Virginia Mennonite Conference
Faith & Life Commission
Counsel on Current Issues [see update]

In order to provide clarity on issues of current significance, the Faith & Life Commission offers these two statements with the expectation that persons credentialed in Virginia Mennonite Conference will not preach or teach contrary to them. The process for further discernment on these issues is outlined below as is the process for negotiation in situations of real difference of expression.

1. Homosexual Practice  (A distillation of the FLC statement of 1983)

We believe that God created human beings as male and female and intended for the expression of sexual intimacies to be fully consummated only within heterosexual marriage relationships.

We believe that the practice of homosexuality is rebuked by Scripture as sin.

We encourage pastors and congregations to be compassionate in dealing with persons who struggle with homosexual orientation.

We expect persons credentialed for ministry by Virginia Mennonite Conference to uphold these affirmations in their life and teaching.

2. Participation in the military (A paragraph from “Church Membership and Military Personnel in Congregations of the Virginia Mennonite Conference” adopted by VMC delegates January, 1996)
“We believe obligation to military orders is incompatible with church membership and expect that candidates for membership in our congregations will move toward freedom from military obligations.  We expect those credentialed for ministry by the conference to uphold the Mennonite Church’s stance against participation in violence and war.”
Procedures for further discernment on these issues:
It is not the wish of the Faith & Life Commission to stifle discussion on these or any other issues. The principle on which this counsel rests is “contrary advocacy.” We are not insisting that there be “full assent of will and intellect” on these issues. However, we are asking credentialed persons to avoid teaching, preaching, or pastoral counseling that advocates against them.

If a credentialed person wishes to voice concern, contrary opinions, or the desire for more study on these issues, that should be done in conversation with the bishop/overseer, and, when deemed appropriate, in congregational members’ meetings, district councils, and/or conference delegate sessions as the discernment processes unfold.

Procedures for negotiations on these issues:
When there are indications of activity that seems contrary to the counsel given above, the FLC personnel committee will note the concern with the bishop/overseer of the person involved.  If the bishop/overseer is not able to report a satisfactory resolution to the questions, the personnel committee may request an additional conversation to clarify the issues.  If there is not a resolution of the difference, the personnel committee can offer one or more of the options listed in “A Mennonite Polity for Ministerial Leadership”. 

In alphabetical order:
“Inactive. ….  This credential is not valid for performing ministerial functions.  The conference which holds this credential is not responsible for the actions of a person so recognized.” P. 90
“Probation.      The credential held by those having a charge for ministry who are placed under close supervision for a specified period of time in order to determine whether the credential will be continued.
                         At the conclusion of the probationary period, it is determined whether the credential becomes Active, Suspended, or Withdrawn.
Suspended.      The credential for ministry is laid aside for a specified period of time for disciplinary reasons.  At the end of the suspension period, it is determined whether the credential becomes Active or Withdrawn.      Suspended credentials are not valid for performing ministerial functions.
Terminated.     This is the designation used when a ministry credential is ended for nondisciplinary reasons upon approval of the area conference ministerial leadership committee.
Withdrawn.      This is the designation used when disciplinary action is taken to remove the ministerial credential and that which was given in ordination.” P. 91

Proposed October 11, 2000 for testing.
Revised and adopted January 26, 2001 to be in effect through August 31, 2005
Revised May 12, 2001

05/12/01



The following form is now being circulated via the bishops/overseers to implement the above action. [back to top]


Faith & Life Commission of Virginia Mennonite Conference
Commitment on Current Issues
 

The Faith & Life Commission has reviewed some of the responses and questions concerning the document circulated earlier as the Commitment on Current Issues and has made some adjustments. 

  • One more possibility for response has been added. 
  • It is now being distributed to all active credentialed persons by the various bishops/overseers. 
  • It would be deemed acceptable for a person to submit a letter rather than signing the document as such.
  • Introductory material has been added which defines (and changes) the purpose of the document.
As all leadership persons of conference are well aware, there have been many wide-ranging discussions about two issues of current significance in our conference and beyond – homosexual practice and participation in the military.  These discussions have demonstrated that there are differences of opinion and widely divergent interpretations of Scripture on these two issues.  These differences have led to some lack of clarity about what is expected of persons credentialed for pastoral leadership and special ministries in Virginia Mennonite Conference.

The Conference has attempted to clarify its stance on a number of occasions, recognizing that no confession of faith or position statement is complete or final.  However, each statement has been a genuine attempt to grapple with the issues of our time and articulate what defines Virginia Conference’s affirmations on particular issues.  There will always be more work to do to stay in step with the Holy Spirit in our attempts to discern how best to be faithful.

Having acknowledged the above, the Faith & Life Commission continues to be committed to serve on behalf of the church and to follow where the Spirit leads.  One of FLC’s primary mandates is to clarify expectations for credentialed leaders, and to bless, resource, and hold these leaders accountable in ways that will empower them to serve the church.

The statements below offer clarity about Virginia Conference expectations for credentialed leaders on two current issues, and they ask for responses from the leaders that will help FLC to know more about where its leaders stand on these issues.  This is for the purpose of promoting more transparency on these issues, and more honest accountability.

1. Homosexual Practice (A distillation of the FLC statement of 1983)

We believe that God created human beings as male and female and intended for the expression of sexual intimacies to be fully consummated only within heterosexual marriage relationships.

We believe that the practice of homosexuality is rebuked by Scripture as sin.

We encourage pastors and congregations to be compassionate in dealing with persons who struggle with homosexual orientation.

We expect persons credentialed for ministry by Virginia Mennonite Conference to uphold these affirmations in their life and teaching.

_____ While I may not fully affirm these statements, I will not teach/preach/counsel/ advocate contrary to them.

_____ I will fully uphold these affirmations in my ministry.

_____ I am uncertain about this issue and am open to further counsel and discernment

2. Participation in the military (A paragraph from “Church Membership and Military Personnel in Congregations of the Virginia Mennonite Conference” adopted by VMC delegates January, 1996)
“We believe obligation to military orders is incompatible with church membership and expect that candidates for membership in our congregations will move toward freedom from military obligations.  We expect those credentialed for ministry by the conference to uphold the Mennonite Church’s stance against participation in violence and war.”

_____ While I may not fully affirm these statements, I will not teach/preach/counsel/advocate contrary to them.

_____ I will fully uphold these affirmations in my ministry.

_____ I am uncertain about this issue and am open to further counsel and discernment


3. Comments and Concerns:
 
 
 
 
 

__________________________________________________     __________________
(signed)                                                                                             (date)

Adopted by the Virginia Mennonite Conference Faith & Life Commission on January 26, 2001 to be in effect through August 31, 2005
Additional revisions and introductory paragraphs added May 12, 2001

05/16/01



Posted by Loren L. Johns, with the permission of the Virginia Mennonite Conference Faith and Life Commission. Last updated May 18, 2001.