Procedures When Congregations Diverge from Conference Norms of Faith and Practice

Understandings that shape the procedures

1. As the congregations in New York Mennonite Conference seek to follow Christ in a changing world, differences in convictions and practices will develop. Diversity can be accepted; our aim is unity, not uniformity.
    Some differences, however, strain consciences and undercut our Conference's unified witness to the way of Christ. In those instances, dialogue in a context of respect and openness needs to take place. A goal of dialogue is that one be able to express the other's position to the satisfaction of the other.

2. Conference membership means accountability, both to the conference and to other member congregations. It means a congregation will take counsel within the conference when considering a stance which may diverge from conference norms.

3. Jesus' instruction on interpersonal relationships in Matthew 18:15-20 is relevant to inter-congregational accountability and discipline. The following New Testament texts also help to inform how the church functions in the area of mutual accountability: Acts 15; Rom. 14:1- 15:6; 1 Cor. 5; 2 Cor. 5:11-21; Gal. 3:26-29; Gal. 6:1-10; Eph. 2:11-22; Eph. 4; Phil. 4:2-9; 2 Tim. 2:14-4:18; Titus 3:1-11; Heb. 12:12-17; 1 John 4:1-12, Rev. 2,3.

4. The following documents help describe our conference norms of faith and practice: Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (1995), conference statements, Mennonite Church statements.

The procedures

1. If an Overseer or the Conference Minister becomes aware of a congregation engaging in or considering actions that diverge from conference norms of faith and practice, he is to dialogue with the leaders of the congregation and, as needed, the congregation.
    If a congregation in the Conference develops concerns about the stance of another congregation, they are to share their concerns with the leaders of the other congregation and with the Overseer in appropriate ways. They must go to listen, to be sure of the facts, to express concerns, and to seek resolution. A useful tool is the statement "Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love" (adopted by Mennonite Church in Wichita 1995).

2. In every step efforts to bring about resolution must be supported with concerted prayer, seeking the mind of Christ.

3. When tension and disunity remain after dialogue, the Overseer(s) will bring the matter to the attention of the Executive Committee.

4. Executive Committee will bring to Delegate Assembly one of the following recommendations:
    a. accept the difference as one on which we disagree, even sharply, but in love, and not warranting separation of relationship. [simple majority required]
    b. call the conference congregations to engage in serious study of the issue being raised and open dialogue with those of differing perspectives. [simple majority required]  It is anticipated that this process will lead to the adoption (or reaffirmation) of a Conference statement on the issue.
    c. adopt a Conference statement on the issue or reaffirm a previous Conference statement; two-thirds majority required because vote can affect membership of congregation(s). A vote to adopt or reaffirm a statement must have been announced the preceding Delegate Assembly.

5. When Delegate Assembly adopts or reaffirms a statement on an issue in response to concerns about the stance of a member congregation (or congregations), the congregation under question precludes themselves from conference membership if they continue to diverge from the conference position. A pastor who continues to justify the divergence will lose ministerial credentials.

6. Healed relationships should be appropriately celebrated, and severed relationships appropriately mourned.

adopted by NY Mennonite Church Delegate Assembly on April 29, 2000