By Gordon Houser
Everett J. Thomas submitted his resignation Aug. 1 as editor of The Mennonite and CEO of The Mennonite, Inc. He began serving as editor on Nov. 1, 2000. Thomas will begin working in February 2014 as president of the Greencroft Communities Foundation, headquartered in Goshen, Ind.
The foundation serves six facilities in the Greencroft Communities system in Ohio and Indiana. The position also includes some chaplaincy and church relations work at Greencroft Goshen and Greencroft Middlebury (Ind.).
Thomas currently serves as the chair of the Greencroft Communities Foundation board and co-chaired the foundation’s recent capital campaign that raised $3 million for a new health-care facility at Greencroft Goshen, to be finished in 2014.
Mark King, president and CEO of Greencroft Communities, in an Aug. 8 interview noted Thomas’ “strong passion for serving some of the poorest residents on [Greencroft’s] campus.” King said that 40 percent of the residents and one-third of those in independent housing live below the federal poverty line. Thomas, he said, is also “personable, caring, friendly and relates well with aging residents as they work at that transition in their lives.”
During Thomas’ tenure as editor, says Barth Hague, board chair for The Mennonite, Inc., “The Mennonite has grown from a print magazine to a content distribution system for Mennonite Church USA. Through web-based technologies, our readership has continued to grow over the past decade.”
Since 2000, The Mennonite has moved from being printed by Mennonite Publishing House in Scottdale, Pa., to its base first in Goshen, Ind., and now in Elkhart, Ind. Besides publishing The Mennonite, The Mennonite, Inc., publishes two e-zines, TMail and Meno Acontecer, and maintains a website and Facebook page. Readership for the various media has grown to more than 37,000.
Hague says that Thomas “leaves the organization in good fiscal and operational health, for which the board of directors is deeply grateful.”
Susan Sommer, who served 10 years as a board member and the last seven years as board chair, notes the many changes in the church during Thomas’ tenure.
“[The magazine’s staff] watched and reported while the goal of one denomination for two nations became two national denominations. [They] watched and reported through structural changes, through leadership changes, through identity changes.”
She uses nautical images, something dear to Thomas, who enjoys sailing, to describe how she’s enjoyed working with him “while we navigated the changes: some foreseen, many not; some smooth sailing, much not—but all in all, an exciting ride.”
Bylaws for The Mennonite, Inc., stipulate that when resigning, the editor must give the board six months’ notice.
“This opportunity from Greencroft came as something of a surprise to me,” says Thomas. “Until I learned of this possibility, I was planning to work here until retirement in 2016. I consider the role of editor to be a sacred trust and did not make the decision lightly. But leading the Foundation will let me work at something about which I am also passionate.”
Greencroft Communities is a member of Mennonite Health Services Alliance, now an agency of Mennonite Church USA. King said Thomas will be helpful to Greencroft Communities as they seek to “relate well to the broader church and be good stewards as they grow and develop.”
Greencroft, he said, “develops a vibrant life for seniors,” who come there “not to retire but to live and continue serving others as active participants in the community.”
Last year, he said, residents gave 40,000 hours in volunteer work.
The transition to a new editor will be coordinated by the board of The Mennonite, Inc., and the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA, which must approve the selection of Thomas’ successor. Marty Lehman, associate executive director of churchwide operations for Mennonite Church USA, is the liaison between the Executive Board and the board for The Mennonite, Inc.
Thomas came to The Mennonite after serving for 11 years as president of the Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries, an agency of the former Mennonite Church that is no longer in existence. From 1972 to 1989, he served first as an English teacher and then administrator at Bethany Christian High School in Goshen.
Thomas graduated from Goshen College in 1972 with a B.A in English and from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in 1998 with an M.Div. degree.
Since 1992, Thomas has served on the Goshen City Council, representing the district in which Greencroft Goshen, Goshen College and Bethany Christian Schools are located.
Thomas and Barbara, his wife, have two adult children and one grandchild. They are members of College Mennonite Church in Goshen.
—Gordon Houser is an associate editor with The Mennonite. His office is located in the Mennonite Church USA office building in Newton, Kan.