A second Mennonite Church USA area conference intends to license a pastor in a same-sex relationship, potentially putting it at odds with an Executive Board directive.
Central District Conference plans to license Mark Rupp, who was installed Sept. 21 as pastor of Christian formation at Columbus (Ohio) Mennonite Church.
Lois Johns Kaufmann, the conference minister, said the Central District board and ministerial committee affirmed their readiness to license Rupp.
Then she, several board members and the ministerial committee chair asked almost two dozen church leaders and pastors to offer their counsel to help decide when to hold the licensing service.
“Most of the people expressed a hope that we could wait until after Kansas City [the MC USA convention in July],” she said. “We are committed to doing a licensing service in late July of next year.”
The MC USA Executive Board in June asked that no area conference grant a ministerial license to a pastor in a same-sex relationship and said the denomination would not recognize such licenses.
The board issued its statement in response to Mountain States Mennonite Conference’s February licensing of Theda Good, a woman in a same-sex relationship who serves on the pastoral staff of First Mennonite Church in Denver.
Joel Miller, pastor of Columbus Mennonite, said the congregation’s calling process began before the board’s statement was released but that he recognizes hiring Rupp will be seen by some as biblical unfaithfulness.
“It’s significant that the same year the wider church adopted the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective it also adopted a statement called ‘Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love,’ ” he said. “We find disagreement to be a natural part of church life, and it is the hope of our congregation that when there is disagreement we can do so in a loving way.”
The Executive Board’s June report asks area conferences not to grant credentials to persons in same-sex relationships “unless the Mennonite Church USA Delegate Assembly changes the stated polity on same-sex marriages.”
MC USA’s Confession of Faith states marriage is only for a man and a woman. Its Membership Guidelines state that pastors may not officiate same-sex covenant ceremonies.
“Some of us feel called by God to open up a space in the church for further testing of another biblically sound option for our Christian LGBTQ brothers and sisters besides a lifetime of celibacy,” Johns Kaufmann said. “Central District is not of one mind on this.”
She said supporters of Rupp’s licensing are not asking those who oppose it to change their minds.
“We pray for grace as we respond to our Christian LGBTQ brothers and sisters in a manner that seems Christlike to us,” she said.
The MC USA Executive Board has said next summer’s convention in Kansas City will be “a time of significant decision-making regarding future direction” on the relationship of area conferences and the national conference.
Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, moderator of Mennonite Church USA, said: “I’m requesting all our brothers and sisters to submit to each other in love in the name of unity and wait until Kansas City, as the Executive Board requested. That way we live up to our polity and allow the delegate assembly, which has the ultimate power as one body, to have the opportunity to deal with these issues.”