Tag Archives: Israel Palestine

Love in Action at Mennonite Church USA Convention 2017

This year thousands of Mennonites from across the United States gathered in Orlando, Florida for the biennial Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA) Convention. The purpose of convention is to empower the church to achieve its vision, purpose and mission. Over the four days, members of congregations from across the country attend daily worship, workshops/seminars, participate in servant projects and delegates from MCUSA Congregations and Conferences attend business sessions. This year there was also the Future Church Summit, “a generative, open space for denomination-wide conversation — to dream together, reset priorities and engage one another in answering the question: How will we follow Jesus as Anabaptists in the 21st century?”

The week began on Tuesday evening, July 4; several offered greetings, including Mennonite Church Canada’s Executive Minister, Will Metrzger. Recognizing July 4 as the United States’ Independence Day he stated, “while some are celebrating with bombs bursting in air, we are celebrating the explosion of God’s grace.”

The theme for this year’s convention was Love is a Verb. Worship speakers focused on this theme, and workshops spoke of how we can live out the love of God, covering topics of church safety, patriarchy, racism, Israel Palestine,  “Keeping the Church Weird” and hearing God’s call, among others.

Sometimes love as a verb means recognizing and acknowledging when we have not loved. Ted & Company, in their new show Discovery: A Comic Lament, shared the Doctrine of Discovery and how even we as Mennonites have played a role in justifying the taking of land from the indigenous people here in the United States. It was a sobering reminder as we began the week.

Maria Hosler Byler and Joe Hackman, Salford congregation, celebrate their nomination.

Wednesday brought the Dove’s Nest awards celebration, recognizing churches “that did something courageous to keep children safe.” Salford Mennonite Church was one of the three nominee finalists. They were nominated for their service that happened at the end of March, which focused on the journey of abuse and healing as reflected by the Ezekiel 37 passage about the valley of dry bones. This service included voices of lament, hope and direct statements from survivors of childhood sexual abuse. More resources and information on how this service was put together can be found at http://franconiaconference.org/church-safety/. Wednesday also brought a time of connecting for those from across Franconia Conference, as we gathered together for food, fellowship, and music by The Walking Roots.

Thursday contained two big events: voting on the Seeking Peace in Israel Palestine Resolution and the kick off of the Future Church Summit.  Two years ago at the Kansas City Convention, a resolution regarding Israel Palestine was tabled. Since then a three-person writing team and a ten-person reference team worked to draft a new resolution, the Seeking Peace in Israel Palestine Resolution. Prior to the vote on the resolution, delegates heard from the writing team, discussed in their table groups, and then heard comments, concerns and questions. There were overwhelming comments of support for the resolution which ultimately passed with 97% in favor.

The Future Church Summit was a new addition this year to Convention. It was a time of dreaming and visioning, and discerning how God is leading us to follow Jesus. Delegates were joined by others from throughout MCUSA including high school students who had been chosen to be part of the Summit. The first day was spent getting to know one another by answering questions such as “When did you feel most connected to the Mennonite Church? What nourishes your spirit by being Anabaptist?” There was also a time of grounding participants in the history of Anabaptism and Mennonites, drawing learnings from our past.

Convention continues Friday and Saturday morning. You can find out more about each of the days’ highlights on the Franconia Conference Facebook page or through the MCUSA daily recap newsletter here: http://convention.mennoniteusa.org/news/.

Being Church Together

 

conference assembly 2015 153According to the Franconia Conference by-laws the vision for the conference is set by the conferring of the delegates. At the Fall 2015 Assembly, the vision of the conference was set through the passing of five Church Together Statements from congregations. Three of these statements called for either a taskforce or commission to carry out the work outlined in the statement. Therefore, the Israel/Palestine and Addressing Abuse Taskforces, along with the Faith and Life Commission have been formed. Here is an update on their work:

Faith and Life Commission

The Faith and Life Church Together Statement was approved by the delegates and calls for “the conference to reestablish the Faith and Life Commission for the purpose of providing at least quarterly gatherings for pastors to discern and study scripture together.”

