The final document of the BFC Task Force, including its four-part recommendation to the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly 2016, is now available for review and response. It has been sent to all MC Canada congregations and is available on the MC Canada website.
The document is called “Being a Faithful Church 7: Summary and Recommendation on Sexuality 2009-2015.” The BFC Task Force believes that the following four-part recommendation accurately reflects the feedback from congregations over the seven-year process:
First, we affirm that one of our foundations of unity has been the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective. We recommend that it continue to serve the church in the ways suggested on page 8 in the Introduction of the Confession itself. (The Confession in that paragraph states that it serves the church as a guideline for the interpretation of Scripture, in providing guidance for belief and practice, in building a foundation for unity, as an outline for instruction and teaching, in updating interpretations of belief and practice, and in helping in the discussion of Mennonite belief and practice in the wider circle of faith.)
Second, we call upon our family of Christ to respectfully acknowledge that there are those among us (congregations and individuals) whose careful study of Scripture and prayerful journey of discernment led them to a different understanding on committed same-sex relationships than is commonly assumed by the reading of Article 19 in our Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.
Third, we recommend that we create space/leave room within our Body to test alternative understandings from those of the larger Body to see if they are a prophetic nudging of the Spirit of God.
Fourth, since continued discernment will be required after Assembly 2016, we recommend that Mennonite Church Canada and Area Churches develop a mechanism to monitor the implementation of this recommendation.
The BFC Task Force is not requiring further responses to this recommendation before the Assembly in July, 2016. However, if there are further responses that you would like the BFC Task Force to hear before Assembly 2016, these are very welcome. Such feedback—received before February 15, 2016—will be seriously considered in determining whether or not another draft of the Final Recommendation is required before Assembly 2016.
The BFC Task Force understands that its mandate and work will end at Assembly 2016. Further processes needed beyond Assembly 2016 will be defined by the MC Canada General Board.
Discernment and testing of divergent voices is the ongoing vocation of the church. As a Body, we have discerned that intentional space is needed over a longer period of time to “test” the differing voices that are among us. This path recognizes that at any given time there will likely be majority and minority understandings of key matters of Christian faith and practice. By recommending the need for “testing space,” our Body has expressed its confidence that God’s Spirit will be with us and will guide us. This confidence in the Spirit affirms that being like-minded and the exclusion of difference are not the only two alternatives for the Church. We can be united in our common quest for faithfulness even when different understandings arise. This does not mean that the whole Body approves every alternate understanding. It does mean that we are committed to provide more space within our national Church, our Area Churches, and congregations to test alternative understandings to see if they are a nudging of the Spirit of God. This work of creating space/leaving room within our Body to test alternative understanding will be done in the interface between the congregations and other levels of the church as suggested in the monitoring mechanism of this recommendation.
The recommendation does not indicate exactly how such space would be created, nor how it would be monitored. These are determinations that take us beyond the mandate of the present Task Force. Neither does the recommendation suggest that all parts of the church would be obliged to do the same thing. The recommendation does assume, however, that differences will not easily divide us. We will continue to walk these paths of discernment together.
The Task Force invites all MC Canada congregations and Area Churches to continue in fervent prayer, serious study, and respectful dialogue as we consider the recommendation before us. The Task Force also invites further responses if concerns or questions arise that require further consideration. These responses can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org before February 15, 2016.