Musings from Pastor Steve’s desk
Broader Mennonite Stuff
April 22, 2015
There continues to be a lot of stuff going on in broader Mennonite circles these days:
- conversations at conference levels
- jockeying of positions before the Mennonite Church USA biennial assembly in Kansas City this summer
- fellowship, worship, mission and hospitality – still mainstays of who we are as a church and what we do
Here are a couple of snapshots of dialog and happenings regarding these broader Mennonite conversations:
- Here is Carol Lehman’s report from the Central District Conference meetings earlier this spring. Carol introduces a lot of the broader dialog going on in the Mennonite Church here, because it’s also being talked about at the conference level. I know we sent this out by email, but we never did get the correct text-attachment combination, so here it is again for your reference. Links to the CDC document and other articles she references are immediately below.
Carol Lehman's CDC reportHello all–In early February while the rest of you were participating in the Saturday COTA events, Jane Patty and I were representing CMF at a regional meeting of the Central District Conference (CDC) in Lima, OH. The afternoon activity was a discussion of a theological/biblical basis for credentialing a LGBTQ person for ministry. The Ministerial Committee of the CDC prepared this document following their decision to support Columbus Mennonite’s request to install Mark Rupp as an associate pastor, a man who is in a committed same-sex relationship. The discussions around the table generally reflected support for the document along with some questioning or dissenting voices. The tone was respectful. Leaders in CDC are wanting the document to be distributed more widely, and we are attaching it to this message. There will be a time–yet to be announced– for a group discussion of it. (It is for information and discussion and will not appear in resolution form for a vote at either the CDC annual meeting [June 11-13 in Elkhart] or at the biennial national convention in Kansas City.) Additional Report: On Sunday during the time of sharing I spoke briefly of a joy from the CDC Board and Leadership Council meetings I attended at Camp Friedenswald on April 10-11. Based on several questions afterwards, I want to give some more information. For the background of MC USA’s Resolution on Forbearance, which I read a sentence from, here is a link to The Mennonite online story: https://themennonite.org/daily-news/clc-recommends-sexuality-resolutions-to-executive-board/ While it is a relief to know that there will not be a vote in Kansas City that will have the resuIt of expelling conferences like our CDC or Mountains States who have credentialed for ministry members who are LGBTQ and in committed relationships, all the issues are by no means resolved. For one thing, we do not know if the Resolution on Forbearance will pass. The Executive Board is also working on a resolution, which if affirmed by the delegates in Kansas City, would “clarify the relationship between the Mennonite Church USA Membership Guidelines; the newly released Mennonite polity manual, A Shared Understanding of Church Leadership; and the resolution on forbearance.” This second resolution is still in development and will be released no later than May 1. Keith Lehman, CMF’s delegate at Kansas City, will be bringing all of us up to date on all the resolutions to be voted on at Kansas City at an Adult Forum soon to be announced. For those of you who have not already seen it, I want you to know about an Atlantic (March 18) article that was written about the meeting of the Allegheny Conference when they voted to accept back into full membership the Hyattsville Mennonite Church which had been stripped of its voting rights in 2005 over the issue of their appointing members who were LGBTQ as conference delegates. (Hyattsville just kept attending conference meetings during the past ten years with the message that even without voting rights, they saw themselves as members.) I found it interesting to see our larger church through the eyes of the national press. I did regret that they did not choose a more contemporary photo to accompany it. The young woman in prayer covering is appealing –just not representative of MC USA’s present membership. Although we may come off as “quaint,” I found the coverage balanced. Here’s a link: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/03/gay-and-mennonite/388060 I conclude with an anecdote which I find hopeful: At the March Constituency Leadership Council (CLC) Lisa Weaver*,*CDC’s incoming Board president, sat at a table for small group discussion where only one other person agreed with her on the issue of fully including in the church Christians who are LGBTQ. In fact one person told her that if this was approved, he believed that many Hispanic Mennonite churches, like the one he was a part of, would leave MC USA. Some time later in the discussion, Lisa offered this to her table: she said that she realized that Central District in its full acceptance of LGBT members is “at variance” with the Membership Guidelines, and she was willing to accept that status. This changed everything for the person who had said many Hispanic churches would leave. “At variance?” that was something he understood, he said. He then relayed how as a New York native he had nonetheless attended Eastern Mennonite High School in Virginia where there was a dress code he did not comply with for several days in a row. (The issue was wearing tee shirts with words of any kind on them.) He said he eventually found himself sitting in a small room with filing cabinets. He told Lisa that he could relate to her if she was accepting that her views were “at variance” and, thus, not prescriptive for everyone else. The CDC leadership hopes there will be no sanctions–no sitting in a small room with the filing cabinets–for conferences like ours which are “at variance” with the Membership Guidelines. Clearly we all in MC USA need to keep talking to each other. *I relay this story with Lisa’s permission who also got her discussion partner’s permission to repeat it. Let me know if you have questions or comments. Carol
- Some in Mennonite circles will be disappointed by the desire to work toward forbearance (i.e. living with the diversity in the church around this issue) because it does not go far enough to open the church and make it a welcoming and inclusive space, while others will be concerned because in their minds it already opens the church too much. This latter group is already making moves toward looser connections with MCUSA. Consider the creation of EVANA, the new EVangelical ANAbaptist network.
- Formation of new Evangelical Anabaptist network
- Vision statement of the new Evangelical Anabaptist Network (EVANA)
- Opinion piece by an EVANA founder Matt Hamsher
On a personal noteOne of the individuals actively working to create EVANA, Matt Hamsher, was a classmate and acquaintance of mine in college. Matt is a good guy, bright, thoughtful and caring with clear gifts for ministry and leadership. I like Matt. So how do I reconcile the fact that he and I wind up in such different places regarding sexuality and church polity? For me, knowing Matt makes it more difficult to completely discount the ‘other side’ of this debate and leads me to wonder, what are the positive motives and gifts that this group has to offer – even as I disagree with them.
- There is a combination of both hope and anxiety in Mennonite systems looking ahead to our future. Consider Ted Grimsrud’s recent blog post:
- In the meantime, issues other than sexuality are on our minds and in our churches. Kansas City will also see resolutions on 1) a faithful peace witness amid endless war and the use of drones, 2) a churchwide statement on sexual abuse and 3) a resolution on Israel-Palestine.
You will all have a chance to think and talk about some of this on Sunday May 24. Adult forum that morning will be devoted to pre-MCUSA-assembly processing. Be there.