Tag Archives: Ertell Whigham

Why I Said Yes …

 . . . to ongoing work and hope

by Stephen Kriss

Mother Theresa called it a “call within the call.”  That’s the best language I’ve found to describe why I’ve said yes to the invitation to the role of Executive Minister with Franconia Conference.   These weeks since the announcement went public I’ve felt surrounded by congratulatory support as well as honest condolences.   The congratulations recognize the largeness of the role and the condolences honor the difficulty of church leadership in this time and space.  I’ve received them both openly and humbly feeling strongly the sense of call between God, the world, our community and me for “such a time as this.”

While I’ve worked now over a decade with Franconia Conference, this appointment still feels like a surprise.  I’d have never guessed moving to Philadelphia after grad school would mean staying this long and finding my heart drawn to the community that we are, that we have been and that we are becoming.   I’ve come to love us from our immigrant congregations in South Philadelphia, to our historic congregations in Bucks and Montgomery County, to our experiments in church life in the Lehigh Valley and our unique blend of Vermonter Anabaptism.   There’s no where like us.   We are poised with interesting and sometimes complicated possibilities.

I’m grateful for the thorough work of the search committee and for the discerning work of the board.   Ertell Whigham, who has served as our executive minister, hands off a stable and financially sound organization.   He is leaving the role after being the first African American to lead a Conference in our national body.  Ertell’s commitment to our ongoing transformation as missional and intercultural people is one that I intend to carry forward.

In my interview with the Conference Board, I said that a marker of success for me will be collaboration.  I’m not exactly sure how we’ll mark or measure this yet, but I’ve seen glimpses of it in our work together in mutuality and sharing resources that give me some clues.   We have a long story together and I’m convinced that our future could be bright.   We’ll need to keep learning (to keep on being disciples) and to invest carefully so that our gift of faith might not simply be safely preserved but multiplied like the resources entrusted to the servants in Jesus’ parable from the Gospel of Matthew.

In this journey, the text “to whom much is given, much is required” has lingered in my head.   I hear it both for me and for all of us.   I receive this work as a gift.   I acknowledge the privileges that are mine and are ours.  These are not simply political, economic or racial/class privileges (though there are those), but privileges of grace, hope, and love.    It is because of these eternal things that last that I have said yes, again this time to the invitation of the Spirit among us.  I look forward to living into this “call within a call” together.  And trust that we’ll continue our faithful legacy of work and hope.

Worthy of our Calling to Extend Christ’s Peace

by Stephen Kriss

During the last staff meeting in this space in between, I invited my colleagues to share their celebrations and questions for the last month.   Without exception, the celebrations and questions had to do with pastors.   We celebrate the completion of pastoral search processes, with the beginning of Mike Spinelli’s leadership at Perkiomenville; the call of Maria Hosler Byler to an associate pastor role at Salford; Josh Jefferson’s installation and licensing last Sunday at Souderton as a youth pastor; and Sandy Drescher-Lehman’s beginning as pastor at Methacton. Many of these processes were lengthy discernments.   We celebrate the new beginnings and new possibilities that leadership can bring in the life of our communities.

Conference staff took a road trip with Pastor Bruce Eglinton-Woods (Salem), to explore the community where the congregation is ministering.

Our questions had to do with how we walk with pastors and congregations through difficult times.  We wonder how God will provide with prolonged pastoral search processes at Franconia and Taftsville.  We prayed as John Bender from Allentown who was in the hospital making difficult decisions between life and death, as he was readmitted to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia (he made the decision by the time our meeting had ended).  We prayed for an upcoming surgery that Charlie Ness from Perkiomenville will be undergoing.   These are all things we attend to as staff beyond our meeting time and carry in our hearts and heads.

The last month has meant focused attention on planning for Conference Assembly — a great time to celebrate the work God is doing in our midst, and spend time discerning and equipping ourselves for the future.  Registration and the docket are available at http://edc-fmc.org/assembly/  to help us, as a conference, prepare for assembly at Penn View Christian School.  Postcard invitations and posters will be coming to your congregations in the next two weeks. We’ve hosted and gotten some feedback from our time with David Boshart (moderator-elect) from Mennonite Church USA.  We’re prepping for his return at assembly to discuss more specific issues around human sexuality that continue to challenge our capacity to be church together, while going to the margins to be and proclaim the Good News.

