Survey for Credentialed Leaders

On Friday August 8, 2014, a survey was e-mailed to credentialed leaders (active, active without charge and retired) within Mennonite Church USA. Below you can read Executive Director Ervin Stutzman’s letter of introduction to the survey, as well as a list of the survey questions. Please note that this is not the live survey, and you cannot submit responses through this page. The results of this survey will help to guide the work of the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board as they prepare for the Delegate Assembly in Kansas City, Mo. from June 30-July 5, 2015.

Also, please note that we are encouraging congregations to identify their delegates by January 2015, because the Executive Board will likely solicit feedback from delegates to help prepare for convention, possibly through another survey. 

If you are aware of a credentialed leader within Mennonite Church USA who has not received an e-mail invitation to complete the survey, please contact Shelley Buller (ShelleyB@MennoniteUSA.org).

Letter of Introduction from Ervin Stutzman

Dear Credentialed Leader,

Greetings in Christ’s name! The Executive Board is sending this survey to you as a credentialed leader for several reasons. First of all, since the local church is the primary gathering of God’s people, and other levels of church are “supporting communities,” it is essential that we check with credentialed leaders from time to time to see how well these “supporting communities” are serving the local church. If you indicate on the second question that you have a congregational pastoral assignment, you will be presented with a number of questions that seek that kind of information.

Secondly, since congregations may be affected by upcoming discussions about church structure, it seems appropriate to give credentialed leaders a chance to speak about their preferred connections to the church beyond the local congregation. Therefore, several questions will relate to overall church structure.

Finally, since tensions in the broader church regarding same-sex relationships have motivated several groups of pastors/credentialed leaders to share their convictions via open letters to the broader church, we deem it important to give opportunity for all credentialed ministers to voice their personal convictions, even if they are reluctant to sign open letters.

You may respond one time to this questionnaire and only one person (the email recipient) may answer the questions. Your responses will remain confidential and will not be identified with your name—all analysis and reporting of the results will be on an aggregate level and not by individual.

Please complete the questionnaire by September 8. Responses received after this date will not be included in the data analysis. Conrad Kanagy will analyze the responses, and provide a report to the Executive Board. We will also make the report available to everyone who completes the survey, along with a summary report for the church at large.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me through my assistant Shelley Buller (see contact information in the P.S. below). Your responses will be part of the broader discernment of the Executive Board as it prepares a proposal for the Delegate Assembly to consider at our convention in Kansas City in 2015. Thank you for your willingness to be part of this discernment process.

Shalom,

Ervin R. Stutzman
Executive Director
Mennonite Church USA

List of Survey Questions

1. What is the most hopeful way, if any, that you have seen God at work in your congregation or other ministry setting within the last two years? (write one or more phrases/sentences)

2. Mark the appropriate description of your role:
o Congregational pastoral assignment
o Assignment outside the congregation
o Retired

3. In what ways does your congregation benefit from the broader community of faith? For example, Mennonite Church USA’s guiding document, the Purposeful Plan (lines 791-805), lists ways in which the broader church community—such as area conferences and/or the national conference or its agencies—strengthens the life and ministry of local congregations. Several of these ways are summarized below. Indicate how important that particular assistance is to you in your role (with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest), and the extent to which this benefit has increased, decreased or stayed the same over the last five years. We would like for you to respond for both the area conference and the denomination. For each trait, please answer the following questions:

o How important is this to you as a pastor/leader (on a scale of 1-5, low to high)?
o In relationship to your area conference: Over the past five years, has this _____ (increased, decreased, or stayed the same)
o In relationship to our denomination: Over the past five years, has this ________ (increased, decreased, or stayed the same)

a) A sense of identity and belonging that is larger than just the local context.
b) Ways to cultivate healthy interdependence with other congregations
c) Educational resources and other means of discipleship
d) Broader discernment regarding tough issues that arise in pursuit of our mission
e) Support for calling, training, and sustaining congregational leaders
f) Avenues to cooperate with other groups on projects in mission or relief
g) Outside help when congregations face intense conflicts or personnel issues

4. Which of the following services from Mennonite Church USA benefited your congregation in the last five years? (mark all that apply)
o Participation in churchwide convention for all ages (Pittsburgh 2011 and/or Phoenix 2013)
o Website and/or graphic design services (including the Mennonite Church USA logo)
o Attendance of church member(s) in Mennonite Education Agency-related schools (kindergarten through seminary)
o Assistance in finding a pastor through resources provided to your conference minster (Leadership Development Resources)
o Pastoral salary guidelines (Leadership Development Resources)
o Year of the Bible/12 Scripture Project (Leadership Development Resources)
o Documents from our web-based resource center, such as: (list any documents)

4a. Stewardship resources from Everence (mark all that apply)
o Sharing Fund matching grants for financial needs in the church/community
o Stewardship teaching, such as seminars and workshops
o The Corinthian Plan for health coverage (by either giving or receiving)
o Financial planning or banking services, such as a church mortgage loan
o Other (please specify)

