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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Where Have All The Dissatisfied Mennos Gone?

How can we maintain the "unity 
of the Spirit" while striving for 
Biblically-based "unity of the faith"?
"We believe that God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life."
Article 19, Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective

"As disciples of Christ, we do not prepare for war, or participate in war or military service."

In response to the ongoing controversy within Mennonite Church USA regarding same sex marriage (unions MCUSA does not officially support), there has been a significant exodus of folks from our local Virginia Conference congregations. In spite of how strongly they may feel about Article 22 of their Mennonite Confession (second quote, above), they feel the denomination has not taken sufficient action in support of the first quote (above) from article 19. Thus some have felt the need to take their membership elsewhere.

I intend no disrespect in listing the following good local congregations with whom some of those have affiliated. I have great appreciation for the witness of those churches, for their statements of faith, for their pastors and church leaders, and for the good work in which they are engaged.

Here are four of them, along with some of their theological stands, taken from their websites:

1. First Church of the Nazarene (affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene denomination)
"We have our roots in the Methodist tradition that grew out of John Wesley’s revival movement in the 1700’s. We have good fellowship with our United Methodist 'cousins', but we are organizationally separate for historical reasons." (More on the church's beliefs, reflecting a Wesleyan and Arminian theology, can be found at http://www.abeaconofhope.org/what-we-believe/.

2. Covenant Presbyterian Church (a part of the Presbyterian Church in America)
"The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is an evangelical Protestant Christian denomination in the Reformed tradition. It is the second largest Presbyterian church body in the United States and the largest conservative Reformed church in North America and the English speaking world. The PCA is Evangelical in practice, Reformed in theology, Presbyterian in governance and missional minded.
"The constitution of the PCA, which is under the authority of the inerrant Word of God, consists of its doctrinal standards set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith, together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Book of Church Order."

3. Church of the Incarnation (a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion)
"Church of the Incarnation is part of an international network of churches known as the Anglican Communion. This network grew out of the missionary expansion of the Church of England over the past 500 years. It now consists of 38 self-governing provinces around the world in 164 countries with tens of millions of members. In many places, particularly throughout the Global South, the churches of the Anglican Communion are known for their vibrant faith in God and transformational presence within their communities. We enjoy and benefit from our vital connection to the worldwide Anglican Communion through our membership in the Anglican Province of Rwanda. 

"Our core beliefs are summarized in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. As Anglican Christians, our faith also conforms to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion."

4. New Beginnings Church (interdenominational, but with former ties to Virginia Mennonite Conference, MCUSA)
New Beginnings has an extensive 24-point description of the church's  beliefs on its website. Included are the following: 
"We believe that marriage is a life long covenant between one man and one woman, that God created human beings as male and female and intended for the expression of sexual intimacies to be fully consummated only within the heterosexual marriage relationship." 
and 
"We believe that peace is the will of God. God created the world in peace, and God’s peace is most fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who is our peace and the peace of the whole world. Led by the Holy Spirit, we seek to follow Christ in the way of peace, doing justice, and bringing reconciliation."

The above represent only a sample of some of the fine churches local dissatisfied Mennonites have joined. These active and growing congregations represent a variety of beliefs about baptism, free will, support for state sanctioned violence, and other elements of belief and practice. Some are more complementary to Anabaptist theology than others, but all affirm traditional views of marriage consistent with Article 19 of the Mennonite Confession:

"We believe that God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life."

It should be noted, however, that none of them affirms the statement of belief that was a foundational part of Christian faith and practice in the first several centuries of church history, and an integral part of the witness of a 500-year Anabaptist tradition, as stated in Article 22:

"As disciples of Christ, we do not prepare for war, or participate in war or military service."

For more on ancient Christian teaching on followers of Jesus not taking part in war, link to 
http://harvyoder.blogspot.com/2011/01/saying-no-to-war.html
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