Our conference executive minister Ertell M. Whigham comes back on the job on Saturday, October 1.  My season of this stretch of the race as acting executive minister has passed.  I’m ready to return the baton and responsibilities back to Ertell as he navigates the next few months.  I’ve learned a lot in these months.  I’ve been busier than usual with meetings, emails, texts and phone calls.  I have lots of hope for us as a community, but recognize our fragility at the same time.  God continues to bless us with flourishing, and challenges enough to test and grow our hearts, minds, and souls.

At the beginning of these three months, I felt drawn to the text to “live a life worthy of my calling.”  This time, ending this stretch, I want to turn that text back over to us as individuals and a community, to stay focused on the things we’ve discerned together, and to live, work and minister together in such a way that honors the sense of call that exemplifies what God has invited us toward in extending the peace of Christ to each other and to neighbors nearby and faraway.

Staff Update: The Space In Between

by Stephen Kriss

We are three weeks into Executive Minister Ertell Whigham’s three month sabbatical.   In the meantime, I’m serving as acting executive minister, which so far has meant attending to both more details and broader issues and possibilities for our community of faith together.   These months will continue to provide opportunities for staff growth and engagement in new ways.   Our conference youth minister, John Stoltzfus, is also on sabbatical, which makes the staff lean and busy for the summer.

In Mennonite Church USA, our conference currently has the most advertised pastoral openings.  We are searching for diverse leaders from Taftsville in Vermont to South Philly to serve among our congregations.   With about a dozen pastoral openings across our Conference, this is a significant time of transition and focused work.  Pastoral transitions are high priorities for LEADership Minister engagement to help keep our congregations healthy and growing.

conference assembly 2015 175This summer we, the staff, begin “Going to the Margins” staff meetings which will mean the Conference office will be closed the last Wednesday of July, August, and September in the afternoons as staff engage with our congregational communities.  Our first “Going to the Margins” staff meeting will be with Doylestown Mennonite next week where we’ll engage with pastors and spend time learning there.  I look forward to each of these three afternoon times out together.

Franconia Conference is about conferring.  There are frequent meetings and there is much planning happening for meetings coming up this fall.  Office staff work hard to ensure that we are ready to gather together in ways that are meaningful and that information flows in a timely and efficient way.  We’re in process of planning for our annual assembly and continue to work to update our pastoral credentialing records.

There is much to do.  We have many good stories to tell.   We continue to work and to hope.  I invite you to join together in prayer for the conference, staff, board and everyone across our almost 7000 people conference community as together we strive to “live a life worthy of our calling.”

Executive Search Update

Franconia Conference logoOn May 19, Franconia Mennonite Conference (FMC) Moderator, John Goshow, announced to the conference delegates and conference related ministry (CRM) leaders that the board had accepted the resignation of Executive Minister, Ertell Whigham, to be effective January 31, 2017. Ertell states in his resignation letter, “it continues to be a blessing and honor to serve as the Executive Minister and CEO of FMC. On behalf of the conference, I have enjoyed the opportunities and collaborative relationships that have developed and been strengthened among our constituency and MCUSA affiliates. However, as I sense time for a change in responsibility and ministry focus, I believe that the season approaches for me to step out of my current conference role as Executive Minister and CEO of FMC.”

With that the Conference Board Executive Committee began engaging Franconia Conference pastors, CRM leaders, board and staff for their input on what they desire from the next Executive Minister.  A survey was sent out to these constituency groups and resulted in 22 pages of feedback. Three meetings were then held where pastors, CRM leaders, board and staff were invited to dialogue with the Executive Committee about their hopes and expectations of the next Executive Minister. The survey results and notes from these meetings have been shared with the search committee.

As communicated in a letter from the conference moderator on July 1, Joy Sutter of Salford Mennonite Church, has agreed to chair the search committee. Joy is also a member of the MCUSA board, and the Associate Administrator for the Cancer Service Line at University of Pennsylvania Health System. She brings extensive administrative and executive experience to this process. Five additional people have also been named to the search committee in the last few weeks. These individuals have been appointed by the board with input from some conference pastors. The other members include Angela Moyer (Ripple) who will serve as the board representative on the committee, Henry Longacre (Swamp), Glen Nemath (Blooming Glen), Doris Diener (Franconia Mennonite Church), and Michael Meneses (Wellspring Church of Skippack). The search committee is scheduled to have their first meeting on July 21.

