With affirmation from our delegates at our Annual Conference Assembly on March 4-5, 2022, at Zion Mennonite Church in Archbold, Ohio Conference embarked on a review/discernment process looking at our vision based on our new mission statement1, our structure, and our future affiliation with Mennonite Church USA (MC USA). Also with affirmation from our delegates, we contracted with a process consultant, Jeanne Zimmerly Jantzi, from Design Group International to facilitate our work in the months ahead. We embarked on the review with the understanding that decisions made at MC USA’s special delegate assembly on May 27-30, 2022, in Kansas City, Missouri, could impact the discernment process.

Since MC USA’s special delegate assembly, we have received communication from several of our pastors and congregations expressing concern about both their congregation and Ohio Conference’s continued affiliation with MC USA. While the view of sexual ethics and marriage included in MC USA’s recently adopted “Repentance and Transformation” resolution is one of the concerns, other concerns have been expressed as well. We thank you for your feedback and want to encourage all our pastors, delegates and congregational leaders to communicate with our pastoral staff (Dick Barrett, Sherah-Leigh Gerber and Tony Doehrmann) as well as anyone from the Leadership Team2.

The Leadership Team of Ohio Conference believes it is important to stay faithful to the review/discernment process that we started on April 1.  On April 28, our process consultant, Jeanne Zimmerly Jantzi, facilitated an all-day retreat with the Leadership Team in Upper Sandusky. On June 15 we hosted a luncheon for our congregational pastors at Der Dutchman Restaurant in Plain City to debrief following MC USA’s special delegate assembly and to encourage one another. On Aug. 23 Jeanne will be facilitating a day for all of our active credentialed ministers. We are in the process of scheduling regional cluster meetings for our congregational delegates for the end of September and/or early October. By the end of the year, we should have a good sense of where our pastors and congregations are at and what options there will be for both the Conference and our congregations. In the beginning of the new year, we will continue discernment with our credentialed ministers and delegates as we prepare for decision making at our 2023 Annual Conference Assembly on March 3-4, 2023, in Kidron.

Christian spiritual discernment is not easy, and it takes commitment from all the people involved. As Anabaptists and Mennonites, discernment and decision making does not just include people in leadership positions, or pastors, but all the people from all our congregations. It must be done with solid biblical understanding and the Holy Spirit. It will take much prayer and fasting to discern God’s leading, both for us as a conference and for each of our congregations. In the coming weeks we will be providing resources to help us engage in spiritual practices as we seek to discern God’s will together.

1 The mission of Ohio Conference of Mennonite Church USA is to Gather, Equip and Send our congregations by the power of the Holy Spirit to live out God’s Greatest Commandments (Mark 12:29-31) and Jesus’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

2Ohio Conference Leadership Team: Ken Sims, Moderator; Paula Snyder Belousek, Assistant Moderator; Dick Barrett, Conference Minister; Andrew Blount, Stewardship Ministry Chair; Myron Weaver, Credentialing Ministry Chair; and Jared Chase, Gifts Discernment Ministry Chair.