The Last Word


Fourteen people have occupied the editor’s chair at the MB Herald. Each person brought a unique perspective and a distinct voice to a particular time in the life of the magazine and the Canadian MB conference. Here, some reflect on the legacy of the magazine over its 58 years.

In the first issue of the Mennonite Brethren Herald, January 19, 1962, the Canadian MB moderator Jacob Quiring stated that this new church paper was a “silent messenger, charged to perform a great mission and to proclaim a glorious message.” Throughout the 18 months I was the Herald’s first editor (73 issues), I found these words powerfully challenging and encouraging.

I believe it was this work of making a 16–24 page “messenger” every week, received by more than 7,000 subscribers, which helped me discover a lifetime of writing.

It taught me the many exacting disciplines of words: of speaking, reading, writing, and also the enormous responsibility of publishing – of making words public.

To be invited to edit the Herald was a gift for which I profoundly grateful.

Now CCMBC has decided the Herald’s message is finished. I have been an MB member since my baptism in August 1950, and I want to accept this decision in good faith. Nevertheless, I remember The Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach (Apocrypha, Sirach 28:12):

“If you blow on a spark, it will glow;

if you spit on it, it will be put out;

and both come out of your mouth.”

May our church be blessed with the wisdom to recognize what we have done.

—Rudy Wiebe

was editor 1962–1963.

It was 1964. I was a newly married high school teacher when I was approached to become the second full-time editor of the Mennonite Brethren Herald. I took on a challenging task, editing a weekly 16-page magazine, alone, with all the details of content, layout, advertising, subscriptions, and more in my lap. If I had known better, I probably would have turned down the invitation. It involved sacrifices for Neoma and me. But I loved it – perhaps too much.

I viewed the Herald as standing between readers and would-be writers, who might come from anywhere in the church (leaders, yes, but many others too) and sometimes from writers without. We understood ourselves to be working within the confessional understanding of the church. We tried to tell the story of the church and its ministries as truthfully as we could.

We viewed ourselves as nurturing community across the country – informing, teaching, supporting, questioning.

Our advisors were engaged board members and an editorial committee. I felt trusted, though from time to time controversy surrounded us. We tried not to shield our readers from hard issues. Many entered the discussions.

In time, we became a fortnightly magazine and added more staff. I’m enormously grateful for the privilege given us to edit such a vehicle of communication. Am I a dreamer to hope it will be resurrected?

I can’t imagine how we can do without it.

—Harold Jantz
was editor 1964–1985.

I had no idea what it would take to produce 24 issues annually on a 10-day publishing cycle. But, working together, the MBH team survived.

The Mennonite Brethren church lay before us, coast to coast in Canada: the Quebec association came into being with Institut Biblique Laval and Le Lien; fledgling churches emerged in Lower Sackville, Halifax and Moncton.

The Mennonite Brethren church also connected us to the U.S. church where our seminary was located, and ultimately reached into the global MB family.

We lived and breathed the church: its growth and failures, good intentions and short comings. We published statements about our educational institutions and reported how our camps fared during the summer. We filled 32 pages every two weeks with church news, commentary on larger issues, family notices, and gave voice to emerging writers.

We travelled to conventions, provincial, national, and general; we received news from our church reporters about baptisms, births, deaths, and significant church events. In turn, we sent them an MBH coffee mug to reward their work. (I still have one 30 years later.)

We edited a lively letter column where people could freely comment on both MBH and the larger church.

We addressed the issues of the day: educational, aging, abuse, adoption, evangelism, the death penalty, depression and suicide, abortion, and even national unity.

Sometimes we were appropriately chided for our mistakes; other times we laughed together.

And in the end, we served the Creator and the MB church with all our strength and energy. I lament MBH’s ending.

—Herb Kopp
was editor 1985–1988.

I started my tenure with the MB Herald with some trepidation that I was to be the conference dart board.

But my experience was the exact opposite. The Herald became a delightful forum for the exchange of ideas. We didn’t always agree, but that was okay. We reflected the wholesome diversity of the MB conference, despite challenging debates (such as women in ministry, name change, and the demise of MBBC.)

Independence of the Herald was a key value that permitted the broad exchange of ideas that enriched us all.

Times change.

The internet facilitates the distribution of ideas, forums, and dialogue, providing access to more information than anyone can absorb while allowing us to dig deeper into our personal interests.

But its blessing is also its curse. Ease of access allows us to choose material that reinforces our biases and facilitates a mushrooming of social solitudes.

I am saddened, therefore, whenever print and traditional broadcast media succumb fully to digital media. Though not necessarily free of bias, traditional media force at least some exposure to a range of ideas. Without them, I fear the splintering of communities will be expedited.

