Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (Mennonite Church USA)

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1955 Article

The Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference resulted from the merger of two earlier conferences in 1916; the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, and the Indiana-Michigan Amish Mennonite Conference. The Mennonite Church body was at first, in the 1850's, more or less an extension of the Ohio Mennonite Conference and was called the Indiana Conference. It was customary for the Ohio ministers to meet with the Indiana ministers in the fall, and the Indiana ministers met with the Ohio ministers in the spring. The first such conference of which minutes have been preserved was held at the Yellow Creek meetinghouse 14 October 1864. The next available minutes are of 1867, then 1870. The minutes of 1895 are headed "Indiana-Michigan Conference," although there was no official action to add the name Michigan to the name of the conference.

The first Indiana-Michigan Amish Mennonite Conference was held at the Maple Grove ("Hawpatch") Amish Mennonite Church near Topeka, Indiana on 7 April 1888. Thereafter the Amish Mennonite Conference was the "Spring Conference," and the Mennonite Conference was the "Fall Conference." A close spirit of fellowship and good will prevailed between the spring and fall conferences for many years, and there was considerable attendance at both conferences by ministers of the other conference. The time finally came when both conferences appointed a "Committee on Conference Union," which met 13 February 1913. The work of the committee was well received by both conferences, and a new Constitution, Rules, and Discipline was prepared, printed, and submitted to the congregations for ratification. The spring conference of 1916 adopted the new discipline on the basis of the congregational vote and declared it as being in effect as of 8 June 1916. The fall conference of 1916 reported a vote of 1,319 in favor, and 155 opposed, and on that basis also adopted it and declared it to be in effect as of 12 October 1916. After 1917 the united conference met annually the first Wednesday in June.

The Indiana Mennonite (fall) Conference was not only intimately associated with the Ohio Conference, being for many years a sort of fall meeting of the same group which met in Ohio in the spring, but it also felt a degree of responsibility for the weak congregations farther west. In 1872, for example, Bishop Daniel Brundage, who for a decade had been a preacher in the Holdeman congregation in Indiana, and who was then living in Missouri, asked permission of the Indiana (and Ohio) Conference in session at the Yellow Creek meetinghouse west of Goshen, Indiana, to hold a conference in the fall of each year in Missouri. The request was granted. In fact this was but following the precedent set in 1871 when the Indiana (and Ohio) ministers, also in session at Yellow Creek, granted to "the western brethren" permission to form a "new conference district." The conference was to meet "at a time to be hereafter decided upon in Whiteside County, Illinois." This meeting was held in the Science Ridge meetinghouse near Sterling, Illinois, in 1872, the first meeting of the Illinois Mennonite Conference.

The concerns of the Indiana Mennonite Conference related mostly to the year by year problems which the bishops, preachers, and deacons faced, such as whether Mennonites ought to vote in political elections, how best to resist worldliness in attire, whether the Bible calls upon Christians to break social fellowship ("shun") with those who have been excommunicated, how to give pastoral care to weak congregations, and scattered members, whether it would not be advisable to have a general conference of all the Mennonites (MC) in the country (1864), how to deal with divorced and remarried people, etc. By the fall of 1868 there was evidently enough autonomy in the Indiana Conference that it felt it necessary to "adopt entire" the resolutions of the Ohio Conference which had been adopted in its spring session of 1868. In 1887, when the Conference was considering the eligibility for membership on the part of a divorced man who was planning to marry a sister in the church, the decisive addresses were made by Bishops John F. Funk of Indiana, and Henry Nice of Illinois. Deacon Joseph Holdeman supported them. The question was posed by Preacher Henry Good of Ohio. (It was decided that the man be received as a member.)

During the first decades of the life of the conference, it was customary for the ordained men to come quietly together with no appointed moderator and no prepared program. The older bishops led in messages of exhortation after the singing of one or more hymns. The entire meeting was conducted in the Pennsylvania German dialect, with the exception of the hymns and Scripture reading, which were in High German. The opening prayer was silent. After the devotional service was over, one or more bishops exhorted the ministers to hold fast to the historic and Biblical principles of the brotherhood. Anyone was then free to make any further remarks or to bring questions before the group for counsel and decision. If the decisions met with too much opposition in the congregations, the ministers did not hesitate to reverse themselves at a later conference. In 1871, for example, the conference urged that (first) cousins should not marry. Because this counsel "caused considerable dissatisfaction," the conference of 1873 decided to leave it to the conscience of the individuals involved "so far as state laws do not prohibit such marriages."

Especially in the 1870s the Indiana Mennonite Conference struggled long and hard with the problems occasioned by the transition from old to new customs relating to new methods of Christian work, the transition from German to English, and the like. Bishop Jacob Wisler (1808-89) of Yellow Creek and his followers seceded from conference in 1871 because it supported the introduction of Sunday schools, and tolerated other changes from the "old order." Thus the Wisler or Old Order Mennonite branch had its beginning. On the other hand, evidently in an effort to prevent another division (although it may have contributed to the Daniel Brenneman secession of 1874), the conference in 1872 decided that calling regular prayer meetings "can not be tolerated."

