This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Would women split?

A large majority of the credentialed leaders in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference voted in November to withdraw from Mennonite Church USA, ostensibly over sexuality issues. They publicly object to the willingness of MC USA to tolerate some diversity in views and practices on LGBTQ issues and the passing of the forbearance resolution at the Kansas City convention in July. That resolution calls on congregations to show love and grace to those who differ in the ways they follow Jesus regarding same-sex covenant unions.

But there is an elephant in the LMC room that goes unmentioned and unchallenged: Most of these leaders are men (346 of 392, according to the Lancaster Conference office), and all the bishops are men. Would this vote have been the same had half of the leadership been women? I doubt it. Evidence suggests that American women are less likely to break up families and take divisive stands that lead to organizational splits.

Moreover, we live in a society that increasingly calls for women to exercise leadership roles in our major institutions. Is an exception to be made in the church? I don’t think so. Are LMC leaders willing to tell their daughters, granddaughters and nieces that those leadership roles (doctors, engineers, professors, managers) are not for them? I doubt it. We object when voting in certain countries is limited to a small elite of the population. Why do we accept the same within the church?

David L. Swartz
Newton, Mass.

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