MC USA board discusses resolutions’ implications

Sep 21, 2015 by

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Mennonite Church USA Executive Board on Sept. 17-19 discussed the implications of resolutions passed at the denomination’s convention this summer.

Mennonite Church USA Executive Board members, clockwise from upper left, Nisha Subaiya Springer of Plano, Texas; Joyce Kusuma of Upland, Calif.; Yvonne Diaz of Terlingua, Texas; Michelle Dula of Lancaster, Pa.; and Isaac Villegas of Durham, N.C., confer during the board’s Sept. 17-19 meeting in Kansas City, Mo. — Mennonite Church USA

Mennonite Church USA Executive Board members, clockwise from upper left, Nisha Subaiya Springer of Plano, Texas; Joyce Kusuma of Upland, Calif.; Yvonne Diaz of Terlingua, Texas; Michelle Dula of Lancaster, Pa.; and Isaac Villegas of Durham, N.C., confer during the board’s Sept. 17-19 meeting in Kansas City, Mo. — Mennonite Church USA

Board members emphasized that two resolutions — “Forbearance in the Midst of Differences” and “Status of the Membership Guidelines” — discourage punitive action while affirming that current church documents, especially in regard to same-sex relationships, still represent the position that marriage is intended for one man and one woman for life.

Given these resolutions, board members decided not to make changes to A Shared Understanding of Church Leadership, the updated denominational ministerial leadership polity manual, prior to the planned review of the document in 2016.

The manual says pastors with credentials in an MC USA conference may not perform a same-sex covenant ceremony.

Board members emphasized they want to move forward with humility.

“We recognize that no decision we make will represent the point of view of everyone in the church,” said moderator Patricia Shelly of Newton, Kan. “We are trying to make decisions that will help us move forward in being the church that God is calling us to be together.”

Shelly and executive director Ervin Stutzman appointed a task group to explore possibilities for fraternal relationships with conferences or groups that leave MC USA. The task force includes David Boshart of Wellman, Iowa, moderator-elect; Iris de León-Hartshorn of Portland, Ore., director of transformative peacemaking; Nancy Kauffmann of Elkhart, Ind., denominational minister; Lois Kaufmann of Go­shen, Ind., Central District Conference minister; and Terry Shue of Kidron, Ohio, director of leadership development.

Role of elders council

David Boshart, who as moderator-elect chairs the Constituency Leaders Council, presented the board with a proposal about ways for the CLC to fulfill its role as discerning elders.

Boshart said the CLC’s October meeting “will focus on clarifying our role as denominational elders. How should we expect our work as a discerning body to change what we are doing in our area conferences? Given biblical and theological foundations for our role as elders, how do we act in the midst of conference-to-conference conflict?”

New forum for dialogue

The Executive Board unanimously commended a proposal to the CLC to begin a Dialogue and Discernment Forum that would bring CLC members and LGBTQ individuals into conversation with one another.

The proposal states: “The objective of this process is to open a space for dialogue and discernment where members of the CLC and the LGBTQ community will seek to develop common understandings for a future with hope for Mennonite Church USA where traditional views of marriage and matters of same-sex relationships are concerned.”

The board received a petition with more than 300 signatures (140 of them delegates) asking that the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests be named as a constituency group and therefore given seats on the CLC and EB. The board received the petition and tabled it for discussion at a future meeting.

Israel-Palestine

The board affirmed a process for revising the resolution on Israel-Palestine that delegates tabled at the Kansas City convention. Staff will identify a three-person writing team, as well as a broader reference team representing a range of perspectives, to revise the resolution. Congregations will receive a draft for study and feedback. The team will use the feedback to adapt the statement as needed prior to the 2017 delegate assembly.

Work on sexual abuse

The board passed a motion thanking a sexual-abuse discernment group for its work. The motion states: “While the work of helping all members find healing for experiences of sexual abuse is an ongoing ministry for the whole church, we commend the committee for courageously documenting this painful chapter of the church’s recent history, taking seriously the devastating pain of those victimized by John Howard Yoder, and leading the church to adopt practices that will contribute to the safety of our members from all manner of sexual abuse.”

Staff will work with Mennonite Education Agency and others to call another group to continue the work of prevention of and education about sexual abuse, growing out of the statement on sexual abuse that delegates passed at Kansas City.

This was the first meeting of the biennium for the board, which includes six new members: Diane Zaerr Brenneman of West Union Mennonite Church, Wellman, Iowa; Jim Caskey of College Mennonite Church, Goshen, Ind.; Michelle Dula of Blossom Hill Mennonite Church, Lancaster, Pa.; Leslie Francisco III of Calvary Community Church, Hampton, Va.; Joyce Kusuma of Upland (Calif.) Peace Church; and Zenobia Sowell-Bianchi of Bethel Mennonite Community Church, Chicago.


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