Community Mennonite Church invites all people to attend worship and to participate fully in the life of the church.
In 2010, Community began an examination of human sexuality and its relationship to this invitation. After worship services and conversations spent dwelling in the Word—specifically, Jesus' healing of Bartimeaus (Mark 10:46-52)—we felt that God was calling us to:
- Enrich our prayer practices as a community
- Follow Jesus in our relationship to persons who are gay or lesbian
- Respond to invitations from the Holy Spirit
For us, this passage was an instruction to recognize our own forms of blindness and, through spiritual discernment, to try to see from others' perspectives. This includes many different perspectives within our congregation, within our denomination, and the worldwide body of Christ. We are not seeking to discern the question of church membership for other congregations, but for our own, and in a way that holds close to heart the minds and souls of everyone within our body.
After three years' work and prayer and study, we adopted not a label or a policy but a statement. Throughout the process, our prayer practices were strengthened, and we met together well to discuss many things. We responded to the invitations of the Holy Spirit, in worship and song, in the study of scripture, and in work within the community. The statement we adopted was the product of all these; it is not a declaration or a call to action, but a recognition. We want our conversations to continue.
Our statement is as follows:
Through several years of deliberately considering how we, the congregation of Community Mennonite Church, can “follow Jesus in our relationships with persons who are gay or lesbian,” we have drawn upon our Biblical and theological resources, as well as the personal and professional experiences of our congregation and local community. We have not rushed. We have prayed. We have uncovered pain, hurt, frustration, indifference, anger and impatience as well as strong hope and ceaseless love. We have carried out our process within the context of Harrisonburg District, Virginia Mennonite Conference and Mennonite Church USA. We trust that at our limits and in our weaknesses, God meets us.
It is not surprising that our congregation has not arrived at pure consensus on these matters, which continue to be a flashpoint for our broader church. Like many Mennonite congregations we have a range of perspectives, reflecting genuine discipleship to Jesus, deep compassion for all people and a high regard for scripture. We believe that in the church, discernment is an essential practice, even when it brings to the surface differences among us in how we understand scripture and how we live. This kind of wrestling with scripture, tradition, practice and one another marked the ministry of Jesus and has been central in the ministry of the church.
Now, we are engaged in a Christian discernment process involving an issue not directly addressed in our current confession of faith, namely sexual orientation. When we considered this question more than twenty years ago, the consensus was that many more members held traditional views regarding sexual ethics. Now, most members of our congregation are open to applying Christian ethics regarding celibacy and fidelity to single persons and couples, regardless of sexual orientation.
We want members of CMC to emerge from this discernment process without a sense of superiority over members who think differently. We humbly acknowledge that all of us will grow and gain insight as we continue to follow Jesus.
Therefore, we recommend that as a sign of unity in the midst of differences, in January 2013, members of CMC:
Covenant together, as we do annually, renewing our membership.
Conclude the congregational aspects of our Sexuality Discernment Process.
Continue in the process initiated by Harrisonburg District and Virginia Mennonite Conference, seeking unity across our differences.
Continue to speak and listen across our differences on these and other matters important to the life of the church and society, so that our witness in Jesus’ name will be strengthened.
Continue welcoming all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, to worship Jesus Christ as Lord with CMC and participate in our common life and witness.
Invite all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, to a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ, and to consider membership with CMC, according to our Membership Covenant Litany.
Honor all members of CMC in the understanding that membership in our body is not contingent on agreement with all aspects of this statement.
Empower pastoral team and small groups to offer Christian counsel, support and encouragement to single persons and couples, whether same-sex or opposite-sex.
This statement was introduced to the congregation at a November 2012 congregational meeting and voted on during worship on January 13, 2013. Only members of CMC were eligible to vote. The ballots included three choices, plus room to write comments:
- I support CMC moving forward in this way.
- I support CMC moving forward in this way and have these concerns:
- I do not support CMC moving forward in this way.
In all, 173 ballots were returned during worship and through absentee ballots the same week. About 90
percent of the ballots indicated support for the statement. Members' choices are as follows:
- I support CMC moving forward in this way. 122
- I support CMC moving forward in this way and have these concerns 33
- I do not support CMC moving forward in this way. 18
Ballots were counted by the chair and vice chair of the congregation. Comments from the ballots were collected and shared with pastoral team. The results were discussed and approved at the church council meeting held January 17, 2013. Final results were sent to the congregation on January 26, 2013.