Shelley Buller, executive assistant to the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board, has announced her plans to retire at the end of 2023, after 46 years of dedicated service to the denomination. The MC USA Executive Board and staff will be honoring her illustrious career during celebratory gatherings over the next few weeks.
“Shelley has been a blessing to both me and Mennonite Church USA,” said Glen Guyton, executive director of MC USA. “She helped to train and guide many of our executive leaders, including me. Her tireless contributions have been invaluable to the organization and functioning of our denomination. Her presence will be missed in many ways.”
Buller joined the denominational staff in January 1978, after graduating from Emporia (Kansas) State University with an associate’s degree in business. “I feel like it was part of God’s plan for my life,” she said of accepting her first role as executive assistant to Heinz Janzen, general secretary of the former General Conference Mennonite Church (GCMC).
During the next four decades, she served as personal assistant to several general secretaries of GCMC and executive directors of MC USA, including Jim Schrag and Ervin Stutzman, handling correspondence, meeting logistics and travel arrangements. She also supported the Ministerial Leadership Services office of the GCMC from 1978-2001. Prior to the installation of more automated phone systems, Buller even managed a team of five receptionists/telephone operators from the Newton, Kansas office, which serviced one toll-free number for all churchwide agency staff.
“It was my pleasure and good fortune to have Shelley Buller as my executive assistant for my entire tenure as executive director,” said Ervin Stutzman, former executive director of MC USA. “Not only did she excel in all of the skills expected for such a role, but she also demonstrated a deep familiarity of church organization, the vital strength of Christian character, and a caring love for God’s people. Mennonite Church USA will forever be in her debt.”
Since the 2002 merger that formed MC USA, Buller has played a significant role in coordinating every meeting of the Executive Board, Delegate Assembly and Constituency Leaders Council and provided onsite support at every MennoCon convention.
In the past six years, Buller’s role shifted and expanded from that of a personal assistant to providing broader denominational support. In her current role, Buller serves as executive assistant to the Executive Board, the Delegate Assembly and the CLC, and assists Iris de León-Hartshorn, MC USA associate executive director of Operations, to support the Human Resources department and MC USA’s Leadership Discernment Committee.
Buller has been a strong constant in the denomination’s history, quietly working and serving as she brought order, organization and consistency amid constant change.
“I enjoyed serving in a supporting role behind the scenes, so that the work of the denominational leadership could be done more efficiently,” Buller said. “I have a desire to be of service to others and have always taken pride in getting the job done and getting it done well.”
“It has been my joy and privilege to work with Shelley these last several years,” said de León-Hartshorn. “Her expertise and deep institutional knowledge will be missed. Her love for the church is apparent in the way she does her work with such care to the details while also tending to the interpersonal part of work with the MC USA constituency.”
It is Buller’s love for the church and gift for building community that has provided her most enduring career legacy.
“Her empathy and caring touched countless lives. Shelley showed so much love for the people she encountered,” said Guyton.
“One of the biggest joys for me has been meeting new people who quickly became my friends. That’s 46 years’ worth of opportunity to make lifelong friends!” she said.
Buller is excited for the respite ahead, but it’s not likely she will be idle for long.
“I want to find opportunities to exercise my altruistic energy to do good in my community,” Buller said. “I’d like to spend more time outdoors hiking and biking, and I love spending time with my granddaughters,” she said with a smile.
Buller will be enjoying her retirement with her husband, Jon, and their three dogs. The Bullers are members of Tabor Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas.
Mennonite Church USA is an Anabaptist Christian denomination, founded in 2002 by the merger of the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church. Members of this historic peace church seek to follow Jesus by rejecting violence and resisting injustice. MC USA’s Renewed Commitments state the following shared commitments among its diverse body of believers: to follow Jesus, witness to God’s peace and experience the transformation of the Holy Spirit. Mennoniteusa.org
Written by Camille Dager.