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gospel evangel connecting the congregations of indiana-michigan mennonite conference

Photo by Greg Leatherman Sommers

November / December 2012 | vol 93, no 6

Pastoral Leadership Team Weekend Congregational vision in a postmodern world By Rachel A. Denlinger On the second weekend in November, pastors and lay leaders met for a Pastoral Leadership Team Weekend at Amigo Centre in Sturgis, Mich. The leader for the weekend was John Powell, who currently serves as a Mission Advocate for Mennonite Mission Network. His message focused on exploring how postmodern behavior affects society and the life of the congregation, and how new thinking about spirituality impacts the church. He encouraged the examination of “how congregations can develop and implement a vision for a Christ-centered witness in a postmodern world, with a focus on building relationships.” Participant Heidi Burkhart of Maple River said that John “challenged us and gave us useful information to share with our home congregations. We talked about how we as the church can meet the needs of our community in a postmodern society, especially when the sense of ‘community’ is not as strong as it once was.” Another participant commented that understanding postmodern-

ism had never been a priority, but that the weekend helped refocus his thinking. One factor of postmodernism affecting society and the church is a shift toward more contemplative spirituality. In the Reformation era there was a large emphasis on rationality and intellect. In the church this took the form of “right thinking.” Mary Mininger, regional pastor for the southern region, said that now, in the postmodern age, people have a deeper desire for an experience with God. There is a shift towards the contemplative, of moving from the head to the heart. “Right thinking” is still important, but we must also acknowledge that the Good News is not so much about being right, as about being love. (continued on page 4)


2 Rachel A. Denlinger meet our new staff member 3 What is Intercultural? intercultural transformation 5 Integrating Beauty and Values impacting youth 5 Regional Delegate Meetings 2013 schedule 6 Discipleship at Fairhaven christian formation 7 Missional Leadership Team conference update 7 Why Jesus Matters at bethany 8 An Open Letter at amigo

meet our new staff member

Rachel Denlinger Communications Coordinator By Rachel A. Denlinger The journey to find my way in life has not been a straight forward one. The years following my graduation from Bethel College (Mishawaka, Ind.) were a time of searching and struggling to find direction. It wasn’t until four years after graduation that I found some inspiration and took one design class “for fun.” This small beginning led me into the field of visual communications. Early on I knew that I didn’t want to work for a large corporation or advertising company. I wanted to use my skills for a non-profit or some other organization that had a sense of purpose, which is why I feel very grateful to be where I am now at IN-MI Conference. For the past several years, I have been studying graphic design on a part-time basis through Ivy Tech’s School of Fine Art and Design. I recently interned in the communications department at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary as they transitioned to a new visual identity coinciding with their name change. I also designed, and continue to manage, the website for Elkhart County Clubhouse. I feel that all these things have prepared me in many ways for the job I have now.

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Stepping into a new role is always challenging. My aim is to serve as a channel through which voices can be heard. Being from the Elkhart/Goshen area, I think an important part of my job is to learn more about the farther reaching Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference—a conference of Mennonite Church USA—is a community of 77 congregations in Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, gathered together for mutual encouragement in kingdom mission and inspiration to joyfully follow Jesus. Office: 109 E. Clinton St., Suite 100, Goshen, IN 46528 (574) 534-4006 or (800) 288-8486; Missional Leadership Team Members: Wes Bontreger, moderator, Goshen, IN; Jane Stoltzfus Buller, moderator-elect, Goshen, IN; Neil Amstutz, Goshen, IN; Aimee Mayeda, Indianapolis, IN; George Thompson, treasurer, Auburn Hills, MI; James Troyer, Manistique, MI; Anita Yoder, Goshen, IN.

