An ironic unity

Jun 8, 2015 by

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There’s an emerging consensus among Mennonite congregations these days, especially among those at polar opposites on issues related to homosexuality. The congregations at the extremes are united in their assertion of congregational authority over denominational authority. Denominational leaders have said to those congregations who feel most strongly about upholding the church’s traditional position on homosexuality: “We call on you to continue the dialogue on this issue. We call you to stay at the table with those with whom you disagree. We need your voice.” Some of those congregations have said, “No. We will not do what you are calling us to do. We believe God is calling us in a different direction. What our congregation believes trumps what you are calling us to do.” Denominational leaders have said to those congregations who disagree with the church’s traditional position on homosexuality: “We expect you to abide by the Confession of Faith in both your teaching and your practice. Your pastors do not have the authority to perform same-sex unions. We will not recognize the credentials of pastors in same-sex relationships.” Some of those congregations have said, “No. We will not do what you are calling us to do. We believe God is calling us in a different direction. What our congregation believes trumps what you are calling us to do.” One may either celebrate or bemoan this move toward congregational autonomy. But one day, when the debate about LGBTQ folks in the church has started to fade away, the legacy of our current struggles may well be the decline or disappearance of larger authority and accountability structures and the triumph of congregationalism.

Weldon Schloneger
North Newton, Kan.


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