Allegheny Mennonite Conference (AMC) delegates met March 7 at Springs (Pa.) Mennonite Church and voted 72-70 to reinstate Hyattsville (Md.) Mennonite Church as voting members of the conference. Later in the meeting, delegates released three congregations from membership in the conference.
In 2005, AMC delegates voted to keep Hyattsville as nonvoting members and to not allow members of the conference to hold elected positions in AMC or in Mennonite Church USA. The reason for this, according to the 2005 resolution, was that Hyattsville had been found to be “inconsistent with the Membership Guidelines of Mennonite Church USA.” Delegates had expressed concerns about the congregation’s membership practices, including the appointment of a person in a same-sex relationship as a delegate.
The new resolution stated that AMC “is willing to live together with theological disagreements, using the 1995 Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective as a guiding document, not a disciplinary document.”
Both the 2005 decision to sanction Hyattsville and the decision to reinstate them as full members were passed by a majority. The decision to remove a congregation from membership requires a two-thirds majority vote, according to AMC leadership.
According to Donna Mast, AMC conference minister, the March 7 meeting was “civil [and] people were respectful.” While there was laughter at various times throughout the day, she said in a March 8 phone interview, “the meeting was a sober one, made more so by the close vote.”
Three Maryland congregations—Glade Mennonite Church in Accident, Gortner Union Church in Oakland and Red Run Mennonite Church in Grantsville—submitted letters asking to be released from membership in AMC. Two of these letters had been submitted before the conference; Red Run’s was submitted after the vote, while delegates attended to other business. Reasons for leaving had to do with differences about how to deal with same-sex relationships. The resolution that passed also stated that “any congregation choosing to leave [AMC] as a result of this decision can request and receive assistance from the current Leadership Council in finding appropriate affiliation.”
This leaves AMC with 27 member congregations, two of which are church plants. Mast said the conference “will have to look hard at our structure,” which current giving patterns cannot sustain.
Cynthia Lapp, pastor of Hyattsville, said it is hard to know how to respond to the decision. “It is obvious there are no winners here,” Lapp said in a March 8 email. “We have worked at building relationships for the past 10 years while we were under discipline. We will continue to work at building relationships for the next ten years as full members. We remain committed to praying with and for the conference as we move together into an unknown future.”
Written By: Gordon Houser (Reprinted with permission, The Mennonite 3/9/2015)