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Franklin Mennonite Conference votes to leave MC USA

4.19. 2016 Written By: The Mennonite staff 2,951 Times read

Photo: Marion Mennonite Church, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, was the site for the annual meeting of Franklin Mennonite Conference. 

At its annual spring delegate meeting Monday April 18 at Marion Mennonite Church, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Franklin Mennonite Conference (FMC) members voted to withdraw from Mennonite Church USA by a vote of 44 to 13. The 77 percent approval was well beyond the necessary two-thirds. The action takes effect immediately, and the conference will remain without affiliation for one year.

Franklin is the third conference to withdraw from MC USA over the course of the past year. In July 2015, North Central Mennonite Conference voted to leave MC USA, followed by Lancaster Mennonite Conference in November.

The proposal to withdraw first came from an ad hoc committee that surveyed credentialed leaders last fall. The board of FMC adopted the recommendation, and congregations began processing it last November. In a November 13 interview, Conference Minister Allen Lehman noted that movement towards condoning “noncelibate homosexuality” was a “lightning rod” for the conference.

When asked about the driving factors behind the conferences decision to leave, Moderator Ray Geigley wrote in an April 22 e-mail, “The pressure by several congregations [and] conferences in MC USA…to force acceptance of their rewriting [of] God’s creative intent and definition of marriage in order to validate sexual relationships between same-sex persons and to credential such persons into pastoral leadership roles. This is a direct violation of our agreed to ‘Confession of Faith’ and MC USA seems without authority or courage to confront such breaking of covenant with other MC USA conferences.”

In an April 19 phone interview, Lehman said he didn’t know exactly how the vote would turn out but was ready to work with either outcome. “Some congregations may want to remain in Mennonite Church USA,” he said, “and they have a year to decide that.”

According to Geigley, the conference will form a task force to explore options for future affiliation and to “seek new vision.” He noted that several conference leaders have attended events with the Evana Network and that the conference has invited Wes Furlong, director of church development for Evana, to serve as the resource person for the conference’s annual leadership retreat at Cove Valley Camp in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, this weekend.

FMC includes 14 congregations. According to Lehman, two or three may want to remain with MC USA.

“While I understand the circumstances that led to the decision by the Franklin conference to leave Mennonite Church USA, I grieve this loss,” wrote Ervin Stutzman, executive director of MC USA, in an April 20 e-mail. “I have fond affection for this group of churches, and I will miss them. I hope we find ways to stay in touch with each other.”

Terry Shue, director of leadership development for Mennonite Church USA, attended the meeting. In an April 19 phone interview, he said FMC’s process, which took about six months, was “exemplary, not a knee-jerk reaction.” Shue said he spoke after the vote about the valuable role of FMC leaders in MC USA as part of the Constituency Leaders Council. “I told them that Mennonite Church USA will miss Franklin Conference’s voice in the church,” he said.


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7 Responses to “Franklin Mennonite Conference votes to leave MC USA”

  1. Frank Lostaunau says:

    I don’t quite understand the reason(s) that MFC left the conference? Can somebody explain it to me?

    Also, what does “homosexuality” have to do with it?

  2. David Wilcox says:

    The Confession of Faith in Mennonite Perspective is a statement that defines what the church – MC-USA, believes. For another conference to officially declare that those who do not ascribe to that confession should still be leaders means that the claim of unity is not real. That makes the FMC decision understandable. As for ‘homosexuality’ – that isn’t the issue. The issue is related to non-celibate homosexuality being declared a non-issue when determining who should lead a congregation that claims in its Confession of Faith that God’s plan for marriage is that it be only between one man and one woman (Article 19). We grapple with whether the Scriptures are authoritative, whether they teach as a timeless truth that the practice of homosexuality is sin (whether in a committed long-term relationship or not), and if the Scriptures do, whether we should place into leadership one who chooses to think otherwise. It’s not about including or excluding – it is about choosing leaders based upon a shared Confession of Faith. Any denomination would expect its leaders to share a common Confession of Faith.

    • Steve Yoder says:

      How convenient that you add the word “only” and omit the words “for life” from your quote of Confession, Article 19!

  3. Cindy Singer says:

    I feel bad that this continues to happen
    There is great new information in regards to better interpretations of the scriptures that lead to very different conclusions about homosexuality. These conclusions have been reached by Biblical scholars and ethicists among which are Dr. James Brownson and Dr. David Gusher along with many other scholars and pastors all over the country and world. Even with or without this study I lament over these churches exclusionary policies. If you continue to read your scriptures in English with 2016 eyes you will continue to be exclusionary and you are giving up the benefits of vibrant churches. Inclusive and affirming churches are far more vibrant and alive. Another reminder; life long celibacy is never a mandate in scripture – it is a gift or a calling. LGBT people should be given the same opportunity to marry and love as the rest of us under the blessing of God and our churches.

    • Cindy, I’ve read and appreciate Gushee. He’s certainly calling traditional churches to modify our stance toward gay and lesbian individuals and couples, but he is not calling us to abandon the wisdom of Scripture.

      Our Confession views covenanted man-woman marriage as part of the wisdom and justice of God. This follows Jesus, who said God creates us male and female. Jesus went on to say this difference in gender is the reason (in God’s design) for us to leave our cozy families of origin and create new life with the other.

      You will recall that in Romans 1, Paul cites by way of example an entire culture (an imperial one, very similar to the one you and I live in here in the USA) that had embraced same-gender sexual activity. Apparently many of us are (or could be) attracted to same-gender sexual activity if we cast our lot with a culture supportive of such.

      I think David Wilcox stated the matter very accurately.

  4. Steve Yoder says:

    Your remarks make me wonder if you have read Gushee, “Changing Our Mind”. If not you should. He certainly does not call for abandoning the wisdom of scripture in that work, though I think you might disagree with me, since he certainly does call into serious question the traditional interpretation of scripture, and it is clear from your volume of comments on this issue, that how one interprets scripture on this issue is the criteria you use to determine whether the interpreter’s view of scripture is high enough to suit you.

  5. Cindy Singer says:

    I have read the book some time ago and if I remember correctly Gushee goes into a brief discription of alternate interpretations. Also I have heard his key note speech to The Reformation Project ( in person and several times over since, on TRP website). He does indeed indicate that we need to take a fresh look at scripture. I am not in any way saying we should abandon scripture – in fact quite the opposite. I take a high view of scripture. I have completed the Reformation Project Leadership Cohort graduate level training on the scriptural interpretation of these Biblical verses. We were required to study all sides of the argument and I find the traditional interpretations to be wanting. I would not support affirming/inclusion unless I though it was scriptural to do so. I spent a good deal time studying Brownson and attended classes he taught on this topic. I suggest everyone do so as well. I don’t think my words here will change anyone. But for me non-affirming will never be ok. Affirming is clearly biblical. However, I always will support full equality in our churches for our lgbt siblings over church unity any day.