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Mennonite Church USA passes decision committing to LGBTQ inclusion

(RNS) — The governing physique of the biggest Mennonite denomination in america handed a resolution on Sunday (Could 29) confessing to “committing violence in opposition to LGBTQ folks” and committing to LGBTQ inclusion.

In a separate vote, Mennonite Church USA additionally repealed directions to pastors to not officiate at marriages between folks of the identical intercourse. The denomination’s official confession, which views marriage as between a person and a girl, stays unchanged.

Almost 83% of the delegates assembly at a particular meeting in Kansas Metropolis, Missouri, voted in favor of repealing the rules barring marriage for same-sex {couples}, whereas the decision for LGBTQ inclusion handed by a narrower margin, with 55.7% in favor.

“Excluding LGBTQIA folks from the church is a rejection of God’s joyous delight within the range of creation and a denial of the Divine picture and breath animating all humankind,” the Decision for Repentance and Transformation reads.

The decision commits the denomination to forming an LGBTQ constituency group, creating denominational sources on repentance and reconciliation for native congregations and honoring LGBTQ folks in future theological statements.

The Mennonite Church USA traces its roots to 16th century Anabaptists and, like different Anabaptist teams, is understood for its beliefs in grownup baptism and pacifism. Immediately, the group has roughly 62,000 members and 530 congregations organized into 16 conferences. Fashioned in 2002 as a merger between two older denominations, the Mennonite Church USA initially adopted the now-repealed membership tips prohibiting pastors from officiating same-sex weddings. This was carried out as a compromise in a dispute about whether or not to exclude LGBTQ people from congregational membership, in accordance with ordained Mennonite pastor and Ph.D. candidate Isaac Villegas.

“That compromise determination started this sample of hurt in opposition to LGBTQ folks, as a result of they turned bargaining chips for the unity of the denomination,” mentioned Villegas, a Mennonite pastor who resigned from the church’s government board in 2016 after he carried out same-sex weddings.

In November 2015, the denomination’s largest and most conventional convention, the Lancaster Mennonite Convention, voted to take away its 179 church buildings from the Mennonite Church USA over issues the denomination was weakening its stance on conventional marriage. Particular person conferences have supported the ordination of LGBTQ ministers and supported same-sex weddings lately.

Glen Guyton. Picture courtesy of MC USA

The Mennonite Church USA’s horizontal construction implies that in observe the denomination holds little greater than symbolic authority over particular person conferences. So whereas the membership tips prevented pastors from performing same-sex weddings in idea, conferences applied (or ignored) these tips nevertheless they noticed match.

The denomination’s construction additionally permits it to carry insurance policies which might be apparently contradictory. Formally, the confession of religion affirms marriage as being a covenant between a person and a girl, although the brand new decision implicitly expands that definition.

“Mennonites tend to stack confessions,” mentioned Glen Guyton, the denomination’s government director. “So we don’t essentially do away with one or revise them. We create new ones that replicate who we’re at a sure time frame.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Largest group of Mennonite churches leaves denomination

Guyton added that among the actions included within the newest decision had already been addressed by the denomination’s government board in 2020, and he mentioned that like different insurance policies adopted on the nationwide stage, it gained’t be enforceable on the congregational or convention stage.

“This motion, and I say this fastidiously, is extra symbolic in some methods than it’s indicative of precise adjustments which might be going to occur on the congregational or convention stage,” mentioned Guyton. “However it’s a massive image, I believe, for a lot of.”

On the weekend meeting, numerous delegates expressed concern that the decision would stoke division, fairly than therapeutic. “We want each the standard and the progressive. We can not do that work if we don’t have each,” mentioned Dwight McFadden of Millersburg Mennonite Church in Ohio, in accordance with Anabaptist World. “I don’t really feel like that is the third manner that we’re identified for.”

However in accordance with Villegas, whereas the implications of the decision will nonetheless should be labored out on the native stage, the message it sends is loud and clear. “As a nationwide denomination, we now say that we’re a pro-LGBTQ denomination. That’s our place.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES: In the Mennonite Church USA, congregations realign on sexuality

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