On June 19, 2017, the Executive Board (EB) of Mennonite Church USA met by video conference to review an appointment made by consent agenda in its March 30-April 1 board meeting. Board members acknowledged some missteps in the process that resulted in an uninformed decision to appoint Doug Basinger, an individual in a same-sex marriage, to the Leadership Discernment Committee (LDC). Most of the EB members learned of the nominee’s sexual orientation and marital status some days after the board meeting. Because of its care for the nominee as well as the whole church, the board carefully weighed the options for dealing with this controversial matter.
Board members determined that they need more time to discuss and clarify policies on appointments that the EB makes of LGBTQ persons to denominational boards and committees. Thus, the board decided to suspend their decision regarding this recent appointment until its meeting Sept. 28-30 in Kansas City. There it will engage in a policy discussion and seek to make a fully informed decision about the status of the current appointment. The action to suspend the appointment was affirmed by a vote of 8-6, with one abstention. One board member was absent and did not vote.
The EB is deeply sorry for the ways it has fallen short in caring adequately for the interests and felt needs of the whole church during this challenging time of controversy regarding same-sex relationships. Board members differ among themselves about whether the sexual orientation and relationship status of nominees are important factors for the EB’s appointments. Yet all of them grieve for the unwanted exposure and harm the EB’s process is causing Doug.
The EB is weighing this decision carefully because this is the board’s own appointment, rather than a Delegate Assembly appointment to the LDC. At the heart of the decision to suspend the current appointment was not the individual under consideration but a failure of the EB’s process. The board recognized that the appointment was made through the routine approval of a consent agenda, when the decision did not in fact reflect the informed consent of the board.
The EB understands that its role is to articulate broad vision, mission and policy for the denomination. It has done so by providing the church with the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (1995), the Mennonite Church USA by-laws, A Shared Understanding of Ministerial Leadership, the Membership Guidelines, board policies and the interpretation of the board’s role in light of recently adopted resolutions (Forbearance and the Status of the Membership Guidelines). In the new biennium, it will give particular attention to board processes that honor our church’s common commitments to be followers of Jesus Christ and enable all parts of the church to pursue their particular calling in diverse contexts.
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