MC USA board sends ‘forbearance’ resolution to delegates

Apr 13, 2015 by and

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“Forbearance” is the key word of a resolution the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board will send to convention delegates in July.

mcusaMeeting April 6-8 in Kansas City, Mo., the board approved the resolution — along with three others and one that’s still being worked on — for delegates’ consideration.

“We think it has the potential to help us live together with our disagreements,” said Ervin Stutzman, MC USA executive director, in a telephone interview after the meeting.

The board calls the statement “a resolution on forbearance.” It states that there is no consensus within MC USA about how LGBT people should be included in the church and calls on members “to offer grace, love and forbearance toward conferences, congregations and pastors in our body who, in different ways, seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ on matters related to same-sex covenanted unions.”

The resolution is sponsored by Chicago Community Mennonite Church, North Baltimore Mennonite Church and Reba Place Church in Evanston, Ill.

The Constituency Leaders Council affirmed the resolution in March, choosing it over two other proposed statements on sexuality and church polity.

The Executive Board also approved three other resolutions for the Kansas City convention agenda:

  • “Faithful Witness Amid Endless War” calls for a recommitment to the way of peace and a rejection of drone warfare.
  • “A Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse” mourns the ways sexual violence has been present within MC USA and offers several commitments and steps to prevent future abuse.
  • A resolution on Israel-Palestine offers support for continued Mennonite learning tours to the region as well as a commitment to the work for peace with justice there.

Still being written

Board members produced another resolution, which is still in development, that seeks to clarify the relationship between the MC USA Membership Guidelines; the new Mennonite polity manual, A Shared Understanding of Church Leadership; and the resolution on forbearance.

A news release reported that the board passed the resolution, which will be released no later than May 1, by a vote of 12 to 2.

Stutzman said the statement seeks to balance accountability and forbearance. It will give area conferences more responsibility “to work out the agreements we have” in a process of “peer-to-peer review,” he said. It will call on the CLC to take a more active role of accountability as a group of “elders.”

The board also talked about possibilities for new types of associations or fraternal relationships.

“In this time of stress and change, we need to recognize that Christian faith is about relationships and how we follow Jesus together,” Stutzman said. “Relationships are more important than formal structures.”

The need for such relationships is emerging due to congregations withdrawing from MC USA. Some that have left or are thinking about leaving are forming a new network that may launch this year.

“We are willing to negotiate about what a relationship looks like when [a group] may not want to be part of a formal structure,” Stutzman said.

An associate conference category, similar to the relationship Conservative Mennonite Conference had with the former Mennonite Church, might be created.

The board believes associate relationships are just as important for groups interested in a closer relationship with MC USA.

“We want all parts of the church to be able to flourish, and we’re open to exploring ways to continue to collaborate,” Stutzman said in the news release.

Updating the plan

Stutzman presented the board with a list of new goals, which include planning for a church-planting summit, re-evaluating the scope and form of MC USA conventions and reviewing policies for sexual misconduct.

The board asked staff to include a new priority within the Purposeful Plan that emphasizes a commitment to outreach, evangelism and church revitalization. The board recognized that many congregations “are struggling with their identity and with numbers and that many Mennonites are not comfortable with evangelism,” according to the new release. The board urged staff to give greater time and energy to these initiatives.

The board received a preliminary report on the results of a delegate survey from sociologist Conrad Kanagy of Elizabethtown, Pa. The results will not be released publicly until after the survey closes on May 7.

Contributing: Mennonite Church USA staff.

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  • Conrad Ermle

    Are there no biblical “absolutes” as far as our church is concerned? Why must everything be diluted in “compromise”. “Compromise” is political and belongs in Congress and our Legislatures. Truth is absolute and cannot be discarded that easily. We’ll eventually empty the churches. — Conrad Ermle

    • Matthew Hunsberger

      Compromise is, in fact, Biblical and was used in the New Testament when there were disagreements about “biblical absolutes”. (See Acts 15)

      • Conrad Ermle

        Acts 15 is not a compromise. These were not politicians. The decision was the revelation of the Holy Spirit and did not I any way contradict “It is written”. I think it’s time for us to grow up spiritually, don’t you.

    • Grant Klassen

      No, Ermie, there are very few biblical absolutes. Even Jesus re-interpreted the scriptures . . . how may times did he say, “You have heard ….” (most Israelites wouldn’t have read, they’d have heard others reading); followed by “But I say to you …”. Would you say that now that Jesus has spoken, there are no other ways to be faithful than the ones you consider to be absolutes?

      Many Christians don’t even consider “Thou shalt now kill”, a direct and very clear commandment, as something to be followed absolutely.

      It doesn’t sound to me like the board is working for a ‘compromise’. They’re acknowledging that there is no consensus sight. They’re proposing that we recognize that there are more than one way to look at issues, while still seeking to be faithful.

  • Fred J Morgan (Jeff)

    The Council at Jerusalem was not about “BIBLICAL ABSOLUTES” but instead those who were using Jewish Law for Christians. There was NO COMPROMISE but a statement that Christians are not YOKED to the Law but saved by Grave….. Actually I think @Ermle was correct in his statement, the MC continues to towards world conformity and water down the Anabatist tradition of Biblical faith.

  • Phil Schroeder

    Perhaps the progressives that are pushing for the reclassification of homosexuallity as “non-sinful” should be the ones to embrace forbearance and accept the church’s historical and biblical view. This is not being unloving, just faithful to God. It hasn’the kept anyone out of the pew, just the pulpit.

    • Conrad Ermle

      The reality is that sin is still sin no matter what the so-called progressives might think. Actually they are not progressive by any stretch of the imagination. They call evil good and good evil. Nothing progressive about that. Sin is still sin and judgement is real, and it’s corrective and remedial.

      • Lin Garber

        Conrad Ermie, would you agree that you are passing judgment on “so-called progressives”? It certainly sounds to me as if you are. “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others, for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.” Romans 2:1.

        • Ermle

          You are really grasping at straws. The truth is in the absolute. Are you afraid of something? — Conrad Ermle

        • Phil Schroeder

          Lin. Are you judging Conrad Ermle for his discernment. Why don’t you read the verses that precede Romans 2:1? We don’t have to judge. Its already been done.

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