The conference board desires not to rush this process and wants to ensure that the search committee has all the time they need to discern the person God has for this role. At the same time, it is hoped that the next Executive Minister would be named by December 31. Further communication regarding the process will be released as it is available via Intersectings and possible letters from the Moderator. Questions regarding the process can be directed to the Conference Moderator.

Blessing and Appreciation

IMG_6026On Wednesday, March 23rd, Franconia Conference hosted an appreciation luncheon for the Conference’s 19 Conference Related Ministries (CRMs). Representatives from the organizations enjoyed lunch in the Fisher Auditorium at Dock Woods, part of Living Branches. Welcome remarks were given by Ertell Whigham, conference executive minister. John Goshow, conference moderator, reflected on his time as a leader at Penn Foundation, a CRM, and offered his perspective now from a conference stand point, highlighting all the CRMs offer to the conference and conference congregations. It was noted that through the CRMs, well over 50,000 people are reached annually.

IMG_6030As a token of appreciation, each CRM was gifted by the conference a Pennsylvania Redware plate handcrafted by Denise Wilz (www.wilzpottery.com) and customized with the CRM’s name. In addition, Mim Book and Jim Lapp, credentialed leaders within Franconia Conference offered a blessing over the CRMs.

CRM Lunch - photo 1
Click to enlarge

To learn more about who the Conference Related Ministries and how you and your congregation can get involved with them, visit http://franconiaconference.org/directory/conference-related-ministries/.

 

Prayer of Blessing
Conference Related Ministries Appreciation Luncheon
March 23, 2016

Offered by Mim Book and Jim Lapp, credentialed leaders with Franconia Conference

IMG_6033It is an honor to be with you today and to offer a blessing for you in your varied ministries in behalf of our conference and congregations.

Thank you for the important service you each provide that enriches the body of Christ in such diverse ways. Please pray with us. 

Gracious God, you have blessed your church with a rich abundance of gifts for service through these sisters and brothers, and the boards, leaders and staff in each of these ministries.

We praise you for the women and men with vision who gave pioneering leadership these past 100 years to bring into existence these many forms of service that extend the mission of our congregations. 

We give thanks for those who contributed their finances and time, often sacrificially, for the good of children, youth, older people, those with disabilities,  those well and not well, the newly born and those dying, the incarcerated, and those with physical and mental illnesses.

We are grateful for those who brought business experience and wisdom to their leadership as they invested their gifts and resources in these creative ways.  We thank you for pastors and church leaders who offered spiritual insight and wisdom to help make these ministries flourish.

We now pray your blessing upon those who give leadership to our camps and retreat centers – Bethany Birches in Vermont, Camp Men-O-Lan, and Spruce Lake.   We pray that in each setting the spirit of Christ would infuse those who serve with love, and transform all the participants in these ministries.

We pray your power and blessing on our schools – The City School, Quakertown Christian, Penn View and Christopher Dock high school.  May the administration, faculty and boards of directors serve with clarity of purpose and conviction in the nurture and formation of our children and youth.

We pray grace upon all who serve with the Indian Creek Foundation and Peaceful Living who provide opportunities and care for those with special challenges in life.  May each one be treated with dignity, compassion and love. 

We pray your gracious presence upon all who serve with the Penn Foundation and Liberty Ministries.  Let your healing mercy and love shine through the staff and contribute growth and stability to those who too often are stigmatized in our society.

We pray for those who lead us in gathering and managing historical resources through the Germantown Historic Trust and the Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania.  Through these ministries may the faith of our ancestors continue to enrich and guide our churches in the 21st century.

We pray your continued strength on the ministries of the Care and Share Shoppes and the MCC Material Resource Center and all who lead and volunteer in these ministries.  Bless these labors of love and sharing as a means of ministering in the name of Christ to those local and global who experience special needs.

We pray the Delaware Valley MEDA, the Eastern PA Mennonite Disaster Service, and Life with God program will continue to offer resources that touch the spiritual and physical needs of people with the hope and peace of Christ. 

We pray for all our ministries that serve the aging – Living Branches on its various campuses, and the Community at Rockhill.  We pray the staff, administrators, chaplains, and boards of directors will have wisdom to foster communities of healing and peace, with respect for the spirituals sages who reside there, and for those with limited family and other resources. 

Our God, we also ask your Divine blessing on our conference leaders who seek to show support and encouragement to those in these ministries.

