|RECOMMENDATIONS BY THE LISTENING
COMMITTEE FOR HOMOSEXUAL CONCERNS
"I am fearful for our church on this question
of homosexuality.... It could split our church. We have two roots for our
present patterns of biblical interpretation and our theological reflections:
the broad themes approach of Anabaptism and the prepositional rules approach
of Fundamentalism. No one has found good ways to dialogue across this chasm.
When I work with congregations an such issues, it seems we can only agree
to disagree." --Comments at a dinner discussion group of 30 persons by
a professional Mennonite mediator.
We must find ways to study homosexuality in
our congregations if we are going to be faithful to our vision of what
church is all about and if we care at all for homosexuals in our congregations."
--From a conversation with an older church member.
A. Program Recommendation
The Listening Committee for Homosexual Concerns
recommends that the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite
Church intensify its efforts to help congregations study homosexuality
in order to discern how homosexuals can relate to the church's life and
(This recommendation is focused primarily on the
congregation but we also urge the study of this issue on all other levels
and appropriate settings of church life: in conference district meetings,
church agencies and institutions and general assemblies.)
1. There is much diversity of opinion an homosexuality
among us on such subjects as: the interpretation of scriptures on the subject,
the causes of homosexuality, the appropriate ethical standards for homosexuals,
and effective congregational approaches for working with homosexuals. The
church needs to seek and achieve a more unified Christian resolution to
these different opinions and convictions. We believe more intentional and
structured discussions will help develop informed opinions and a greater
common mind on the subject.
2. The general assemblies of the General Conference
(1986) and Mennonite Church (1987) and the 1985 Human Sexuality study each
urged continuing dialogue and discernment on the subjects of sexuality
and homosexuality in our congregations.
3. The agonizing feeling of alienation and rejection
now being experienced by homosexuals in our congregations, the confused
pain of family members and friends, and the alarmed anxiety of persons
who resist this subject--all these reactions cry out for more careful,
sustained and disciplined study of this issue in our congregations. Since
it is God's will that the church pursues peace and just relationships for
all in the church, we believe pastors and congregational leaders (and church
leaders on all levels of church life) must assume more responsibility to
lead the church in working with homosexuality.
4. Our people are beginning to want to discuss
this issue. There is much (sometimes intense) interest in this subject--even
as there are efforts to ignore it or hide it under the table. We see indications
of this interest in responses to our committee's activities, in the church
press when it opens the subject and in the large attendance at seminars
on this subject in both the MC Assembly at Oregon, 1991, and the GC Triennial
Sessions at Sioux Falls 1992.
5. Our denominations have carried forward discussions
of this subject on the General assemblies level for the past decade because
this is where the issues were first focused. This has been a dramatic place
to open discussion on the issue but it is not the best place to carry on
sustained ones. It is time to move the dialogue on this issue to the congregation.
B. Enabling Recommendations
1. The Denominations' Role
We recommend that the General Boards structurally
identify a place and a person in the denominations' organization (perhaps
in COE and MBCM respectively) charged with responsibility to lead and facilitate
dialogue and education in the congregations and throughout the denominations
on this subject by:
a. developing resource materials on all aspects
on this subject (biblical, theological, ethical, scientific, pastoral)
and making them available for the use of congregations and other study
b. creating an information center where congregations
and groups can find help in planning their own study processes and can
learn or existing networks and structures which can help them in their
c. planning for workshops on this subject at national
and district assemblies.
d. opening conversations with Mennonite homosexual
persons to hear their stories and elicit their contributions.
e. opening and maintaining contact with organizations
working in this area and impacting our people and congregations with their
viewpoints and materials.
f. listening to and focusing the church-wide conversation
2. The Institutions' Role
a. We recommend that our seminaries (and other
church educational institutions) assume more aggressive responsibility
to study homosexuality--biblical, theological, ethical, scientific--and
make their studies and skills available to help congregations and groups
become informed on this issue and process it. Further, that they help pastors
provide effective pastoral care for individuals impacted by homosexuality.
b. We suggest that the institutions of the church
regularly review their policies to ensure that these policies are not discriminatory
with regard to persons of same-sex orientation.
3. The Pastor and Congregational Leadership's
a. We recognize that most pastors or church councils
do not want to propose or lead study processes on this issue, particularly
if there is no congregational agitation to do so. The subject is too sensitive.
Therefore we offer some initiating and processing suggestions. We suggest:
1. that our congregational leaders consciously
and intentionally initiate contact and open themselves to homosexually
oriented persons and their families in their congregations, hear their
stories as homosexuals and gain sensitivity to their situations as fellow
human beings and Christians. The purpose of this initiative is primarily
to gain a greater understanding of the homosexual as a person but also
to use these learnings to sensitize the congregation to the personal dimensions
or homosexuality, to correct misunderstandings of homophobic rears and
reduce cruel comments and unloving attitudes expressed about homosexuals
in our congregations and society.
2. that pastors and church leaders in our congregations
(but also on denominational and conference levels) enter and lead this
discussion with an upfront acknowledgment of their own biblical and ethical
convictions they already hold on the subject but also commit themselves
to a spirit and a process of openness, humility and patience to other viewpoints.
Above all, we urge leaders to hold firmly to the assured conviction that
the Spirit of Christ will lead us in discussing and seeking consensus on
3. that pastors make available sustained, sensitive
and caring pastoral services to gay and lesbian persons in the congregation
without neglecting similar services for all other persons irrespective
of the biblical or ethical positions they hold toward homosexuality.
4. that our pastors and congregational leaders
work to develop a congregational climate and gathered context where persons
are free to tell their stories of same-sex identity or involvement with
homosexuals and share their thoughts, pain, fears, disgust, anxiety, prejudices
and convictions they have on this issue, whatever they are.
b. We recommend that the congregational process
does not stop with study and discernment but that it include a summarizing
their congregational resolution or views on this issue and at the same
time continue to learn from and contributing to the discussions of other
congregations and groups.
Created and maintained by Loren
Johns. Email me at LJOHNS@AMBS.EDU
|Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries
Commission on Education
Joint Listening Committee on Homosexual Concerns
August 20, 1992
Last updated 25 July 2000.