Saturday, October 21, 2006

South Central Indiana District Votes to Punish Liberal Church

Manchester Church of the Brethren is a liberal congregation in Indiana; it has come under fire in recent years for its acceptance of gays and lesbians, and specifically for allowing its facility to be used for same sex commitment services. A special conference was held today to vote on whether to take action against Manchester. Bill Eberly, from the Manchester Congregation, filed this report on the VOS listserve:

The special district meeting in S/C Indiana concluded today at about 12:30. The deletgates(about 130) considered the following recommendation from the district board:

"...any South Central Indiana District Church of the Brethren congregation that allows a same sex covenant service on church property or with the assistance of church ministerial leadership will have a three year moratorium placed upon their participation in elected and appointed District offices, including seating delegates at District conference. Durint this time of moratorium, the Church will also submit to work with the District Board, Ministry of Reconciliation, Annual Conference Council and other entities as directed by the 2004 Annual Conference paper - Congregational Disagreement with Annual Conference decisions - to address the issues surrounding their broken relationships with the larger church. Further, that the Church will be directed to suspend indefinitely conducting or facilitating same sex covenant services, on church property or with the assistance of church ministerial leadership."

The motion passed with 94 yes and 35 no. 86 votes would have been required for minimal passage.

An interesting amendment that would have changed the wording a bit to include any church that violates any annual conference ruling would be subject to a three year moratorium etc. etc. That amendment was soundly defeated. It was clear that the delegates wanted this action to only refer to a "sexual topic".

One side made it clear that they were clear in wanting some punishment for churches that violated a sexual mandate.

The other side concentrated on the appropriateness or "legality" of the proposed punishment or sanctions of the motion.

So one side was arguing against homosexuality and the other side was arguing church polity (i.e., whether a district has any authority to punish a congregation in this way because of a simple disagreement on one issue.

What's next? If Annual Conference does not support this kind of action on the part of a district, should the standing committee review this action?

Peace (I think). Bill Eberly
What a shame. This action will likely appealed to the denomination's annual conference.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how it "punishes" Manchester COB, when Manchester is not even mentioned in the action. Any church that violates this provision (which is in line with the 1983 & 2002 actions of Annual Conference, and the previously adopted position of the S/C Indiana District) will have to deal with the consequences.

liberal pastor said...

Spirit and letter. Yes, it doesn't say Manchester. So the district just thought it would be a good idea to get ahead of the curve in case some church dares follow the spirit of Christ and participates in the commitment service of a same couple? Or is there a church in the district that has already done this wonderful thing?