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Mennonite Convention Draws Thousands, Deals With Question Of Same-Sex Marriage

Members of the Mennonite LGBTQIA group Pink Menno were frustrated and saddened by at least one resolution passed by the Mennonite Church USA delegate assembly at the church's biennial convention in Kansas City.

More than 4,000 members of the Mennonite Church USA gathered in downtown Kansas City July 2 to meet, worship and pass church-wide resolutions together at their biennial convention. But congregations are bitterly divided over two resolutions passed dealing with same-sex marriage.

The first resolution passed by nearly 1,000 delegates from congregations all over the country allows same-sex marriage if that congregation is within a regional conference that allows it. It calls for "Christian forbearance" and tolerance. 

Credit Cody Newill / KCUR
Church members watch as some youth members perform a skit. More than 4,000 members of the Mennonite Church USA came to the Kansas City Convention Center for the church's biennial convention over the last week.

The second resolution reaffirmed the church's membership guidelines, which clearly state that same-sex marriage is a sin. Church officials say the resolutions were passed together to keep the church from falling into schism.

But Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests executive director Carol Wise says that's not the message she got from the resolutions.

"You are not a whole and full person in this denomination [if you're LGBTQIA]," Wise said. "And your presence is a problem rather than a gift and source of grace and hope for this tradition."

Other LGBTQIA groups in the church were just as hurt as Wise was. Jay Yoder of Pink Menno, an LGBTQIA advocacy church group, says delegates missed a big opportunity to have a frank talk about a topic that the church generally doesn't like to discuss: sexuality.

"Get rid of this idea of confining sexuality to one man, one woman in a covenanted relationship for the purpose of procreation," Yoder said. "[Then] we open up a wide conversation about all our sexualities in the church."

Mennonite Church executive director Ervin Stutzman says the resolutions were a good middle ground to please more conservative congregations and still allow some congregations to operate how they see fit. He also says it's likely some will leave the church over the decision.

"There will be people, I'm quite sure, who will be leaving our denomination based on what happened here, but I think the majority will say, 'We want to stay together as much as we can,'" Stutzman said. "So here we are as a church, trying to embrace and hold things together."

The church's membership guidelines resolution was passed with the provision that it not be voted on for another four years. 

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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