Beginning an Alliance - the Chartering
A new North American affiliation for Mennonite congregations came into being when church leaders signed a charter document in the Paradise Mennonite Church, September 28, 2002, to form The Alliance of Mennonite Evangelical Congregations. The signers, representing twelve congregations with 2000 members and historic roots in four different conferences, were joined by persons from a number of additional churches who signed on as individual associate members. The joyfully solemn Chartering Service in the heart of Pennsylvania's Lancaster County began with time of worship and a powerful message by Amos Stoltzfus of Morgantown, PA, on the Christ's perfect balance of Grace and Truth.
The Chartering Service at Paradise during which Bylaws were adopted was the culmination of a thirty month process. In attendance were persons from Pennsylvania, Kansas, Virginia, and Nebraska. The core group invites congregations across the United States and Canada to join with them in the emerging movement of Mennonite congregations who desire an evangelical unity based on a clear commitment to the infallible Scriptures.
A member of the Alliance steering committee said, "This is not a protest movement; it's not an organization that is against change. Rather, it's an opportunity to move ahead, with a new partnership, but a partnership that maintains the biblical heritage which should never have been neglected. It's not a merging on the lowest common denominator but a restoring of the essentials, the foundational truths, and calling congregations together who will commit to those unchanging truths, even in a world that tries to reject absolute truth. The unchanging foundations of our faith are based on the absolute nature of God-given truth."
The name "Alliance" was chosen as an internationally understood term to describe the partnership and to reflect the desire for a clear identity, while functioning with a streamlined, minimal structure, not a heavily centralized denominational bureaucracy. The Alliance will enable congregations to find fellowship, mutual accountability and credentialing of leadership, while putting their energy and resources into ministries of the Word, faithful discipleship and the fulfilling of the Great Commission.
"Mennonite Evangelical" was chosen to indicate that as Evangelical Christians, who make no apology for holding to an infallible written Word of God and a Gospel with only one Savior for the whole world, congregations of the Alliance value the distinctives of their Mennonite theological heritage within the Evangelical movement. This is intended to provide a point of contact and motivation to work side by side with other Evangelical brothers and sisters, to reach a dying world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The new organization's emphasis on "Congregations" recalls the earliest self-identity of the biblical Anabaptists at the time of the Reformation when they simply called themselves "Congregations of Christ". Hence the decision to form the affiliation using the name: Alliance of Mennonite Evangelical Congregations.
Membership in the Alliance is by congregations who agree to the Statement of Doctrine and the Purposes as described in the adopted Prospectus. Individuals, whose congregations may not yet be ready to join, can identify with the Alliance as Associate Members with opportunity for personal participation.
The Alliance began with Paradise Pennsylvania mailing address [subsequently relocated to Box 424, Bally, PA] but will bridge the miles between member congregations using tools of the computer age and online networking through a web site [www.AMECAlliance.org] providing a point of contact and communication. Its organizational design, however, encourages clusters of like-minded congregations to form regional Associations of congregations identified with the Alliance. Through these Associations, congregations can carry out regional ministries or maintain ties with area institutions. An Eastern Regional Association is already functioning in this manner to implement the vision of Mennonite Evangelical congregations teamed to be a channel for mission and witness without compromising the truth of the Gospel.
The vision for this affiliation, committed to the "doctrinal foundation of evangelical orthodoxy and to the worthy tenets of historical Anabaptism", gained impetus at a meeting held at Smoketown, Pennsylvania, February, 2000. At that gathering many expressed serious dissatisfaction with the doctrinal laxity and theological diversity that seemed to characterize the merger process of the two largest Mennonite bodies in the United States, a process that produced the Mennonite Church USA in July 2001. As a result, a number of congregations and church leaders expressed the need for an alternate affiliation, where they believed their evangelical Anabaptist convictions concerning Christ and the Scriptures would remain central.
The Congregations that were the initial charter members are: Second Mennonite, Philadelphia; Paradise Mennonite [now Grace Point Church], Paradise; Saucon Mennonite, Coopersburg; Hereford Mennonite, Bally; United Mennonite, Quakertown; Living Faith Fellowship, Franconia; Bethany Grace Fellowship, East Earl; East Swamp Mennonite, Quakertown; Indian Valley Mennonite, Harleysville; Pine Grove Mennonite, Bowmansville; Providence Mennonite, Collegeville; Springfield Mennonite, Pleasant Valley; all in Pennsylvania. Individuals who joined as Associate Members included persons from Kansas and Virginia.
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