As I stepped off the platform at Winter Delegate Session a couple weeks ago, I whispered to Conference Minister Owen Burkholder, “This is good!” We had just received two more congregations into Virginia Mennonite Conference, Eastside Church and Iglesia Discipular Anabautista. This is becoming a regular and healthy occurrence in our conference.
In the history of Virginia Mennonite Conference we have seen about 225 congregations emerge globally and here at home. A few have not survived. Some now find their primary home in other conferences. Today there are 69 congregations in Virginia Mennonite Conference and we have strong fraternal relationships with the Italian Mennonite Conference, the Jamaica Mennonite Conference, the Mennonite Church of Trinidad and Tobago, and movements of God in other places as well. We will welcome guests from many of these places to our Conference Assembly this summer.
While highlighting the innovative and the new, we dare not forget the tried and the true, those congregations that have born steady and faithful witness to their communities for multiple generations. In fact, every congregation is as new as the vision and ministry of the present members. New congregations need the stability, experience and proven traditions of congregations whose lives have extended beyond a few months or years.
It is for these reasons that I am a fan of the conference. Individuals need fellowship and congregations need relationship. We all need the Holy Spirit. Together, we make up the body of Christ. The eye, ear, and nose imagery of I Corinthians 12 illustrates well the importance of living and functioning together for the sake of the Body, indeed for the sake of the world!
That leads me to this thought. A conference does not and dare not exist for itself. Myopic or extended self-absorbed attention tends to devolve into defensiveness, argument and mere maintenance. It is for these reasons that I believe in
missions. The church must always think beyond itself, extend its life beyond its present boundaries, and risk its life for the sake of others.
Virginia Mennonite Conference and Virginia Mennonite Missions continue to walk together illustrating a fundamental belief that church and mission are intended to be a part of an integrated whole and part of the global family of faith.