According 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:
- Strengthen relationships of mutual trust and accountability between credentialed leaders
- Discuss Scripture, its meaning, and its application together
- Hear stories of how others are interpreting and applying Scripture
- Pray for each other and our congregations
- 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.
The 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, firstname.lastname@example.org or Jenifer Eriksen Morales, email@example.com.
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.
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.
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/.