July 20, 2015

Elkhart, Ind. -- In response to the recent decisions by Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University to change their hiring policies, the Mennonite Education Agency of Mennonite Church USA makes the following statement:

Concerning the understanding of the meaning of the Forbearance and Membership Guidelines resolutions adopted at Kansas City 2015 by the delegate body

The Mennonite Education Agency (MEA), one of the five agencies of Mennonite Church USA, provides leadership to the educational agenda of the church. MEA has been aware and in dialogue with several of the Mennonite Church USA higher education institutions who have expressed a desire to change their hiring polices to a more inclusive approach where sexual orientation would not be basis for discrimination. The impact of the rapid cultural changes in regards to LGBTQ inclusion, the rapid changing legal landscape in light of the recent decision by the Supreme Court and the commitment of institutions to non-discrimination have played a role in the decisions of the Mennonite educational institutions. Throughout its history the Mennonite Church has wrestled with and lived with disagreements.

The Mennonite Education Agency and the institutions considering a change have remained in ongoing communication concerning possible pathways to move forward. MEA is grateful to the institutions for these communications and their acceptance of MEA’s counsel to hold any decision until after the Mennonite Church USA convention and delegate sessions held in early July in Kansas City, Missouri. During the delegate sessions the delegate body adopted two resolutions pertaining to LGBTQ inclusion known as the Forbearance Resolution and Membership Guidelines Resolution. These resolutions are now part of the official documents of the church and serve to guide the work of Mennonite Church USA and the agencies of which MEA is a part. These documents will guide the MEA board of directors going forward.

MEA is grateful to the resolutions committee and those who worked on crafting the resolutions. We are especially grateful for the spirit of the Forbearance Resolution which was written with a desire to hold our denomination together. As we have spent time reading this resolution, in light of our work, it seems clear to us that the resolution is intended for the whole of Mennonite Church USA, including all of its institutions. In adopting the Membership Guidelines Resolution, the delegate body has reaffirmed the existing membership guidelines and in the process reaffirmed the teaching position of the church in regards to marriage. It has also emphasized the importance of being in conversations with one another and in the spirit of mutual accountability to seek each other’s counsel.

In light of the direction put forth by the delegate body in the adoption of both resolutions, the MEA board states the following:

  1. Any institution that institutes or has adopted a change of hiring policy or other practice which moves away from the teaching position of the church, will be considered at variance with MEA and Mennonite Church USA. MEA reserves the right to publicly make a statement to this effect.

  2. The Forbearance Resolution calls the church and its institutions to show and demonstrate forbearance with one another. MEA understands the spirit of the resolution to mean: when institutions that implement changes that reflect their present understandings, even when these understandings are in contradiction to the teaching positions of the church, MEA will show forbearance and extend grace to these institutions. The MEA board remains committed to ongoing conversations and discernment concerning the impact and possible consequences of the institutions’ actions that move them in the direction of changing their hiring policies placing them at variance with the denomination.

We recognize the deep beliefs, emotions and different understandings that are present in our denomination. As we engage in conversations in the midst of disagreements, we hope to do so in a spirit of humility, with a willingness to listen and with a commitment of mutual respect as we remind one another that we are part of God’s community.

In response to the actions taken by the Eastern Mennonite University Board of Trustees and the Goshen College Board of Directors concerning the revision to their hiring policies:

The recent actions taken by the Eastern Mennonite University Board of Trustees and the Goshen College Board of Directors in revising their hiring policies has moved away from the teaching position of Mennonite Church USA. This means that both have taken actions that place them at variance with the Mennonite Education Agency and Mennonite Church USA. MEA will show forbearance to these two institutions. MEA will remain committed to ongoing conversations and discernment concerning the impact of the institutions’ recent actions. MEA is committed to move forward with a spirit of humility, a willingness to listen and a commitment towards mutual respect as we remind one another that we are part of God’s community.

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Contributed by MEA  –  7/20/2015