The U.S. Conference Board of Faith and Life (BFL) hosted a BFL Summit Jan. 9-10 in Phoenix, Ariz. Because of recent interest in changing credentialing policy, all district BFLs were invited to gather to talk specifically about the U.S. Mennonite Brethren policy that allows licensure of women in pastoral positions, with the exception of the lead pastor.
The U.S. BFL listened to the district BFLs’ positions on this issue and received input on whether or not there was an interest in changing the policy to allow individual churches to discern from their context and biblical understanding whether it would be appropriate to license a woman as a lead pastor. Because this is an issue of great importance to all USMB churches, U.S. BFL believed it would be of value to involve district boards in discussing how any change in the policy might affect or be received by the churches in that district.
The group spent time considering how the denomination might be able to deal with disagreements over theological issues of all kinds and remain united. Larry Martens, former professor and president at MB Biblical Seminary, now Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, led participants through a Bible study on Acts 15, Romans 14 and John 17. The focus was on how the apostles led the church through similar disagreements on faith and practice.
It was stressed to participants that the summit was not a decision-making event and that any recommendation to change the policy would need to be taken to a U.S. Conference convention for a vote by delegates. U.S. BFL has indicated it has no immediate plans to do so.
District BFLs expressed a common sense of failure to support and encourage congregations to abide by the current policy that encourages churches to include women in all levels of leadership in the local church, except for lead pastor.
Opportunity was given for district BFLs to share other concerns and to talk about the potential of working more closely with one another and U.S. BFL in the future. Participants were grateful for the chance to network with one another, voice their perspectives and participate in conversations about mutual theological and practical concerns. Attendees expressed interest in getting together again in the future.—U.S. BFL