Forbearance, Please Step to the Right (Part 7 of 70 times 7 on GLTBQ and the Mennonite Church)

Can a pastor go on vacation for five days? Miss a little, miss a lot. This week, the Executive Board announced the resolution they plan to present at Kansas City. Remember the Chicago/Reba resolution I was so excited to see being brought to Kansas City? The new Executive Board stakes a sharpie to the Chicago/Reba resolution and blacks out the substance of it. As one person said, “The Executive Board rejected the Lower Deer Creek resolution, but the resolution they present encapsulates most of the LDC ideas.”

Executive Board, on the other hand, suggests that this resolution is complementary to Chicago/Reba because it “clarifies” what forbearance means. Apparently, forbearance means LBGTQ people and allies should stop being so gay. The EB resolution might be better called the “Resolution on Selective Forbearance.” There are six points in the resolution, which is available on the MC USA website. Before you read it, you may want to put your irony pants on. (Note: for the sake of brevity, I’ve shorthanded all the documents noted in the resolution to [heteronormative statement], since they all have unwieldy titles.)

1. EB says: The Membership Guidelines, the ones that say Mennonites cannot be in same-sex relationships, is a “guiding document for questions regarding church membership and same-sex relationships.” Actually…. most of us don’t have questions about membership and same-sex relationships. We know exactly where we stand.
EB means: “don’t ask questions, just accept the answers that are culturally archaic and widely perceived as bigoted. Because Jesus was all about following archaic purity laws.”

2. EB says: forbearance means “the delegate assembly will not entertain changes to the Membership Guidelines for the next four years.” I’m not opposed to the concept; I’m opposed to the concept when it operates on the assumption that there are no problems with the Membership Guidelines. If forbearance means “abstaining from enforcement,” EB has re-defined forbearance as “enforcing everything that agrees with the status quo.”
EB means: “Forbearance” is a one-sided idea, and GLBTQ and allies should commit to operating outside the grace and tolerance of the church for the next four years.

3. EB says: Area conferences are mutually accountable. This isn’t even a valid political concept–if Congress said “states can only make new regulations in consultation with other states,” we’d be having five civil wars right now and no minimum wage, weed, or gay marriage. (You can decide which of those you’d be most upset about.) Not to mention, the Jews and Gentiles would’ve gone to war in Acts 11.
EB means: Even though area conferences are “equals” in authority, when we reach a matter of contention, we’ll choose which side is right and they’ll be able to exercise authority over bodies of the same authority.

4. EB says: “Therefore, be it resolved… we presume area conferences will grant ministerial credentials consistent with the [heteronormative] guidelines… as seems best in their context.” Well, isn’t that gracious? EB resolves to be presumptuous and assume that the leadership (chosen by conference churches) is competent and capable of interpretation.
EB means: I can’t even guess what EB means. Central District already plans to credential a gay pastor (who is already working in his church) immediately after Kansas City. Maybe EB means that “we presume to operate on the version of reality that bests fits our agenda”? In that case, let’s put the word FORBEARANCE on a target and use it for practice.

5. EB says: The CLC (the advisory group with no decision making power) has power to “[engage] in conference-to-conference peer review when area conferences make decisions that are not aligned with the documents [of heteronormativity and accepted homophobic ideas].” CLC, one polity expert pointed out, is the only group where honest discussion and relationships grow across ideological boundaries–precisely because they have no decision-making power. By definition, introducing a power dynamic negates dialogical space. If CLC has authority, they cannot dialogue or forbear because they are, by virtue of their power, obligated to silence the voices they are supposed to be forbearing with! Ironically, CLC was the group that recommended the Chicago/Reba resolution over the LDC resolution–a move that EB undermines by introducing this mimic-LDC resolution. So if the EB really wants CLC to have more power, why don’t they acknowledge CLC’s suggestion that forbearance is a sticky, subjective thing and the only way we’ll get through it is with ambivalent nouns?
EB means: This is the thing conservative churches have been demanding and we had to throw them a bone in order to delay the inevitable. Because increasing hierarchy is a surefire technique for problem-solving.

The current structure of MC USA.

The current structure of MC USA.

Proposed structure under the EB's resolution.

Proposed structure under the EB’s resolution.

6. EB says: Let’s do the thing we really care about, which is “proclaiming Jesus’ gospel of peace, evangelizing the world and growing as missional Mennonite communities.”  This would be lovely, but that only half of Mennonites believe in the gospel of peace; only a third of Mennonites in the U.S. have invited a non-Mennonite to church; and jargon is another word for bullshit. The citation for all three of those facts is the 2006 survey of Mennonites.
EB means: Isn’t 606 your favorite song? If we sing it loud enough, we won’t even hear the cries of LGBTQ people we’ve left outside our doors.

One thought on “Forbearance, Please Step to the Right (Part 7 of 70 times 7 on GLTBQ and the Mennonite Church)

  1. Way to go. As the son of one of the chaplains that is ordaining said pastor after Kansas City, I applaud your candor and clarity.
    Alex Sawatsky


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