LAKE, Ohio — A Mennonite congregation in Ohio has voted to leave the Mennonite Church USA in part due to concerns over what it believes is a lack of discipline against those who engage in homosexual behavior.
“We felt that Mennonite Church USA and [our church] were going in different directions concerning scriptural authority and holiness,” Ross Miller, pastor of Hartville Mennonite Church in Lake, told the Mennonite World Review this week.
He said that concerns about various aspects grew over a number of years, but when the Mountain States Conference, a division of the Mennonite Church USA, approved the ministerial license of a Colorado woman who identifies as a lesbian, it expedited matters and resulted in a recent vote to part ways.
“We felt there needed to be church discipline, and there hasn’t been,” he said, referencing disappointment that the Ohio Conference failed to pass a resolution urging the denomination headquarters to address the Mountain States’ actions, as well as a statement from an executive board member that he felt was less than satisfactory.
As previously reported, Theda Good, who is in a relationship with another woman, was licensed in February to serve as Pastor of Nurture and Fellowship at First Mennonite Church of Denver. She began serving with the congregation in 2012, and has a master’s degree from Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia.
Leaders from First Mennonite Church submitted a letter requesting her licensure last year, and the Mountain States Conference spent several months reviewing the matter.
“Much of the work centered around the consideration of a person whose gifts and call to ministry are clearly affirmed, yet is in a committed same-sex relationship, which varies from denominational statements,” the Conference outlined in a press release.
On November 24th, the Ministerial Council met for the second time with Good and agreed to accept her request for licensure. The matter then moved to the Leadership Board on December 1st, who agreed unanimously to license Good.
The Mountain States Conference has acknowledged that the decision to ordain Good is controversial.
“It is the desire of the Leadership Board to function and communicate with a spirit of deep humility, joyfully acknowledging the work of God in our midst, and with a sense of sadness recognizing the pain that this causes some of the sisters and brothers that we love in Mennonite Church USA,” it wrote.
Miller said that it was difficult to leave the denomination, but was concerned after the incident that he “didn’t really see anything from leadership that was reversing current trends.”
“We felt very strongly that that’s where God was calling us, but it was a very painful decision,” he told Mennonite World Review.
Miller’s congregation passed a resolution on September 7th to cut ties with Mennonite Church USA with 95 percent approval. It was reportedly one of the largest congregations in the Ohio Conference.