Central District licenses Ohio pastor in same-sex relationship

Jul 28, 2015 by and

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Central District Conference licensed Mark Rupp for ministry at Columbus (Ohio) Mennonite Church on July 26. Rupp is the second Mennonite Church USA pastor in a committed same-sex partnership to be credentialed.

Members of Columbus (Ohio) Mennonite Church lay their hands on Mark Rupp while Lois Johns Kaufmann, conference minister for Mennonite Church USA’s Central District, prays during a service to license Rupp as pastor of Christian formation on July 26. — Hannah Reiser

According to a resolution passed at MC USA’s national delegate assembly July 2, Central District is now at variance with the denomination.

The resolution calls for “conference-to-conference peer review” when an area conference makes a decision out of line with the Membership Guidelines and Confession of Faith. Those documents uphold traditional marriage and say pastors may not perform same-sex marriages.

The Constituency Leaders Council “will likely get a chance to figure out what a ‘conference-to-conference peer review’ looks like,” said Lois Johns Kaufmann, conference minister for Central District.

When Rupp was installed as pastor of Christian formation at Columbus Mennonite in the fall, Johns Kaufmann said she informed conference pastors and denominational leadership of plans for licensing Rupp. Based on feedback, they decided to wait to license him until after the national delegate assembly.

In February, MC USA executive director Ervin Stutzman responded on behalf of the Executive Board, indicating disappointment, she said.

He said the board’s response would be similar to their response to Mountain States Mennonite Conference, which licensed Theda Good as pastor of nurture and fellowship at First Mennonite Church in Denver. Good was the first openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender minister to be licensed in MC USA.

A June 2014 Executive Board report said MC USA would not recognize Good’s license, and asked area conferences not to grant credentials to people in same-sex relationships “unless the Mennonite Church USA Delegate Assembly changes the stated polity on same-sex marriages.”

“In other words, MC USA will not recognize the license and will consider CDC to be at variance,” Johns Kaufmann said.

Another sexuality-related resolution passed at the assembly. It calls MC USA to extend “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.”

“On this side of KC 2015, it is not clear to me if the forbearance and Membership Guidelines resolutions will change the Executive Board’s response,” Johns Kaufmann said.

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  • Berry Friesen

    All the Mennonite world is asking two rather obvious questions: “What consideration did CDC leaders give to reversing their intention to license Rupp after MC USA delegates affirmed the existing membership guideline on sexuality?” And “Why did CDC leaders decide to proceed with licensure after the delegate action?”

    It’s unfortunate reporter Yoder didn’t think to ask them.

    • Lin Garber

      3 – 2 – 1 Ah, there it is. Another knee-jerk response by Berry Friesen to a story about joy and fulfillment in spite of denominational blindness. And of course he is claiming to speak for “all the Mennonite world.”

      • Berry Friesen

        Come on, LIn, aren’t you even a tiny bit curious about what impact (if any) a historic delegate vote had on this important district conference that is led by some of our best and brightest Mennonite leaders?

        It has been only a month since delegates instructed district conferences to “interpret and implement” the Membership Guidelines and Confession of Faith “in mutual accountability with other area conferences.” Did CDC leaders follow that instruction or ignore it? Either way, what was their rationale for doing what they did?

        All of us need to know the facts and MWR’s reporters should be telling us.

    • Carl Metzler

      Berry, perhaps the CDC leaders decided to proceed with licensure after the delegate action on the Forbearance Resolution.

      • Linda Rosenblum

        So the forbearance resolution is free license to do whatever a congregation or conference feels like doing with no regard to the Confession of Faith or Membership Guidelines? Linda Rosenblum

      • Bruce Leichty

        Or perhaps the CDC leaders never really valued the consensus of the church at all, but were simply determined to proceed with their preordained agenda in which they mistake arrogation and acculturation for faithfulness and “progress.”

      • John Gingrich

        The Forbearance Resolution is a defacto suspension of the Membership Guidelines. It says that even though they are still there they will not be enforced. The process some are using to try to change the Guidelines is to simply ignore them. CDC saw how the church responded to Mountain States and saw no reason to respect the Guidelines. The downside of this strategy is the Guidelines are a form of group agreements, promises, or even contracts and by breaking them we are also breaking trust and therefore breaking relationships. We cannot maintain relationships with people who we cannot trust to keep their promises.

  • Conrad Ermle

    This ordination is invalid and unbiblical and cannot be recognized by the Anabaptist community. It is unMennonite and unchristian. Sin is sin and cannot be swept under the table. — Conrad Ermle

    • Ester Neufeldt

      From this comment, I would understand that your understanding of the Anabaptist community would exclude all liars, cheaters, persons with questionable business practices, divorced persons who have remarried, persons who have cut their hair. After all, the Bible names each of these as sin and says that no sin is greater than another.

