Conservative Mennonite Conference
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The first American settlement of the Amish Mennonites — who separated from the main body of Swiss Brethren and followed Jacob Amman — was in Berks County, Pennsylvania, around 1710–1720. Soon they had settlements in Chester and Lancaster counties as well. By the middle of the 19th century, they had congregations from Pennsylvania to Iowa, as well as in Ontario, Canada. Amish Mennonite ministers' conferences were organized to serve these churches, and were held from 1862 until 1878. After the 1878 ministers' conference, three district conferences were formed: Eastern, Indiana-Michigan, and Western. Some congregations remained aloof from this conference movement, forerunners of two groups — the Old Order Amish and the Conservative (Amish) Mennonite Conference. Most of the churches in the conference movement eventually merged with other Mennonite groups. The Old Order Amish continue to worship in private homes (in the German language) and reject innovations in both worship and lifestyle. Some congregations were theologically in between the extremely conservative Old Order Amish and the more progressive conference Amish Mennonites. These churches did not join the Amish Mennonite conferences, but, unlike the Old Order Amish, were open to the use of meetinghouses, and the organization of missionary, publication, social service, and Sunday school work. Representatives of these congregations met in conference in Pigeon, Michigan, on November 24–25, 1910, and adopted the name Conservative Amish Mennonite Conference. Amish was dropped and the current name taken when a revised constitution was adopted in 1957.
Concern by some members and churches within the conference over liberalizing tendencies caused a number of congregations and individuals of the Conservative Mennonite Conference to splinter or move away from this group to join other more conservative Mennonites. The earliest group began to be associated informally together in what was called the Conservative Mennonite Fellowship beginning in 1956 with churches in Ontario, Ohio and elsewhere. In 1998, a group of leaders in the Conservative Mennonite Conference, disagreeing with a vote by the conference ministers that resulted in the wives of ministers no longer being required to wear the prayer veiling, left the conference and formed the Biblical Mennonite Alliance.
Faith and practice
The Conservative Mennonite Conference subscribes to the "Mennonite Confession of Faith of 1963", and adopted a "Conservative Mennonite Statement of Theology" in 1991. The statement follows orthodox Trinitarian Christian patterns of belief with typical Mennonite emphasis. Baptism is a church ordinance, which may be performed by either pouring or immersion. Communion and feet washing are also observed. The statement also affirms the traditional Anabaptist position of nonresistance toward enemies: "Under God’s provision, the state uses the sword, which 'is ordained of God outside the perfection of Christ' and is a function contrary to the New Testament teachings for the church and the disciple of Christ."
According to their mission statement: "The Conservative Mennonite Conference exists to glorify God by equipping leaders and congregations for worship, teaching, fellowship, service, and making disciples by providing resources and conference structures with an evangelical, Anabaptist, and conservative theological orientation."
Women may engage in ministry, but leadership and ordination is restricted to men. Two meetings are held annually, one in February for the ministers, and another in August for the general public. The executive board and the general secretary are elected at the ministers' meeting to oversee day-to-day operations.
The Conservative Mennonite Conference is a North American body. In 2005 the conference had 11,199 members in 113 congregations in the United States. There was one congregation in Red Lake, Ontario, Canada. There are related bodies in other nations, such as the Costa Rica Mennonite Conference (org. 1974) and the Nicaragua Mennonite Conference (org. 1977).
The Brotherhood Beacon, the conference's official monthly periodical, began in 1971. Before this the conference published the Herold der Wahrheit, a semi-monthly publication, starting in 1912, and later the Missionary Bulletin, a quarterly, starting in 1952.
The Conservative Mennonite Conference has a number of parachurch ministries. Rosedale Bible College is an accredited, two-year college serving approximately 125 students annually. The college offers degrees in Biblical Studies with a number of additional concentration areas. Rosedale Mennonite Missions is the mission agency of the conference, with roughly 120 workers in some 17 countries. Choice Books of Great Lakes-Rosedale operates under the supervision of Rosedale Mennonite Missions. It is a vendor of inspirational, wholesome and family-oriented reading materials operating through a network of independent regional distributors working cooperatively with a central office located in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The conference headquarters, Rosedale Bible College, Choice Books' distribution center, and the offices of Rosedale Mennonite Missions are all located in Rosedale, Ohio, a rural crossroads about 30 miles west of Columbus, Ohio.
The Conservative Mennonite Conference maintains a loose relationship with the Mennonite Church USA (the largest Mennonite denomination), through representation on some of its major boards.
- 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
- History of the Conservative Mennonite Conference (1985), by Ivan J. Miller,
- Mennonite Encyclopedia (Vol. 5), Cornelius J. Dyck, Dennis D. Martin, et al., editors
- Religious Congregations & Membership in the United States (2000), Glenmary Research Center