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ACC to process credentials for LGBTQ+ ministers

The Ministerial Leadership Committee (MLC) of Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) of Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) has affirmed its readiness to process credentialing requests for LGBTQ+ ministers.

The committee’s decision comes after careful discernment of listening to God’s Spirit through the diverse feedback from delegates and congregations and with affirmation of the Executive Committee. The statement released by the MLC affirms that it “will respect the position of each congregation to request, or not to request, the credentialing of an LGBTQ+ person (including someone in a same-gender marriage) and will process the request.”

Susan Gierschick, representing Ark Bible Chapel, shares a response to ACC delegates from her congregation.

The decision to open credentialing in ACC comes after a time of listening and discernment with ACC delegates on February 4, 2023. During this gathering at Forest Hills Mennonite Church, delegates read statements from their congregations on what their relationship to the Conference means and what extending credentials to LGBTQ+ individuals would mean for their congregation. Delegates also had opportunities to share personal feedback and counsel for the Ministerial Leadership Committee in table groups. This feedback was reviewed and discussed before a decision was made.

During delegate sharing, a majority of ACC congregations and delegates expressed support for expanding credentialing opportunities to LGBTQ+ individuals, including both congregations that have discerned they are ready to call an LGBTQ+ individual to ministry and congregations that respect this position held by other congregations. Other responses shared how difficult such a change would be for their congregation to accept.

Delegates share during a time of table discussion. Responses and counsel were recorded by table leaders and shared with Executive and Ministerial Leadership Committies.

One delegate noted the feeling of sadness from individuals approaching the topic from opposing perspectives. “Some are sad for the ways that LGBTQ+ people have been harmed and excluded, while others feel like the conference is taking them in a direction they don’t want to go.”

Others noted their appreciation for the allowance of theological diversity among congregations. “We like that congregations are given freedom to minister within their own contects,” they said. Several congregations and individuals noted their willingness to affirm a change in conference policy to include LGBTQ+ individuals if necessary, although they individually could not agree.

Another theme heard throughout the morning conversations was a desire to extend care and affirmation for those individuals and congregations for which LGBTQ+ inclusion will be difficult. Many heard how difficult a change in credentialing policy will be for several ACC members and expressed concern for the difficult conversations likely to continue in these congregations.

Prayer team members Klaudia Smucker, Christine Good Shenk and Christy Heatwole Kauffman confer during group a discussion time.

All congregational responses shared during the morning session included deep appreciation for the work of the conference in supporting congregations and providing paths to relationship.

Delegates were not asked to vote on a new credentialing policy because ACC’s bylaws and procedures give the MLC the final say on when to extend or withhold credentials, in collaboration with the Executive Committee on controversial matters.

A prayer team was convened during the special delegate session to listen for the Spirit in the times of sharing. Klaudia Smucker, Christine Good Shenk and Christy Heatwole Kauffman shared some of what they heard during a closing time of blessing and prayer. They noted hearing the appreciation for being something bigger than an individual congregation and a common desire to seek God’s direction together, regardless of the day’s outcome.

ACC leaders felt it important to come to a final decision on LGBTQ+ credentialing following the May 2022 vote by Mennonite Church USA delegates approving the Resolution for Repentance and Transformation which repealed the 2001 Membership Guidelines and called for the full inclusion of LGBTQIA individuals in the church.

Since credentialing is the sole responsibility of conferences, MLC felt a time of processing and discernment should take place to decide whether ACC’s practices would follow the direction decided by MC USA delegates.

ACC also has several LGBTQ+ individuals serving in ministry positions who have not yet been granted a credential by the Conference. In February 2020 MLC received a request to interview and credential an individual in a same-sex marriage. The committee interviewed them and unanimously agreed that, if not for the question of same-sex marriage, they would move forward with granting a License Toward Ordination.

The recent action by MLC will give LGBTQ+ individuals, including those in a same-sex marriage, equal opportunity for a ministry credential through Atlantic Coast Conference. MLC will process any requests for credentialing brought by an ACC congregation. Congregations retain the right to request, or not to request, the credentialing of an LGBTQ+ person.

