Lancaster Conference leaders propose withdrawal from MC USA

Jul 26, 2015 by and

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Leadership of Lancaster Mennonite Conference unanimously recommended withdrawing from Mennonite Church USA “to best strengthen LMC’s shared future in God’s missional calling,” less than a month after the denomination’s convention in early July.

In a July 23 letter to credentialed leaders in LMC, conference moderator Keith Weaver shared that the conference’s Bishop Board and Conference Executive Council agreed on the proposal, which would call for developing a model that allows member congregations to maintain relationships with other groups.

A series of regional meetings Aug. 15-Sept. 8 will lead to a final recommendation to be sent to credentialed leaders by November.

“Even as LMC tends a strong conference identity, including governance oversight and accountability, LMC congregations will be free to network broadly in partnerships that pursue missional faithfulness,” Weaver said in the letter. “For example, some LMC congregations may wish to maintain relational connections in MC USA. We are in conversation with MC USA about how that might be possible.

“Other LMC congregations may wish to network with Evana [Network] and more clarity will emerge about how that can work.”

MC USA currently requires congregations to be part of an MC USA area conference in order to be part of the denomination.

LMC is MC USA’s largest conference. The denomination’s online directory counts 13,902 members in 168 churches. Based on membership statistics from 2013, a total departure by Lancaster Conference would result in a membership loss of 14 percent or more for MC USA.

One of the oldest Mennonite groups in North America, LMC first took shape in 1710 when 29 Swiss Anabaptist immigrants arrived in Philadelphia. It reached a high of more than 20,000 members in 248 churches in 1998 but later decreased in part due to departures of congregations over decisions to join MC USA and allow the ordination of women.

LMC did not join the (Old) Mennonite Church until 1971 and was one of the last to join MC USA, becoming a full member in 2006 after five years of provisional membership.

LMC moderator Keith Weaver had no comment beyond the letter’s contents.

Next steps include distributing a proposal document to LMC congregations so members can study it and attend regional meetings taking place in August and September. The CEC and Bishop Board will consider feedback from meetings and work with credentialed leaders in the LMC Leadership Assembly before reframing the proposal into a recommendation to be sent to LMC credentialed leaders for affirmation and final approval in October and November.

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  • Carolyn Brubaker

    I am distressed that all these decisions are being made so quickly. Isn’t there a place for prayer and fasting and dialogue? Maybe you feel you have done this but as one of the congregants I did not fully know what has been happening. I am saddened, no distressed that our conference would split. Don’t we have enough divisions among us? Carolyn wife of Leon

    • Charlie Kraybill

      Carolyn, it is distressing how quickly things are moving and how passively this information is being received. I wanted to make sure you’re aware that there will be a series of regional meetings over the coming two months where folks can give feedback directly to Lancaster Conference leadership. Please go and speak up. Don’t let the bishops intimidate you. Thanks.
      August 15 – Philadelphia – Vietnamese Mennonite Church
      August 20 – Balt./Washington – New Life Mennonite Church
      August 27 – Lancaster County – Elizabethtown Mennonite Church
      August 29 – Spanish Council – Lancaster Conference Office
      September 1 – Lancaster County – Willow Street Mennonite Church
      September 3 – North Penn – Agape Fellowship
      September 5 – New York City – United Revival in Brooklyn
      September 8 – Lancaster County – Garden Spot Village

      • John Gingrich

        Just a thought about the bishop intimidation comment Charlie. There is a much stronger possibility that the bishops are the ones feeling pressure to act as they have. In the words of Gandhi, “There go my people, I must follow them for I am their leader.”

        • Berry Friesen

          “Amen” to John’s comment. We needed our LMC bishops to exercise more leadership over the past 18 months, during the time when MCUSA was sliding into crisis. But now, as the Central District Conference has shown us that the crisis is fully upon us, holding the LMC constituency together as Anabaptists is the best we can expect of our bishops.

          • Conrad Ermle

            Thank God for the Bishops. Their leadership is required at this time. They are in our prayers. — Conrad Ermle

      • Conrad Ermle

        By all means, go and speak the Truth from a pure biblical perspective in the Anabaptist tradition. Same sex marriage or same sex relationships in a sexual perspective are not now nor have been an accepted part of the biblical or Anabaptist tradition. Sin is still sin. — Conrad Ermle

        • Steven Stubble

          Absolutely correct. The Mennonite church has spent the last 20 years debating this issue on and off instead of following clear scriptural directives. The waste of time and resources is mind-boggling, and it hasn’t stopped yet,…..

  • Conrad Ermle

    I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone. This is only the beginning. Those who wish to remain Biblical Anabaptists will follow in the footsteps of Lancaster, and they will be many. What’s happening is surely of the Lord. — Conrad Ermle

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