Gradually the conference began to organize more fully and thus acquire its later form. In the meeting of 9 October 1885 the conference authorized the bishops thereafter to meet on the Thursday afternoon preceding conference to receive in writing all questions to be submitted on the day of conference. Six years later, in 1891, the conference took the new step of choosing a moderator and a secretary as the first item of business for the day. In 1898 it was further decided to "elect a permanent secretary whose duty it shall be to keep a record of the proceedings of conference in a book for that special purpose. He shall serve for a term of three years." In 1904 the spring (Amish Mennonite) conference began to elect a moderator for the next annual meeting of conference, and in 1906 the fall (Mennonite) conference followed suit. Little mention is made of anything like an executive committee in either conference before the merger of 1916. But thereafter the power of the Executive Committee of Conference grew continually until Indiana-Michigan vested more power in its elected Executive Committee of five members than perhaps any other district conference of the Mennonite Church (MC). The man most responsible for this centralization of power was J. K. Bixler (1877-1939), who represented the fall (Mennonite) conference prior to the merger. Other leaders who helped form the modern Mennonite Church of the midwest were Bishop John F. Funk (1835-1930), Bishop David Burkholder (1835-1923), Preacher J. S. Hartzler (1857-1953), Bishop D. A. Yoder (b. 1883), Bishop O. S. Hostetler (b. 1874), and Deacon George L. Bender (1867-1921). On the side of the spring (Amish) conference should be mentioned Bishop Jonathan Kurtz (1848-1940), Bishop D. D. Miller (1864-1955), Bishop D. J. Johns (1850-1942), and Preacher Ira S. Johns (1879-1956). After the 1940's the conference tended to be more democratic, and to recognize more fully the rights of bishops and congregations.

In 1954 the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference included 66 congregations and mission stations having a total of 8,076 members, served by 31 bishops, 83 ministers, and 34 deacons. In Indiana there were 36 congregations and missions with 6,429 members: 18 in Elkhart County, 6 in Lagrange, 3 in Allen, 2 mission outposts in La Porte, and one congregation or mission in each of the following counties: Wells, Starke, Porter, Jasper, St. Joseph, Noble, and Daviess. In Michigan there are 30 congregations and missions with 1,563 members; scattered congregations in the following counties: Emmet, Newaygo, Gratiot, Oscoda, Midland, St. Joseph, and Kent; and mission stations in Emmet, Antrim, Manistee, Wayne, Livingston, Lapeer, St. Joseph, Montcalm, Jackson, Huron, Saginaw, and Calhoun counties; as well as 11 mission stations in the Upper Peninsula. There are also three mission points in Kentucky with 34 members, and one in International Falls, MN, with 52 members.

Within and subject to the conference were also the following semiautonomous organizations: the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Mission Board (founded in 1911), operating a chain of rural home mission stations from Kentucky to Northern Michigan; the Christian Workers' Conference, before 1943 called the Sunday School Conference, with its origins going back to 1894; the Women's Missionary and Service Auxiliary (organized in 1917); and the Mennonite Youth Fellowship (founded in 1949, but actually a continuation of the Northern Indiana Literary Convention founded in 1924). The conference also owned and operated Bethany Christian High School at Waterford, south of Goshen, Indiana (founded in 1954). Completely autonomous was the Mennonite Aid Association (founded in 1911), a mutual aid property insurance organization. -- John C. Wenger

1990 Update

From 1954 to 1986 the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (MC) grew from 66 congregations to 106, and from 8,076 members to 12,498.

Several organizational changes took place. Before 1964 three separate organizations carried on work in the conference district (all of them had forerunners): the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Mission Board, organized in 1913; the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (1916); and the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Christian Worker's Conference (1943). These three had separate governing groups, constitutions, and meetings. In 1964 the Christian Worker's Conference voted to become a Christian Education Cabinet under the conference, and in 1970 the Mission Board also came under the conference as its Mission Commission.

In 1970, when a new constitution was adopted, the role of the executive committee changed from that of supervising the conference and congregations to that of coordinating the work of five commissions: Church Life, Mission, Nurture, Peace and Service, and Finance. The new executive committee was made up of the conference president and the five commission chairpersons. The 1978 constitution enlarged the executive committee by two members to be elected at large. Representatives of the Indiana-Michigan Women's Missionary and Service Commission were invited to be on the executive committee as affiliated members.

There was yet another change in 1986. The executive committee was to consist of the conference president, the conference representative to the Mennonite Church (MC) General Board, a representative from an ethnic or racial minority group, plus seven representatives from the area councils. The conference was organized into 16 geographic area councils. This change was made to make the work of the executive committee more objective. Commission chairpersons were no longer on the executive committee.

The 1956 constitution had declared only officially recognized bishops, ministers, and deacons as members of conference. Each congregation however, was entitled to elect one lay brother as a delegate. In the 1970 constitution lay delegates were designated as persons thus allowing for women delegates. In 1987 women served on the commissions and several had been ordained to the ministry. The 1978 constitution stated that members of the congregations of conference, as well as the ordained persons, are members of conference.

