KIDRON, Ohio — Conservative Mennonite Conference is keeping its name for now, but leaders will continue to look at possibilities for change.
CMC’s delegate body of 98 ministers needed a two-thirds majority July 28 to change the denomination’s name to Rosedale Network of Churches. The proposal narrowly failed, with 63 percent supporting it.
The Executive Board will continue to formulate an alternative new name. Another vote could take place as early as the next ministers’ business meeting, scheduled for Feb. 19-22 in Belleville, Pa.
A 2016 survey of CMC members indicated a desire for a denominational name change, renewing a discussion that has occurred over the past 20 years. In February, the name Rosedale Network was proposed. Feedback from ministers influenced the change to Rosedale Network of Churches.
“Is this name change part of a grander scheme to water down our theology?” asked moderator Joe Byler, rephrasing a question he said he often heard. “I would like to say with boldness that that has not ever come up. Our statement of theology is firm. I don’t envision that even coming up for discussion.”
Byler said the desire was for the denomination to have a name that unified it with its agencies, Rosedale Bible College and Rosedale Mennonite Missions.
“We welcome the name Rosedale being associated with local churches,” said RBC board chair Laban Miller. “There’s a name that pulls us all together.”
Miller also mentioned the distinction “Rosedale” has in the Mennonite world.
“Rosedale is associated with the words ‘Anabaptism’ and ‘Mennonites,’ ” he said. “It also distinguishes us from all other Anabaptist and Mennonite groups . . . in terms of how we interpret Scripture.”
RMM board chair David Kochsmeier talked about the accessibility the name “Rosedale” provided.
“The Rosedale name is very well-known,” he said. “It goes before all of our agencies, and we’re recognized.”
Kochsmeier said “Rosedale” opened more doors in the global mission field.
“We’re finding at RMM that as we go into countries that are closed, having the name ‘Mennonite’ and ‘Missions’ is not a positive thing,” he said. “We’re discussing what that means for us.”
No more ‘Mennonite?’
Delegates’ responses comparing “Rosedale Network of Churches” with “Conservative Mennonite Conference” were mixed.
One delegate said he was not ashamed of his Mennonite spiritual heritage but had concerns about how others perceived it.
“One of my coworkers has mentioned interacting with Mennonites of a more conservative brand, and how they’re cold and unfriendly to be around,” he said. “Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be called Mennonite. We’re representing Christ.”
Another delegate said: “The area that I come from, neither word — ‘conservative’ nor ‘Mennonite’ — has been a problem. If anything, it’s been an asset for us.”
Others were concerned about how the name “Mennonite” associated them with Mennonite Church USA.
Shawn Otto of Sarasota, Fla., referred to the resolution on Israel-Palestine approved a few weeks earlier at MC USA’s convention in Orlando. He said he got a message on the church’s Facebook page from a Jew who wrote, “Because of what you’ve done, I will never go to one of your churches or shop at your businesses.”
Al Longenecker of Lewisburg, Pa., said he related to that situation.
“Some of us are aware of what’s happened in the past couple of weeks in Mennonite Church USA,” he said. “I want to distance myself as far as I can from that whole scene.”
Dave Maurer of Pigeon, Mich., asked what the name “Rosedale” meant to non-Mennonites.
“Inside Mennonite circles, ‘Rosedale’ means a lot, but outside of those circles, it doesn’t mean much of anything,” he said. “Who are we trying to reach the most? Does it connect with those outside of the circles?”