At Least Three Church of the Brethren Districts Are Addressing the Topic of Same-Sex Marriage

At least three Church of the Brethren districts are addressing the topic of same-sex marriage. One of them has adopted a query on same-sex marriage, which will be sent on to Annual Conference.

West Marva District at its conference on Sept. 18-19 adopted a query that asks Annual Conference to consider “how shall districts respond when credentialed ministers and/or congregations conduct or participate in same-sex weddings?” The query was prompted by the recent Supreme Court ruling that institutes same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

The West Marva query, formulated by the district board, was presented with reference to the 1983 Annual Conference position paper on human sexuality and that document’s statement that “covenantal relationships between homosexual persons is an additional lifestyle option but, in the church’s search for a Christian understanding of human sexuality, this alternative is not acceptable.”

Southeastern District has adopted a district resolution on same-sex marriage, see Newsline’s report at www.brethren.org/news/2015/southeastern-district-begins-query-process.html .

In Shenandoah District, action has been taken in response to a congregation that has voted to allow its pastors to perform same-sex marriages. A district “framework” for responding to such actions by congregations, based on the 2004 Annual Conference statement “Congregational Disagreement with Annual Conference Decisions,” will be presented to the district conference in  early November said a letter from the chair of the district leadership team.

Since 1985, Shenandoah District has had a statement in place affirming that marriage should be between one man and one woman, according to the letter. The intent of the proposed action would call for work at reconciliation with a “dissenting congregation,” making it clear that the effort aims at returning the congregation to agreement with district and Annual Conference decisions. The proposed framework document also would address what the district should do when a church continues to dissent.

In a related action, on Oct. 15 the Shenandoah District Leadership Team set Tuesday, Nov. 3, as a day of prayer and fasting for all the congregations in the district. The action follows the Annual Conference guidelines on congregational disagreement, suggesting that one response is to call for a day of prayer and fasting to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and for appropriate spiritual conduct. The letter announcing the action closed with the request, “Pray for all our congregations and delegates that we might focus on getting the process in the best format possible.”

Read the two letters from the chair of the Shenandoah District leadership team at http://images.acswebnetworks.com/1/929/RandysLetter.pdf and http://files.ctctcdn.com/071f413a201/c54e69f5-b488-4fb9-abb3-22a75fb71828.pdf . Read “A Season of Lament,” a reflection by Shenandoah District executive minister John Jantzi, at http://images.acswebnetworks.com/1/929/JantziLament.pdf .

The topic of same-sex marriage was discussed this summer by the Standing Committee of district delegates to Annual Conference. In their meetings in Tampa, Fla., in July, the group conversed in closed session about concerns related to same-sex marriage. The 2015 Annual Conference moderator, David Steele, issued the following statement out of the closed session: “The Standing Committee met last evening in a closed session to enter into a deeper conversation about concerns related to same gender marriage. We met in a closed setting to provide a safe place for the members to share openly and to focus on hearing one another. There were no actions or straw votes taken. The intent and hope was to share with the Standing Committee delegates a way of engaging in the deeper conversations that are needed to strengthen the fabric of our church.”

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