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Mennonite Church USA passes LGBTQ-affirming resolution, repeals membership guidelines

Tyrone Warner

On Sunday, the largest Mennonite denomination in the country voted to repeal membership guidelines that prohibited pastors from performing same-sex marriages and passed a resolution affirming LGBTQ inclusion in the church.

Mennonite Church USA — which has denominational offices in Elkhart — adopted membership guidelines in 2001 that restrict marriage to a man and a woman and declare LGBTQ relationships a sin. But delegates from across the country voted to retire that language at a special assembly in Kansas City, Missouri, last weekend.

“I’m a straight man, so my voice is not the definitive one on what this change means,” Karl Shelly, a pastor at Assembly Mennonite Church in Goshen, said. “But from what I can see, this is a very significant change. Queer folk in my congregation have expressed the same thing.”

Delegates also passed a resolution for “repentance and transformation”, which confesses the harm the denomination has caused LGBTQ Mennonites and commits to repairing that harm.

The resolution says the 2001 guidelines were adopted “to facilitate denominational integration, and, in the process, the church willingly offered up LGBTQIA people, their families, their congregations, and pastors as scapegoats for the sake of a false peace and unity.”

“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 reads.

Anabaptist World reports that 82.8 percent of delegates voted to repeal the membership guidelines, while 55.7 percent voted to pass the “repentance and transformation” resolution.

Shelly said the decision could mean losing several conservative congregations; however, he said the value of accepting LGBTQ congregants outweighs that loss.

“It will be a significant loss — whenever there’s differences and people leave, there’s something broken in that body that can’t be repaired,” Shelly said. “I think the resolution, in some ways, says that we aren’t going to continue to harm LGBTQ people for the sake of trying to keep everybody in the church. That kind of arrangement just was untenable.”

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Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.