Mennonite Board of Missions (Mennonite Church)

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The Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (Mennonite Board of Missions after 1971), Elkhart, Indiana, was the general mission board of the Mennonite Church (MC), consisting of elected directors representing all district conferences eligible for affiliation with the Mennonite Church General Conference, two representatives each of the Mennonite Publication Board and the Mennonite Board of Education, four members elected by the General Conference, eight members at large, and officers and administrative secretaries members ex-officio. The Board met annually in June in some major Mennonite community to review and act on the missions, relief and service, and institutional program for which it was responsible. The stated purposes of the organization were (1) to systematize and extend evangelistic work; (2) to establish and support home and foreign missions, (3) to care and provide for orphans, the aged, the needy, and the afflicted; (4) to carry on relief and service work; and (5) to receive and manage all properties and funds for the above purposes.

The MBMC stemed from the Mennonite Evangelizing Committee, Elkhart, organized by the local Mennonite church in 1882 to collect and disburse funds for the purpose of defraying the expenses of ministers traveling to visit scattered members and churches. In 1892 the name was changed to the Mennonite Evangelizing Board of America with membership from other district conferences and in 1896 to the Mennonite Evangelizing and Benevolent Board to include charitable work in its functions. In 1899 the Mennonite Board of Charitable Homes was organized and incorporated in Wayne County, Ohio, to operate a children's home and an old people's home. Four years later that name was changed to the Mennonite Board of Charitable Homes and Missions. A merger of these two boards was effected in 1906 and the name of Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities selected.

Leaders responsible for the early developments of the Mennonite Evangelizing Committee included J. F. Funk, J. S. Coffman, C. K. Hostetler, A. B. Kolb, and Joseph Summers. G. L. Bender served the Mennonite Evangelizing Board of America and the Mennonite Evangelizing and Benevolent Board as both secretary and treasurer and then became the first treasurer of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities in 1906, serving in that capacity until 1921. Leaders who served the Mennonite Board of Charitable Homes and Missions and continued as leaders of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities included M. S. Steiner, president 1906-1911; C. Z. Yoder, vice-president 1906-1911, president 1911-1920; and D. S. Yoder, fifth member on the Executive Committee 1906-1918. From 1920 to 1971 four men served as president: D. D. Miller 1920-1936, J. N. Kaufman 1936-1944, S. C. Yoder 1944-1949, and John H. Mosemann 1949-1971. Three men served as secretary of the Board from 1906 to 1967: J. S. Shoemaker 1906-21, S. C. Yoder 1921-44, and J. D. Graber 1944-1967. Vice-presidents of the Board after 1911 included D. D. Miller 1911-1916, D. G. Lapp 1916-1927, Levi Mumaw 1927-1935, Edwin J. Yoder 1935-1948, J. B. Martin 1948- . The following treasurers have served since 1921: V. E. Reiff 1921-1934, D. D. Miller 1934-1939, E. C. Bender 1939-51, and H. Ernest Bennett 1951- . S. E. Allgyer was a member of the Missions Committee of the Board 1914-1937, serving much of that time as field worker. Another person constantly associated with the committees of the MBMC for the first three decades was Daniel Kauffman. In 1948 the secretaryship for Relief and Service was established. Those serving in this secretaryship include Levi C. Hartzler 1949-1953 and Boyd Nelson 1953- . A secretaryship for publicity and church relations was established in 1953 with Levi C. Hartzler appointed to serve. In 1955 Nelson E. Kauffman was appointed to serve as the first secretary for home missions and evangelism, on a part-time basis, and Henry Weaver, Jr., as first secretary for radio evangelism. A secretaryship for personnel was established in 1956 and Dorsa J. Mishler appointed first secretary.

Foreign Missions

The Mennonite Evangelizing and Benevolent Board began mission work in India in 1899. Further development of the foreign mission program under the MBMC follows: Central Argentina 1917; Bihar, India, 1940; Chaco, Argentina, 1943; Puerto Rico 1945; China 1948-1951; Japan 1949; Belgium 1950; Sicily 1950 (administered by the Virginia Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities); Alaska 1952; England 1952; France 1953; Israel 1953; Uruguay 1954; Brazil 1954; and Cuba 1954 (administered by the Franconia Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities); Ghana, W. Africa, 1956; and Jamaica 1956 (administered by the Virginia Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities). In July 1952 the American Mennonite Mission in India was amalgamated with the India Mennonite Church to form the Mennonite Church in India, an indigenous organization served by the missionaries and funds sent from American churches through MBMC. The trend toward the indigenous church continued on most of die mission fields under the Board.

