HENDERSON, Neb. — Five former Mennonite Church USA congregations joined the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches Nov. 3-4.
The MB Central District Conference welcomed the five churches, from the former North Central Conference of MC USA, by unanimous vote during its 107th convention at Henderson MB Church.
“We are honored that God brought the former NCC into our district,” said CDC minister Rick Eshbaugh. “Their love for God’s word and enthusiasm for ministry have encouraged us, and we look forward to partnering together.”
The addition brings the number of CDC congregations to 33, located in Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Indiana and Wisconsin.
The NCC was established in 1920 as the Dakota-Montana Conference, later expanding to become the North Central Conference with more than 25 churches in Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, although that number has declined.
“The biggest thing for me as I think about the past 100 years is the faithfulness of the ones who have gone before us,” said Jesse Swiers, former NCC moderator and pastor of Lake Region Mennonite Church near Detroit Lakes, Minn. “All have been volunteers in the Lord’s army and never received a salary.”
The NCC passed a motion at its annual assembly in July 2015 to begin a process of withdrawing from MC USA. Denominational delegates had passed a resolution earlier that month at a convention in Kansas City, Mo., calling for forbearance regarding same-sex covenanted unions. While delegates also affirmed the 2001 Membership Guidelines that uphold traditional marriage and say pastors may not perform same-sex marriages, the NCC congregations were concerned that approval of the Membership Guidelines was by a smaller margin than a call for forbearance.
Evana Network, Conservative Mennonite Conference and CDC extended invitations to the congregations. The conference voted to dissolve, leaving the churches to vote independently regarding their next steps. The conference board expressed a desire for the churches to stay together and recommended CDC.
Eshbaugh visited several of the churches and presented at the NCC annual convention. Church leaders attended the CDC’s Renewal Conference in July.
While three churches remain in discussion, five voted to join the CDC. The process of affiliation culminated at the CDC convention when the five churches were unanimously approved as members of the CDC family.
Former NCC churches joining CDC are Coalridge Mennonite Church, Dagmar, Mont.; Exeland (Wis.) Mennonite Church; Lake Region Mennonite Church; Sand Lake Chapel in Stone Lake, Wis.; and Strawberry Lake Mennonite Church on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Ogema, Minn.
“God is renewing us, geographically, to work together,” Swiers said.