(RNS) On Sunday (Feb. 2), a regional body of Mountain States Mennonites licensed the first lesbian in a committed same-sex relationship, the first step toward ordination.

On Sunday (Feb. 2), a Denver congregation of Mennonites licensed Theda Good, the first lesbian in a committed same-sex relationship, the first step toward ordination. Photo courtesy of Theda Good, First Mennonite Church of Denver

On Sunday (Feb. 2), a Denver congregation of Mennonites licensed Theda Good, the first lesbian in a committed same-sex relationship, the first step toward ordination. Photo courtesy of Theda Good, First Mennonite Church of Denver


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Theda Good’s licensure was celebrated by some Mennonite Church USA clergy and greeted with dismay by others.

Good was licensed for ministry as pastor of nurture and fellowship at First Mennonite Church of Denver, where she is currently on the staff. Originally from Lancaster, Pa., Good is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Va.

Whether the Mountain States Conference of the Mennonite Church will approve Good’s ordination isn’t clear. Good declined to be interviewed.

The Mennonite Church USA’s articles of faith include a provision that states: “We believe that God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life.”

Karl Landis, pastor of Mount Joy Mennonite Church in Mount Joy, Pa., said he expects the move to pose a dilemma and “rough sailing for relationships among conference leaders.”

On the other hand, “Theda’s ordination is another step towards a more affirming position,” said Joanna Harader, pastor of Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, Kan.

Keith Weaver, moderator of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, said he isn’t sure what lies ahead. “Now the struggle is how we live together?” he asked. Those who have convictions about the historic understanding of the church (with regard to marriage) are very concerned about this action.”

The Mennonite Church USA, the nation’s largest Mennonite body, is the result of the 2002 merger of the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church.

YS/AMB END EVANS

19 Comments

  1. My question is; would Mennonite Church USA license / ordain a person in a committed heterosexual (sexually active) relationship, living together but not married? I highly doubt it! Being raised in the Mennonite Church I was taught that sex is only for one man and one woman within the bonds of a marriage relationship. If we answer this question by saying “Yes” for gay people but “No” for cohabiting (not married) heterosexuals, couldn’t we be called hypocrites?

        • The part where the church ordinated a married gay pastor. Their actions seem to undermine the importance of their “official doctrine” on the matter.

          If there is any hypocrisy it is that they maintain such a doctrine after their actions have shown otherwise.

      • Jeremy, he isn’t questioning the validity of her marriage. Dwight is asking if the church would permit someone who is gay and legally married to be ordained, then shouldn’t they also permit someone who is straight and in a monogamous, committed-but-not-legally-married relationship to be ordained. He is saying if one is allowed, then the other should be as well in order to avoid the hypocrite label. Of course, allowing neither would also allow the church to avoid the hypocrite label.

        Dwight, my apologies if my comment inaccurately reflects what you were trying to say. :-)

        As someone who was raised in a very conservative branch of the Mennonite church, I’m very curious to see how this plays out. (To be clear, I am no longer in a Mennonite church but still have family in it.)

        • Its a silly argument. Why would the two be considered equivalent?

          One is recognized by the state, the other is not. One is a marriage, the other is not.

          If a church is very big on the sanctity of marriage, it is easy to consider a gay marriage acceptable more easily than a relationship sans marriage. A gay marriage represents a much different relationship than living together.

          Evidently the “one man and one woman” part being subject to discussion or change. The ordination is a sign that they probably do not hold the position to be as important to the faith as others may take it.

          • Larry Thanks for your comments. In my opinion it is not a silly argument and the two can be considered equivalent because I feel as though they are both sexual sins. Does Mennonite Church USA recognize and accept gay marriage the same as heterosexual marriage?

          • Although you may consider them both sexual sins, that does not mean the church in question does or considers them of equal consideration. That is merely your own view. A very reductive one at that.

            Saying that they will modify their stance on marriage to include gays is not the equivalent of saying they give no importance to marriage at all.

            On one hand you have a church extolling legally recognized unions between people, the other is simply ignoring such things entirely. Modifying a stance is not the same as abandoning it entirely. Your argument points to a personal inflexibility on your part more than anything else.

            You are making a ridiculous claim for hypocrisy because you are simply lumping it all together as if such distinctions are irrelevant. But they do exist and are material to discussions.

            “Does Mennonite Church USA recognize and accept gay marriage the same as heterosexual marriage?”

            Although their official stance seems to be “No” at the moment, their actions are saying “Yes”. Or at the very least, “we are working on it”

          • I don’t think Dwight’s question is silly. Did the article tell us Ms. Good is married, or just “in a committed same-sex relationship”? The question of church doctrine is important. Another question… do we believe what the Bible teaches, both about sexual relationships and about how we treat others?
            (I was raised Gen Conf Mennonite).

  2. These denominations will marry same gender couples in 18 US States and the District of Columbia:

    Affirming Pentecostal Church International
    Alliance of Christian Churches
    Anointed Affirming Independent Ministries
    The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
    Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
    Community of Christ
    Conservative Judaism
    Ecumenical Catholic Church
    Ecumenical Catholic Communion
    The Episcopal Church
    Evangelical Anglican Church In America
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals
    Inclusive Orthodox Church
    Metropolitan Community Church
    Old Catholic Church
    Progressive Christian Alliance
    Reconciling Pentecostals International
    Reconstructionist Judaism
    Reform Judaism
    Reformed Anglican Catholic Church
    Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
    Unitarian Universalist Church
    United Church of Christ
    Unity Church

    I look forward to the day when this denomination marries same gender couples also.

  3. I can remember the Lancaster County Mennonite church I grew up in had the following standards:
    Women wore a prayer veiling, men wore black civil war suits, radios were not allowed in the home, tv was not allowed, movies were verboten, no musical instruments in the church, foot washing rituals, no jewelery allowed to be worn, red or other bright colors not allowed for personal apparel, women wore capes and you got absolution from a major sin such as fornication by confessing it in front of the whole congregation. My how far we have come. Although you never completely escape your roots, obviously I am no longer a Mennonite.

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