Homosexuality and bisexuality in the Mennonite churches
About the Mennonite Church. Statements
on the lesbian & gay issue: 1980 to 1987
About the Mennonite Church:
A Mennonite is:
"A member of one of the Christian groups derived from the
Anabaptist movement, stressing discipleship, community, and an ethic of love and
nonresistance. Mennonites are historically distinctive in North America for simplicity of
life and the rejection of military service, public office, and oaths." 1
The term "Anabaptist" comes from the Latin word "anabaptista"
which means "one who is rebaptized." i.e. a person who was baptized
first as an infant and later as an adult. In today's world, it is a misnomer, because Anabaptists do not
baptize infants and do not recognize the validity of such a baptism. Baptisms are only
performed later in life after the individual is sufficiently mature and has trusted Jesus
as her or his Lord and Savior.
"Anabaptist" was originally a term of derision; but the
name stuck. They have been traditionally opposed to war; some of their members refuse to
register for the draft or choose alternative service. They oppose the taking of oaths,
believing that a person's word is sufficient. They observe a life of simplicity.
Some Anabaptist faith groups have survived to the present day, including: Amish, Beachy and Brethren groups,
Dunkards, Hutterites, Landmark
Baptists, and Mennonites. Anabaptists were viciously persecuted during and following the
Reformation in the 16th century CE. Many migrated to Poland and the Ukraine. Today they are mainly concentrated
in Germany, France and North America.3 They now total over
300,000 in the U.S. and Canada.
Mennonites are theologically conservative. They have always laid great stress on
fundamental human rights. The latter factor has caused them to exhibit some movement on
the "homosexual issue" earlier than almost all other conservative
Mennonite statements on the gay/lesbian Issue - 1980 to 1997:
Mennonite congregations are theoretically autonomous. However, some regional
conferences have constitutions that permit them to expel or suspend local churches. Some have been
expelled in recent years for taking an excessively liberal stance on the homosexual issue.
A number of statements have been issued and resolutions passed by the three main Mennonite churches
that were active in the 1980s and 1990s in North America:
Mennonite Church (MC)
General Conference Mennonite Church (GC), and
Conference of Mennonites in Canada. (Now called the Mennonite Church Canada, a.k.a MC Canada)
The MC and GC eventually merged to become the Mennonite Church USA (a.k.a.
MC USA) in the year 2000.
1980: The GC commissioned a study in human sexuality. The MC
joined the committee in 1981. Their final report did not condemn homosexual behavior as
sinful. It was intended as a document to help local Mennonite congregations discuss human
sexuality. It recommended further study of homosexuality.
1986-JUL: The GC examined the results of the human sexuality study and
adopted a "Resolution on Human Sexuality" at its triennial session at
Saskatoon SK. It affirmed that heterosexuality "is a good and beautiful gift of
God, a gift of identity and a way of being in the world as male and female."
They formally repented for the lack of compassion towards those who have failed to live up
to what they see as the Biblical standard of sexuality, and towards those of minority
sexual orientations -- bisexuality and homosexuality. They also repented for their "lack of compassion"
for the struggle of those with minority sexual orientations "to find a place in
society and in the church." They linked all homosexual activity together with
premarital and extramarital opposite-sex behavior, as inherently sinful. 4 The
Resolution went well beyond the findings of the sexuality study; it was
interpreted by many Mennonite individuals and congregations as the GC's definitive
statement on human sexuality. Many felt that there was no need to examine the original
1987-JUL: The MC also reviewed the human sexuality study and adopted
"A Call to Affirmation, Confession and Covenant Regarding Human Sexuality"
at their General Assembly at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. 8
It used much of the same wording as the 1986 GC resolution. They repented of their "judgmental
attitudes and our slowness to forgive each other when we fail or when our sexual values
differ from those of other Christians." They confessed their fear and repented
of their "absence of love toward those with a different sexual orientation and of
our lack of understanding for their struggle to find a place in society and in the church."
They also linked all homosexual genital activity together -- irrespective of the
nature of the relationship -- with premarital and extramarital
heterosexual genital activity. All were considered sinful. Again, the Call seemed to negate the
importance of the original sexuality study.
The MC adopted a policy which prohibits congregations from accepting non-celibate homosexuals
as members. Since any gay or lesbian in a committed relationship cannot become a member,
he/she would be ineligible for any post within the denomination, including that of pastor.
The General Conference Mennonite Church (GC) passed a similar resolution at its
1986 Saskatoon conference.