This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Gay advocacy groups get space at KC convention

Same-sex relationship advocacy groups will be allowed space at the Mennonite Church USA convention for the first time this summer in Kansas City.

The denomination announced Jan. 13 that church leaders have accepted an application for exhibit space by the Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests.

Also, convention planners will work with leaders of the Pink Menno campaign to negotiate rental of a meeting room on site at the convention center. At previous conventions BMC and Pink Menno rented space off-site.

BMC has applied for exhibit space at previous conventions; this is the first year that the request has been approved.

Pink Menno applied to be an exhibitor at convention for the first time this year; the group’s request for exhibit space was denied.

The decisions were made in consultation with the MC USA Executive Board.

“The decision to grant exhibit space to BMC is not a radical one,” said Glen Alexander Guyton, chief operating officer and convention planning director, in a news release. “BMC has long been part of our conventions. They are an established organization with clear points of authority. We have had good conversations with BMC leaders about our shared expectations for the exhibit hall at convention.”

All participants are expected to abide by attendee and exhibitor guidelines.

“Conversations about sexuality are happening all across the church right now,” said MC USA executive director Ervin Stutzman, in a news release. “Our leadership team felt it was the right time for the Executive Board to revisit our policies about the use of convention space. We desire to be proactive, rather than reactive, in the conversations that need to take place among us as followers of Jesus Christ.

“This move does not represent a change in our church’s commitments but grows out of our desire to remain in loving conversation with people who have been a part of our church and our conventions for many years. We desire that every person who attends our convention will be treated with respect and care, in the exhibit hall and everywhere else.”

Other approved exhibitors include all MC USA agencies and higher education institutions, as well as Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Disaster Service, Mennonite Economic Development Associates and other faith-based organizations.

The convention is scheduled for June 30-July 5.

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