Mennonite Church USA

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Mennonite Church USA
Mcusa logo.png
Classification Protestant
Orientation Anabaptist
Polity Congregational
Moderator Elizabeth Soto Albrecht
Associations Mennonite World Conference
Region United States
Origin February 1, 2002
Merge of The General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church
Congregations 950
Members 110,696 (2006)
Official website mennoniteusa.org

The Mennonite Church USA, is an Anabaptist Christian denomination in the United States. The abbreviation, MCUSA is not officially used by the denomination because of the confusion with MCC US, another Anabaptist organization. Although the organization is a recent 2002 merger of the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church, the body has roots in the Radical Reformation of the 16th century. Total 2006 membership in the Mennonite Church USA was 110,696 members in 950 congregations, making it the largest of the Mennonite denominations in the United States.[1] Pennsylvania remains the hub of the denomination, with over 300 congregations and over 40,000 members. There are also large numbers of members in Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, and Illinois.[2]

History[edit]

(General Assembly) Mennonite Church (MC)[edit]

Dutch and German immigrants from Krefeld, Germany, settled in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1683. Swiss Mennonites came to North America in the early part of the 18th century. Their first settlements were in Pennsylvania, then in Virginia and Ohio. These Swiss immigrants, combined with Dutch and German Mennonites and progressive Amish Mennonites who later united with them, until 2002 made up the largest body of Mennonites in North America (in the past often referred to as the "Old Mennonites"). They formed regional conferences in the 18th century, and a North American conference in 1898. The year 1725 is often considered the date of organization in the United States, when a ministers' conference met in Pennsylvania and adopted the Dordrecht Confession of Faith as their official statement of faith.

General Conference Mennonite Church (GCMC)[edit]

GCMC logo

The General Conference Mennonite Church was an association of Mennonite congregations based in North America from 1860 to 2002. The conference was formed in 1860 by congregations in Iowa seeking to unite with like-minded Mennonites to pursue common goals such as higher education and mission work. The conference was especially attractive to recent Mennonite and Amish immigrants to North America and expanded considerably when thousands of Russian Mennonites arrived in North America starting in the 1870s. Conference offices were located in Winnipeg, Manitoba and North Newton, Kansas. The conference supported a seminary and several colleges. By the 1980s, there remained little difference between the General Conference Mennonite Church and the "Old" Mennonite church. In the 1990s the conference had 64,431 members in 410 congregations in Canada, the United States and South America.[3]

Merger[edit]

In 1983 the General Assembly of the Mennonite Church met jointly with the General Conference Mennonite Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in celebration of 300 years of Mennonite witness in the Americas. Beginning in 1989, a series of consultations, discussions, proposals, and sessions (and a vote in 1995 in favor of merger) led to the unification of these two major North American Mennonite bodies into one denomination organized on two fronts - the Mennonite Church USA and the Mennonite Church Canada. The merger was "finalized" at a joint session in St. Louis, Missouri in 1999, and the Canadian branch moved quickly ahead. The United States branch did not complete their organization until the meeting in Nashville, Tennessee in 2001, which became effective February 1, 2002.

The merger of 1999-2002 at least partially fulfilled the desire of the founders of the General Conference Mennonite Church to create an organization under which all Mennonites could unite. Yet not all Mennonites favored the merger. The Alliance of Mennonite Evangelical Congregations represents one expression of the disappointment with the merger and the events that led up to it.

Structure[edit]

Convention and delegate assembly[edit]

Every other year, Mennonite Church USA holds a week-long, church-wide convention. The next convention will be Phoenix 2013, held July 1–6, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona. Everyone within Mennonite Church USA is invited to attend the convention, and there are gatherings for adults, youth, junior youth and children (K-5, Preschool and Infants/Toddlers). During the convention, there are worship sessions, seminars, alumni gatherings, special dinners and many fun activities. Also, taking place during the convention is the Delegate Assembly. Delegates from local congregations, regional area conferences and constituency groups gather to develop vision and direction for the national denomination. Previous conventions have been held in Nashville, Tennessee, Charlotte, North Carolina, Columbus, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Area conferences[edit]

Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church, a Western District Conference congregation.

All congregations in the denomination belong to an area conference, and it is the area conference that is the component part of Mennonite Church USA. There are currently 21 area conferences with many of them overlapping geographically due to conference structures prior to the merger.

Agencies[edit]

Mennonite Church USA maintains four church-wide ministry agencies: Mennonite Mission Network,[21] Mennonite Education Agency,[22] Mennonite Publishing Network,[23] and Everence (formerly Mennonite Mutual Aid).[24]

Mennonite Education Agency[edit]

The mission of Mennonite Education Agency[25] (MEA) is to strengthen the life, witness and identity of Mennonite Church USA through education. MEA helps provide leadership to Mennonite Schools Council,[26] elementary and secondary schools throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada. MEA also helps bring support and leadership to Mennonite colleges, universities, and seminaries located throughout the United States. MEA also works with various people and groups within Mennonite Church USA to help involve them and show the unique qualities of Mennonite education. MEA works with Mennonite Church USA to provide leadership to church educational programs.

Colleges and seminaries[edit]

Bethel College Administration Building

Mennonite Church USA provides denominational oversight through Mennonite Education Agency to five colleges and universities and two seminaries in the United States. These are:

Secondary schools[edit]

Faith and practice[edit]

Vision statement[edit]

God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to grow as communities of grace, joy, and peace, so that God's healing and hope flow through us to the world.

