by Emily Ralph, associate director of communication
The Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA met last week to review the recommendations of a task force appointed to respond to Mountain States Mennonite Conference’s decision to license Theda Good, a woman in a same-sex covenanted relationship. The Executive Board approved eight action steps that will be taken to the Constituency Leaders Council in October. At the same time, the board emphasized ongoing support for the foundational documents that formed Mennonite Church USA including the Confession of Faith, the Vision: Healing and Hope statement, A Mennonite Polity for Ministerial Leadership, the denomination’s membership guidelines and bylaws, the Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love document and the more recently crafted Purposeful Plan.
The Executive Board highlighted that Mountain States did not honor its covenanted relationship with the other conferences that comprise Mennonite Church USA in the decision to license Good. Since ordination is transferable to other conferences, the board requested that Mountain States Conference refrain from ordaining Good at this time. The board requested that other conferences resist licensing individuals in same-sex relationships as further licensings compromise the denomination’s polity and conference membership agreements.
“I was pleased to read that the denominational leaders have come to a place that holds us accountable to our stated understanding of membership and ministry,” observed Ertell Whigham, Franconia Conference executive minister. “I think that this does give us some sense of direction, though it still leaves some ambiguity. They left room for conversation and some interpretation, but they definitely call for accountability.”
The Executive Board also committed to developing new processes and/or structures for the denomination “that will strive to find healthy ways to promote unity in Christ in the midst of diverse expressions of faith.” One of the first steps toward this exploratory process will be a “survey of all credentialed ministers in preparation for a time of discernment at [Kansas City] convention in July 2015.”
The decision of the Executive Board does not change much for Franconia Conference, said Whigham. He further elaborated a desire to stay focused on Conference priorities while the denomination tends to the conversation on sexuality. “We will continue to prepare ourselves for open, honest, and realistic conversation in line with our objectives for strengthening relationships and building trust.” Whigham believes that by building healthy relationships and trust, Franconia Conference leaders and communities will be better prepared to navigate difficult conversations regarding human sexuality.