… you would not have known that these two congregations ever battled with each other to the point of locking each other out of their church building.
“Today we celebrate the ministry of reconciliation that has been and will continue to be our life’s work.”
We’re trusting with joyful expectancy that something will emerge that reflects our shared identity, purpose, and values.
As we continue to discern our way forward as a new Conference, I invite you to reflect on your sense of belonging, both on congregational and conference levels.
I tend to be fairly cautious about most Christian conferences. At the risk of sounding overly-skeptical, I’m not thoroughly convinced of the long-term benefit of such events, and wonder if they don’t play into a kind of consumerism within the Christian sub-culture of the West: lots of marketing, lots of money, lots of “celebrity Christians,” lots of glossy pamphlets and slick websites. They’re not all bad, of course, but I generally feel uncomfortable with many aspects of “the big conference machine.”
When congregational leaders of Nations Worship Center (NWC) chose to purchase a large old commercial building on Ritner St. in South Philadelphia, they couldn’t have guessed the disruption this would be in their lives—and the lives of the folks in that neighborhood. The building was once home to the Knights of Columbus and a catering business. Residents remember attending Sweet Sixteen parties and wedding receptions held there years ago. But for the last 10 years, it’s been vacant. When the neighbors and neighborhood association heard of NWC’s plans, Pastor Beny Krisbianto and others began hearing rumors of discontent and surprising misunderstandings.
I guess I started thinking about this earlier in the summer. I was acting as ‘crowd control’ at a peace camp at Franklin Park in Allentown. The story teller had the kids acting out Acts 10—where Peter and Cornelius move from historic animosity toward friendship and salvation. A Jewish fisherman, a Roman Centurion, and their respective cohorts took on a decidedly urban, Latino flavor. The kids seemed to enjoy the story, but when they were asked to think about why someone like Peter would be friends with someone like Cornelius their answers were painfully honest. When asked to imagine creative ways to respond to bullies—they couldn’t seem to think of anything but fighting back. And I could see why a white woman of privilege, suggesting Jesus would have them do otherwise, didn’t necessarily sit well with them.
Members of Eastern District and Franconia Conferences of Mennonite Church USA met on March 29 at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School in Lansdale, PA, to continue conversations about a shared future. This gathering, the first of two forums planned for Spring 2012, focused on developing a deeper understanding of the 1847 split in Franconia Conference that led to the formation of Eastern District Conference.
Eastern District and Franconia conference leaders have planned two delegate forums this spring to continue the exploration of a shared future. The forums will be held on March 29 and May 24 at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School in Lansdale, PA and will include presentations from conference historians and conversations about the nature of each conference and possible next steps.
Rev. Dr. Barbara Moses, the principal of Philadelphia Mennonite High School, encouraged conference leaders to take control of conflict situations in the only way possible: by controlling themselves.
Emily Ralph, Swamp Franconia and Eastern District Conferences will hold a joint conference assembly this November. “We felt that this is an exciting opportunity resulting from a long standing conversation […]
by Dr. John Ruth, Salford Mennonite Church, and Bishop Claire Burkat, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America The history of Lutherans and Mennonites has not always […]
by Emily Ralph
“We didn’t grow up hearing about this,” one of the bishop’s staff members told me.
Some of the leaders gathered at the Southeast Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s assembly had heard about the reconciliation process, but for others, this was a brand new story. “In the 16th century, the early Lutheran reformers, furious that the so-called Anabaptists did not share the same theology of baptism, used their influence and power to persecute Mennonite Christians,” Lutheran Bishop Claire Burkat said. Her words were greeted with an audible response and she nodded her acknowledgement at the horror.