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WEBINAR | Special Session of the Delegate Assembly: What now?
The Delegate Assembly is over, and decisions have been made. What has changed? What does it mean for my conference, my congregation and me? What opportunities are there for us to live into our Renewed Commitments to “follow Jesus, witness to God’s peace and experience the transformation of the Holy Spirit”? Se ofrecerá servicio de intérprete al español.

MC USA Delegate Assembly widens the circle for LGBTQ people and those with disabilities
Delegates at Mennonite Church USA’s  Special Session of the Delegate Assembly, May 27-30, passed three resolutions that help to remove barriers for LGBTQ people and those with disabilities and adopted a fourth resolution, “For Justice in the Criminal Legal System,” for denominational study. Read the full news story here.

Watch the final Facebook Live here.

Day 4 | May 30

Morning scripture readings:  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Romans 12:9-18

Rev. Dr. Sarah Ann Bixler and Dr. Malinda Elizabeth Berry led morning worship.

Bixler reflected on the passage in Ecclesiastes, in which the author writes that there is a time for everything. “What kind of time is this when there is both rejoicing and mourning?” Bixler asked. “We are not in a place that is unfamiliar to God or God’s people. I’m reminded of how Jesus saw the crowds as they were distressed and scattered and, most certainly, some people were rejoicing, and some people were mourning. He was moved with compassion,” she said. “What if we too, could be moved with compassion – compassion for what someone else is feeling and compassion for what we ourselves are feeling?” Bixler asked.

Berry, in her message inspired by Romans 12, compared the church community to a neighborhood. Neighborhoods let us live together and be different at the same time … This neighborhood is changing. And some of those changes, I feel grateful for, and some of them leave me feeling afraid. There’s new construction and for sale signs. Some houses have the blinds drawn shut. And some have open windows with music pouring through them, trying to get a dance party going. I want to live peacefully with you all, and I need people to like me just the way I am,” she said. And then, quoting Presbyterian minister and television personality Fred Rogers, Berry asked, “Please, won’t you be my neighbor?”

Discussion on “For Justice in the U.S. Criminal Legal System”
Facilitators Sidney Morgan and Matt Tibbles led the delegates through facilitated table group discussions on the meaning of justice and their response to the resolution.

During open mic sharing, several delegates called for the creation of additional resources, such as information on pregnancy and childbirth in prison, educational materials to teach children about systemic injustice and insights from Mennonites involved in the criminal legal system.

“For Justice in the U.S. Criminal Legal System” is designated as a study resolution. For more information on what this means, see the MC USA Staff Impact Statement.

Discussion and vote on the “MC USA Accessibility Resolution”
Delegates shared their thoughts about the resolution during an open mic time. Several delegates suggested ways that churches and the Delegate Assembly could be more accessible.

Lauren Thompson, youth delegate representing North Baltimore Church, Baltimore, Maryland, shared that she has a medical condition that requires her to put her feet up when sitting for periods of time. “A lot of churches have pews that are spaced very close together, making it hard to do that. I wanted to highlight that as something to think about,” she said. She also encouraged delegates to talk to their youth members, saying, “We have a lot of ideas, even though we’re younger.”

MaryBeth Moore, a mother of two deaf children and delegate for Virginia Mennonite Conference, said, “By excluding people with disabilities, we are excluding gifts. God gives each of us gifts. If our churches are not accessible to everyone, it’s the whole community that’s missing out.”

Vote on the MC USA Accessibility Resolution (by show of hands)

Yes: All (Unanimous)

No: 0

Abstentions: 0

The MC USA Accessibility Resolution has been approved as a church statement resolution.

For more information on what this means, see the MC USA Staff Impact Statement.

For more resources on accessibility, please visit MC USA’s “Learn, Pray, Join: Welcoming EveryBODY.”

Day 3 | May 29

Delegates participated in a community building exercise based on an East Asian story about a red string that binds people together. According to the story, the red string may tangle and stretch, but never breaks. Delegates passed the red string to each other, praying a blessing on each other at the same time.

Morning scripture reading: Hebrews 12:14, Roman 12:1-2
Samuel Sarpiya led the Delegate Assembly in worship today with his message, “The Way of Peace in Our Polarized World.” 

“We cannot be bound by the binary of the world,” said Sarpiya. “If we follow Jesus, he gives us creative imagination. When faced with polarizing situations, we need to seek a third way. It means going back to the centrality of Jesus.”

Delegates practiced active listening at their group tables during a community building exercise, led by Facilitator Matt Tibbles. During the exercise, pairs of delegates were asked to share a story with one another, while a third observed their interaction. Read more about our facilitators here.

Discussion on “Clarification on Mennonite Church USA Polity and the Role of the Membership Guidelines of Mennonites” 

Ken Burkholder, Souderton Mennonite Church, Souderton, Pennsylvania, said, “The thing I wrestle with is that this statement that is in our Membership Guidelines is not just about polity. … By removing this statement, we are making a statement [with] biblical theological implications [about] our understanding of marriage, God’s vision of marriage, according to biblical witness. And so that’s the tension I feel.”

David Edminster, St. Paul Mennonite Fellowship, St. Paul, Minnesota said, “I’d like to speak in favor of going forward with this resolution and to withdraw the current Membership Guidelines. … [St. Paul’s Mennonite Fellowship] became one of the first churches to make a public proclamation of our welcoming status and the consequences were severe. We lost our funding. We lost our place in our conference. We had to lay off our pastor, but we’re still a church. All this happened maybe 20 years ago, and we’ve survived as a church … My point is that the Membership Guidelines hurt individuals very badly. And they hurt churches. By extension, they hurt pastors and administrators and put us in impossible situations.”

