Delegates pass forbearance resolution

MCUSA-LogoBy Meg Short

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI. (Mennonite Church USA) — Delegates reconvened on Thursday, July 2, to discuss the Resolution on Forbearance in the Midst of Differences and the Resolution on the Status of Membership Guidelines.

Moderator-Elect Patricia Shelly announced the results of Wednesday’s vote on whether or not to continue discussion on the Israel-Palestine resolution; 418 delegates were in favor of tabling the resolution until the next assembly in two years, with 336 wanting continued conversation, and 28 abstaining. The board will rewrite the resolution with the voiced concerns in mind and present it to delegates at the 2017 assembly to be held in Orlando, Florida.

The children present at convention passed out their handprints on papers that included their name and “We are praying for you!” to the delegates. Pastors wearing red stoles walked the room the entire morning, praying over the decisions made. “We are being prayed over and being held, and I want you to keep that image before us in our deliberations,” Moderator Elizabeth Soto Albrecht said.

Mennonite Church USA Executive Director Ervin Stutzman explained the rationale behind the two resolutions that were brought by the Executive Board for delegate discussion on July 2.

Stutzman acknowledged that both resolutions have been years in the making, noting that the board considered bringing a resolution to the 2013 Phoenix assembly but decided that the immigration focus was more pressing. “The Forbearance resolution was brought to the CLC and widely affirmed there,” he said.

“We understand the membership guidelines as a way of stating what we believe God intends for the world, while understanding this forbearance is what needs to happen in order for our church to function. If we only had people who functioned according to God’s intent, we’d have empty pews,” Stutzman said.

The proposed forbearance resolution “acknowledges that there is not currently a consensus” on matters related to same-sex covenanted relationships. It “calls those in Mennonite Church USA to offer grace, love and forbearance towards conferences, congregations and pastors in our body who, in different ways, seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ on matters relating to same-sex covenanted unions.”

Charlotte Lehman (left) and Megan Ramer (right) present resolution to delegates, Thursday, July 2, 2015, Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Abby Graber.
Charlotte Lehman (left) and Megan Ramer (right) present resolution to delegates, Thursday, July 2, 2015, Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Abby Graber.

Two of the writers presented the resolution. Megan Ramer of Chicago Community Mennonite Church and Charlotte Lehman of Reba Place Church in Evanston, Illinois, congregations who do not agree theologically but are both in support of forbearance.

“For us the resolution means a willingness to not disown individuals, congregations or conferences within Mennonite Church USA who disagree with us. We are not at the same place. We acknowledge them and bless them as our siblings in Christ,” Lehman said.

Soto Albrecht surveyed table leaders on their readiness to vote, and asked for a moment of silence and prayer by Pastor Meghan Good of Albany, Oregon. The forbearance resolution met with 71 percent approval from delegates. The resolution passed with 581 yes votes, 228 no votes and eight abstentions.

Near the beginning of the session, individuals affiliated with Pink Menno, a grassroots movement in support of LGBTQ

Elizabeth Soto Albrecht prays with nine delegates representing churches burned from racial violence, Thursday, July 2, 2015, Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Abby Graber.
Elizabeth Soto Albrecht prays with nine delegates representing churches burned from racial violence, Thursday, July 2, 2015, Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Abby Graber.

inclusion in the Mennonite church, came onstage unannounced to perform a satirical theatre piece. A release from Pink Menno said their message was that “the entire [resolution] process is flawed and does not represent LGBTQ Mennonites.” Others connected with Pink Menno wore black garbage bags to the session as a way to “de-pink” the hall and represent the silencing of LGBTQ people.

Near the end of the session, Soto Albrecht called nine representatives forward as Iris de León-Hartshorn, director of transformative peacemaking for Mennonite Church USA, prayed for the nine African American churches that were burned down this week in acts of racial violence.

Read the full issue of the KC Currents, the daily convention newssheet here.

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Images available:

Charlotte Lehman (left) and Megan Ramer (right) present resolution to delegates, Thursday, July 2, 2015, Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Abby Graber.

Elizabeth Soto Albrecht prays with nine delegates representing churches burned from racial violence, Thursday, July 2, 2015, Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Abby Graber.