By MC USA staff
The process of reviewing the denomination’s Membership Guidelines was a central focus of the virtual Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) Executive Board (EB) meeting on Sept. 11-12, 2020. The EB reviewed the written report from the Membership Guidelines Advisory Group and responded to each of the group’s recommendations.
“We attempt to listen to the constituency of our denomination through conferences and congregations alike to communicate what the Spirit is saying to the church,” said Bishop L.W. Francisco III, retired senior pastor and now overseer at C3 – Calvary Community Church, Hampton, Virginia. “We take our role as servant leaders seriously, as we seek to carry out consensus of the Delegate body.”
The EB acknowledged MC USA’s inconsistent polity surrounding the Membership Guidelines, recognizing that it has resulted in much conflict, harm and pain in the denomination from its inception. “We grieve this pain for our siblings in the church and pray for our continued discernment together as the family of God,” said Joy Sutter, moderator, MC USA.
Following are the EB’s responses to the recommendations in the Membership Guidelines Advisory Group report:
- Recommendation 1: Retire the Membership Guidelines
EB response: The eight-step process adopted by the Executive Board addresses this recommendation in detail. (For more information, read: Mennonite Church USA Executive Board approves budget, process for addressing polity concerns, including Membership Guidelines) The final decision to retire or keep the membership guidelines rests with the MC USA delegate body.
- Recommendation 2: Any document or policy about LGBTQ people must actively include representatives of the LGBTQ community in its creation.
EB response: According to the MC USA bylaws, the Executive Board is to “ensure that anti-racist and culturally competent principles are practiced throughout church structures and programs.” (VI.1.f) Standard cultural competency practice suggests marginalized groups must be part of any meaningful change process, said Glen Guyton, MC USA executive director.
- Recommendation 3: The EB should approve/explore the creation of an LGBTQ constituency group.
EB response: The Executive Board will consider this recommendation in the next biennium with a diverse task group (see recommendation #2).
- Recommendation 4: MC USA will develop a truth-and-reconciliation process with LGBTQ people.
EB response: The Executive Board staff is directed to pick up this work and develop a plan in collaboration with various marginalized groups within MC USA, particularly with LGBTQ leaders, Racial/Ethnic leaders and the denomination’s women’s programs.
- Recommendation 5: MC USA EB, staff and church-wide program agencies will not use sexual identity, gender orientation or marital status as criteria to restrict a person’s full participation in the ministries, activities, roles and committees of our denomination.
EB response: The EB affirms this is already standard practice at the denominational level (per EB “Action on A Policy on Board and Staff Appointments,” April 13-14, 2018, Dock Mennonite Academy, Lansdale, Pa.) and at our agencies (Everence, MennoMedia, Mennonite Education Agency, Mennonite Mission Network and MHS). According to MC USA polity, conferences and congregations are responsible and accountable for discerning their hiring practices and the calling of their leaders.
Sutter expressed the EB’s appreciation to the Advisory Group for its participation in this discernment process. “We thank you for committing yourselves to this important work and for listening deeply, engaging with kindness and being open to God’s leading.”
For more information on the EB meeting actions, read Mennonite Church USA Executive Board approves budget, process for addressing polity concerns, including Membership Guidelines.
Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, approximately 530 congregations and 62,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 86 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana and Newton, Kansas. mennoniteUSA.org