Atlantic Coast extends credentialing to LGBTQ

Sean Reece, delegate of New Holland Mennonite Church, shares with his table group. — Atlantic Coast Conference Sean Reece, delegate of New Holland Mennonite Church, shares with his table group. — Atlantic Coast Conference

Atlantic Coast Conference of Mennonite Church USA will now process credentialing requests for LGBTQ ministers.

The Feb. 10 announcement of the decision by the ACC Ministerial Leadership Committee followed “careful discernment of listening to God’s Spirit through the diverse feedback from delegates and congregations” and affirmation by the conference’s executive committee.

Delegates gathered Feb. 4 at Forest Hills Mennonite Church, Leola, Pa., to talk about what extending credentials would mean for their churches. ACC reported a majority of congregations and delegates “expressed support for expanding credentialing opportunities,” while others said such a change would be difficult to accept.

Delegates did not vote on a new credentialing policy because conference bylaws and procedures give the Ministerial Leadership Committee discretion on when to extend or withhold credentials.

The discernment process followed the May 2022 vote by MC USA delegates approving a resolution that called for full inclusion of LGBTQ people.

Because MC USA credentialing is the sole responsibility of conferences, the conference’s Ministerial Leadership Committee felt discernment should take place on whether ACC’s practices would follow the direction of MC USA resolution.

ACC has several LGBTQ people serving in ministry positions who have not yet been granted a credential by the conference. The Ministerial Leadership Committee received a request in 2020 to interview and credential a person in a same-sex marriage. The committee interviewed the candidate and unanimously agreed that, if not for the question of same-sex marriage, they would move forward with granting a license toward ordination.

The committee will now process any request for credentialing brought by an ACC congregation. Congregations retain the right to request, or not to request, the credentialing of an LGBTQ person.

“There remains strong diversity in ACC on the topic of LGBTQ+ inclusion and a host of other questions,” reported the conference. “ACC, since its beginning, has affirmed this theological spread and has celebrated the diverse ways that ACC congregations do ministry in their communities. ACC and MC USA continue to view the congregation as the primary unit of the church with broad authority to do ministry as they discern in their own contexts.”

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