Mennonite Conferences have been a major part of my life. I was born in a small conference noted at the time for numerous contentious divisions As a young adult I became a member of the largest Mennonite conference, likewise noted for numerous small separations on both conservative and liberal divide. In midlife I became involved in a partially successful effort to reverse divisiveness and unite churches in the southeast that belonged to five conferences.
I served the church as a pastor of a small mission/church, bishop of a district of approximately ten churches, general secretary of an emerging conference, and a two-term member of a denominational board. After years of reflection in retirement, The Old Fool offer this friendly note to Mennonite conferences in general.
- All conferences should take a fresh look at the Southeast Mennonite Conference. The conference council has members from each major cultural group served by the conference. The Conference Minister is multi-lingual, non-Anglo, whose only office is a laptop computer. The moderator-elect is an African American woman with a law degree. It has rescinded and rewritten its by-laws to reflect the interests of the minority churches that are now in the majority. It is learning to respect many cultures. The Old Fool suggests that this is likely the future direction of other conferences.
- Presently, Mennonite Conferences may exercise authority over congregations. The Old Fool believes that all conferences should surrender their power over congregations. He believes that every congregation should be able to determine its own mission, ministry, and membership without suspicion or hindrance.
- These are times of rapid change. The Old Fool suggests that all Mennonite Conferences should protect a single congregation that adapts to change and adopts new and untried ways to be Jesus in today’s world.
- It is not good for a congregation to be isolated from other congregations. The Old Fool believes that a conference should provide ways for congregations to talk to each other and to confer with each other over ways to be more like Jesus and win over the world.
If you know of a conference officer, please call this blog to their personal attention.