By Jessica Griggs for Mennonite Church USA
ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Church USA) — The Schowalter Foundation awarded Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) Executive Board (EB) two charitable funding distributions this fall, one to help fund internships at the denominational level and the other to provide support for pastoral misconduct and abuse investigations.
Iris de León-Hartshorn, the associate executive director of Operations and director of Human Resources for MC USA, is spearheading the internship revival at MC USA. She said, “The denomination is always looking for ways to build up leaders for the future of the church.”
In years past, MC USA EB worked with institutions, such as Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, to provide internships, but as these institutions and MC USA experienced reduced budgets, internships fell by the wayside.
Using the $15,000 Internships Schowalter funding, the EB staff plans to hire two interns, who will work part time for a one-year term. EB staff is currently exploring where interns may be best placed within the denomination, with the Archives and Peace and Justice work among their considerations.
The value of these internships, said de León-Hartshorn, is that “the church is constantly changing, and we will need leaders that are flexible and adaptable with a strong sense of calling to God’s work. By providing internships at the denominational level to young adults, we are giving them an opportunity to understand how the church works and to test whether this may be a calling for them.”
Pastoral Misconduct/Abuse Investigations Funding
In July 2015, the MC USA Delegate Assembly passed the “Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse,” which commits the denomination to “tell the truth about sexual abuse; hold abusers accountable; acknowledge the seriousness of their sin; listen with care to those who have been wounded; protect vulnerable persons from injury; work restoratively for justice; and hold out hope that wounds will be healed, forgiveness offered, and relationships established or reestablished in healthy ways.”
As part of this commitment, the denomination has provided church leaders with Healthy Boundaries Training. In an additional effort to honor the “Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse,” the Church Vitality office provides leadership and hires investigators to address abuse and misconduct when needed. These cases can often become expensive and the number of cases in any given year is unpredictable, so MC USA will place the $30,000 Pastoral Misconduct/Abuse Investigations Schowalter funding in an account to use as needed.
“In both the church and society, we have had a huge wake-up call in the last several years to the abuse that takes place in our churches and various church settings. We have wonderful, capable people in our church who are leading training and investigations, but all of this takes resources. This grant will help us continue to provide the best possible support and training and allow us to be comprehensive in our work in this area,” said de León-Hartshorn, who also submitted the proposal for this grant.
Arlan Yoder, president of the Schowalter Foundation said, “The work of MC USA is vital to the denomination and fits well within Schowalter Foundation’s mission to support and encourage programs and projects developed by Mennonites and Mennonite denominations.”
“Often, important work comes to the church that we are not always financially prepared to undertake. The charitable funding that Schowalter Foundation provides allows us to have the adequate support we need when these issues arise. It also helps us prepare for the future, like training and preparing leaders. This is a tremendous service that Schowalter Foundation provides, and we are grateful for their generosity,” said de León-Hartshorn.
The Schowalter Foundation began in 1954 upon implementation of J. A. Schowalter’s will. His desire was to create a foundation to support programs developed by several Mennonite denominations. In 2017, the Schowalter Foundation became a supporting organization of Everence Foundation. The Schowalter Foundation’s strategy is to make charitable distributions of its income to challenge, encourage, and stimulate outreach and witness. This includes support of relief organizations, overseas and home missionary endeavors, peace and social concerns, programs to alleviate hunger, and other programs initiated and carried on directly or indirectly by the Mennonite denominations.
Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, approximately 530 congregations and 62,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 58 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana, and Newton, Kansas. mennoniteUSA.org