Delegate Session Minutes - Virginia Mennonite Conference


Virginia Mennonite Conference

Winter Delegate Session Minutes

February 2, 2013 9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Springdale Mennonite Church, Waynesboro, VA


Call to Order – Shirley Yoder Brubaker, Moderator

Shirley called the meeting to order and welcomed the delegates.


Gathering Song

Phil Kniss led an opening song.


Welcome - Kevin Gasser, Southern District Chair and VMC Assistant Moderator

Kevin welcomed the delegates on behalf of Southern District.


Introductions – Shirley Yoder Brubaker, Moderator

Shirley led in prayer.

Shirley introduced the officers and staff, explaining their roles. She invited new pastors, overseers, and delegates to introduce themselves.


Delegate Roll Call – Cara Risser, VMC Secretary

Delegates were invited to stand by district. Eight districts were represented. Delegates were reminded to sign in.


Minutes of July 2012 Delegate Sessions – Cara Risser, VMC Secretary

Cara reviewed the actions from the July, 2012 delegate sessions at Mt. Pleasant Christian School in

Chesapeake, VA.

ACTION VMC 13:01- Motion to accept the minutes from the July 27-28, 2012 delegate sessions as written.



Reminders of administrative details – Diane Bowman, VMC Staff Assistant

Diane reviewed the materials needed for the session. Delegates were reminded to submit the workshop and gifts discernment surveys. Pastors were reminded to register for the joint ministry retreat and to encourage their youth workers to do so.


Gifts Discernment Committee report and vote

– Lavonne Lehman, Chair).

Lavonne identified the other members of the current Gifts Discernment Committee: Terry Burkhalter,

Miriam Mumaw, Kenyetta Twine, and Regina Wenger. Lavonne brought a nomination for a memberat-large on the Faith and Life Commission. This appointment was needed to replace Cindy Voth, who left the commission before the end of her term. Janet Blosser was nominated to begin serving immediately, through August 31, 2014. Ballots were distributed.

Lavonne reported that the committee is working to fill the Treasurer and the Congregational Life

Commission Chair positions. Glen Kauffman is currently serving a one-year interim term as

Treasurer, which will end August 31, 2013. Ross Erb ended six years as the CLC Chair at the end of

January, and is not eligible for reappointment. Delegates were asked to submit suggested names of potential nominees for these two positions.


Announcement from Conference Minister

– Owen Burkholder

Shirley announced that Owen will be resigning from his position as Conference Minister at the end of his term on August 31, 2013. Owen has served in this role for over 17 years. Conference Council has appointed a search committee: Kevin Gasser (chair), Aldine Musser, Isaac Villegas, James Akerson, and Lynn Suter. The committee will begin work this spring.

Owen shared reflections on his ministry in VMC. There has been a complete turnover of overseers during his tenure. Technology has changed a great deal. The Mennonite Church and General

Conference Mennonite Church merged 11 years ago to form Mennonite Church USA. This was both costly and beneficial to VMC.

Owen noted that Jason Gerlach left the Conference Youth Minister position at the end of December.

The Western Regional Conference Youth Minister position has been extended for one year. An interim arrangement is being worked out for the Conference Youth Minister position until the

Conference Minister position is filled.

Sarah Bixler, Conference Coordinator, will also leave VMC at the end of August to begin study at

Princeton Theological Seminary in September.

Owen expressed gratitude for the conference, delegates, and staff. He is in discernment about future pastoral ministry. Delegates expressed appreciation for Owen with a standing ovation.


Sustainability Task Force Introduction – James Akerson, Chair

In response to concerns about deficits in recent years, Conference Council appointed the task force to address the question of financial sustainability for the future. Staffing changes happening at this time provided opportunity for new discernment about the future configuration of staffing.

Shirley identified the task force members: James Akerson (chair), Glen Kauffman (VMC officer),

Daryl Brubaker (VMM), Joe Longacher (former FLC chair), Matt Hunsberger (CLC), Regina

Schweitzer (member at large). The final report of the task force will be given to Conference Council at a special session on March 16.

James Akerson described the work and findings of the task force so far. The task force focused on the question of what congregations and districts value in the conference. A survey tool was created and used in conversations with districts, staff, and agencies. The task force also looked at what is happening in other conferences in MC USA.

Findings so far include the fact that outlying congregations and districts feel the need for greater connection with the conference, including the area of youth ministry. It was suggested to use technology such as teleconferencing to help address this need.

The findings of the task force will inform the recommendations which will be brought to Conference

Council in March.


