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2013-09-01 issue:

Congregations switch membership

Executive Board staff says seven have switched, two in process.

by Everett J. Thomas

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In the last couple of years, staff members in the Executive Board's leadership development office have been keeping a record of Mennonite Church USA congregations that leave one area conference and join a different one.

According to Beth Hunsberger, leadership development office manager, seven congregations have dropped membership in their original conferences and joined another Mennonite Church USA conference during this period. They include several that made the switch before the Executive Board's formal record keeping began:

2007: Swiss Mennonite Church, in Alsen, N.D., transferred its membership from Central Plains Mennonite Conference to the North Central Conference.

2009: First Mennonite of Berne, Ind., withdrew from Central District Conference and joined Ohio Conference.

2012: St. Paul (Minn.) Mennonite Church withdrew from Central Plains Conference and joined Central District Conference.

2013: Bethel Mennonite Church, Inman, Kan., withdrew from Western District conference and joined South Central Conference.

2013: Herold Mennonite Church, Cordell, Okla., withdrew from Western District conference and joined South Central Conference.

2013: Metro Mennonite Church, Mustang, Okla., withdrew from Western District Conference and joined South Central Conference.

Frazer (Pa.) Mennonite Church, Lancaster (Pa.) Conference, transferred to Atlantic Coast Conference.

Denominational minister Nancy Kauffmann listed other congregations currently in possible transitions from one conference to another. She provided the following updates on July 23:

• Covenant Mennonite Fellowship in Sarasota, Fla., was introduced to Central District Conference in June. According to CDC's policy of membership, transferring is a two-year process, so Covenant will be up for vote in 2014.

• Salem Mennonite Church in Kidron, Ohio, has decided to leave Central District Conference and possibly join Ohio Conference. According to Mennonite Church USA policy, the former conference will hold records for up to one year while a former congregation moves to another conference.  We will know by March 2014 if Salem will join Ohio Conference.

"We have a policy not to change records until we get official word from conferences that the transitions are complete," Kauffmann said.

The database will continue to include congregations that have left Mennonite Church USA completely, but those congregations will not show up in the Directory.

According to Lois Johns Kaufmann, conference minister for Central District Conference, two other congregations not listed by the database also joined CDC: Atlanta Mennonite Fellowship in 2004 and Shalom Mennonite Congregation in Harrisonburg, Va., in 2005.

"The losses make me wonder how the rural and urban parts of the church can get to know and trust each other," Kaufmann said on Aug. 15. "Even as I reflect on the losses, I recognize that new beginnings can be helpful."

Central District Conference moderator Ron Guengerich expressed his sadness at the loss of the congregations but appreciation for the new congregations that have joined CDC.

"We have conversation concerning the issues on which we sense there is disagreement," Guengerich said on Aug. 15, "but we also do not equate unity in Christ with uniformity on all issues. We trust that the Holy Spirit is moving and guiding in the different contexts. In CDC, we do not function as a body in which the conference is a parent that is enforcing uniformity and imposing one viewpoint on our member congregations."

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