Franklin Mennonite Conference

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The Franklin Mennonite Conference traces its roots to a migration of Mennonites moving west from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The earliest Mennonite settlers arrived in the Cumberland Valley in 1738. The Mennonite churches in the Cumberland Valley maintained ties with Lancaster Mennonite Conference until the 1830s, when churches in Washington County, Maryland, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, formed the Washington County (Maryland) and  Franklin County (Pennsylvania) Mennonite Conference and began holding annual meetings. Lancaster’s influence continued for many decades through bishops who assisted the fledgling Washington-Franklin Conference.

But tension between the churches in Washington County and Franklin County arose and dragged on for years. One of several differences was the involvement of the Franklin County congregations in mission churches in the surrounding areas. The Franklin County churches wanted to move in a more progressive direction while the Washington County churches feared this would lead to assimilation into the culture.

On 13 August 1965 the conference divided. From 1965 to 1980, the Washington County churches were known as Washington-Franklin Conference, South. The Franklin County churches called themselves Washington-Franklin Conference, North, until 1980 when they voted to be renamed Franklin Mennonite Conference.

Mission work, both locally and internationally, became a highlight of Franklin Mennonite Conference’s history. A mission board established by the Washington-Franklin Conference in 1915 planned and funded outreach to the neighboring communities. Outreach-minded individuals led congregations to form Pleasant View (1909), Pond Bank (1910), Shady Pine (1948), Bethel (1949), Rock Hill (1949), and Cedar Street (1953) Mennonite churches.

Following the 1965 split, interest increased in foreign missions, and the conference mission board sent Dick and Lois Landis to Guatemala in 1967. The Landises were the first conference members to be supported in foreign mission by the mission board, which in 2009 also supported work in Cambodia and the Gambia.

Between 1965 and 1996, bishops led the conference. In 1996 the conference switched to leadership by a conference minister with three district overseers. In 2002, the overseer position were dropped and the conference minister, advised by elders, acted as overseer to the entire conference.

In 1999, three Lancaster Mennonite Conference churches in Washington County—Community, Dargan, and Mt. Zion—joined Franklin Mennonite Conference. Life-Gate (formerly Fairview Chapel), Living Faith Chapel, New Life Fellowship (formerly Dargan), and Zion Covenant withdrew from the conference in 2001 to form Global Community Network.

In 1965, there were three bishops, 34 ordained leaders, 16 congregations, and 1,229 members in the conference. When the name was changed to Franklin Mennonite Conference in 1980, there were 12 congregations and 948 members. In 2009, there were 13 congregations and 1,163 members.

The Burning Bush of the Cumberland Valley is the conference’s monthly periodical. It covers news of the Franklin Mennonite Conference Mission Board along with conference and church news.

In 2002 the conference joined Mennonite Church USA, following the merger of the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church. It remained a member of Mennonite Church USA until 18 April 2016, when at its annual spring delegate meeting in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, conference members voted to withdraw from the conference by a vote of 44 to 13 (77%). The action took effect immediately.

On 28 September 2017, the Franklin Mennonite Conference voted with a 92% majority to become a bishop district of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, which had itself voted in November 2015 to withdraw from Mennonite Church USA. In 2017 the conference had 14 congregations totaling roughly 1,000 members. The conference minister for Franklin, Allen Lehman, continued to serve as pastor to the congregational pastors in the district represented the Franklin District at the bishop board meetings of Lancaster Mennonite Conference. Associated organizations such as the Franklin Conference Mission Board and the conference’s publication, The Burning Bush, also continued.

In 2017 the following congregations were members of Franklin Mennonite Conference:

Congregation City State
Bethel Community Church   Warfordsburg Pennsylvania
Cedar Grove Mennonite Church  Greencastle Pennsylvania
Cedar Street Mennonite Church  Chambersburg Pennsylvania
Christian Missionary Fellowship  Westminster Maryland
Christian Missionary Fellowship-Riverdale Hyattsville Maryland
Community Mennonite Church  Boonsboro Maryland
Marion Mennonite Church  Chambersburg Pennsylvania
Mercersburg Mennonite Church  Mercersburg Pennsylvania
Mount Zion Mennonite Church  Boonsboro Maryland
North Side Mennonite Church  Hagerstown Maryland
Pleasant View Mennonite Church  Chambersburg Pennsylvania
Rock Hill Mennonite Church  McConnellsburg Pennsylvania
Salem Ridge Community Church  Greencastle Pennsylvania
Shady Pine Mennonite Church  Willow Hill Pennsylvania


Burdge Jr., Edsel and Samuel Horst. Building on the Gospel Foundation: The Mennonites of Franklin County, Pennsylvania and Washington County, Maryland, 1730-1970. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2004. 

"Franklin votes to join Lancaster." TheMennonite Daily News Posts. 29 September 2017. Web. 30 September 2017.

Mennonite Church USA Directory (2009): 50-51.

Mennonite Yearbook and Directory (1980).

Showalter, Roy Moab. Elders in Each Church. Morgantown, PA: Masthof Press, 2004.

Additional Information

Conference office: 4856 Molly Pitcher Highway South, Chambersburg, PA 17202

Phone: 717-375-4544


Denominational Affiliation:

Conference Leaders

Conference Bishops Years of Service
Mahlon D. Eshleman 1965-1996
Harvey Shank 1965-1971
Amos Martin 1965-1970
Donald Lauver 1970-1971
Omar Martin 1971-1980
Merle Cordell 1971-1996
Larry Lehman 1982-1996
Conference Ministers Years of Service
Cleon Nyce 1996-2001
Darrell Baer 2002-2012
J. Allen Lehman 2013-present


Map:Franklin Mennonite Conference (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania)

Author(s) Cedric Roth
Date Published September 2017

Cite This Article

MLA style

Roth, Cedric. "Franklin Mennonite Conference." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 2017. Web. 2 Mar 2024.

APA style

Roth, Cedric. (September 2017). Franklin Mennonite Conference. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2 March 2024, from

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