The Schowalter Foundation

A few facts regarding the Showalter Foundation:

From Wikipedia…The Schowalter Foundation is a Kansas-based Mennonite philanthropic foundation formed in 1954 from the estate of Jacob A. Schowalter of Newton, Kansas.

Initially funded with an estate of $1,157,000,[1] the foundation’s assets reached $10,298,000 in 2003 ranking among the top thirty Kansas foundations.[2] Income from the foundation’s assets are used for relief work, training of missionaries and ministers and promotion of peace. Grants totaled $425,950 in 2003.[3]

The foundation was originally overseen by two representatives from each of the large Kansas Mennonite denominations: General Conference Mennonite Church, (Old) Mennonite Church and Church of God in Christ, Mennonite.[4]    

The 2002 annual meeting minutes (page 6). Eugene Koehn brought a report stating that the Schowalter Foundation is worth over $6 million now. The proceeds are willed to 3 Mennonite conferences. The Holdemans have 2 members on a 6 member board.

The 2004 annual meeting minutes have a report (page 7) by Elwood Koehn where he said that the foundation set up by Mr Schowalter went into effect in 1954 and was valued at about $1 million. In 2003 the Holdeman church received $96,000 from the Foundation.

In 2005 it is noted by Eugene Koehn that the foundation continues to be favourable to programs such as CPS, CSI, mission board language study, and Gospel Tract projects, and that the way seems open to continue working with the Foundation.

In the 2009 minutes it is noted that the Holdeman boards that are applying to the Schowalter Foundation have to have their funding requests in by the 1st Saturday of February and the 1st Saturday of August. Humanitarian projects are favoured.

The Holdemans resolved that the term of office for the Schowalter Foundation be shortened to a 6-year term, and limited to 2 terms.

The income derived from the Schowalter Foundation, which in 2004 totaled nearly a million dollars, is money that comes from interest drawn on the original bequest. This brings us to yet another head-scratcher; Considering the stand that the Holdeman church takes regarding interest (or usury as it is more often called) how does it happen that they gladly and willingly receive a large chunk of income each and every year which is usury money? The money they receive from the Schowalter Foundation is money that violates an extremely dearly held principle of the followers of Holdeman. Church members have been expelled for putting money in interest bearing accounts. Little old ladies with a small nest egg have been forbidden to put it in the bank to draw a little interest and thus secure a more stable income for themselves. This inconsistency is hard to understand.

Perhaps it was in the early 1950s when the Holdemans accepted the income from the Schowalter Foundation that they made a seriously wrong move, the repercussions of which are felt to this day. When the church incorportated and began to run many business, such as CHA, MUA, schools, nursing homes, etc. the whole landscape of the church changed to one of a spiritual institution to that of a business institution. When the church becomes a business, with headquarters in Moundridge, KS, then the members can begin to understand a whole new set of expectations for themselves. Discipline will change. Instead of being brought under discipline so that the church can remain “the pure bride of Christ,” members are instead brought into compliance and brainwashed even further into believing that they cannot be saved outside of the Holdeman church. A breakup at this point would be disastrous. What would happen to all of the schools and nursing homes if there was a mass defection? It becomes more important to keep the members in line, afraid to ask questions or step out of line, so that there is a large body of quota-paying individuals. Eventually the word “church” begins to take on a whole new meaning, very subtly, of course and without anyone realizing what has happened. The “church” is this large monster that they are chained to. The church holds their lives in its hands, and if they displease the “church,” they will lose all. The church is where a man can receive prestige and honor from serving on the boards of child care homes, nursing homes and schools. A little power is delegated here and a little there, and soon these men with a little power are instrumental in promoting the idea that the church is everything. It is indeed a large temptation for a man to want to stay in good standing so that he can fly away to foreign countries, briefcase in hand to explore a new mission. (All expenses paid, of course, by the “church.”)

