The Mennonite Church USA Executive Board has appointed a task force to review Mountain States Mennonite Conference’s decision to license a pastor in a committed same-sex partnership.
The announcement was made in a document released after the board’s meeting in Harrisonburg, Va., Feb. 13-15.
A majority, but not all, of the Executive Board members affirmed the statement, according to a news release.
The statement says that by licensing Theda Good, Mountain States “made a decision which they knew to be directly at variance with several denominational statements regarding theological and organizational agreements.”
It asks the conference to seek counsel before taking steps toward ordaining Good, who serves First Mennonite Church in Denver as pastor of nurture and fellowship.
Mountain States made its decision to license Good, the board said, “without sufficient counsel from the Constituency Leaders Council and the Conference Ministers’ group.”
The CLC is a national advisory group of conference leaders that meets twice a year.
The board said the Mountain States decision “has exacerbated the polarities within our church and frayed the fragile strands of accountability that hold our church together in an emotionally charged political atmosphere.”
Mountain States Conference leadership declined to comment on the board’s statement. But in a Feb. 14 newsletter, leaders addressed their conference and MC USA members.
“As we considered this decision, we sought to follow Jesus in the best way we knew how,” the leaders wrote. “… We shared with MC USA leaders along the way and sought their input. We diligently studied denominational confessions and the scriptures on which they are based.”
The letter was signed by Karen Cox, Mountain States moderator; Herm Weaver, conference minister; Annie Lengacher Browning, associate conference minister; and Jaime Lazaro, SEED project director.
The Executive Board’s task force will include Patricia Shelly, MC USA moderator-elect and CLC co-chair; David Boshart, a member of the Executive Board and CLC; and two or three additional members.
The task force will “focus a question for discussion and a recommendation for a process of decision-making to the CLC at its March meeting,” the board said.
During its meeting, the board spent several hours in executive sessions, which were closed to the media. The news release said most of this time was spent discussing a response to the actions of Mountain States and the recent process begun by Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg to review its hiring policy. Currently, the university will not hire people in same-sex relationships.
Loren Swartzendruber, EMU’s president; and Carlos Romero, executive director of Mennonite Education Agency; spoke with the board about EMU’s process.
The board also affirmed the release of a revised statement on immigration justice, which delegates called for at MC USA’s convention last summer in Phoenix.
The statement reads in part: “We renounce the indifference to and mistreatment of undocumented and documented immigrants that has occurred and continues to occur in our congregations, our communities and this country. We are committed to joining God’s reconciling mission and to live and act as sisters and brothers in Christ regardless of our legal status.”
The statement includes a list of resources for congregations and individuals to use in learning more about and engaging immigration issues.