Lawrence Mennonite Fellowship/Peace Mennonite Church
Compiled by Anne Bailey
Thoughts from Rod Hofer—
“The informal volleyball gatherings of Mennonites were purely social and occurred in 1973 and before. By 1973 John Janzen was organizing what I would refer to as seminars on various topics to be held in homes on alternate Sunday afternoons. We disbanded for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas because we were mostly graduate students and went home for the holidays. We also disbanded in the summer except for an occasional social event. We tended to have a number of history or philosophy graduate students like Bill Juhnke and Dave Schmidt as well as KU professors like John Janzen and Helmut and Ursula Huelsbergen to lead the discussions. The membership was always in flux due to the preponderance of graduate students who eventually moved on to start their careers. By the late 70s the only houses large enough to consistently hold the group were the Janzen’s, Heulesbergen’s, and our house. In the early 80s, Western District offered to provide monetary assistance for us to hire a pastor. We started meeting every Sunday in homes until we grew enough that we decided to rent space at ECM. Helmut and Ursula were German. He was German Mennonite and one of the first Wupperthal exchange students at Bethel. He became chairman of the German department at KU. Ursula was Roman Catholic. They would attend Mass on Sunday morning and Mennonite Fellowship on the alternate Sunday afternoons.
The children might be interested in how long ago this was so I have attached pictures of Marika, Felix’s mom, and her sister Gesina from the 1970s.
The children might be interested in how long ago this was so I have attached pictures of Marika, Felix’s mom, and her sister Gesina from the 1970s.”
End quote from Rod Hofer.
Pastors of Lawrence Mennonite Fellowship/Peace Mennonite Church
1980 to Spring,1984—John Lindscheid
In 1980, John became the first pastor to be hired by the Lawrence [Kansas] Mennonite Fellowship [now Peace Mennonite Church]. Church was held at the Ecumenical Campus Ministries building on the KU campus. The congregation was funded as a church planting effort by the Western District Conference of the General Conference Mennonite Church. His pastoral duties included maintaining strong ties with the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice and he helped to lead the coalition in conducting referendum for a Nuclear Weapons Freeze.
John came out as a gay man to his family and a few friends in the late 1970s but remained publicly closeted. In the early 1980s, John wrote a number of pro-gay articles for the Brethren Mennonite Council for Gay Concerns (BMC). In 1983, he became one of the first Mennonite pastors in the United States to come out publicly. The congregation, divided on how to respond, decided to retain him as pastor on an interim basis. However, the district conference demanded John’s ouster as a condition for continued funding. In May 1984, John left Lawrence. Although John had been approved for ordination (he had been licensed until then), his coming out brought a cancellation of plans for that step. https://www.lgbtran.org/Profile.aspx?ID=30
Spring,1984 to Fall, 1984—Harley Wagler (Iterim)
1984 to 1991—Jean Hendricks
1991 to 1992—Joy Lapp (Interim)
1992 to1999—Rod Stafford, members changed name to Peace Mennonite Church, and worship moved upstairs at ECM.
1999 to 2001—Al Lind (Interim)
June, 2001—Joined the Supportive Communities (Congregations) Network (SCN).
The Supportive Communities (Congregations) Network (SCN), is a group of communities supported by Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests (BMC), has grown to include 100 Mennonite and Church of the Brethren Communities.
In order to hold the SCN designation, a congregation must undertake a deliberate process of education and discernment, develop a welcoming statement that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and be public about its affirmation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer church members. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, we spent many months/years discussing joining the SCN, and ultimately joined in 2001. Many people left the church during this time of tension and conflict.
2001to 2003—Vicki Penner
2004 to 2005—Kathy Neufeld Dunn (Interim)
2006 to Present—Joanna Harader
In the summer of 2011, Joanna officiated a same-sex wedding ceremony. With full support of Peace Mennonite Church’s congregation, a letter was drafted prior to the wedding and sent to the Western District Mennonite Conference, informing them of Joanna’s intended action. Upon receiving this letter by the WDC, Joanna was informed that such an action would be “at variance” with the denomination’s official statement on gay marriage. With the congregation’s support, Joanna proceeded with the wedding. Per denominational policy this wedding triggered a review of Joanna’s ministerial credentials, as well as many conversations with people who agreed with Joanna, and many conversations with people who disagreed. Throughout the process, Joanna spoke knowledgably and eloquently at every opportunity—using the Bible as a tool of love, not as a tool of power and hate. She made her voice heard as a voice of love….making it personal on every level. A group of five (?) church members travelled with Joanna to Newton for her appearance before the WDC Leadership Commission. The Commission could not come to consensus about her credentials and so the decision went to a vote. The vote was for Joanna to retain her ordination credentials that had been granted by WDC. There were small support groups at conferences…..regionally and nationally (Mennonite Church USA) that sought out Joanna as a “trailblazer” in the Mennonite Church. In July, 2012, at a WDC conference, a resolution was brought forth by another church*, calling for the suspension of Joanna’s ministerial credentials because she officiated a same-sex ceremony. Ultimately, the delegates voted to retain Joanna’s credentials and to include a note on her profile that states that her actions were “at variance” with denominational guidelines. Peace Mennonite Church joined a small yet important group of churches and pastors that were speaking out for the voices of the LGBTQ community.
*The congregation that brought forth the resolution to suspend Joanna’s credentials, soon left the WDC after the vote.
2007—Purchased property in North Lawrence for worship in June, and had our first worship service on Sunday, June 17, 2007—our first permanent space in over 30 years of Mennonite meetings!
2018—Broke ground in spring to add a sanctuary, classrooms, and more office space.
2018—First worship service in the newly renovated Peace Mennonite Church, Sunday, July 22, 2018.