NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College and Mennonite Church USA have reached an agreement on the records of the former General Conference Mennonite Church (GCMC), the denomination with which the college has a historic affiliation.
Bethel and MC USA finalized a memorandum of understanding that cedes ownership and management responsibility of the records to Bethel.
The MOU is the culmination of negotiations between the college and MC USA that began last year when MC USA proposed consolidating its records into one location (in Elkhart, Indiana) as a cost-saving measure.
Since the GCMC is one of the denominations that merged to become MC USA, that would have meant moving its records out of Bethel College’s Mennonite Library and Archives, and ending the subsidy that paid a large part of the salary of archivist John Thiesen, Bethel co-director of libraries.
The informal agreement reached last fall was for MC USA to meet its full financial obligation through the end of FY 2017 (June 30 of this year) and then to pay a partial subsidy through the end of FY 18 (June 30, 2018). However, with the ceding of ownership of the GCMC records, MC USA also ends its financial commitment.
Dale Schrag of North Newton, retired as campus pastor and director of church relations, has been working as a volunteer to develop an endowment fund that will cover the ongoing costs of care for the records and the broader needs of the MLA, including a full-time archivist.
“For research needs and for our curricular interests at Bethel, the records of the GCMC, Western District Conference and the college are so integrated it would have become difficult for researchers to work if the records were moved,” said Robert Milliman, Bethel vice president for academic affairs.
“We want these records to remain available for research by historians, and by our students,” he continued, adding, “We consider [the records] an important symbol on our campus of our commitment to MC USA. That was one of the reasons we didn’t want to see them leave.”
Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in Washington Monthly’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges 2017-18 and in the Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.
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