This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Conservative Conference rebrands with initials

MONTGOMERY, Ind. — Conservative Mennonite Conference has rebranded — for now — as CMC. In a move similar to that of Lancaster Mennonite Conference earlier this year, CMC ministers voted unanimously July 20 to change the legal name to “Conservative Mennonite Conference doing business as CMC.”

The meeting was held during CMC’s annual conference July 19-22 at Barr-Reeve Middle/High School. The event had its own name change this year, to “Multiply Conference,” reflecting a vision articulated the year before “to mature and multiply churches locally and globally.”

Guest speaker Joe Steinitz gives props to attendees at the Conservative Mennonite Conference Multiply Conference to illustrate the population of the world divided according to religious affiliation. A condensed version of the 15-week course, “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement,” was offered at the conference. — Rachel Stella/MWR
Guest speaker Joe Steinitz gives props to attendees at the Conservative Mennonite Conference Multiply Conference to illustrate the population of the world divided according to religious affiliation. A condensed version of the 15-week course, “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement,” was offered at the conference. — Rachel Stella/MWR

Moderator Joe Byler said the ministers’ previous meeting in February marked the three-year point in the discussion of a name change for CMC. When there was no clear consensus at the February meeting, the ministers turned to prayer, Scripture reading and small-group reflection.

“What was suggested [in February] by several groups and affirmed by others was that we should be open to a name change as God often changed people’s names in the Bible, but that we should not force it, and perhaps should simply go by ‘CMC’ for a season until the Lord leads us more clearly to a new name,” Byler said.

Also, the idea was introduced to formulate a tagline with words beginning with the letters “CMC” that would give definition to the group’s vision.

In a 2017 interview, CMC executive director Brian Hershberger expressed concern with the name “conservative,” due to its connotations of political conservatism or plain dress. At the July 2017 meeting, other ministers said “Mennonite” associated them with Mennonite Church USA.

Byler said “CMC” would be a transitional name with the expectation of a more significant name change in the future.

“This change will help get us unstuck from the name-change debate and able to focus on maturing and multiplying churches locally and globally,” he said.

While the change to “CMC” was accepted without further discussion, the ministers had concerns with the taglines proposed by the Executive Board. The options were “A Community of Missional Churches” and “A Conference of Multiplying Churches.”

One minister questioned whether a tagline was necessary.

Another said: “I think the tagline is important. We need a vision that we’re unified together. . . . If we just leave it as CMC, we’ll have multiple visions.”

Byler said: “We are unified in Christ and as Anabaptists, but we are a diverse group of people. To come up with a name and tagline that we’re all excited about — I’ve given up on that ideal months ago.”

In the end, a straw vote of hand-raising was taken for either one of the “CMC” taglines or for one that incorporated the theme of “mature and multiply.” Almost all the hands were raised for the latter option.

The executive board will now work to formulate another tag­line option to be presented at a later meeting.

Women in leadership

The ministers voted 52-6 to open certain leadership roles to women.

During the 2017 conference, a three-hour series of presentations on the roles of women in the church culminated in a moving apology to the women of CMC for “mere cultural and traditional practices that have determined ‘a woman’s place’,” read aloud by Byler.

While CMC’s Statement of Practice, adopted in 2007, “reserves ministerial license and ordination for men,” the decision allows certain denominational leadership positions open to laymen “to be filled by qualified women,” according to the agenda. These positions include treasurer, board-appointed members of the Rosedale Mennonite Missions board, board-appointed members and up to two conference-elected members of the Rosedale Bible College board, historian and inter-Mennonite representatives.

Byler told the ministers there was no talk of changing CMC’s policy to allow the ordination of women.

“That is just not part of our discussion; it’s not a part of where we’re going,” he said.

New college president

Jeremy Miller

The ministers ratified the Executive Board’s appointment of Jeremy Miller of Fredericksburg, Ohio, as president-elect of Rose­dale Bible College, which is affiliated with CMC. Miller will succeed Jon Showalter, who has served five years.

Byler said Showalter told the RBC board a year ago it was important “to identify and begin to hire the next generation of leaders — faculty and administrators — to take the reins of the school and to chart a vision for the next era.”

After several months of conversations about a presidential transition, the RBC board in May accepted Showalter’s resignation and appointed Miller as president-elect.

In an interview, Miller said his vision for RBC is to train people for useful ministry to the church.

“The school has to serve the church,” he said. “[It has] to become a primary learning destination for preparing kingdom workers.”

Miller is an alumnus of RBC and has been lead pastor of Mennonite Christian Assembly, a CMC congregation in Fredericksburg, for nearly 12 years. He and his wife, Sarah, have four children. His term begins Sept. 1.

Reaching to other groups

Showalter’s report highlighted RBC’s Multiply Scholarship, a $9,000 scholarship available to congregations of CMC, LMC and the evangelical Anabaptist Evana Network.

Calling it “perhaps the boldest offer we’ve ever made,” Showalter said “we needed to try something dramatic to test our hypothesis that many more students would come to Rosedale if it were more affordable.”

The report also acknowledged growing affinity between several denominations that claim an evangelical Anabaptist identity. Showalter said Evana had initiated a gathering of leaders from CMC, LMC, Brethren in Christ and U.S. Mennonite Brethren to meet in August on RBC’s campus.

“The goal is to discuss how these historically Anabaptist groups might collaborate more in the future than they’ve done in the past,” Showalter said.

MCC board resignation

Adin Miller told the ministers he was resigning as CMC representative on the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. board of directors, saying he had no desire to be part of the discussion in MCC allowing for an exception to MCC’s “lifestyle expectations” that require “sexual celibacy for personnel outside of a heterosexual marriage relationship during their terms of service.”

Byler said CMC leadership would continue to observe any changes MCC might make.

“We are deeply concerned about injustices around the world,” he said. “We love what MCC is doing.”

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