congregations in the conference. I want to give voice to those who are geographically farther removed or who desire greater connection to the church body as a whole. As a person under 35, I also see my job as an opportunity to bring a youthful perspective to Mennonite circles. Like my vocational journey, my spiritual journey has had its ups and downs. After college (the first time), I did not have a home church for several years. While I was struggling to find meaningful work I was also going through a time of relative isolation and unrest. Then a friend invited me to a community meal at Jubilee House, the Elkhart Mennonite Voluntary Service unit. These community meals provided an outlet to connect with like-minded people. It served as a bridge to involvement in a local congregation. I began attending Prairie Street Mennonite and found it to be a welcoming place—a place of healing and acceptance, and a place of comfort found through the spiritual rituals and traditions that unite us. I believe that the church plays an important role in fostering spiritual growth, but equally important are the relationships developed and the sense of belonging. In the spring of 2012, I had the opportunity to live at Jubilee House as an associate MVSer. I really enjoyed my time there and learned a lot about the challenges of living in intentional community. Following that, I moved into a large house with several friends in a nearby neighborhood. I enjoy the opportunities for ongoing community and fellowship that this brings. Outside of work and school, I enjoy reading both fiction and non-fiction, gardening (with varying degrees of success!), working on crafty projects, being in the beautiful outdoors, unwinding with movies and podcasts, and spending time with friends. Gospel Evangel is published six times annually by Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun, Jul/Aug, Sep/Oct, Nov/Dec). It is printed and mailed by Evangel Press, 2000 Evangel Way, Nappanee, IN 46550. Periodical postage is paid at Nappanee, IN 46550 (USPS 575-940). Postmaster: Send address changes to IN-MI Mennonite Conference, 109 E. Clinton St., Suite 100, Goshen, IN 46528. Editor: Rachel A. Denlinger Soli Deo gloria! Printed on 30% PCW recycled paper.

IN-MI Mennonite Conference | Gospel Evangel | November/December 2012

intercultural transformation

What is intercultural ?

By Darin Short, Berkey Avenue Mennonite Church Mennonites have long-utilized relevant language that relates to the term intercultural (e.g., culture, anti-racist, cross-cultural, diversity, privilege, multi-cultural, etc.). As a relatively new term, however, it is important to be clear in regards to its meaning and impact. I run a consulting practice that counsels organizations involved in intercultural contexts, or involved in becoming more intercultural in the way that they pursue their mission and purpose. I’ve noticed that when I talk with some people about the work I do, they will almost withdraw from the conversation or develop a quizzical look. I suspect this has to do, in part, with confusion around the term and idea of intercultural. Developing intercultural competence is a stated goal of IN-MI Conference, as adopted from Mennonite Church USA. Achieving this necessary goal is a daunting task. What exactly does “intercultural” mean? If we decide we know what it means, how do we go about developing competence? If we have intercultural competence, what are its manifestations? Indeed, being aware of a common understanding of the term, and a framework for understanding it, are essential in order for a congregation, conference, and denomination to achieve this intercultural goal. As alluded to already, intercultural is an extremely difficult term to define. Academically, the field of intercultural communications is influenced and shaped by as many as five or more academic disciplines. This alone speaks to its complexity. Wikipedia, when searching for “intercultural,” skirts offering a definition of the word by instead defining intercultural communication. Merriam-Webster does not include the word in its online dictionary. Most telling is the fact that, in professional literature, even professionals prefer to define terms like intercultural communication or intercultural relations, but not the term intercultural. But what is it? When working with individuals and organizations in contexts of cultural difference, I have found the following to be helpful, while also understanding its limitations, when I think about “what” intercultural is: Intercultural is a way of being that transcends any one specific culture yet moves between and participates in a multiplicity of cultural ways of being.

the law, he became like one under the law; to those not having the law, he became like one not having the law (I Cor. 9:19-23). There was something within the mind and heart of Paul that allowed him to transcend the collection of group identities yet participate as an individual within these specific groups. Of course, his religious conversion had a lot to do with this. But even within and beyond his conversion he was able to become something in addition to (i.e., different than) what he, at his core, was. This was due, in part, to his experiences within or around each of these different groups. He knew the impact of culture. These experiences and contexts likely fostered within Paul an understanding of the need for something that transcended his knowledge of the specific ways of thinking and doing that each group utilized. He developed new ways of thinking, doing, and communicating that, while not specific to any one culture, allowed him to relate to these specific groups. This is intercultural. To be clear, this description depicts the “pinnacle” of intercultural and may seem to suggest that any individual or organization that falls short of it is not intercultural. However, just like the pinnacle would not exist without multiple layers beneath it, intercultural, as described above, would not also exist without layers to support it. Over the next several issues of Gospel Evangel, we will look at the various layers of intercultural manifestations within congregations. I would encourage you to keep this concept of the term intercultural in mind as you seek to develop additional understanding.

