On Saturday, Gulf States Mennonite Conference voted on whether to leave Mennonite Church USA. They needed a two-thirds majority to pass. It failed to pass with 60% voting in favor. This is similar to the vote in Ohio Conference back in August. Their resolution asked Mennonite Church USA to remove Mountain States Mennonite Conference from the denomination if they did not reverse their decision to license Theda Good. That resolution also needed a 2/3 majority and failed when it received 62% in favor.
There is a trend where a majority in some conferences are clearly rejecting the path denominational leaders seem to want to take which allows for diversity in blessing of same-sex marriage. These leaders are not listening to that voice nor are they helping create space for the more conservative voices to find a connection with each other. The current path of avoidance and emphasizing unity is not conducive to what is best for the church at large. We need denominational and conference leaders to work together at branching into two denominations. We are not well-served by the current trend of trying to keep everyone in as if the problem is the people at the extremes.
We could become a wonderful model of handling conflict well, an alternative to the scorched-earth policies taken by mainline denominations as they make leaving as difficult as possible for their congregation. As Anabaptists, we were the recipients of these kinds of policies in the formation of our faith tradition. Today we don't face physical death and torture, but we do experience the assassination of character and maligning of motives from those who advocate for unity at all costs. When our denomination pursues a path that rejects its formation documents and considers a major change that embraces sexual diversity, the gracious path is to help each other find what we need and strengthen each other along the way. That includes the space to leave well when a group finds changes to be unacceptable.
I would propose that those conferences like Gulf States that need a new kind of denomination come together and begin conversations about what a new affiliation might look like. Perhaps it wouldn't mean two denominations at first, but it could be the birthplace for a new identity to help these conferences continue to move forward together. It is important that the conference leaders carry themselves with integrity in this process. In Ohio Conference, a clear majority voted in favor for censure of Mountains States. If conference leaders there disagreed with that resolution, then that vote is a clear indication that new leaders are needed for that conference.
We need this from our leaders. We need this now. It is a step of courage and beauty. It is the right thing to do.
-John M Troyer
This blog is updated each weekday. Liking the Facebook page will not automatically update your news feed with new posts. If you would like receive regular notifications of new posts, join the Facebook group at this link. If you would like to subscribe by email, you can do so at the top of this page.