MCC installs interim MCC executive director, approves $1 million water development

Akron, Pa. – At mid-January meetings here, the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) executive committee recognized the formal passing of the leadership baton from the acting MCC executive director, Lowell Detweiler, to interim director, Bert Lobe.

The committee also heard about an increase in MCC donations, approved international program initiatives, including a $1 million water project for Palestine, proposed delegation to Iran and participated in a review of events surrounding the Oct. resignation of the former executive director.

“Thanks to a wonderful network of staff and service workers here in North America and around the world, the mission of MCC to demonstrate God’s love continues,” acting director Lowell Detweiler told the group.

“I look forward to the year and am honored by your trust,” Lobe said to the executive committee.  “The weight of the mantle feels heavy.  At moments I am afraid, but I am assured by the strength of this circle and will need your help and your prayers. Let us move ahead.”

Lobe will act as interim director for one year beginning Jan. 8.  He has previously served with MCC in India, as Asia program director, director of the China Educational Exchange and most recently in Bangladesh.

Executive committee members asked Lobe to focus on changes in MCC governance and keep the momentum of current MCC program moving forward while they begin the process of hiring a long-term executive director.

During the meeting the executive committee was told by MCC staff that donations from supporters in Canada and the U.S. exceeded the 2006 budget by nearly 8 percent, including more than $1 million received in Canada through a joint MCC and Ten Thousand Villages Living Gifts campaign during the holiday season.

“We are so grateful for the gifts MCC continues to receive from supporters and for all of the volunteers in thrift shops, relief sales and all the other activities around MCC,” said Dave Worth, director of resource generation.

Palestine Water Project
International program staff said the Palestine water project addresses wastewater problems in rural areas around Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank.  MCC is working with the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem to implement the effort.

According to MCC staff, of 450 villages in the West Bank only 53 have adequate wastewater collection facilities. The result has been environmental and health problems for those without adequate facilities.

The water project will allow 180 homeowners in 18 villages to treat and reuse wastewater in agricultural production.  The 42-month project will benefit around 1,800 people.

Iran visit
In other reports, the executive committee heard of plans by staff to continue planning a religious leaders visit to Iran as a follow-up to a September, 2006 MCC-sponsored meeting in New York City with Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The upcoming visit, which is being jointly sponsored by MCC and the American Friends Service Committee, will include leaders from a variety of U.S.-based church denominations, including Mennonite, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and evangelical churches.  The group expects to travel to Iran in February or March.

The purpose of the visit is to discuss with Iranian religious leaders ways relations between Iran and the U.S. can be improved and conflict can be averted.

New models for governance
During the day and a half before the MCC executive committee met, a number of MCC staff, executive directors and board members from the 12 MCC organizations met to review the impact of the October resignation and explore new models for how MCC should be governed in the future.

The group acknowledged contributions the former executive director, Robb Davis, made during his tenure and committed to build on them.

“The executive committee has taken ownership of the difficulties in which the former director worked,”  said Ron Dueck, MCC executive committee chairperson.  “These specifically related to the lack of clarity of mandate, insufficient monitoring of stress levels and insufficient direction on board-staff roles and decision making.”

During an executive session the members of the executive committee worked with Lobe and senior staff spelling out detailed expectations for Lobe’s job during the next year. A priority will be the work of a governance transition team that was mandated in 2006 to work with various MCC boards and church denominations in changing the MCC governance structure.

Currently MCC is made up of 12 separate entities in Canada and the United States, each with separate boards, although only nine of them are separately incorporated.  The 12 MCC groups include MCC (which conducts most of the international program), MCC Canada, MCC U.S., five provincial MCC offices in Canada and four regional MCC offices in the U.S.