Since the Delegate Assembly met in Kansas City, your 2015-2016 Elder team has been gathering information and praying about the direction for First Mennonite. We have wanted this course to be prayerful, thoughtful, informed and non-reactionary. As part of this process, your Elder Team met with our new Executive Conference Pastor, Michael Danner, on October 27th to discuss the direction of Illinois Mennonite Conference (IMC).
This is what Michael Danner is committed to do:
1) Lead IMC from this point forward, not seeking to undo or revisit past IMC actions. 2) Lead IMC from the understanding that the volunteer covenant between IMC congregations is defined by the Confession of Faith, A Shared Understanding of Church Leadership, and the IMC Constitution. 3) Establish clear processes for pastoral and congregational accountability, including a conference-wide process for mutual accountability when congregations are at variance with current teaching and practice within IMC and MC USA. 4) Assist congregations in fulfilling the missional vision God has given them through healthy, Biblical leadership. 5) Be patient to learn and pray before leading. 6) Build mutual relationships with pastors, congregations and leaders as we work together within IMC.
Here is what your FMC Elders are committed to do:
1) Adhere to the current Confession of Faith and Membership Guidelines while seeking to be a faithful Mennonite/Anabaptist witness for Jesus Christ. 2) Remain as active and informed members in IMC and MC USA at least until our next fall congregational meeting (November 2016). 3) Prepare to host the IMC 'Annual Assembly' in April. 4) Support Michael Danner as he seeks to equip local congregations in Biblical leadership. 5) Assume that FMC will be sending delegates to the 2017 Mennonite Convention, unless otherwise decided.
Here is what your FMC Elders are praying over:
1) What, if any, clear action would need to take place before FMC would break ties with our conference and denomination and join another denomination. 2) How to actively lead our Mennonite/Anabaptist denomination back to the authority of Scripture and a love for the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.
You should also be aware that our denominational leadership (Executive Board and Conference Pastors, which meet as a larger constituency body called the CLC) are now deciding how to enforce the two seemly contradictory resolutions passed at Kansas City, the resolution which reaffirmed the ‘Membership Guidelines’ and the resolution on ‘Forbearance’. Lack of clarity and previous inaction for pastoral accountability have been the reason why some conferences (i.e. Lancaster, Franklin) and congregations (i.e. East Bend in Fisher, IL) are voting to leave our denomination. They claim that leaders within MC USA are weakening of the authority of Scripture and unwilling to enforce discipline at local and denominational levels. Your Elder team also agrees that these are the deeper issues within our current denomination. If you wish to learn more about this, please ask for a copy of the document from Conrad Kanagy entitled ‘Comments to Lancaster Conference Bishop Board.’ This document helps to explain how variance with the Confession is connected with deeper theology.
Here is how you may help:
1) Pray for Michael Danner and your Elder team. 2) Pray about whether the Lord is calling you to apply for an opening within the governing board (MLT) or credentialing board (CLT) within Illinois Mennonite Conference. Ask Pastor Aaron for more details about these leadership positions.