MC USA policies harm LGBTQ people, report says

Jan 28, 2020 by

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Statements of regret, confession and grief for harm done to LGBTQ people punctuate the report of the Membership Guidelines Advisory Group.

Mennonite Church USA policies “have done violence to the personhood of LGBTQ people,” says the report, released Jan. 27.

The violence occurred “by forcing them to choose between full acceptance by their denomination and living into the abundant life to which God has called them.”

Confessing that denominational policies “have caused great harm and pain to LGBTQ Mennonites and their families,” the report says: “We acknowledge and celebrate the resiliency of the LGBTQ Mennonite community in their contributions and gifts to the body of Christ.”

The report confesses that “we have not affirmed the full status and worth of LGBTQ people as fully beloved by God.”

It lists reasons to grieve, including that “people of color have been scapegoated as the reason for discrimination against LGBTQ people” and that “LGBTQ people have been blamed for the loss of some people of color in the church.”

The report grieves “the losses that have occurred across the spectrum of MC USA as a result of these guidelines and our ensuing strife around them.”

The report laments that differences in biblical interpretation “have at times been used to sacrifice some groups in order to include others in the community.”

Judgment of history

A nine-page preamble reviews several decades of denominational history on LGBTQ issues, beginning with the founding of the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests in 1976, continuing with 1980s denominational statements affirming traditional views of sexuality and the process of merging two denominations when “it seems a decision was made to identify LGBTQ persons as the problem holding up merger.”

The preamble concludes that “conflict and loss” is the Membership Guidelines’ legacy — “in direct contradiction” to the denomination’s purpose of “healing and hope.”

The losses, it says, have been many.

“We have lost LGBTQ persons and their families, those who hold traditional views of marriage and their families, persons who felt the need to exit due to ongoing tensions, people — especially the young — who witnessed how MC USA was functioning and discerned it was not for them, entire congregations and conferences, partners in mission, and on and on.”

When approved by delegates in 2001 to complete the merger that created MC USA, the Guidelines represented a choice “between the inclusion of LGBTQ persons or the inclusion of congregations and conferences that did not believe LGBTQ persons should be members of the church.”

Many LGBTQ people “experienced this deeply as a message that they were expendable in the formation of MC USA and, thus, are expendable in the church to this day.”

The most recent action on the Membership Guidelines occurred in 2015 when delegates reaffirmed the Guidelines while also approving a resolution on “Forbearance in the Midst of Differences.” The report describes the combination of resolutions as a “confusing” development that “provided no clarity” and “further polarized the church.”

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