      • Debra B. Stewart

        You forgot my favorite two “G’s” – gluttons and gossipers.

      • Jeremy Martin

        Everyone is tempted and falls into sin from time to time. Then we confess our faults to one another, repent, ask forgiveness and pray for strength to resist temptation the next time. The person who is an habitual liar and insists that lying is good and proper is a different situation.
        Question: If the homosexual sexual act has now been declared to be moral by Central Conference, is there such a thing they recognize as “sexual immorality”? Is this a situation where everyone does what is right in their own eyes like in Judges 21:25?

        • Charlie Kraybill

          Yes, there is such a thing as sexual immorality, Jeremy. Adultery is immoral, because it involves deception, cheating, and lying. Once a couple takes that fateful trip down the matrimonial aisle, they are bound for life. If someone cheats on their spouse, even once, they have committed an immoral act. I am 100% serious. Adulterous affairs are the sexual sins that the church should be focusing on. And I would like to see a movement started that would purge the church of all adulterers. Only then can the church claim to be pure and clean of sexual immortality. To do this, of course, would require stringent oversight of all potential adulterers. I would recommend that every married couple be interviewed, once a year, by their bishops/overseers and questioned about their marital fidelity. And if unrepentant adulterers are found, they must be removed, to keep the church pure. Scripture is quite clear on this. How’s the state of your marriage, Jeremy Martin?

          • Brian Arbuckle

            Is there anyone who is advocating for the normalization of adultery? Is there anyone who is advocating that adultery is acceptable because they have adulterous desires? Is there anyone, or any group, who claims victim status because the church will not (yet) affirm their status as an adulterer? Your crusade to purify the church should begin with these advocates, these schismatics, not with the adulterers themselves. How can you possibly save the deceived if you do not neutralize the deceivers?

            In the old way of thinking adultery was immoral because God had said,
            “You shall not commit adultery.” In the new way of thinking adultery is immoral because it involves deception, cheating, and lying. A church lacking in transcendence will in time pronounce its blessing on adulterers freeing them not only to act out their adulterous desires but also freeing them also from the need to deceive, cheat and lie. Such a church will even install those with the “A” gene in congregations as pastors of spiritual formation. Adultery will no longer be considered sin. The word itself will lose its place in the vocabulary of the church. Forgotten along with the God who once declared it to be a sin. Forgotten because that former God has been replaced with a god recast in the image of those who believe grace justifies licentiousness.

      • Steven Stubble

        The point is well taken, that if sin in the church is not being dealt with, it makes no sense to single out same sex unions as a special case (though Im not sure about the scriptural basis for forbidding haircuts…). But if the liars and cheaters in the church really are repenting and turning from their sin… what then? We can all agree that to say ” we have loads of rampant sin, so one more makes no difference” just puts Christians in a hall of mirrors with no exit. Incidentally Christs words “..therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” seems to suggest that NOT all sin is equal.

        • Jane G. Lehman

          Your comment about haircuts made me laugh, but not in a good way. If you are not familiar with 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, you are either very young, or you had no contact at all, back in the day, with what was known as “Old Mennonites” prior to formation of MCUSA. On its face, it’s a clear directive to women to keep their hair long and always cover their heads when they pray. In fact, even nature teaches that. (Is that a familiar argument?). This passage was the basis of much hurt and shaming when I was a teenager and young woman. Two different congregations pleaded with me to end my rebellion against the law of God, so they could use me in positions where I had formerly served. Like Jesus’ very clear teaching on divorce, these rules have long since gone by the wayside. As Mennonite churches have always peeled off in search of absolute purity, I’m sure this was an issue in some splits. Hence my lack of patience with the current kerfuffle regarding same sex marriage, which I see as yet another line in the sand with regards to the crise du jour. It will be interesting to see if, in another 20 years, someone says “I’m not sure about the scriptural basis for forbidding same sex marriage.”

          Jane G Lehman

          • John Gingrich

            1 Corinthians 11 was a sad chapter in some churches but it is not a parallel to same-sex marriage. It had no precursor in the Old Testament, it has no mention in the gospels and it is not repeated by Paul for any other churches. That is very different than the debate about sexual mores.

          • Jane G. Lehman

            John: My first response to your comment was flippant. Ah. I see. This is different. I refrained from making that reply in writing! But I thought about it all day, and I think I disagree with you. (Are you surprised?) The head covering and long hair represented a woman’s acceptance of her proper role in society, and in marriage. In the Old Testament, a woman was a piece of property and that didn’t have to be spelled out; it just was. By the time we got to 20th century North America, she wasn’t property, but was still subservient to men, and was expected to keep her place, even in the 50s and 60s. Keeping my hair short and refusing to wear a covering was a sign that I didn’t accept that role. And when people refuse to stay in their place (silent in church, hiding in the closet, or in a desperate heterosexual marriage), people get upset. It goes against the way things are supposed to be! I’m sure people smarter than I have already noticed this, but it was a new thought to me.

