Delegates at the Mennonite Church Canada assembly July 3-6 in Winnipeg, Man., approved a set of questions for denomination-wide discussion over the next two years.
The questions are part of the Being a Faithful Church process. The project — to help congregations discern God’s will through scriptural interpretation — has been going on since 2009.
Human sexuality, particularly same-sex relationships, is the topic currently being addressed. The following questions, which could be rephrased over the coming months, were approved for congregational discussion:
- God’s gift of unity in Christ is not invalidated by our disagreement. How shall we maintain our unity in Christ as congregations, area church/national church while understanding matters of same-sex relationships differently?
- Most responses indicated a desire to be “more compassionate and welcoming of those individuals who are same-sex attracted.” Describe how your congregation hopes to reflect this desire.
- In reviewing the trends, what counsel do you have for the area/national church in light of the different understandings of compassionate responses toward people in same-sex relationships?
Responses will shape a report and recommendations for the 2016 assembly.
“Faith is not invalidated by our disagreement,” said MC Canada executive director Willard Metzger. “What if we define unity in a way that embraces diversity and disagreement?”
Metzger, who has been meeting with people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said a healthy dialogue is generating helpful suggestions — such as the inclusion of science, medicine, psychology and voices from the LGBT community itself. There, like elsewhere, he said, there is both disappointment and support for a recent study paper, “Between Horizons: Biblical Perspectives on Human Sexuality.”
The gathering’s theme, “Wild Hope: Faith for an Unknown Season,” based on Mark 4:35-41, concerned uncertainty on a stormy sea and the “wild hope” present in faith.
MC Canada’s Future Directions Task Force — created to discern what God’s Spirit is calling the church to in the 21st century and what are the best ways for it to thrive and grow — led a July 5 plenary session about re-thinking strategies and reimagining the local congregation and the wider church.
Task force members Chad Miller and Rebecca Steiner shared some of their dreams.
“I imagine a church that acknowledges and embraces the pluralism of today, seeing it as a part of God’s greater plan,” Steiner said. “I imagine a church open to learning from the other and finding common ground with those who claim different beliefs than our own. I imagine a church that has a broader vision of who the body of Christ is.”
The task force gave opportunity for delegates to share their hopes for the church. An interim report from October 2013 stated that “a more integrated, simpler, yet sounder structure is needed for the wider church.”
In small group discussion, participants discussed what that would look like. Several proposed decentralizing decision-making power so that people will have a sense of ownership, being less top-down and more grassroots.
Compiled from Mennonite Church Canada news releases.