Mennonite Church USA

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Mennonite Church USA
Mcusa logo.png
ClassificationProtestant
OrientationMainline[1] Anabaptist
TheologyMennonite
PolityCongregational
ModeratorDavid Boshart
AssociationsMennonite World Conference
RegionUnited States
OriginFebruary 1, 2002
Merger ofThe General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church
Congregations625 (2018)
Members69,223 (2018)[2]

The Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) is an Anabaptist Christian denomination in the United States. 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 membership in Mennonite Church USA denominations decreased from about 133,000, before the merger in 1998, to a total membership of 120,381 in the Mennonite Church USA in 2001.[3] In 2013 membership had fallen to 97,737 members in 839 congregations.[4] In 2016 it had fallen to 78,892 members.[5]

History[edit]

Mennonite Church (MC) (Mennonite General Conference and Mennonite General Assembly)[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. As early as 1725, delegates from various Pennsylvania Mennonite settlements met to adopt the Dordrecht Confession of Faith as their official statement of faith. The "Old" Mennonite Church was marked by ties of communion, pulpit exchange, and common confession, rather than formal organizational ties. Many, but not all, of the conferences joined the North American conference, the Mennonite General Conference, in 1898. The Mennonite General Conference was reorganized in 1971 as the Mennonite General Assembly. The Mennonite General Assembly merged with the General Conference Mennonite Church in 2002.[6]

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 many conferences in the Mennonite General Assembly. In the 1990s the conference had 64,431 members in 410 congregations in Canada, the United States and South America.[7]

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.

Decline[edit]

Since its merger, a large number of conservative congregations have left Mennonite Church USA. 2013 saw 9 congregations leaving, and in 2014 at least 12 did so.[8] In November 2015, the Lancaster Conference, Mennonite Church USA's largest conference, with 13,838 members in 163 congregations in six states plus the District of Columbia, voted overwhelmingly to leave the denomination by the end of 2017.[9]

By early 2016, the membership had decreased to 78,892 members,[5] mainly because of the denomination's increasingly liberal position towards same sex marriage, which caused many congregations to leave Mennonite Church USA.[9] In April 2016, the Franklin Mennonite Conference, a conference with 14 congregations and about 1,000 members in Pennsylvania and Maryland, voted to withdraw from the Mennonite Church USA.[10] In 2018 the number of baptized members had fallen to 69,223 and the number congregations to 625.[2]

Structure[edit]

Convention and delegate assembly[edit]

Every other year, Mennonite Church USA holds a week-long, church-wide convention. The convention includes gatherings for adults, youth, junior youth and children (K-5, Preschool and Infants/Toddlers). During the convention, there are worship sessions, seminars, alumni gatherings, and special dinners. 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 Phoenix, Arizona (2013), Nashville, Tennessee (2001), Charlotte, North Carolina (2005), Columbus, Ohio (2009), and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2011).[citation needed]

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. Recently, some divisions have occurred and the Lancaster Conference (not included here) voted in 2015 to leave the Mennonite Church U.S.A. by 2017.[9]

Agencies[edit]

Mennonite Church USA maintains four church-wide ministry agencies: Mennonite Mission Network,[27] Mennonite Education Agency,[28] MennoMedia (formerly Mennonite Publishing Network) [29] and Everence (formerly Mennonite Mutual Aid).[30]

Mennonite Education Agency[edit]

The mission of Mennonite Education Agency[31] (MEA) is to strengthen the life, witness and identity of Mennonite Church USA through education. MEA helps provide leadership to Mennonite Schools Council,[32] 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.[33]

  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.[34] 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,[35] 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.[36] At the 2009 Convention in Columbus, some protested for the further discussion of human sexuality.[37] Current discussions revolve around the decision by multiple conferences to license openly LGBT members for church ministry. Currently, two districts within the denomination have licensed pastors openly in committed same-sex relationships.[38] Due to the denomination's increasingly liberal position, the Lancaster Conference voted in November 2015 to leave the Mennonite Church USA.[9] At the same time, toward the end of 2015, the Western District Conference voted to allow ordained ministers to officiate at and perform same-gender marriages.[39]

Life issues[edit]

Mennonites have a commitment to pacifism,[40] and members of Mennonite Church USA have a history of being conscientious objectors in wars as a way to uphold a commitment to nonviolence.[41] They also oppose capital punishment.[42]

MC USA has passed a resolution committing to creation care (2013)[43] to "advance the commitment of congregations and members in caring for creation as part of the good news of Jesus Christ" and a resolution on "Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine" (2017).[44]

