This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Survey on polity and LGBT issues for delegates

Delegates meet in Phoenix 2013. Photo by Everett J. Thomas.

The Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA has prepared the following survey of delegates as part of their preparation for the Delegate Assembly at convention in Kansas City, Mo., June 30-July 5, 2015.

A link to the online survey (in both English and Spanish) will be sent to delegates after they register for the convention.

The feedback from the survey will guide the Executive Board (meeting on April 6-8, 2015) in shaping specific proposals for delegates to discuss and decide upon at the Delegate Assembly. The questions grew out of interactions with many individuals and groups, including the ad hoc structure committee, a group appointed by the Executive Board to discuss possible changes in our denominational organization and polity.

In the questions linked below, the words “denomination” and “national conference” are used to describe the whole of Mennonite Church USA, in distinction from congregations or area conferences, which are crucial parts of Mennonite Church USA.

Two other crucial parts are the constituent groups and churchwide agencies/ministries. The Executive Board gives leadership to and acts on behalf of the whole denomination when the Delegate Assembly is not in session.

Questions 1-5 and 18-23 in this survey are designed to gather demographic information, for the purpose of comparisons between various demographic groups. Questions 18-23 are identical to those which were included in the recent survey of credentialed leaders.

Questions 6-8 are designed to solicit your opinion on questions related to the role of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in our denomination. They are identical to three of the questions which were included in the survey of credentialed leaders.

Questions 9-17 are designed to solicit your opinion on questions of polity (organizational process and governance) and structure in Mennonite Church USA. They address some of the significant differences of opinion in our church regarding our churchwide organization, how authority is exercised at various levels in the church, and the nature of decisions that can be made by the Delegate Assembly. Questions 9-10 are identical to two of the questions which were included in the recent survey of credentialed leaders.

Question 14 speaks to the level of authority of decisions made by delegates. It is clear that the Bylaws of Mennonite Church USA, Inc., which must be approved by the Delegate Assembly, are legally binding on all parts of Mennonite Church USA. In contrast, there is considerable debate about the authority of other kinds of resolutions (decisions) made by the Delegate Assembly, such as the adoption of churchwide statements.

Question 15 refers to the Membership Guidelines which were adopted as part of the formation of Mennonite Church USA in 2001. The language about the merger was removed from the Membership Guidelines by the Executive Board in an administrative update in 2013. Members across the church have expressed widely differing opinions regarding the interpretation of the Membership Guidelines, including their current status and authority over various parts of the church. Therefore, the Executive Board believes that the Delegate Assembly should have the opportunity to decide on the future role of these guidelines in the life of the denomination.

Question 24 provides an opportunity for delegates to give open-ended responses on whatever matter(s) they choose, including matters not specifically addressed by a question in the survey.

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