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Lancaster bishops affirm proposal to leave denomination

10.23. 2015 Written By: Hannah Heinzekehr 4,374 Times read

On Oct. 23, Lancaster (Pa.) Mennonite Conference’s Bishop Board affirmed a proposal to withdraw from Mennonite Church USA. The proposal required 80 percent affirmation to pass. The recommendation calls for a two-year implementation period.

In order to proceed with withdrawal, Lancaster Mennonite Conference’s constitution now requires that two-thirds of active credential leaders in the conference affirm the proposal. Bishops will begin distributing ballots to leaders in their districts within the next 10 days.

In a letter sent to conference pastors and leaders, Keith Weaver, executive conference minister, wrote, “Thanks to all of you for your prayers as the Conference Executive Council and Board of Bishops met today. We began our day in worship and prayer, acknowledging our own brokenness and need for the mercy and grace of God…In our meeting today, the group acknowledged the pain this proposed direction creates in our conference and denomination. Many expressed regrets that we are facing this decision…Please continue to pray for the grace and mercy of our Lord as we continue to find our way forward in these challenging times.”

On July 23, Weaver sent a letter to leaders in LMC informing them of the a proposal suggesting withdrawal from Mennonite Church USA. Since then, according to Kelli Yoder of Mennonite World Review, more than 1,800 people attended LMC listening meetings to offer information and gather feedback about the proposal. Seven hundred and twenty-six attendees filled out response sheets afterward. An Affiliation Task Force helped to collect responses, which the Bishop Board used to guide their work.

Lancaster Mennonite Conference joined Mennonite Church USA in 2004. With 13,838 members in 163 congregations, LMC is Mennonite Church USA’s largest conference.


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12 Responses to “Lancaster bishops affirm proposal to leave denomination”

  1. Craig Anderson says:

    This saddens me!

    While a very large part of me wants to leave my comment at that, I cannot help but challenge Keith Weaver. You say that “many expressed regrets that we are facing this decision.” What are you really trying to communicate with this statement? While technically undoubtedly true, what is the reason you say this? What do you want us to understand? I suspect disingenuousness at best, and dishonesty at worst, at least by the biblical standard of letting our yes be yes and our no be no. Come on, let us all uphold Christian standards in our communication. And may our leaders lead us in modeling this behaviour.

  2. Charlie Kraybill, Bronx, NYC says:

    Release the 726 attendee response sheets to the Mennonite public. Block out the information that would reveal the identities of the attendees, and put the substance of all the response sheets on-line, in the interest of transparency and full disclosure.

  3. M. South says:

    When you radically alter the theology of a church against the beliefs of members, it’s a foregone conclusion that what led those members to join, once lost, will lead them to depart. Of course folks are disappointed that subsequent events to joining made it a necessity of conscience to leave, but it would be dishonest of them to pretend to believe what cannot in good conscience be accepted. I think it is disingenuous to try to create guilt for those who leave, which is another cause for regret. When you succeed in taking over a denomination, it can be frustrating that the ordinary church folks you thought went along with that, you cannot hold. Thus the bitterness expressed in the face of an unexpected Pyhrric victory.

  4. Ron Yoder says:

    The 13,000 plus LMC members deserve to make this decision through a referendum.

  5. Fred Winston says:

    No need to be transparent. Scripture alone should guide us. Lancaster simply is following scripture.

  6. Nate Lehman says:

    When will one leader stand up and tell the truth about why the Lancaster Mennonites are leaving USA Mennonites?

  7. Dave Huston says:

    When I joined a Lancaster Conference church in 1977 the big disagreement was over divorce and remarriage. First they could not join. then they could join but not hold leadership positions. Now, LMC does not enforce either of these positions.
    Shortly thereafter, women in ministry became the test of being “Biblical”. eventually, following a close vote by the credentialed elect, the bishops decreed that women could be ordained as lead pastors in any LMC church that so desired( as long as she met the other criteria).
    Then in July of this year at the MCUSA gathering in KC, delegates voted to affirm the teaching position of the traditional understanding of marriage and same sex relations while also asking churches to listen to each other.
    So now, LMC bishops are recommending a withdrawal from MCUSA.
    It could be said that these events indicate that LMC is becoming more liberal than the rest of the Mennonite world.

  8. M. South says:

    “Then in July of this year at the MCUSA gathering in KC, delegates voted to affirm the teaching position of the traditional understanding of marriage and same sex relations while also asking churches to listen to each other.”

    While the first part of that statement, although terse, could be said to be accurate, the second half isn’t.

    Charitably, the votes were to uphold, then not hold anyone to it.

    Kind of like wanting to still have your cake, and eat it too.

  9. Harvey Yoder says:

    The Mennonite Church is about to see its mother conference abandoning the family it largely gave birth. As European Mennonites arrived in the new world they were all a part of that one communion that became Lancaster Conference, and from here Mennos moved west and, in the case of what later became Virginia Conference, south. Meanwhile, many of the less conservative Amish in various parts of the US became “Amish Mennonite” (rather than remaining Old Order Amish), and aligned themselves with the Mennonite Church, but many of the rest can trace their heritage directly to LMC.

  10. M. South says:

    “The Mennonite Church is about to see its mother conference abandoning the family it largely gave birth.”

    Perhaps it’s more their view that some of the offspring departed the family beliefs, abandoning the faith of their fathers.

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