This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Franklin Conference votes to leave Mennonite Church USA

Franklin Mennonite Conference is leaving Mennonite Church USA, the third conference in nine months to announce a withdrawal.

At their annual spring meeting April 18 at Marion Mennonite Church in Chambersburg, Pa., Franklin delegates voted 44-13 to withdraw from MC USA, effective immediately, and to remain without affiliation for a year, according to conference minister Allen Leh­man.

The proposal received 77 percent approval. Two-thirds was required to pass.

Franklin has 14 congregations with about 1,000 members in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Lehman said congregations would spend the next year discerning next steps regarding affiliation.

“We took care of one question; we’ll look at that question next,” Lehman said. “People ask, ‘Where are we going?’ The truth is, we can’t handle two big questions at one time.”

Lehman said two or three congregations want to remain connected to MC USA, so dual affiliation will be an option for at least a year and possibly longer.

“There’s a strong desire to maintain and be part of our Franklin Mennonite Conference,” Lehman said. “[For] churches who wish to remain part of Mennonite Church USA, we would leave the door open to be dual-affiliated.”

He said the main concerns raised by those not in favor of the withdrawal proposal were access to denominational resources, such as assistance with pastoral searches, and questions about identity.

“For the majority of our people, I would only imagine that they’re glad a decision has been made,” he said. “Clarity is now here; we’re moving forward without this cloud of ambiguity.”

Conference leaders have said that concerns about issues surrounding same-sex relationships have made Franklin congregations want to leave MC USA.

While there are no plans now for new partnerships, Lehman said that Evana Network’s director of church development, Wes Furlong, would be the guest speaker at Franklin’s pastors’ retreat and that he was interested in learning more about Evana.

“I was preparing in my mind and heart to work with this whatever the outcome [of the vote],” Lehman said. “This is the outcome, and I’m going to work with it.”

Last July, North Central Mennonite Conference announced it was beginning a yearlong process of withdrawing from MC USA. In November, Lancaster Mennonite Conference announced it would withdraw by the end of 2017.

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