Gay and Mennonite

Published: March 18, 2015

The Atlantic
Emma Green
Original Article:

On a Saturday in March, the Allegheny Mennonite Conference met in Springs, Pennsylvania, to determine the fate of Hyattsville Mennonite Church. A decade earlier, the Maryland congregation had been formally “disciplined” for accepting gay and lesbian members. Now, there were three resolutions on the ballot: let Hyattsville back into the conference as a full member; remove Hyattsville from the conference altogether; or, if no agreement could be found, dissolve the conference.

When a Mennonite church gets called out for its conduct, that judgment comes from its peers. As of 2010, roughly 296,000 Mennonite adults lived in the United States, but the small Christian denomination is broken up into several dozen oversight organizations and church bodies. These tend to be decentralized and democratic: Church representatives vote on everything from budgets to service projects and summer camp.

They also vote when they want to punish other churches. In 2005, when Hyattsville was disciplined, the church had already been welcoming gay members for nearly two decades. But other congregations in the organizing body they belong to, the Allegheny Mennonite Conference, felt like things had reached a breaking point. A Pennsylvania pastor, Jeff Jones, decided to issue a formal complaint.

“Hyattsville had an active ministry to homosexuals, which I was for, I didn’t have a problem with it,” Jones said. But when the church “started putting active, practicing homosexuals in positions of leadership, as delegates in voting bodies here at conference—that became more difficult for me to take.”

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