          • John Gingrich

            And sometimes hair is just hair. Sorry, that was flippant but I couldn’t resist. I don’t want to disagree, or argue for the sake of argument. But I enjoy an honest search and a stimulating conversation.

          • Steven Stubble

            I really did miss that particular hair debacle, but it’s a good example of the larger point I was trying to make, namely: if certain NT principles were misapplied in the past ( in your case, the church expecting a certain length of hair to reflect some level of “spirituality”), or if the church leaders of a previous generation left certain of these standards “by the wayside”, does that mean we have no choice but to follow in their footsteps? Of course not. Jane , when entire churches repent of the ills you’ve mentioned, the results can be fantastic renewal instead of remaining mired among the “old Mennonites” and the bitterness of past Pharasaical legalisms. That’s not the way it has to be! There is, oddly enough, no doubt in my mind that you’re last point is quite right: the Mennonite church is already saying, not in 20 years but right now, ” im not sure about the scriptural basis for forbidding same sex marriage.” It’s following hard on the heels of “I’m not sure about the scriptural basis for for thinking that God really created the world, or that Jesus really rose from the dead , or that …. Fill in the blank with whatever the media pundits happen to be mocking at the moment.

      • Elaine Fehr

        Where does the Bible say that no sin is greater than another?

  • Jeff Gundy

    It’s interesting to me that this story does not mention the “forbearance” resolution until the very end. Since that resolution passed with a greater majority than the second resolution affirming the existing guidelines, it would seem that the focal point of this story might be whether forbearance will really be put into practice or not.

  • While the headline to this article is accurate, it is potentially misleading as well: let it be clear that the issue some of us have is not Mr. Rupp’s orientation — although we believe that there are ample unanswered questions about the extent to which any person’s sexual orientation is immutable — but rather the fact that he is in a “committed same sex relationship” (we are told nothing about the “spouse,” which itself should be part of the news story with proper recognition of the nub of the story). Moreover, I have yet to see the churchly proponents of same-sex coupling grapple with all the initials of the LGBTQ+ agenda, and specifically bisexuality. Tell me, CDC leaders, whether you are also prepared to grant ministerial credentials to the person who is bisexual (and claims to be that way from nature) and has committed relationships with persons of both sexes (I will assume for the moment there are only two, although it appears that the Q proponents would like to change this, too). If not, logic compels you to admonish yourselves for discriminating.

  • Steven Stubble

    You’re bringing up an important point . Is Mr. Rupp married, or in a committed partnership , or are those terms currently identical?, — if they are not, can I assume that a hetero in a committed, opposite-sex partnership ( e.g a legally unmarried man living in a common law relationship with a steady girlfriend) would also be credentialed in the Mennonite church?

  • George M Melby

    It is certainly about time. Blessings to all involved in including ALL of God’s children!

  • Berry Friesen

    The sexuality debate over the past 40 years has focused on the 3-4 percent who identify as exclusively same-gender oriented. Can they change their orientation? If not, is it just to forbid same-gender marriage?

    These are good questions, but in the process of debating them, we have assumed incorrectly that the great majority of people are immutably and exclusively opposite-gender oriented.

    Reflecting this assumption is the Central District Conference’s (CDC) June 21, 2015 draft of “Human Sexuality: A Biblical Perspective,” a document referenced on the CDC homepage. It says that “one man has partnered with one woman throughout history and that is unlikely to change.” Thus, the document does not so much as acknowledge the Bible’s obvious preference for heterosexual expression. Indeed, it takes a position directly opposed to the Mennonite Confession of Faith by referring–without citation of biblical authority–to “the sin of heterosexism.”

    The Bible does not assume the immutability of sexual orientation. The Apostle Paul made this clear in Romans 1 where he discussed the sexual desires and behavior of the empire’s political elite, men and women who generally married and had children with opposite-gender mates, but nevertheless desired additional erotic pleasures via same-gender relationships. Paul understood this widespread bisexuality to reflect the influence of social and cultural factors.

    Similarly, the writings of Pink Menno suggest that the two fixed categories in which the church often carries on its debates (same-gender and opposite-gender orientation) do not accurately describe the dynamic nature of human sexual desire and identity.

    If human sexual desire and practice are socially and culturally malleable to some significant degree–especially for the majority who fall toward the middle of the orientation curve–then we begin to perceive the extreme narrowness of the CDC approach and the recklessness of its “draft” ethical teaching. Let’s hope the other district conferences promptly engage CDC leaders about this.

