Lancaster’s annulment

Mar 12, 2018 by

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In “Lancaster Chooses Its Own Path” (History, Feb. 12), Rich Preheim states that Lancaster Mennonite Conference is “apparently not the marrying kind” and that this led to its divorce from Mennonite Church USA. Having served as a bishop in LMC from 1987 to 2004, I have a different perspective.

As LMC considered joining MC USA, LMC leaders needed to be convinced the marriage was with those who shared the same faith that was “once delivered unto the saints.” MC USA executives were convincing in their arguments that the denomination shared the same faith and values as LMC. They stated that while there might be an isolated congregation that would accept gay marriage, no conference or significant numbers of congregations would allow it.

Some in LMC remained unconvinced. However, LMC leaders were so open to the marriage that they devised a way for congregations that opposed the merger to be members of LMC but not of MC USA. These congregations could consider themselves faithful to their Lord and at the same time not hinder those eager to join MC USA.

Unfortunately, LMC leaders did not recognize the prevalence of toxic doctrines within MC USA. After 10 years of trying to make the marriage work, it became apparent that the union had been entered under false pretenses. Many in MC USA did not share LMC’s beliefs about the authority of Scripture, the divinity of Christ, the uniqueness of Christ as the only way to the Father, and the cross of Christ (not peace activism) as the center of our faith. To stay faithful to Christ and his Word, LMC needed to get an annulment.

Preheim does not deal with the very real possibility that it is MC USA, not LMC, that is not the marrying kind. The denomination has distanced itself from the evangelical root of historic Anabaptism. It has found more in common with nonevangelical churches, which are dying. Sadly, MC USA itself is dying, having lost 40 percent of its members. Unless it changes course, its institutions will close, and the only way for its children to survive will be to leave the denomination.

By leaving MC USA, LMC has indicated its desire to align with its historic evangelical Anabaptist roots. LMC is open to associations with evangelical Anabaptist churches around the globe. It desires to live out the transforming power of the gospel.

Preheim does not deal with the reality that MC USA has chosen to ignore the lessons of LMC’s leaving and to circle the wagons around a dying denomination. But there is good news: God has a history of raising the dead and breathing life into dry bones.

E. Daniel Martin
Elizabethtown, Pa.

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