Beth Berry, Darin Short, Marilyn Rudy-Froese, and Dan Schrock were our congregation’s delegates to this year’s IN-MI Conference meetings in Indianapolis. You might want to know about four things.
1. Changes in affiliation. Six congregations have decided to withdraw as members of conference: Stutsmanville Chapel, Naubinway Christian Fellowship, Rexton, and Germfask, all in northern Michigan; and Clinton Brick and Iglesia Menonita del Buen Pastor in the Goshen area. One church, Pleasant View, will be transferring its membership to the South Central Conference. In addition to these changes in affiliation, the Hilltop Fellowship, also in northern Michigan, has decided to close.
2. Budget. Delegates approved a conference budget for next year which is $100,000 lower than the current year’s budget. As some churches leave the conference, giving will drop, necessitating a lower budget.
3. Unity and Variance. A year ago, the conference created a Unity and Variance Task Group to look at our common beliefs and practices and at our response when congregations differ from them. The group will continue to meet for another year, but presented a sense of what they’re learning after listening to people in the conference. Their core question is this: How can we exhibit the fruits of the Spirit while we address our differences? It is likely, but not certain, that the group will recommend that on some questions of LGBT inclusion, the conference allow individual congregations to decide what it means for them to be faithful to God’s call and vision in Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.
4. Mission. The PLANT Network is a movement of leaders with a passion for new church development. Its purpose is to provide support and resources through IN-MI Mennonite Conference for the development of new communities of Christ’s disciples. One of these pastors has a call to plant a church in Goshen that will reach out to the unchurched and those who do not feel at home in traditional congregations.
We also heard from Shalom Mennonite and Broadway United Methodist about how they engage their communities in Indianapolis. Broadway has a “roving listener” on their pastoral staff, who walks through the neighborhood and looks and listens for the gifts that people in the neighborhood can offer each other and the community. Shalom is exploring a similar kind of presence and engagement in their community.
If you have questions about any of these matters, you’re welcome to contact one of the delegates.