This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Central District licenses Ohio pastor in same-sex relationship

Central District Conference licensed Mark Rupp for ministry at Columbus (Ohio) Mennonite Church on July 26. Rupp is the second Mennonite Church USA pastor in a committed same-sex partnership to be credentialed.

Members of Columbus (Ohio) Mennonite Church lay their hands on Mark Rupp while Lois Johns Kaufmann, conference minister for Mennonite Church USA’s Central District, prays during a service to license Rupp as pastor of Christian formation on July 26. — Hannah Reiser

According to a resolution passed at MC USA’s national delegate assembly July 2, Central District is now at variance with the denomination.

The resolution calls for “conference-to-conference peer review” when an area conference makes a decision out of line with the Membership Guidelines and Confession of Faith. Those documents uphold traditional marriage and say pastors may not perform same-sex marriages.

The Constituency Leaders Council “will likely get a chance to figure out what a ‘conference-to-conference peer review’ looks like,” said Lois Johns Kaufmann, conference minister for Central District.

When Rupp was installed as pastor of Christian formation at Columbus Mennonite in the fall, Johns Kaufmann said she informed conference pastors and denominational leadership of plans for licensing Rupp. Based on feedback, they decided to wait to license him until after the national delegate assembly.

In February, MC USA executive director Ervin Stutzman responded on behalf of the Executive Board, indicating disappointment, she said.

He said the board’s response would be similar to their response to Mountain States Mennonite Conference, which licensed Theda Good as pastor of nurture and fellowship at First Mennonite Church in Denver. Good was the first openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender minister to be licensed in MC USA.

A June 2014 Executive Board report said MC USA would not recognize Good’s license, and asked area conferences not to grant credentials to people in same-sex relationships “unless the Mennonite Church USA Delegate Assembly changes the stated polity on same-sex marriages.”

“In other words, MC USA will not recognize the license and will consider CDC to be at variance,” Johns Kaufmann said.

Another sexuality-related resolution passed at the assembly. It calls MC USA to extend “grace, love and forbearance toward conferences, congregations and pastors in our body who, in different ways, seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ on matters related to same-sex covenanted unions.”

“On this side of KC 2015, it is not clear to me if the forbearance and Membership Guidelines resolutions will change the Executive Board’s response,” Johns Kaufmann said.

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