The first mission board to be organized by North American Mennonites was established by members of the General Conference Mennonite Church in 1872. The Mennonite Brethren followed in 1878, Mennonite Church (MC) in 1882, and Brethren in Christ in 1895. Most groups formed these boards with a mandate to conduct missionary work both in North America and internationally. Since World War II several groups have reorganized the domestic and foreign programs under separate boards. The Mennonite Brethren look to their districts to administer domestic church extension.
North American Mennonite/Brethren in Christ Mission Boards
Wilbert Shenk, compiler and author
|*Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission||Elkhart, IN||1911||5||80|
|#*Brethren in Christ Missions||Mount Joy, PA/ Stevensville, ON||1895||8||38|
|Church of God in Christ, Mennonite||Moundridge, KS||1933||10||152|
|Evangelical Mennonite Brethren||Omaha, Nebraska||1936||28||87|
|*Evangelical Mennonite Church, Commission on Overseas Missions||Fort Wayne, IN||1943||5||20|
|*Evangelical Mennonite Conference Board of Missions||Steinbach, MB||1953||4||95|
|*Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference||Winnipeg, MB||1939||4||19|
|General Conference Mennonite Church||Newton, KS||1872|
|*Commission on Overseas Mission||15||162|
|#Commission on Home Ministries|
|#*Mennonite Brethren Board of Missions and Services||Hillsboro, KS/ Winnipeg, MB||1878||23||149|
#*Conservative Mennonite Board of Mission and Charities/
Rosedale Mennonite Missions
|#*Eastern Mennonite Missions||Salunga, PA||1914||21||132|
|#*Franconia Mennonite Conference Mission Commission||Souderton, PA||1917||1||6|
|Franklin Mennonite Conference||Chambersburg, PA||1||12|
|#*Mennonite Board of Missions||Elkhart, IN||1882||26||130|
|Mennonite Mission Board of Pacific Coast Conference||Salem, OR||1906||1||2|
|Virginia Mennonite Board of Missions||Harrisonburg, VA||1919||3||8|
|# *Mennonite Central Committee||Akron, PA||1920||48||527|
|Other Mennonite Bodies:|
|Bible Mennonite Fellowship Missions Committee||Albany, OR||1|
|Caribbean Light and Truth||Keats, Iowa||1976||1||2|
|Conservative Mennonite Fellowship||Logan, Ohio||1964||1||11|
|Mission Board, Inc./Guatemala|
|Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church/||Lititz, PA||1968||2|
|Mennonite Messianic Mission Board|
|Fellowship Churches Mission Programs:|
|Open Door Ministries (Mexico)||West Liberty, KY|
|West Indies Witness (Dominican Republic)||Farmington, NM|
|Conservative Mennonite New Life Endeavor (India)||Hensall, ON|
|Philippine Witness (Philippine Islands)||Tilley, AB|
|Light of Life Mission (Nigeria)||Columbiana, Ohio|
|Mennonite Air Missions Board||Guatemala||1972||1||7|
|Mid-Atlantic Mennonite Fellowship Mission Board||Bethel, PA||1978|
|Northern Light Gospel Mission Conference||Red Lake, ON|
|Southeastern Mennonite Conference Mission Board||Dayton, VA||1972|
|Washington-Franklin Mennonite Conference Home Missions Committee||Greencastle, PA|
|Home Missions Committee|
|Mission Interests Committee of Beachy Amish Church||Christiana, PA||1953||4|
|*Denotes members of Council of International Ministries.|
|#Denotes members of Inter-Mennonite Horne Ministries Council.|
Lack of a clear or uniform polity among Mennonites is reflected in the way mission agencies have been formed. Since most groups did not have strong denominational organizations prior to 1945, the mission health and welfare, and educational programs enjoyed considerable autonomy. The Mennonite Church (MC) developed mission structures at the district conference level. Each district mission board, in turn, appointed members to the Mennonite Board of Missions. After the early 1930s several of these district conferences, most notably Lancaster Mennonite Conference, developed substantial programs, including international projects. Since the 1950s a number of new agencies have been formed by groups which either were never formally a part of a Mennonite conference or deliberately separated themselves from such a body.
The Evangelical Mennonite Brethren (since 1987 known as the Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches) have never created their own mission program overseas. Rather they pursued the policy of recruiting workers and providing support to various interdenominational and faith missions. The Mennonite Brethren Board of Missions and Services has given support to members of their constituency serving with interdenominational agencies while administering Mennonite Brethren mission program as well.
The Northern Light Gospel Mission was founded by Irvin Schantz in Minnesota in the late 1930s and then relocated to Red Lake, ON, about 1953. Schantz raised his support from interested individuals and congregations. In 1965 the churches of the Red Lake region were organized into an independent conference (Northern Light Gospel Mission Conference) without ties to other church bodies or agencies.
Early in the 20th century mission interest among Mennonites had the effect of fostering inter-Mennonite cooperation. Such cooperation was generally focused on a specific mission and did not lead to a union movement in North America. Thus the China Mennonite Mission Society was formed out of initiatives by the Bartel family, Krimmer Mennonite Brethren, Mennonite Brethren, Evangelical Mennonite Brethren, and Missionary Church Association. The Evangelical Mennonite Brethren supported a couple for service in India in association with the Mennonite Church (MC) in 1907. This arrangement lasted several years only. The most enduring cooperative effort has been the Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, formerly the Congo Inland Mission, founded in 1911. Six Mennonite groups were participating in AIMM in 1987.
Formation of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in 1920 as a cooperative relief effort, eventually involving all Mennonite and Brethren in Christ groups, has become the major united effort. MCC has had a variety of programmatic relationships with the constituent mission agencies. In 1958 the Council of Mission Board Secretaries, known since 1976 as the Council of International Ministries (CIM), was formed as a vehicle for better coordination between MCC and the mission agencies. CIM meets semiannually. CIM has been a means of contact and consultation with the Europäische Mennonitische Evangelisationskomitee (EMEK; European Mennonite Mission Committee).
The Inter-Mennonite Home Ministries Council was organized in 1968. It meets annually as as forum for exchange between administrators of mission and service programs in Canada and the United States. Some Mennonite mission agencies publish mission magazines to promote their work: Missionary messenger (Eastern Mennonite Missions [MC]), AIMM Messenger (Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission), and Therefore (Brethren in Christ Missions). Others rely on their denominational periodicals or women's missionary association magazines to promote their work.
Barrett, Lois. The Vision and the Reality: the Story of Home Missions in the General Conference Mennonite Church. Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 1983.
Juhnke, James C. A People of Mission: a History of General Conference Mennonite Overseas Mission. Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 1979.
Loewen, Melvin J. Threescore: The Story of an Emerging Mennonite Church in Central Africa. Elkhart, IN: Congo Inland Mission, 1972.
Schlabach, Theron F. Gospel Versus Gospel. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1979.
Shenk, Wilbert R. in Mennonite World Handbook (1978): 20-31.
Shenk, Wilbert R. An Experiment in Interagency Cooperation. Elkhart, IN: Council of International Ministries, 1986.
Toews, J. B. The Mennonite Brethren Church in Zaire. Fresno, CA: MB Board of Christian Literature, 1978.
Toews, J. J. The Mennonite Brethren Mission in Latin America. Winnipeg: MB Board of Christian Literature, 1975.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 592-594. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
MLA style: Shenk, Wilbert R. "Mission Boards." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 19 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M576ME.html.
APA style: Shenk, Wilbert R. (1989). Mission Boards. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M576ME.html.