There remains strong diversity in ACC on the topic of LGBTQ+ inclusion and a host of other questions. ACC since its beginning has affirmed this theological spread and has celebrated the diverse ways that ACC congregations do ministry in their communities. ACC and MC USA continue to view the congregation as the primary unit of the church with broad authority to do ministry as they discern in their own contexts.

Healthy Boundaries: Women and Men Working Together in Ministry

By Docas Lehman & Joanne Dietzel

Within our conference, women and men often work together in ministry teams of all types. Thanks be to God!  How is that going?  Are we keeping the healthy in healthy boundaries?  Can we name the nature of relationships and the work habits that keep integrity in our mutual ministry? Do we make space to reflect upon areas for growth?

Healthy boundaries are both the work of people and gifts of God’s Spirit. The task of naming and tending boundaries is never once and done, but is ongoing and dynamic. Every leadership or pastoral team, whether in congregations, committees, and nonprofits, needs to build in reflective pauses for this work that is practical, spiritual, and hopeful.

Whole courses, books, and websites are devoted to training that can take you deeper. But here is one simple tool you could use to start a conversation in your committee or leadership group. You might take this to your board room, for example, or to your pastoral team, pastor-congregation committee, or Sunday school class.

Take a look. Circle questions you want to talk about. Write down your own questions.  And if you’d like to talk with someone in conference circles, don’t hesitate to contact Joanne Dietzel at


  1. How and when do you discuss healthy boundaries?
  2. Is your congregation or workplace a setting that most people would describe as a good place, with good spirit, where there is good communication, and boundaries are honored? If yes, how is that true? If not, where could you start to change that?
  3. How do leaders use job descriptions and role definitions to establish boundaries? Is there more that could be done in this area?
  4. Within mixed-gender teams, are members aware of the different gifts that women and men can bring, as well as the “traps” that women or men can fall into?  Is there a particular question that is current for you?
  5. In some circles these days, people are asking, how much interaction can men and women have in the workplace without crossing lines? Does this question resonate in your setting? If so, how might you create space for that conversation? If that conversation doesn’t seem necessary, can you identify ways you have created the healthy culture that you want and value?
  6. In a leadership or pastoral team, there usually will be power differentials, often for good reasons. How well does your team use power constructively? How do team members share power, while staying true to the different roles and responsibilities of each one?
  7. In pastoral or other leadership roles, how are you devoting time and energy to strengthening your own intimate relationships? How do you honor those relationships in others’ lives? 
  8. The pastoral role is unique in some ways. Ministers are expected to build relationships where intimacy and trust can grow. If you are a pastor, do you recognize your own risk areas? And, if you are in a leadership role, if you see behavior that risks violating physical, emotional, or work intimacy boundaries, what would you do?
  9. As pastors, do you have peers with whom you meet regularly and who hold you accountable? Who is in that circle of accountability?
  10. Is everyone in your congregation aware of Atlantic Coast Conference’s Policy & Procedures for responding to ministerial misconduct?  How might you provide that reporting information in a way that increases awareness and adds another layer of safety to your congregational culture?
  11. Is there a question about boundaries that needs to be asked that has not yet been named?

If you want to dig deeper into the topic of mixed-gender teams, consider studying Becoming Colleagues: Women and Men Serving Together in Faith by Carol E. Becker (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco 2000). Through research, Becker identified nine behaviors of effective mixed-gender teams. In the concluding chapter, she offers questions for personal reflection and team discussion.

ACC Response to Recent MC USA Resolutions

Decisions to retire the Membership Guidelines and to affirm the Resolution for Repentance and Transformation at the May 2022 Special Delegate Session of MC USA have been viewed in a variety of ways throughout Atlantic Coast Conference. In some congregations, there were tears of joy among those who have longed for changes they see as embodying more deeply the way of Jesus, potentially opening into new ministries. Others expressed frustration and concern with the outcome and direction of the denomination and their place in it while struggling to understand the biblical viewpoint of others. As leaders of ACC we celebrate with those now able to expand their ministry while mourning with those who feel alienated by recent decisions.

