September 6, 2018
by Elroy Miller
Virginia Mennonite Conference Moderator

Renewing our commitment to follow Jesus

The work of Virginia Mennonite Conference’s Restructuring For Mission (RFM) committee is underway. The goal is to enhance VMC’s capacity to equip leaders in our Conference and churches “for worship and service and to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to our neighbors” (VMC’s mission statement).

The Restructuring For Mission committee met six times this past spring. After clarification of our committee’s mission, we set guidelines for working together on the Polity Task Force’s (PTF) four recommendations:

1. simplify the structure
2. clarify roles, authority and decision-making
3. strengthen the accountability process
4. strengthen unity in mission and spiritual practice

Early on we focused our attention on the role of districts in the Conference. From the PTF’s research with leaders and laypersons, it is clear that what districts do and how they work is deeply appreciated. But it’s also clear that “one size does not fit all.” We have considerable diversity in how districts work and function. In some cases, this is different than what is suggested in VMC bylaws.

How districts work together is different because of different perceived needs, the number of churches and their membership, and the distance between congregations. In some cases, lay volunteers and pastors have to travel a hundred or more miles and/or drive in dense urban traffic. Some districts have a pastoral peer support group, some have considerable lay leadership, and some are led by their oversight leader and pastors.

In response to this diversity, and to our commitment to maintain a Conference structure of congregations within districts, the RFM brought two options for conversation and discernment to the delegates this summer. One model details a “ministerial council” approach, a profession-oriented leadership by the oversight leader and pastors.

The second model details a “district council / ministerial-fellowship model,” which is similar to the current structure.

The intent of both models is to foster:
1. greater pastoral peer support and accountability within Conference
2. more purposeful delegate participation in district meetings to prepare for Delegate Assembly
3. greater flexibility for districts to create structures in keeping with what meets their needs.

Both models require fewer lay volunteers to do the work of Conference administration. Both reflect VMC’s intent to have more lay volunteers empowered for involvement in district and congregational missional activities.

The RFM committee believes that we are best served by first reflecting on what districts need from Conference in order for us—together—to live into VMC’s missional commitment to follow Jesus, share the Good News, and witness to God’s peace in diverse communities.

The committee asks for your continued prayers and participation as we discern how to grow in our ability to be Holy Spirit-led communities of faith. May God’s will be done as we seek to follow God.
Conference Council is committed to keeping our new mission statement front and center as we make adjustments to VMC leadership and ministries into the future.

Please participate in this conversation and keep this discernment effort in your prayers.

Filed in: All posts, Editorial, Pathways