    • Bruce Leichty

      I agree that it is contrary to our Confession of Faith for “heterosexism” to be called a sin.

      When we talk about the “great majority of people,” however, I believe it is correct to say both that most are exclusively attracted to the opposite gender, and that this is their “orientation.” So I am not sure I follow your logic in your second paragraph.

      There may be some persons who have a predilection for sexual relations with persons of the same gender, or with children, or with animals, or with multiple partners at the same time. But I don’t know that this alone makes it questionable to say that the “great majority” have an “immutable” orientation, i.e. to say that all are capable of changing their “orientation.” Why is it important to make that point? Why persons fall out of the great majority due to a sinful orientation is a more complicated question.

      While I agree that the certain scriptures refer to the elite of the empire who engage in bisexuality (and I don’t believe much has changed), I am not sure that this proves the point that the “Bible does not assume the immutability of sexual orientation.” Nor am I terribly sympathetic to this idea that sexuality is on a (biological) continuum, with which you seem to be flirting, which has been used by some psychologists to then say, of course there will be some who will naturally have attraction to persons of the same gender and some who will experience natural sexual attraction to both genders. The lens dictates the view.

      I am just not sure that the problems with the CDC “draft” put together by my former esteemed classmate and fellow Greek student Loren Johns are best viewed through this prism, but perhaps I don’t completely understand what you are getting at. I am currently studying the document for myself: stay tuned.


      • Berry Friesen

        Bruce, at any point in time, the great majority of people will perceive their sexual orientations to be fixed. So may we assume that the percentage who perceive themselves to be exclusively heterosexual will be the same a generation from now as it is today?

        The CDC document on sexuality may assume that to be the case, but it is likely more accurate to say that the authors regard the question to be unimportant.

        I say this because the authors include only one sentence directly on point (the one I quoted) and because the authors go on to emphasize “how both the Gospels and Pauline literature relativize the forms that intimate relationships take by focusing attention on the character of those relationships.” Thus, the core CDC “draft” teaching seems to be that the Bible does not value the heterosexual expression of sexuality more than the homosexual expression.

        Which is why it calls “heterosexism” a sin.

        Of course, the Apostle Paul was a “heterosexist” and so it mattered to him how sexual desire is formed and shaped. He held the view that what people find erotic will reflect in part the experiences their society provides. Time frame is a critical factor in this analysis and it isn’t clear to me how Paul viewed this. He was personally acquainted with numerous members of the slave class who had engaged (we assume unwillingly) in erotic encounters with members of the ruling class and Paul appeared not to assume that those experiences had altered their desires. As for the bisexuality of the political elite, I gather that Paul viewed this as a multi-generational development, perhaps arising out of their roots in Greek warrior culture.

        My general point is that Paul didn’t think in the three fixed categories the church so often uses (hetero, homo, bi). Instead, he regarded sexual desire to be a river flowing through each of us. Its direction is not fixed over time, but changes depending on cultural conditioning, environmental factors (same-sex prisons, for example), and personal experiences.

        Because sexual desire is somewhat malleable, and because God’s creation and the Bible’s creation accounts elevate the heterosexual expression, the church should not be ambivalent about sexual orientation and the “draft” teaching of the CDC should be rejected.

        • Was Paul a sex expert? Are the words of Paul “inerrant”? Did Paul have an understanding of human nature and human sexuality that was superior to modern science? I don’t think so. The church is never going to fully enter the 21st-century world until it takes Paul off the pedestal and begins to regard him as a fallible human being with a fallible first-century world-view. This notion that Paul’s words equal God’s truth is a human invention of the man-made church.

          • Conrad Ermle

            If you think we should believe you over the Apostle Paul you must be deluded my friend. — Conrad Ermle

        • John M. Miller

          Berry, are you making the claim that those who experience their sexuality in the varieties of same-sex desire can be therapeutically reoriented to heterosexuality?

      • John M. Miller

        Bruce, I think there is a difference between what is in the document about “the sin of heterosexism” and calling heterosexuality sin. I think you use the phrase in the latter sense, not intended in the document, in your statement about the relationship of heterosexism to the C o F. What is your understanding of the meaning of “heterosexism” and do you not believe it is sin?

        • Bruce Leichty

          This is my third attempt to respond to you, John. MWR’s editors refused to post my first two attempts beginning last Friday, August 7, and I was given no explanation for the snub so have simply had to guess at the reasons.

