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CLC recommends sexuality resolution to EB

3.30. 2015 Written By: Gordon Houser 4,591 Times read

Photo: Patty Shelly, moderator-elect of Mennonite Church USA, and Isaac Villegas, chair of the resolutions committee, meet during the Constituency Leaders Council. Photo by Hannah Heinzekehr of MC USA.

Dean Beck, Moises Augustia and Karen Sensenig at CLC.

Dean Beck, Moises Augustia and Karen Sensenig at CLC. Photo by Hannah Heinzekehr.

In its final meeting before the delegate assembly in Kansas City, Mo., the Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) recommended to the Executive Board (EB) of Mennonite Church USA a resolution calling for “all those in MC USA to offer 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.”

Called the Chicago/Reba Resolution, this was one of three resolutions submitted to the Resolutions Committee that dealt with LGBT concerns. It was brought by Community Mennonite Church in Chicago, Reba Place Church in Evanston, Ill., and North Baltimore Mennonite Church.

While CLC makes recommendations about resolutions, EB decides which resolutions to bring to delegates.

The other LGBT-related resolutions were the Lower Deer Creek Resolution, brought by an Iowa congregation and others, and the Becoming a Just Church Resolution, sponsored by seven congregations.

Lower Deer Creek calls for “sanctions or termination of membership” for conferences “who have acted contrary to our Confession of Faith as it relates to performing covenanted same-sex ceremonies or credentialing persons living in same-sex relationship.”

Just Church calls for “amend[ing] all church documents as needed to support full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life and ministry of the denomination at all levels of participation and service.”

Sexuality resolutions: Isaac Villegas, chair of that committee, told CLC members that the three resolutions represented “the range of different views present in the church” and asked that CLC choose one to recommend to EB.

“We do not believe that God is leading us in three directions,” Villegas said.

At the March 26-28 meeting in North Newton, Kan., CLC members discussed the resolutions in table groups, then reported their responses.

Elroy Miller of Virginia Conference asked if the language could be changed.

Villegas noted that the committee owns the resolution for now and can make changes. Any recommended resolutions then go to EB, who can make changes before presenting them to the delegate body.

CLC members showed little support for the Just Church or the Deer Creek resolutions, though Moises Angustia of Iglesia Menonita Hispana said that the Deer Creek resolution’s interpretation of the Confession of Faith was in line with the position of IMH.

Michael Zehr of Southeast Conference reported from his table that while the Deer Creek resolution reflected their theology, it was “too prescriptive and lacked grace and humility.”

Annie Lengacher Browning (left) and Shannon Dycus are members of CLC. Photo by Hannah Heinzekehr.

Annie Lengacher Browning (left) and Shannon Dycus are members of CLC. Photo by Hannah Heinzekehr.

Shannon Dycus of Indiana-Michigan Conference said her table was drawn to the Chicago/Reba resolution but imagined adding a statement to the Confession of Faith that identified the different ways we interpret it, for example, “We choose to live with different interpretations and affirm marriage, traditionally between a man and a woman.”

Keith Weaver of Lancaster Conference said that while LMC may only accept the Deer Creek resolution he believed they could go with the Chicago/Reba resolution. “I have a dream that we can make space for each other and respect each other,” he said.

In the end, most felt the Chicago/Reba resolution had the best chance of passing, though several tables wanted a mention of the Confession of Faith attached to it.

Other resolutions: CLC members also considered four other resolutions and recommended three to EB.

The group endorsed three resolutions, on sexual abuse, Israel/Palestine and endless warfare. When asked to prioritize them, CLC members unanimously affirmed the one on sexual abuse and were less than unanimous on the other two.

The EB will consider all these at its meeting April 6-8 in Kansas City, Mo., and decide what to present to delegates.

Much of the first day of CLC, which includes about 70 representatives from Mennonite Church USA conferences, constituency groups and agencies, was devoted to presentations by Ruth Haley Barton on discernment. She said that two-thirds of discernment is preparation, which involves spiritual transformation.

Executive director’s report: In his report to CLC, Ervin Stutzman noted that “area conferences look to the denominational structures primarily for resources and support, not for governing authority.”

He illustrated this with the examples of Central District Conference and Lancaster Conference, who respond differently to the Membership Guidelines. Each responds out of their DNA and illustrate the principle that “culture trumps structure and relationships.”

The most important question we face as a church, he said, is, “How will the culture of Mennonite Church USA provide a comfortable home for area conferences with different cultures and polities?”

By the end of the meeting, many CLC members spoke of the goodness of meeting together.

Karen Sensenig said she was eager to go back to LMC and say how people can come together, even with different perspectives.