At the urging of delegates, the Executive Board allowed an additional 20 minutes of discussion time for delegates to converse at their tables. 

Vote on “Clarification on Mennonite Church USA Polity and the Role of the Membership Guidelines of Mennonites” passed. 

    Yes: 404 (82.8%)

    No: 84 (17.2)

    Abstain (non-vote): 3

Total number of ballots: 491 

*Percentages are based on total yes/no votes and do not include votes to “abstain.”

 Therefore, we retire the Membership Guidelines as the active polity in Mennonite Church USA.

Discussion and vote on “A Resolution for Repentance and Transformation.”

Delegates participated in a World Cafe dialog about what resonated with them in “A Resolution for Repentance and Transformation” and what caused them some resistance. This was followed by roundtable discussions  and a time for delegates to share at the microphone. 

During the open mike time, Mark Keller of Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia, made a motion to “table ‘A Resolution of Repentance and Transformation’ until the next delegate assembly.”  The motion did not pass (120 yes, 354 no, 13 abstentions), so discussion continued. 

Curt Stutzman, Weavers Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia, said, “…I hold a deep conviction that my desires are to be submitted to God’s desires, and that God’s purpose and place for sexual expression is within marriage between a man and a woman. I, therefore, in order to be faithful to God and loving to those around me, must ask others to submit their desires to God’s authority. This conviction results in my sometimes being viewed as intolerant and unjust. This resolution as it is written will create more division because it is not simply a resolution calling for repentance of past harm but is a resolution asking many of us to surrender a Biblical conviction.”

Amy Zimbelman, conference minister, Mountain States Mennonite Conference, said: “We are a small conference, and we have a handful of churches that do not consider themselves to be LGBTQIA affirming. We are also the first conference to ordain an openly gay pastor … It’s been beautiful to see what happens when pastors and congregations who profoundly disagree with one another stay in fellowship together … When I study the Bible, I see a Jesus who hung out with all types of folks. It did not taint Jesus’ relationship with God’s Spirit to have a drink with diverse people — in fact, it was a sign of the coming Kingdom of Heaven that the marginalized are brought to the center … Let’s keep eating and drinking and learning together … with our marginalized LGBTQIA siblings.” 

The vote on “A Resolution for Repentance and Transformation” passed. 

Yes: 267 (55.7%)   

No: 212 (44.3%)   

Abstain (non-vote): 9

Total number of ballots: 488

*Percentages are based on total yes/no votes and do not include votes to “abstain.”

Therefore, “A Resolution for Repentance and Transformation” has been adopted as a church statement resolution. 

For more information on what this means, please watch our Facebook Live recording for 5/29/2022 and refer to MC USA’s Staff Impact Statement here.

Day 2 | May 28

Morning scripture reading: Galatians 3:23-29
Samuel Sarpiya led the Delegate Assembly in worship today with his message, “What Matters Most: For We Are God’s Children Through Faith.” Sarpiya concluded his sermon saying, “My message to you this morning is, respond to the nudging of the Holy Spirt. Draw the circle wider.”

Dr. Samuel Sarpiya

Delegates participated in a facilitated discussion about the Membership Guidelines. Table groups shared about their conversations. Themes included humility, being open to new relationships and experiences, the importance of personal stories, recognition of pain on all sides, living with ambiguity and compromise, a recognition that there are power dynamics behind what we establish as the “norm,” and acknowledgment that the Membership Guidelines can be helpful to some churches and less important to others.

Delegates voted to add “A Resolution on Repentance and Transformation” to the agenda. Delegates will discuss and vote on the resolution on Sunday, May 29. 

Yes: 357 (72.6%*)

No: 135 (27.4%*)

Abstained (non-vote): 5

Total number of ballots: 497 

*Percentages are based on total yes/no votes and do not include votes to “abstain.”

Ellie Kosek, youth delegate, Madison Mennonite Church: “I think that regardless of how each one of us, or each of our congregations, views this resolution, it’s something we need to talk about. I think that, as Mennonites, we talk about peace all the time. But that often looks like pushing the hard conversations under the rug. We need to show people in an increasingly polarized time that, even if we disagree, we can talk about those disagreements … and can still coexist peacefully. I think that if we’re going to practice what we preach, we need to have this conversation and show the world that it is possible.”

Marisa Smucker, senior executive of ventures, Mennonite Mission Network hosts a panel called Perspectives: Ministry in Context with Jess Engle, pastor at Hesston Mennonite Church, Hesston, Kansas; Vickie Pruitt-Sorrels, pastor at Lee Heights, Cleveland, Ohio; Megan Ramer, lead pastor at Seattle Mennonite Church Seattle, Washington; and Aldo Sihaan, pastor at Philadelphia Praise Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Panelists discussed their individual churches and what ministry has meant to them in the context of their congregation, from immigration concerns to affordable housing projects.

Day 1 | May 27

The Executive Board and the Constituency Leaders Council prayed, worshiped and celebrated Communion together this morning. 

The Executive Board approved a statement in response to the horrific shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and violence in other communities.
Read it here.

Aaron Chappell Deckert of Next Element led the Constituency Leaders Council through a training session on conflict communication. 

Glen Guyton shared the first results from the denominational survey with the Executive Board.
Read more about the survey here.

More than 500 delegates (and guests) gathered for a time of prayer, storytelling and singing as the Special Session of the Delegate Assembly opened in worship.

Watch today’s Facebook live here.

Pre-Assembly | May 26

Join daily Facebook Live

  • Glen Guyton will be hosting a daily Facebook live with guests to recap the days events.
  • Tune into the MC USA Facebook page at the end of each day. You can find a schedule here.
  • Watch the first live here.

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