          I am of course aware that no one is calling heterosexuality a sin. (Were you serious or just setting up a “straw man?”) But Loren Johns and his CDC task force are dangerously close to marching in lockstep with “gay” advocates in treating the term “heterosexism” as a kind of epithet, similar to “anti-gay” or “hater,” for those who uphold the historic and/or biblical view of marriage. If by heterosexism one is referring to the view that heterosexual relationships are ordained (by God or nature) to be the norm and to be taught and legislated as the norm, or that homosexual relationships are disordered or unnatural (as they are, no matter what modern humanistic psychology may allow), then to call such a view “sin” is imply an insult and disservice and injustice to those whose values, beliefs and/or intellect take them to that particular view.

          I see that my spell checker doesn’t even think that heterosexism is a word, since it keeps underlining the term …. If something is not a word, can it still be a sin? (weak attempt at humor when I don’t feel like laughing).

          I will vociferously object — even at the risk of getting censored — whenever those who identify sin are made to feel instead that they are the real sinners. A current example is the Iowa couple with Mennonite affiliation who were forced to give up their wedding hall business and who are now mounting a national billboard campaign in support of marriage, may their efforts prosper and bear fruit. They are now the targets of epithets. I have some experience of my own in being a target, for doing nothing more than following in the footsteps of Jesus to the best of my ability and according to my conscience. Suddenly I am charged with hate — and worse — i.e. the most venal sins imaginable in 21st century America, when my motivation and actions do not partake of either. Let us likewise be careful when we bandy about pejorative terms like “heterosexism.” .


          • John M. Miller

            Bruce, thanks for responding. I’m sorry about your difficulties in getting your response posted.

            I did not intend to set up a straw man. I may have misunderstood what you were objecting to. I now understand that you object to labeling as heterosexism the view that the Bible and God hold that the only valid sexuality is hetero. You consider that those who have received a different orientation are defective and inferior and take umbrage that this view should be labeled heterosexism and considered wrong.

            I understand that you view your position as correct and biblical. I also understand that in the way our English language functions, the term fits. There were those who considered Negroes to be inferior and that God had ordained them for servitude and second-class status in society. Or worse. That is labeled racism. You consider same-sex oriented persons to be “disordered or unnatural.” I think that to apply the term heterosexism to this belief is accurate.

          • Bruce Leichty

            This is my second attempt to post a reply to your latest. Since you indicated sorrow and concern about this, I urge you to contact the editors regarding whatever policies are preventing better on-line communication and confrontation (in the sense that David Augsburger used it in his classic work), by which not only we may benefit but other readers may benefit.

            It is difficult to have respectful dialogue with those who choose to apply their own pejorative terms to the honest beliefs and views of others.

            I do not consider an orientation as something inevitably “received,” so that is the first thing about your assumptions that I have to challenge. I would not use the words “defective” or “inferior” about any person. Nor “second class.” Also, I was not talking about persons but about relationships when I used the terms “disordered” and “unnatural,” and I stand by those descriptions. Words have significance, and I try to carefully choose mine. I should not have to bear the derision of being called “heterosexist” in the first place, when my views don’t arise from any form of discriminatory intent but rather from beliefs about ultimate truth, but recall that the real issue is that you are also effectively calling me a sinner when you say that the term applies to my beliefs, because that is what “heterosexism” is — a sin — according to the CDC task force headed by AMBS professor Loren Johns.
            It is a lasting shame that the “gay” lobby has coopted — and has done so successfully with so many Mennonites — the very different concerns of the civil rights movement and legitimate pursuit of racial justice for their own destabilizing and hedonistic agenda.

          • John M. Miller

            Bruce, thanks again for responding. I find you articulate in your defense of your views, and I respect that. I, too, try to be careful in my selection of words and in the arguments I make. We have an honest disagreement. I don’t intend to separately contact the MWR monitors of this conversation. I believe I can handle vigorous conversation. I don’t know if you’ve been edited for being vituperative or not. Either way, I can handle it.

            I think there is little difference in our understanding each others position. You take the position that those of us who see the gospel as mandating acceptance of our gay brothers and sisters as being unfaithful to Scripture and sinners of such magnitude that you need to divide the church in order to be faithful to God and maintain your purity. If you think that feels nice to a man like me who has devoted his life to faithfulness in the church and seeks to maintain fellowship in obedience to God, I think you might consider it is just the mirror image of what you feel. So, yes, I understand your umbrage when the implications of your position are played out. But the supposed distinction that you make between conduct and persons is not sustainable when one understands that the persons’ conduct grows from their self-understanding and a heart committed to obedience to God.

