Confessions from our Journey Toward Belonging Rooted in Justice

By Clare Krabill October 24, 2023

As MHS Association embarks on more focused work to nurture inclusion, promote diversity, and foster equity than we have in the past, we want to share transparently about our journey to date. To that end, what follows are five confessions from our belonging journey thus far.

Belonging matters to MHS Association members. In a recent member survey*, respondents selected creating a culture of belonging as their highest-ranked priority from a selection of seven priorities. In its recently adopted strategic plan, MHS Association is prioritizing an initiative to nurture a culture of belonging rooted in Anabaptist faith and values. As Anabaptists, we view belonging through a lens of justice, and as an Anabaptist association, we are a community with a moral imperative to nurture a culture of belonging, as reflected in Romans 12:5: “In Christ, we form one body and every member belongs to all the others.”

As MHS Association embarks on more focused work to nurture inclusion, promote diversity, and foster equity than we have in the past, we want to share transparently about our journey to date. To that end, what follows are five confessions from our belonging journey thus far.


Let’s confess out of the gate that nurturing belonging from a justice framework is hard. Perceptions vary on what the problems are, if there are problems, potential solutions, and the language we use to discuss these problems. Emotions can run high. Listening is important.


Several years ago, we began to attempt to work on improving the culture of belonging in our organization and encouraging it within our membership. It took several years to admit we weren’t moving forward because we didn’t know how. We needed help. We turned to other faith-based associations, Mennonite leaders, and sister organizations for their counsel and to learn from their experiences. This led to engaging Widerstand Consulting to perform a Racial Equity audit. From there we were able to develop a roadmap for actions to move us forward.


Widerstand provided MHS Association with a detailed and thorough report showing us where we fell short as an organization on six markers for anti-racism transformation. Words such as cosmetic and tokenism were used to assess us as opposed to more positive words such as implementation and realization. Our first inclination was to minimize or dismiss much of the feedback. We had been forewarned that when we do honest introspection, we may find that we are not who we believed ourselves to be. This is one reason why we need outside assistance in the form of consultants and accountability groups.


Once we were willing to take ownership of the assessment and the recommendations made to us by Widerstand, fear set in. Fear of failure. Fear of getting it wrong. Fear of divisiveness. Fear of causing harm to a person’s sense of identity. Ultimately, a greater fear won out: the fear of doing nothing.


Those fears are still there for us, lurking on the sidelines. We are choosing to remind ourselves of the fear of doing nothing and more importantly, the role we are each given to be instruments of peace. God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). The pull and the promise of shalom are greater than our fears. There are many years of work ahead of us. We will make mistakes along the way. We will likely unintentionally offend or hurt others, but it won’t be because we don’t care. We hold ourselves accountable to you, our membership. As we journey may we offer one another grace and support.

A step in our belonging initiative is clearly articulating what we mean by belonging. The following Belonging Statement is on the MHS Association website About Us page.

MHS Association seeks to inspire collaboration, integrate faith and work, and advance the mission of each member ministry. Anabaptist faith and values are the foundation for this work. The Anabaptist tradition’s core beliefs have been described by Palmer Becker as:

  1. Jesus is the center of our faith
  2. Community is the center of our lives
  3. Reconciliation is the center of our work

In our program development and interactions with membership, the greater community, and one another, MHS Association endeavors to live out these core beliefs by fostering a culture of belonging, hospitality, and shalom. We celebrate the image of God (Genesis 1:26) manifested in persons of every age, ethnicity, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, education, intellectual or emotional or physical ability, and economic or immigration status (Galatians 3:28). We strive to find common ground on which to build relationships with our membership and the greater community. We aim to treat others as we would like to be treated. We acknowledge that, even with the best intentions, we are learning and will sometimes fall short and invite accountability from our community. We affirm that all members are welcome to fully participate in the programs and community of MHS Association.



*2023 Member Survey – member priorities (1-6 scale)

5.55 – Create a culture of belonging

5.36 – Leadership development for mid-level managers

5.36 – Leadership development for executive-level employees

5.15 – Leadership development for new and up-and-coming supervisors

4.93 – Diversity among staff and board

4.89 – Nurturing stronger governance

4.73 – Nurturing understanding and respect for Anabaptist values in our leaders