Opening welcome by John Denlinger, ACC Moderator, Warren Tyson, ACC Executive Conference Minister, and Miriam Book, Interim Pastor of Blossom Hill Mennonite Church
John thanked everyone for their presence and encouraged all to relax and enjoy the experience of doing the business of conference.
Warren shared logistical details and a welcome to all. He also gave an introduction to the Executive Committee, the day’s Listening Committee (James Lapp, Ruth Hartzler Martin, Steve Musselman, Etta Esch, and Ruth Weaver), and recognized the Conference Related Ministry representatives and current committee members.
Miriam shared about the people of Blossom Hill, a group of well-loved children of God on a journey. She gave an invitation to experience the light of God coming in today and read the day’s scripture passage, 2 Corinthians 4:6.
Lectionary by Blossom Hill pastoral team (Miriam Book, James Lapp, Doug Friesen, Jennifer Linder) reading from a number of scriptures portraying God’s light into our world.
Worship led by Blossom Hill musicians Lynn Longenecker, Tina Campbell, Marla Hoober, and Janell Preheim
#54 in Sing the Journey: “Longing for Light”
#67 in Sing the Journey: “Let there be Light Lord God”
#16 in Sing the Story: “Peace before us”
Conference Reporting and Action Items
Presentation of Spring Assembly 2014 Minutes, John Denlinger
ACTION I: Motion to receive Spring Assembly 2014 minutes as presented, by John Weber (Akron), second by Nelson Yoder (Ridgeview), and unanimously received
Summarization of Executive Committee Action Items January 2013 to present, with certain points highlighted, Warren Tyson
Presentation of the 2013-14 ACC Annual Report, which was available online and only in limited hard copies. Warren noted the goal of reducing the amount of paper used for conference functions.
Finance & Stewardship Committee on the 2013-2014 year-end financial report
Ken Martin was happy to report a positive balance by $8,400 for the year. There is currently $30,000 in the reserve fund, which is 10% of the annual budget. A stated goal of the committee is to increase this reserve fund.
ACTION II: Motion to receive the year-end financial report by Clair Sauder (Neffsville), second by Ken Herr (Zion), and unanimously received
Dale Weaver and Dave Klingensmith of Sandy Hill Community Church shared the congregation’s desire to leave ACC. They cited a shift in the congregation’s demographics to non-Mennonites, a desire to associate more locally in Chester County and the ideological shift apart, namely regarding human sexuality, as reasons for the church’s realignment. They are pursuing partnership with the Alliance of Mennonite Evangelical Congregations. Dale affirmed ACC’s ministry and mission and John Denlinger stated Executive Committee’s recommendation to release Sandy Hill C.C. Merv gave prayer of sending.
Delegate vote to accept Frazer Mennonite Church as a full member of Atlantic Coast Conference
John Denlinger explained the process of coming to Executive Committee’s recommendation, including the conversations and recommendations of the two Credentialed Leader’s Dialogue Days and the discussions held at the Spring Assembly in Baltimore.
Bob Murr (Bethel) named the need to follow scripture on the issue of human sexuality, and stated that he has not heard of such a discussion. John noted that the vote is not a statement on human sexuality, but on Frazer’s membership status only. Jon Carlson (Forest Hills, co-chair of Facilitation Team) noted that at the Spring Assembly, many texts were discussed extensively.
Gary Blosser (Hope Community) noted his disappointment in not seeing a clear distinction in the recommendation’s preamble separating the issue of human sexuality from acceptance of Frazer, as was discussed at the Credentialed Leader’s day.
Vote ballots were collected and counted by members of the Listening Committee
John Weber (Akron, chair of Gifts Discernment Committee) gave thanks for all those serving on committees and presented the 2014 ACC Leadership Slate. He noted the heavy representation of Forest Hills and invited other congregations to take a more active role in nominating congregation members to conference committees. John gave thanks and noted Ken Herr’s (Zion) long, competent service as the Finance Committee Chair. And invited that Larry McJunkin’s (Forest Hills) name be written in as the new Finance and Stewardship Committee Chair.
