A group tasked with finding a new home for South Central Mennonite Conference is recommending LMC.
The Pennsylvania-based denomination formerly known as Lancaster Mennonite Conference counts more than 270 congregations in 16 states and Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. LMC estimates those congregations include more than 25,000 people. South Central has roughly 2,500 members in about 30 congregations.
South Central network chair Phil Rosenberger shared the Affiliation Task Force’s choice of LMC as its “preferred affiliation partner” in a Jan. 31 email to pastors, church leaders and delegates from the conference’s 2023 annual assembly.
LMC decided in 2015 to withdraw from MC USA, citing a cultural and theological divide among MC USA conferences on LGBTQ matters.
Last July, South Central delegates voted 81% in favor of a recommendation to withdraw from the denomination and find new affiliation by October 2024. The resolution stated, “[I]t seems clear that the majority of SCMC congregations no longer find affiliation with MC USA to be helpful, desired or consistent with our core beliefs and practices.”
South Central’s Affiliation Task Force recommended LMC after conducting a survey and holding conversations with pastors and other leaders in the conference. The group recommended LMC because both it and South Central are guided by the 1995 Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.
The group noted that LMC’s organization into districts makes incorporation of South Central a “natural process” and that about half of LMC congregations are majority non-White, providing support and belonging for the one-third of South Central congregations that are majority Hispanic.
“LMC is trusting the discernment process South Central Conference is taking,” stated LMC’s bishop elders team in response to an inquiry from Anabaptist World.
Rosenberger said the 1995 Confession of Faith was not a requirement for affiliation, but the task force determined in conversation with congregations that shared theology with a ministry partner was a priority.
“They considered, in some sense, 11 different organizations,” he said. “One of them was MC USA, just to be thorough. Would we want to go back to MC USA? But immediately everyone said no.”
He said the list included “all the logical candidates” and mentioned Evana, Alliance of Mennonite Evangelical Congregations, Mennonite Brethren, Brethren in Christ and Rosedale Network (formerly Conservative Mennonite Conference).
Rosenberger said some congregations — “a few, but not five” — desire to stay with MC USA and are in the process of switching conferences, but it is too soon to know an exact number.
South Central is planning an online meeting in March for members to ask questions, followed by regional gatherings in April in Kansas and Texas to introduce LMC representatives. A delegate vote could take place in July at South Central’s annual assembly.
The task force was composed of:
— Kendra Horst (Journey Mennonite Church in South Hutchinson and McPherson, Kan.)
— Kurt Horst (Journey)
— Brad Roth (Whitestone Mennonite Church in Hesston, Kan.)
— David Roth (Cornerstone Fellowship in Kingman, Kan.)
— Kevin Santiago (Peace Mennonite Community Church in Aurora, Colo.)
— Howard Wagler (Journey)