Purpose[edit]

Joining in God’s activity in the world, they develop and nurture missional Mennonite congregations of many cultures. (Ephesians 3:1-13, Article 9, Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective)

Priorities[edit]

All parts of Mennonite Church USA, united in vision and purpose, are committed to the following priorities between 2006 and then 2020.[27]

  1. Witness: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is practiced and proclaimed through a seamless web of evangelism, justice and peace across the street and around the world. (Luke 4:18-21; Matthew 12:15-21; Articles 10, 22, Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective)
  2. Anti-racism: We will honor the dignity and value of all Racial/Ethnic people in Mennonite Church USA, ensuring just and equitable access to church resources, positions and information as manifestations of the one new humanity in Christ. (Acts 10: Galatians 3:25-29, Ephesians 2:15; Article 9, Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective)
  3. Leadership Development: Church members with leadership gifts are called, trained and nurtured in Anabaptist theology and practice in order to fulfill the church’s missional vocation. (Exodus 18:13-23; Ephesians 4:7-16; Article 15, Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective)
  4. Global Connections: Mennonite Church USA fosters fellowship and develops partnerships with Anabaptists and the broader body of Christ around the world. (Revelation 5:9-10; Article 9, Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective)

Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective[edit]

A Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.[28] provides a guide to the beliefs and practices of Mennonite Church USA. This confession was adopted in 1995 at a joint session of the Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church in Wichita, Kansas. It contains 24 articles ranging from the more general Christian theologies of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit to the more distinct Foot Washing, Truth and the Avoidance of Oaths, Peace, Justice, and Nonresistance, and The Church's Relation to Government and Society.

Sexuality discussions[edit]

The Brethren Mennonite Council has been active since 1976 to encourage "full inclusion" for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the church.[citation needed] In 1986 the General Conference Mennonite Church (one of the predecessors of Mennonite Church USA), meeting in Saskatoon,[29]/ adopted a statement on sexuality establishing heterosexuality as the only legitimate form of sexual expression. In 1987, the Mennonite Church (another predecessor of MC USA) issued the Purdue Statement, with similar language.[30] At the 2009 Convention in Columbus, some protested for the further discussion of human sexuality.[31]

Life issues[edit]

In keeping with being with their commitment to pacifism,[32] Mennonites take a pro-life stance.

The Mennonite Church USA official statement affirms:

  • Human life is a gift from God to be valued and protected. We oppose abortion because it runs counter to biblical principles.
  • The fetus in its earliest stages (and even if imperfect by human standards) shares humanity with those who conceived it.
  • There are times when deeply held values, such as saving the life of the mother and saving the life of the fetus, come in conflict with each other.
  • The faith community should be a place for discernment about difficult issues like abortion.
  • Abortion should not be used to interrupt unwanted pregnancies.
  • Christians must provide viable alternatives to abortion that provide care and support for mothers and infants.
  • The church should witness to society regarding the value of all human life.
  • Professionals whose ministry involves dealing with the moral dilemmas of abortion and reproductive technologies need our support.
    —Statement on Abortion[33]

They also oppose capital punishment.[34]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "North America". Mennonite World Conference. 2006. Retrieved 2009-12-03. 
  2. ^ "2000 Religious Congregations and Membership Study". Glenmary Research Center. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  3. ^ Mennonite Directory, p. 16
  4. ^ Allegheny Mennonite Conference
  5. ^ Central District Conference
  6. ^ Central Plains Mennonite Conference
  7. ^ Eastern District Conference
  8. ^ Franklin Mennonite Conference
  9. ^ Gulf States Mennonite Conference
  10. ^ Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference
  11. ^ Lancaster Mennonite Conference
  12. ^ Mountain States Mennonite Conference
  13. ^ New York Mennonite Conference
  14. ^ North Central Conference of the Mennonite Church
  15. ^ Ohio Conference of the Mennonite Church
  16. ^ Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference
  17. ^ Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference
  18. ^ South Central Mennonite Conference
  19. ^ Southeast Mennonite Conference
  20. ^ Western District Conference
  21. ^ Mennonite Mission Network official website. Accessed 2006-03-14.
  22. ^ Mennonite Education Agency official website. Accessed 2006-03-14.
  23. ^ Mennonite Publishing Network official website. Accessed 2006-03-14.
  24. ^ Everence official website. Accessed 2006-03-14.
  25. ^ Mennonite Education Agency official website. Accessed 2011-03-01.
  26. ^ Mennonite Schools Counil official website. Accessed 2011-03-01.
  27. ^ http://www.mennoniteusa.org/Home/ChurchwidePriorities/tabid/72/Default.aspx
  28. ^ Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (1995), Herald Press ISBN 0-8361-9043-2. Online copy, accessed 2006-03-14.
  29. ^ http://www.mcusa-archives.org/library/resolutions/resolutiononhumansexuality-1986.html
  30. ^ Johns, Loren. "Homosexuality and the Mennonite Church" http://www.ambs.edu/LJohns/H&MC.htm
  31. ^ Barr, Meghan. "Mennonites in Ohio protest exclusion of gays" http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/8589237
  32. ^ "Historic Peace Churches". Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved Jan 12, 2013. 
  33. ^ http://www.mennoniteusa.org/Home/About/Statementsandresolutions/Abortion/tabid/114/Default.aspx
  34. ^ http://www.mennoniteusa.org/about/confession-of-faith-in-a-mennonite-perspective-1995/article-22-peace/

References[edit]

  • Encyclopedia of American Religions, J. Gordon Melton, editor
  • Handbook of Denominations in the United States, by Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill, and Craig D. Atwood
  • Mennonite Church USA, 2003 Directory
  • Mennonite Directory (1999), Herald Press. ISBN 0-8361-9454-3
  • Mennonite Encyclopedia, Cornelius J. Dyck, Dennis D. Martin, et al., editors

External links[edit]