MCUSA Convention Day 3
Posted on July 2nd, 2015
The morning session started with an introduction, a hymn, and sharing from Everence.
Several Pink Menno folks approached the stage and took the microphone, introducing a “resolution", while other representatives took slips of papers with the resolution wording to each delegate table. The “resolution" was worded as follows:
"Because we as Mennonites believe in clear boundaries and tall fences to keep out any abominations in the eyes of God:
We heretofore resolve that those struggling with opposite-sex attractions at variance with the mennonite confession of faith will not be recognized for their membership or ministry in the life of the church.
All those in favor will be asked to say “Aye"!
Those opposed, please do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself about."
A number of folks in the audience shouted for the moderators not to “cede the floor" and the moderators asked for the intercepted microphone (and others) to be cut off. The Pink Menno representatives continued, and appeared to have brought their own powered mic and speaker. There were attempts to sing over them, by some delegates. The moderator tried to peacefully restore the session, emphasizing love, as the representatives did the Hokey Pokey (see above) before leaving the stage. The moderator called and prayed for grace, and the worship leader led the assembly in a song.
We then heard the result of the motion to table the Israel-Palestine resolution, which passed with roughly 55% in favor. They addressed that it could not be-reworded and resubmitted this week, because the resolutions committee were already busy with the 3+ still-to-come resolutions.
There was then an acknowledgment from the moderator about the “de-pinking", which referred to the following other Pink Menno action:
"The very documents upon which MCUSA was founded mandated the exclusion and diminishment of LGBTQ lives. Shoring up, or making minor adjustments, will not fix the cracks that are inherent in a foundation built upon unjust structures. The unity the church seeks will not be realized by continuing to scapegoat LGBTQ lives. As Pink Menno, we cannot give consent to what is at heart an illegitimate undertaking.
Today we de-pink the delegate session to symbolize our rejection of a flawed and violent process."
Most people wearing pink in support of Pink Menno wore trash bags over their clothes, covering their pink.
Next, the from the executive board, we heard an explanation for the ordering of the resolution, a discussion of how they are intended, and a discussion of some of the questions regarding them. Importantly, Ervin tried to call out the difference between intent and practice, giving the examples of the “variant" relationships in Jesus’s own family lineage that were still used for the glory of God. He also called for us to “hold our brothers and sisters more tightly than our documents."
The Forbearance in the Midst of Differences resolution was presented by members of churches with opposing viewpoints who both wanted MCUSA to be welcoming of each other.
There was a lot of support for this resolution, even amidst the fact that many folks wish there could have been a stronger statement (in one direction or the other). As you might expect, there were strong opinions in table discussions and at the microphones. A number of folks noted that the church should always be welcoming, and that we were already at forbearance with each other on topics such as women pastors, remarriage after divorce, the details of peacemaking, and greed. We were also again challenged with the tension that some of the constituencies that the MCUSA would like to be intentional in growing with are also constituencies that are often less welcoming when it comes to issues of sexuality.
After discussion, consensus on readiness to vote was measured, and then ballot vote was taken.
Before breaking for the morning, we had prayer. Representatives from a number of communities wherein their churches had been under attack helped lead the prayer.
The afternoon session started with a hymn, a presentation from MennoMedia, and then the presentation of votes from the morning’s session.
817 votes were cast, with 581 (71%) voting for the resolution, and 228 against. We were asked to keep silent for this (and all resolutions) to respect dissenting voices.
The vote results were followed by Spanish prayer, and then a time of silence.
Next, the moderator spoke to the items that had been periodically placed on the delegate tables, and made it clear that there was one with a Mennonite logo that was not authorized and had not been distributed by the MCUSA. (This was the satire resolution from Pink Menno, discussed above.)
Members of the executive board introduced the On the Status of Membership Guidelines resolution. They took well beyond the time other groups had been allowed. The moderator-elect made a joke that if we didn’t like it that we could take it to the head of the listening committee…which was one of the people introducing the resolution, showing insensitivity to how power plays out in these settings and procedures.
There was once again a lot of discussion in table groups and at the microphones. There was a great deal of uncertainty and confusion on implementation, on how some of the items in the resolution would be interpreted, and how the CLC (Constituency Leaders Council) related to the Executive Board & Conferences in these matters. It came out that the duties ascribed to the CLC in the resolution had not even been discussed with the CLC. Ervin restated some of the positions of the board, as per the FAQ that was released. However, people still had questions even within that FAQ. Other good questions touched on:
- Are we really a priesthood of all believers if we centralize authority?
- Will there be LGBTQ representation in the CLC?
- If it was acknowledged that this was in contrast to the Purposeful Plan focus on Resources over Regulation?
- What does another 4-year deferment mean for already marginalized voices?
- Unlike the forbearance resolution, isn’t this really only asking for compromise from one side?
Yet, even with all these concerns and questions, there was still a large amount of feedback affirming the Confession of Faith, of trust in the Executive Board & CLC, and in forbearance being able to be faithfully “worked out" in this period.
Tables were tested for consensus on whether they were ready to vote and they largely were. There was a hymn, a prayer, and then ballot votes were taken. We went on a short break.
Following the break, we began to discuss A Shared Understanding of Church Leadership, the manual (and still an in-draft transition document) for pastors and leaders. Changes were discussed, as well as the history and difference between MCUSA and Mennonite Church Canada around sexuality. We heard from the Executive Director of MC Canada, and it sounded like they have approximately gone through similar paths within their church body, but a year or two ahead of us. Many of the delegates were not really familiar with the document, because they are not necessarily in pastoral leadership or have not been through pastoral transitions, lately. The presenters (who worked on the newest version shared that the document/book) stated that it is not primarily intended as a rulebook, but as a shared understanding and highest aspirations.
We then heard from the Listening Committee, who had been receiving feedback throughout the process. They carefully shared the affirmations and critiques that they had been hearing, and plan to deliver a longer report at the end. They asked that we share more of our positive comments.
Next, we heard the results on the On the Status of Membership Guidelines resolution. There were 811 votes, 473 yes (58%), 310 no, and 28 abstain.
To reiterate how the Executive Board will interpret both of these resolutions being affirmed:
If both of these resolutions pass, the Executive Board will see it as a mandate to hold together the traditional stance of our church with an approach that grants freedom to congregations and area conferences to work things out in their own context, with mutual accountability with the CLC….[T]he Executive Board will take into account the degree of support or non-support for each resolution in the voting process, as well as the specific feedback from table groups.
People have had trouble summing up what these partially-conflicting resolutions mean. One summary goes like this:
“We love you, but we don’t want to change."
The moderator again held prayer, and gave table groups time to discuss and pray, before we adjourned.