Pastors representing 53 churches in the Ohio Conference met at Bellville, Ohio, to discuss their future recommendations relative to the relationship of the Ohio Mennonite Conference and Mennonite Church USA (MC USA). Pastors were divided into table groups with table leaders who used a modified Circle Process. The Leadership Team facilitated the meeting in a process of trust building, listening and direction setting.
Pastors were surveyed on their congregation’s likelihood to remain part of Mennonite Church USA and Ohio Conference. Overall consensus was that congregations preferred to remain part of Ohio Conference, but for some, the relationship to Ohio Conference hinged on the future relationship of Ohio Conference and MC USA. Some congregations only wished to remain part of Ohio Conference if not required to remain part of MC USA, and others only committed to Ohio Conference if Ohio Conference remained part of MC USA. Future commitment to MC USA was varied.
Pastors’ table groups were asked to give the Leadership Team options for the direction of the Ohio Conference going forward. Group-discerned options ranged from keeping the status quo to complete separation from Mennonite Church USA. When pastors individually were asked to express what they thought were their own congregation’s top one or two preferences from among the various options identified, the two most-cited recommendations were that the Ohio Conference give congregations the option to remain part of the Ohio Conference but to allow congregations to opt out of Mennonite Church USA, or for the Ohio Conference as a whole to leave Mennonite Church USA. The Leadership Team will be reviewing these group-discerned options and the content of the discussions and will bring a recommendation to congregational representatives at upcoming fall cluster meetings.
Summary of expressed preferences from among group-discerned options
for moving forward for Ohio Conference
- Leave — Ohio Conference would leave affiliation with MC USA — quite strongly supported possibility
- Several of these indicated that Ohio Conference should seek affiliation with some entity supporting the 1995 Confession of Faith or simply another entity.
- Adopt some form of provisional membership — quite strongly supported possibility
- Ohio Conference would remain affiliated with MC USA but adopt a provision whereby congregations could be members of Ohio Conference without being part of MC USA.
- Stay — strongly supported possibility
- Ohio Conference would retain its present affiliation with MC USA.
- Probational — strongly supported possibility
- Ohio Conference remains affiliated with MC USA but self-identifies as being at “variance” in defined ways with policies, actions, or such of MC USA. Ohio Conference undertakes steps to clarify future relations and boundaries.
- Provide other options — supported possibility
- Ohio Conference retains affiliation with MC USA and works to aid congregations which decline connection with MC USA to find other optional connections.