Mid-Atlantic Mennonite Fellowship
The roots of the Mid-Atlantic Mennonite Fellowship are in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference. A conservative element of Lancaster Conference banded together to establish the Mennonite Messianic Mission (MMM) in the early 1960s and opened two voluntary service units in Danville, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware. Five conservative bishops involved in MMM were Homer Bomberger (18 November 1909-30 January 1995), Simon Bucher, Benjamin Eshbach, Isaac Sensenig, and Aaron Shank.
In 1968, the Lancaster Conference adopted a new church discipline which relaxed standards and allowed members to have television. Almost immediately, the five conservative bishops of MMM resigned from the Lancaster Conference and founded the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church (EPMC). Some of those who formed the EPMC wanted to maintain a consistent application of the 1954 (pre-1968) Lancaster Conference discipline but others wanted to add regulations and take a more conservative path. The 1954 discipline was adopted but was subject to review in three years.
Homer Bomberger was among those who wanted to maintain the pre-1968 discipline but was not in favor of the additional rules which were being promoted. The other EPMC bishops considered him too lax. His differences with them were compounded by personal issues. In December 1971 Homer asked for retirement status as an EPMC bishop.
On 23 March 1972 Homer was invited to meet with a group from the White Oak district who felt the EPMC was becoming more conservative than had been projected when it began. Minister Sam Miller, and the aged deacon, Elmer Snavely, both from the White Oak district, also attended the meeting. A letter was read from the EPMC denying the request of the group to have Homer as bishop at Miners Village. A vote passed to ask the ordained men at the meeting to assume leadership of the group present and the ordained men agreed to accept the responsibility.
Forty-one people attended the first Sunday morning service on 26 March 1972 at the home of Noah Martin. After meeting in the Martin home four Sundays, a vacant church building at Lexington was located. A special meeting was held at the home of Homer Bomberger on 10 April 1972, where the decision was made to purchase the building and name it the New Haven Mennonite Church. The first service was held in the church on 23 April 1972.
The following year the EPMC revised their discipline. Along with other changes, the revised discipline made owning a radio a test of membership. Some, primarily from the Bernville and Texter Mountain congregations, who did not agree with the revised discipline withdrew from EPMC and established the Fairhaven Mennonite Church in Myerstown. The first service was held on 3 June 1973. Homer Bomberger accepted their request to serve as bishop. New Haven and Fairhaven had a combined total membership of 121 in 1974.
Homer Bomberger’s diplomatic approach to church discipline and Mennonite conservatism was attractive to some who had remained with the Lancaster Conference in 1968. The Sharon Mennonite Church in Lebanon County was founded in 1977 by a group who withdrew from the Lancaster Conference and requested to be under Homer’s leadership.
On 25 February 1978 Bishop Bomberger called for a meeting with 20 ordained brethren from various churches. He expressed his desire to organize a fellowship because of other congregations asking to become part of this group and to prevent them from being known by his name. His desire was for an associate relationship, allowing some flexibility in governing congregations, rather than a "heavy-handed" conference. At that meeting, a motion was made and approved to draw up a charter. The name agreed upon for the fellowship was the Mid-Atlantic Mennonite Fellowship (MAMF).
On 25 August 1978 a meeting was held for the purpose of organizing a constitution to provide a working relationship among MAMF congregations. At that meeting, a proposed constitution and by-laws was read and discussed. On 4 September 1978 the constitution, by-laws, and guidelines were approved and accepted by the ministerial board. The New Haven, Fairhaven, and Sharon congregations were no longer to be known as “one of Homer Bomberger’s churches” but as a Mid-Atlantic church.
The following years were a time of rapid expansion. By 1981 MAMF had grown from three to seven congregations. With the fellowship continuing to grow, the MAMF body sensed the need for giving more positive direction to the work of missions. On 2 November 1982 the Mid-Atlantic Mission Board was organized to oversee the work of mission outreach.
In 1987, MAMF consisted of 985 members with six bishops, 23 ministers, and 15 deacons providing leadership. There was a strong emphasis on Christian education with many congregations operating schools for their children. Mission emphasis, in addition to local evangelism by individual congregations, consisted of a full-time prison ministry, a street and tract evangelism ministry, and support of foreign missions with members serving in Guatemala, Haiti, and Canada. Tract work and tent meetings led to the opening of an inter-city mission work in Philadelphia early in 1989.
Each time New Haven became crowded, members moved out to establish other MAMF churches: Pleasant Valley (1981), Refton (1985), Pleasant View (1999), and Oldtown, Maryland (2013). Pleasant Valley experienced the same rapid growth rate and established three other MAMF churches to relieve their crowded conditions: Blue Ball (1986), Open Door (1996), and Bethany Chapel (2013).
