Mennonite Relief and Service Committee (Mennonite Church)

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In 1926, after more than eight years of service, the Mennonite Relief Commission for War Sufferers came to an end as a separate organization and its functions were assumed by a committee of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities of Elkhart, Indiana. The new committee was known as the Mennonite Relief Committee, later renamed the Mennonite Relief and Service Committee. The Mennonite Relief Committee (MRC) and the Mennonite Relief and Service Committee (MRSC) maintained a policy of supporting the work of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), and in addition of maintaining relief and service projects under their own administration.

During 1937-1940 the Mennonite Relief Commission administered a relief program in Spain. Six workers were sent to the field and a total of $57,000 was contributed to the work by the Mennonite churches, besides a small amount of support by the Mennonites of the Netherlands. In addition, the MRC workers distributed large quantities of food contributed through the International Commission for the Assistance of Child Refugees to Spain.

From the beginning of the relief projects associated with World War II the Mennonite Relief Commission served the Mennonite Church (MC) constituency in supporting the MCC program with funds and personnel. During 1937-1948 a total of 572 Mennonite relief workers were in the field, of whom 282 (49 per cent) were from the MRC constituency. In September 1945 the MRC opened a relief work under its own administration in Ethiopia. After the Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities established its mission in Ethiopia in 1949 the relief project in that country was taken over by the Eastern Board. In 1944 an Mennonite Relief Commission unit of relief workers was working in India under general Mennonite Central Committee administration and in 1946 a unit was working under similar arrangements in China. In 1946-1948 an MRC unit was operated in Belgium, and 1947-1949 one was operating in Poland. On 1 January 1950 the MRC took over from the MCC administration of the La Plata, Puerto Rico, project and has administered it after that date.

One of the wartime functions of the MRC was the raising of funds for the support of the Mennonite Church (MC) share of the Civilian Public Service (CPS) program. During much of the time the quota for this service was fifty cents per member per month, which amount the MRC collected and paid to the Mennonite Central Committee. Beginning March 1944 the MRC also administered for its constituency a CPS dependency support fund which continued for three years. During this period allowances of more than $130,000 were paid to CPS dependents. This did not include dependents from the Lancaster, Franconia, Virginia, Washington County (Maryland) and Franklin County (Pennsylvania) conferences, nor from the congregations of Fulton County, Ohio, which administered their own CPS dependency programs.

The MRC also administered a fund to provide tuition grants-in-aid for ex-CPS men studying in Mennonite colleges. This fund consisted of the surplus remaining in the CPS and the CPS dependency funds at the close of CPS, in addition to continued contributions from die churches as needed. During 1946-1950 a total of 240 students at Goshen, Hesston, and Eastern Mennonite Colleges received grants-in-aid in payment up to a maximum of 27 months each. Total grants received by these men amounted to nearly $80,000, of which nearly $66,000 was paid by the MRC.

In 1943 the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities authorized the administration of a voluntary service program by the MRC. The first such service unit was of eight weeks' duration in the summer of 1944, with an enrollment of five workers, including the leader. In the four successive summers of 1945-1948, the number of units with the number of workers was as follows: three with 15 workers, seven with 30 workers, 13 with 56 workers, and 16 units with 77 workers. In 1948 L. C. Hartzler was appointed the first full-time secretary of the committee with the title Secretary for Relief and Service. From this time the voluntary service program of the MRC experienced a steady growth, with long-term units in addition to the short-term summer units. In 1953 the MRC was renamed the Mennonite Relief and Service Committee. In 1953 Boyd Nelson succeeded Hartzler as Secretary for Relief and Service.

When the Selective Service System resumed the conscription of conscientious objectors in 1952 the MRSC established a I-W counseling service with responsibility for all I-W men in the MRSC constituency. Beginning with age 16 a register was kept of all prospective I-W men. These men received regular mailings of literature giving information regarding the services of the church to conscripted men. Financial support of I-W men in Pax and voluntary service units is the responsibility of the MRSC. A number of I-W centers and units are also administered under the direction of the I-W counseling service of the MRSC.

During the fiscal year 1956-57 the MRSC consisted of six appointed members, and the three chief officers of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities ex officio. The administrative staff consisted of Boyd Nelson, secretary for Relief and Service; Ray Horst, director of Voluntary Service; and Victor Esch, I-W Services counselor. During 1956-57 thirteen I-W units were under MRSC direction. The MRSC reported 27 short-term service units for the summer of 1956 with an enrollment of 22 men and 63 women. On 1 December 1956, 25 long-term voluntary service units were in operation under MRSC administration with an enrollment of 167 persons, many of them being I-W men.

Author(s) Guy F Hershberger
Date Published 1957

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hershberger, Guy F. "Mennonite Relief and Service Committee (Mennonite Church)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 9 Aug 2022.

APA style

Hershberger, Guy F. (1957). Mennonite Relief and Service Committee (Mennonite Church). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 9 August 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 635-636. All rights reserved.

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