With the apostle Paul we exclaim, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”

With the saints of all ages we pray, “Now to God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly in these ministries, far more than we can ask or imagine, to this God be glory in the church, in all our church related ministries, and in Christ Jesus, to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

On the road with LEADership ministers

by Sharon Williams

Aldo_CA2014What comes to mind when you imagine Franconia Conference LEADership ministers and the work they do? You may be surprised to know that the new conference office at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School is probably not the place to find them, although a phone call there will certainly get you connected.

Steve Kriss, Jenifer Eriksen Morales, Aldo Siahaan, John Bender, Noel Santiago, and Ertell Whigham are always on the go. Each one connects with anywhere from three to 12 congregations in Vermont, northern Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley, southeastern Pennsylvania, and Georgia. They give much time and energy to congregations in transition and emerging congregations. An estimated 50 percent of conference congregations are in the midst of transition and/or growth.

Pastoral leadership is a common transition. Some congregations choose to work with an intentional interim pastor who stands in the gap and prepares the congregation to receive a new pastor. The LEAD ministers provide guidance for both search processes, and support elders and lay leaders in managing the congregation’s current and future priorities.

Jenifer Eriksen Morales, minister of transitional ministries, also works with other Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA) conferences on the east coast to train intentional interim pastors, and serves on the MCUSA task force for interim pastoral ministries.

Emerging and growing congregations are another focus. These congregations are high maintenance, but in a very good way. LEAD ministers help to address staffing needs, work with pastors who are new to the Anabaptist faith, and build relationships—in essence, anything that propels the missional vision forward.

The work of the LEAD ministers sometimes crisscrosses when their congregations work together. The Lehigh Valley youth ministry partnership is shared by the Whitehall, Ripple and Vietnamese Gospel congregations and led by Danilo Sanchez. Vietnamese Gospel Church in Allentown and Philadelphia Praise Center are partnering in a joint worship and outreach ministry with the Vietnamese community in south Philly. The LEAD ministers must also nurture their relationships with each other so their collaborations are fluid and fruitful.

Last summer, Aldo Siahaan and Steve Kriss received a “Macedonia call” (Acts 16:9-10). Could they meet with a Mara (Burmese) church during their visit with Georgia Praise Center leaders? This congregation in Atlanta is part of a network of Mara churches in Indianapolis, Indiana, Baltimore, Maryland, and Charlotte, North Carolina. The network is reaching out to Mennonite conferences on the east coast for assistance in establishing pastoral leadership. The exploratory relationship has many possibilities.

“As an immigrant pastor myself, it’s exciting to walk with the Mara Christians, to see them reach their destiny as a people, a church in this country,” says Aldo. “If they choose to join Mennonite Church USA, how will we receive each other and grow in ministry together?”

Each LEAD minister offers her or his unique gifts to their congregations. Noel enjoys helping pastors, elders and lay leaders experience the values and practices of intercessory prayer. Jenifer weaves in a missional focus with unchurched neighbors, adapted from the Kairos in Chaos ministry she’s involved with in Souderton. Aldo enjoys a natural affinity with the Mara church through their similar languages of Indonesian and Malay. Steve and Ertell always bring best practices of intercultural competencies to the mix.

Looking for your congregation’s LEAD minister? She or he may be in a meeting, consulting with pastors or elders in a coffee shop, or in a car on the way to your church.

Sharon K. Williams is a musician, editor and congregational/non-profit consultant. She serves the Lord with the Nueva Vida Norristown New Life congregation as the minister of worship.

Franconia Conference announces upcoming staff change

by Stephen Kriss, director of communication

Gay Brunt Miller
Gay Brunt Miller

With a stable team of LEADership Ministers in place, Franconia Conference will be adjusting administrative and communication staffing into the first half of 2015.   After 15 years of ministry leadership and administration, Gay Brunt Miller (Spring Mount congregation) announced her intent to leave the conference sometime in early 2015.  Brunt Miller has served alongside three different executive leaders and submitted her intent to resign early to allow the Conference to transition smoothly while she explores new vocational possibilities.

Emily Ralph, associate director of communication, relocated to Lancaster in 2013 where she began a pastoral position at Sunnyside Mennonite Church.  After serving Franconia for four years, she intends to resign her Conference role by March 1, 2015.   Emily will continue communication work with Mennonite World Conference through the global assembly in Harrisburg this summer.

Emily Ralph
Emily Ralph

“Gay and Emily have poured their hearts and souls into the ministry of Franconia Conference and we’ve been blessed by them and through them; I have been especially blessed in my role as executive minister.  Communication and administration have undergirded the strength of conference ministry over these last few years,” said Ertell M. Whigham, Franconia Conference Executive Minister.

