Fifty-two current and retired pastors and church leaders in Ohio Conference of Mennonite Church USA signed a Feb. 5 letter calling on Mountain States Conference to reverse its decision to license a pastor in a committed same-sex relationship.
The matter was brought as a resolution to Ohio Conference’s annual assembly March 7-8 in Bluffton. Delegates tabled it to allow more time for congregations to study the issue.
The signers had urged Ohio Conference to pass a resolution calling on the denomination’s Executive Board and Constituency Leaders Council to suspend Mountain States’ membership — if Mountain States does not reverse course — and bring a motion to the 2015 national convention to remove Mountain States from membership.
Ohio conference minister Tom Kauffman said most of the people who generated the letter attended the assembly.
“As they caucused among themselves, they recognized that a majority of our delegates are concerned about the decision to license [First Mennonite Church of Denver pastor of nurture and fellowship] Theda Good, but they had reservations that the concerned pastors’ letter was the best way to work at it, as well as recognizing that many of our congregations have not had time to process this at the congregational level,” he said.
Kauffman said the group moved to table the resolution, and 80 percent of delegates voted to do so, with the understanding that materials will be provided for study and that a special delegate session would be called by late summer, after a task force presents its report on Mountain States to the MC USA Executive Board.
The signers come from 21 of Ohio Conference’s 77 congregations. They addressed their letter to Ohio Conference and MC USA leadership.
The letter states that Mountain States’ decision has consequences for Ohio churches, becoming “an obstacle for missions when persons in our communities hear about such actions and are led to misunderstand or misrepresent the beliefs and practices of our congregations… .
“We are also greatly concerned by the inaction of our sister conferences that have not revoked the credentials of licensed and ordained pastors who have performed same-sex marriages or covenant ceremonies… .
“Our sincere hope and desire is that our brothers and sisters in Mountain States Mennonite Conference would reconsider and reverse their decision upon counsel from the wider church and the movement of the Holy Spirit so that we can remain in good fellowship with one another.”
In other business, Ohio Conference formalized a one-year project for Bluffton University associate professor of religion Randy Keeler to compile a survey of the conference’s youth ministry activity and serve as a youth ministry resource.
The conference welcomed two new congregations — Victory Community Church, a Cleveland-area church plant in Solon, and Salem Mennonite Church in Kidron, which transferred from Central District Conference.
The conference marked the closure of Stoner Heights Mennonite Church in Louisville and the departure of Bethel Mennonite Church of Wadsworth and Kalida Family Outreach Center. Kauffman said neither left over same-sex issues.