A Pastoral Statement on Same-sex Orientation

A quick glance at Mennonite periodicals evidences a wide range of perspectives regarding same-sex orientation. Today Mennonites and other Christians across North America are wrestling with how to respond most faithfully to their sisters and brothers in the church who find themselves to be of same-sex orientation.

Mennonite communities use a variety of principles in biblical interpretation, and therefore sometimes respond in diverse ways to theological and ethical questions. Scientists also come up with differing theories about factors contributing to the development of sexual orientation.

Because biblical, theological and scientific discernment is ongoing, this statement in no way assumes correct or final understandings of same-sex orientation. Instead, it is meant to give direction to relational attitudes and actions on the Goshen College campus. The intent of this statement is to help in creating relationships marked by compassion, justice, shalom, and love. Such relationships produce an environment that is life-giving and health-sustaining.

Justice is defined elsewhere in this packet as the absence of violence, the expression of fairness, respect, love, grace, and forgiveness in human relationships, and the nonjudgmental acceptance of differences. In response to the same-sex oriented persons among us, we seek to realize this definition of justice.

Jesus, in the Gospels, is a model for just and compassionate responses to persons often marginalized in our society and in our churches. Especially significant is Jesus’ ability to relate to those whose actions contradicted relational patterns of the time. Jesus never condemned persons ostracized by the system (John 4). Instead, he listened with patience to those with theological insight (John 3), and he loved with compassion and sought to understand (John 8).

Jesus also lovingly challenged people, encouraging behavioral changes when their actions were destructive to their own personal growth (John 8). When exploitation or promiscuity exist in any sexual relationship, they must be addressed in love with encouragement to change. Seeking the Holy Spirit can empower this change.

A pastoral response to same-sex oriented persons must be consistent with Jesus’ example. Compassion, love, and acceptance must take priority. Non-acceptance and critical or judgmental attitudes are inappropriate and do not belong in a community concerned about justice and faithfulness.

In accepting the “Call to Affirmation, Confession, and Covenant Regarding Human Sexuality” included elsewhere in this packet, Mennonites agreed to “mutually bear the burden of remaining in loving dialogue with each other” and promised “compassion and prayer for each other.” We trust the same commitments can be made on Goshen’s campus. Mutuality in acceptance, understanding, and response is essential in order to establish a community where peace and justice are the norm in all human relationships.

GC counseling personnel are available to students wishing to discuss issues regarding sexuality or sexual behavior. In keeping with the pastoral concerns of the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (1995), the call for loving dialogue in the Purdue statement on human sexuality (1987), and the Goshen College Commitment to Community Standards (GC established), a support group (known as Prism) is available to provide an environment in which lesbian, gay and bisexual students may discuss issues and questions relevant to them as people of faith. This acknowledges that sexual identity (as distinct from sexual activity) is an integral part of a person’s individual and spiritual sense of self. As with other support groups meeting in anonymity and safety, and promoting healthy personal growth, these conversations will remain confidential.