Virginia Conference delegates passed a resolution with 91% approval to create a Denominational Affiliation Work Group to examine “legal and practice implications” related to discernment about Mennonite Church USA affiliation options over the coming year.
They made the decision on July 15, the final day of their summer assembly at Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Va.
Virginia Conference announced in a release that the resolution grants immediate permission for congregations to consider themselves members of the conference but not of MC USA. It commits the body to a year of spiritual renewal and discernment together with prayer, fasting and worship the first Sunday of every month.
A “Community of Faith Statement” resolution pledging to support and work together to practice mutual trust and respect and to “strengthen our unity as a peace church” passed with 77.4% approval.
A third resolution, which called for reaffirmation of a 2013 policy statement on suspension of ministerial credentials in response to conducting a same-sex wedding, failed after receiving 50% approval. The resolution asked for creation of a means to hold credentialed and conference leaders to that statement and the 1995 Confession of Faith, which define marriage as between one man and one woman. Delegates approved a motion to raise the threshold for passage of resolutions to 75% the day prior to voting to assure “broad consensus” of decisions.
A pastoral letter from the interim conference leadership team acknowledged growing tension regarding sexuality.
“As VMC sought to live into forbearance within the 2013 [policy statement], congregations chose divergent paths, with several leaving VMC to leave MC USA and others realigning with other MC USA conferences,” the team wrote. “The actions of MC USA Delegate Assembly in May 2022 have further raised this tension, bringing it to a breaking point.”
Virginia Conference leaders issued a statement last September responding to concerns about an LGBTQ-affirming resolution that MC USA delegates approved in 2022. The statement at that time said the conference upheld the Confession of Faith and maintained a policy of suspending the ministry credential of any pastor who conducts a same-sex marriage ceremony.
Sara Wenger Shenk concludes her two-year term as moderator Aug. 31. Andrew Buckwalter Fairfield was commissioned as incoming moderator. Jim Hershberger, pastor of Mount Clinton Mennonite Church, was approved to serve as moderator-elect beginning in September.
Two thirds of VMC’s 60 congregations were represented by delegates, with 136 people registered to attend in person and online.