Major changes are occurring within the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States concerning LGBT issues.
On Sunday, the governing body of the largest Mennonite denomination in America passed a resolution admitting to "committing violence against LGBTQ people." The same resolution affirmed Mennonite Church USA's commitment to LGBT inclusion moving forward.
According to the Religion News Service, the group held a separte vote to repeal orders prohibiting pastors from officiating same-sex marriage. However, the dehnomination's official confession, which says that marriage is only between a man and a woman, remains unchanged.
A Vote Repealed a Ban on Same-sex Marriage in the Denomination
During a special assembly in Kansas City, Missouri, a vast majority of delegates or up to 83% of them voted in favor of repealing orders that prohibit same-sex marriage. The resolution for LGBT inclusion however, passed more narrowly with only 55.7% of delegates in favor.
The Mennonnite Church USA's Resolution for Repentance and Transformation read, "Excluding LGBTQIA people from the church is a rejection of God's joyous delight in the diversity of creation and a denial of the Divine image and breath animating all humankind."
The resolution also states that Mennonite Church USA will establish an LGBT constituency group, develop denominational resources on repentance and reconciliation for local congregations, and honor members of the LGBT community in future theological statements.
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Mennonite Church USA Apologizes for Past Harm Inflicted Upon Members of the LGBT Community
Mennonite Church USA Executive Director Glen Guyton said in an interview with Fox 43 that the decision is "a statement, a step towards a more inclusive body." He added that "there's still a lot more work to do," including repenting for the past harm they committed against members of the LGBT community, which the denomination's recent resolution described as "a form of violence."
Mennonite Church USA, which was formed in 2002 as a merger between two older denominations, traces its roots to 16th century Anabaptists and had initially adopted membership guidelines that prohibited pastors from blessing same-sex marriages. It was allegedly made as a compromise in a dispute about whether LGBT people should be excluded from congregational membership, ordained Mennonite pastor and Ph.D. student Isaac Villegas explained. Villegas added that the compromise "began this pattern of harm against LGBTQ people."
The decision, however, was met with criticism from some. Dwight McFadden of Millersburg Mennonite Church in Ohio told Anabaptist World that Mennonite Church USA needs "both the traditional and the progressive" and added that they "cannot do this work [without] both."
The Mennonite Church USA is structured in a way that the denomination has some sort of symbolic authority over individual conferences, which means that even if membershup guidelines prohibited pastors from officiating same-sex marriages, conferences would implement or defy those guidelines however they see fit. Moreover, its unique structure also allows the denomination to have contradictory guidelines.
Guyton explained that they "don't necessarily get rid of one or revise them," but instead "create new ones that reflect who we are at a certain period of time."
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