Home Missions

The MBMC encouraged local congregations and district conferences to develop home missions. The Board did operate home missions when requested by local congregations or district boards and/or when the project could develop best as a church-wide mission. City missions prior to 1957 under the MBMC with date of founding included the following: Mennonite Home Mission, Chicago, 1893; Ft. Wayne, Indiana, 1903-1953; Canton, Ohio, 1904; Kansas City, Kansas, 1905-1946; Toronto, Ontario, 1907; Lima, Ohio, 1910; Peoria, Illinois, 1919; Detroit, Michigan, 1926; Spanish Church, Chicago, 1932; Mathis, Texas, 1936; La Junta, Colorado (Spanish), 1940; Denver, Colorado, 1941-1954; Bethel Church, Chicago, 1944; Kansas City, Missouri, USA)., 1946; Ninth St., Saginaw, Michigan, 1950; Cleveland, Ohio, 1951; East Side, Saginaw, 1954; Hope Rescue Mission, South Bend, Indiana, 1954; Mennonite House of Friendship, Bronx, New York, 1956; St. Louis, Missouri, USA), 1956; Corpus Christi, Texas (Spanish), 1956; and Defiance, Ohio (Spanish), 1957. Rural missions under the MBMC included Culp, Arkansas, 1935; Camp Rehoboth, St. Anne, Illinois, 1953; Black Mt. Mission, Ganado, Arizona, 1954.

Charitable Institutions

In keeping with its purposes, the MBMC continued and enlarged the institutional program begun by the Mennonite Board of Charitable Homes and Missions: West Liberty (Ohio) Orphans' Home 1896; Rittman (Ohio) Old People's Home 1901. In 1917 another children's home was established in Kansas City, KS, and in 1950 the Mennonite Youth Village, White Pigeon, MI, a summer camp program, was launched. Three more homes for the aged—Eureka, IL, 1922, Froh Bros. Homestead, Sturgis, MI, 1952, Sunset Home, Geneva, NE, 1955—and a home for retired church workers, Rockome, Areola, IL, 1952, were added to the institutions serving the aged. In 1907 a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients was established near La Junta, CO (closed 1956); and the La Junta city hospital was taken over in 1919 forming the Mennonite Hospital and Sanitarium. After 1915 the La Junta Mennonite School of Nursing was affiliated with the Mennonite Hospital and Sanitarium. In the 1950s the MBMC contracted to operate four community hospitals: Lebanon, Oregon, 1950; Greensburg, Kansas, 1950; Rocky Ford, Colorado, 1954; Glenwood Springs, Colorado, 1955.

Relief and Service

After 1926 when the Mennonite Relief Commission for War Sufferers, founded in 1917, dissolved to become the Mennonite Relief Committee of the General Mission Board, the relief and service program was administered through that committee. Foreign relief work, refugee aid, and mental health work were carried on through the Mennonite Central Committee, the all-Mennonite relief agency. In 1944 MRC organized a voluntary service program. In 1948 a secretary for relief and service was appointed by the MBMC to serve as secretary of MRC. After 1952 the U.S. military draft program greatly increased the work of MRSC (the name of the committee was changed in the 1953 revised MBMC constitution) in the areas of service to conscientious objectors and in the voluntary service program. Six full-time administrators and four secretaries comprise thed MRSC office staff in 1957.

Radio Evangelism

The Board at its 1953 annual meeting set up an administrative committee for radio evangelism and entered into an agreement with Mennonite Crusaders, Inc., Harrisonburg, VA, to make The Mennonite Hour, established in 1951, the official Mennonite (MC) broadcast. In 1955 a secretary for radio evangelism was appointed to serve as executive secretary for the radio evangelism committee. A building was purchased in Harrisonburg by the MBMC and dedicated as the radio headquarters on 11 January 1956. Also in 1956, Mennonite Crusaders, Inc., dissolved and Mennonite Broadcasts, Inc., became responsible for the following broadcasts: The Mennonite Hour (English), Luz y Verdad (Spanish), Menonaito Awa (Japanese), and the Navaho Bible Hour; it also had an affiliate relationship with Heart to Heart, a women's broadcast. Programs in French, German, and Hindi were now in the planning stages. In addition radio Bible correspondence courses were being administered in English, Spanish, and Japanese.


Total contributions the first year (1882) to the Mennonite Evangelizing Committee reached $27.36. Contributions in 1892 totaled $959.31. The 1897 treasurer's report showed designated contributions for foreign missions for the first time: $153.05. Contributions during the first year of the MBMC, 1906-1907, totaled $42,564.69. By 1930 annual contributions reached $175,598.40 but dropped back to $128,672.87 in 1940. Due to the foreign relief and Civilian Public Service programs during World War II annual contributions reached $914,102.55 in 1946. They dropped back to $561,838.41 in 1950, but then increased gradually. The 1954-55 figure reached $1,011,006.54. Property and cash assets of the MBMC as of 31 March 1955, were $1,950,000.

In February 2002, after the restructuring of Mennonite Church, the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Conference of Mennonites in Canada into Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, the Mennonite Board of Missions was superseded by the Mennonite Mission Network of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada Witness.

Author(s) Levi C Hartzler
Date Published 1957

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hartzler, Levi C. "Mennonite Board of Missions (Mennonite Church)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 6 Jul 2022.

APA style

Hartzler, Levi C. (1957). Mennonite Board of Missions (Mennonite Church). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 6 July 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 592-594. All rights reserved.

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