Welcoming stance affects church transfer request
Atlantic Coast approves Pa. congregation’s move from Lancaster ConferenceBy Lowell Brown For Mennonite World Review
CONESTOGA, Pa. — A Pennsylvania congregation hoping to transfer from one Mennonite Church USA area conference to another after expressing openness to gay members has received an invitation to associate membership.
Atlantic Coast Conference delegates on April 20 invited Frazer Mennonite Church, currently affiliated with Lancaster Mennonite Conference, to become an associate member.
The decision drew interest mainly because of a statement introducing the congregation that Frazer’s pastor, Brenda Martin Hurst, read at the ACC fall assembly in October.
“Frazer wants to continue to be the welcoming, connecting and healing place that it has been for decades, without singling out a certain group of people — in this case gays — for special exclusion when they desire to be a member,” she read in part.
Neither the Frazer congregation nor its leadership have come to a consensus about homosexuality, she said. But the congregation has expressed “preliminary affirmation” for a general membership statement which “welcomes into membership all persons who profess faith in Christ and all who desire to walk with Christ in order to grow and trust in God, in following the light of Scripture and in living Jesus’ way,” without naming or singling out gays for exclusion.
Frazer requested membership in ACC after it became clear that Lancaster Mennonite Conference would not support such a statement, Martin Hurst said.
She said the congregation was drawn to ACC because it embraces unity in Jesus Christ in the midst of diversity in belief and practice. Frazer values ACC’s congregation-centered leadership structure and its commitment to MC USA, she said.
Meeting at Conestoga Mennonite Church, ACC delegates accepted Frazer’s associate membership in a narrow two-thirds majority vote — 64-29, or 69 percent in favor.
“Over the next 18 months, we will continue to engage in dialogue and discernment, trusting that God’s spirit will lead and guide us. We request that delegates at the fall assembly in 2014 review Frazer’s membership status,” the invitation concluded.
Martin Hurst said Frazer “would have preferred to receive a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to our request for full membership … rather than a partial affirmation, leaving our conference membership status uncertain for an extended period of time.” But she said Frazer understood that ACC might need more time to discern.
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