MC USA won’t recognize Colorado pastor’s licensing

Jul 1, 2014 by and

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The Mennonite Church USA national conference will not recognize the licensing of a Colorado pastor in a committed same-sex relationship.

MC USA announced the decision July 1 by the Executive Board at its June 26-28 meeting in Chicago.

As a result, Theda Good, a pastor at First Mennonite Church in Denver, will not be listed in the national ministerial database.

Mountain States Mennonite Conference licensed Good in February, prompting protests from several other area conferences.

Now the denomination’s top leadership board has asked Mountain States not to consider Good for ordination — the next step of credentialing for ministry — unless the national delegate assembly “changes the stated polity on same-sex marriage.”

The MC USA Confession of Faith says marriage is only for one man and one woman.

Not recognizing Good’s licensing, and asking that she not be ordained, were among eight actions the board approved based on recommendations from a task force.

The 18 board members approved the actions nearly unanimously, said Ervin Stutzman, MC USA executive director.

One action says Mountain States “failed to honor their relational covenant” with other area conferences by licensing Good. It urges Mountain States “to renew their commitment to the foundational documents” of MC USA.

Another says the denomination will not recognize the credentialing of any person in a same-sex relationship.

In an interview, Stutzman acknowledged that this response to Good’s licensing tests the national board’s credentialing authority.

“Isn’t it totally in the hands of an area conference to decide credentialing? The answer is no,” he said. “The authority the board sees for itself is in how we set the guidelines for credentialing.”

The board’s report says ministerial credentials “reflect a calling from the local congregation but also represent the whole denomination” and that “our denomination as a whole has not agreed to license or ordain a person in a same-sex marriage.”

Noting that “we do not have adequate clarity from the delegate body as to how to faithfully handle” differences on sexuality, the board outlined three steps:

  • Providing resources on sexuality for use by congregations and conferences, as well as opportunities for Bible study and discernment at the next biennial assembly in Kansas City next summer.
  • Developing “new processes, including an exploration of new structural models, in the pursuit of healthy ways to promote our unity in Christ in the midst of diverse expressions of faith and the serious differences that have arisen between and among our area conferences.”
  • Surveying all credentialed ministers in preparation for a time of discernment at the July 2015 convention.

“We confess that the board could have prepared the church to meet the challenges of our disagreements in more effective ways,” the report said.

According to a news release, Stutzman reported that the denomination expects to end the 2013-14 fiscal year this month with a strong positive balance, thanks to increased donations from individuals and MC USA agencies as well as staff efforts to reduce expenses.

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  • QueerMenno – Jen Yoder

    Words of hope:

    “I must shout from the rooftops that the Spirit cannot be contained. No matter the walls or the divisions that you or the Exec. Board try to put up, hope and a movement toward justice will always continue. Pink isn’t going anywhere. Actually, that’s not true. It’s spreading. And it will continue to spread. I just hope and pray that Pink reaches everyone before MC USA does more damage to those who have been told they don’t have a place in this church. Hope continues.

    The Spirit will prevail.” – Luke Yoder

  • Stephen Johnson

    Reading the above article it seems like the Board kicked the ball down the road. Using the Confession of Faith rather than directly addressing the issue seems a little like a shaky but it may be the best that they were able to accomplish without risking a schism in the church. It is my hope and prayer that we as a body can work through this. Avoidance will only make things worse.

  • John Blase

    The Bible tells me so!

    “How I weep for you, my brother Jonathan! Oh, how much I loved you! And your love for me was deep, deeper than the love of women!” 2nd Samuel 1:26

    Ah the love of two men
    The bible itself declares
    It is deeper than the
    Love of a woman!

    I’m sure the same can be said
    Of two women deeply connected
    Deeper than the love of any man!
    The bible declares it so!

    The bible says it
    I believe it
    That settles it
    Tell me it isn’t so!

    Mennonite Church USA
    Tells me it isn’t so
    It’s man made White
    Heterosexist, privileged
    Power structure overrides
    The Bible…
    Tell me it isn’t so!

    He (MCUSAEB) rejects ministry
    Not fitting into his
    Outdated confessions
    He truly is blinded
    By his power and privilege.

    His gender is meaningless
    Unfortunately his White men
    Regardless of assigned gender
    Screams I am White, Male,
    Heterosexist power in the name
    Of Mennonite USA

    Hear oh Mennonite for
    The Lord your God is
    Is Mennonite Church USA Executive Board
    His son constituency-leaders-council
    He alone hears the Spirit of God for today’s Church!

    How dare you think that the Almighty can call a Lesbian
    Who does not fit our definition for ministry!
    We alone have the power, the privilege to know
    The mind of God, for we have made God
    In our Own image and likeness! We, alone have that Power
    submit to our Privilege, to our confession!

    No matter that past male leadership used their power,
    Their privilege to rape women
    in the name of Mennonite leadership!
    Oh, It’s ok, it was opposite sex Rape!