The hiring process for administration and communication roles will begin immediately with an intention to have some overlap within both roles.   Staff changes in communication and administration open the possibility for the role to be shaped to serve the conference’s current needs.

Conference center announces move to Christopher Dock

by Sharon K. Williams, for Franconia Conference

Franconia Mennonite and Eastern District conference offices will move to the Christopher Dock Mennonite High School campus in Lansdale, Pennsylvania in January 2015, in a strategic collaboration involving four conference related ministries. The offices will be on the first floor of the Rosenberger Academic Center.

Christopher Dock principal Conrad Swartzentruber speaks to students in chapel. In addition to providing space, the move will also allow more regular interaction between students, pastors and conference staff.
Christopher Dock principal Conrad Swartzentruber speaks to students in chapel. In addition to providing space, the move will also allow more regular interaction between students, pastors and conference staff.

The conference center is currently located in a building owned by the Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania (MHEP) in Harleysville, Pennsylvania.

While MHEP and the conference offices have had an amicable partnership, MHEP had offers from other organizations that were interested in renting the whole building, which would generate additional income for MHEP.

Recently, Christopher Dock offered a viable solution.

“The reconfiguration of some classroom and office space makes this very efficient arrangement possible. But a larger significance is found in the collaboration,” said Christopher Dock principal Conrad Swartzentruber. “Dock strives to build relationships among our students, congregations, and conferences. Our hope is that this will be a lively, ongoing effort. Christopher Dock’s mission is to educate Franconia and Eastern District youth and other youth who share Anabaptist values. Our relationship to both conferences is very healthy and important to us. This new arrangement will allow us to rub shoulders with conference and congregational leaders. We look forward to sharing our campus in this way.”

Ertell Whigham, executive minister for Franconia Conference and Warren Tyson, conference minister with Eastern District Conference, affirm the move to Christopher Dock and the continued sharing of one center for both conferences. John Stoltzfus, youth minister for all three ministries, already works from an office on Christopher Dock’s campus.

“Eastern District wants to continue living into a shared vision and working relationship with Franconia, and we value this opportunity to connect with Christopher Dock, one of our conference-related ministries,” said Tyson, who also chairs the school’s board of trustees.

“The relationship between the two conferences is very beneficial, and I look forward to the possibilities of interaction between the Dock community and conference leadership,” said Whigham. “This will also encourage our pastors to visit the campus.”

Sarah Wolfgang Hefner, director of MHEP, expressed appreciation for the relationship with the conference office, saying, “I have enjoyed getting to know conference center staff over the past few years and will miss the interaction with them.”

“We are grateful for our partnerships with MHEP and all our conference related ministries,” said John Goshow, moderator of Franconia Conference. “We encourage and rejoice in creative collaboration. This particular situation is a four-way win.”

Seeking peace in their cities, urban leaders gather in Philadelphia

by Rachel Sommer for Mennonite Central Committee East Coast and Mennonite Church USA

urban ministry conference
Chantelle Todman Moore (Philadelphia program coordinator, MCC East Coast), Freeman Miller (retired bishop, Philadelphia District of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA) and Glen Alexander Guyton (chief operating officer, Mennonite Church USA) pray together for peace in their cities at the Urban Anabaptist Ministry Symposium co-sponsored by MCC East Coast and Mennonite Church USA. (MCC photo/Rachel Sommer) 

In a letter to Jerusalem’s exiled leaders, the prophet Jeremiah called on them to work for the welfare of Babylon, the city to which they had been deported. “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city,” he wrote. “Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jer. 29:7).

From October 2-4, nearly 100 Anabaptist leaders gathered in Philadelphia to discuss what responding to Jeremiah’s charge looks like in the 21st century.

Participants came from cities including New York; Hampton, Virginia; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C., to attend the Urban Anabaptist Ministry Symposium organized by Glen Alexander Guyton, chief operating officer for Mennonite Church USA, and Chantelle Todman Moore, Philadelphia program coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) East Coast.

The symposium invited urban leaders to discuss practical Anabaptist ministry in their cities. “Being a peace church isn’t just about not going to war – it’s about manifesting God’s kingdom in our own communities,” said speaker Addie Banks, executive director at The Groundswell Group in the Bronx, New York.

Banks said the symposium provided opportunities for her to learn from colleagues in new ways. “Each of us has a tool. We all need tools to do our work, and gathering here with one another is like assembling a toolkit.”

