Big swing falls short

Merger plan fails, but publishers’ dreams live

Dec 3, 2018 by

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When you swing for the fences, you don’t have to knock one out of the park to help the team win. Mennonite World Review Inc. and The Mennonite Inc. got a runner on base.

In the end, things didn’t work out within the Mennonite Church USA system, and a merger of MWR Inc. and TMI is not to be.

An opportunity has been missed, but the attempt was not in vain. Promising ideas for working together are emerging.

The relationship between MWR Inc. and TMI has been strengthened. We’ve agreed that collaboration is necessary for long-term sustainability, although, unexpectedly, a merger  is not advisable currently. As negotiations by TMI with the MC USA Executive Board took unforeseen turns, the TMI board decided to withdraw from the explora­tion, and we believe this was right.

Until a few weeks ago, we were confident of the plan’s success. Many readers expressed support. We built our annual fund­raising campaign on a request to help a new organization get off to a good start. While the letter’s assumption turned out to be wrong, its request for financial support now is more urgent than if our prediction had been right.

One benefit of a merger would have been a consolidation of resources in a unified journalistic ministry. Members of MC USA would have had one publication to support with subscriptions, advertising and contributions. Now, all of these resources will continue to be divided between two publications whose missions and constituencies overlap significantly. (Thus far, 76 percent of respondents to the MWR fund appeal survey belong to MC USA.) Two of these income sources, subscriptions and advertising, have been shrinking for years, magnifying the importance of donations.

Response to the annual campaign has been excellent, giving us a chance to top last year’s record total of $56,180. If you haven’t given yet, please consider doing so at mennoworld.org/donate or by mail to MWR, PO Box 568, Newton, KS 67114. We encourage MC USA members also to support The Mennonite’s fall campaign. We hope Anabaptists of all affiliations will support their own denominational magazines and MWR.

The merger exploration, which was MWR’s idea, spurred us to dream big. We envisioned a more adequately funded, more widely influential Anabaptist flagship publication, with thousands more readers in print and online than either entity currently has on its own. Rejecting the trends of a publishing industry in decline, we would look toward a brighter future rather than one in which we would struggle to survive in diminished form, as many newspapers and magazines already are doing.

The dream of a vibrant future for independent journalism serving all Mennonites and Anabaptists will live without a merger. We need your support to make it happen. Besides giving to MWR’s annual fund appeal, you can help us build circulation by giving gift subscriptions. Our half-price discount runs through the end of the year.

Determined not to lose the aspirational spirit of the merger exploration, we’ve placed a symbol of this resolve on the front page. Under the MWR name you’ll see a new motto: “Global Anabaptism today.” This was MWR’s idea for the subtitle of a merged publication (our idea for the name was Mennonite World). This motto feels even more ambitious than the former one, “Put­ting the Mennonite world together.” We can’t cover all of global Anabaptism in every issue, but over a span of a few months we can present a pretty broad picture.

Like the new motto, we’ve been holding onto a historical quote to share when the time was right. This isn’t the moment we had expected, but here it is, from an editorial by Maynard Shelly in the March 19, 1969, edition of The Mennonite:

Dare we speculate about the future of the Mennonite Weekly Review [MWR’s name at that time] or any of our Mennonite publications? This seems to be a good opportunity to take a chance. The world and the church are in a period of ferment. The forms and expressions of the church’s witness are being tested as never before. We believe that God will prevail, though we know that not all of our human institutions will survive. Church publications are being tested, and other forms may replace us. At a minimum, one hopes that some of our separate Mennonite publications will be united in the not too distant future, and we would be happy to have the Mennonite Weekly Review share in that reunion, because it has gone on before us.

Shelly’s words are as true today as then. We thought they might also be prophetic, and one day they still might be.


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