Congregations departing Lancaster Conference

Jun 14, 2016 by and

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Lancaster Mennonite Conference congregations desiring to maintain connections with Mennonite Church USA are beginning to withdraw from the conference.

Pilgrims Mennonite Church in Akron, Pa., decided by consensus to leave the conference in a May 1 congregational meeting. East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pa., voted with 96 percent approval in a June 12 meeting to also leave the conference.

LMC announced last fall its intention to depart MC USA by the end of 2017.

Bishop Jason Kuniholm, who oversees Lancaster, Lititz and Mellinger districts, said some congregations are anticipating pastoral involvement in same-sex weddings.

“For three of these congregations, that has meant they have needed to negotiate with Lancaster Conference to preclude disciplinary action,” he said. “So that has pushed the time­table up a bit.”

Kuniholm said LMC has indicated that if a congregation has a formal intention to align with another MC USA conference, LMC will not push for disciplinary action between now and fall.

East Chestnut board chair Marilyn Parrish said LMC asked the church to make a decision by July 1 in order to not be disciplined. The congregation anticipates leaving LMC by Oct. 22 and applying for affiliation with another MC USA conference.

Pastor Barry Kreider said Pilgrims Mennonite is not facing potential discipline. In addition to considering affiliation with Atlantic Coast Conference of MC USA, Pilgrims representatives took part in a conference call with MC USA about potential for a new temporary space for churches leaving LMC.

Kuniholm said his role as a bishop will conclude by the end of the year because churches financially support their bishops, and eight of the LMC churches considering departure are in his districts.

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