USMB board tests statement on women in ministry

May 27, 2019 by

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U.S. Mennonite Brethren are discerning what — if any — changes could be considered when it comes to women in ministerial leadership.

The U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches denominational magazine Christian Leader reported the U.S. Board of Faith and Life met March 27-28 to work on a statement to be tested with the USMB Leadership Board and district BFLs.

Although a 1999 resolution states women are “encouraged to minister in the church in every function other than the lead pastorate,” the BFL is wrestling with how USMB can be united when both complementarian and egalitarian understandings are found in the Bible, and the denomination does not have consensus on the question of women serving as lead pastors.

A study conference on women in ministry was held Jan. 14-16 in Phoenix.

The BFL consulted with and circulated a statement draft among the Leadership Board, which met later that week, and concluded a statement will not be made public until all district BFLs have vetted it.

In an effort to strengthen connections between the Leadership Board and Hispanic congregations, the board voted to expand by inviting a representative from the Pacific District Conference Hispanic Council to attend. Council chair Xavier Pena attended the March meeting and discussed strategies for forming cohesion within USMB.

Denominational leaders are also working to strengthen relations with the dozen Ethiopian and Congolese congregations that are part of USMB.

In other business, the Leadership Board voted to no longer print letters to the editor in Christian Leader, instead posting them only at christianleadermag.org. The board directed national director Don Morris to respond to letters.

Book describes MB journey on women’s roles

By Karla Braun

A new book tells the story of conversation about women in ministry among Mennonite Brethren in Canada and the United States.

Women in Ministry Leadership: The Journey of the Mennonite Brethren, 1954-2010, by Doug Heidebrecht, was launched May 10 at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Man.

Since 1999, Heidebrecht has researched Mennonite Breth­ren practices and discussion regarding women in leadership.

In 2006, a Canadian conference resolution opened the lead pastorate to women. The U.S. conference does not permit women lead pastors but has reopened discussion of the matter.

“No other issue has received this level of attention by Mennonite Brethren during the second half of the 20th century,” Heidebrecht writes.

Women gain a voice

Women’s columns in MB periodicals during the 1960s gave women a public voice and became the first avenue for engaging questions regarding women’s involvement in the church that were being raised within the larger society.

Katie Funk Wiebe of Hillsboro, Kan., was significant in calling for change not only through her prolific writing but also in her speaking and teaching ministry.

The unprecedented “spontaneous attendance” of five women — Irene E. Willems, Betty Willems, Mary Poetker, Kae Neufeld and Anne Neufeld — as delegates at the 1968 Canadian MB convention opened the door for increasing participation of women in conference gatherings and raised new theological questions for provincial and later national conferences.

Heidebrecht explores three themes: What does the Bible say? How does the church live faithfully in a world that is changing? How do Mennonite Brethren wrestle as a community toward the elusive goal of consensus?

Heidebrecht presents how people engaged in the conversation through letters to the editor in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Herald and the U.S. Christian Leader. Letters gave voice to people in the pew, both men and women.

The book is published by Kindred Productions.


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