Bethany Christian High School, Goshen, Indiana (1954), and Camp Amigo, Sturgis, Michigan (1957) were both owned and operated by the conference. The Indiana-Michigan Conference offices were located in Elkhart, Indiana until 1987, when they were moved to Goshen. Officers and staff members in 1987 were the president, executive secretary, administrative assistant, office secretary and bookkeeper, conference minister, conference youth minister, minister of missions, and treasurer. The conference published the Gospel Evangel 10 times a year as a source of information and inspiration.

In 1987 the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (MC) met jointly with the Central District Mennonite Conference (GCM) at Goshen in the first of such fraternal meetings. -- Russell R. Krabill

2017 Update

In 2017 the following congregations were members of the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference:

Congregation City State
Ann Arbor Mennonite Church   Ann Arbor Michigan
Assembly Mennonite Church  Goshen Indiana
Belmont Mennonite Church  Elkhart Indiana
Belmont Neighborhood Fellowship  Elkhart Indiana
Benton Mennonite Church  Goshen Indiana
Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship  Goshen Indiana
Bethel Mennonite Church  Greenville Michigan
Bonneyville Mennonite Church  Bristol Indiana
Cedar Grove Mennonite Church  Manistique Michigan
Church Without Walls  Elkhart Indiana
College Mennonite Church  Goshen Indiana
Community Christian Fellowship Ministries Detroit Michigan
East Goshen Mennonite Church  Goshen Indiana
Fairhaven Mennonite Church  Fort Wayne Indiana
Family Worship Center at the Lighthouse  Goshen Indiana
Fellowship of Hope Mennonite Church  Elkhart Indiana
First Mennonite Church  Indianapolis Indiana
First Mennonite Church  Middlebury Indiana
Good News Community Chapel  Pinckney Michigan
Grace Chapel  Saginaw Michigan
Grand Marais Mennonite Church  Grand Marais Michigan
Holdeman Mennonite Church  Wakarusa Indiana
Hopewell Mennonite Church  Kouts Indiana
Hudson Lake Mennonite Church  New Carlisle Indiana
Kalamazoo Mennonite Fellowship Kalamazoo Michigan
Kern Road Mennonite Church  South Bend Indiana
Lake Bethel Mennonite Church  Wolcottville Indiana
Liberty Christian Fellowship  Somerset Center Michigan
Maple River Mennonite Church  Brutus Michigan
Mara Christian Church of America  Indianapolis Indiana
Mennonite Fellowship of Bloomington  Bloomington Indiana
Morning Star Church   Muncie Indiana
New Foundation United in Christ Mennonite Fellowship  Elkhart Indiana
New Hope Community Church of Midland Midland Michigan
Ninth Street Community Church  Saginaw Michigan
North Goshen Mennonite Church  Goshen Indiana
North Leo Mennonite Church  Leo Indiana
North Main Street Mennonite Church  Nappanee Indiana
Olive Mennonite Church  Elkhart Indiana
Paoli Mennonite Fellowship  Paoli Indiana
Parkview Mennonite Church  Kokomo Indiana
Peace Community Mennonite Church  Detroit Michigan
Pine Grove Mennonite Church  Battle Creek Michigan
Pleasant View Mennonite Church  Goshen Indiana
Prairie Street Mennonite Church  Elkhart Indiana
Shalom Mennonite Church  Indianapolis Indiana
Sunnyside Mennonite Church  Elkhart Indiana
Talcum Mennonite Church  Talcum Kentucky
True Vine Tabernacle  Elkhart Indiana
Valparaiso Mennonite Church  Valparaiso Indiana
Walnut Hill Mennonite Church  Goshen Indiana
Wasepi Mennonite Chapel  Centreville Michigan
Waterford Mennonite Church  Goshen Indiana
Wawasee Lakeside Chapel Syracuse Indiana
Wildwood Mennonite Church  Engadine Michigan
Yellow Creek Mennonite Church  Goshen Indiana


Minutes of the-Indiana-.Michigan Mennonite Conference 1864-1929. Scottdale, n.d. which also contain the minutes of the Indiana-Michigan Amish Mennonite Conference, 1888-1916. After 1929 minutes of the Annual Meetings were published in booklet form through 1972. Beginning in 1973, they were published as an insert in the Gospel Evangel.

Horsch, James E., ed. Mennonite Yearbook and Directory. Scottdale: Mennonite Publishing (1988-89): 60-63.

Wenger, J. C.  Mennonite Handbook. Indiana-Michigan Conference, 1956.

Wenger, J. C. The Mennonites in Indiana and Michigan. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1961.

Wenger, J. C. The Yellow Creek Mennonites. Goshen, IN: Yellow Creek Mennonite Church, 1985.

Author(s) John C. Wenger
Russell R. Krabill
Date Published July 2010

Cite This Article

MLA style

Wenger, John C. and Russell R. Krabill. "Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (Mennonite Church USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2010. Web. 18 May 2024.

APA style

Wenger, John C. and Russell R. Krabill. (July 2010). Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (Mennonite Church USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 29-31; vol. 5, p. 432-433. All rights reserved.

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