On February 12, 2000, forty-seven persons from four states, representing at least twenty-four congregations from six MC conferences and one GC district, met in Smoketown, PA. The meeting place was chosen for its historical significance. More than twenty years earlier, another group of MC and GC leaders had met in the same room to discuss their concerns for the theological and spiritual direction of their denominations. That meeting resulted in what came to be known as "the Smoketown Statement," a six-part declaration which called for "a reaffirmation of the authority of scripture, a reexamination of priorities with emphasis on the saving power of the gospel, and a clear call for renewed emphasis on evangelism." This time, however, instead of preparing a statement calling for the spiritual renewal of their denominations, the assembly passed, on a unanimous vote, a motion calling for the development of a new affiliation of evangelical, Anabaptist congregations, which would serve as an alternative to the emerging Mennonite Church USA.
While EAF was well-represented at the meeting, we functioned only as facilitators for the discussion. We did not convene the meeting with a view to proposing and implementing our agenda. The action taken there was the consensus of a diverse group, most of whom were not EAF members.
Following that meeting a six-member steering committee was appointed, on which Vernon Myers and I represented EAF. The steering committee composed a prospectus which summarizes the doctrinal distinctives and practical expressions of discipleship which will characterize the new affiliation.
The prospectus was first circulated among the participants from the Smoketown meeting then, after minor revisions, was introduced to the general public on September 30, 2000. At that time the steering committee announced that the new affiliation, tentatively named The Associ-ation of Evangelical Mennonite Congregations (AEMC), will formally come into existence when ten congregations embrace the vision and sign on as charter members.
At the time of this writing in mid-June, four congregations have signed on, and several others are in process. A public meeting is scheduled for Saturday, September 29, 2001, at which time the steering committee hopes to announce the official formation of the AEMC. When that happens, the steering committee will go out of existence, and oversight of the new affiliation will become the responsibility of a group of persons representing each of the charter member congregations.
In light of the potential emergence of this new national affiliation, the rise of other regional groups around the country and in Canada, and other developments associated with the finalization of the MC/GC merger, the EAF Board of Directors, at regular meetings in February and early June, discussed a variety of options for the future of EAF. After careful consideration of the original purpose for the founding of this organization, the progress we have made in articulating our vision for evangelical Anabaptism over the years, and the prospects for fruitful ministry in the future apart from major reorganization, the board has come to a difficult but necessary decision. The Evangelical Anabaptist Fellowship will officially cease operation as of December 31, 2001. I will conclude my term of service as EAF Executive Secretary on September 30.