I’m having a no-negativity Friday, so instead of criticizing the church today, I want to offer a few totally objective (not!) reasons why Mennonite Church USA is the only denomination I want to be part of. With all our sexuality grumblings, some days it’s hard to believe we even want MC USA to survive. Of course, we all want the church to change a little bit. But I want to give it credit for being a pretty neat thing, just the way it is. Here’s why (from least to most important):
10. Red vs. Blue
MC USA is in the process of updating the blue hymnal and merging it with the green and purple ones, so that we don’t have to keep a rainbow of hymn books in our pews anymore. Blue Hymnal came out in 1992. If the church splits, y’all, we won’t get our updated hymnal till 2042. Plus, if there are less voices in the choir, those hymns just won’t sound the same. This one keeps me up at night.
9. Salary Guidelines
When pastors were asked what was most useful thing MC USA had done for them, the number one answer was “pastoral salary guidelines.” It’s funny–because it’s true. Pastors suffer from “the inherent good paycheck.” In jobs that serve a moral good (ie., teachers and social workers), there’s this idea that the good work of giving back to the community is equal to a financial benefit. In pursuit of the greater good of your organization, you’re expected to take a low salary.
The work is its own reward–but it’s also a reward to do the work without worrying about my finances, praise Jesus. The pastoral salary guidelines is a handy little worksheet that helps congregations calculate what a true living wage is. In a way, it’s the closest thing pastors have to collective bargaining. It encourages congregations to think about justice issues beginning at home, with what they pay their own employees. I’m putting it low on my list because most of you have probably never seen it and it’s one of the more tedious useful things MC USA does.
8. Pear Gingerbread Upside Down Cake
I made some yesterday. It’s delicious. You know why I have this recipe? Because some good-hearted Mennonite shared her recipe with the rest of her church. I don’t want to miss out on any dessert because we aren’t speaking to each other. God gave us a sweet tooth so we’d have the good sense not to argue when cake is on the line.
7. Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Y’all thought I was kidding, huh? I’m so serious. This list wouldn’t be Mennonite if it didn’t have at least two foods on it. Where would we be without our trinity of cookbooks? I use Simply in Season almost as often as my Bible. (My next post will be “10 Dishes I’ll Still Eat Even if I Disagree with the Originator’s Theology.”)
What would convention be if there were anything less than 6,000 teenagers in a room? Most of us have never been in a room with that many teenagers, much less with teenagers who are all Christian. Convention has been a catalyst for so many youth, encouraging them to Mennonite colleges and gap year and service programs.
5. Corinthian Plan
Salary guidelines are useful, but so is healthcare. MC USA masterminded the Corinthian Plan before Obamacare came out so that even pastors who aren’t on a full-time salary (or any salary) would be able to get healthcare. The biggest beneficiary is low-income and pastors of color. This is my biggest concern if Mennonite Church USA loses a significant number of (wealthy) churches–they’re are not just saying, “we don’t support gay Christians,” they’re saying, “we don’t support gay Christians so much that we will withdraw support from the pastors who most need it.” I hope these congregations will find a way to continue this support if they choose to leave. Obamacare has helped some pastors, but many still rely on the Corinthian Plan (especially when we’re eating all that strawberry crisp).
4. Nobody does Peacemaking like you do Peacemaking
It’s what we’re known for, right after electricity. Peacemakers who can’t make peace with each others’ convictions… I’m not the first one to point out the irony.
3. Get Low (Church)
We’re minimalists. From our roots, we didn’t need glam or incense or organs to find God. For all the diversity of our worship, this is still a principle we follow. All we need is… I’d make a Nas reference here, but since the average age of Mennonites is mid-50s, I’ll let it go.
2. Salary Guidelines
For real, though. I have the best job in the world and I can still pay seven years’ worth of student loans. See #9.
1. Spiderman Web-Shooters
When it comes down to it, this is how I see the denomination. There’s a lot of buildings in the Mennonite world–Mennonite Mission Network, Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Disaster Service, DOOR, SWAP, all of the Mennonite Colleges… any person who fighting crime with one of these organizations might not be able to get anywhere else, unless they have the web-shooter. MC USA is the web-shooter that allows us to get to other places in the Mennonite world. These are places we might get to anyway, but it would take longer if we trying to find these things on our own. This is the most efficient mode of transportation we have in our battle against evil. That’s pretty cool.