Larry Shirk (Ridgeview) and Barbara Mast (Zion) presented the 2014 Peace Mug to Sylvia Shirk (Manhattan), for her work among Haitian Refugees. Larry also thanked those serving as congregational peace advocates. Brook Musselman presented the “Faithful Witness amid Endless War” document and asked that congregations approve and submit the document for inclusion in the 2015 MC USA convention resolution docket as the ACC Peace and Justice Committee and Executive Committee have already done.
Bob Murr presented the 2014 Nickels for Neighbors grant recipient, Mornings On Orange Street (MOOS), an outreach of Community Mennonite, that gives kids a safe atmosphere before school. Amber Reiger (Grace Ubuntu), the program’s director, accepted the grant and thanked the congregations that contributed to this year’s grant.
Steve Carpenter from MennoMedia gave thanks for ACC support of the agency and presented a wide variety of recent publications and church resources.
Liesa Unger presented an update on Mennonite World Conference 2015 and on happenings within the worldwide Mennonite Church.
Nancy Kaufmann recognized the denominational ministries and the resources that they provide church leaders. We are MC USA, and God is at work among us.
David Heinemann, Conestoga Mennonite, chaplain, Crossroads Hospice
Kathryn Heinzel, Community Mennonite, chaplain, Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute
Jaqueline Hoover, Consultant and Free-lance instructor in Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian Relations, Nottingham, UK
Warren gave instructions for communion by intinction, and opened a time of worship and celebration together.
Background and worship music provided by Lynn Longenecker et. al.
God sightings: Stories of God at work in and around you
Stan Godshall (Blossom Hill) led a gathering hymn to open after lunch. HWB #275: “Lift your glad voices”
Blossom Hill presented a picture slideshow depicting congregational life and ministry.
Merv Stoltzfus gave a report on the Annual Youth Retreat, which featured Rachel Swartzendruber Miller speaking on “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.” He also shared on the first half of his sabbatical, taken in August and September.
Chad Martin (CMCL) , Julie Dunst (Zion), Sam Walters (Great Joy), and Brook Musselman (Zion, ACC staff) reported on their recent “Come and See” learning trip to Israel and Palestine.
Marilyn Henderson (Hebron) shared a report about the October 24 Leadership Resource Day with Ruth Haley Barton.
In a report from the Constituency Leaders Council meeting held in early October, Katy Heinzel (CMCL) and John Denlinger (Ridgeview, ACC moderator) sensed intimacy as well as some hard realities for MCUSA. Executive board is very open to council about what KC 2015 will look like. Katy shared that her highlight from the gathering was the challenge laid out by Jewel Gingerich Longenecker to engage in Bible study, especially with those who are different from us. Jewel shared that if we commit to studying the Bible together, long term, we can find a way though our differences. Warren shared that he was deeply impressed by the intimate fellowship shared among people with differences in theology and experience. He shared about the value of a Mennonite church that stays together and loves each other amid differences. This experience was highlighted by the metaphor of a small child’s presence amid the participants who valued and loved the child.
Sharing of stories, hopes and dreams for the Conference
Nelson Yoder (Ridgeview) shared about the process of facilitation and discernment in general. God was active and involved and he felt an awareness that fear need not be involved through the process of discussing hard issues with members of Christ’s body.
Bob Murr (Bethel) shared a story from Bethel of man following God’s call to sell a motorcycle and buy a car. At a recent Missions Committee meeting, Bob heard Sam Wanjau (ACCL) share that a church planter in Harrisburg with ties to ACCL was in need of a car. The car was given to the pastor family in the past week.
Katy Heinzel noted Frazer’s witness of using their garden to feed needy people and actively bring together their community.
Harold Shenk (retired ACC pastor) shared of his past emotional setback at seeing an assembly with primarily older people sitting in pews looking forward. He has a vision of seeing youth and young adults being involved in conference.