    But you, oh LGBTQ children of Menno, our bastards
    We must reject, we must ignore you
    Because our confessions,
    Reject you as loved by our God,
    Reject you because to us
    You are defects, you are invisible
    You have been deceived
    That God loves you!
    Oh tell me it isn’t so.

    Realize that our word is final!
    Jesus get it? Your words are untrue!
    Oh we have changed His definition of unconditional
    Universal love. For we are supreme MCUSAEB—
    Mennonite Magisterium! Pope MCUSAEB!

    For we are Mennonite Church USA Executive Board!
    Our words supersede the Word of God!
    There is no other God beside us…there is no Word beside
    Our word of White, male, heterosexist, religious privilege!
    We are the Power, we are the interpreters of the Law!

    And Jesus said to them,
    “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor
    allow those who would enter to go in.” Mt. 23:13

    Oh yes, I learned as a child!
    I remember now

    Jesus loves me this I know
    For the bible tells me so…
    And He knows
    I was created Gay and saw what He had made
    And said, “It is very good!”

    • Elaine Fehr

      John, I sincerely hope you are not suggesting that the love that David expressed here for Jonathon after his death was implying that they were in a homosexual relationship. That would be a gross misrepresentation of David’s lamentation.

  • James Regier

    The longer MCUSA puts justice on hold, the more young people it will lose, and that is a fact. Many of my generation and those behind me are weary of “Christianity” being defined by whom it excludes as unworthy. If the image that so many have of the church as a bastion of bigotry, which uses thin scriptural reference to justify prejudices, cannot be shaken, the cause is lost.

    Values such as peace, justice, compassion, forgiveness, and love of neighbor resonate with many, and ought to be the core of what we are about.

    The path is clear. The longer MCUSA continues to punt in the name of “unity”, the more out of touch it seems to everyone. It’s not like conservatives are choosing loyalty over splitting, as one writer called it.

    On the other hand, one cannot expect those who seek justice to have infinite patience for an institution that seems to continually thwart them. How long can one of good conscience continue to ride a segregated bus?

    • Bruce Leichty

      I for one am prepared to lose the young people who would make this a litmus test for their participation in the church. A corrupted and blinded generation fancies itself as the vanguard for Christianity but is instead seduced by the secular siren song of anti-discrimination politics. This observation may not strike some as loving or compassionate, but I assure you — and our forebears knew this — that these stern words are not incompatible with those traits of a gracious Lord. Full gospel = good information whether it is easy to hear or we want to hear it or not. .

      • James Regier

        And Bruce, how’s this stance worked out for you?

        • Bruce Leichty

          That may be one of the differences between us, James. Even if the question is sincere (and I unfortunately suspect that it is not), it is secondary. I haven’t counted the cost. I would submit that a “results-oriented” approach to faithfulness is better fitted for disciples of Caiaphas or Pilate than Jesus.

          • James Regier

            Actually, the question is posed quite sincerely. I agree that “results-oriented” is not the best measure. Many initiatives to feed the hungry, validate the de-valued, humanize the dehumanized, and similar, meet considerable resistance. Even among professed Christians. The sort of thing Matthew 5:11-12 talked about.

            However, Matthew 5:11-12 is somewhat challenging. On the one hand, if one is criticized and ostracized for doing right and following Christ, then that is ultimately not a bad thing.

            On the other hand, it has often been misused. There have been many who have been criticized and ostracized for being jerks claiming to follow Christ, but really just being jerks who are bent on the same piety and exclusion against which Jesus so consistently argued elsewhere. Jesus’ harshest condemnation was for those in the temple and in society who deigned, in their piety, to decide others unfit for God’s kingdom. Jesus was all about reminding people of the breadth of God’s mercy and God’s love, and consistently warned that seeking to exclude people from that love is among the gravest of sins.

            Ultimately, there must be some level of community discernment between the former and the latter uses of that passage from Matthew. The mass exodus of youth–which, if trends hold, could spell out the slow death of the faith by attrition–is, at least in my mind, a sign of the latter.

          • Bruce Leichty

            “There have been many who have been criticized and ostracized for being jerks claiming to follow Christ, but really just being jerks….” Can you give me an example from the Mennonite world? In my circles we would try not to regard even the Fred Phelpses or Jim Joneses or Jim Bakkers or Moses David Bergs of the world “jerks” (or “pigs” or a number of other epithets you have used in these columns for your adversaries) regardless of how blind or predatory they may be. I suppose you could say it’s a “breadth of mercy” thing.

            It also seems very odd to me that you (and you are not alone in this) that when Mennonites these days look at the “class” of adversaries that Jesus defied they often see Christian leaders accused of lack of mercy rather than a hypocritical Empire-compliant Judaic elite (both scribes and pharisees) who were in fact Jesus’ main adversaries, as they continue to be today in different and arguably more powerful guise. Where does this theological conditioning come from? .

