Switch to ‘Rosedale Network’ narrowly fails

Conservative Conference board to continue considering options for a new name

Aug 14, 2017 by and

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KIDRON, Ohio — Conservative Mennonite Conference is keeping its name for now, but leaders will continue to look at possibilities for change.

CMC’s delegate body of 98 ministers needed a two-thirds majority July 28 to change the denomination’s name to Rose­dale Network of Churches. The proposal narrowly failed, with 63 percent supporting it.

Delegate ministers pray before voting on a new name for Conservative Mennonite Conference during the denomination’s annual conference July 28 in Kidron, Ohio. — Rachel Stella/MWR

Delegate ministers pray before voting on a new name for Conservative Mennonite Conference during the denomination’s annual conference July 28 in Kidron, Ohio. — Rachel Stella/MWR

The Executive Board will continue to formulate an alternative new name. Another vote could take place as early as the next ministers’ business meeting, scheduled for Feb. 19-22 in Belleville, Pa.

A 2016 survey of CMC members indicated a desire for a denominational name change, renewing a discussion that has occurred over the past 20 years. In February, the name Rosedale Network was proposed. Feedback from ministers influenced the change to Rosedale Network of Churches.

“Is this name change part of a grander scheme to water down our theology?” asked moderator Joe Byler, rephrasing a question he said he often heard. “I would like to say with boldness that that has not ever come up. Our statement of theology is firm. I don’t envision that even coming up for discussion.”

Byler said the desire was for the denomination to have a name that unified it with its agencies, Rosedale Bible College and Rosedale Mennonite Missions.

“We welcome the name Rosedale being associated with local churches,” said RBC board chair Laban Miller. “There’s a name that pulls us all together.”

Miller also mentioned the distinction “Rosedale” has in the Mennonite world.

“Rosedale is associated with the words ‘Anabaptism’ and ‘Mennonites,’ ” he said. “It also distinguishes us from all other Anabaptist and Mennonite groups . . . in terms of how we interpret Scripture.”

RMM board chair David Kochsmeier talked about the accessibility the name “Rosedale” provided.

“The Rosedale name is very well-known,” he said. “It goes before all of our agencies, and we’re recognized.”

Kochsmeier said “Rosedale” opened more doors in the global mission field.

“We’re finding at RMM that as we go into countries that are closed, having the name ‘Mennonite’ and ‘Missions’ is not a positive thing,” he said. “We’re discussing what that means for us.”

No more ‘Mennonite?’

Delegates’ responses comparing “Rosedale Network of Churches” with “Conservative Mennonite Conference” were mixed.

One delegate said he was not ashamed of his Mennonite spiritual heritage but had concerns about how others perceived it.

“One of my coworkers has mentioned interacting with Mennonites of a more conservative brand, and how they’re cold and unfriendly to be around,” he said. “Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be called Mennonite. We’re representing Christ.”

Another delegate said: “The area that I come from, neither word — ‘conservative’ nor ‘Mennonite’ — has been a problem. If anything, it’s been an asset for us.”

Others were concerned about how the name “Mennonite” associated them with Mennonite Church USA.

Shawn Otto of Sarasota, Fla., referred to the resolution on Israel-Palestine approved a few weeks earlier at MC USA’s convention in Orlando. He said he got a message on the church’s Facebook page from a Jew who wrote, “Because of what you’ve done, I will never go to one of your churches or shop at your businesses.”

Al Longenecker of Lewisburg, Pa., said he related to that situation.

“Some of us are aware of what’s happened in the past couple of weeks in Mennonite Church USA,” he said. “I want to distance myself as far as I can from that whole scene.”

Dave Maurer of Pigeon, Mich., asked what the name “Rosedale” meant to non-Mennonites.

“Inside Mennonite circles, ‘Rosedale’ means a lot, but outside of those circles, it doesn’t mean much of anything,” he said. “Who are we trying to reach the most? Does it connect with those outside of the circles?”

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  • Conrad Ermle

    With all due respect, and thanks be to God, the name change failed. Except for a few Mennonites, who in the world has ever heard of “Rosedale”? The Hutterites have a couple of colonies with that name, but nothing about about it suggests Mennonite or Anabaptist. It’s just another generic term without any real basis in Bible Truth. “Conservative Mennonite” says a lot about who these people are (or were?). The name Mennonite is not a hinderance, and is highly respected in society in general and certainly in the “foreign field”. Don’t be ashamed brothers and sisters of being “different”, otherwise you will be on the fast slide to evangelicalism and/or fundamentalism. Please be careful. As Biblical Anabaptists you’ve a story to share with the nations. – Pastor Conrad Ermle

  • Jacob D. Friesen

    In the light of other ‘Rosedale’ ministries in the area, I can see a change like “Rosedale Mennonite Conference”, but including the name ‘Mennonite’ seems good and perhaps necessary. I have often taken note that while there are some underexposed or short on understanding folk who amuse themselves in the way they refer to us, there is pretty universal and historic respect held for our people. Our newspapers list names of law breakers and crime prone citizens frequently. Mennonite names are but seldom if ever in the news!

  • Gene Mast

    It appears that the cynical view may have some merit in that, like good progressives everywhere, those in favor of a name change will continue to push till it happens. On the other hand, a majority is a majority and should the minority ultimately thwart their desires?

    More importantly, perhaps we should wonder if those who represent us, being unwilling to be publicly known as Anabaptist or Mennonite, really see this particular theological stream as important or even valid. You may not be a Christian if you say you are, but it is pretty clear that if you will not identify as a follower of Christ you are not one. The same principle may hold for a particular splinter of the Church. Not that one tiny brook is exclusively synonymous with the river of the Christian church, but there is a principle here. If we really believe in our peculiar positions, why are we seemingly so eager to adopt an identification that does not identify us?

    Whether or not Executive Board is considering a change to our statement of theology, the findings of the Kanagy survey taken together with the statement on women leadership seem to indicate that our collective theology is changing. Written statements are what might be termed lagging indicators, only updated to reflect changes that have long since been accepted. At this point there appears to be a dichotomy between our statement on peace and what at least a quarter, and probably more, of us actually believe. EB should be considering a change to our statements or some meaningful stand and action on the issue. The women in leadership issue seems somewhat less important, and now, from the perspective of one outside the proverbial smoke-filled backrooms of Ohio, quite muddled due to the statements of EB. Maybe it all makes perfect sense from the inside, but out here, not so much.

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