Atlantic Northeast District has issued a response to a letter from the Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, as reported in the Aug. 24 Newsline, asking the district to withdraw the business item “Policy on Same-Gender Marriage” from consideration at next month’s district conference.
The response, written by district board chair Jeff Glisson, district moderator Misty Wintsch, and district executive Pete Kontra, begins, “The Church of the Brethren has for many years discussed the issue of human sexuality, and most recently same-gender marriage, so we understand that there are no easy answers to the issues that divide us. Therefore we recognize that the decisions we make as the Body of Christ are to be made very carefully, knowing that they will impact all of our lives.”
It notes that the origins of the district’s Policy on Same-Gender Marriage proposal “began with many members of the district asking questions and sharing concerns around the issue of ministers performing same-gender weddings” and “what happens” if a minister chooses to do so.
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The response goes on to review the timeline of the process: Drawing on two previous Atlantic Northeast District Conference actions included in the policy, the District Ministry Commission in September 2017 sent a letter to all congregations and ministers in the district reminding them of those actions. The letter concluded by noting that a process to handle these issues would be developed once a new district executive arrived.
Kontra began as district executive on Jan. 1, and soon after the District Ministry Commission began the process. The proposed policy was presented to the Atlantic Northeast District Board at their June meeting and was approved by a vote of 19 yes, 3 no, and 1 abstention. The proposed policy was then shared with the district as an item of business to be presented and voted upon at district conference Oct. 5-6.
“Prior to district conference, six area meetings are scheduled in September for all members to gather together to discuss the business items, to share and listen to one another, and to pray together as we prepare for district conference where we will discern how we move forward as a district,” the response says. “None of this, nor any other issue or conflict we may face will ever diminish God’s love for all of us and our call to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our prayer as district staff and leadership is that we will be unified by what we do well together as we serve Jesus Christ and that our conversations will always be tempered by grace and love even when we disagree. May it be so by God’s grace.”