Tag Archives: CLC

Living God’s Great Shalom

by Stephen Kriss, Executive Minister

In our commitments for credentialing as pastors within Franconia Conference, we agree to giving and receiving counsel.  This week I am here in Indiana as part of our process of giving and receiving counsel through Mennonite Church USA’s Constituency Leader Council (CLC).

It’s not been an easy time in Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA).   Three conferences have seceded from MCUSA and several have lost significant membership numbers.  Three conferences have moved toward credentialing gay and lesbian persons which puts them at variance with our official confessional/polity positions.   We are not alone in our turmoil as similar processes have been playing out among United Methodists, Presbyterian Church USA and the Episcopalians.   Nonetheless we are here to keep trying to work it out.    At times, it feels like we are at our wits end with each other.

Franconia Conference was a founding body in MCUSA. We remain engaged thus far because we believe that we can do more together than we can on our own.  I recognize, though, that some of us question our relationship with MCUSA because of the tensions felt around our theology and practice thereof.   I understand both the acts of conscience and the levels of frustration that have meant Conferences have seceded and that others have landed at variance.

I believe in the kind of love that Paul wrote about that is patient, kind and enduring.   As a Conference, we have an enduring history. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been marked with enduring love that has been witness of the reconciling power of Christ’s peace.   Our current exploration of a possible reconciliation process with Eastern District Conference evidences our lack of patience with one another, that now is being addressed over a century later.  Randy Heacock’s story from the last Intersectings reminds us of the sad reality that reconciliation work on an interpersonal level is still a rarity.   So, I’m committed this week to sit at these tables on our behalf, and to find ways to engage constructively and generatively, along with John Goshow, our Conference moderator, and Mary Nitzsche, chair of our Ministerial Committee.

In these few days, for the sake of all of us, I commit to believing and hoping, of seeking the Spirit’s stirring.  Of continuing to live into my ordination vows of giving and receiving counsel.  Whether around tables in Elkhart or at the kitchen table or the communion table, this is our invitation.  It’s an invitation that endures; a recognition that love never fails, a way of living God’s great shalom, even through day long meetings.

Together we are doing God’s work: Conference Assembly 2013

John Goshow
Moderator John Goshow welcomes delegates at the 2011 Conference Assembly. Photo by Emily Ralph.

by John Goshow, Moderator, Blooming Glen congregation

The Constituency Leadership Council (CLC) of Mennonite Church USA met in Michigan this week.  The CLC, which includes all 21 conferences of Mennonite Church USA, serves as a group of elders for the denomination.  In my capacity as moderator of Franconia Conference I joined this meeting, along with Ertell Whigham, Executive Minister, and Jenifer Eriksen Morales, LEADership Minister.

Our conference report to the CLC says, “Franconia Mennonite Conference is a network of 42 congregations, 20 Conference Related Ministries (e.g. schools, retirement facilities, historical organizations, camps, prison ministry, thrift stores, etc.), partnerships, and initiatives continuing to emerge out of the 300+ years of Anabaptist witness and faith in the Western Hemisphere … with its beginning in Philadelphia. Franconia Conference’s mission is to ‘equip leaders to empower others to embrace God’s mission.’ With congregations and initiatives that span the East Coast of the US (Vermont to Georgia, north to south, and Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, east to west), our geographic center is in southeastern Pennsylvania. We work together in cultivating and developing leaders, in engaging the world through witness and relationships, and in our commitment to Christ as the center of our shared and individual vision.”

As moderator of Franconia Mennonite Conference, I have wondered what it means for us to be together now and how leadership roles have changed in the last 300+ years. The dictionary definition of moderator helps: “1) one who arbitrates; 2) one who presides over an assembly, meeting or discussion.”   I have learned to appreciate the role of moderator in that it provides the opportunity to connect with and listen to the many persons in our conference who care deeply about God’s work in our congregations and Conference Related Ministries.

In a  recent conversation with a friend we agreed that Franconia Conference is not the board or the staff. Rather, it is the 42 congregations of Franconia Conference and their members, and the Conference Related Ministries that provide important services to the people of their communities. These services—education, elder care, prison ministry, camping, mental health, housing, thrift stores, development disability, and others—serve a huge number of people and represent a wonderful example of how God is at work in our communities.

On November 2 at Penn View Christian School, Franconia Conference will gather for Assembly 2013. This year’s Assembly will be held jointly with Eastern District Conference and will provide the opportunity to worship together and to celebrate the many ways our two conferences are working together to advance God’s Kingdom.  During the business sessions the two conferences will meet separately to do work specific to each conference.  I am looking forward to our time of conferring and discerning God’s will together.

This year the delegates of Franconia Conference will spend significant time conferring about a statement that has been developed by the conference board. The statement acknowledges the cultural shifts impacting the practices and beliefs among Franconia Conference congregations. How can we continue to work together out of our commonality rather than our differences? How can we be accountable to one another as we, together, shape the future of our conference? Many conferences in Mennonite Church USA are having similar kinds of discussions. My hope and prayer is that the conferring and discernment at our assembly and the discussions across the Mennonite Church USA will lead to greater understanding of how together we are doing God’s work.