Delegates overwhelmingly affirmed a direction statement presented by the Ohio Conference Leadership Team at the 2017 Annual Conference Assembly (ACA) of the Ohio Conference. Those gathered at Central Christian School in Kidron on March 24-25 numbered 217, including delegates from 46 congregations.

Ninety-three percent of delegates affirmed the Leadership Team’s direction statement for Ohio Conference. Vote totals were as follows: affirm – 154, do not affirm – 11. Part of that direction statement included the following aim: We will put our best energy into being and becoming missional congregations together.” (For the entire direction statement, see 2017 Ohio Conference Direction Statement.)

Moderator Bob Sauder, a member of Salem Mennonite Church in Waldron, Michigan, expressed thanks for the work of the delegates over the weekend, noting “There was a very real sense of God’s presence among us during the entire time.”

Delegates choose healthy budget

In addition to considering the direction statement for the Conference, delegates were asked to choose between two proposed budgets for 2017-18, a “Healthy” Budget and a “BareBones” Budget. The Healthy Budget calls for spending totaling $354,050, while the BareBones Budget would have called for spending totaling $283,050. If delegates had chosen the BareBones Budget, some staff positions would have been reduced.

Ninety-eight percent of delegates chose the Healthy Budget. The final vote total was as follows: Healthy Budget – 159, BareBones Budget – 4.

2015 Spending Resolution rescinded

Delegates also voted to rescind a spending plan resolution which had been adopted at the 2015 Annual Conference Assembly. The vote was 97 percent in favor of rescinding that resolution: approved – 160, did not approve – 5. The rescinded resolution put limits on the Conference’s spending based on a formula including congregational giving, individual giving, the operating reserve fund and the short-term accumulated surplus. To see a copy of the resolution which was rescinded, go to

Release of congregations

Regional Pastors Ralph Reinford and Cliff Brubaker led the delegates in a litany of lament and blessing for congregations which have chosen to leave the Ohio Conference. Those congregations include Beaverdam Mennonite Church; First Mennonite Church in Berne, Indiana; Hillside Chapel; North Lima Mennonite Church; Pleasant View Mennonite Church; Smithville Mennonite Church; and Victory Community Church. Prior to the litany, Todd Martin, pastor of Smithville Mennonite Church, briefly addressed the delegates.

Year of Mission

Jacob Dodson, pastor of Wooster Mennonite Church and a member of the Mission Resource Team, spoke to delegates about the vision behind the Year of Mission. Since mission is integral to our future as a conference, the Mission Resource Team felt that Conference congregations needed practical tools and training. He talked about the paradigm shift from an attractional model to a missional model which focuses on our life outside our church building and in our local context.

Cliff Brubaker reports

Regional Pastor Cliff Brubaker reported to delegates about the Year of Covenant process which took place during 2016-17. The Conference held three Year of Covenant meetings for pastors which dealt with topics such as the character of the Confession of Faith and practicing discernment in times of ambiguity. At the third pastors’ meeting, which was held in Toledo, participants were asked to identify things which helped to build trust and those things which had been detrimental to trust.

Brubaker also reported to delegates about the Listening Process which he engaged in over the past several months. He has met with leadership groups from most Ohio Conference congregations.

Brubaker also talked about plans to merge the Year of Mission and Year of Covenant efforts into a new initiative called Gathered and Sent.

Delegates worship

In addition to business, delegates also participated in worship. On Friday night, Debra Hirsch, one of the presenters for the pre-ACA missional conference, spoke to delegates, focusing on the theme “Who is my Neighbor?” That worship service served as both the conclusion to the missional conference and the beginning of ACA.

Also, during the first Saturday morning business session, Jessica Schrock-Ringenberg, pastor of Zion Mennonite Church in Archbold, led delegates in a time of worship. She used shards of pottery as a visual symbol of brokenness and asked delegates to each take a pottery shard. She noted that when we hold on to these broken things so tightly, they hurt us and they hurt others.

In other business, the delegates:

— Approved the minutes of the 2016 ACA;

— Were introduced to pastors with new assignments in the Ohio Conference;

— Affirmed the personnel slate presented by the Gifts Discernment Ministry;

— Heard a report from Assistant Moderator Thomas Dunn about the work of the Ministry Development Team;

— Heard about the Voice Task  Force;

— Heard about the Ohio Conference Cast podcasts from Bill Seymour and Thomas Dunn;

— Heard a report from Interim Credentialing Ministry Chair Dan Hooley;

— Learned about the upcoming Pastor-Spouse Retreat from Jeff Hochstetler;

— Heard reports from Karla Minter of Mennonite Mission Network, and Terry Shue, director of leadership development for Mennonite Church USA;

— Celebrated communion.