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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