NORTH NEWTON, Kan. — Amid controversy over the licensing of a lesbian pastor, leaders from across Mennonite Church USA asked the Executive Board to explore new models for relationship among area conferences and congregations.
Eighty-four members of the Constituency Leaders Council met March 20-22 at Bethel College. Their discussions were not open to the media but were summarized in a news release.
CLC members responded to questions about church structure, polity and relationships, prompted by a decision by Mountain States Mennonite Conference to license a pastor in a committed same-sex relationship on Feb. 2.
The CLC encouraged the Executive Board and a task force “to address the broader conversations and disagreements across the church regarding same-gender relationships,” the news release said.
Mountain States leaders described the year-and-a-half discernment process that led to the decision to license Theda Good for ministry at First Mennonite Church in Denver.
Both Herm Weaver, Mountain States conference minister, and Ervin Stutzman, MC USA executive director, identified points of regret and things they might have done differently.
CLC members acknowledged Mountain States’ actions placed it “at variance with the relational covenant the conference made when it joined MC USA in 2005,” the news release said.
Table groups offered suggestions for how the Executive Board could respond to the variance. A task force appointed by the board will draft a recommendation for the board to consider at its June 26-28 meeting in Chicago.
Participants said CLC members showed care and respect for one another.
“The level of care for each other was extraordinary,” said David Boshart of Wellman, Iowa, executive conference minister of Central Plains Mennonite Conference, in a report to the group. “If we can carry that sense of extraordinary care to the rest of the church, they would be astonished at how God can work in human hearts.”
Members of the Newton community set up a prayer room across from the CLC meeting space.