Year in review: Sexuality issues test unity
Pastoral credentialing is latest point of contention in longstanding debate
Dec 22, 2014 by Paul Schrag, Mennonite World Review
Struggles in Mennonite Church USA over same-sex relationships entered uncharted territory in 2014. When one conference licensed a lesbian pastor in Colorado and another signaled its acceptance of a gay man called to pastoral ministry in Ohio, a new question was on the table.
Can a church already torn by conflict over homosexuality stick together when the dispute escalates to whether people in same-sex relationships can be pastors?
In the words of the MC USA Executive Board, the situation “frayed the fragile strands of accountability that hold our church together.”
The board denounced the action that ignited the concern. It refused to recognize Mountain States Conference’s licensing of Theda Good as a pastor at First Mennonite Church in Denver.
A few months later, Mountain States was not alone. Columbus Mennonite Church in Ohio installed Mark Rupp as a pastor, and Central District Conference leaders indicated their intent to license him next summer.
Events some hailed as progress others decried as sinful. Opposition to gays and lesbians in ministry, and frustration over the issue of same-sex relationships in general, rumbled across the denomination. A letter from leaders of five area conferences — Franconia, Lancaster, Virginia, New York and Franklin — called Mountain States’ action “catastrophic for our constituencies.”
MC USA churches move in 2014
More Mennonite Church USA congregations have left the denomination or switched conferences so far in 2014 than in 2013, many citing concerns related to two conferences accepting gay or lesbian pastors.
Where will the Same-Sex Conversation Lead?