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Delegates approve a discernment plan for matters of sexuality


Delegates broke into small groups that scattered about the discernment hall and in classrooms as they discussed Being a Faithful Church 3.

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July 15, 2011
-Barb Draper, Canadian Mennonite

Waterloo, ONT. — On July 5, 2011, delegates to Mennonite Church Canada Assembly 2011 affirmed that we need to let the Holy Spirit lead us in discerning matters of sexuality. Hopefully we can land on the beach and burn our boats behind us, said Dave Tiessen of Community Mennonite Fellowship, Drayton, Ont., in describing the approach to the dialogue on human sexuality. If we don’t burn our boats, planning to sail away again if the dialogue doesn’t go our way, then we are not letting the Spirit lead.

After worship and prayer on Tuesday morning, Willard Metzger, Executive Secretary of Mennonite Church Canada, and Rudy Baergen, chair of the Faith and Life Committee, presented “Being a Faithful Church 3: A Plan to Discern Faithfulness on Matters of Sexuality”. Several delegates expressed appreciation for their presentation which emphasized the importance of prayer and the need to let the Holy Spirit lead us in this difficult discussion. The document outlines a plan or a framework of how the dialogue regarding sexual matters will lead to discernment.

After lunch, delegates met in groups to discuss “Being a Faithful Church 3,” bringing responses back to the whole group in the following plenary session. While a few delegates made comments that spoke to the sexuality issue, most of those at the microphones addressed the issue of how the dialogue should proceed.

Henry Kliewer, Director of Leadership Ministries for Mennonite Church Manitoba, encouraged delegates to let go of the need to control the outcome. “If we can see this overall question as one of relationship with  each other…then, while there is fear, the potential for renewal is huge.”

The plenary discussion was very congenial. Barry Lesser of Yarrow asked that we not push for a quick decision because that would lead to an attitude of “us and them.” He also suggested that following a timetable means trying to exert control rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the church.

The issue of timeframe was a concern. If the delegates approve the motion to have biennial assemblies, would the timetable for discernment stretch from four years to ten?

Bock Ki Kim of London, Ont., spoke about the difficulty that multicultural congregations have with this issue. They are usually not comfortable discussing issues of sexuality and he expressed the hope that the church would address other issues.

Andrew Reesor-McDowell, moderator of Mennonite Church Canada, assured the delegates that  their written group responses will be reviewed and considered in this dialogue. With a majority vote by raised hands the delegates approved the document, “as a framework and plan to guide the ongoing discernment in Mennonite Church Canada on matters of sexuality.

Our approval is also a commitment to encourage and support the General Board as it continues to provide the leadership needed to implement this plan, and to encourage our congregations and Area Churches to participate as fully as possible.”