A Brief Summary of the State of the Conference Address

By L. Keith Weaver

In this season of Lent, we posture ourselves in prayerful repentance, remind ourselves of the passion of our Lord and seek to say “no” to ourselves in order to say a greater “yes” to Jesus. Whatever the state of the conference, we maintain a humble dependence on the grace and mercy of God. It is only in Jesus that the new life we celebrate comes.

The State of the Conference can be summarized in three main categories: Missional Engagement, Fraternal Relationships, and Affiliation Realignment.

For the last six years, Lancaster Mennonite Conference (LMC) has been living into 2020 Vision: We See New Life. This vision calls congregations to join the movement of the Holy Spirit in God’s mission. LMC is emphasizing two aspects of God’s mission. Community-based ministry, the first emphasis,
recognizes that congregations are experimenting with all kinds of creative ways to engage their neighborhoods. LMC staff can direct congregations to tools for community mapping, asset and needs assessments, and capacity building. This engagement will likely thrust us into social issues like racism, immigration, and refugee resettlement, issues we can no longer pretend are someone else’s problems. We must also address the disintegration of family structures.

Second, we must attend to congregational multiplication. Omar Guzman and Church on the Other Side are committed to helping districts and congregations multiply disciples. The good news is that multiplication is happening in LMC. We intend to support congregational multiplication through prayer teams and the establishment of a $500,000 “seed fund.”

LMC is blessed to have dynamic church-with-church relationships with churches in Africa, Asia, Europe, South and Central America, and in the Caribbean. Hence, the need to attend to Fraternal
Relationships. The best hope for the long-term health of the church here in the Global West will be found in our relationships with the Global South. We will nurture these relationships with the appointment of Tom Eshleman as the LMC Global Delegate. The emergence of the new Shalom Council of Churches with an international scope, and the hosting with EMM of the International Missions Association (IMA) in September are other opportunities to strengthen Fraternal Relationships.

With the decision to leave Mennonite Church USA (MC USA), we have experienced a season of Affiliation Realignment. Disaffiliation included a two-year ramp for congregations that needed time for discernment; 17 congregations felt the need for more time to discern affiliation. Of those 17, seven decided to leave LMC, five decided to remain in LMC, and five are still in discernment. There has also been discernment occurring in congregations outside of LMC. Congregations that left other MC USA conferences have been looking for a place to belong. LMC has welcomed twelve congregations into membership.

Several LMC agencies are raising questions about the nature of their relationship with LMC. Last August, the Board of Bishops took action to form an Agency Relations Task Force to work with LMC agencies as they discern the nature of their ongoing relationship with LMC.
Churchwide realignment is also occurring in wider church circles. LMC leaders have had helpful and encouraging interactions with Franklin Conference, North Central Conference, and Evana Network.
Other Anabaptist groups, including the Brethren in Christ, Conservative Mennonite Conference, and Mennonite Brethren, are in conversation with LMC.
In conclusion, it is gratifying to know that we can fully rest in the eternal, unconditional love of God. We have experienced God’s grace in strong financial giving through 2016, allowing the conference to finish its fiscal year with a surplus!

L. Keith Weaver is moderator of Lancaster Mennonite Conference. He is a member of Blainsport Mennonite Church in Reinholds, Pa.

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