Count the Mennonite Church USA among the denominations passing resolutions over same-sex weddings, pastor officiations, and other hot-button issues. But it is not coming without cost as it loses over 15 percent of its members in just four years.
In late May, the church’s governing body passed three resolutions committing to what they described as LGBTQ inclusion. They include repealing a previously placed rule banning pastors from officiating at same-sex weddings.
They retired the 20-year-old Membership Guidelines that described “homosexual, extramarital and premarital sexual activity” as immoral and sinful. That vote passed 404-84 with three abstentions, according to MC USA.
During a special assembly in Kansas City, the denomination passed a resolution stating that it has committed “violence against LGBTQ people” and is committed to LGBTQ inclusion. There was not, however, overwhelming support for the unusual wording as it the resolution passed with a vote of just 55.7 percent.
The denomination also passed a motion, called the Resolution for Repentance and Transformation, repealing a guideline that previously barred pastors from officiating at same-sex marriages. Nearly 83 percent of the delegates at a special assembly voted to repeal the ban on the ordination of same-sex marriages.
“Excluding LGBTQIA people from the church is a rejection of God’s joyous delight in the diversity of creation and a denial of the divine image and breath animating all humankind,” the resolution said.
The motion also calls for an LGBTQ constituency group to be formed, for denominational resources to be created for local congregations about repentance and reconciliation, and for LGBTQ people to be celebrated in future theological statements.
But, critics say, Mennonite leadership wants it both ways and their resolutions contradict official policy.
Despite approving the new resolution on same-sex weddings, the denomination’s official confession still affirms that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. “Mennonites have a tendency to stack confessions,” Glen Guyton, the denomination’s executive director, said. “So we don’t necessarily get rid of one or revise them. We create new ones that reflect who we are at a certain period of time.”
He added that the latest resolution is more symbolic than anything, because it will not be forced on local congregations and conferences.
“This action, and I say this carefully, is more symbolic in some ways than it is indicative of actual changes that are going to happen at the congregational or conference level,” Guyton said. “But it is a big symbol, I think, for many.”
The denomination continues to dwindle as “conferences” pull out over the issue. In 2018 the biggest of MC USA’s 25 conferences, the Lancaster Mennonite Conference ended its 46-year affiliation with America’s top Anabaptist denomination. The denomination immediately lost 15 percent of its members.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice