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EMS Dean Named New MC USA Executive Director

Mennonite Church USA Executive Board has named Ervin R. Stutzman of Harrisonburg, Va., as the denomination's next executive director.

Dr. Stutzman is vice president and seminary dean as well as professor of church ministries at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg. He had served on the Executive Board for Mennonite Church USA from 1999 to 2005 and as denominational moderator from 2001 to 2003. He expects to begin as executive director in early 2010.

Sara Wenger Shenk, currently associate dean of the seminary, will replace Stutzman as interim dean. She is also associate professor of Christian practice at EMS.

Dr. Shenk's varied career includes a study/service assignment in Bosnia and Croatia for nine years, pastoral ministry for four years, extensive speaking in academic and church venues, the writing of six books as well as many articles and chapters in various publications and leadership in a new, experimental community of worship called The Table. She previously served as interim seminary dean, 1999-2000.

Stutzman Makes Tough Decision

"The decision to accept the call to a new job was not made quickly or easily," said Stutzman. "I love my job at the seminary and I am deeply committed to the mission of EMU and EMS.

"I responded to the job because I love Mennonite Church USA, my gifts, interests and experience are a strong fit with the job description, and I felt a strong inner and outer sense of call," Stutzman said.

That call included a unanimous recommendation from the search committee, made up of 10 members from across the denomination.

"It's an affirmation and a privilege to be asked to serve in this role," Stutzman told the EMU community. "It's also a sober responsibility. The Spirit-led search process gives me confidence that God is calling me to this role. By God's grace, we as a Mennonite church can face the future with hope. We have a significant place in God's mission in the world. As we collectively walk in the Spirit, we will experience God's amazing power happening at all levels," he said.

Leadership Gifts Affirmed by Denomination

"Ervin is an energetic, strong pastoral leader with exceptional organizational and administrative gifts. He is a good listener and focused collaborator," says search committee chair David L. Sutter, South Bend, Ind. "I believe Ervin will lead with Christ at the center as together we consider and live into new directions in line with the dreams God has for Mennonite Church USA."

Born in Iowa, Stutzman grew up in Kansas. He served on pastoral teams at Mennonite Christian Assembly in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Mount Joy Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pa. He worked as associate director of home ministries at Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. An ordained minister and bishop, he was moderator of Lancaster Mennonite Conference before beginning at EMU in 1998.

Stutzman received his bachelor's degree in Bible and Christian ministries at Cincinnati (OH) Christian University. He earned a master's degree in communication arts from the University of Cincinnati, a master's of arts in religion degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary and a doctorate in rhetoric and communication from Temple University, Philadelphia.

Stutzman has authored several books. Among his recent Herald Press publications are "Emma: A Widow Among the Amish," "Tobias of the Amish"
and "Being God's People: Embracing Christian Faith from a Mennonite Perspective." His historical study on Mennonite peace rhetoric is expected to be published next year.

Stutzman will continue his work at EMU through December.

"Ervin has provided wise and innovative leadership to the seminary, enhancing the quality of its program and extending its reach," Fred Kniss, Eastern Mennonite University provost, said. "While we at EMU certainly regret losing him as a colleague and administrator, we know that Mennonite Church USA will benefit from his skills and experience. We view his departure as a gift we make to the mission of the larger church," Dr.
Kniss added.

Stutzman and his wife, Bonita Lee Stutzman, attend Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg. They have three adult children-Emma, Daniel and Benjamin.

Stutzman replaces Jim Schrag, who announced his retirement last October. Schrag concluded his executive director position July 31 after 36 years of ministry, including 13 years of denominational leadership. Acting executive director Ron Byler has been appointed to lead the church body until Stutzman begins his new role.

posted 8/27/09

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