Saying the “embrace of relativism and individual choice as the ultimate arbiter of sexual ethics” is one of the most challenging issues facing society today, the British Columbia Mennonite Brethren Conference has sent a letter to its churches asking them to reaffirm their commitment to the MB Confession of Faith, including the article on marriage, singleness and family.
The letter, sent by the BCMB Executive Board and Pastoral Ministries Committee on Nov. 3, references the “painful” departure earlier this year of Artisan Church over that church’s stance on LGBTQ people.
Following that departure, which the letter says “was a direct result of their choice to no longer abide by our Confession of Faith,” B.C. Conference leaders debriefed about how to interact more effectively with churches and leaders who may “similarly choose to depart from our Confession.”
That process led the conference boards, committees and staff to reaffirm the full Confession of Faith, including how it engages the LGBTQ community, and to ask church leaders to review it and “recommit yourselves to affirm and teach it.”
Now the conference is inviting “our pastors, together with their boards and/or leadership teams, to reaffirm together our confessional convictions so that our unity and mission may be strengthened for the days ahead,” the letter says.
The timeline for the review and reaffirmation is April 30, when the conference’s spring assembly will occur.
As they review the Confession, the letter reminds church leaders that the article on sexuality is linked to other articles such as the revelation of God, creation and humanity, sin and evil and discipleship.
“We are fully confident that you would not be serving as leaders in Christ’s church if you were not already committed to these things,” the letter says, adding “but for this season we believe it is to our mutual benefit and strengthening that we all reaffirm to the Lord and to one other our pledge to walk in confessional integrity.”
The goal of the next assembly is to “joyfully encourage one another having affirmed our faith in this way,” it says.
In Manitoba, River East Church has received a letter from the Manitoba Mennonite Brethren Conference asking it to “provide a clear response” by Jan. 31 to questions about its decision to include people from the LGBTQ community.
In the letter, signed by provincial director Cam Priebe on behalf of the conference board, the conference asks if River East has any “intent to do anything that disagrees with our shared confession” and to clarify what it means by “full participation” in its inclusivity statement.
That statement says all persons “whatever their ability, age, ethnicity, family status, gender identity, income level, race, sexual orientation or other identity distinctives” are welcome to full participation.
The letter goes on to ask if River East affirms the Confession’s article on marriage as a covenant between “a man and a woman for life” — a question the conference asked the church earlier this year.
If River East is not able to respond by that deadline, the conference will follow its constitution’s due process, the letter says.
According to that document, that could mean the conference may suspend or revoke the membership of a congregation if it is seen to be departing from the scriptural fundamentals of faith or doesn’t accept the decisions of the conference.
In an email, Priebe said LGBTQ people “should experience the love of Jesus and feel a sense of belonging in MB churches. . . . Our current conversations are an effort to bring clarity and enhance our ability to navigate our shared convictions articulated in the MB Confession of Faith.”