Do you want your congregation to thrive? We at conference are looking for members from across conference who are willing to receive training in organizational advancement and financial development. Skills learned through this training can and should be used to benefit individual congregations. In return, we ask trainees for a commitment to use the training to help conference. We will arrange for the initial training and ongoing guidance at no cost to the church and individual. For more information, please contact Greg Sommers, conference administrator, at

I think Paul provides a notable example of being intercultural. To the Jews, he became like a Jew; to those under IN-MI Mennonite Conference


Gospel Evangel


November /December



Pastoral Leadership Team Weekend (continued from front page) Another factor is that our culture is no longer predominantly Christian. This creates a greater need to move outside the church walls and engage the community around us. How can we engage people unless we understand where they are coming from?

Photos by Greg Leatherman Sommers

These are important ideas for churches to understand as they develop a vision for the future, especially as it pertains to younger generations and those who have not grown up in the church. We need to look at “finding strategies to engage communities in new ways,” said John. Coming from a small, rural congregation, Heidi said her church is struggling with the question of how to draw in more people. Heidi recalls that “John suggested we need to look at it from another angle. Our focus should be on kingdom growth rather than church growth. It’s difficult to know what exactly that looks like, but we will process and pray about what direction God wants us to take.” Mary was struck by something John said at the close of the weekend. “He aptly pointed out that the end of the Biblical story is yet to be determined, and we are players on the stage of what is unfolding.” It becomes vital, then, for the church to discern which vision it will embrace as we move forward. Will we march towards Armageddon, or follow the vision offered in Isaiah 2:2-5 of beating our swords into plowshares, and actively waging reconciliation and peace in our world? The most important thing, Mary adds, is that, both personally and corporately, we need to study God’s mission as found in scripture (especially Luke 4:18-19, and Micah 6:8). “The church is called both to proclaim and to be. The question is how will we play a part in God’s ongoing work of healing, of making all things new, and of breaking down every wall that divides?” In today’s postmodern culture, it will require the church to embrace new thinking and new approaches.

meet our new interim staff member

Jan Rheinheimer

IN-MI Conference is happy to welcome Jan Rheinheimer, as interim Regional Pastor for the Central Region. She is an ordained minister in Mennonite Church USA and a trained spiritual director. She is a member at College Mennonite Church. In addition to her work in spiritual direction, Jan brings experience from other ministry settings. Jan and her husband, Don, moved to San Antonio, Texas to work with a core of people in planting a church. They were at San Antonio from 1983–1992. She co-pastored with Don at Mountain Community Mennonite Church, Palmer Lake, Colorado from 1997–2007, and she was ordained during that time. They also spent two years with Mennonite Mission Network in Riobamba, Ecuador, where they co-pastored and helped plant a church. 4

IN-MI Mennonite Conference | Gospel Evangel | November/December 2012

impacting youth

Cultivating beauty and values This past fall, Wildwood (Engadine, Mich.) organized something we call our “Modeling Modesty” program. The program consisted of a series of eight workshops for teen girls, which ran over four months, and covered topics such as, what is modesty and why should I care about it, does it matter how we talk, inner beauty secrets, modesty through diet and actions, modesty in relationships, conflict resolution, and more. The wrapup activity was a “Modeling Modesty” fashion show.

By Janice Wagner, Wildwood Mennonite Church be modeling them. We included an outfit from Goodwill in the fashion show to highlight that you can dress nicely without spending a lot of money on new, brand name clothing. Everyone in the congregation participated by praying—from the beginning of the project and especially through the final week. Many other members of the congregation helped out in various ways. Some men constructed a runway in our sanctuary. Some women served as decorating crew and kitchen crew, making hors d’oeuvres to be served by girls in grades 2-6. Others promoted the show, helped with hair and makeup, and served as greeters, photographers, and sound technicians.