The commission currently includes Rose Bender (Whitehall) as chair, Nathan Good (Swamp), Kris Wint (Finland), Verle Brubaker (Swamp), Penny Naugle (Plains), Josh Meyer (Franconia), and the staff liaison is the conference executive minister.

With the ministry description in mind, the commission is working on developing a covenant of cooperation for themselves and have developed the following priorities:

  1. Strengthen relationships of mutual trust and accountability between credentialed leaders
  2. Discuss Scripture, its meaning, and its application together
  3. Hear stories of how others are interpreting and applying Scripture
  4. Pray for each other and our congregations
  5. NOT intended for decision-making purposes

The commission is looking forward to kicking off the first of the quarterly gatherings for the conference credentialed leaders sometime this fall. Date to be announced in the coming weeks.

Addressing Abuse

conference assembly 2015 136The Addressing Abuse in Our Midst Church Together Statement was approved by the conference board as it provides a way for Franconia Conference to implement one of the 2015 MCUSA Kansas City Resolutions. This statement calls for the conference to “establish a task force to oversee the implementation of actions designated by the MCUSA Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse within Franconia Conference.

The Addressing Abuse Taskforce consists of Karen Zehr (Salford), Krista Showalter Ehst (Alpha), John Drescher-Lehman (Souderton), Wayne Speigle (Blooming Glen), and their staff liaison is Jenifer Eriksen Morales .

With their ministry description in mind, the taskforce was faced with numerous items that need to be addressed. They decided to begin where the wounds are and work from there. Currently, they are working at providing resources and support for adult survivors; then they will develop and identify resources for supporting church leaders and equipping them to prevent and respond to abuse; finally they will help provide education within congregations. Resources identified by this taskforce are available on the Conference’s Church Safety webpage (http://franconiaconference.org/church-safety/), and more resources will be added in the future.

As the taskforce begins to look at providing resources and support to adult survivors, they discovered there is little-to-no support in the area of the conference congregations. In order to ensure support is available for adult survivors, the taskforce is working to develop support groups. If you or someone you know is interested in more information or in helping with the development or facilitation of a support group, please contact Karen Zehr, zehrhead@gmail.com or Jenifer Eriksen Morales, jeriksenmorales@franconiaconference.org.

Israel/ Palestine Church Together Statement

The Church Together Statement on Israel/Palestine was also approved by the conference board as it too provides a way for Franconia Conference to implement the MCUSA 2015 Kansas City Resolutions: A statement of support for our Palestinian and Israeli partners in peacemaking. In addition, the Franconia Conference Church Together Statement says “the intended consequence of this statement [is] to educate ourselves about the people of Israel-Palestine and their problems, and thereby to prepare our congregations, pastors, and delegates to evaluate intelligently the longer [MCUSA] resolution, called “Israel- Palestine” that was tabled until Convention 2017.”

In order to best prepare the conference, a taskforce has been formed. The taskforce currently includes Andrew Bush (Methacton), Ed Brubaker (Souderton), Preston Bush (Salford), Lynelle Bush (Salford), Jeff Hackman (Plains), Mike Merryman Lotze (Ambler), Peder Wiegner (Norristown), and their staff liaison is John Stoltzfus.  They are still looking for additional members and would love to hear from anyone who has been on a Come and See Tour. Feel free to email BFischer@FranconiaConference.org if you are interested in connecting with this taskforce.

With their ministry description in mind, the taskforce is focused on providing the following resources:

  • Creating an informational packet on Israel/Palestine for the fall delegate assembly.
  • Hosting a conference on Israel/Palestine (time and date still being discussed).
  • Possible film screenings and discussion times.
  • Resource links provided at http://franconiaconference.org/israel-palestine/.

Conclusion

The taskforces and commission are hard at work to ensure resources are implemented prior to assembly 2016. For more information on the Church Together Statements, visit: http://franconiaconference.org/vision/conference-assembly/. If you have any questions or want to get involved with one of the taskforces or the commission, feel free to contact BFischer@FranconiaConference.org.