Rosedale Mennonite Missions is becoming Rosedale International. A new name, but that’s really all that’s changing.
Once, the Conservative Amish Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, Rosedale Mennonite Missions has officially been the Conservative Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities since its incorporation back in the 1950s, and began using the name Rosedale Mennonite Missions as a DBA (“doing business as”) in the 1970s.
At the recommendation of the RMM Executive Team, the RMM board of directors took action a year ago to begin the process of changing RMM’s name to Rosedale International. The process was lengthy in part because we took additional time to collaborate with CMC and Rosedale Bible College in developing new logos that visually promote the fact that we are three related entities.
If you’re familiar with the Rosedale International Center (RIC) in Columbus, Ohio, it may make sense to you that this change happened so that the RIC could be the physical home and center of activities of its owner, Rosedale International. But in reality, that benefit was not a primary reason for the change. So why would an organization like RMM choose to rename itself?
Let me explain it by noting the example of Jesus. Take these verses for example:
Then Jesus asked [his disciples], “But who do you say I am?”
“You are the Messiah!” Peter replied.
Jesus warned the disciples not to tell anyone about him. (Mark 8:29, 30 CEV)
Why did Jesus warn his disciples not to tell anyone about him? Wouldn’t he have wanted everyone to know who he is and why he came?
This wasn’t the only time Jesus asked people to be quiet about him. Several times after he healed someone, the Gospels record that he told the healed person not to tell others. So what was Jesus thinking?
I believe it was primarily about timing, because timing matters. I think in Jesus’ case, it was because he wanted more time to demonstrate and explain who he really was without becoming a celebrity, hampered by larger crowds and the inability to be anonymous. He wanted them to get a true picture of himself, not a hastily drawn conclusion that was nothing close to reality.
“…to be truly understood, we want to give people time to know who we are through relationship, not through preconceived notions based on a name they hear.”
That’s what RMM’s transition to RI is all about. In an attempt to be truly understood, we want to give people time to know who we are through relationship, not through preconceived notions based on a name they hear.
This is relevant in so-called “closed countries,” where it isn’t possible to enter with the identity of a missionary. The truth is, we’re not entering those countries deceptively, saying we’re there as teachers or business people or medical workers but in reality trying to coerce people to convert to Christianity. We’re trying to reveal Jesus to them through our lives and our words so that they are given at least one chance to understand who he is and to choose to follow him. We’re working in some of the last frontiers in our world, where statistically millions are dying every year having never heard the name of Jesus. Isn’t this the biggest human rights crisis in our world today?
So we enter these countries quietly, hoping to be there long enough to build bridges of love to the people so that Jesus can be known in their homes and families. We’re not naïve enough to think we are flying under the radar of the governments of the nations in which we live, but we still want to minimize risk for our workers and for the emerging fellowships of believers.
The change to Rosedale International is also relevant here in the US in places like Columbus, Ohio. I have acquaintances here in my city that I pray I can lead to Jesus someday, but in many cases if they ask me where I work (a pretty common question when you’re getting to know someone), I’d prefer to not say I work for Rosedale Mennonite Missions, since for some of them that would immediately slam the door of relationship closed. If they choose to look me up on the internet, they can easily discern the nature of my work and may still distance themselves from me, but it’s at least less likely.
Until relatively recently, it was much simpler to manage our identity. Not so long ago, it was nearly impossible for the average person in the Middle East, for example, to find information on an American who came to live in their country. Today, a simple internet search can bring out dozens if not hundreds of pieces of information on many of us. We live in a globally connected world, where people and places from any part of the world are open to discovery and scrutiny from any other part of the world.
So renaming ourselves Rosedale International seems to be a wise decision. Now, if a worker has an unexpected bank statement or legal document show up in a sensitive location, it won’t say “Conservative Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities” or “Rosedale Mennonite Missions.” “Rosedale International” will not raise immediate interest or concern.
Will this name change end up changing our identity? Can we maintain our theological rootedness and our missional vision with a nondescript name? It is always possible for an organization like ours to experience mission drift, to lose its moorings, to eventually become something we might not envision or desire at this point in time. All of us could name institutions to which that has happened. But many of those drifted without changing their names. And conversely, many that have changed their names have maintained their core identity.
Rosedale International is not changing its identity. We embrace the CMC Statement of Theology and the CMC Statement of Practice. We are committed to moving forward with the same basic vision and values that have guided us for decades. We’re deeply rooted in Jesus, his kingdom of love and peace, and the power of his resurrection. I don’t believe for an instant that there’s an inevitable “slippery slope” of change that will eventually take us away from that foundation.
It’s because we believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one can come to the Father except through him that we are changing our name. We believe the whole world must be given the opportunity to know him, and he calls us to take the message to them. That will happen as churches mature and multiply, locally, and globally.