Feb19WedFebruary 19, 2020
For this week, it seems appropriate to share with you an update regarding recent decisions. As you know, 6 appointed members of FMC traveled to Menno Haven on Saturday, February 15, for the Illinois Mennonite Conference (IMC) Annual Business Meeting. Approximately half of all IMC congregations were represented among those in attendance. As you read, please note that the Missional Leadership Team (MLT) is a group of appointed volunteers who serve as the main governing body in IMC and the Church Life Team (CLT) is a group of appointed volunteers who assist the Conference Minister regarding issues of credentialing pastors and of congregational health. Here is what your delegates observed, in their own words.
FROM STEVE FORRET: After opening with songs, introductions, and prayers, there was review and approvals of both budget and leadership candidates. The bulk of the day was spent on facilitated discussions regarding 2 proposals related to congregational discernment and authority for allowing same sex-weddings along with impacts (or lack thereof) to pastoral credentialing. After calmer morning discussions, and more heated ones in the afternoon, the CLT proposal was brought to a vote. Contrary to Scripture, our Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, and the First Mennonite Church position letter (approved by our congregation last summer), the CLT proposal was passed by a majority of the delegates present. This essentially will allow each congregation to independently do as they please in these matters.
FROM LONNIE EMERSON: We were met, head-on, with the conflict of our modern culture and biblical theology. On the subjects of gays, same-sex marriage, gay ministers, I was amazed on how diverse the opinions of our fellow Mennonites were. It was definitely a learning experience.
FROM DOUG ROTH: After much discussion on 2 proposals that were distributed prior to the meeting, a majority of delegates voted to approve the CLT draft. It contains language which (1) gives pastors freedom to perform same-sex weddings if they have congregational approval (there would be no credential review in those cases) and (2) calls for an interim period where IMC will neither revokes or confers credentials on pastors in same sex marriages. While personally disappointing, the action taken was not a surprise. I believe that FMC should reevaluate its continued relationship to IMC and possibly explore other affiliation options.
FROM SCOTT LARGENT: As a delegate of First Mennonite Church of Morton, on behalf of the church, I believe that on this issue marriage should be between one man and one woman.
FROM PASTOR TOM: I believe most delegates came to the IMC Meeting ready to cast their vote concerning the proposals. Discussions only highlighted the division between accepting a radical change of theology or maintaining our current Confession of Faith. The majority voted to leave Biblical theology and conform to the sinful trend which is pervasive across many denominations. My concern is how Mennonites are increasingly seen very differently than in past years. This new endorsement of same-sex relationships distorts the true message found in the Bible regarding sin, salvation and God’s witness to the world.
FROM PASTOR AARON: The IMC Constitution states that all IMC member congregations “shall ascribe to the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (Article 3, Section 2a). However, the only real authority that IMC leadership has over the theology of member congregations is in regards to the credentialing of pastors. The approved resolution appears to temporary suspend such authority and seems to render Article 3, Section 2 powerless. All of this has taken place as (8) IMC congregations have shared statements affirming same-sex lifestyles, (1) credentialed IMC leader lives in a same-sex union and (2) credentialed leaders have performed same-sex ceremonies. In the months ahead, I anticipate that there will be an even greater shift away from a formal leadership structure in IMC, more congregational autonomy and much less theological unity upon Biblical subjects such as gender, marriage, original sin and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Your Elders are aware of these reports from conference and are in prayerful dialogue about how this impacts FMC. You should expect more conversations with you, our congregation, in the weeks and months to come.