There is strong diversity in ACC on the topic of LGBTQ+ inclusion and a host of other questions. ACC since its beginning has affirmed this theological spread and celebrated the diverse ways that ACC congregations do ministry in their communities. ACC and MC USA view the congregation as the primary unit of the church with broad authority to do ministry as they discern in their own context.

Denomination resolutions have primarily set policy for the national church while inviting, rather than requiring, congregations into specific work. Like past resolutions, those passed in May are an invitation for MC USA congregations to explore topics relating to LGBTQ+ inclusion, but autonomy remains with individual congregations on where to focus time, resources, and ministry. We understand, however, that many congregations are not in a position to take up this work, and so we bless you to continue focusing on the ministries important in your context.

Many questions remain about how these resolutions impact conference life, including how to respond to ACC congregations who request credentialing for LGBTQ+ persons in their congregation. To address this particular question, a task force has been formed to develop a process for ACC as a whole to discern a way forward.

We believe that conference and denominational relationships and shared resources are of great value to our congregations and will continue to hold a space for a diversity of theological viewpoints. The Executive Committee of ACC remains committed to resourcing and supporting the full breadth of the conference’s diversity and working towards unity while engaging in the ongoing work of Mennonite Church USA. We continue to live into our shared vision on behalf of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ who calls us to be centered in Christ, build connections and share God’s love. 


ACC Executive Committee

Pastors gather to share, listen on upcoming MC USA resolutions

March 3, 2022

By: ACC Staff

Atlantic Coast Conference pastors gathered at Neffsville Mennonite Church on March 1 to listen to one another and to the Spirit as part of a process leading up to the Mennonite Church USA delegate gathering in May.

The morning session was designed as a time of listening to better understand the values and practices of those across the conference. The session was also intended to honor the ACC value of placing responsibility within each congregation to discern application of Biblical principles to matters of current pastoral care.

Nearly all of ACC’s 31 active congregations were represented in the March 1 time of sharing and listening.

“Our hope,” said Bob Petersheim, chair of the task group charged with planning the gathering, “is that this gathering can be a step toward clarifying the position of others…We need to better understand those with whom we disagree if we hope to continue relating to and loving one another.”

Pastors gathered in one large circle around the light of Jesus Christ, represented by a large candle in the center of the colorful worship table.  In an open ritual of light proclaiming, “Jesus is the Light of the world, of MC USA, of Atlantic Coast Conference”, each congregation added their light around the Christ candle proclaiming, “Jesus is the light of” their congregation. In this way, every ACC congregation’s presence, voice and light was welcomed and recognized.

Throughout the morning, pastors and representatives of ACC congregations were asked to briefly share responses to two questions:

How does your congregation regard the MC USA Membership Guidelines and what effect will retiring the Membership Guidelines have in your congregation?

Responses to this question indicated a variety of thought among, and even within, ACC congregations. Some congregations reported some level of indifference to the Guidelines, naming the Confession of Faith as a more highly valued document.  Others shared that while the Guidelines may not be highly influential, its retirement would signal an uncomfortable shift in policy on the topic of sexuality.

What is your congregation’s response to LGBTQ+ persons? What congregational discernment have you engaged in regarding LGBTQ+ membership, marriage, and/or ministry?

To this question nearly all representatives noted their congregation’s desire to be welcoming but clear differences in biblical interpretation and level of past discernment on inclusion were evident.  Some ACC congregations maintain a traditional view of marriage and sexuality while others have welcomed LGBTQ+ individuals into the life of the congregation to various extents. Some noted that their desire not to be at variance with MC USA policy on issues of sexuality creates dissonance between that policy and their discernment of how God has called them to apply pastoral care to LGBTQ+ members. 