          • Herbert Reed

            It seems to me that the scribes and pharisees were most interested in protecting the religious orthodoxy of their time above all other considerations and that is what Jesus opposed – particularly the hypocrisy of allowing merchants to defile the temple and oppress the poor while being legalistic regarding Mosaic Law. It seems to me that those welcoming LGBTQ Christians are not the pharisees of our time.

          • Berry Friesen

            Herb, I tend to agree with you, although your comment sent me to my Bible where I discovered that those conspiring to kill Jesus after his outrageous action in the temple court were “chief priests and scribes,” not Pharisees. There may have been some among the “chief priests and scribes” sympathetic to the community-oriented renewal movement of the Pharisees, but not many as I understand it. Thus in Mark and Luke, out of 39 references to “Pharisees,” only 1 occurs in the passages related to Jesus’ time in Jerusalem at the end of his life. Mark and Luke portray his interactions with Pharisees as occurring almost entirely in the smaller cities and countryside.

            But I think we can agree that Bruce’s phrase (“Empire-compliant Judaic elite”) accurately describes those who were Jesus’ main adversaries in Jerusalem.

            A conversation partner recently suggested that Jesus’ quarrel with the
            Pharisees was not over their insistence that the righteousness (justice) of
            YHWH entailed a particular kind of life, but rather over their love for using standards of righteousness (justice) to punish and create a spiritual pecking order (to use a barnyard metaphor).

            I see value in this suggestion for us in MC USA congregations. It neither tells us to stick together nor to go our separate ways, only that we apply our respective standards of righteousness (justice) in an invitational way and without an attitude of self-righteousness.

          • Herbert Reed

            Maybe I read too much into it but I saw Bruce’s convoluted description as attempting to compare LGBTQ defenders with pharisees but on rereading it, he may have been comparing MCUSA leaders to pharisees – in any case, I think comparing any group within the church to pharisees is probably neither justified nor useful in furthering dialogue on this issue.

      • Herbert Reed

        “seduced by the secular siren song of anti-discrimination politics.”
        I would only point out the same language could have been used against the young people joining the Freedom Riders, etc in Mississippi and Alabama in 1963-1964. So maybe they should welcome such a characterization rather than be shamed by it? Are you so certain that Jesus would condemn “anti-discrimination politics?”

  • Lisa_Schirch

    It is embarrassing to be a Mennonite when we look back in history at how Mennonite’s refused to allow African Americans into their institutions. The deep racism of the church in the past was shaped not by Biblical teachings, but by secular racism. Today, the church is guided by secular homophobia. Future generations of Mennonites will look back at this decision by MCUSA and shake their heads. The same secular arguments for racism are now used to justify homophobia and exclusion of GLBTQ people.

    How can Anabaptist leaders be so convinced that their job as Christians is to judge, to exclude, and to punish rather than to listen, to respect, to be humble and to show compassion? How can Anabaptist leaders who believe in the “priesthood of all believers” sanction churches that challenge church hierarchy and doctrine – when this pursuit of following a moral compass rather than submit to an unjust church doctrine is exactly the reason why Anabaptists split off from the morally corrupt Church in the 1500s?

  • Berry Friesen

    The most likely way we can stay together as a church is if the leaders of the 5 or 6 largest area conferences sit down together SOON and hammer out a resolution they all will support when the delegates convene in Kansas City. This resolution will be more theologically traditional than what liberals want and it will give area conferences more latitude to respond to same-sex couples than the membership guidelines currently allow (including blessings of same gender commitments).

    Whether Mennonites still have enough confidence in leaders for this sort of compromise to be hammered out by a small group of insiders is far from clear. But it is what could save us from schism.

    In the meantime, let’s hope we can all get real about the role of Ervin Stutzman and the Executive Board. They clarify, resource, facilitate and guide, important roles they carried out well in their recent meetings. But they won’t decide our future. That role is in the hands of our conference leaders.

    Mennonites have a long history of nonconformity to conventional views on war, military service, slavery, litigation, consumerism and nationalism. Telling a bunch of Mennos that they are being “hateful” if they don’t start mimicking urban Democrats may feel good to urban Democrats, but as advocacy it does more harm than good because it strongly suggests advocates for change hold different core convictions than traditionally minded folks.

    I know there are advocates for change among us who love the Mennonite Church we have, not only the one they wish we had. So let’s hope those advocates are not intimidated by the divisive words of pretend advocates who espouse unity while serving the cause of division.

  • Conrad Ermle

    Neither same sex marriage or same sex sexual relationships are Biblical, and certainly not natural. I, too, will shout it from the rooftops that the Spirit cannot be contained”. There is deliverance for all. There is victory in Jesus, and thousands who were caught up in same sex relationships have been set free
    — Conrad Ermle

  • Kelli Yoder

    Just a reminder that writers must sign their first and last names for their comments to be considered.

  • Cyndi Schultz

    I went to a Mennonite Church as a kid growing up. Parents are Lutheran. What I loved about the church was how they always talked about God’s love. Now they are into politics just like every other Christian faith. I miss the old ways,the dress,prayer covering,being in this world, not of it. Very disappointed.

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