Ohio Conference loses more churches

Dec 22, 2014 by and

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Two more Ohio Conference congregations have voted to leave Mennonite Church USA over concerns about the direction of the denomination and some of its conferences.

Walnut Creek Mennonite Church in Sugarcreek, Ohio, and North Clinton Mennonite Church in Wauseon, Ohio, along with churches that already withdrew or are considering withdrawal, have plans for future partnership.

Walnut Creek, where more than 300 attend regularly, voted Oct. 19. Eight-six percent were in favor of withdrawal, effective Dec. 31.

North Clinton voted to leave Nov. 30, effective Dec. 15. The congregation has almost 400 active participants.

Both churches cited increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships as a significant contributing factor.

Glenn Coblentz, pastor of North Clinton, said his church believes the conversation on sexuality is really about the authority of God’s Word.

“We view our conference as moving in a direction that is not in keeping with biblical authority,” he said. The church believes nothing significant will change in July at the next national delegate assembly in Kan­sas City.

“If we are not starting at the same place [biblical authority], we have no hope of ending at the same place,” he said. “Statements to the effect that the Bible doesn’t speak to the issues of sexuality do not bring life, nor do they call people to holiness.”

Walnut Creek leaders and elders released a statement. “After a prayerful scripturally based search and study, God’s Word was clear,” it said. “It told us to leave MC USA.”

The letter says they are leaving in order to remain true to the Confession of Faith, specifically Article 19, which states marriage is between a man and a woman. They sense that “divergent belief and practice has crept into our denomination.” They believe the church is “dangerously close” to the early church’s gnosticism.

“Throughout all this, we have discovered that we are not leaving MC USA, it is leaving us,” the statement said.

Ohio Conference minister Tom Kauffman said the conference has valued Walnut Creek’s participation, with a history dating back to the 19th century. North Clinton will be missed too.

“We are saddened by their decisions to leave the conference and denomination yet extend a blessing as they seek to be faithful to God’s call upon their corporate life,” he said.

Future partnerships

Coblentz and the Walnut Creek statement both acknowledged discussions among other Anabaptist congregations interested in being partners.

“We are now in a discovering phase of what it means for us as a congregation and others who have already or are contemplating a similar decision,” the Walnut Creek statement said. “Because we are not in this alone, we expect a new Anabaptist structure of association to arise.”

They have talked with two other Ohio Conference congregations: Hartville Mennonite Church, which voted to leave Sept. 7, and First Mennonite Church in Berne, Ind., which remains committed to Ohio Conference but recently voted to begin considering other options, according to pastor Jeff Linthi­cum.

Coblentz said many congregations across the nation are passionate about Anabaptist theology and have left their conferences or plan to leave. They are in conversation about potential partnership.

“This is more than a hope,” he said. “It is a reality.”

See also: “MC USA Churches move in 2014


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