Mennonite Messianic Mission (Ephrata, Pennsylvania, USA)
Mennonite Messianic Mission is the mission agency of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church.
During the 1960s conservative voices within the Lancaster Mennonite Conference expressed concern about the Voluntary Service (VS) units administered by the Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions. Young men from the conference frequently fulfilled their alternative service obligations to the USA’s Selective Service System by working in one of these “I-W units” (so named because I-W was the draft classification of conscientious objectors in active service). The concerns included lack of appropriate spiritual oversight, failure to adhere to conference regulations in dress and social behavior, and exposure to theologically more liberal conscientious objectors in the units. Many young men did not return home after their experience in urban VS units, and some who did return no longer espoused the conservative perspectives of their parents and church.
In 1966 conservative leaders, led by Bishop Homer Bomberger, proposed creation of a more conservatively oriented Mennonite VS organization. The previous year the Conservative Mennonite Fellowship, a small 10-year-old group of conservative churches, had established its own VS unit in Zanesville, Ohio. Personal relationships to this unit led to establishment of a new VS unit at the Wilmington Medical Center in Wilmington, Delaware. On 19 September 1966 Bomberger and other leaders formed the Mennonite Messianic Mission (MMM) expressly to sponsor the Wilmington VS unit. By December 1966 there was a board of 12 persons, including Lancaster Conference bishops Homer Bomberger, Aaron Shank, Benjamin Eshbach, Simon Bucher and Isaac Sensenig.
The VS unit at Wilmington, Delaware opened in January 1967. Early regulations for the unit stated that radio, television, musical instruments and firearms were not permitted in the unit. Men were required to wear plain suits, and women a dark type of footwear in addition to cape dresses. A similar VS unit began in Danville, Pennsylvania in fall 1967. Within several years new congregations emerged in connection with these VS units.
During 1967, in order to provide further spiritual support for young people, the MMM the creation of a Bible school for post-high school youth. A search located an unused high school building at Numidia, Pennsylvania, which was leased for 10 years. The structure and courses offered at the new Numidia Mennonite Bible School were based on the earlier experience of the Conservative Mennonite Fellowship with the Messiah Bible School at Carbon Hill, Ohio. Two three-week terms were offered during the winter of 1967-68. This was followed by multiple three-week courses each year.
Additional outreach efforts soon emerged. In early 1968 MMM authorized the printing and distribution of tracts at the request of the Wilmington VS unit. In February 1968 the Mennonite Messianic Mission began to support mission work among First Nations people in Topley Landing, British Columbia (BC). Several years later a work developed at Babine Lake, BC.
In 1968 the Lancaster Mennonite Conference adopted a revised Rules and Discipline that the MMM leadership was not able to accept. By this time there were 30 bishops in the Lancaster Conference, with the five MMM bishops representing a small minority. The revised discipline was more descriptive than prescriptive and used more flexible language on matters like life insurance, plain dress, the prayer veiling and the wearing of jewelry. It no longer prohibited owning a television.
When the new Rules and Discipline was approved in July 1968, the ordained leaders who were part of the Mennonite Messianic Mission resigned their positions within the Lancaster Mennonite Conference. In September 1968 the Bishop Board voted to give these leaders an “honorable release” from the Lancaster Mennonite Conference. This led to the formation of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church (EPMC) later that year.
The Mennonite Messianic Mission then functioned as the outreach organization of the new conference. Within a short time MMM explored new outreach in Guatemala and established a Publication Board that launched the official conference monthly, The Eastern Mennonite Testimony and also begun publishing books and curricula, sometimes in cooperation with Rod and Staff Publishers.
MMM’s receipts in 2015 from a membership base of 6,100 was over $2,000,000, with funds going to mission fields in Argentina/Bolivia, Bahamas, Paraguay, Mexico, Ghana and Togo. Funds were also used for the Numidia Mennonite Bible School and “brotherhood assistance.” By 2016, 19 EPMC congregations existed in nine foreign countries, with a combined membership of approximately 700.
Auker, Kenneth. Keeping the Trust: Issues surrounding the Formation of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church. Ephrata, Pa.: Eastern Mennonite Publications, 2013.
Good, Harold B. and H. Lynn Martin. “Mennonite Messianic Mission 1966-2016” The Eastern Mennonite Testimony 48, no. 9 (September 2016): 3-5.
Lehman, Daniel R. Endeavor of Faith: a History of the Mennonite Messianic Mission Voluntary Service Units 1967-1974. Ephrata, Pa.: Eastern Mennonite Publications, 1996.
Address: 40 Woodcorner Rd., Ephrata, Pennsylvania 17522
Denominational Affiliation: Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church
|Date Published||February 2019|
Cite This Article
Steiner, Sam. "Mennonite Messianic Mission (Ephrata, Pennsylvania, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2019. Web. 26 Mar 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Messianic_Mission_(Ephrata,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=163292.
Steiner, Sam. (February 2019). Mennonite Messianic Mission (Ephrata, Pennsylvania, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 March 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Messianic_Mission_(Ephrata,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=163292.
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