4b. Resources from Mennonite Mission Network/Holistic Witness
o Ministry partnership in overseas context
o Participation in a ministry program such as Mennonite Voluntary Service, DOOR, SOOP, Radical Journey, Service Adventure or Youth Venture
o Missio Dei booklets, with topics such as “What is an Anabaptist Christian?”
o Mission banks (children’s stewardship curriculum)
o Other (please specify)

4c. Resources from MennoMedia (mark all that apply)
o Hymnal: A Worship Book, Sing the Journey and/or Sing the Story
o Leader magazine for planning worship
o Uniform Series Sunday school curriculum
o Children’s Sunday school curriculum Gather Round
o Third Way Café or other web resources
o Other (please specify)

5. In answering the following questions, keep in mind that Mennonite Church USA is made up of 21 area conferences. Each of these area conferences have congregations that are members of their conference. These congregations are not members of Mennonite Church USA, but are affiliated with the denomination by virtue of belonging to an area conference.

5a. What, if anything, do you appreciate most about your congregation’s affiliation with Mennonite Church USA? (Write one or more phrases/sentences)

5b. What, if anything, most concerns you about your congregation’s affiliation with Mennonite Church USA? (write one or more phrases/sentences)

6a. Under what conditions, if any, do you believe that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or queer (LGBTQ) should have opportunities for membership within Mennonite Church USA congregations? (mark just one choice)
o LGBTQ individuals should have full opportunities for membership without conditions
o Only LGBTQ indivduals who remain celibate or are in committed monogamous relationships should be members
o Only LGBTQ individuals who remain celibate should have full opportunities for membership
o Under no conditions

6b. Under what conditions, if any, do you believe that people who are LGBTQ should have opportunities to serve in congregational leadership roles, including the pastorate, as called by congregations of Mennonite Church USA? (mark just one choice)

  • LGBTQ individuals should have opportunities to serve in leadership roles without conditions
  • Only LGBTQ individuals who are celibate or are in committed monogamous relationships should have opportunities to serve in leadership roles
  • Only LGBTQ individuals who remain celibate should have full opportunities to serve in leadership roles
  • Under no conditions

6c. Under what conditions, if any, do you believe that pastors in Mennonite Church USA should be able to officiate at same-sex weddings without censure or review of their ministerial credentials? (mark all that apply)

o Under no conditions
o If the pastor feels convicted to perform such weddings
o If and when the congregation approves of same-sex marriage
o If and when the area conference approves of same-sex marriage
o If and when denominational delegates approve of same-sex marriage

7. Which of the following best characterizes your personal convictions in regard to the organizational decisions being faced by Mennonite Church USA? (mark just one choice)
o I want to be part of a church fellowship that fully includes LGBTQ persons as a matter of faithfulness to God, even if it means that we will lose members who disagree.
o I want to be part of a church fellowship that upholds the vision of marriage expressed in our Mennonite Church USA Membership Guidelines, which prohibits same-sex relationships, even if that means we will lose members who disagree.
o I value the unity of the church so much that I am willing to live respectfully with ongoing differences within Mennonite Church USA.

8. What passages from the Bible serve as helpful guides for your understanding of God’s will regarding persons who are attracted to members of their own sex? (List 3-5 of the most applicable scripture references)

9. What, if anything, do you believe that God wants to teach Mennonite Church USA in the midst of the many differences we face in our church regarding human sexuality? (write one or more sentences)

10. Which of the following best captures your sense of a preferred future for the organization of Mennonite Church USA? (mark just one choice)
o Mennonite Church USA should be reorganized with greater authority being held by the Executive Board and denominational agencies.
o Mennonite Church USA should be reorganized so that area conferences are fully the centers of authority for credentialing and other matters and the denominational staff are largely in the role of resourcing conferences and congregations.
o The current organizational structure of Mennonite Church USA is satisfactory and should not be changed.
o I prefer a model where congregations are the centers of authority (e.g. hold credentials, make membership guidelines) but the denominational and area conference staff are available for consulting and resourcing.
o I support the dissolving of Mennonite Church USA and its area conferences as they currently exist, allowing congregations full autonomy.
o I’m not sure
o Other (please describe in a sentence or more)

11. Please explain your response to question 10 in two or three sentences—why did you select this option?

12. Indicate the name of the state or commonwealth where your congregation is located

13. Where is your permanent residence now? (mark just one choice)
o On a farm
o In open country, but not on a farm
o In a small town (under 10,000) or its suburbs
o In a small city (10,000 to 50,000) or its suburbs
o In a medium city (50,000 to 250,000) or its suburbs
o In a large city (over 250,000) or its suburbs

14. Indicate the name of your area conference

15. Indicate your age in years

16. Sex

17. Indicate your highest educational level

18. Please feel free to write anything else you’d like to say to Mennonite Church USA leaders.