A New Conference, A New Creation

by Mary Nitzsche, Franconia Conference Associate Executive Minister

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

Eastern District Conference and Franconia Mennonite Conference are on the verge of becoming something new, a new conference with a new name and structure. Since our joint Assembly meetings last November and May, our journey of becoming a new, reconciled conference has been a work in progress.

Over the summer months, four committees were formed—Business of the Conference, Implementation, Conference Related Ministries, and Naming committees—to give more definition and detail to the Structure and Identity Taskforce recommendations.

As a staff member, I was appointed to the Implementation Committee, charged with creating bylaws for the new conference. The rest of the committee members included Sherri Brokopp Binder, Scott Roth, Charlotte Hunsberger, Ken Burkholder and Danilo Sanchez. Our committee met seven times over the past five months.

Working on bylaws is tedious and time-consuming. Much of the current Franconia Conference bylaws content remains in the new bylaws with minor revisions. Some sections in the current bylaws were deleted, since they contained outdated information or unnecessary detail. Some sections were added to reflect the Structure and Identity Taskforce recommendations.

Input of delegates, staff, boards, or the three other committees was gathered. Since the May Assembly, many opinions were given voice and consideration; conversations were engaging and sometimes intense.  Focus groups offered feedback on a name for the new conference.  The four committees and the Structure and Identity Taskforce shared information and exchanged suggestions.

By the beginning of September, the work of the committees was entrusted to the Structure and Identity Taskforce for final review and revision. The Scattered meetings this month were intended to inform delegates of the refining work of the four committees and invite clarifying questions or suggestions before the Fall Assembly affirmation to be one reconciled conference.

As two conferences come together in a spirit of reconciliation, this process of birthing a new conference has been one of prayerful, discerning, and compromising work.  The new structure represents a more congregational model of relating and sharing together in a common mission rather than a hierarchal structure where the staff and board dictate.  As congregations join the new conference, we commit to building relationships with other member congregations and its people: hearing and valuing one another’s stories (I hope you are reading congregational profiles) and discerning together what is best for the whole. This relational and congregational model takes more time and requires listening, humility, flexibility, and openness to mutual transformation to be a conference reflecting the diversity that God’s Spirit is continuing to call and form.

Many of us will not be able to affirm every detail of the new structure and bylaws. May we all come to Assembly in a spirit of openness, humility, trust, and commitment to the new thing God’s Spirit has been doing among us. The “old conferences” are passing away and a new conference is being created as a sign of God’s ongoing reconciliation ministry in the way of Jesus.