By Walt Wiltschek
HESSTON, Kansas (Mennonite Church USA) — Joy Sutter, a hospital administrator and current member of the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board, has been called as the nominee for moderator-elect of the church beginning in 2017. Her nomination was approved by the Executive Board and affirmed at the Constituency Leaders Council meeting held Oct. 17-19.
Sharon Waltner of Parker, South Dakota, chair of the board’s Leadership Discernment Committee, says Sutter brings a number of important qualities to the role.
“We felt she was spiritually well grounded and very well-seasoned,” Waltner says. “It became clear to the committee as we talked with her that spiritual growth and depth is central to who she is. She has also demonstrated strong leadership gifts in the church and within the field of health care. As an administrator, she deals with some difficult things.”
In addition, Waltner says, she has found Sutter to be an exceptional listener – an especially important gift as the church faces “turbulent times.”
“She listens well to hear all sides of difficult issues within the church,” Waltner says. “Her gift of listening communicates respect and dignity for all, whether it’s in Mennonite Church USA or her conference or wherever she happens to be. This gift helps to build consensus and helps move Mennonite Church USA to be the church Christ calls us to be.”
Sutter, who lives in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, says she spent about three weeks in “soul searching” before accepting the call.
“I went through a very deliberate discernment process with key people in my life, including my local church, Salford Mennonite, my family and friends, former and current Mennonite Church USA moderators and the moderator-elect. I reached out to a number of individuals to hear their discernment and feedback to help me process. I have really good people in my life.”
That discernment included her supervisors and colleagues at the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, where she serves as Associate Administrator of the Cancer Service Line.
“I had to determine if my position would even allow this to be feasible,” Sutter said. “But having received support in many different levels of my life, personal and professional, I came to the conclusion that this call was something I could accept. It was a call from the church and a call from God.”
In addition to her demanding health care career and churchwide service, Sutter is currently chairing the search committee for the new executive minister of Franconia Mennonite Conference and serves on the church board at Salford Mennonite and on the Committee on Trustees at Dock Mennonite Academy. When she does have free time, Sutter says she enjoys exercising, reading, traveling, playing piano and enjoying other forms of music.
Originally from Metamora, Illinois, where her family owned a grocery store, she went to Goshen College (Indiana) to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, then spent the next 25 years in Iowa City, Iowa. She earned master’s degrees in counseling, social work and business at the University of Iowa while working in health care, and found an important faith community at the city’s First Mennonite Church.
“First Mennonite was very important in my faith formation and leadership development as a young adult,” she says. “They gave me the opportunity to start doing church leadership at a very young age. The church was extremely important in guiding me and offering me the opportunity to test leadership in a congregational setting.”
She left Iowa to work at a continuing care retirement community in the Lansdale, Pennsylvania, area before moving to Penn Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania a few years later.
If her nomination is affirmed by delegates at the 2017 Mennonite Church USA Convention in Orlando, Florida, Sutter will serve two years as moderator-elect and then two years as moderator and chair of the Executive Board, presiding over the 2021 Mennonite Church USA Convention. Patricia Shelly of Newton, Kansas, is serving as the current moderator and David Boshart of Wellman, Iowa, as moderator-elect through the Orlando meeting. Boshart will serve as moderator for the 2017-2019 biennium.
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Photos available: JoySutter1.jpg