            From what I read in your arguments, a major point of difference is that you reject the evidence from God’s creation. All the empirical evidence of which I am aware supports the truth that same-sex attraction is not a choice but innate. As long as you deny this truth, you can sustain the idea that God condemns people for who they understand themselves to be. It’s possible for you to deny Psalm 139:13 as being a truth that gays can accept about themselves. From my perspective, you impugn the handiwork of God in the way these persons are born. This is not a question of biblical interpretation but of empirical evidence. I believe the evidence from God’s world is valid as well as the evidence of God’s word. Are there nuances and discrepancies that need to be considered in both? Of course, but that is what Spirit guided conversation such as took place in the Jerusalem conference is about. I gather that one segment probably called the innovators heretics and misguided, but in the end, the Holy Spirit led to a new openness, a new acceptance that violated what some had understood to be Scriptural truth.

            I welcome your response not matter how vigorous.

          • John Gingrich

            John sorry to barge in on your conversation with Bruce, but there are many attractions and natural impulses that are seen as wrong. Are you saying the same-sex attraction is a Spirit gift to be embraced simply because it occurs in the human experience?

          • John M. Miller

            John, your participation is welcome. Of course throughout life we all experience temptations and deal with what you call “attractions and natural impulses that are seen as wrong.” I think you fail to distinguish between sexual orientation that is so basic to identity and temptations to violate principles of moral conduct. Can you imagine trying to reorient yourself to same-sex attraction or limiting yourself to celibacy? I can’t for myself. My point is that Scripture provides a frame of reference in which innate sexual orientation must be seen as God-given and a blessing.

          • John Gingrich

            Are you saying that like Freud you see the core of your personal identity and life motivations in your sexual drives, temptations, and attractions? Isn’t one of the main hopes of the new life in the Spirit the ability to free ourselves from those natural “lusts of the flesh”? (I’m not talking about trying to change our orientation). The personal identity I see in scripture is the freedom in the Spirit to be a “new creation”. Maybe I’m just naive to have believed that the words “walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” were true.

          • John M. Miller

            I don’t see the connection to Freud. One can recognize the fact that one’s sexual orientation is a fundamental component of identity without making it the “core,” if by core you mean the most essential component. I was single until I was 36 years old and understood my identity as a follower of Jesus and was committed to celibacy unless I married. Nevertheless, I was a male, and that was basic to who I was. How do you understand your maleness? Do you consider it extrinsic or intrinsic to who you are?

            You go on to make the very common error of confusing the natural desires of our gender identity with inordinate, sinful “lusts of the flesh.” Do you consider the desire for companionship and marriage to a woman to be sinful lusts?

            You see the “new creation” as freeing persons from the innate desires sexual and for companionship in a way that hasn’t worked for you. In other words, you are willing to lay burdens on others that you haven’t accepted for yourself, and you’ve developed a rationale of “faithfulness” to do it. Once you walk in the Spirit in a way that denies your God-given nature, then maybe you can advocate it for others. Until then, I think love and understanding would be more appropriate.

          • John Gingrich

            I am not confusing natural desires with “lusts of the flesh”. The desire for companionship and marriage is affirmed from Genesis 2:18. Lust is self explanatory, it is the application of these natural desires in ways that violate our commitment to God and others. You know all the verses from Matthew 5:28 through the writings of Paul. If I understand your position you are saying we dare not lay the burden on others of asking them to deny their natural desires. But the whole core of Jesus message is opposite to that position. See Luke 14:25-33. You and I both give up many desires every day because it would be selfish, unhealthy, or ungodly. The reason I referenced Freud (and I know it is gross oversimplification of his theories) is that he saw the sex drive at the core of most of man’s behavior. I know you think I “fail to understand” the concept of sexual orientation but I think it is just one of the many natural desires of mankind and not “The” controlling one as Freud theorizes. The Lust of the Flesh, Lust of the Eye, and Pride of Life come to mind. What about the “burden” of asking people to deny themselves of those desires?

          • John M. Miller

            John, will you explain how you distinguish between the goodness of the natural desires that led you to marriage and the same kind of desires in same-sex attracted persons that you choose to place in the category of sinful “lusts of the flesh.”

          • John Gingrich

            This is getting tedious, these are all principles that a biblical scholar like yourself knows. Desires are not good or sin in themselves, they are part of our “human nature”. The goodness or sin is in the biblical teachings and in the actions we take to be obedient to them. Why are some desires allowed and others not? Why do some people walk through suffering that robs them of pleasures others enjoy? Why does the church obsess on the struggles of one group and ignore the struggles of others? I’m not wise enough to figure it all out but I choose to rest in the faithfulness of the promises in the scriptures. Your advocacy for the people struggling with same-sex orientation is fine, they are cherished by God, but they are not the only people who are hurting. Lets open our eyes to all the people who are walking in many other temptations and trials and maybe the church can again begin to be the agent of Christ’s love.

