In the past year, four Mennonite churches in Elkhart County have left the church conference that governs them, spurred in part by concerns about increasing acceptance of same-sex unions.
That’s not all:
- One of the four, Clinton Brick Mennonite Church north of Millersburg, left the Mennonite Church USA denomination altogether.
- A pastor in Goshen, Karl Shelly of Assembly Mennonite Church, conducted a same-sex covenant ceremony last year, prompting a determination last spring by his church’s governing body that his act was “at variance” with Mennonite Church USA guidelines.
- A new community of Anabaptist churches plans to launch in September, the EVANA Network. It’s administered out of Elkhart County and rooted in the Mennonite Confession of Faith, which states, among many other things, that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
Times are tumultuous in the Mennonite church on the gay marriage issue, here and across the nation, and as the Mennonite Church USA biennial conventiongets underway, church leaders will be wrestling with the question. Two resolutions bearing on same-sex relationships will be up for debate at the convention, which starts Tuesday, June 30, in Kansas City, Mo., and goes to July 5.
Still, neither will necessarily resolve the thorny debate, which some worry threatens to splinter the church.
One of them, called the Resolution on Forbearance in the Midst of Difference, essentially calls for tolerance and unity among churches and church members of varying views. It wouldn’t change the official church stance that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, according to a Mennonite Church USA question-and-answer document.
The aim of the resolution “is that churches of differing convictions about same-sex covenanted unions may remain together within Mennonite Church USA rather than feel they must separate or be excluded by others,” says the introduction to the resolution.
Some may reject the measure, not believing the notion of same-sex unions is “a biblically disputable issue,” the introduction goes on. “However, we believe a far greater majority is eager to embrace ongoing fellowship centered on our core Anabaptist Mennonite conviction of walking in the way of Jesus Christ.”
The other proposed measure, the Resolution on the Status of the Membership Guidelines, relates to credentialing of Mennonite pastors in same-sex relationships.
The Mennonite Church USA Executive Board last year decided not to recognize the licensing of a Mountain States Mennonite Conference pastor in a same-sex relationship. The church would stick with that approach for at least four years, per the resolution up for discussion.
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SOURCE: Elkhart Truth