On April 26, members of Pleasant View Mennonite Church, Goshen, Ind., voted to transfer the congregation’s membership from Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (IN-MI) to South Central Conference (SCC), both area conferences of Mennonite Church USA.
One hundred fifty people voted. The vote passed by 93 percent. About 220-250 attend regularly.
“South Central has been clear in its commitment to the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective and the Membership Guidelines as consensus documents and has publicly offered to be a place of belonging for congregations discerning their long-term affiliation,” said Tyler Hartford, lead pastor at Pleasant View, on April 30.
When Mountain States Mennonite Conference announced the decision to license Theda Good, a pastor who is a lesbian, in December 2013, Mennonite Church USA has been confronted with the issue of LGBT inclusion. The Confession of Faith and the Membership Guidelines speak to some of the issues related to human sexuality.
Numerous congregational conversations within Pleasant View led to this April vote, he said.
In December 2014, a vote passed by 94 percent affirming leadership to “explore other affiliations” beyond IN-MI, said Hartford.
The church’s leadership team followed the official process for transferring conference membership, which included meetings with both conferences and the creation of a joint letter of transfer.
“This process has also drawn out a wide range of responses within our congregation in regard to how we view our relationship with conference and Mennonite Church USA,” he said.
In June, delegates at the SCC and IN-MI assemblies will vote on this request for transfer, making it official.
“Most of our discussions with Pleasant View centered around the initiatives SCC Executive Team has identified as priorities: church planting, resourcing leadership, and bringing Jesus’ hope and healing to the communities where we are planted,” said Linda Yutzy, moderator of SCC, on May 2.
New Hope Fellowship in Perryton, Texas, (formerly Perryton Mennonite) will also be considered for membership with SCC at the delegate session, she added.
Pleasant View will still relate to IN-MI and have an ongoing relationship, as they share a geographic location.
“I suppose the language that has been most helpful is we may not be under one roof but rather in one neighborhood, similar to what Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite World Conference already represent. Our congregation continues to highly value such community and global improvement work, such as Mennonite Disaster Service, La Casa and Mennonite Central Committee,” Hartford said.
Dan Miller, conference pastor for IN-MI, said “We lament the shift in relationship this transfer of affiliation represents, as Pleasant View has been a long-term conference member. Both Tyler Hartford and Ron Diener have made significant long-term contributions to conference life. So have previous pastors and congregational members. We look forward to continued opportunities for common expressions of faithfulness, discipleship, ministry and mission … In saying this, I do not mean to minimize or downplay the differences that have motivated the congregation to pursue this affiliation with another conference.”
In January, Hartford resigned from the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board. Hartford is a member of Evana’s transitional leadership team.
Evana is a new network of churches from both within and outside Mennonite Church USA. The name combines “Evangelical” and “Anabaptist.”
When asked about whether or not Pleasant View will join Evana when it launches this fall, Hartford responded: “Pleasant View is committed to staying connected to other Anabaptist churches for shared witness and service and desires to be part of a structure that offers clear accountability. We’ll see what develops in the fall and will discern together as a congregation about our involvement.”
SCC is a regional conference of Mennonite Church USA. SCC is made up of 27 member congregations, one associate member congregation, and five church plants. SCC churches are located in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Mexico.