Lancaster Conference Credentialed Leaders Respond to Recommendation Regarding the Ordination of Women

Good grief! I need to be studying, but I was sucked in by the latest poll (look to the right)[update 4.15.07 - click here for info about the poll]. Whoever put that up deserves a gold star!! Ever since I read the report about the ordination of women in the Lancaster Conference News last month I have been thinking about posting something about this (Katie already did). I’ve copied the relevant report below from the February 2007 issue. I think the poll speaks for itself; its commentary is more poignant than any I could muster.

By ballots counted on January 19, the active ordained and licensed leaders of Lancaster Mennonite Conference did not affirm a recommendation from the Board of Bishops that would have allowed for the ordination of women called and affirmed by congregations to serve in ministry and pastoral leadership. The recommendation was not affirmed by the constitutionally required 66.67 percent approval. Of the 359 credentialed leaders who voted, 65.74 % affirmed the recommendation and 34.26% did not affirm the recommendation (there are 455 active credentialed leaders in LMC). Thus, the recommendation did not pass. The vote on the recommendation from the Board of Bishops came after a lengthy and significant process of spiritual discernment.

In March of 2006, the Board of Bishops introduced a process of spiritual discernment to consider adopting a policy that would enable congregations to follow their convictions in discerning the gifts and calling of persons, regardless of gender, into ordained leadership roles in the congregation. Following ten regional cluster meetings for credentialed leaders and three forums for lay persons held in April and May, the 23-member Board of Bishops reviewed the helpful, but diverse, feedback from across the conference. This feedback along with dwelling in God’s Word, prayer, fasting, listening, searching, and study moved the Board of Bishops to approve a recommendation in August. The recommendation was then sent to credentialed leaders for their discernment and affirmation.

One of the themes that emerged from the 2006 cluster meetings was a shared desire in all LMC congregations to be faithful to Jesus Christ as revealed in Scriptures. Within LMC, there are a variety of beliefs and practices regarding roles of men and women in ministry and pastoral leadership. Contrary to the either/or clarity that some persons wished to bring to this discussion, the practice of LMC congregations is more accurately described as a continuum in which women are involved to lesser or greater degrees in congregations. Through the process of spiritual discernment it was clear that equally sincere and faithful people understand Scripture differently and come to differing conclusions regarding the practice of women in leadership and ordination.

Because this recommendation was not affirmed, the policy affirmed by credentialed leaders in 1999 will remain in effect. The 1999 recommendation approved granting a License for Specific Ministry to women serving on church planting teams, pastoral teams, or other specific ministries. While this license grants all the privileges and responsibilities of an ordained person, this credential does not lead toward ordination for women. The 1999 policy states that men will serve as primary leaders (lead pastors) in LMC congregations and that any exceptions will require the approval of the Bishop Board.

The Board of Bishops brought the following recommendation:

That Lancaster Mennonite Conference respect each member congregation in its discernment of Scripture, as led by the Holy Spirit, to call and affirm persons to serve in ministry and pastoral leadership, andrecommendation

That the LMC Board of Bishops license and/or ordain, regardless of gender, those who have responded to God’s call, who have been affirmed by their respective congregation, and who meet LMC qualifications for credentialing.

The recommendation also included the following understandings:
To most fully respect the differing Scriptural understandings, beliefs, and practices of our congregations, the role of bishop and similar conference oversight roles, will be reserved for men.

The Board of Bishops will assist in defining protocol for healthy, God-honoring male and female relationships in ministry teams.

Related YAR posts

If you found this post interesting, you might like to read these posts as well:

12 Responses to “Lancaster Conference Credentialed Leaders Respond to Recommendation Regarding the Ordination of Women”

  1. Lora Says:

    My favorite part of the poll was “no, but they can be licensed.” You’d probably also get a kick out of the top ten reasons why men should not be ordained.

  2. Katie Says:

    “Within LMC, there are a variety of beliefs and practices regarding roles of men and women in ministry and pastoral leadership. Contrary to the either/or clarity that some persons wished to bring to this discussion, the practice of LMC congregations is more accurately described as a continuum in which women are involved to lesser or greater degrees in congregations. Through the process of spiritual discernment it was clear that equally sincere and faithful people understand Scripture differently and come to differing conclusions regarding the practice of women in leadership and ordination.”

    Gotta love that diversity of opinion. The funny thing about LMC’s idea of diversity is that when the chips are counted and the votes are down, they can have all the diversity they want, they can have a big diversity cakewalk through the middle of Tiananmen Square and it won’t make a lick of difference because women still don’t get to have equal rights. The “continuum” ends at the place where women get equal rights. It actually is either/or clarity here. “Either” women have equal rights “or” they don’t. All the spiritual discernment, dwelling in God’s Word, prayer, fasting, listening, searching, and study of “equally” (men) sincere and faithful people (men) doesn’t seem to get us equality. Maybe it is because only equal (men) people (men) get to vote.

    Ok, after all that time since my last post on this subject I thought I would cool off, but I guess I haven’t. There I go scapegoating people again. I’m sure the 34% minority that blocked progress are people (men) too and deserve respect and love. I do respect and love them but I think they are sincerely and faithfully wrong and both the vote itself and the result of the vote are some of the more offensive (and harmful) things that have happened in the Mennonite Church in a long time (ok, maybe not that long but it’s really offensive). Actually, if the result would have been yes, it still would have been offensive because it wasn’t for full equality, only partial equality. Women still couldn’t have been bishops.