Parents who might have questions will mash them down because they have poured thousands of their own dollars into beautiful new schools and church buildings. It would seem a shame to walk away from their investment, especially when they have no idea where they would go. You can be sure that if they leave, the church secretary does not scan the books and write them a check for a refund of the money they contributed for the cost of the buildings. The buildings are owned by the “church.” Who is the church? A legal entity, “Church of God in Christ Mennonite, INC, headquartered in Moundridge KS. with subheadquarters in each legally organized congregation. In this way a great deal of pride is nurtured. Which one of them would be willing to meet in a small rented building for church services? Which one of them is willing to walk away from all of this grandeur? This is subtly and deceptively translated into a belief in the One True Church. When a man or a woman begins to doubt the One True Church, he/she is immedieately floundering in a sea of unanswerable questions. What of the schools, the missions, the nursing homes, what of the visible entity that they have come to know as the church? Very seldom does anyone go to the Bible to get a true scriptural understanding of what the “church” really is. It is now the legal entity known as Church of God in Christ Mennonite, INC. Everything that a church member loves and holds dear is wrapped up in that name.

At communion once a year, or whenever the ministers decide that communion can be observed, the members are required to stand and make a standard speech. This speech says “I am at peace with God and man, I believe in the doctrines of the church, and it is my desire to go along to communion.” Church members who imagined a little bit of independence and say “the doctrines of the Bible” have been disciplined. When they show surprise at the concern over their choice of wording, they are told that the doctrines of the church and the doctrines of the Bible are one and the same, and by saying the doctrines of the Bible instead of the doctrines of the church, they are showing that they do not believe that the church and the Bible are the same thing. I will leave it to the reader to ponder the deep dishonesty in this statement.

I am not in favor of John Holdeman and his ideas, but even he would be distressed at the present situation. One of the deeply held principles of the Holdeman faith is simplicity. Simplicity has been left far behind. There is a pseudo simplicity, one which speaks of itself often, and manifests itself in million dollar church buildings with nothing on the walls. This is called simplicity. I call it starkness. Simplicity actually means a lack of complexity. The Holdemans may appear to be simple on the surface, but there is tremendous complexity beneath the surface. This is very confusing, and rather than think it through, the average individual gives up their questions, surrenders to the power of the church, and suddenly feels great peace. All struggle ceases, they put their lives in the hands of the ministers, which translates as having confidence in the church, the ministers are now pleased with them and allow them freedom from harassaing visits. It surely is a good thing to trust the church. Turmoil ceases, but vitality and courage are pressed flat as a pancake. Friends, there is so much more!

In the name of truth justice mercy and love!

Brother Hiram

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7 Responses to The Schowalter Foundation

  1. Consider this statement, from the 2002 annual meeting minutes; “The proceeds are willed to 3 Mennonite conferences. The Holdemans have 2 members on a 6 member board.” Does this mean that 2 men from the Church of God in Christ Mennonite sit on a board with men from the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Old Mennonite Church in order to receive their millions of dollars of interest generated money? Strange indeed, considering that they have broken ties with the large Mennonite Central Committee, and other Mennonite-related projects. MCC provides disaster relief in foreign countries in the form of canned meat and many other relief-oriented projects. This is a worthy cause, but some years ago the Holdemans decided to withdraw themselves from the MCC, largely because they still view themselves as having a peace witness and some of these other groups have lost theirs. In an effort to hold themselves apart, they have abandoned good works. However, when it comes time to claim millions of dollars generated from the interest on the Schowalter money, they will elect men to sit on a board with men from these other two denominations so that they may receive their fair share. How many church members have ever actually stopped to consider this hypocrisy? No doubt there is a great deal more information available on this matter, and if anyone has any to share, Brother Hiram welcomes it.

  2. I read your article about the Schowalter Estate with interest. (no pun intended) The subject of interest is a sore spot with me. One of the charges against my father when he was expelled was drawing interest. The expelling and disciplining of the Holdeman church destroyed my family in about every way you can think of. For years I have wondered what happens to all of the money collected by the church for MUA and CHA premiums, etc, as well as all of the other funds deposited in different banks. I heard years ago that the Montezuma State Bank was extremely wealthy due to reaping the interest from the funds deposited by the church. Because they don’t have to pay any of this out to the persons who deposit it, they are able to use it freely for their own purposes. What would keep the church leaders from having some kind of a secret deal with the bankers where a portion of this money is funneled back to the church for “missions, etc.” God’s work. If it is ok to take the money generated by the Schowalter estate, what would keep them from seizing just a little bit of money (behind the scenes) from the wealth generated from their own deposits? I am only theorizing here but it is a question that has haunted me for years. If anyone has any thoughts on this I would sure be interested in hearing them. Not an accusation here, just a question.

  3. Good question, Godfather. Whether they’re receiving any of this money or not, you raise an interesting dilemma. We had never considered this complexity. Why the inconsistency? We would actually expect them to receive some of this money. It would only make sense to do so. Why is it ok to take interest on a chunk of money deposited by a stranger, but overlook the vast resources which they have gathered together themselves. And you raise yet a further concern, that of expelling people for drawing a few dollars worth of interest here and there, and yet calmly holding out their hands for millions of dollars on the other side of the coin. Very strange. Very strange indeed. How can they make restitution to all of the people who have been disciplined for taking a little interest? Something to think about.

  4. Catalyst says:

    I’ve been having a thought for years and this seems like a good place to talk about it. If the church is depositing all the money they gather in a bank account somewhere, and they don’t want to take the interest that is made from that money, what happens to it? Does the legal entity, Church of God in Christ Mennonite have the right to say that they don’t want to keep the interest, or do the members who have contributed the money have any say so over it? What does the bank do with the interest that is gained by that money, or is it just sitting in an account not drawing interest? Is it legal for the bank to use the money to lend out and make money for it and keep it for themselves if the church doesn’t want it? What are all of the legalities involved in this, that’s what I want to know. I’ve been wondering about this for years. Is there any way to find out?

    • lotsaquestions says:

      Very interesting indeed. Would like to hear more on the financial (money) thing….
      Always wondered about these things. All in the name of ‘modesty, simplicity and economy’?? I personally think those three words are out the window when I see the vast amount of wealth in the church. It’s not even true. The latest of every invention is named among us. Who are we trying to fool?

  5. So I just finished reading the Wikipedia article about Jacob Abraham
    Schowalter (August 25, 1879 – March 10, 1953). It sure seems he
    would’ve been the first person getting the boot if he was part of the
    Holdeman church! He was a permanent bachelor, ultra wealthy, a huge
    land farmer, involved in purchasing stocks and bonds and, above all
    else, a politician! But hey his money was good even if old Schowalter
    was going to hell.

    I’m not sure if the following is relevant but it is from something I
    found online:
    Preservings No 12, June 1998
    John R. Giesbrecht
    During the 1930s there was one millionaire in the Church of God in
    Christ Mennonite, a man named Doerksen who lived near McPherson,
    Kansas. Some ministers in the church said that a millionaire could
    never go to heaven. But when the depression came Doerksen helped a lot
    of people in Western Kansas who were losing their land to the mortgage
    companies. Doerksen would pay out the mortgages and let the former
    owners keep farming the land. When they were able, they paid Doerksen
    out, and bought their farms back at cost without charging them any

  6. holdemanzombie says:

    It’s obvious that this forum is exposing the truth of many things that the staff wish to remain unknown. If it were NOT the truth, they would be here to defend the real truth. Their silence is deafening. I’ve heard it said “Money is not the key to happiness, but if you have money you can get a key made.” It is true of our church too. “Money is not the key to our church, but if you have money, you can get a key made.” Sizable donations do not go unnoticed, and the giver is usually given quite abit more room than some poor brother. The old adage “Don’t cut off the hand that feeds you” is applicable to modern day Holdemanism. Its not really about having the spirit of Christ within, it’s about the size of the pocketbook.

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