Appreciation was expressed at seeing congregation groups meeting to converse and share a meal, for the vibrancy of young adult participants, and for ability to agree to disagree in love.
Youth want to be involved in the decision making process. That process must respect traditions while being flexible to change.
Panel questions and discussions with Mary Grace Shenk (retired ACC pastor), Sandra Perez (Manhattan), Andrew Chalfont (North Baltimore/Frazer), with Chad Martin (CMCL) presenting questions:
Next growing edge for the conference?
Representatives from immigrant and new churches; people coming from other faith traditions convinced of Anabaptist beliefs
One of most underutilized resources is high school youth: get them into leadership roles. Many are unaware of the conference or how it operates. Bring them in and they’ll be interested.
Diversity is coming to a greater extent than at present. Many newly credentialed leaders are of color. NYC Bible Institute meets the huge opportunity for growth of the Mennonite Church. NYC’s response to immigration crisis brought 400 Guatemalan orphans to NYC, many of whom will be part of the Mennonite Church there.
How do we relate to each other as congregations? What is your vision? What gaps need to be filled?
1:1 relationships, meeting, and interacting with one another are incredibly important.
It is important to get lay people to interact because those are the people who decide how churches relate to one another. They shouldn’t rely on second or third-hand accounts, but should experience conference themselves.
Need for free-flowing hospitality and interaction between churches
Area of conference life for Executive Committee to focus on over next 1-2 years
Women’s issues, address and raise awareness of mass incarceration
Fellowship day with no agenda. Sit and learn to know each other in a deeper way
Engage with biblical problem texts. Because of diversity, we’re prone to conflict and so engaging with divisive texts in a low-stress atmosphere serves to build that skill.
What’s your picture of what ACC looks like in 10 years?
There will be more diversity. This is a good thing, but will require more active listening and sensitivity to disagreements.
Hope that all ACC churches be welcoming, inviting of people to grow along with us.
Hope for increased and expanded network beyond those on our scope now, who come from a background different than our own. Noted this in response to commonality seen at a recent Missio Alliance event.
Brenda expressed gratitude for vote but also care and respect for the integrity of those who voted no.
Listening committee response
Appreciated the hospitality of Blossom Hill. Appreciated the care with which our leaders listened to concerns. Felt tenderness and concern for those with concerns. Feeling of anxiety at the last two assemblies but not today, sensed the presence of God today through music, worship, scripture, and sharing.
Stoic, business like demeanor. Heard no regret for losing Sandy Hill or joy for accepting Frazer.
Joy and celebration in comments on ballots. Gratitude for EC and facilitation team for careful work and list of observations showing the temperature of the conference. On the vote as polity and not a theological issue: both affirming and not affirming on the issue of human sexuality.
Tone in gathering was one of unity and positivity. Upbeat report from Nancy Kauffmann on MC USA, reps show positivity in what’s going on in the church. Not very emotive about release, acceptance. Acknowledgement of leaders treading a line, finding a line of functioning that honored both sets of voices. ACC is a gift to MC USA by being less reactive, and has been able to flex in more productive ways than many other conferences. Continue to live out that vision. Our unique history gives us the privilege of flexibility. Claim that voice.
Warren closing thoughts, “Let God’s Glory be Revealed”
The Spring Assembly examined what it means to be treasure in clay jars, useful in God’s service. Now we focus on God shining among us and sending us out to show light. Warren urged us to “turn the TV off” to be in touch with God’s will and direction among us. God must not be put in a box by our perceived framework; we must seek God’s boundaries and change our own perceptions to meet God’s. We continue to interpret God’s scriptures through today’s lenses. Willard Metzger, executive director of MC Canada was referenced in comments shared at the recent CLC meeting, “God’s spirit is present and will guide us. Let’s embrace a non-anxious confidence that God is present. God will guide us as we listen and discern God’s leading.”