We tried to make our workshops as interactive as possible. We used local “experts” by inviting in guest presenters from area churches: a hairdresser, a dietitian, a counselor to teach conflict resolution, and a gym teacher to help with recreation and exercise. A manicurist brought along supplies, and we learned to care for our nails. The girls enjoyed discussing and discovering what they thought about purity, modesty, The program required a fair amount of time and prayer and other issues, as much as they did the grooming to see this idea through to its finish. It was important to have the involvement of the congregation to make portions of the workshops. it a success. Even though it was a big commitment, After completing the workshops, we used what we it had big rewards in building community within our learned to create a wardrobe of clothing and acces- congregation and providing the congregation an opsories to model in the fashion show. JC Penney and portunity to engage teens in thinking, and possibly Maurice’s were willing to partner with us and allowed rethinking, their values, with the goal of forming us to borrow merchandise to wear. A highlight of the beliefs centered in Biblical principles. program, both for the girls and the leaders, is the day we spend putting together outfits that both meet standards of modesty and reflect the personal styles of the girls who will

regional delegate meetings 2013 Regional delegate meetings provide an opportunity for fellowship, deliberation, worship, and feedback from congregations to the conference. They also set the stage for Annual Sessions. The meetings are hosted by different congregations each year, offering a good opportunity to become better acquainted with other conference members, sharing ideas and encouraging each other in our missional work. Meetings begin with refreshments in the morning at 8:30, include a light lunch, and end at 4:00 in the afternoon. Here is the meeting schedule: Central Region – February 9 at East Goshen Mennonite Church (Goshen, IN) Eastern Region – February 16 at Liberty Christian Fellowship (Somerset Center, MI)

Above: The girls in Goodwill outfits. Below: Younger girls in grades 2–6 served hors d’oeuvres at the fashion show. (Photos provided)

Southern Region – March 9 at First Mennonite Church (Indianapolis, IN) Western Region – March 16 at Church Without Walls (Elkhart, IN) Northern Region – March 23 at Rexton Mennonite Church (Naubinway, MI) Please add these meetings to your calendars, and keep them in your prayers. The conference office will distribute materials to delegates in advance of the meetings. For more information on the hosting congregations, please see our Congregational Directory online at

IN-MI Mennonite Conference


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November /December



christian formation

Discipleship at Fairhaven By Rachel A. Denlinger

This past year, Fairhaven engaged in a twelve-week series on discipleship. The series was started by pastor Keith Reynolds, who came to Fairhaven a year ago following a two year period in which the church had interim leadership. After a time of getting to know the members of his congregation and building relationships, Keith felt led to focus on discipleship and our formation as followers of Jesus. He says that the prompting toward discipleship emerged out of his own life’s convictions. Coming from a non-Christian background, he recognized the need to continually perfect our faith. The base text for the series was Matthew 28:19 in which Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Another important text was Philippians 1:6, where God promises that he will complete the work he began in us. Out of the series, a mid-week bible study developed in homes for further study of discipleship. Alongside Anabaptist theology, church members studied some of the teachings found in Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart. Keith says the response he has gotten is a general

sense of excitement about the series. In addition to study and personal reflection, the congregation has also begun to have intentional meals open to anyone in or outside of the church. Sometimes they meet in homes, or sometimes in coffee shops. The desire is to more actively engage the community. While salvation is instantaneous, Keith points out, sanctification is a process. We do not become disciples by mere association or confession. Rather it is an ongoing process that involves engaging in spiritual disciplines, fellowship in community, and service to others. Often there is either an overemphasis on personal piety through the spiritual disciplines, or on giving of ourselves for the needy and broken to the exclusion of personal development. It is finding a balance between the two that is important. “Too often,” Keith adds, “the definition of discipleship in the church is vague.” So the series has been an effort to flesh it out. “We as a church need to assess how clear our definition is, and examine how we are helping people grow in what it means to be Christ’s disciples.”

financial report

By Greg Leatherman Sommers November included some extraordinary efforts related to pastoral leadership and a related increase in spending. During the month, conference originated a new, interest-free student loan to a seminary student, and helped host the Pastoral Leadership Team retreat weekend at Amigo Centre. Please note that while spending was more than planned during November, our fiscal year to date expenses are $4,426 under budget Conference leadership is grateful to the generous congregations and individuals who fund this important work. Support received for conference work was higher than expected in November. Thank you! We encourage each congregation to support conference operations in four ways: prayer, personnel, funding and feedback. Please email us or provide feedback through the conference website.