Open microphone :

Delegates were invited to respond to the task force.

Clyde Kratz (Zion) – suggested taking action to express appreciation to Owen for his ministry.

ACTION VMC 13:02 - Motion to express appreciation for Owen Burkholder’s quality of ministry provided to VMC. His listening skills, intuitive leadership, compassionate coaching and missional leadership practices have contributed to our relational health. His leadership practices have contributed to VMC being an integral part of MC USA and its various ministries. We are grateful for his ministry service to us.


Mike Shenk (Valley View) affirmed the work of the sustainability task force, noting that the conversation with Northern district was greatly appreciated. The conference is like a larger church which requires structures to keep it functioning. Perhaps looking at the way larger congregations handle structural questions can inform how VMC can use structures to facilitate relationships around the conference.

Gordon Zook (Leadership/Administration overseer) asked what is the relationship between the current economy and the financial state of the conference.

Lee Martin (Mt. Clinton) noted that our challenges of geographic distance are a result of missional impulses that should be celebrated. Distance can be a challenge even within one district. The use of technology can help to meet these challenges.

Glen Kauffman (VMC Treasurer) affirmed the suggestion to use video conferencing but noted that technology does not take the place of face-to-face relationships. Balance is needed.

Loren Horst (VMM President) expressed appreciation for VMM’s relationship with VMC. VMM also has partnerships with churches around the world. Those churches are aware of their relationship with the church (VMC), not just with the mission agency (VMM).

Roy Hunsberger (Asheville) noted that churches in outlying areas not only need connection with the conference, but it is also important for them to connect with and visit each other.

Sam Scaggs (Mt. Pleasant) expressed appreciation for conversation at the district level, and affirmed the suggestions to use technology more. Face-to-face connection like what happened at

Assembly at Chesapeake is also essential. The outlying districts should take initiative more in connecting with VMC and VMM.

Duane Beck (Raleigh) asked what is the purpose of the institution? How can the conference support the mission of congregations? The local level needs to be energized or it will likely die.

Shirley Yoder Brubaker (Moderator) noted that the challenge of shrinking financial resources is shared by other conferences around the denomination. What will it take for the Mennonite

Church to survive? What are “icons of identification” for the current generation?


Treasurer’s report – Glen Kauffman, VMC Treasurer

Glen noted that the last fiscal year ended in the black for the first time in several years. He showed slides summarizing financial data through December 31, 2012. A “narrative budget” format is now being used to show how resources are allocated and the breakdown of income and expenses in general categories. In the first four months of this fiscal year, most income has been from congregations. Compared to this time last year, individual giving and total income are down, while expenses are up, with the result of a deficit at the end of December of $9,922.


Churchwide priority #4: Stewardship – Beryl Jantzi, Everence Stewardship and Education Director

This delegate session is one of a series in which we are focusing on the seven churchwide priorities of

MC USA’s Purposeful Plan. Shirley noted that the Purposeful Plan and suggested activities for engagement with the priorities are available on MC USA’s website. Congregations are encouraged to work with the priorities in their own ways.

Beryl Jantzi introduced the priority of stewardship, noting its importance in scripture and offering several definitions. Stewardship is recognizing that we are a conduit of God’s grace to bring blessing to others, not a reservoir for ourselves. We are entrusted with what God has placed in our care, to cooperate with what God is doing.

Beryl provided information about Creating Congregational Cultures of Generosity seminars

(handout), offered by Everence in partnership with the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. There are still a few openings for the seminar on April 12. Another is planned for September.

Beryl shared highlights from recent research from the Lake Institute. In general, giving to churches is declining. Competition for faith-based giving is increasing as the number of faith-based non-profit organizations increases. Among regular church attenders, 20% give nothing, while 20% of the people give 80% of contributions.

In this context, how can the church teach about stewardship and cultivate gratitude to inspire intentional generosity? We must first embrace God’s vision, which then guides and inspires giving.

We need to pay attention to financial implications in pastoral care. Education is needed for parents and children; parents feel uncomfortable teaching their children about money.

Yet we find it challenging to talk about finances in the church. Beryl provided discussion questions for the delegates to engage in conversation about stewardship and to reflect on why we find this conversation difficult in a congregational context.

Phil Helmuth was invited to share a story about how Park View Mennonite Church works to assist people with financial struggles, as a part of pastoral care.

Joe Lapp was invited to share about additional resources available from Everence. Congregational

Everence advocates can help connect congregations with resources Everence can offer. Resources are also available on the Everence website.


