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2009-09-15 issue:

Southeast Conference removes ministerial credential

by Everett Thomas and Anna Groff

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The longest-serving pastor in Southeast Mennonite Conference (SMC) has lost his ministerial credentials. On Sept. 15, the conference revoked the credentials for Randy Spaulding, pastor of Covenant Mennonite Fellowship in Sarasota, Fla. Spaulding has been  a pastor in SMC for 18 years.

"In response to Pastor Randy Spaulding's disclosure of his desire to pursue a covenanted same-sex relationship," the SMC Leadership Board wrote in a letter to all credential leaders in the conference on Sept. 25, "Randy Spaulding's credentials as licensed minister provided by Southeast Mennonite Conference are withdrawn."

The Leadership Board cited Spaulding's decision and "Mennonite Church USA guidelines regarding human sexuality" as the bases for the disciplinary action and asked Spaulding to resign voluntarily. When he refused, the conference withdrew his credentials.

"I am not surprised at these actions taken by the conference," Spaulding wrote in a Sept. 24 letter to the Leadership Board, conference pastors and congregations. "I recognize and respect the conservative nature of our conference in its theology, membership and its understanding of sexual orientation ... I am, however, deeply disappointed and saddened in the lack of process and the lack of healthy dialogue that the LB has engaged in with me and my congregation."

Debra Gingerich, church council chair, sent a letter to SMC on Sept. 22 expressing surprise at the sudden nature of the decision and said, "Our congregation needs time to consider what is God’s will for our church at this time."

Gingerich also promised a formal congregational response to the SMC action by Nov. 30, the date originally set by the Leadership Board for Spaulding to resign.

The Mennonite Church USA 2009 Directory lists "Laura" as Spaulding's spouse. However, Spaulding said on Sept. 30 that they divorced "a couple years ago." They remain friends, Spaulding said, and Laura attends Covenant Mennonite Fellowship.

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  • Posted by bbjam4484 at Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 06:03 PM

    Why is it whenever a position doesn't get its way it claims "dialogue" did not take place. I find it hard to believe that on Monday morning "the position" was announced and that afternoon "the action" took place. This reader has learned to read "no dialoge" as "I didn't get my way, so I'm going to make the other side look like they didn't listen to me in words that don't make me sound like I have sour grapes!" And that goes for anybody for any "position", not just this outcome on this issue.

  • Posted by TheOldFool at Thursday, October 01, 2009 at 03:45 AM

    I note that Randy describes the dialogue as not being "healthy." I have known him throughout his 18 years of ministry and I take his word for it. I'm more concerned with the activities of our High Priest, since that has been given to me as the topic for my next sermon. As I understand the Gospel, Jesus loves Randy and the Leadership of the Conference, and prays that they all may be one even as he and the father are one. "Breaking news" often saddens me.

  • Posted by margie granes at Monday, October 05, 2009 at 08:49 PM

    Notice that "the date originally set by the Leadership Board for Spaulding to resign" was Nov. 30. How, then, does one assume that *any* dialogue, much less healthy dialogue, took place, bbjam4484? It looks to me much more like an end run around their own timetable and stated plan. The Church does not easily shock me with its behavior, but, given the way this set of events unfolded, even I was surprised by the lack of ethics and basic human decency employed in this case. On a personal note, I would add that, whenever we use the this type of language, "Why is it that whenever...x...y...z," we display our willingness to make unfounded assumptions and paint with a broad brush whatever it is that rubs us the wrong way. How do you know that Mr. Spaulding and/or Covenant Mennonite are, as you imply, whining about not getting their own way? Hmmm... Somehow I envision Christ bending down to write in the sand...

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