across Mennonite Church USA through her work with The Mennonite and also from having lived in Lancaster, Pa.; Goshen; Harrisonburg, Va.; Pittsburgh and now Tucson.
She is a member of East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church in Lancaster and attends Shalom Mennonite Fellowship in Tucson. She is married to Brian A. Miller, who is a family doctor with the Indian Health Service and works for the Tohono O’odham Nation in Sells, Ariz.
According to Hague, the board will be looking to Groff’s leadership during a transition phase for The Mennonite. He said that while the organization’s finances are on “pretty solid footing,” thanks to Thomas’ leadership, The Mennonite is facing the same challenge as many other print publications: a continual decline in subscriptions and advertising.
He noted that in the last several years, The Mennonite, Inc., board has taken steps to move The Mennonite away from being only a print magazine to being a content-distribution system.
“We now have a very successful website and email delivery system,” he says, noting that aggregated readership for the magazine, its two ezines, website and Facebook page has grown to more than 37,000.
“However, the print magazine has been our main cash source to fund these media, and we’re seeing a decline in revenue. Most people are used to getting things for free,” Hague says. “We’re still struggling with how to create a viable business model around this scenario. It’s kind of a global problem right now, especially for denominational publications.”
Groff says she is energized by the uncharted future of print journalism and excited about new digital possibilities for The Mennonite.
“I believe that our three media—print, website and e-zines—hold a significant role in the future of Mennonite Church USA and provide important entryways into our denomination for individuals of all generations,” she says.
Marty Lehman, director of churchwide operations for Mennonite Church USA and a member of the search committee, says she sees The Mennonite as an important ministry within Mennonite Church USA.
“I’m excited to see Anna take on this new role at this time in the life of The Mennonite,” she says. “We look forward to collaborating with her.”
The search committee recommended Groff to the full board on Dec. 3, 2013. The board approved the appointment via email, and the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA subsequently gave approval on Dec. 12, 2013.
Search committee members included Lehman and The Mennonite, Inc., board members Hague; Steve Edwards, Goshen, Ind.; Shé Hall, Hampton, Va.; Gerald Mast, Bluffton, Ohio; and Sheri Wenger, Lancaster, Pa.
Anna Groff (Photo provided)