A decade after Mennonite Brethren left Russia and 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, first published in 1937, was initially 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.
Since 1955, the Christian Leader has focused its content on the issues and activities of U.S. Mennonite Brethren. The magazine is published by the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (USMB) and regularly includes inserted publications from USMB partner agencies, specifically MB Mission. Over the years the magazine’s frequency has transitioned from biweekly to monthly to bimonthly. CL is offered to every USMB household as a benefit of denominational affiliation. The magazine began publishing CL Online in 2008 and C-Link, a biweekly electronic news digest, was added in 2012.
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 was editor from 1953 to the mid 1970s.
- Harms recruited his successor, Wally Kroeker (1975 to 1985), a young journalist.
- Don Ratzlaff, Kroeker’s assistant editor, was named editor in 1985 and served until 1998.
- When Carmen Andres (1998-2003) was appointed editor in 1998, the CL crossed the gender barrier.
- Current editor Connie Faber, who worked with both Ratzlaff and Andres, assumed the editor’s duties in 2004.