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Religious Tolerance logo

Homosexuality and bisexuality in the Mennonite churches

Statements on the lesbian & gay
issue: 1999 to now.

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A number of statements and resolutions have been made by the various main Mennonite churches in North America: 1

bulletMennonite Church (MC),
bulletGeneral Conference Mennonite Church (GC), and
bulletMennonite Church Canada, (a.k.a MC Canada) formed in the year 2000; formerly the Conference of Mennonites in Canada.

The MC and GC merged to become the Mennonite Church USA (a.k.a. MC USA) in the year 2000.

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1999: The Mennonite General Assembly met in St. Louis. They did not "reaffirm the faith statement that sexual relations are reserved for a man and a woman in marriage."

2000-JAN-21: Lancaster Conference's Bishops issued a "Statement of Faith and Call to Prayer." It said, in part:

"We believe with the Purdue statement 2 that homosexual, extramarital and premarital sexual activity are all sin is based on the scripture and should be the teaching position of the church...We do not believe that all persons with homosexual desire will experience a miraculous change of orientation if they come to Christ."

However, they do believe that Christ will give persons the support needed to remain celibate outside of opposite-sex marriage. They asked the church's leaders to bring a resolution before the next Delegate Assembly to affirm these same principles.

The confirmed their belief that all forms of:

"... homosexual behavior is sinful and that God does not condone sin. ... We believe that the new united denomination will need to make its teaching position clear on these issues. We believe that we cannot be faithful to our understanding of Scripture that homosexual behavior is sin and join with a church body which does not support these commitments. 3

2001: The "Membership Guidelines for the Formation of Mennonite Church USA" was written. Its Section III deals with a "Clarification of some issues related to homosexuality and membership." It mentions that same-sex orientation and "lifestyle" 4 have been a focus of controversy. Several congregations who had belonged to two conferences were expelled by one conference because they accepted as members some individuals in loving committed same-sex relationships. The united Mennonite Church USA will follow:

bulletThe 1995 document: "Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective" which states that: "God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life.
bulletThe Saskatoon (1986) and Purdue (1987) statements that describe all same-sex sexual activity as a sin, even as the church remains in dialogue with those who hold differing views.

bulletTheir pastors will not be allowed to perform a same-sex covenant ceremony. Presumably this ban extends also to same-sex marriages.

bulletCongregations that had been expelled by one conference and retained by another are to work together with the two conferences to determine the congregation's future status in the new Mennonite Church USA. 5

2003-SEP: At this time, Canada was going through a period of rapid change concerning same-sex marriage (SSM). Almost 45% of Canadian adults favored SSM. SSMs became available in Ontario and British Columbia. The United Church of Canada endorsed SSM at their general council meeting. A bill in Parliament to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman failed. Bill C-250 was passed; it added sexual orientation to the existing list of four protected classes in Canada's hate propaganda legislation.

Henry Krause, moderator of the Mennonite Church Canada (MCC or MC Candada), and Dan Nighswander, its general secretary wrote a statement "Where does MC Canada stand?" on 2003-SEP-25. They acknowledged that "there is diversity in our churches on a wide variety of theological and ethical issues including matters of sexual ethics." However, they stated that the consensus of the majority is clear, as defined in a number of statements such as:

bulletArticle 19 “Family, Singleness, and Marriage” in the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.
bulletResolution on Human Sexuality,” General Conference, Saskatoon, 1986.
bulletResolution on the Issue of Homosexuality”, Conference of Mennonites in Canada, Stratford, 1998.

They wrote:

"These statements name same-sex relationships and other sexual activity outside of consensual relations in a heterosexual monogamous marriage as outside of God’s plan and will. They also declare a covenant 'to mutually bear the burden of remaining in loving dialogue with each other,' 'to take part in the ongoing search for discernment and for openness to each other,' and a commitment 'that we call for and acknowledge the integrity of the same commitment [of faithfulness to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, according to the light that God has given us in the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit] on the part of those who disagree with us'."

Still, it is difficult to search for discernment and remain open to each other if one set of believers have just expelled the other set from church membership because they are in a loving, committed same-sex relationship, civil union or marriage.

2008-NOV: A group of Mennonites called the Welcome Committee prepared an open letter calling on the church to revisit their official stance on homosexuality. By the time of the MC USA convention in 2009-JUL, about 1,400 Mennonites had signed the letter. It asked that area conferences not suspend or expel  churches that accept as members GLBT persons who are in loving, committed same-sex relationships. Supporters of the Open Letter Campaign sponsored a resolution to a church committee on JUL-02. It was not voted upon. The executive board of the Mennonite Church USA released a statement on the same day saying that "God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life." The statement also said the church should "... be firm in our commitment to seek a mutual solution." 6

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References used:

  1. Texts of Mennonite Church Conferences, Boards and Committees on Homosexuality at: http://www.ambs.edu/
  2. Text of the MC's Purdue statement on sexuality "A Call to Affirmation, Confession and Covenant Regarding Human Sexuality"
  3. "A statement of faith and call to prayer," Lancaster Conference, 2000-JAN-21, at: http://www.ambs.edu/
  4. The term "lifestyle" normally implies an individual's choice, as in whether to live in the city, suburbs or country, or in whether to work for a large company, small company or be self-employed. It is a preferred term for many religious conservatives because the generally used term -- sexual orientation -- implies lack of choice.
  5. Jill Laster, "Mennonite group pushes for accepting gays," the Columbus Dispatch, 2009-JUL-02, at: http://www.dispatch.com/
  6. The text of the Welcome Committee's "Open Letter" is at: http://www.welcome-committee.info

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Copyright © 1997 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update: 2010-JAN-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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