SCHILLER PARK, Ill. (Mennonite Church USA)—All 18 members of the Executive Board (EB) of Mennonite Church USA met June 26–28 at the Four Points Sheraton O’Hare in Schiller Park, Ill.
The board spent the majority of its time together processing eight recommendations for action from a task force appointed in March. The task force’s work responded primarily to the decision by Mountain States Mennonite Conference (MSMC) to license Theda Good, a pastor at First Mennonite Church in Denver who is in a committed same-gender relationship, on Feb. 2. The task force’s report also took into account calls from the Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) to discern ways to find unity in the midst of diversity across the church.
The task force met 12 times, and task force members Patricia Shelly, task force chair, and David Boshart also met in person in Denver with MSMC leaders.
The task force emphasized that, should Mennonite Church USA want to change its current covenant or documents, that change must be led by the Delegate Assembly and is not one that the Executive Board or an area conference can make on its own.
The board’s discussion reflected a clear desire to find a way for all members of Mennonite Church USA to thrive, while still remaining accountable to commitments they have made.
The final report approved by the board lists eight actions that will be implemented over the course of the next year, leading up to the 2015 Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City, Mo.
Included in these actions is an affirmation that the foundational documents—Vision: Healing and Hope statement, Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, the Membership Guidelines, the Bylaws, A Mennonite Polity for Ministerial Leadership, the statement on Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love, and the current Purposeful Plan—serve as the guiding documents for Mennonite Church USA.
The board actions also include a commitment to develop new processes—including an exploration of new structural models—that will strive to find healthy ways to promote unity in Christ in the midst of diverse expressions of faith. The board will also launch a survey of all credentialed ministers in preparation for a time of discernment at convention in July 2015.
Regarding Mountain States Mennonite Conference, the board statement acknowledges that in granting credentials to a pastor in a same-gender relationship, MSMC failed to honor the relational covenants they made to the broader church in 2005. The board is inviting MSMC to renew the commitments they made to affirm foundational church documentswhen they became a Mennonite Church USA area conference in 2005. The board also asked MSMC not to consider a request to ordain Good unless the Mennonite Church USA Delegate Assembly changes the stated polity on same-sex relationships.
The Executive Board requests that no area conference license or ordain a person in a same-gender relationship and noted that such credentials (including Good’s) would not be recorded in the national ministerial database unless the Delegate Assembly would take action to change the current polity.
The full text of the board report is available online.
In addition, the board approved guidelines for adopting resolutions at the 2015 Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City; affirmed sending a letter to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America as part of an ongoing process of reconciliation and ecumenical dialogue; heard reports from participants on the February/March 2014 Come and See Tour of the Israel-Palestine region; and conducted a review of Everence, the stewardship agency of Mennonite Church USA. Tyler Hartford, pastor at Pleasant View Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind., also was appointed to the board for a one-year term, replacing Nancy Heisey, who resigned from the board earlier this year.
On Thursday evening, the board met with members from several Chicago-area Mennonite congregations who shared stories of finding a place to belong and a theological home in Mennonite Church USA. Board members also received a half day of training in intercultural competency from Iris de León-Hartshorn, Mennonite Church USA director for transformative peacemaking. Fourteen board members participated in the Intercultural Development Inventory, a survey tool meant to help groups assess their intercultural competency and to identify steps for continued growth.
Ervin Stutzman, executive director of Mennonite Church USA, shared a report on the work of EB staff. He reported that they expect to end the 2013–14 fiscal year in July with a strong positive balance, thanks to increased donations from individuals and Mennonite Church USA agencies as well as staff efforts to reduce expenses.
The board also clarified the process for choosing members of the assembly resolutions committee for the 2015 convention. Board members expressed their hope that congregations would consider appointing young adults as delegates to convention.
To frame the group’s work together, board member Dave Sutter of Kern Road Mennonite Church in South Bend, Ind., placed a lighted hurricane lantern in the center of the meeting room. Sutter said, “Even when the wind blows, the light in this lantern does not blow out. Similarly, in the midst of a storm, Jesus calls us to be calm and towards hope in him.” The lit lantern remained a visual centerpiece throughout the meetings.
The next meeting of the Executive Board will be Sept. 25–27 in Kansas City, Mo.
—Mennonite Church USA staff
See also related EB articles and actions.