Offering and ballot collection –

An offering of $969 was collected for Virginia Mennonite Conference, and gifts discernment ballots were collected.

Adjourned for lunch. Kevin Gasser, Assistant Moderator, led in prayer.

Virginia Mennonite Conference

Winter Delegate Session Minutes

February 2, 2013 1:15-3:00 pm

Springdale Mennonite Church, Waynesboro, VA


Gathering song –

Phil Kniss led a song to re-convene the meeting.


Virginia Mennonite Missions strategic plan – Phyllis Miller, VMM Board Chair

About 5 years ago, VMM embarked on a comprehensive strategic planning process, in which delegates provided counsel to VMM. A new task force has now been formed to focus planning for the next 2-3 years. Current task force members are: Daryl Brubaker, Loren Horst, Aaron Kauffman,

Marvin Lorenzana, Phyllis Miller, and Betsy Fisher Rhodes. Phyllis reviewed the process so far, which has intentionally engaged with MC USA’s Purposeful Plan.

Several themes of questions to address or areas of focus have emerged from the process so far: technology, formation for ministry/mission, prioritization, creative and sustainable ministry models, board/staff/worker composition, responding to a constituency in decline, and globalization of mission.

Delegates divided into discussion groups to respond to questions provided (handout), to offer counsel as VMM continues discernment for the future. Responses were recorded and submitted to VMM. A compilation of responses will be posted on the VMC website.


Introduction to Assembly 2013 theme – Owen Burkholder, Conference Minister and Sarah Bixler,

Conference Coordinator

Assembly 2013 will focus on the churchwide priority of holistic Christian witness. The Assembly theme will be “ Look what God is doing! Signs of Christ’s kingdom among us.

” Owen introduced the texts and speakers (handout). In addition to those listed on the handout, Carmen Schrock-Hurst will lead the Friday Bible study.

In preparation for Assembly, Sarah invited congregations and conference endorsed ministries to reflect on “How is your congregation pointing to Christ’s kingdom” and to create an artistic response to this question, to be displayed at Assembly. Poster board and instructions were provided for this project. An example was presented from VMC. Delegates engaged in conversation to begin reflection on this question, and were invited to encourage others in their congregation to complete the project.

Storytelling will also be a part of these reflections at Assembly.


Announcement of ballot results – Lavonne Lehman, Chair, Gifts Discernment Committee

Lavonne reported that 95 ballots were collected in the vote for the Faith and Life Commission member-at-large. Janet Blosser was strongly affirmed to serve in this role.

Shirley led in prayer for several prayer requests.


Open microphone :

Delegates were invited to share their concerns.

Spencer Bradford (Durham) called attention to MCC’s resources on gun violence. He also announced that there will be a 30-hour fast youth retreat led by Shaun and Wendy Davis in NC on

April 5 and 6.

Mim Wenger (Springdale) noted that there is a disconnect between the conference and lay people in the congregations. How can we bridge this gap?

 Carl Smeltzer (Chaplains’ overseer) said “Late in life I have learned that none of us has a nickel or dime that we did not get from someone else."

 Duane Yoder (Lindale), in response to Mim’s question, noted that delegates should be encouraged to participate in conference events and then given opportunity for reporting to the congregation.

Clyde Kratz (Zion) encouraged church leaders to invite VMC and VMM staff into congregations to facilitate greater connection.

Shirley Yoder Brubaker (Moderator) reflected on last summer’s experience of sharing “where I’m from” poems at Assembly, and the way that resource was shared with others afterwards. Shirley expressed appreciation to the delegates for their participation in the work of VMC.


Review of calendar – Shirley Yoder Brubaker, Moderator

VMC Assembly : July 25-27, 2013 at Eastern Mennonite School, Harrisonburg, VA

MC USA Convention: July 1-6, 2013 in Phoenix, AZ

Winter delegate session : February 1, 2014 (location TBD)


Other business

Judith Trumbo was introduced as the new chair of the Faith and Life Commission (appointed by

FLC), replacing Joe Longacher who has served for six years.

Sarah identified those who have been appointed by Conference Council to serve as VMC delegates to the MC USA convention in Phoenix this summer: Sarah Bixler, Richard Bowman, Alicia Horst,

Aldine Musser, Byron Pellecer, Kenyetta Twine, Paul J. Yoder, and one additional person from TCK

District (to be confirmed).

Appreciation was expressed to Springdale Mennonite Church for hosting today’s session.


Closing Prayer

Shirley led in a benediction.

Respectfully submitted,

Diane Bowman, Recording Secretary

Cara Risser, Secretary