Ohio Conference affirms Confession of Faith

Actions mandated on issues of credentialing and same-sex relationships

Mar 24, 2015 by and

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Mennonite Church USA’s Ohio Conference delegates passed a resolution on March 14 stating its credentialing committee will not recognize any request to credential a pastor in a same-sex relationship. Additionally, credentials of ministers who perform same-sex ceremonies will be suspended.

Jeff Kauffman, lead pastor of Zion Mennonite Church in Archbold, Ohio, shares during an open mic session at the Ohio Mennonite Conference annual assembly. — Bryan Leaman

Jeff Kauffman, lead pastor of Zion Mennonite Church in Archbold, Ohio, shares during an open mic session at the Ohio Mennonite Conference annual assembly. — Bryan Leaman

These are listed as “action steps” after an affirmation of the Confession of Faith that emphasizes support for Article 19, which states marriage is between a man and a woman for life.

The resolution had 70 percent support — 163 in favor and 67 opposed — at the annual assembly March 13-14 at Martins Creek Mennonite Church in Millersburg.

Tom Kauffman, Ohio’s conference minister, said that since Mountain States Mennonite Conference licensed a minister in a same-sex partnership in February 2014, the conference has been discussing its position on same-sex sexuality and discipline.

In the process, the leadership committee formed and distributed guidelines regarding the steps that would be taken if churches or pastors acted out of line with Article 19.

“I think for some people the feeling was we need some kind of a binding resolution that commits us to this, rather than just hearing a report that says, ‘This is what we will do if such and such happens,’ ” Kauffman said.

So the leadership committee wrote the action steps, including three for the leadership committee, as part of the resolution affirming the MC USA founding documents.

One amendment passed to include that pastors performing same-sex ceremonies would not just be reviewed but would have their credentials suspended with a review “to determine whether to reinstate (with repentance and recommitment) or to terminate or withdraw credentials.”

Kauffman said the conference leadership committee took into account the results of the MC USA credentialed leaders survey, which revealed in January that 64 percent of Ohio Conference leaders want to uphold the church’s current view of marriage. Churchwide, the number was 43 percent.

“I think having this explicitly stated was a way of both affirming and confirming where we as a conference find ourselves,” Kauffman said.

Committed to stay?

During the year, four congregations left Ohio Conference, citing concerns over the direction of the conference and the denomination.

Kauffman said many have asked whether this new resolution may keep more churches from leaving.

He said that shortly after the assembly leaders received a letter of appreciation from a congregation that had been reviewing its commitment to the conference.

“They’re committed to staying with us now,” he said.

He also knows of two congregations involved with a new network of churches planning to launch this fall. He doesn’t think this resolution will keep them in the conference or MC USA.

Other congregations appreciated the resolution, “but what happens at Kansas City will continue to play an important role in their experience,” he said, referring to the MC USA delegate assembly in July.

“As leadership we’re committed to providing direction for our conference while at the same time remaining in Mennonite Church USA. We don’t see the Membership Guidelines changing, we don’t see the Confession of Faith being changed. So we don’t see any reason to disengage.”

Cap spending

Another resolution passed March 14 to put a cap on reserve spending — something the conference has been tapping into to maintain its current structure.

The conference is nearing the end of a five-year plan that required generating new income to be sustainable.

“We haven’t been able to generate the kind of turnaround that we feel like we need to keep staffing at this level,” Kauffman said. “So this will be a year of examining what we have the capacity to deliver.”

See also: Ohio resolution asking for discipline falls short

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