I hope this will not characterize the Mennonite Brethren community.

—Ron Geddert
was editor from 1989–1994.

My wife Jackie and I joined our first MB church in 1980. When our daughter was born two years later, a lady in the congregation asked me for details. She was the “reporter” and wanted the information for the Births column in the Herald.

That was when I realized we were part of not just the local congregation but of a larger church family.

I had begun reading the Herald and found it full of interesting, helpful, and informative articles. Later, I was privileged to contribute to the ministry of the Herald and of the MB church for 19 years.

The MB Herald has been an important vehicle for conference leaders to communicate to the grassroots. Perhaps even more importantly, it was vehicle for members to communicate to the leaders and to each other. It played a significant role in helping Mennonite Brethren to be a family.

From my perspective, in recent years, as conference leaders have cut back the Herald more and more in order to fund “more important” ministries, they have become more and more disconnected from the grassroots, and the overall conference budget has shrunk as a result. RIP MBH.

—Jim Coggins

was editor 1995–2003.

The MB Herald has been in my life since my young adult years. It was heartening to read about additions to churches, the impact of our schools and camps. Negative news was cause for prayer. Many columnists challenged our thinking and helped us come to consensus. In Letters, anyone could express a concern or joy.

When these features were replaced with conference promotional articles, interest waned and readership dwindled.

With the Herald ceasing publication entirely, the bit of glue that held us together is gone. It is imperative that we strengthen the conference and retain its communication arm for the ongoing health of our churches.

—Susan Brandt
was editor 2003–2005.

During my decade as editor, I viewed the magazine as sacred space for the Mennonite Brethren family. When I was hired, I told the board I believed the editor’s role was similar to that of a pastor. For 10 years, I felt truly pastoral as our team shaped each issue, inviting a variety of writers, photographers, and theologians to share their gifts with the family.

And when the magazine finally went to press, the Herald became our denominational living room, our kitchen table. It was a place to converse, argue, lament, wonder, dream, celebrate. A place to nourish ourselves through word (and Word) and image and story. A place to encounter Jesus as he poured out his Spirit among those gathered – both in print and online. I celebrate the legacy of the MB Herald and bid it a sad farewell.

—Laura Kalmar
was editor 2005–2015.

Fifty-seven years ago, realizing that a rapidly assimilating community would not stay cohesive in German, Canadian Mennonite Brethren began an English periodical. At its best, the paper became a dynamic place in print to gather and talk, and yes, critique. It kept many of my generation and beyond it engaged in the church. We read, we agreed or disagreed, we cared. In its pages, we could “imagine” the depth and national width of us. The Herald was, issue by issue, the larger MB church. I’m deeply grateful for it and grieve its end. I’m not sure how in the world we’ll manage without it.

—Dora Dueck

was interim editor in 2009.

As a boy, I remember my heart quickening as I looked at pictures of baptisms in the MB Herald. In my teens and 20s, the Herald broadened my thinking; it was the place where I could listen in on a national conversation about Canadian Mennonite Brethren theology and experience.

As I sat in the editor’s chair in my 30s, I had the sense I was stewarding something that – despite all of its limitations – shaped the Canadian MB church more than any conference gathering, seminary, or mission agency.

The demise of MBH is part of a much larger work of dismantling the Mennonite Brethren house. For decades, Canadian MBs have been pushing out Anabaptist convictions and practices for a generic, American-style evangelicalism.

This process was accelerated in 2012 when our executive director and other leaders declared we needed to “lower the MB flag.” We now have a seminary that is starved, and a mission agency and national conference structure that are hobbled because we spent millions of dollars on a church planting initiative that injected an alien theology destructive to Anabaptism.

I’m now a 43-year-old pastor. Having witnessed the strangling of MBH, do I want to stick around to see more? And will there even be a Mennonite Brethren house worth calling home for my congregation and my children?

—J Janzen
was interim editor 2010–2011.

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Beverly Klassen January 3, 2020 - 11:50

I too am saddened by the demise of the MB Herald. I read it faithfully from my teenage years on. I gained a sense of kinship with our national MB identity and the authors, editors and writers of letters became familiar like friends. We were able to track past friends and acquaintances through the births, celebrations and death notices, find out about transitions in churches we’d attended, and be inspired by thoughtful and challenging articles written from a denominational viewpoint. I will miss this periodical and lament its passing.

helen rose Pauls January 3, 2020 - 13:57

J Janzen, thanks for being so forthright and truthful. I used to enjoy the MBHerald so much and contributed articles quite often. I felt almost heady, as if I was part of a huge like minded and loving family and that we deeply cared about each other. So much has changed and we’ve drifted apart. A sad demise indeed.

Brian Cooper January 3, 2020 - 14:10

The only thing more disheartening than the echoes of these comments is that no one seems interested enough to comment on them. I believe that the demise of the Herald is a sign of a deeper illness that has been eating away at the heart of the MB community for decades. My own time in the MB family (if we can still call it that) is fairly recent. I attended my first study conference in 2007 in Abbotsford. For me, the experience was exhilarating. The idea of gathering to study Scripture together was unlike anything I had experienced in a denominational gathering before (and I was not without experience in denominational gatherings).

Imagine my chagrin when I heard murmurings of discontent, dissatisfaction, and apathy from attendees, who felt that our interaction was a pale reflection of past study conferences. Worse, I sensed an emerging sentiment that study conferences were passé, not definite or decisive enough to be worth supporting. The idea of celebrating fruitful conversation was not enough to attract people as it once was.

I had a profound sense that many participants were looking longingly in the direction of the denomination style from which I had come, and I felt strongly that it was not a direction worth pursuing. I had been there and had seen what tended to happen, but people were intent on going there anyway. Gathering as a family was not a high value — of course, in hindsight I realize that what made MBs family was not always healthy or sustainable, but cultivation a dynamic family culture was not a high value either.

In contrast to those who lamented that venues like the Herald hosted conversations that were sometimes confusing or troubling, I note that family conversations are sometimes like that, of necessity. But now, where and when are we going to talk with one another at all? And does anyone even care?

Brian Cooper January 3, 2020 - 16:13

BTW, when I began my comment there were none yet posted. I had to step away from my computer and saw the two earlier comments only when I had posted mine. Beverley and Helen, thank you for your words.

James January 3, 2020 - 21:24

Brian’s comment above, “I believe that the demise of the Herald is a sign of a deeper illness that has been eating away at the heart of the MB community for decades.” tells the story of this tragic end.
The story doesn’t have to be over, but without extraodinary intervention it will be a sad and strangling demise.
And, btw, I see little hope in change, of the deep core, in the current trajectory.

Kelly Rempel January 4, 2020 - 09:32

I too, read the MB Herald…it was my teenage goal to one day be published there. Alas, that did not happen, but a hand-written note from Jim Coggins encouraged me greatly. My journalistic career eventually led me to work at ChristianWeek, where I came to know Harold Jantz and other fine writers and editors associated with the Herald. After bearing witness to the end of the print edition of ChristianWeek in 2015, I feel deeply for these folks, past and present. It goes so much deeper than just a livelihood, as evidenced by the passion expressed in their remembrance articles. The MB Herald will be missed.

Byron Rempel-Burkholder January 4, 2020 - 17:21

An internship at the MBH in 1979 was where I cut my teeth in the world of Christian journalism and publishing. I’m thankful for the mentorship of editor Harold Jantz that summer, and for other related work experiences of ministry that followed in the MB and the larger Anabaptist world. I lament its decline and death as a forum for discussion and fellowship. At the same time, I hope this chapter can be seen in light of the confessions we hold dear–that new life and light does emerge out of death and darkness, and that we can trust the Spirit to transform in ways yet unseen.

Rick Block January 6, 2020 - 10:51

Hi Brian (and to others too!) – we just want to add our voice to the others in response to your question of “Does anyone even care?”….we also do, and we feel there are numerous out there that also care. A once-robust culture of participatory decision making and active delegation of lay leaders has definitely eroded and hence I think many that ‘still care’ feel a sense of disempowerment to speak up. I am hopeful that as creative people we can find ways/avenues to stimulate growth in a manner similar to how the Herald has done this for many years. My current question is – are those within CCMBC leadership pursuing any initiative that helps our conference move forward with respect to the gap that now exists?

Rick Block January 6, 2020 - 11:00

Just saw the recent article from Elton….I can withdraw my current question!

Arthur Loewen January 6, 2020 - 18:05

“Does anyone Care?” This is the question I hear too often. I do care. I believe it is a huge mistake to shut down the communication in our denomination. I have been and currently am involved in a number of not-for-profit organizations that have tried different ways of communicating with their members. Whenever they published a regular “newsletter” or other communication with their membership, either in print or electronically, their membership increased and people responded to increase the profile of the organization. When that communication stopped, generally because noone was there to continue it, the organization went down hill. I fear that is what this will do to us as a Mennonite Brethren denomination. I pray for our leaders regularly and ask that this decission be revisted very soon.


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