by Colin Ingram, Conference Communication intern
“I’m glad that you took time out on our first heatwave of the summer to talk about some potentially hot topics,” Steve Kriss, LEADership Minister at Franconia Conference said to Conference delegates on Thursday, June 11th. The delegates had gathered at Christopher Dock High School to review delegate responsibilities and discuss MCUSA Convention 2015 resolutions. Some were delegates for Convention, while others were delegates for Conference Assembly.
With only two weeks left until Convention, the delegates sat at five tables discussing upcoming resolutions to be voted on at Convention. The 36 attendees also reviewed the roll and call of a delegate. A total of 230 delegates will represent the Conference between Convention and Conference Assembly.
“We have gathered here this evening to discuss important matters in the Mennonite Church,” Conference LEADership Minister Noel Santiago said.
After opening remarks from Conference Moderator, John Goshow, Santiago led the delegates through a reflection on the role of delegates leading into a time of Scripture-based devotion.
Questions were then posed to the delegates in a time of table discussion facilitated by John Stoltzfus, Conference Youth Minister.
“Together, [with] our collective wisdom we can come together and new insights and revelations can emerge as we lean into each other,” Stoltzfus said.
Moving between tables they discussed five questions World Café style, a discussion engagement style that seeks to obtain different perspectives between persons. Particularly, the delegates discussed the Status of the Membership Guidelines and Forbearance in the Midst of Difference resolutions.
“What we discussed here tonight was the resolutions,” John Nyce, conference delegate for Franconia Mennonite Church, said. “Depending on how those are either rejected [or] accepted will certainly set the agenda for November (Conference Assembly).”
Multiple concerns were expressed on the Membership Guidelines Resolution. In general, the resolution was considered by some as complex, unclear, and unneeded, while others found it values mutual accountability, the Confession of Faith, and common commitment to mission. However, some expressed concern that four years is too long for the delegate assembly to set aside considering changes to the Membership Guidelines.
Opinions on the Forbearance Resolution ranged between beliefs that it is a call for patience with each other and that it is “kicking the can down the road.” Some delegates found it wise and a seemingly biblical image of unity. However, some expressed that the ambiguity leaves them wondering how far it goes. Concerns regarding the Forbearance Resolution included that it may open the way for people to do “what they want”, though some believe the resolution reflects the value to search for wisdom with love and unity, having Christ as the center.
Overall, the discussion allowed delegates to further understand the resolutions and hear one another’s perspectives.
A lot of questions still remain from delegates, but the Conference is working on clarifying as much as they can before Convention. The Conference has begun planning for Conference Assembly preparing for how to address what may or may not happen in Kansas City. Communication will be shared with constituents as it becomes available.
Kendra Rittenhouse, Salford Mennonite Church, believed the discussion will bring Franconia Conference unity despite differing views. Moreover, as a first time delegate, she has a positive outlook on Kansas City Convention and the anticipated delegate interactions.
“I am expecting God to work. I am hoping that we can still hold onto one another even though we don’t agree, and that somehow we can roll through this new era [and] still have Christ as our focus,” Rittenhouse said.
No doubt the outcome of this summer’s resolutions will spark further discussion amongst Conference delegates.