After a meeting where there was little left to say, South Central Conference is leaving Mennonite Church USA.
By a vote of 64 to 15, or 81% in favor, delegates approved a recommendation from the conference’s Network Leadership Team to withdraw from the denomination.
The vote was taken July 22 at Pleasant Valley Mennonite Church in Harper, Kan.
South Central Conference has 30 member congregations in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.
According to MC USA policy, the withdrawal is effective immediately, although the resolution says “a process of dis-associating” will be completed “on or before Oct. 31, 2024.”
The resolution also says that by October 2024 the conference will complete a process of joining “another Anabaptist/Mennonite conference, network or organization.”
Congregations that want to remain in MC USA will need to join an existing MC USA conference or form a new one, said Michael Danner, MC USA’s associate executive director for church vitality, who joined the meeting by Zoom.
Only one delegate, Don Weaver of Hesston Mennonite Church in Kansas, spoke in response to the resolution. He read a statement from the congregation: “We want to continue to affiliate with Mennonite Church USA because it allows for the wide variety of perspectives that we have across our own congregation, which we see as a strength and that we believe is healthy. We grieve the time consumed and the conflict experienced over the past several years, as well as the loss that we expect everyone will likely feel no matter what the outcome of the vote. . . .
“We believe it is important for each church to be affiliated where it enables them to spread the gospel and do the work of Christ. . . . While it is unfortunate that doing so likely means the end of South Central Mennonite Conference as it has existed for some time, we want to give our blessing to every church on their path forward.”
No specific reasons for the withdrawal were mentioned. The resolution’s introduction says, “[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.”
Network chair Phil Rosenberger described the discernment process. It included four regional listening sessions in January and a discussion, at the conference assembly a year ago, about the LGBTQ-affirming Repentance and Transformation resolution that MC USA delegates passed in May 2022.
He said the conference has been in “a season of turmoil” and “torn in many directions.”
“Out of all that listening, the Network Leadership Team said we feel like the conference is asking us to do this,” Rosenberger said of the recommendation to withdraw. “. . . There will be individuals who will feel hurt, and I hurt for them. If we hadn’t brought the request, there would be individuals who would feel hurt. We are in the middle of a hurting time. . . . It is with deep emotions that we bring this, not at all feeling like this is any sort of a victory for anybody.”
In 2021, a motion to withdraw got 53% support. A two-thirds majority was needed to pass.
South Central is the fifth conference to leave MC USA since the denomination’s inception in 2002. Previously, Lancaster, Franklin, North Central and Southeast conferences withdrew.