Franklin Conference proposes departure from MC USA

Nov 9, 2015 by and

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Franklin Mennonite Conference is taking steps to leave Mennonite Church USA, citing concerns over other MC USA conferences’ allowance of same-sex relationships.

A proposal to be discussed Nov. 12 during Franklin’s delegate assembly calls for the conference to withdraw from MC USA and remain without affiliation for one year to “seek new vision for FMC and where the most appropriate affiliation would be for the conference.”

Franklin has 14 congregations in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Conference minister Allen Leh­man said a number of would withdraw from the conference if it did not withdraw from MC USA.

“If the vote were not to pass, I’m not sure about our viability [as a conference],” Lehman said. “Viability is really what’s at stake, I think, for us.”

He said congregational support for the conference staff would “come into question” if Franklin did not depart.

Moderator Ray Geigly said some of the congregations had wanted to begin the process of withdrawing from MC USA earlier, but the conference leadership had insisted on waiting until decisions were made at the MC USA convention this past July in Kansas City, Mo.

“If Franklin Conference did not withdraw, I don’t think we’d exist as a conference,” Geigly said. “Over half of the congregations are ready to move now, and we’ve been trying to slow that down.”

Both Geigly and Lehman said a vote would not be taken until February or March, when a special delegate meeting was likely to be called.

The proposal also states that “each congregation is encouraged to do meaningful work in how they will minister to LGBTQ persons both within and outside of their congregation.”

“The orthodox understanding is that homosexual attraction is not a sin in and of itself,” Lehman said. “Having the feelings or attractions is not sin; living into it is. I would want our churches to minister to all kinds of sexual temptations. All our sexualities are warped at some level. We all, at some level, need the Holy Sprit to bring order to that part of our lives.”

Lehman said there were no plans at this time for future affiliation, should Franklin vote to leave MC USA. He mentioned affiliation with the Evana Network, which formed this year in part due to concerns over same-sex relationships, as one possibility.

“I’m sad that this thing is dividing our denomination. That’s been a struggle for us,” Geigly said. “It’s reluctant on my part and Allen’s part, too.”

Lehman said: “I regret that the older generation, apparently, has a history of hurting those with same-sex attraction, and we need to repent of that. It’s not academic; it’s real among us. That’s a real issue in our settings here. It’s not that we’re not touched by it.”


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