Fiscal Year-to-date, 7/1/2012 - 11/30/2012 Pass-through funds:










$197,296 $0


November, 2012


$40,000 $80,000 $120,000 $160,000 $200,000 $240,000 $280,000 $320,000







IN-MI Mennonite Conference | Gospel Evangel | November/December 2012

conference update

Missional Leadership Team

By Neil Amstutz

On October 20, the Missional Leadership Team met at Conference headquarters in Goshen. Besides approving reports received on conference finances, and from Amigo Centre and conference staff, here are the highlights discussed:

• Approved possible next steps, after the June annual sessions, for follow-up progress on the conference priority of Undoing Racism and Advancing Intercultural Transformation

• In the absence of having an external facilitator, deferred to December’s meeting a structured conversation among MLT members of our own views on sexuality issues that are facing congregations

• Approved a letter from Stewardship Team to delegates explaining a planned approach for development, which would bolster the conference’s long-term financial situation

• Processed initially a response from within the conference to an MLT letter sent out last month to congregational pastors regarding issues of variance from official conference positions

• Gave affirmation and counsel to Conference Pastor Dan Miller for the demanding work he and other staff have been engaged in, including rejoicing in the recent hiring of a new Communications Coordinator, Rachel Denlinger

• Considered tentative plans for a potential conferencewide process to address issues of acceptable levels of

variance in belief and practices within the conference

at bethany

Why Jesus Matters

By Kevin Miller

During the week of November 5-9, as our nation focused attention on politics and listened to candidates’ messages of why they mattered and would make a difference in our lives, Bethany students and teachers joined other Christians around the country in deciding to focus attention in a different way­—why Jesus matters and makes the ultimate difference in our lives, as compared to other allegiances: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). In choosing this scripture and theme for Bethany’s Spiritual Life Week focus, Bible teacher Dale Shenk, who also pastors at Bonneyville, noted on behalf of the planning committee, “We are here at Bethany because Jesus matters in our lives. And we want our students to experience that—to feel affirmed in their faith commitments, called to deeper faith, and to discover how to be Christian while remaining tolerant and open to people who believe differently.” Throughout this week, speakers from both inside and outside the school shared aspects of why the centrality of Jesus matters in their lives, including: • Christ provides a foundation of stability for life (Rhonda Yoder, East Goshen) • Jesus, the awesome incarnation of God, desires a personal relationship with each person (Ron Diener, Pleasant View) IN-MI Mennonite Conference


Gospel Evangel


• Jesus serves as a role model on how to follow God daily (Calvin Swartzendruber, College Mennonite/Bethany science teacher) • Grace is free—no works are needed. Further, “I can believe with strong conviction that Jesus is the way to God, but that does not make me intolerant. What makes me intolerant is my actions towards others.” (Krysten Parson, Maple City Chapel/Bethany health/phys ed teacher and coach) Michael Yeakey (North Goshen/Bethany English teacher) also noted the importance of community in following Christ. In response to a question, “I believe Jesus matters, what should I do?” he responded, “Make a public declaration—receive instruction and become baptized. But also, find a group of people—a

Photo: Lighting candles as an act of commitment acknowledging that Jesus matters. Pictured are Bethany students Luke Schrock (First Mennonite, Middlebury), Matthew Smucker (Waterford), Hanna Hochstetler (Silverwood), and Wade Troyer (Kern Road). Photo by (continued on page 8) Sammy Kauffman (Bethany junior).

November /December



at amigo

at bethany

(continued from p. 7)

church or small group—who will love, challenge, and support you, and direct you in living a Christian life.” At the end of the week, students and teachers were invited to light candles as an act of commitment: perhaps thanking God for Jesus, or deciding to follow Jesus or renewing that commitment, or desiring to explore more about Jesus. It concluded with teachers offering a blessing to students, “May you be blessed by knowing Jesus in your life. And may you bless others by sharing the love of Jesus wherever you are.”

ministry transitions Lyle Miller was installed by Douglas Kaufman, conference pastor for leadership transitions, at Waterford as pastor of family life and financial stewardship on Oct. 14. He had previously been serving at Waterford as minister to children and interim minister to youth.


Randy Miller concluded as transitional pastor at Walnut Hill, Goshen, Ind., on July 31, before becoming transitional pastor at Howard-Miami on September 23.

Randy Detweiler was installed as pastor of Holdeman Mennonite Church, Wakarusa, IN, on December 2 by Douglas Kaufman, conference pastor for leadership transitions.

IN-MI Mennonite Conference | Gospel Evangel | November/December 2012

2012 Nov/Dec Gospel Evangel  
2012 Nov/Dec Gospel Evangel  

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