          • John M. Miller

            Well, yes, it is tedious. I pursue it because you persist in arguing for
            non-acceptance of gay marriage on what I view as a flawed argument. To be valid, a moral argument must show consistency. You have made the argument that same-sex attraction is sinful, morally distinguishable from opposite-sex attraction and to be overcome by walking in the Spirit so as not to yield to the lusts of the flesh. You have not answered my specific question as to how you would distinguish between your innate opposite-sex attraction and the innate same-sex attraction of others, and this reveals the difficulty of your argument. So far, I’ve not seen from you any biblical or theological basis for your argument. This is not a question of the differences to which you allude but a question of a specific moral argument. It’s my understanding that in doing moral theology, one needs to establish positions on the basis of principle, not of caprice. The fact that you have been unable to come up with a biblical or theological argument to sustain this position tells me it is not

    • John M. Miller

      Barry, you write: “The Bible does not assume the immutability of sexual orientation.” How would you interpret Jesus statement about those who are eunuchs fro birth?

  • Brian Arbuckle

    This is not what the church does. This is an act of rebellion against the church as one, holy and catholic. This action represents a rejection of apostolic teaching, the unanimity in understanding that teaching throughout time and place as well as the consent of faithful ministers and teachers of the faith throughout church history. This is nothing short of apostasy. By this action “Columbus Mennonite Church” should no longer be considered a church. A church simply does not do what they have done.

  • Berry Friesen

    Charlie, there is a whole lot of space between the way you read biblical texts and the straw-man-way of reading them that you like to mock. Put me there in that space.

    And no, John, I am not arguing for therapeutic reorientation. Sorry to not be as clear as I should be. I am talking about shifts over the generations in the relative mix of sexual orientations that may be driven by broader social/cultural changes.

    So Charlie, what does 21st century wisdom say about what drives changes in what we find erotic? It’s become quite the rage among religious advocates for inclusion to say god created our sexual orientations, but you and I both know that’s nonsense. Would you say the shifts in erotic tastes over the generations are the result of genetic mutations? Or can you can give Paul this one on merit because he recognized that we humans are the most malleable of all creatures.

    • John M. Miller

      Berry, I’d like to understand your argument better. You say, “I am talking about shifts over the generations in the relative mix of
      sexual orientations that may be driven by broader social/cultural
      changes.” I’m aware of much more public discussion about sexual orientations in our present cultural climate, but I’m unaware of the historical, longitudinal, or intercultural studies that would support your apparent thesis that innate sexual orientation has varied according to time and place. Would you give reference to the studies on which you base your argument or your basis for asserting this?

      You in a previous post assert, “we have assumed incorrectly that the great majority of people are immutably and exclusively opposite-gender oriented.” At the same time you seem to believe that the portion of the population that finds itself same-sex attracted will remain at ca. 3-5%. Can you clarify what you argue about constancy in the light of these two apparently contradictory statements.

      Finally, in a previous post you asserted, “The Bible does not assume the immutability of sexual orientation.” You seem to base this on the conduct mentioned in Rom. 1 in which you assume that heterosexual women were engaging in same-sex erotic activity for added pleasure. I’m not sure how you get from conduct to orientation. I’m not aware that the Bible addresses the immutability of orientation anywhere. Can you say how you arrive at this conclusion? Why is it important in your argument? You say you are not arguing for therapeutic reorientation. What are you arguing for?

      • berryfriesen

        John, I assume that in every culture, the population is arrayed on a continuum from same-gender attraction to other-gender attraction. But the shape of the population distribution curve will vary from culture-to-culture and, within each of those cultures, over time. Why? Because across the mid-portion of the distribution, individuals are somewhat malleable in their desires and in how they express those desires. In other words, social and environmental factors will impact how they experience and express their sexuality. We may not be able to confirm those impacts in an individual, but we will be able to in larger demographic patterns over time.

        Given this shaping dynamic over time, and given the strong value Scripture places on the expression of our sexuality within opposite-gender marriage, my argument is that the church must clearly teach and encourage heterosexual expression, even as it welcomes covenanted gay and lesbian couples into its fellowships. CDC would likely call this heterosexism and a sin.

        I’m trying to understand how CDC could make such a egregious error. My charitable guess is that it assumes that sexual orientation is fixed across cultures and across time, thus making it irrelevant what messages children and young persons from coming generations receive from their congregations.

        Romans 1 is relevant because it concerns a population that generally practiced and highly valued opposite-gender marriage with children but also engaged in very widespread same-gender sexual activity. Such a mix is unusual and begs for an explanation. Paul gave one; he said it reflected social dynamics rooted in self-worship.