Gary Wolfer of South Central Conference said our culture tells us our own opinions are correct and others are dumb, but he was blessed to hear different perspectives and to be heard.

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6 Responses to “CLC recommends sexuality resolution to EB”

  1. Don Patterson says:

    After reading both the TMail article and the MWR article, I come away surprised that there was so little mentioned that the Lower Deer Creek resolution was basically calling the Constituency Leaders Council to do what they are called to do by the Bylaws of Mennonite Church USA, Article IX, 1a-e.
    1. Constituency Leaders Council. A Constituency Leaders Council shall be organized to serve the Mennonite Church USA as follows:
    a. Serve as a council of denominational “elders,” discerning and advising the Executive Board, the Delegate Assembly, and the Mennonite Church USA on issues confronting each of them relative to faith and life.
    b. Engage and promote dialogue between area conferences, recognized constituency groups, and program agencies.
    c. Voice collective aspirations and concerns to denominational leadership.
    d. Provide opportunity for communication between and among program leaders.
    e. Provide counsel to the Executive Board on the admission to or termination of an area conference member of Mennonite Church USA.
    In fact, the words were softened by offering “sanction” as an alternative to “termination”. What the resolution adds to the original call of the CLC are deadlines to get it done.

    The first thing I glean from what I have been reading is that The Mennonite and Mennonite World Review has a distinct bias against congregations which they like to label conservative. With this trend, I am concerned that these publications are serving the best interest of the church.

    The second thing is that the CLC does not want to fulfill what it is called to do. Our new MCUSA polity was to cut through the things that hold back both the authoritarian and congregational polities by establishing a group of “elders” that would help guide the church.

    Further, I glean from the discussions read online, that many don’t want to use the bylaws of MCUSA and that each congregation should be free to do as they please while still calling themselves “Mennonite”. I don’t understand this. Why don’t those who want to change Mennonite theology and thought become Unitarian? Those of us who still see the Confession of Faith from a Mennonite Perspective as a very broad confession theologically are being forced out of the denomination by a violent faction, using labels as weapons. Slicing at other groups by using labels like “homophobe” will hopefully be discouraged at convention with equal regard as the groups that are protected in our midst from other forms of hate language. Such language is very unwelcoming.

    One statement reported is troubling. “Scripture is a secondary authority to Jesus Christ.” So where do we get our understanding of Jesus from? Didn’t Jesus say He didn’t come to abolish, but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17-20) scripture? Since I know Ron Guengerich, I tend to think that this statement may have been pulled out of context to serve the purpose of the writer. If so, shame on the writer. If not, Ron and I will need to share a cup of coffee.

    As one of the authors of the resolution and as lead pastor of the Lower Deer Creek Mennonite Church, I appreciate that my congregation has not taken its membership in MCUSA lightly, but has been willing to speak to the greater church rather than slip away silently. The congregation’s resolution was meant to be a wakeup call to an ineffective leadership group that was designed to move us from the older two polities (OM=Authoritarian; GC=Congregational) toward a new polity. This has less to do with human sexuality and more to do with failure to follow through on covenants and agreements. When groups deliberately break covenants, they are the ones who have violated relationships and we see the Bible calling us to be accountable for such violations. CLC has failed the church.

  2. Berry Friesen says:

    Isn’t it astonishing that we find this kind of factual detail and clarity in a comment buried at the end of a webpage, but rarely in the headlined articles written by salaried Mennonite journalists?

    I await the response of the CLC to these serious and apparently well-informed allegations. Did the CLC in fact do what the Bylaws of our church requires — “provide counsel to the Executive Board on the . . . termination of” Mountain States Mennonite Conference? If so, where may we read the document that communicated that counsel? If not, why not?

  3. […] MCUSA Constituency Leadership Council Recommends Sexuality resolution to Executive Board […]

  4. Amber Johnson says:

    All of the hostility I am hearing between followers of Christ hurts my heart. I pray each person will read Matthew 22: 36-40.

  5. Jeanne Clark says:

    “Those of us who still see the Confession of Faith from a Mennonite Perspective as a very broad confession theologically are being forced out of the denomination by a violent faction, using labels as weapons. Slicing at other groups by using labels like “homophobe” will hopefully be discouraged at convention with equal regard as the groups that are protected in our midst from other forms of hate language. Such language is very unwelcoming.”

    When you use terms like “violent faction” you are doing precisely what you are asking others not to do. Those in this “faction” that I know are anything but violent. In fact, they are deeply seeking a peaceful way to be church in MCUSA and in the world. Please, let us all take care with our language when we are addressing the language of others.

Leave a Reply to Berry Friesen