The Plainy from Allegheny

By David Mishler, Conference Minister               Volume 2 – January 2018

#1 – Naming this Newsletter/Blog

This is the second edition of our newsletter/blog.  So far, I have received several suggestions for a better title.  Here is the list and you get to vote on your favorite:
Miscellany from Allegheny
AllePlainy
Plumb Miscellany from Allegheny – plumb meaning true or complete (true as in a plumb line from Amos 7 and Isaiah 28 – both dealing with justice)
Prime Miscellany from Allegheny

With the new suggestions also came some important critique:
–Allegheny is nowhere near a plain.
–We don’t want to have confusion since we are not re-claiming our plain roots.

Although these are absolutely great improvements over my original (??), I am hoping for a few more submissions before we vote, so this month it is still “The Plainy from Allegheny”.  Sorry.

#2 – Membership in Allegheny

As promised this issue will focus on a Membership Model for Allegheny Mennonite Conference.  However, the Leadership Council, at its annual retreat (January 19-21), has taken a turn away from our previous discussions about “covenant membership”.  The Leadership Council (LC) believes that simplicity should be the focus of our work at this time in the life of our conference.

As some congregations are beginning to consider partnering with AMC as their conference affiliation choice, the LC is proposing an update to our current bylaws with a clear and simple “qualifications” section followed by a simple “process” for becoming a member congregation.  A “covenant” could be part of this process, but it would be part of a policy, not part of the bylaws.  My hope is that if our delegates agree to this approach to membership, we could have a service of “re-commitment to conference” at our Celebration at Laurelville this August.  Each congregation could bring a “letter of covenant” to express its individuality and address specific place-based ministry efforts, along with affirming what is outlined in our revised bylaws.

We especially need delegates’ feedback going into our March 3, 2018 Faith and Life Gathering (at Stahl Mennonite, Johnstown) concerning the character of this approach to membership.  If each congregation submits a response by February 26, the LC will use that information to help plan for our time together.

Suggested revised bylaws for membership:

Section B.  Qualification for Member Congregations

1.     Congregations that aspire to live in voluntary commitment to Jesus Christ from an Anabaptist perspective, using the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective as a guiding document, qualify to be members of Allegheny Mennonite Conference. Through our covenants with one another we endeavor to:

a. promote Jesus as the center of our faith, community as the center of our life, and reconciliation as the center of our work;
b. give and receive resources for pastors and congregations in matters of faith and life, including doing periodic congregational/pastoral evaluation in consultation with the Conference Minister;
c. facilitate the reign of God by providing resources and channels through efforts in mission, evangelism, church planting, Christian formation, nurture, peacemaking and justice;
d. be supportive and respectful of the discernment processes used by Conference and individual congregations in decision making and understand our theological differences as a source of strength and resilience.

2.     An annual administrative fee is determined by the Leadership Council and is payable within the first sixty days of the Conference fiscal year. All congregations are expected to support conference budgets and financial commitments based on decisions of the delegate body and the ability of each congregation, above and beyond the administrative fee.

3.     A worshipping group may make application to become a congregation in Conference to the Conference Minister/Leadership Council.

a. The delegates will be notified of the congregation’s membership request.
b. The Conference Minister will make an assessment and make a recommendation to the Leadership Council. If the congregation is a member of another Mennonite Church USA conference, guidelines provided by Mennonite Church USA will be followed.
c. Leadership Council may recommend to delegates at a delegate session that the congregation’s request be affirmed.

Some important questions for which we are seeking a response from every congregation:

I. Can we affirm the “simplicity” approach to membership in Allegheny? 
II. Would your congregation support a policy of a “covenant” approach to membership, in practice, using the simplicity of the bylaws as the qualifications and pathway to establishing membership, and then bring your own flavor to our membership covenants through a celebratory worship service?

III. Could your congregation be ready to bring its covenant to our Celebration event at Laurelville in August?

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