    Even more offensive to me is the lack of public response by denominational leaders. Whatever happened to that Confession of Faith thing we hear so much about when LGBT rights come up. Maybe there is only one article in that thing(they just labeled it 19 for fun).

    Side note to ranty rant: Are those quilts on that recommendation thingy? How appropriate…they are talking about women, so they use quilts. Women = ordination quilting.

    Ok, I’m done now, sorry you all had to witness that.

  3. eric Says:

    Through the process of spiritual discernment it was clear that equally sincere and faithful people understand Scripture differently and come to differing conclusions regarding the practice of women in leadership and ordination.

    I find that to be particularly damaging language. While not a huge advocate of “disciplinary action” on the basis of a creed/confession (though consistency in that realm would sure be nice) - I am a huge fan of leadership taking a stand for what they believe. At the very least they can say, “We aren’t there yet. We still have work to do in our conference to get there.” That’s a whole world of different. Can we not have a strong enough theology to claim, at the very least, that discrimination is not an “equally faithful” position according to the church? Because that is what the confession is there for.

  4. jdaniel Says:

    I’d like to know why 96 (22%) of the 455 credentialed leaders didn’t vote. In the article that Katie points to in her post you find this quote:

    Jane Hoober Peifer, one of about 35 licensed women in Lancaster Conference, said she thought the decision had thrown the conference into a crisis.

    The future of the conference is in the direction that the two-thirds are representing, and what do we do with them?” she said.

    Oh and I asked my mom; those are definitely quilts and she’s pretty sure the bishops didn’t make them.

  5. Celeste Says:

    I also have surprised myself with my anger over this situation — but I wanted to further emphasize that the problem was primarily with the proposal rather than the vote. Also, a little bit of hope: I know of at least one male pastor in Lancaster conference who has turned in his credentials and requested to instead be licensed for a specific ministry. I hope other pastors follow his example and take this step to restore equality where their bishops would uphold a double standard.

  6. eric Says:

    I wanted to further emphasize that the problem was primarily with the proposal rather than the vote.

    Further? Did I miss the first round of this? I’m very interested. can you say more about what you mean, or link up the original comments?

  7. Celeste Says:

    Katie said: “Actually, if the result would have been yes, it still would have been offensive because it wasn’t for full equality, only partial equality. Women still couldn’t have been bishops,” referring to this part of the proposal: “The recommendation also included the following understandings:
    To most fully respect the differing Scriptural understandings, beliefs, and practices of our congregations, the role of bishop and similar conference oversight roles, will be reserved for men.”

    I wanted to further emphasize that because if I were voting on that proposal, I would give serious consideration to voting it down because it establishes a double standard. I heard that some of Lancaster Conference’s pastors who most support gender equality voted it down for that reason.

  8. Skylark Says:

    Lora, thank you for posting the link to the Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained. I found it both hilarious and thought-provoking.

    Unfortunately, not everyone understands the purpose of satire. I ran into this yesterday when I brought up the Top Ten in a discussion on women in ministry, and a 50-something man objected. He compared it to some feminist philosophy that seeks to build women up by tearing men down.

    I firmly disagree. Satire is not the same as mocking. It is intended to make people think in ways that ordinary staid sentences cannot. Plus, the Top Ten are designed to point out the flaws in arguments against ordaining women—and that is effectively done by applying the same argument to a comparable situation.

  9. eric Says:

    Not only is satire a beast of it’s own, but the entire concept of “reverse discrimination” is silly. Racism and discrimination are systemic issues - they involve a power imbalance. Women don’t have the collective societal power to discriminate against men. That’s the whole point. Women can hate all they want to and it still isn’t reverse discrimination (and they probably have very good reasons for it). Note to white guys: Don’t get defensive. You have all the power. Now try listening.

    Apart from that, having become a fan of the feminist blogs, I’ve found even the angriest of them to be completely aware - more so than most “sensitive” and “progressive” white men - of the breadth of human experience and the meaning of true equality. If you read that as “man-hating”, you’re reading something wrong.

    Anger is not hatred. Anger is not discrimination. Just because you’ve had your feelings hurt doesn’t mean you’ve been treated unfairly. Being a generally nice and caring guy doesn’t get you out of being the oppressor. Don’t sit there with hurt feelings, acknowledge your complicity and start to work for change.

  10. a sign of hope » Young Anabaptist Radicals Says:

    […] As someone who raised a bit of a stink about the whole Lancaster Mennonite Conference-vote-to-not-ordain-women thing, I want to direct your attention to some good news. There was also a letter from the bishops recently to people in the conferece that I would also call hopeful. […]

  11. Poll update - sorry guys » Young Anabaptist Radicals Says:

    […] *actually, this isn’t the official YAR statement. We have no official statement or official statementers at this time. I just copied part of what someone in Lancaster Mennonite Conference had to say about their vote and did a bit of editing. […]

  12. What do you know about Ervin Stutzman? » Young Anabaptist Radicals Says:

    […] was a bishop in Lancaster Mennonite Conference starting in 1984 and become the moderator of the Lancaster Conference from 1991 to 2000. After […]

Leave a Reply

Note: Please take the time to edit your comments for spelling, punctuation, succinct communication and paragraph breaks.