Oklahoma Mennonite Convention
Oklahoma Mennonite Convention (General Conference Mennonite) (Oklahoma Konvention der Mennoniten-Gemeinden) was organized 23 September 1899 at Shelly, OK, initiated by representatives of the Western District Conference, patterned after the early Kansas Conference. The first chairman and secretary were Christian Krehbiel and M. M. Horsch. Krehbiel in his opening address stated that the main purpose of this local conference was to emphasize the devotional and inspirational aspect, make arrangements for pulpit exchange, promote evangelistic services, and to make provision for worship services at places where only a few families were located. H. D. Penner discussed the question of how the educational facilities among the Mennonites of Oklahoma could be improved, suggesting the founding of a teachers' conference and a teachers' institute. The possibility of the establishment of a preparatory school was discussed. The following communities were represented: Washita and Weatherford 49 representatives, Geary 8, Mennoville 7, Omega 2, Cantonment 1, Medford 1, Cleo 1, Lahoma 1, Deer Creek 1, Holt 1, Kansas 17, and Berne, IN 1. Of the total of 260-270 who attended the meetings, 90 were registered.
The meetings of the convention were held annually at various places, usually in October or November, lasting from two to three days. At the 1901 session it was decided to change the name from "Oklahoma Lokalkonferenz und Sonntagschul-Konvention" to "Jährliche Konvention der Mennoniten-Gemeinden in Oklahoma." The minutes often speak of "Oklahoma Mennoniten - Konvention" or "Sunday School Convention." Questions raised at these meetings concerned the Sunday-school materials to be used, and whether the sisters of the Sunday school were entitled to vote. It was decided that since they were teaching they should have the privilege to vote when teachers were elected (1903). The contact with the Western District Conference was lively. Representatives from it continued to be present and to appear on the program. The meetings usually started on Sunday with a mission festival and a children's program in the evening. On Monday and Tuesday lectures, discussions, and business matters followed. Deaconess work, the establishment of a Mennonite hospital in Oklahoma, home missions, missions among the Indians, and many other questions were presented. The ministers of Kansas congregations were encouraged to ask their members who had left for Oklahoma to join the Mennonite congregations of their communities. The conference of 1907 wrote to the governor of Oklahoma promising support in the enforcement of the prohibition clause. In 1917 it was resolved, "That a committee of three be created to take in hand the matter of starting an academy." This school was started during the same year in connection with the existing preparatory school of Meno established by J. B. Epp. This newly created school later became known as the Oklahoma Bible Academy. Some of the outstanding leaders of the early Oklahoma Convention were P. R. Voth, John Lichti, H. Riesen, J. K. Moyer, Chr. Hirschler, Albert Claassen, J. J. Ratzlaff, and J. G. Baergen.
During World War I the Convention dealt with numerous questions pertaining to conscientious objection to war and the anti-German feeling of the day. During this time special sessions took place. For a while the meetings of the convention took place in spring. In the mid-1950s the meeting began on the Friday of the last week of September. Matters pertaining to the Sunday school were discussed and the reports of the Go Ye Mission were given. On Saturday the reports on the Oklahoma Bible Academy, business sessions, and the Women's Missionary Society program followed. On Sunday afternoon a song festival was given and in the evening the young people's program. During this time the convention had two major committees: the Program Committee and the Church Workers' Committee. The latter sponsored the Church Workers' Conference in spring and young people's retreat and camp at Hydro.
"Protokoll-Buch der Lokal-Konferenz der Mennoniten-Gemeinden in Oklahoma." (1899-1923). Mennonite Library and Archives, Bethel College (North Newton, Kansas, USA)
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 37. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Krahn, Cornelius. "Oklahoma Mennonite Convention." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O5143.html.
APA style: Krahn, Cornelius. (1959). Oklahoma Mennonite Convention. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O5143.html.