Franklin Mennonite Conference
The Franklin Mennonite Conference 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 1,229 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 1,163 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 2002 the conference joined Mennonite Church USA, following the merger of the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church. It remained a member of Mennonite Church USA until 18 April 2016, when at its annual spring delegate meeting in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, conference members voted to withdraw from the conference by a vote of 44 to 13 (77%). The action took effect immediately.
On 28 September 2017, the Franklin Mennonite Conference voted with a 92% majority to become a bishop district of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, which had itself voted in November 2015 to withdraw from Mennonite Church USA. In 2017 the conference had 14 congregations totaling roughly 1,000 members. The conference minister for Franklin, Allen Lehman, continued to serve as pastor to the congregational pastors in the district represented the Franklin District at the bishop board meetings of Lancaster Mennonite Conference. Associated organizations such as the Franklin Conference Mission Board and the conference’s publication, The Burning Bush, also continued.
In 2017 the following congregations were members of Franklin Mennonite Conference:
|Bethel Community Church||Warfordsburg||Pennsylvania|
|Cedar Grove Mennonite Church||Greencastle||Pennsylvania|
|Cedar Street Mennonite Church||Chambersburg||Pennsylvania|
|Christian Missionary Fellowship||Westminster||Maryland|
|Christian Missionary Fellowship-Riverdale||Hyattsville||Maryland|
|Community Mennonite Church||Boonsboro||Maryland|
|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.
"Franklin votes to join Lancaster." TheMennonite Daily News Posts. 29 September 2017. Web. 30 September 2017. https://themennonite.org/daily-news/franklin-votes-join-lancaster-conference/.
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
|Conference Bishops||Years of Service|
|Mahlon D. Eshleman||1965-1996|
|Conference Ministers||Years of Service|
|J. Allen Lehman||2013-present|
|Date Published||September 2017|
Cite This Article
Roth, Cedric. "Franklin Mennonite Conference." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 2017. Web. 23 May 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Franklin_Mennonite_Conference&oldid=161035.
Roth, Cedric. (September 2017). Franklin Mennonite Conference. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Franklin_Mennonite_Conference&oldid=161035.
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