In 2006, there were 19 MAMF congregations with 1,498 members, growing to 21 congregations and 1,700 members in 2011. The majority of these congregations were in Pennsylvania but there were also two MAMF congregations in Missouri and one in New York. A new city mission church was established in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 2012. Two new congregations were established in 2013 at Martindale, Pennsylvania, and Oldtown, Maryland. The total ministerial members shepherding the 24 MAMF churches in 2013 consisted of 11 bishops, 43 ministers, and 26 deacons. Total membership as of 1 January 2013 was 1,805.
In 2013, MAMF was operating seven schools with 508 students in grades one through 12. Other ministries included Ebenezer Discipleship Ministries (EDM) Lantern Books, and PEACE Ministries in Hanover, Pennsylvania. The Mid-Atlantic Mission Board was supporting members serving in Philadelphia and Hanover, Pennsylvania. MAMF missionaries were also serving in Canada, Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Thailand. Members of MAMF also served on the Boards and/or in the activities of various church-related agencies such as Anabaptist Financial, Bald Eagle Boys Camp, Berean Bible Conference, Christian Aid Ministries, Fresh Start, Richland Christian Home, Sharon Mennonite Bible School, Son Light Missions, and others.
Mid-Atlantic Mennonite Fellowship adheres to the Christian Fundamentals (1921, Garden City, Missouri), a confessional supplement to the Dordrecht Confession (1632), and does not accept divorce and remarriage or permit members to have television. Women wear head coverings and have uncut hair. Although members play musical instruments in their homes, singing in worship services is a capella.
Mid-Atlantic Mennonite Fellowship does not participate in Mennonite Church USA assemblies nor attend MCUSA regional conferences. The fellowship's members enjoy fraternal relationship with the Midwest Mennonite Fellowship, Southeastern Mennonite Conference, Cumberland Valley Mennonite Church, Keystone Mennonite Fellowship, and various other churches of similar faith and practice.
In 2013 the following congregations were members of the Mid-Atlantic Mennonite Fellowship:
|Bairs-Hostetters Mennonite Church||Littlestown||Pennsylvania||1742||48|
|Bethany Mennonite Chapel||Martindale||Pennsylvania||2013||NA|
|Blue Ball Mennonite Church||Blue Ball||Pennsylvania||1986||117|
|Calvary Mennonite Fellowship||Denver||Pennsylvania||2006||84|
|Cornerstone Mennonite Church||Memphis||Missouri||2006||48|
|Fairhaven Mennonite Church||Myerstown||Pennsylvania||1973||114|
|Haycock Mennonite Church||Quakertown||Pennsylvania||1938||34|
|Lakeland Mennonite Church||Rock Stream||New York||1995||72|
|Lebanon Valley Mennonite Church||Myerstown||Pennsylvania||1979||115|
|Millmont Mennonite Church||Lewisburg||Pennsylvania||1962||83|
|Mount Pleasant Mennonite Church||Paradise||Pennsylvania||1986||58|
|Mountain View Mennonite Church||McConnellsburg||Pennsylvania||1967||55|
|New Haven Mennonite Church||Lititz||Pennsylvania||1972||188|
|Oldtown Mennonite Church||Oldtown||Maryland||2013||NA|
|Open Door Mennonite Fellowship||Adamstown||Pennsylvania||1996||114|
|Pleasant Valley Mennonite Church||Ephrata||Pennsylvania||1981||225|
|Pleasant View Mennonite Church Fellowship||Manheim||Pennsylvania||1999||77|
|Shalom Mennonite Church||Milton||Pennsylvania||1997||78|
|Sharon Mennonite Fellowship||Lebanon||Pennsylvania||1977||110|
|Sixth Street Mennonite Church||Philadelphia||Pennsylvania||1992||6|
|Spring Hill Mennonite Church||Latham||Missouri||1992||66|
|Strodes Mills Mennonite Church||McVeytown||Pennsylvania||1981||59|
|Union Valley Mennonite Church||Ulster||Pennsylvania||1958||54|
|Wilkes-Barre Mennonite Church||Wilkes-Barre||Pennsylvania||2012||NA|
Stauffer, Romaine, ed. Mid-Atlantic Mennonite Fellowship 1972-2013. Myerstown, Pa.: Little Mountain Printing, 2014.
Official Mailing Address: 225 Crest Road, Lititz, Pa. 17543-9593
Periodical: Mid-Atlantic Informer
|Date Published||March 2014|
Cite This Article
Stauffer, Romaine. "Mid-Atlantic Mennonite Fellowship." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2014. Web. 22 Oct 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mid-Atlantic_Mennonite_Fellowship&oldid=123547.
Stauffer, Romaine. (March 2014). Mid-Atlantic Mennonite Fellowship. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 October 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mid-Atlantic_Mennonite_Fellowship&oldid=123547.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 584. All rights reserved.
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