Evangelical Anabaptist group leaders explore affinity

Aug 20, 2018 by and

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About 40 leaders representing six evangelical Anabaptist groups gathered Aug. 6-8 for prayer and worship at Rosedale Bible College in Irwin, Ohio.

The meeting was initiated by John Troyer of Goshen, Ind., executive director of the Evana Network.

“We basically spent time worshiping and taking time alone with God and coming back and sharing what we heard,” Troyer said.

Evana board chair Matt Hamsher, far left, talks at a table; in the foreground from left, are Wes Furlong of Evana, Brinton Rutherford of LMC and CMC conference pastor Steve Swartz. — Jenell Schrock

Evana board chair Matt Hamsher, far left, talks at a table; in the foreground from left, are Wes Furlong of Evana, Brinton Rutherford of LMC and CMC conference pastor Steve Swartz. — Jenell Schrock

The organizations represented were Evana, Lancaster Mennonite Conference, U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, Conservative Mennonite Conference, Brethren in Christ U.S. and The Brethren Church (an evangelical Brethren denomination founded in 1883).

“There were a lot of new relationships built; many of them had never met each other,” Troyer said.

Combined, the groups have more than 100,000 adherents.

Troyer said the purpose wasn’t to produce a formal alignment between the groups but simply for the leaders to meet each other.

“It was a productive conversation and just very positive in terms of relationship-building,” he said.

LMC staff member Brinton Rutherford said in an emailed statement that the meeting was a great opportunity to network.

“I was amazed at the high degree of similarity that exists,” he said. “These groups share many of the same strengths and struggles.”

In his report to the CMC ministers’ business meeting on July 20, RBC President Jon Showalter said the prayer meeting’s goal was “to discuss how these historically Anabaptist groups might collaborate more in the future than they’ve done in the past.”

Although the meeting was held on RBC’s campus, it was not an official event of the school.

The meeting was in keeping with Evana’s vision expressed during its delegate sessions in July to collaborate with other evangelical Anabaptist denominations rather than compete with them.

Troyer said he began thinking about networking with evangelical Anabaptist groups before Evana announced its formation. He said he had a dream in 2015 right after he was asked to become Evana’s executive director.

“I received a clear sense that there would be a lot of doors opened for me to interact with other Anabaptist groups,” he said. He also heard a call in the dream to prayer, fasting and repentance.

Since then, he and leaders from other evangelical Anabaptist groups have been meeting by online video conference a couple of times a year, eventually including the six organizations represented at the August meeting.

“These were groups that seemed well within the evangelical Anabaptist framework,” Troyer said.

The conversation focused on relationships, theology and sharing resources, he said.

“We definitely weren’t pursuing any sort of formal attempts to connect,” he said.

In an emailed statement, USMB national director Don Morris said he appreciated the opportunity to get to know people from other evangelical Anabaptist groups.

“The time spent was well worth it, particularly in the areas of fellowship and understanding the myriad of resources that are available through other like-minded denominations,” Morris said. “I hope that we don’t soon forget what others in the family bring to the table and that all of us appeared to be willing to share those resources in the future.”

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