The CCMBC and USMB Executive Boards, made up of men and women leaders from across Canada and the US, requested that the MB Historical Commission remove about three pages from their book On Holy Ground which carries the imprint of the MB publisher Kindred Productions owned and operated by CCMBC. The book itself is a collection of women’s stories (“life-writing”) about their experiences of encouragement and/or discouragement as they served in various ministry/leadership roles in the MB family across North America. The book was designed as a parallel volume to Doug Heidebrecht’s recording of the MB story in his book Women in Ministry Leadership.
However, three pages of one author’s writing suddenly departed to record reflections, experiences, and questions about her evolving perspective on gay, queer, and transgender folks and the MB church. The writer describes her journey where she expresses joyfulness at the marriage of a Christian woman to her same-sex partner and how she found her “perspective on gay marriage beginning to turn.” She proceeds to make several biblical analogies from 1 Samuel 9 and Genesis 27 to raise questions about whether “homosexuality” (to use her word) should be seen in a similar way as the OT monarchy (a compromise) and whether “queer” individuals are like Esau who still gets a partial blessing from his father. Finally, she cites River East’s statement of inclusivity, presumably as a possible model for the way forward.
These three pages move beyond the recording of personal experience about being encouraged and/or discouraged in leadership, to more of a brief theology essay advocating for a type of LGBTQ+ inclusion in conflict with a straightforward reading of our MB Confession of Faith. While the book’s disclaimer acknowledges that the book may contain material that is not affirmed by the MB Historical Commission, USMB, and/or CCMBC, this disclaimer does not seem robust enough to justify a credentialed leader including a brief theology essay on something other than women in ministry leadership.
For many MB readers, these pages will overshadow the important contribution of the other writers, create confusion about what it means for MB credentialed leaders and local MB churches to “affirm” the Confession of Faith, and unfortunately, it will reinforce the damaging stereotype that embracing women in leadership leads necessarily to an affirming stance on gay marriage for Christians. It is primarily for these reasons that the men and women leaders on the two Executive Boards took this unusual step, wrote a letter of request to the MB Historical Commission, and contributed financially to the reprinting of the book in its present form. We do regret that because of the urgent timeline of the original book printing/distribution and the complexity of working as a joint USMB/CCMBC team, we were unable to have personal conversations directly with the author, editor, and others involved.
We are thankful to the men and women of the MB Historical Commission Executive and Membership for the very kind and gracious way they have worked together with us in response to our unusual request. We value our cooperative work together and look forward to more of the same in the future. Finally, we do believe that the slightly shorter edition of On Holy Ground being distributed by Kindred Productions will reach a larger audience and be more effective in its purpose of sharing MB women’s stories of their personal experiences in leadership.
July 8, 2022: The term “mini-theology” in the third paragraph is updated to read “brief theology.” – Ed.