Kansas Conference of Mennonites (Kansaskonferenz) was the forerunner of the Western District Conference of the General Conference Mennonite Church, founded through the initiative of David Goerz in 1877, who proposed in Zur Heimat (15 August 1877) to have a meeting with teachers pertaining to their profession. The meeting took place in the home of Heinrich Richert, Alexanderwohl, at which teachers, ministers, and elders were present. W. Ewert was chosen chairman and David Goerz secretary. A committee was elected to work out a plan by which the conference could successfully conduct an educational program.
The first official Kansas Conference meeting took place 14-15 December 1877. In the invitation it was suggested that all congregations were entitled to send one delegate for every 30 members. Ten congregations (including the Mennonite Brethren of Marion County) sent delegates totalling about 70 persons. On the agenda were chiefly educational matters, such as the establishment of a secondary school (Zentralschule) and also questions pertaining to songbooks, home missions, foreign missions and relief. It was recommended that Mennonites aim to establish their own school districts and if there were sufficient Mennonites in a community, to establish a Mennonite parochial school. Questions pertaining to curricula and textbooks were discussed in detail. The minutes of this and the following meetings were regularly published in Zur Heimat.
At the second meeting (6-7 November 1878) the school committee presented a report. David Goerz was sent as a delegate to the Middle District Conference (at the time Western District Conference) meeting in Berne, Indiana, and to the General Conference meeting at Wadsworth, Ohio. At the third session (27-29 October 1879) such questions were discussed as to whether it is sufficient for a congregation to maintain its numerical strength by having the children join the church or whether a congregation should demonstrate its spiritual life by reaching out into communities where the Gospel is not preached. This session was also attended as guests by Jakob Wiebe and Johann Harder of the Gnadenau Krimmer Mennonite Brethren and Abraham Schellenberg of the Mennonite Brethren. The fourth conference (1880) was also attended by delegates from the Salem Mennonite Church, South Dakota. At the sixth conference the school committee presented the constitution of the proposed secondary school (Fortbildungsschule).
The regular reports of the conference deal with questions pertaining to education, home missions, and publication efforts, for all of which committees had been created. Numerous problems of a general nature and those pertaining to congregations and individuals were discussed in brotherly and orderly manner. The meetings were held in various congregations. At the sixteenth session, held 26-27 October 1892, the Kansas Conference was dissolved and its work and business transferred to the newly organized Western District Conference. This name had been in use by the Middle District Conference until 1888. The chief concern of the Kansas Conference had been matters pertaining to education on the elementary and secondary level. Bethel College, organized at this time, was one of the results of these efforts. The interests in education were now in the hands of the German Teachers' Association and a special education committee of the Western District Conference. Until then the Fortbildungsschulen, first at Emmatal and later at Halstead, were supported and owned by the Kansas Conference. With the closing of this school and the founding of Bethel College this relationship was modified.
Die Entstehimg der Kansaskonferenz der Mennoniten-Gemeinden 1877-1892 (official Kansas Conference minutes and reports), in Mennonite Library and Archives, Bethel College (North Newton, KS)
Cite This Article
Krahn, Cornelius. "Kansas Conference of Mennonites (General Conference Mennonite Church)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 30 Apr 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kansas_Conference_of_Mennonites_(General_Conference_Mennonite_Church)&oldid=92219.
Krahn, Cornelius. (1957). Kansas Conference of Mennonites (General Conference Mennonite Church). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 April 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kansas_Conference_of_Mennonites_(General_Conference_Mennonite_Church)&oldid=92219.
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