One hundred seventy-three people gathered at Sharon Mennonite Church in Plain City on March 7 for the 51st Annual Conference Assembly (ACA) of the Ohio Conference. Delegates from 36 congregations participated in the one-day meeting.
In addition to business sessions, the one-day event included a time of worship, focusing on the theme “Hearts of Wisdom,” based on Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Speakers during the worship service were the pastors of Salem Mennonite Church in Wooster, David Hargrave and Joel Miller.
MC USA Membership Guidelines
During the business sessions, Conference Minister Dick Barrett reported to delegates about the Mennonite Church USA Membership Guidelines. Recently an advisory group put together a report about the current state of the membership guidelines and gave recommendations. Dick Barrett said that Ohio Conference pastors discussed this report at their Feb. 11 gathering, and the Conference has received feedback from pastors about the recommendations.
He noted that the recommendation of the advisory group is a non-binding recommendation. Members of the Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) will offer input on the recommendation at their spring meeting. Ohio Conference representatives to the CLC include Dick Barrett, Moderator Lynn Miller and Assistant Moderator Paula Snyder Belousek.
Input from the CLC will be taken back to the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board. It is possible that the Executive Board will propose a resolution for presentation at the next Mennonite Church USA Assembly in the summer of 2021. However, we do not know what that resolution will contain. We hope to have about a year to discern about any proposed resolution, he said. To learn more about the advisory group’s recommendation, see http://bit.ly/MCUSAMembershipGuidelines.
Questions to contemplate
Dick Barrett also reported about some of the things happening across the Conference. He talked about the “Gathered” initiative, which has focused on the support of pastors, and he mentioned the focus on spiritual direction and church planting.
As part of his remarks, Dick Barrett also asked the delegates to consider several questions:
- What are you doing in your community that is missional?
- If your church wasn’t there, would it be missed by your community?
- What is your congregation doing to raise up leaders?
- How can we as Ohio Conference help you do that?
Spending plan approved
Delegates unanimously approved a spending plan for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The plan calls for spending totaling $381,200. While introducing the spending plan, Stewardship Ministry Chair Dean Falb noted that the Conference has not had to transfer any money from capital funds during the 2019-20 fiscal year, even though such transfers were proposed in the spending plan. A copy of the 2020-21 spending plan is posted on the “Assembly Documents” page of the Ohio Conference website: http://bit.ly/ACADocuments.
One difference between the current spending plan and the plan for 2020-21 is that funding for Open Arms Hispanic Ministries and Brazo en Brazo is directly included in the 2020-21 spending plan. During the current fiscal year, the Conference support for these ministries came from capital fund accounts.
Immigration Team update
Coordinator of Volunteers Alysa Short presented a brief update about the work of the Immigration Resource Team. At the 2019 Annual Conference Assembly, delegates affirmed a resolution on immigration which called for individuals to become better informed about the issues surrounding immigration, as well as encouraging steps for congregations to take regarding this issue.
Recently, the Immigration Resource Team surveyed Ohio Conference congregations to learn what steps they have taken to follow through on this resolution. Delegates received a written report from the resource team outlining some of the information revealed by the survey, as well as a list of additional immigration-related resources. (To see the team’s report and links to other immigration resources, go to https://ohiomennoniteconference.org/resources/immigration.)
Alysa Short also noted that the Immigration Resource Team is seeking additional members, especially someone from the western part of Ohio. If you are interested in joining this team, please contact her at email@example.com.
Release of congregations
Conference Minister Dick Barrett prayed a prayer of blessing on several congregations which have closed or chosen to leave the Ohio Conference. During the past year, both Pine Grove Mennonite Church in Stryker and Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Monclova have closed. Pike Mennonite Church in Elida has chosen to leave the Ohio Conference and join the Conservative Mennonite Conference. Prior to the prayer, Darwin Hartman, pastor of Pike Mennonite Church, addressed the delegates, expressing thanks for the help the congregation has received from the Ohio Conference during difficult times and appreciation for the leadership of Conference Minister Dick Barrett.
In other business, the delegates:
- Approved the minutes of the 2019 ACA;
- Were introduced to pastors with new assignments in the Ohio Conference; Affirmed the personnel slate presented by the Gifts Discernment Ministry;
- Heard a brief overview of what is happening in Mennonite Church USA from Sue Park-Hur, denominational minister for transformative peacemaking;
- Heard a report from Corben Weaver Boshart of the Missional Planning Team, describing Ohio Conference involvement in the Missional Discipleship Initiative and the Sent Network, which is working to equip church planters;
- Heard from Pastors Thomas Dunn and Bill Seymour about the developing relationship between several Ohio Conference congregations in Wayne County and the Akron Swahili Community Church, which is primarily comprised of Congolese refugees;
- Heard from Jennifer Hartzler about the upcoming missional conference, Engaging Mission 2020, which will take place June 24-26 at Bluffton University;
- Heard a report from Karen Horsman of Mennonite Mission Network;
- Celebrated communion.
For an album of photos from ACA, please see http://bit.ly/ACAvideophotos.