I commend to you all a letter written by Gordon Oyer to the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board in response to their recent report. Gordon gives a respectful and insightful critique of the board’s refusal to recognize the credentials of Theda Good. The conclusion of his letter states:
MC USA documents do contain space within them to chart alternative courses. New movement of the Spirit rarely originates with majority consensus. Permitting minority “variance” offers windows to test the continued legitimacy, durability, truth of established practice. Deference to delegates is technically correct. Yet in practice, the Executive Board sets agenda for delegate discussions; rarely do delegates autonomously frame and generate decisions. The Board will ultimately chart whatever course delegates follow, whether by intent or default, and help determine whether MC USA permits space within it to test for God working new things in this church.
In closing, I empathize with your dilemma, and can only guess at the anxiety and pressure you must feel. But I also ask you to consider this from our Purposeful Plan: “We believe that God is calling our church to empower leaders in our midst to lead, not simply manage the affairs of the church” [829-830]. I believe MSMC has taken a step of bold leadership in their local context.
Given the scope of horrendous challenges humanity now faces, it appalls me that we as Mennonites remain mired in squabbles over sexuality that impair our freedom to recognize and call upon the gifts of all who confess Jesus as Lord. Sexual orientation should not be used to rob the church of those gifts, especially when an area conference discerns them as valuable and needed in its midst.
As the conversation moves forward during the coming year, I encourage you to lead rather than manage. Name this conversation as one driven more by emotion, fear, anger than by documents, commitments, or polity. Ask all MC USA conferences to honor the only organizational/relational covenants and commitments that can possibly see both denomination and Church through this time of ferment: respect for each other’s local, contextual, Spirit-led and biblical discernment, while remaining in full fellowship despite our fear. Doing otherwise risks the appearance of calculating who among us is most expendable.
**This letter is shared with Gordon’s permission. You can read the full letter here.