Diversity failed in the Mennonite Church USA on December 31, 2017 when its largest group, the Lancaster Conference, left the denomination over same-sex “marriage.” The Lancaster Conference opposes same-sex “marriage” as unbiblical.
The “official” Mennonite Church USA definition of marriage continues to affirm “We believe that God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life” (Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, Article 19, Marriage, http://mennoniteusa.org/confession-of-faith/marriage/, accessed 2018-01-04). However, the Mennonite Council has encouraged “full inclusion” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the church since 1976.
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 in Obergefell v. Hodges, that states cannot prohibit the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or deny recognition of lawfully performed out-of-state marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The ruling invalidated same-sex marriage bans in individual states. That decision was followed almost immediately by the Mennonite Church USA Biennial Convention, held June 30-July 5, 2015.
Delegates at that meeting voted the following resolution:
“The ways in which we have engaged the decades-long conflict in the church over issues related to human sexuality have diverted us from our central mission, divided us from each other and damaged the name of Christ in the world. While acknowledging different interpretations, we affirm the centrality of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture as an essential part of our collective discernment. We also affirm the goodness of marriage, singleness, celibacy, sexual intimacy within a marriage covenant, and fidelity for all people, and we acknowledge that there is currently not consensus within Mennonite Church USA on whether it is appropriate to bless Christians who are in same-sex covenanted unions. Because God has called us to seek peace and unity as together we discern and seek wisdom on these matters, we call on all those in Mennonite Church USA to offer grace, love and forbearance toward conferences, congregations and pastors in our body who, in different ways, seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ on matters related to same-sex covenanted unions” (http://mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/ForbearanceResolution.pdf, accessed 2018-02-04).
Mennonite Universities had not remained neutral. “Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College, both schools affiliated MC USA, adopted policies to protect faculty in same-sex relationships in 2015” (“Biggest Mennonite Conference Leaves Denomination,” http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/january/biggest-mennonite-conference-leaves-denomination.html,” accessed 2018-01-04).
Lancaster Conference Mennonites describe what happened:
“At its annual conference in Kansas City earlier this summer, Mennonite Church USA attempted to stake out a compromise position on the role of homosexuals within the church.
“At that meeting, delegates affirmed membership guidelines that disallow same-sex marriage while at the same time asking that individual churches be allowed to dialogue, discuss and pray on the issue. Mennonite Church USA also placed a four-year moratorium on further discussion.
“The Lancaster conference held eight regional meetings with leaders and members to discuss options after July. More than 1,800 people attended those meetings” (http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/lancaster-conference-votes-to-leave-mennonite-church-usa/article_06b9765a-8f94-11e5-aa0c-1f0717d08474.html, accessed 2018-01-04).
A two-year period of discernment soon began, and when the split became effective at the last day of 2017, more than 180 churches had joined with the Lancaster Conference in leaving the Mennonite Church USA.
The same-sex “marriage” debate of the last two decades has left a trail of shattered denominations. Numerous Christian bodies have refused to sustain the clear Scriptural teaching that homosexual practice is sin, and that authentic marriage is only between a man and a woman. Instead, denominational bodies have repeatedly voted themselves exempt from two thousand years of Christian understanding and then sought to suppress their brethren upholding Scriptural views.