This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

MC USA board sends ‘forbearance’ resolution to delegates

“Forbearance” is the key word of a resolution the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board will send to convention delegates in July.

mcusaMeeting April 6-8 in Kansas City, Mo., the board approved the resolution — along with three others and one that’s still being worked on — for delegates’ consideration.

“We think it has the potential to help us live together with our disagreements,” said Ervin Stutzman, MC USA executive director, in a telephone interview after the meeting.

The board calls the statement “a resolution on forbearance.” It states that there is no consensus within MC USA about how LGBT people should be included in the church and calls on members “to offer 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.”

The resolution is sponsored by Chicago Community Mennonite Church, North Baltimore Mennonite Church and Reba Place Church in Evanston, Ill.

The Constituency Leaders Council affirmed the resolution in March, choosing it over two other proposed statements on sexuality and church polity.

The Executive Board also approved three other resolutions for the Kansas City convention agenda:

  • “Faithful Witness Amid Endless War” calls for a recommitment to the way of peace and a rejection of drone warfare.
  • “A Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse” mourns the ways sexual violence has been present within MC USA and offers several commitments and steps to prevent future abuse.
  • A resolution on Israel-Palestine offers support for continued Mennonite learning tours to the region as well as a commitment to the work for peace with justice there.

Still being written

Board members produced another resolution, which is still in development, that seeks to clarify the relationship between the MC USA Membership Guidelines; the new Mennonite polity manual, A Shared Understanding of Church Leadership; and the resolution on forbearance.

A news release reported that the board passed the resolution, which will be released no later than May 1, by a vote of 12 to 2.

Stutzman said the statement seeks to balance accountability and forbearance. It will give area conferences more responsibility “to work out the agreements we have” in a process of “peer-to-peer review,” he said. It will call on the CLC to take a more active role of accountability as a group of “elders.”

The board also talked about possibilities for new types of associations or fraternal relationships.

“In this time of stress and change, we need to recognize that Christian faith is about relationships and how we follow Jesus together,” Stutzman said. “Relationships are more important than formal structures.”

The need for such relationships is emerging due to congregations withdrawing from MC USA. Some that have left or are thinking about leaving are forming a new network that may launch this year.

“We are willing to negotiate about what a relationship looks like when [a group] may not want to be part of a formal structure,” Stutzman said.

An associate conference category, similar to the relationship Conservative Mennonite Conference had with the former Mennonite Church, might be created.

The board believes associate relationships are just as important for groups interested in a closer relationship with MC USA.

“We want all parts of the church to be able to flourish, and we’re open to exploring ways to continue to collaborate,” Stutzman said in the news release.

Updating the plan

Stutzman presented the board with a list of new goals, which include planning for a church-planting summit, re-evaluating the scope and form of MC USA conventions and reviewing policies for sexual misconduct.

The board asked staff to include a new priority within the Purposeful Plan that emphasizes a commitment to outreach, evangelism and church revitalization. The board recognized that many congregations “are struggling with their identity and with numbers and that many Mennonites are not comfortable with evangelism,” according to the new release. The board urged staff to give greater time and energy to these initiatives.

The board received a preliminary report on the results of a delegate survey from sociologist Conrad Kanagy of Elizabethtown, Pa. The results will not be released publicly until after the survey closes on May 7.

Contributing: Mennonite Church USA staff.

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