The Franklin Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA 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 1229 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 1163 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 2010 the following congregations were members of Franklin Mennonite Conference:
|Bethel Community Church||Warfordsburg||Pennsylvania|
|Cedar Street Mennonite Church||Chambersburg||Pennsylvania|
|Chambersburg Mennonite Church||Chambersburg||Pennsylvania|
|Christian Missionary Fellowship||Westminster||Maryland|
|Community Mennonite Church||Marion||Pennsylvania|
|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.
Mennonite Church USA Directory (2009): 50-51.
Mennonite Yearbook and Directory (1980).
Showalter, Roy Moab. Elders in Each Church. Morgantown, PA: Masthof Press, 2004.
Conference office: 4856 Molly Pitcher Highway South, Chambersburg, PA 17202
Website: [http://www.Franklin.Mennonite.net/ Franklin Mennonite Conference
Denominational Affiliation: Mennonite Church USA
|Mahlon D. Eshleman||1965-1996|
|Years of Service|
|Date Published||July 2010|
Cite This Article
Roth, Cedric. "Franklin Mennonite Conference (Mennonite Church USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2010. Web. 15 Mar 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Franklin_Mennonite_Conference_(Mennonite_Church_USA)&oldid=91793.
Roth, Cedric. (July 2010). Franklin Mennonite Conference (Mennonite Church USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 15 March 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Franklin_Mennonite_Conference_(Mennonite_Church_USA)&oldid=91793.
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