MC USA Executive Board releases statement on LGBTQ inclusion

Statement outlines steps in LBGTQ conversations

February 20, 2014 | Web First
Anna Groff | The Mennonite

The Mennonite Church USA Executive Board (EB) spent many hours in executive session working on a statement regarding the inclusion of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in Mennonite Church USA.

The EB met Feb. 13-15 at Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Va. The statement is available here

The statement is primarily in response to the December 2013 decision of Mountain States Mennonite Conference to license Theda Good, a pastor at First Mennonite Church in Denver.

It states that the EB will create task force to review the Mountain States Mennonite Conference decision, as well as involve the input of Constituency Leaders Council during their March 2014 meeting.

The EB spent approximately seven of the 16 meeting hours in executive session. 

Executive sessions are closed to the church press, including The Mennonite, unless the publication's editor agrees to allow the Mennonite Church USA executive director and moderator to make final edits before the article is published.

The EB policy states: "The [Executive Board] reserves the right to review the reports of church media before they are published to assure that they honor the board's policies regarding the quoting of individual board member opinions versus the stating of explicitly stated board decisions."

The amount of time in executive sessions at this meeting is "an unusual move that draws sharp criticism from our church press," wrote Stutzman in his director's report.

"The main purpose for these sessions is to invite a maximum sense of safety for board members to express themselves," he wrote. "Eventually, we hope to find a better way to balance the competing needs for both emotional safety on the board [and] independent reporting to the church."

Stutzman also shared that he has received more than 200 responses to the Mountain States Mennonite Conference decision "across the ideological spectrum, with a majority disagreeing with the Mountain States action."

He responded with a personal message to each, and some of these responses led to several exchanges. "There is no visible path forward that could unify all the respondents. To show the range of sentiments . . . I will share a number of the comments," Stutzman wrote.

The EB also met with Loren Swartzendruber, Eastern Mennonite University, Va., president in executive session to discuss the listening process of Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, regarding its policy on hiring LGBTQ employees.

According to reporting in the open sessions, the executive sessions included times of deep sharing, and many board members had emotional reactions to the process.

Also on Feb. 17, Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, Mennonite Church USA moderator, sent out a letter regarding the statement.

In other news, on Feb. 14, the Executive Board held a review with MennoMedia executive director Russ Eanes and MennoMedia board chair Lee Schmucker.

These leaders described the movement of MennoMedia from financial survival mode to new growth.

Eanes also outlined several changes in the publishing industry that he foresees in the next five years. He described the need for MennoMedia to be "agile" in this fast-moving industry.

The following board members did not attend the meeting due to weather conditions: Samuel Voth Schrag, Charlotte Hardt, Yvonne Diaz, Kenneth Thompson and Nisha Subaiya Springer.

Reprinted from The Mennonite, with permission

—Posted Feb 20, 2014

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