The Mennonite Church USA Delegate Assembly installed Jon Carlson as the moderator for the new biennium and provided strong affirmation for a slate of new Executive Board members and other nominees, including incoming Moderator-elect Marty Lehman.
Carlson, who completed his term as MC USA’s moderator-elect for the 2021-2023 biennium, is lead pastor of Forest Hills Mennonite Church, Leola, Pa., in MC USA’s Atlantic Coast Conference of MC USA. Carlson was part of MC USA’s Journey Forward writing team, who drafted the denomination’s Renewed Commitments in 2018, and also served on the Membership Guidelines Advisory Group in 2020. He recently earned his Master of Divinity degree at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Lehman has a long history with the Mennonite church, serving in leadership positions with the Mennonite Board of Missions and its successor organization, Mennonite Mission Network, as well as with the Executive Board staff. From 2004-2014, Lehman was the associate executive director for Churchwide Operations for MC USA. She then served as the administrative pastor at her home church, College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana, from 2014 until her retirement in 2018. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in public affairs from Indiana University in South Bend. Lehman will serve as moderator-elect for two years, followed by a two-year term as moderator.
Other incoming Executive Board members affirmed by delegates for four-year terms are:
- Phil Helmuth, Harrisonburg, Virginia, a disaster response coordinator for Southern Louisiana for Mennonite Disaster Service. He attends Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg.
- Rosetta Landis, Croghan, New York, a nutritionist with North Country Family Health Center. She attends Lowville (New York) Mennonite Church.
- Todd Lehman, Hesston, Kansas, affirmed for his second term. He is the executive director of Offender/Victim Ministries, Inc. and a member of Hesston Mennonite Church.
- Jerrell Williams, Newton, Kansas, the incoming lead pastor at Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton and a writer for Anabaptist World, an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement.
Lesley Francisco McClendon, Hampton, Virginia, is also joining the Executive Board as an Executive Board appointee representing the African American Mennonite Association. She is the senior pastor of Calvary Community Church in Hampton.
Outgoing Moderator Linda Dibble will continue serving on the Executive Board for two more years as past moderator.
Dibble called Carlson forward during the final session of the Delegate Assembly to begin his new term as incoming moderator of MC USA.
Carlson thanked Dibble, who’s term included serving the denomination through three successive Delegate Assemblies in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
“Thank you for your perseverance, your steadfastness, your graciousness for demonstrating God’s love in our midst,” he said.
Carlson then shared his reasons for being Mennonite and his vision for the denomination for the next two years.
“Peace is the reason that I am a Mennonite,” he said. “I did not grow up in this tradition, but it was the consistent Anabaptist witness to following Jesus in paths of peace, taking seriously Jesus’ teachings and example, and seeing them as a model for life that attracted me to this church.”
Carlson acknowledged that while Mennonites are world-renowned for peacemaking, there is still conflict within the denomination.
“We have some deep and persistent disagreements about very important issues and often those have manifested themselves as a lack of peace and a desire to distance ourselves from one another,” he said.
“My hope and prayer for us in these next two years is that we can continue to make good progress,” said Carlson. “This is not something that the Executive Board or I, as an individual, can do for us … but my commitment to each of you is that whatever our disagreements might be, you are welcome in this space.”
Carlson outlined three priorities for the coming biennium:
- Peace: “We need to continue the work of peacebuilding in the name of Jesus in all the world around us,” said Carlson, adding that we specifically need to work internally to pursue right relationship with one another.
- Simplicity: Carlson acknowledged that we don’t do simplicity quite the way we used to. “We have overly complex bureaucratic structures within our church that can be and must be simplified,” he said.
- Family: He encouraged the church to “celebrate the desire that we have to worship together as the people of God and siblings in Christ and think very intentionally and deliberately about how we pass our rich inheritance down to future generations.”
He called for delegates to recognize that the work of reconciliation belongs to God, not to us.
“In the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians, all of this is from God, who has given to us, as a gift, the ministry of reconciliation. This is not our doing or creation. This is God’s gift. This is God’s Church, and God will sustain.”
See the complete list of the delegate-affirmed Executive Board members and nominees here.
Nominees for the Executive Board and other board positions are rigorously vetted by the MC USA Leadership Discernment Committee. Committee members for the 2021-2023 committee were Stan Shantz, chair, Doug Basinger, Marty Lehman, Sandra Montes-Martinez, Isaac Villegas and Ruth Yoder Wenger. In his report to delegates, Shantz noted that Lehman recused herself from meetings related to the nomination of the moderator-elect, once other committee members identified her as a potential candidate.
The Delegate Assembly will meet again in 2025.
Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, more than 500 congregations and approximately 50,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 59 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana, and Newton, Kansas. mennoniteUSA.org
Written by Camille Dager, MC USA staff.