I have never been a member of a Mennonite Credit Union.* When I lived close enough for it to make sense, I wasn’t eligible. Once I was eligible, it was no longer convenient. I was once a member of a community credit union but that was years ago and far away.
At least – I didn’t care until I flipped over the most recent issue of the Canadian Mennonite and found myself wondering just who had approved that full page advertisement and what they could possibly have been thinking.
What’s clear from the ad is that the board and senior leadership of the MSCU wants to drop the name Mennonite from its title and replace it with Kindred.
But being a credit union, decisions like that are made by the membership, not by management. Hence, the ad. The ad seeks to persuade the membership to vote in favour of the change.
Now, never mind that the MSCU chose to use a national Mennonite news magazine for what is essentially a very local issue concerning only those couple thousand Mennos (and non-Mennos) in southern Ontario who are members of the credit union.
No, wait – do mind it. I live in Toronto and people everywhere else in Canada (including Kitchener-Waterloo) are constantly complaining about their news being dominated with local Toronto issues. As if we think that everyone else should care about the controversies surrounding our school board (honestly, we don’t think that and also, we don’t control what gets on your local news stations. Have it out with them). But now we have a little credit union with a membership base pretty focused around Kitchener-Waterloo and it’s like they’re suddenly declaring KW the centre of the Mennonite universe.
I gotta say, if I lived in Winnipeg, I’d be pretty upset about that.
But even putting all that aside, I wouldn’t have cared much at all if the ad had been written in the spirit of “dignity, respect and concern” promised on the MSCU’s membership information page.
Maybe I have a naive understanding of dignity and respect but I think that it should even extend to people in disagreement with the leadership. In my mind, such people would have their concerns heard, understood, and respected to the point of engaged discussion. I’d actually have read it with interest had the back page of the Canadian Mennonite carried an ad that presented a respectful understanding of the leadership’s opposition.
I haven’t followed the controversy so I don’t know precisely why people object to the name change. I do, however, know enough about the Menno community and questions that come up from time to time that I’m pretty sure the people objecting to the name change were not doing so, as the ad suggests, in order to sustain barriers to growth and drive the institution into financial ruin.
I’m betting they don’t see themselves as the enemy of the credit union.
Off the top of my head, I can think of three likely reasons that Mennonite members of the MCSU might sensibly object to the name change:
- A longing to speak plainly: This comes up every time a congregation drops the word Mennonite from its title in the belief that it stands as a barrier to evangelism. Do we own who we are or do we hide behind false names? Are we ashamed to state plainly that we’re Mennonite?
- A commitment to the original vision of the MSCU: The MSCU was originally about mutual aid. Now, they talk of “shining their light” which sounds a lot like evangelism and less like mutual aid.
- An abhorrence to the name Kindred: I personally kinda love the irony of dropping the faith-based name as too exclusionary and replacing it with one that means “family only.” But some of the credit union members might not.
This name change is actually comedy gold for me and I can’t wait. But this post isn’t about that.
It’s about respectful disagreement and the inappropriate use of advertising.
Credit unions are an appealing banking alternative because the members get to be the bosses. If I were thinking of joining a credit union, I would like to imagine that major decisions were truly collective ones forged out of honest discussion. I wouldn’t want to see a nasty ad on the back of the magazine that painted a portion of the membership as enemies of the future. Is that really how they deal with dispute in this utopian financial institution?
Of course, maybe people in the MSCU’s catchment area aren’t like me. Maybe the MSCU did its market research and discovered that their growth potential exists among people who want dissidents put in their place and aren’t into all that respectful dialogue nonsense. They’re the kind of people who like the idea of joining a collective in which the leadership “humbly asks for trust” and then portrays a subset of its membership as a fifth column, intent on destroying the institution to which they belong.
Maybe there are people like that in the greater KW area. And maybe they’re the future of the credit union.
If that’s case, then good on the MSCU leadership. With enough hard work like this, it’ll soon disparage its opposition into submission and then all it will have to worry about is ridicule from the likes of me. And, well, I’m not that scary.
I found a lovely cocktail for this occasion over at Kindred Cocktails but it was a little too rude and a little too complicated for this blog. So I’m going with the Banker’s Lunch instead. Though really, in this case, my advice is for the MSCU leadership to spend money on a good communications expert instead of liquid lunches. But the membership can enjoy the cocktail as it mourns the passing of its cooperative ideals.
The Banker’s Lunch
- 1.5 oz vodka
- .5 oz dry vermouth
- .5 oz an orange liqueur (Triple Sec or Cointreau)
- 1.5 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
- a twist of grapefruit peel for garnish
Stir the ingredients in a glass with ice and garnish with the twist of peel. This is a somewhat bitter drink but maybe that’s appropriate.
* Full Disclosure: a number of my kindred are members of the MSCU but I do not know their voting intentions.