  • Bruce Leichty

    I agree with you about taking Paul off a pedestal that was not even supported by those closest to Jesus, but I would add that not everything about his first century worldview should be assumed to be “wrong” or “outdated” just as it should not be assumed to be infallible or inerrant, either. I also express reservation about the desirability of the church “fully entering in” to the 21st century world (as a person “in the world but not of it”), and point out to you that it doesn’t take a first century worldview or idolatry of Scripture to see that homosexual expression is against nature, indeed that it is sinful — just like adultery, just like greed, just like thievery, just like oppressing the widow and orphan and stranger. We hold these truths to be self-evident.

  • Jennifer Wintermote

    I have read through the debate happening in many of these comments, and when I got to the bottom of the first page, I felt that I had to say something. These comments talk about issues, but no one really talks about Mark. This story is about a person, not just an issue. Knowing Mark when he was in Kansas doing MVS, I know his gifts and passion for service in the church and witness to God’s great redemptive work. No matter what my personal beliefs about sexuality are, I know that Columbus Mennonite Church is blessed to have Mark.

    • Jerry Nussbaum

      Thank you Jennifer. I wish all those who have concern would come and see that the Spirit of God works in wondrous ways through our pastors at CMC. Mark is a gifted minister of the gospel with a kind and compassionate heart for service to the church of Christ. We are blessed! — Jerry Nussbaum

  • John M. Miller

    Berry, I find myself in agreement with your analysis of the continuum of sexual attraction and with regard to the malleability of those at mid-range. And, yes, culture will influence how persons in the mid-range express their sexuality. I differ with regard to your assertion that the church “must clearly teach and encourage heterosexual expression” with the implied corresponding axiom that same-sex love and marriage is less than desirable, an inferior condition. It is this implied axiom or your argument that CDC would label as heterosexism and sin. Treating same-sex attraction and expression within the covenant of marriage as less than worthy is what the CDC is trying to address.

    I think that with approximately 95% of the population naturally drawn to heterosexual relationships that there is no great burden for the church to maintain a heterosexual ideal. Rather, the converse is true. Sinful society naturally tends to discriminate, to alienate the minority, that identity that is “other.” It is here that we find the gospel impulse rooted in Jesus comes into play. The greater need is not to affirm the majority but to accept and welcome the outcast, the alien, the marginal persons.

    And I disagree that Romans 1 is directed to support your concern for upholding opposite-gender marriage as an ideal. I think Paul was addressing practices in the Greco-Roman culture directly associated with idolatry. To try to extract an axiom not implied in the argument Paul is making goes beyond—and in my view violates—the purpose of the text.

    • Berry Friesen

      95 percent, huh? No worries then, right?

      Google “Half of all young people in Britain are at least a little bit gay, survey finds.”

      • John M. Miller

        So, Berry, this is your best argument in response to my thoughtful examination of the issues? I’m sure you can do better than this.

        • Berry Friesen

          Afraid so, John. You’ve told me that the remarkable shift of young Brits toward a gay/lesbian self-identity is to be celebrated because god did it. My lack of enthusiasm merely reflects my heterosexism (which I hereby confess) and my recourse to Paul’s reflections in Romans 1 merely reflects my ignorance of god’s creative design (which I also confess, sorry to be repeating myself here).

          Maybe someone else can do better.

          • John M. Miller

            Well, this is at least a shade better—some indication of the argument you’re trying to make. You call this a “remarkable shift.” I see it little more than confirmation of what we’ve known for years, i.e., that sexual attraction is distributed along a scale. I grant that the prominence of sexuality issues in contemporary culture likely contributes to the distribution noted in this report and the broader tolerance for acceptance of various sexual orientations probably explains the difference between age groups. I also noted this observation:

            “Will Dahlgreen, a data journalist at YouGov, said: “Clearly, these figures are not measures of active bisexuality – overall, 89 per cent of the population describes themselves as heterosexual – but putting yourself at level one allows for the possibility of homosexual feelings and experiences.”

            I think none of this supports your alarmist view that the church must somehow pour massive effort to sustain hetersexuality as an ideal. I still believe that opposite-sex attraction is a given for the majority of the population and will remain so.

  • Berry Friesen

    Interesting survey findings reported in “One In Three Americans Under 30 Say They’re Not 100% Heterosexual.” A similar report focused on self-perceptions in the UK is entitled “Half of all young people in Britain are at least a little bit gay, survey finds.”

    These reports reveal how mistaken the church is in regarding 3-4 percent of us as “created” gay/lesbian (either by virtue of genetics/neonatal influences or by god’s hand) and the rest of us “created” heterosexual by the same creative forces. Sexual orientation is much more fluid, much more dynamic, than such statements imply.

    Once the church recognizes this dynamic interaction between how a society perceives and shapes sexual orientation and how individuals perceive their own orientation, it will need to take another look at the Bible’s bias toward heterosexuality. Maybe this bias is not an inexplicable and unjust add-on to the Bible’s account of YHWH’s shalom-seeking people, but an integral part of it.

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