Evana broadens confessional choices at first convention

Evangelical network makes room for Mennonite Brethren, Conservative Conference faith statements

Jul 13, 2016 by and

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UPLAND, Ind. — The Evana Network is growing and taking steps to welcome members from other Anabaptist denominations besides Mennonite Church USA.

Prayer time is offered while the ReGen 2016 worship band plays during an evening worship session of the Evana Network’s first convention, held July 5-9 at Taylor University in Upland, Ind. Teenagers participated with adults in the worship sessions, where two young people made public professions of faith. — Rachel Stella/MWR

Prayer time is offered while the ReGen 2016 worship band plays during an evening worship session of the Evana Network’s first convention, held July 5-9 at Taylor University in Upland, Ind. Teenagers participated with adults in the worship sessions, where two young people made public professions of faith. — Rachel Stella/MWR

Evana’s first convention, ReGen 2016, drew 257 people — 165 adults, 80 youth and 12 children — July 5-9 to Taylor University.

By a 7-2 vote, delegates amended the group’s covenant to change the requirement that affiliates “adopt (embrace) the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective 1995.” The new requirement broadens the options to “adopt (embrace) an approved evangelical Anabaptist confession of faith or theological statement.”

In addition to the 1995 MC USA/Canada Confession of Faith, the list of approved confessions includes three Mennonite Brethren confessions (international, North American and U.S.) and the Conservative Mennonite Conference’s Statement of Theology.

Additional confessions could be approved if they align with the Evana covenant. However, Evana continues to hold the 1995 Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective “as the guide for overall network practice and decision-making.”

The 22 congregations that have joined or are in the process of joining Evana were or are with MC USA, except for one with Conservative Mennonite Conference.

The decision was made July 9 by the nine delegates eligible to vote. Congregations with full partner status can vote.

Not just a ‘landing place’

Congregations can join Evana exclusively or be dually affiliated with another denomination.

Evana plans to form optional regional networks, which will hold their affiliates’ pastors’ credentials. This will eliminate the possibility of dual-affiliation for congregations that participate in regional networks.

“Evana has established an identity of missional engagement with the local community,” said executive director John Troyer of Goshen, Ind., contrasting that with the idea of Evana as a “landing place” for congregations seeking a denominational home. “But [Evana] wants to assist those congregations as well.”

Two levels of participation — partner and member — are meant to provide resources for congregations seeking either of those relationships.

“We have not and will not encourage congregations to leave their affiliations,” Troyer said. “It is about the larger kingdom, not Evana Network.”

Evana also offers individual memberships for people who want to stay in touch via the online networks.

“Evana as a whole is focused on resourcing,” Troyer said. “We’re almost like a combination of a mission network and a denomination.”

Whether credentialed or not, all affiliates would agree to the same covenant. This would address any concerns of “variance.”

Growing interest

Convention attendees represented 17 congregations already affiliated with Evana and 10 congregations or conferences interested in more information.

Allen Lehman, conference minister for Franklin Mennonite Conference, did not attend the convention but sent a representative. Franklin Conference voted in April to leave MC USA and remain without affiliation for a year while discerning options.

“[Evana] will be one of the affiliations the committee will begin to explore,” Lehman said. “We’ll be looking at all the options. And there aren’t many.”

While there is no formal connection between Evana and Lancaster Mennonite Conference (which voted in November to withdraw from MC USA by the end of 2017), two of Evana’s board members are Lancaster Conference moderator Keith Weaver and Samuel Lopez, a member of Lancaster’s board of bishops and administrator for the Spanish Mennonite Council of Churches.

Troyer said Lancaster Conference took the initiative to give input into Evana.

“We’ve benefited greatly from their participation,” he said. “No matter what happens down the road, they have an opportunity to know what’s happening and be giving a voice.”

The convention was characterized by passionate worship, mission-focused prayer and the excitement of a new movement getting off the ground. The youth participated in all the worship sessions with the adults. During the final morning worship time, two young people made public professions of faith at Troyer’s invitation.

Schools from several denominations were represented, including the two U.S. Mennonite Brethren schools, Tabor College and Fresno Pacific University; Conservative Mennonite Conference’s Rosedale Bible College; and MC USA’s Bluffton University. An Evana-connected student group is forming at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind., which is affiliated with the Missionary Church, a denomination with roots in the former Mennonite Brethren in Christ.

“My faith has increased just by being here, hearing the stories and fellowshiping,” Lopez said during the final delegate meeting. After reading aloud from Hebrews 11, he said, “God has something better for us. This is just the beginning.”


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