The Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren board has responded to the passage of “Policy on Same-Gender Marriage” by the Atlantic Northeast District board, “respectfully requesting” the board to withdraw the item from consideration at this year’s district conference. Elizabethtown states in the response, dated Aug. 13, that it is “a congregation that has reached decidedly differing conclusions on the issues of human sexuality and pastoral care to all persons.”
The proposed district policy acknowledges “the Church of the Brethren is not of one mind on a number of issues, including that of homosexuality and same-gender marriage,” and emphasizes the importance of relationships. Citing past denominational and district actions, however, it goes on to outline a “Response Process for a Minister Who Performs a Same-Gender Marriage.” That process includes a report to the district executive, documentation of the details of the report, and conversations with the minister involved, the District Ministry Commission, and the minister’s congregation.
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If the congregation supports the minister’s actions, then a letter of reprimand and a one-year probation would be given for a “first offense.” Further steps could be taken following conversation at the end of the one-year period. For a documented “second offense,” a recommendation would be made to the district board for “immediate termination” of ministry credentials. If the minister did not have congregational support, then it would be reported “as a potential Ministerial Ethics Violation.”
The Elizabethtown response to this proposed statement notes “the realities of congregational life together with numerous members of (the) LGBTQ community and their participation,” provides background on the congregation’s “affirmation of being ‘open to all,’” reviews the process used to reach the decision, and explores the possible “dilemma” Elizabethtown would face should district conference pass the statement.
Should the paper be adopted, Elizabethtown says, “our congregation will be caught between the district mandate and our understanding of the call of Christ. While yearning to remain in full fellowship with the district simultaneously we are determined to be faithful. We prefer to act in loving mutual discernment rather than forced compliance.” The congregation, it says, is open to ongoing dialogue but would “not comply with these arbitrary mandates” out of “a spirit of obedience to the call Christ has placed upon us.” Elizabethtown pastor Greg Davidson Laszakovits said that he was “proud of my congregation” for its supportive stance.
The Atlantic Northeast District conference is scheduled for Oct. 5-6 at Elizabethtown College’s Leffler Chapel with Mindy Wintsch, associate pastor of Mechanic Grove Church of the Brethren, serving as moderator. Several “sectional meetings” to discuss upcoming business at district conference had already been scheduled for September.