Reprinted with permission from Virginia Mennonite Conference. Read the original post here.
By June Miller of Virginia Mennonite Conference’s interim Conference Leadership Team
On the final day of the assembly, Virginia Mennonite Conference delegates passed two of three resolutions. “Year of Worship, Healing, Reflection and Renewal” passed with 91% approval. “Community of Faith Statement” passed with a 77.4% approval. The third resolution, “Faith and Praxis,” failed, receiving an even 50-50% split. On Friday, the day prior to voting, the delegates approved a motion to “Raise the threshold for passage of the resolutions to 75%.” This threshold was recommended to signal “a broad consensus.”
Sara Wenger Shenk concludes her two-year term as moderator on August 31, 2023. She took on the role during a leadership crisis, leading through the turmoil. Craig Maven from the interim Conference Leadership Team and a pastor at Harrisonburg Mennonite Church thanked and acknowledged Sara for her work. “And I think on behalf of the delegates here to say how grateful we are for your willingness to step into the role that you did.” Moderator-elect, Andrew Buckwalter Fairfield, Pastor at Christiansburg Mennonite Fellowship was commissioned as the incoming moderator. Jim Hershberger, pastor of Mount Clinton Mennonite Church, was approved to serve as moderator-elect beginning in September; after two years as moderator-elect, he will become moderator in 2025.
Virginia Mennonite Conference held its summer assembly July 13-15 at Park View Mennonite Church. The interim Conference Leadership Team led worship and conference visioning on the theme: “Jesus, Be the Center.” Two-thirds of VMC’s 60 congregations were represented by delegates, with 136 people registered to attend in person and online.
The resolutions are summarized as followed:
“Year of Worship, Healing, Reflection and Renewal” commits to a year of spiritual renewal and discernment together, with prayer, fasting and worship in search of renewal of relationship with God and each other. Secondly, the resolution “grants immediate permission for churches to consider themselves members of VMC and no longer members of MC USA,”* and thirdly, it asks for delegate affirmation of a newly appointed Denominational Affiliation Work Group which will examine “legal and practical implications” related to ongoing discernment about affiliation options with MC USA.
“Community of Faith Statement” invites the conference to “strengthen our unity as a peace church” and to live “more fully into our identity as the body of Christ” by pledging to support and work together to practice mutual trust and respect, to draw from each other’s strengths while honoring each other publicly and privately, to express one’s own feelings clearly and appropriately while recognizing the validity of others’ feelings and experiences, to clearly communicate needs and expectations, to provide safe and brave places for expressing differing opinions, and to represent the love, grace and reconciliation of Jesus Christ in all we do.
The “Faith and Praxis Resolution” called for “consistency between faith and praxis,” asking that VMC “seek to live out what we say we believe.” The resolution calls for the 2013 Faith and Life Commission polity statement, “Guiding Principles for Suspension of Ministerial Credentials in Event of Conducting a Same-Sex Ceremony” to be re-affirmed as the practice of Virginia Mennonite Conference, and for “all current and future credentialed and/or conference-wide leaders” to commit in writing to “uphold the 2013 FLC statement as the practice of VMC and the Confession of Faith (1995) as the teaching position of their respective role(s).” The resolution also asked that Conference Council “create a mechanism for holding credentialed and conference-wide leaders accountable to these commitments.”
Related materials and the full text of each resolution can be found at virginiaconference.org/2023assembly. The interim Conference Leadership Team members are: Craig Maven, June Miller, Caleb Schrock-Hurst, Maren Tyedmer Hange, Bishop Leslie Francisco, III, and Duane Beck.
*Editor’s note: According to MC USA bylaws, the members of MC USA are its conferences, not congregations. Congregations derive benefits through their conference affiliation. Congregations that choose to unaffiliate from the denomination still have derived membership in MC USA. They are free to use the services and resources of MC USA, such as the Ministerial Leadership Credentialing system and The Corinthian Plan insurance for pastors and church workers, as long as they are a member in good standing in their conference.