Pastors and members of the leadership board of congregations that join Evana Network, a new evangelical Anabaptist group, will need to sign its “personal covenant.”
Individuals can also join by signing the covenant, according to John Troyer, Evana’s transitional administrator.
The covenant affirms Mennonite Church USA’s 1995 Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective. It also includes mission and vision statements and 10 “personal qualities” for leaders.
Among these are commitments to nonviolence, to ministry and local service and to “embrace sexual wholeness and reserve sexual activity for holy matrimony, a covenant between one male and one female for life, and refrain from supporting other sexual activity or practice.”
“We have not made sexuality our central focus,” Troyer said. “We highlighted 10 areas in our covenant where clarification seemed to be needed. Holy matrimony is one of those 10.”
Leaders who are ‘all in’
Troyer said everything in the personal covenant is also in the Confession of Faith.
“We believe that the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, 1995, contains a beautiful expression of an Anabaptist witness,” he said. “Providing a place to gather with others who embrace this witness is a desire for many across the church.”
Having pastors and lay leaders sign the covenant in order to join signifies they are “all in” for their mission, Troyer said.
“We are not requiring anyone to do anything,” he said. “Our membership is voluntary, and our member churches will be self-governing. It will be up to them to decide what they require, and they can decide if they want to participate with Evana.”
He said it wouldn’t make sense for people to join an evangelical Anabaptist network if they didn’t want to be evangelical Anabaptists.
“Our covenant process helps churches discern if they are fully committed to that perspective as a church, if they prefer to leave it up to individual members to join, or if they want to prohibit leaders from being involved at all,” he said.
Troyer said the network’s transitional board approved the covenant. It is based on a lifestyle covenant Virginia Mennonite Missions in Harrisonburg, Va., requires its representatives to sign.
The Evana covenant is not public, but people can register at evananetwork.org to request it.
The covenant describes Evana’s vision as “calling out and sending forth a growing, ethnically diverse community of believers, empowered by the Holy Spirit to transform the world and to be transformed through Jesus Christ’s reconciling work.”
Evana will begin the process of accepting churches as members and partners by Sept. 1.
Wes Furlong, Evana’s pastor of church development, said not everything is finalized yet.
“It’s really just the initial onramp for some of the early adopters,” he said.
Congregations can either join as members or partners. Individuals can only join as members, beginning in mid-October.
Members and partners both have access to Evana|24, an online resource for conversation forums, networking, training and resourcing.
“Say you’ve got a group of leaders in Kansas that want to start some kind of focused ministry, say, a foster care initiative,” he said. “You can use this platform, Evana|24, to start conversations and even provide trainings.”
Partners commit to a higher level of participation.
“The partnership is really for the churches that are wanting to engage together with other churches in the region for new ministry initiatives,” Furlong said, noting there’s a clear evangelistic thrust.
Partners will join a regional network of partners, have access to consulting, help initiate and support new church plants and make up the delegate body that gives direction to Evana.
Pastors in partner churches can also be credentialed by Evana.
Troyer said interest in Evana has exceeded his expectations but didn’t want to speculate on numbers. He’s seen more interest than he expected from those not in traditional Anabaptist groups, such as house churches and nondenominational churches.
“It has felt like there has been a kind of a broad gratefulness for what Evana is doing and an ability to partner in places I wouldn’t have anticipated,” he said.
A congregation can join Evana without leaving the conference or denomination it belongs to.
“[Evana leaders] wanted the Confession of Faith to be used for membership and partnership,” Furlong said. “But they wanted the focus to be on actual ministry that would be more in line with what a network typically does than a denomination. So churches don’t necessarily have to be forced through what could be a painful either-or choice [between denominations].”
Evana will hold a weekend of fellowship Oct. 16-18 in Goshen, Ind. Troyer and Furlong said it will be a good time to learn more about Evana. Information is online at evananetwork.org.