On October 15, 2015, over 50 Franconia Conference pastors joined the conference board and staff at Towamencin Mennonite Church to confer around the Church Together Statements and offer counsel to the Church Together Statements Committee.
This summer the board of Franconia Conference announced that they would be accepting Church Together Statements from the conference members and conference-related ministries that would facilitate discernment, educate the conference, build unity, provide the conference understanding while acknowledging dissenting voices, and provide a foundation for member advocacy/witness to government and society. The board formed the Church Together Statements Committee that included a cross section of individuals from
around the conference to oversee this process.
In mid-September, the committee had received nine Church Together Statements that ranged in focus. Four addressed the topic of how to live out forbearance within the conference context. The committee requested some revisions and that a few statements be combined with others that were similar. What remained were six Church Together Statements that were brought before the pastors, board, and staff on October 15th.
The time was divided into two discussion periods. The first period was spent discussing four of the six statements, including a statement on Israel Palestine, one addressing abuse, one on going to the margins, and one on kingdom missional strategy. The pastors were then encouraged to fill out comment cards for each of the statements.
The second discussion period was spent on two statements addressing forbearance. After time in table group discussion, there was a time for open mic comments where it was noted that there were similar themes in both statements, and that people found things they could appreciate in both even if they did not entirely agree with them.
Before the meeting closed, John Ruth, a former conference overseer and local conference historian, offered insight to the history of conferring within the conference. He noted the importance of pastors meeting together and engaging in dialogue about issues of the day.
Comment cards on all six statements were collected and compiled for the Church Together Statements Committee to consider. There was a clear sense that the conference remains divided on the issue of forbearance and human sexuality, yet there is a desire to stay united where possible. There was also a call to more often study scripture together.
After meeting earlier this week, the committee has put forward a recommendation to the board that includes which statements they believe should go before the delegates at conference assembly and which should be voted on. The board will be meeting this evening (October 22, 2015) to make the final determination.
As discernment begins this weekend at conference assembly scattered meetings, this year’s assembly is not to be missed. If you have not yet done so, be sure to register for conference assembly HERE.