This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Evana Network hosts launch event

Photo: Evana board members answered questions from the audience at their Oct. 16-18 launch event. From left to right, John Troyer, Wes Furlong, Tyler Hartford, Samuel Lopez, Matt Hamsher, Virginia Leichty, Keith Weaver and Larissa Moore. Photo by Elizabeth Core. 

Clinton Frame Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind., hosted a launch event Oct. 16-18 for Evana (pronounced ee-vonna), a network of churches and individuals that believe in combining Anabaptist and evangelical principles.

Evana began in January as a result of a conference held in Hartville, Ohio, responding to the allowance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) leaders in Mennonite Church USA congregations. At the meeting, seven board members were established: Matt Hamsher, pastor of Longenecker Mennonite Church, Dundee, Ohio (chair); Virginia Leichty, associate pastor of Burr Oak Mennonite Church near Rensselaer, Ind. (vice chair); Larissa Moore, pastor of Victory Community Church, Solon, Ohio (secretary);Tyler Hartford, pastor of Pleasant View Mennonite Church, Goshen, Ind. (treasurer); Samuel Lopez, administrator for the Spanish Mennonite Council of Churches (SMCC), New Holland, Pa., and current moderator of Iglesia Menonita Hispana; and Keith Weaver, Lancaster (Pa.) Mennonite Conference executive conference minister. John Troyer. Troyer, a former youth leader at Clinton Frame, was chosen as executive director. He was appointed transitional administrator for Evana in April.

In regard to the network’s origins, Troyer said at the meeting: “The issue of homosexuality was the main catalyst in starting a deeper conversation about our role in the church. We wanted to provide a space for like-minded people.”

A preliminary survey of attendees during the preview weekend showed that 250 people pre-registered for the event, representing 19 states, plus Manitoba and Ontario, and 60 congregations.

The three-day event was organized to communicate Evana’s mission and goals. The network’s mission, according to its covenant, is to “invite people to faithful living in Jesus Christ by forming and enabling congregations to be healing and sending communities.”

Two congregations had already joined the Evana network: Clinton Frame Mennonite Church (joined in May) and Pleasant View Mennonite Church in Goshen (joined in October). Thirty churches are said to be in process of joining.

If a congregation joins Evana, it is not required to leave its current conference or denomination or to withhold support for Mennonite Church USA-affiliated charitable organizations.

“We’re not here to encourage anyone to leave anything,” said Troyer. “That is up to you.”

When asked about the decision to found the network under the umbrella of both Anabaptist and evangelical values, Troyer said, “We embrace both Mennonite and evangelical expressions. There is a greater fullness when they are together.”

The weekend began with a Friday evening worship service focusing on Evana’s vision for the future. An ice cream social and a young adult huddle followed the service. Approximately 20 young adults attended the gathering at a local coffee shop. Young adults were encouraged by the numbers and are interested in getting more youth involved in the future.

Saturday morning worship was led by Wes Furlong, Evana’s director of church development and lead pastor at Cape Christian Mennonite Church in Cape Coral, Fla. Furlong spoke about Evana’s hope for inspiring increased community engagement.

“I believe there’s a need for a distinctly Anabaptist evangelism,” said Furlong. “We want to begin a conversation and a movement toward radical hospitality and restoration of relationship.”

Following lunch, attendees participated in four breakout sessions: Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Evangelism and Healing Prayer. Mennonite leaders and pastors led the sessions.

Later, Troyer and Furlong led a question and answer session, where Furlong described Evana’s organizational structure, which will be made up of regional networks across the United States and Canada. The networks are meant to decentralize traditional church hierarchy and increase communication among local congregations. Furlong also described Evana 24, an online space where congregations across the globe can communicate.

Troyer announced that Evana leaders are planning to host a retreat in Lake Placid, Fla., Feb. 29-March 3 to build pastoral community. The network will also host a biennial youth convention, starting July 2016. Next year’s convention will be held July 5-9 at Taylor University, Upland, Ind.

When asked whether or not Evana would eventually take on the role of a conference or denomination, board member Keith Weaver answered, “I could foresee our conference partnering with Evana, but [Evana] would not take on the role of a conference.”

Following the session, regions were invited to break out into small groups and discuss needs in their congregations. The Indiana breakout group discussed the need for connection between congregations, consistency in theology, fellowship, trust, and intercultural and intergenerational inclusivity.

On Sunday morning, five Indiana congregations—Clinton Frame, First Mennonite Church (Nappanee), Maple City Chapel (Goshen), Pleasant View Mennonite Church and True Vine Tabernacle (Elkhart)—hosted worship services with the theme “Radical Hospitality: Open the Doors.”

When asked to summarize Evana’s focus, Troyer said, “We’re set on doing what we’re called to do, not arguing with people who disagree with us.”

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Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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