MC USA released a "Churchwide Statement on Immigration" in 2014 that states, "We advocate for just and humane immigration policies for immigrants and refugees, and we empower congregations, area conferences and denominational staff to serve as advocates for these vulnerable groups of peoples and resolutions pertaining to immigration."[45]

MC USA's "Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse" (2015) states, "We resolve to tell the truth about sexual abuse; hold abusers accountable; acknowledge the seriousness of their sin; listen with care to those who have been wounded; protect vulnerable persons from injury; work restoratively for justice; and hold out hope that wounds will be healed, forgiveness offered, and relationships established or reestablished in healthy ways." [46]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Reporting on Protestant Christianity". religionlink.com. Religion Link. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
  2. ^ a b U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches at World Directory of the Mennonite World Conference.
  3. ^ "North America" (PDF). Mennonite World Conference. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2009-12-03.
  4. ^ Bender, Harold S. and Beulah Stauffer Hostetler. "Mennonite Church (MC)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2013. Web. 2 May 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Church_(MC)&oldid=120422
  5. ^ a b Huber, Tim (Jan 26, 2016). "Lancaster's distancing shrinks roll: A few churches want to stay with MC USA; others are dropped from denomination's membership number". Mennonite World Review. Mennonite World Review. Retrieved August 24, 2016. "MC USA’s new, lower membership total is based on only 1,091 members from LMC"(Lancaster Mennonite Conference)
  6. ^ "Mennonite Church (MC) - GAMEO". gameo.org. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  7. ^ Mennonite Directory, p. 16
  8. ^ Mennonite World Review: Ohio Conference loses more churches
  9. ^ a b c d Huber, Tim. "Lancaster Conference to leave the Mennonite Church USA". mennworld.org. Mennonite World Review. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
  10. ^ Mennonite World Review: Franklin Conference votes to leave Mennonite Church USA. mennworld.org. Mennonite World Review. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  11. ^ Allegheny Mennonite Conference
  12. ^ Central District Conference
  13. ^ Central Plains Mennonite Conference
  14. ^ Eastern District Conference
  15. ^ Franklin Mennonite Conference
  16. ^ Gulf States Mennonite Conference
  17. ^ Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference
  18. ^ Mountain States Mennonite Conference
  19. ^ New York Mennonite Conference
  20. ^ North Central Conference of the Mennonite Church
  21. ^ Ohio Conference of the Mennonite Church
  22. ^ Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference
  23. ^ Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference
  24. ^ South Central Mennonite Conference
  25. ^ Southeast Mennonite Conference
  26. ^ Western District Conference
  27. ^ Mennonite Mission Network official website. Accessed 2006-03-14.
  28. ^ Mennonite Education Agency official website. Accessed 2006-03-14.
  29. ^ MennoMedia official website. Accessed 2015-01-19.
  30. ^ Everence official website. Accessed 2006-03-14.
  31. ^ Mennonite Education Agency official website. Accessed 2011-03-01.
  32. ^ Mennonite Schools Council official website. Accessed 2011-03-01.
  33. ^ http://www.mennoniteusa.org/Home/ChurchwidePriorities/tabid/72/Default.aspx[dead link]
  34. ^ Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (1995), Herald Press ISBN 0-8361-9043-2. Online copy, accessed 2006-03-14.
  35. ^ http://www.mcusa-archives.org/library/resolutions/resolutiononhumansexuality-1986.html[dead link]
  36. ^ Johns, Loren. "Homosexuality and the Mennonite Church" http://www.ambs.edu/LJohns/H&MC.htm Archived 2008-10-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  37. ^ Barr, Meghan. "Mennonites in Ohio protest exclusion of gays" http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/8589237
  38. ^ Yoder, Kelli. "Central District Licenses Pastor in same-sex relationship". mennworld.org. Mennonite World Review. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  39. ^ Schrag, Paul. "WDC: Same-sex marriage won't bring censure". mennoworld.org. Mennonite World. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  40. ^ "Historic Peace Churches". Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved Jan 12, 2013.
  41. ^ "Conscientious Objection." ThirdWay.com. Retrieved 2018-12-08.
  42. ^ http://www.mennoniteusa.org/about/confession-of-faith-in-a-mennonite-perspective-1995/article-22-peace/
  43. ^ http://mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Creation_Care_Resolution_Adopted_July20131.pdf
  44. ^ http://mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/IP-Resolution.pdf
  45. ^ http://mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Immigration_Statement_2014Feb151.pdf
  46. ^ http://mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Churchwide_Statement_On_Sexual_Abuse_2015July03.pdf

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]