Letter to delegates and leaders: Conference board acts to accept PPC as new congregation

Dear Delegates and Leaders of Franconia Mennonite Conference:

On May 25, we wrote to you asking for your prayers and support for the Philadelphia Praise Center, a congregation composed of Indonesian immigrants meeting for the past year in South Philadelphia. Thanks to those of you who shared counsel and for many of you who have been praying for these sisters and brothers. This letter serves as an update about the journey of the Philadelphia Praise Center congregation and membership in Franconia Mennonite Conference (FMC).

You may recall in the May 25 letter, we shared about the relationships built over the past six years between FMC and Philadelphia Praise Center, beginning with FMC hosting then-president of Mennonite World Conference Mesach Krisetya. You may also recall that Philadelphia Praise Center (PPC) leaders also attended last November’s Conference Assembly Gathered. Thanks to the Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference (PSMC) which has six Indonesian congregations and several Indonesian Mennonite leaders from both PSMC as well as Mesach’s conference in Indonesia that goes by the acronym GKMI, seasoned Indonesian Mennonite pastors have been working with FMC and PPC.

The May 25 letter stated: “The board may consider an action in June on your behalf to protect the future of this congregation by accepting PPC as a member of FMC. We will be in conversation with you again to communicate how that is being done in order to respect and honor the delegate responsibilities you carry.” This letter today is part of the promised communication.

At the June 26 Conference Board (CB) meeting, following healthy conversation and questions about potential material, legal, and financial issues that could affect the conference by taking this step, CB members acted on behalf of the delegate assembly to receive Philadelphia Praise Center as a member congregation of FMC as of June 26, 2006. The CB members in this action formally recognize Philadelphia Praise Center as a member congregation and plan to provide time this November for delegates to affirm this action and to help celebrate PPC as a member congregation at Conference Assembly Gathered. This process is similar to how pastors are processed for credentials. It is also similar to how persons go through membership preparation when joining a congregation. In most congregations prospective members work with pastors and elders for a period of time before they are presented to the congregation for affirmation.

As leaders representing you, we want to assure you that we did not act lightly in receiving this new congregation on your behalf. We discerned that the relationship has six-year roots, PPC leaders were introduced fraternally last fall to delegates, and that the process honors intercultural relationships while respecting FMC by-law parameters. Throughout the process we have kept you informed using both the regular MennoLife updates and additional separate letters. Throughout this process we have received appreciative support for leading in this way. Whether or not this is the way that all future prospective congregations will be handled is open to conversation.

Four pressing issues motivate Philadelphia Praise Center in their desire to move toward full membership in FMC as soon as possible:

  • A desire to formally develop ties to congregations beyond themselves firmly rooted in the Anabaptist tradition
  • A need to develop healthy congregational structures that will allow flexibility and continued growth
  • Paths of connection that will allow members of PPC to contribute their gifts within the city of Philadelphia and globally
  • Relationships that will assure the current leadership remains at PPC in this time of change that exerts difficult pressures related to immigration status

Both of us writing this letter are direct heirs of those who benefited from Dutch Mennonites who sent a bishop to help establish a fledgling congregation at Germantown. Today we are borrowing an Indonesian pastor and mentoring another so they can help this fledgling congregation in Philadelphia to proclaim an Anabaptist witness in the City of Brotherly Love. Executive Minister Noel Santiago recalled a prophetic word from Pastors Lesly Bertrand and Westerne Joseph (leaders of our Partner in Mission in Haiti, Grace Assembly Network): “Because you have been open to the nations, God will send the nations to you.”

We ask for your ongoing prayer support. Feel free to contact us if you have questions or ideas.

Sincerely in Christ,

Merrill S. Moyer, Conference Moderator

Philip C. Bergey, Conference Executive