If you were unable to attend worship on Sunday you missed a wonderful celebration of Mark’s credentialing, including a powerful sermon reflecting on Jesus’ parable of the banquet in Luke 14. We were honored to have numerous out of town guests (32 to be precise), many from Central District Conference, and there were various times of spontaneous applause and Amen-ing. The sermon can be read or heard on our website HERE, and a few pictures are posted on our church’s Facebook page HERE. You can also listen to the whole worship service HERE. The service and the open mic time during the meal that followed also included a number of memorable and hashtag-able phrases and inside jokes: #hellofriends #atvariance #stillmoreroom #brunch #cementtruck #licensetodrive.
Because the credentialing of persons who identify as LGBTQ remains at odds with official denominational teaching and statements, you may very likely find yourself in a conversation in which the topic of church polity arises. So, in the spirit of knowing what we’re talking about, below is a brief polity primer of words and phrases in the atmosphere these days, with a few added comments of how they relate to us:
Polity – The policies, understandings, and practices that guide church life.
Credentialing – Granting of rights and privileges to individual ministers. Area conferences (like Central District Conference) grant credentials, which are in turn recognized by the denomination. Credentialing is a broad term that includes both licensing and ordination.
Licensing – An initial credential intended to be a time of testing and growing in one’s ministry calling. A ministry license is temporary and valid only within one’s area conference. Mark was licensed on Sunday.
Ordination – A credential for which one is eligible after at least two years of licensed ministry. Ordination is a life-long designation and is transferable between area conferences. There are as of yet no ordained persons in same sex relationships within Mennonite Church USA.
Membership Guidelines – A set of agreements used as a basis for forming Mennonite Church USA in 2001. The final part of the Guidelines includes the prohibition: “Pastors holding credentials in a conference of Mennonite Church USA may not perform a same-sex covenant ceremony. Such actions would be grounds for review of their credentials by their area conference’s ministerial credentialing body.” These Guidelines were also used as a reason for the denomination not recognizing the license granted to Pastor Theda Good of First Mennonite Church of Denver by Mountain States Mennonite Conference. A resolution reaffirming these Guidelines passed by a 60% vote at the 2015 Kansas City Convention.
At Variance – A phrase and unofficial status being used these days to refer to pastors, congregations, and conferences which cannot in good conscience abide by the Membership Guidelines. It does not imply being under sanctions or punishment for such decisions.
Forbearance – The keyword in a different resolution passed in Kansas City (71% affirmation) which calls on all parts of the church to respect differences of theology and practice regarding welcoming LGBTQ persons into membership, marriage, and ministry.
Queer – The Q in LGBTQ, originally used as a term of derision, and adopted by non-hetero folks as a term of pride which accurately captures a different but not deficient aspect of their humanity. We might ponder that “Anabaptist” and even “Christian” were also names originally used to mock, but were adopted by these groups as points of identity: “Re-baptizers” and “Little Christs.” “Queer” also helps name people and relationships that are hard to categorize. For example, What do you call a marriage between a transgender man and a woman?
Evana – A small but potentially growing network of Mennonite congregations who hold to traditional understandings regarding LGBTQ matters, most of whom believe Mennonite Church USA has already gone too far in tolerating change. In other words, this is an emerging conservative faction of a church split. The name is a combination of Evangelical and Anabaptist.
Cement Truck – A top ten all time CMC Children’s Time illustration. Check with Tim Stried.
Still More Room – Listen to Sunday’s sermon.
Put a Ring on It: What you do to something if you like it. Check with Mark Rupp.
Did I miss anything?