Following the time of sharing and listening, pastors were given opportunity to share what they heard the Spirit saying through the voices of one another. Many of these responses celebrated that faithfulness to God and scripture is a common link among ACC congregations, even if that faithfulness looks different in various contexts.

Knowing one another helps us better fulfill the Biblical call to love one another.

29 of ACC’s 31 congregations participated in sharing. Some have fully engaged the question of whether and how to include LGBTQ individuals and some have not engaged for a variety of reasons.

Though the gathering was not designed to reach decisions, it marked another opportunity for ACC leaders to participate in the Anabaptist practice of mutual discernment. For some representatives, the time of listening helpfully illustrated the diversity of thought within ACC. Others noted the fatigue of this ongoing conversation and the toll that it takes on leaders and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Bob Petersheim closed with the encouragement of all to build connections with those who think differently. “The Body of Christ includes those with diverse opinions and the Spirit calls us to know and listen to those who are different. Knowing one another helps us better fulfill the Biblical call to love one another.”

A special session of the MC USA delegate body in May, 2022 will address at least four resolutions:

  1. Clarification on Mennonite Church USA Polity and the Role of the Membership Guidelines of Mennonite Church USA
  2. MC USA For Justice Resolution
  3. MC USA Accessibility Resolution
  4. A Resolution for Repentance and Transformation

Several of these resolutions were tabled before the virtual delegate gathering in 2021 in favor of waiting for an in-person gathering. The Delegate Resources page on the MC USA website provides the text of these resolutions, answers frequently asked questions on these resolutions, and offers several helpful webinar recordings to help delegates understand the process and the resolutions.

Each congregation of the Mennonite Church USA is eligible to send one (1) delegate for each one hundred (100) congregational members, or fraction thereof. Also, congregations may send an additional youth delegate (ages 16-21).

Pastors and delegates will have additional opportunity to ask questions and engage in conversation during seminar times at the upcoming ACC Assembly at James Street Mennonite Church on April 23.

ACC’s Executive Committee and Ministerial Leadership Committee have convened a second task force that will develop a conference-wide process to review any ministerial credentialing changes to MC USA policy following the May delegate session.

ACC Introduces Explanatory Video on MC USA Membership Guidelines

In preparation for the May 2022 vote on retiring the MC USA membership guidelines, the Executive Committee of Atlantic Coast Conference formed a task group to develop resources to help guide that conversation. The Task Group’s resources are intended to assist congregations and ACC delegates have conversations about the upcoming vote.

The first resource, an introductory video on the Membership Guidelines, was released at the October 23 ACC Assembly. The video focuses on the history and content of the Membership Guidelines.

Gina Burkhart, a member of the task force, introduced the video at Saturday’s Assembly. “The decision-making that will happen next May is very significant for us as a church body and so we want to affirm that our conference should take faithful work in preparation for that discernment and that decision.” The task group “met and tried to grapple with what is necessary for faithful discernment around this question of whether the Membership Guidelines should be discontinued. We come from many different levels of understanding and history about how we got to this point.”

This video and subsequent resources are intended to be shared and utilized by congregations and delegates to prepare for the May, 2022 vote. “There is a need for much more personal reflection, ‘How does it affect our congregations? How are we impacted by this? What are the questions we are wrestling with?’” said Burkhart.

At Saturday’s Assembly, task group chair Bob Petersheim also noted an additional resolution that was recently approved for delegate consideration in May. The MC USA executive board approved the request of the inclusive pastors network to bring a resolution to the May delegate body to which delegates will have the opportunity to respond. Delegates will first be asked, “Do delegates wish to talk about this resolution?” A positive response will lead to conversation and a potential vote on the resolution itself.

This Resolution for Repentance and Transformation calls the church to repentance for the way we have harmed our LGBTQ friends, members, children and grandchildren, and also calls us to be advocates on their behalf. Bob noted that as a task force, they recognize that this new resolution impacts our membership guidelines discussion.

The ACC Membership Guidelines Task Group includes Bob Petersheim (Conestoga), Brenda Martin Hurst (New Holland), Lynn Brubaker (Frazer), Gina Burkhart (Landisville), and Jon Carlson (Forest Hills).

The Task Group will host a forum for pastors at Neffsville Mennonite Church on January 24, 2022 to continue this conversation.  More details will be shared with pastors in the coming weeks. More information on MC USA resolutions and relevant articles can be found at

Thoughts for church leaders on reopening

As pastors and leaders, we’ve been acting in full crisis-response mode to COVID-19 and stay-at-home restrictions for weeks.  We’ve been in *liminal space, where who we thought we were and what we thought we needed may have gotten blurred and shape-shifted by the coronavirus crisis. Fueled by adrenaline, sustained by prayer, we have had to re-imagine and manage new forms of worship, new structures for community, and new challenges for mission – hopefully for the very-short term.

With COVID-19 restrictions beginning to ease, how do we transition from reacting in crisis-response mode to engaging a more measured and reflective response mode for this next phase? Disaster spiritual care practitioners have found that the greatest need for pastoral care emerges with the shift from short-term to long-term recovery, when people discover that for real, things will not go back to normal. Debilitating anxiety, hopelessness, depression, blaming, and scapegoating can easily set in.

Isaiah 43 says, “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  In this liminal space and time, where vision is altered and perceptions get blurred, God invites us to imagine, thoughtfully and prayerfully, what new thing is promised for us. Will this “new thing” look like the old? What will it require of us?

Whatever our starting point, let us as leaders plan wisely and well for next steps. Some approaches:

  1. What are the “essential” services through which our people most deeply experience connection with God and each other?
  2. Which of these essential components of our church life can we restart first without compromising anyone’s health?
  3. How will we monitor the effectiveness/safety of these activities?
  4. How will we discern what should be restarted next?
  5. What [emerging] spiritual, emotional, mental, social, physical needs require more attention?
  6. What/Who may be missing from our current plan?
  7. To what extent do our plans comply with local and state health directives?

For the children of Israel returning home from 70 or so years of exile, God provided a roadway in the wilderness, water included, inviting them into new modes for a new time springing forth.  May we as leaders and congregations discern the mind of Christ as we meet the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 with the best from before and the best that will emerge as together we seek to follow the way of Jesus.

*”Liminal” refers to “threshold” or “boundary” areas between one of phase [of life], and another: Dawn and dusk are liminal times between day and night, when visibility changes, perceptions are altered, edges get blurred, shapes shift, and new insights can emerge in the transition to light or dark.

Notes from Conference Call with Church Leaders from across PA

Dr. Rachel Levine, The Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, answered submitted questions. Summary:

  • Churches are considered Life sustaining organizations. It is ok for ministers in communities with stay-in-place orders to travel to their church buildings for office work or to live stream services. 
  • New cases of COVID-19 are doubling every 2-3 days. They are expecting 400 cases a day by the end of the week, 800 next week, and so on. Flatten the curve!!! 
  • The use of live streamed or recorded service for churches is encouraged. 
  • Religious gatherings do not need to cease, but should be done on live streams, etc. for the time being.
  • Follow the guidelines for pastoral visits. Wait until the curve is bent down and restrictions have been lifted to do in person visitations. 
  • The greatest needs from churches is to provide spiritual care. Leave medical advice to the experts. 
  • Limit the number of people who gather together to produce your livestream services. It was asked if 5-6 people would be ok – the answer was “as few as possible.” One person if possible. 
  • It’s unknown when this time of distancing from one another will pass. April & May could be challenging months. Pray that it’s better by June. 
  • Don’t make any plans for church gatherings until told mass gatherings are ok by the governor’s office.
  • The news of new drugs is uncertain. They are untested. 
  • Continue food ministries if your congregation is involved in them. But practice all the guidelines that have been given out regarding handwashing, social distancing, and the like. 
  • The Coronavirus is more severe than the flu.
  • The State will not prevent religious services from happening. Churches will not be shut down by the authorities. 
  • Funerals & Weddings are not prohibited. But use wisdom and strictly follow guidelines for social distancing and hand washing. 
  • If you are delivering food, medicine, and supplies to people, practice safety guidelines. Leave the supplies on the doorstep, leave the proximity of the door, and inform them that their supplies have arrived (maybe over the phone). 
  • A sign that COVID-19 is under control will be there is a decrease in the number of cases in a sustained pattern.
  • Covid-19  is not a flu virus. We don’t know if, like the flu, this will be seasonal. So much is not known right now..
  • There is little chance of the virus passing through charitable donations. Normal cleaning should prevent transmissions.
  • Could we have a sunrise service outside and practice social distancing? This would not be prohibited. But will people abide and stay the proper distance apart?
  • Churches should feel free to prepare meals for each other. But follow guidelines for handwashing and social distancing. 
  • Could a church have a “drive-by” service for prayer? This would not be prohibited but you would need to find a way to practice social distancing. 
  • Dr. Levine finished the service with the following phrase she concludes all of her press conferences with: Stay calm. Stay home. Stay safe.
  • The most up-to-date information can be found at  and/or from the CDC

And you invited me in

By Amy Yoder McGloughlin

Every summer since 2015, I have been leading a delegation to the West Bank with Christian Peacemaker Teams. I value the opportunity to walk with people as they understand the occupation from the perspective of everyday folks. We stay in Palestinian communities, eat local cuisine, and hire Palestinian tour guides and bus drivers. Once we get to Hebron, we join in the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams, as we accompany children to school, and ensure that Palestinian rights are upheld in this occupied West Bank city.

One of the other reasons I go is because this place challenges my sense of hospitality. I always notice, after a trip like this, the limits I have placed on my hospitality. And it is humbling.

In the summer of 2018, on the first day of the delegation I was leading, I got the delegation lost on our way to our first appointment. We were on a public bus, and I asked the bus driver if we were going to Old Anata Road. He smiled and nodded, and dropped us off in Anata, the refugee camp.

When we got off the bus, I very quickly realized that I was in the wrong place. I asked the shopkeepers if they could speak English. No one could but a couple helpful shopkeepers called their cousins in the US and Canada and put them on the phone to help me out.

I asked the helpful cousins on the other side of the world–where is Old Anata road? And they said, “Just walk right up the hill and you’ll find it”. I started up the hill, and very quickly we found the separation wall. And I realized that we were on the wrong side of the wall from our destination. I started looking for anyone else that could help. I ran into a man doing construction and asked again, “Do you speak English?” He shook his head apologetically, but then lit up. He jumped in his beat up Toyota, and gestured for me and the team to follow him.

I wasn’t sure if I should follow this stranger. But I didn’t know what choice I had. It was painfully hot at 9 in the morning, and we needed help.

So I asked my delegation to follow me while I followed this stranger wherever he was leading us. The man began backing his car up the hill, stopping occasionally to gesture to us to follow him. He backed into the driveway of his home, and ran up the stairs to his house, turning to invite us in. We did not know what to expect.

We entered his home, and there sat his entire family in the living room–children, wife, and an aunt. They jumped up, and welcomed us to sit where they had been sitting. They brought us water, then tea, then coffee, then pomegranate and grapefruit juice. And THEN some sweets.

Still no one was speaking English. My delegates were looking at me, asking quietly, “What are we doing here? Are we going to get to our destination?” And I asked them to be patient.

That’s when Islam walked in. Islam Issa is 22, beautiful and spoke nearly perfect English, which she learned from watching Hollywood movies. She greeted us enthusiastically, and we got to know each other. Islam helped me to determine what I already knew–that we were nowhere near our destination. Her father called a taxi company and they sent a van to pick us up. But before we left for our next destination, the family insisted that we return the next night for dinner.

And we did. We came back the next night and the Issa family made us mokluba–a chicken, rice and vegetable dish that is a most delicious treat. They made stuffed grape leaves and baklava and treated us like royal guests. It was so generous; it felt like an embarrassing extravagance.

My Arabic is abysmal, and the only one of the Issa family to speak English was Islam, so our “conversations” with this family involved pictures on my phone, gestures and giggles about language barriers. But despite all the limitations, it was one of the best nights of fun I’ve had in quite some time. We made new friends that night. And these are friends that I still speak to on a regular basis. We “talk” via social media, mostly through emojis with the mom, and with more conversations with Islam.

This summer, I visited with the Issa family again, and we enjoyed another evening of hospitality. I brought them a gift from Frazer Mennonite–a quilted wall hanging. And they fed me nonstop for hours.

We’re already making plans for next summer–I’m going to work on my Arabic in preparation for our next visit, and they plan to teach me how to make mokluba.

The Issa family stops everything when I am in town. They welcome me into their home and make me feel so special. Their generous hospitality always challenges me to look at my own hospitality. What are my cultural limits? What are my personal limits? Why do we make sharing a meal and time with friends (and strangers) less of a priority than tasks and productivity?

I have deep gratitude for the care and hospitality I am shown in Palestine. Given our country’s policies, they could hate me. I wouldn’t blame them if they did. And yet, Palestinians like the Issa family have shared food, time, laughter and conversation with me. It reminds me of the time that Jesus, himself a Palestinian, shared with people. His agenda was a meal shared with friends. His last instruction to us was to eat, drink and remember him.

These yearly trips to Palestine are two weeks of communion. I bring that home, and use that to challenge the ways I spend my time. Is my time about busyness, or is it about conversation, a shared meal and deeper relationship?

Left: Amy with Islam Issa

Amy Yoder McGloughling is pastor at Frazer Mennonite Church. She will be leading a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation to Palestine August 3-17, 2020. To apply for the delegation, visit




Examining the legacy: Mennonites & Antisemitism

By Joel Horst Nofziger

On the last day of Passover this year, a gunman entered Chabad of Poway a synagogue in north of San Diego, and opened fire. One person was killed and two more were injured. Three days later, May 2, was Yom Ha-Shoah, Holocaust Memorial Day as observed by the Jewish people. Rabbi Paskoff of Shaarai Shomayim in Lancaster, Pennsylvania sent a request to churches of Lancaster to join the Jewish Community Alliance of Lancaster’s service of remembrance because we live in a time where Jews are once again being targeted.

This was a service of prayer and poetry, interspersed with candle lighting to give form to remembrance. Candles were lit by individuals with a direct personal connection to the Holocaust, such as Rosette Lboel who survived hiding with families in France and Richard Smiga, whose parents were in Buchenwald, Treblilnka, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau. Following the service, Dean Kunkle gave a presentation on teaching the Holocaust and Holocaust denial today.

Delegates to the 2017 Mennonite Church USA convention in Orlando passed a resolution entitled, “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine,” which calls us as a body of believers to, among other things, examin the legacy of antisemitism and its impact on Mennonites as well as building relationships with Jewish communities. One concrete outcome of this resolution was the 2018 conference on Mennonites and the Holocaust organized by Mennonite Church USA and Bethel College [Read more on Anabaptist Historians,]. To put it without fanfare, Mennonites were involved across the entire spectrum of possibilities when it comes to the Holocaust, as rescuers, yes, but as bystanders and active participants as well.

God, full of mercy, who dwells in the heights, provide a sure rest up on the Divine Presence’s wings, within the range of the holy and the pure, whose shining resemble the sky’s, all the souls of the six million Jews, victims of the European Holocaust, who were murdered, slaughtered, burnt and exterminated for the Sanctification of the Name, by the German Nazi assassins and their helpers from the rest of the peoples.

Zaporozhia, in Chortitza, the “Mennonite capital” of the Old Colony in Ukraine was occupied by German forces in October 1941. After the occupation, the invaders turned to the local German speaking Mennonite community to serve as administrators, notably Heinrich Jakob Wiebe and Isaac Johann Reimer. They recruitmented policemen to enforce the rules of occupation—such as the requirement that Jews wear an armband marked with the star of David—and drew heavily on communal and familial networks to fill those positions.

On the first day of Passover, in 1942, the Jews of Zaparozhia were ordered to assemble: men, women, and children. Local police, including Mennonite brothers Isaac and Jakob Fast, marched them to the outskirts where they were shot. The shooting began at 8 in the morning and continued until 5 at night the first day, the second day, and the third day. More than three thousand were massacred. A few days later, Mennonites celebrated the German occupation because they were able to reopen churches closed by Soviet decree and celebrate Easter for the first time in a decade. We know they opened worship by singing “Christ is risen, shout it to Zion,” and we know the murder of the Jews went unremarked. The ethnic cleansing continued in the region until the fall of 1943, with an eventual death count in excess of 44,000.

Therefore, the Master of Mercy will protect them forever, from behind the hiding of his wings, and will tie their souls with the hope of life.

There is a strong temptation for us, or maybe it is just me, to throw up my hands and say “wait, hold up, this has nothing to do with us, nothing to do with me.” But we are bound to our Mennonite brothers and sisters across space and time through the body of Christ as the Church. And that is uncomfortable. But it is important that we acknowledge that our past is not without spot or wrinkle, so that Truth might be served. How else can we confess, repent, and renew our efforts to work for the Kingdom of God?

As a final thought, perhaps there is a more pressing reason to consider how Mennonites were seduced by the State and by fear into going alongside horrors. How is it that we need to reinforce ourselves so that we do not fall into the same errors? Is there some matter of doctrine of which we need to be more mindful? Some areas of personal commitment to renew? Some sense of pride we need to abandon? Let us remember, and remember rightly.

The Everlasting is their heritage, the Garden of Eden shall be their resting room, and they shall rest peacefully upon their lying place, they will stand for their fate in the end of days, and let us say: Amen. (El Malei Rachamin, the Prayer of Mercy)

Holy Restoration

By Elizabeth G. Nissley

For the past eight years, my husband, Ken and I, have been volunteers with the Pennsylvania Victim Offender Dialogue Program, operated under the Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocate. Victims of violent crimes may request to participate in a process that prepares them and the offender (if he/she is willing) to meet and talk about what happened between the victim, their loved one and the person who perpetrated a crime. Most of these face-to-face meetings take place in the prison where the offender is incarcerated and may occur years after the event, in one case, 50 years after the murder.

As volunteers, we always work in pairs completing multiple preparatory meetings with both the victim and the offender before bringing them together. Ken and I have been able to work together in many different situations.

Several years ago, we traveled to Florida to meet with and prepare the mother of a young woman who had been murdered by a young man who was a family friend. We then had several meetings in prison with the young man. Finally, we accompanied the mother to the prison for the meeting between both parties.

We gathered around a conference table – victim, offender and two volunteers, with prison guards periodically looking through the glass window during our four-hour conversation. The mother shared some pictures, told her story and asked her questions. The young man patiently told her what happened and apologized. As the meeting came to the end, the mother reached her hands across the table and asked to hold his hands. She said, “I cannot believe I am holding the hands of the man who pulled the trigger of the gun that killed my daughter!” And we all cried!

I reached in with my hands and covered their hands, saying, “You may not know that this is Holy Week (it was the Thursday before Good Friday and Easter) but we all know that this is a Holy moment!” And we continued to weep.

Now this is not a religious program and we do not talk about or promote faith. But that process and those hours changed all of us, as we discovered more completely in our follow-up conversations. The young man was released from guilt; a guard reached out to him in kindness the next day, and the mother told us that she finally slept through the night, something she had not been able to do for the previous eight years. And us? We were encouraged to continue with this kind of volunteer work where people are made whole, through careful preparation for powerful healing conversations!