During plenary sessions, Banks along with Al Taylor, pastor of Infinity Mennonite Church (Harlem, NY), and Ertell Whigham, associate pastor of Nueva Vida Norristown New Life (Norristown, Pa.) and executive minister of Franconia Mennonite Conference, shared “best practices” from their ministries.

Whigham spoke about the need to develop personal connections in culturally diverse contexts. “To be intercultural in the church of God today means that I will recognize how God has blessed you in your life, and I will recognize the gift that you are to me,” he said. “I will allow the Jesus in you to be the Jesus in me.”

Workshop leaders drew from first-hand experience to facilitate sessions on youth and young adult ministry, education for urban leaders, immigration, developing community partnerships and dismantling oppression.

Additional event sponsors included the African American Mennonite Association, Cookman at Emerging Ministries Corporation, Franconia Mennonite Conference, Goshen (Indiana) College, Kingdom Builders Anabaptist Network of Greater Philadelphia, Mennonite Mission Network and Philadelphia FIGHT.

Symposium organizers hope that participants will continue to connect and collaborate with one another. “I’m excited about the relationships that were forged here,” said Guyton. “This gathering showed that we can all benefit from the expertise of Anabaptist leaders who are carrying out practical ministry in their own contexts.”

Ben Walter, one of the pastors at Ripple, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said the conference was one of the best he’d ever attended. He appreciated that voices often on the margins were given ample space and emphasis, and found it “helpful and enlightening” to hear the diverse perspectives and experiences represented among attendees.

Todman Moore hopes that urban Anabaptist leaders will convene in other cities in coming years. “We’d love to hear from Anabaptist leaders in other urban areas who are interested in discussing practical ministry in their contexts,” she said. She invites leaders to contact her (215-535-3624, ChantelleTodmanMoore@mcc.org) or Guyton (574-524-5282, GlenG@MennoniteUSA.org) to discuss planning similar initiatives in other cities.

Mennonite Church USA Executive Board announces action steps: Franconia Conference stays focused on building healthy relationships

 All members of the Executive Board, with their prayer lamp centerpiece for the weekend, as well as Stella, the official Mennonite Church USA convention dove.
All members of the Executive Board, with their prayer lamp centerpiece for the weekend, as well as Stella, the official Mennonite Church USA convention dove.

by Emily Ralph, associate director of communication

The Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA met last week to review the recommendations of a task force appointed to respond to Mountain States Mennonite Conference’s decision to license Theda Good, a woman in a same-sex covenanted relationship.  The Executive Board approved eight action steps that will be taken to the Constituency Leaders Council in October.  At the same time, the board emphasized ongoing support for the foundational documents that formed Mennonite Church USA including the Confession of Faith, the Vision:  Healing and Hope statement, A Mennonite Polity for Ministerial Leadership, the denomination’s membership guidelines and bylaws, the Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love document and the more recently crafted Purposeful Plan.

The Executive Board highlighted that Mountain States did not honor its covenanted relationship with the other conferences that comprise Mennonite Church USA in the decision to license Good.  Since ordination is transferable to other conferences, the board requested that Mountain States Conference refrain from ordaining Good at this time.  The board requested that other conferences resist licensing individuals in same-sex relationships as further licensings compromise the denomination’s polity and conference membership agreements.

“I was pleased to read that the denominational leaders have come to a place that holds us accountable to our stated understanding of membership and ministry,” observed Ertell Whigham, Franconia Conference executive minister.  “I think that this does give us some sense of direction, though it still leaves some ambiguity.  They left room for conversation and some interpretation, but they definitely call for accountability.”

The Executive Board also committed to developing new processes and/or structures for the denomination “that will strive to find healthy ways to promote unity in Christ in the midst of diverse expressions of faith.”  One of the first steps toward this exploratory process will be a “survey of all credentialed ministers in preparation for a time of discernment at [Kansas City] convention in July 2015.”

The decision of the Executive Board does not change much for Franconia Conference, said Whigham.  He further elaborated a desire to stay focused on Conference priorities while the denomination tends to the conversation on sexuality.  “We will continue to prepare ourselves for open, honest, and realistic conversation in line with our objectives for strengthening relationships and building trust.”  Whigham believes that by building healthy relationships and trust, Franconia Conference leaders and communities will be better prepared to navigate difficult conversations regarding human sexuality.

Read the full press release from Mennonite Church USA or the final report from the Executive Board.  Also see these related documents: