A decade after Mennonite Brethren arrived in the U.S., leaders wanted a periodical to communicate with their scattered churches. In 1884 they began publishing Zionsbote (Messenger of Zion). This German-language publication was the official periodical of North American Mennonite Brethren until 1951.
The Christian Leader came into being in 1937 as a youth publication designed to serve a constituency that was fast switching from German to English. It became the official publication of the church in 1951 and served both U.S. and Canadian Mennonite Brethren until 1955 when the Canadian Conference developed its own publication.
The CL has a history of giving young men and women the opportunity to serve the denomination and of promoting staff members. Five editors have served the CL over the past 50 years. Orlando Harms edited the Leader from 1953 to the mid 1970s. Harms recruited his predecessor, Wally Kroeker (1975 to 1985), a young journalist. Kroeker’s assistant editor, Don Ratzlaff, was named editor in 1985 and served until 1998. The CL crossed the editorial gender barrier in 1998 when Carmen Andres (1998-2003) was appointed editor. Current editor Connie Faber, who worked with both Ratzlaff and Andres, assumed the editor’s duties in 2004.
Reflecting on the role publishing has played in the U.S. Mennonite Brethren church, Kroeker writes, “Reading Mennonite Brethren publications at their best is like dining on soup that is neither anemic consommé nor bland puree, but rather a zesty, populist stew with different shapes and colors of vegetables, assorted chunks of meat, plenty of herbs and spices and maybe even a chili pepper or two. To an editor, that is something like the stuff of Scripture, where rulers are brought low and sinners become saints.”