Gulf States Conference decides not to withdraw

But several congregations expected to leave MC USA

Nov 3, 2014 by and

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A proposal for Gulf States Mennonite Conference to withdraw from Mennonite Church USA failed to pass at the Nov. 1 annual assembly at Des Allemands (La.) Mennonite Church. However, that doesn’t mean a majority of Gulf States congregations will remain with the denomination.

Leaving MC USA would require changing Gulf States’ constitution, and the 60 percent vote fell short of the required two-thirds. Conference moderator Mark Roth, a district minister who attends Open Door Mennonite Church in Jackson, Miss., said 55 delegates attended the assembly.

Gulf States has about 700 members in 12 congregations and is one of MC USA’s smallest conferences. A series of actions and decisions across MC USA concerning sexuality issues led to the conference’s vote.

Delegates decided to appoint a task force to explore how to move ahead. The nine-person group, which includes Roth, plans to release a report by Jan. 31.

“When you have a reality of 60 percent who want to leave, we have to deal with that,” he said. “Our task force is equally composed of people on both sides of the issue, so it is representative.”

Delegates agreed congregations won’t leave the conference until the report is released. The first step for the task force will be to determine in the next couple of weeks which congregations want to remain with Gulf States.

“Several congregations have said at the meeting they will be pulling out,” Roth said. “I really don’t know how many, and it’s come to my attention that some are undecided.”

The conference faces several questions, including whether it can remain viable with just a few congregations.

“Somebody pointed out that’s how we started, and we have grown, so there’s a difference of opinion,” Roth said. “At this point there’s just a lot of unknowns we have to work on.”

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