(I wrote this post at the Mennonite Church USA convention. It was originally published on the Mennonite World Review website.)
I was not prepared to be called forward in front of 4,500 people. I was sitting on the far edge of the room where the air conditioning didn’t quite reach, wearing the almost neon yellow jersey of the Colombian national soccer team, and in a fit of pre-convention planning, I had dyed my hair bubblegum pink. Continue reading
Sometimes being a winner feels shitty. If we cut down the two binaries, I join the statical majority of the country celebrating today’s Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage (what a funny phrase, legalize gay marriage). Even as I log on to write this post, my WordPress template now includes a rainbow. I am, abstractly, thrilled. But spiritually, and concretely, my joy is hollow. As a pastor, more than ever I am in the thick of addressing gay and lesbian issues from a theological perspective. I am in the middle of hard, hard conversations that are neither clarified nor helped by today’s ruling. To put it less-than-pastorally, more than ever I am aware that being a pastor means walking through a lot of shit with a lot of different people and the road is long and filled with idiosyncrasies.
A couple of weeks ago, I preached a sermon where I shared my own convictions with my congregation. As honestly, as humbly, as I could I shared the theological journey that leads me to do no other than affirm gay Christians. More honestly, more humbly, and much more challenging, I shared the theological journey that leads me to do no other than to learn from and pray with Christians who find gay practice to be a sin. Some people felt profoundly affirmed. Some felt damaged, wounded. Continue reading
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.” Continue reading
First off, let’s admit that we’ve all been asshats, even if we haven’t named our Church after Luna Lovegood or Donald Trump’s wife. I’m not calling anyone in the Evana Network an asshat (or at least, only to the degree that all humans are; you say fallen, I say asshat). I don’t know any of their leadership, and the names I do recognize I’ve heard positive things about. But with the formal formation of an “Other Woman” (or other man, have it at your orientation) we now see the potential asshattery of the future in sharper focus.
So some churches went and formed the church they wanted to form. We’re not just talking about seeing other people, we now see the proverbial other woman that our conservative churches want to date. The potential for asshattery–on all sides–is unlimited. But sweet Jesus, if we cannot laugh at each other now, and laugh at ourselves, both of our denomination/networks are wholly screwed. So go on, Google image search Evana to your heart’s content–there’s some quality Lion King fan art out there, and we all need a good laugh. Continue reading
Okay, it’s not a total 180. Nor is the headline from Mennonite World Review, “MC USA Council Endorses Unity Statement,” exactly accurate. “Unity” is hardly the statement. For those who saw the article and want the TLDR: This is CLC’s decision. They don’t have any decision-making power, but they’re the wise ones of the church who make recommendations to Executive Board. They spent the last weekend in Kansas–joke’s on them–picking bones over three proposed resolutions around same-sex sexuality in an elimination round to see which one would advance to the Delegate Assembly in Kansas City this summer. There were other resolutions up for debate, too, but they were all noncontroversial ones, like “don’t kill people.”
Remember this? The final word will come from Executive Board, but they probably won’t stray far from CLC.
Since I’ve never claimed to be an unbiased voice in this process, let me restate which basket my eggs are in: the Chicago Resolution is my baby. Okay, not technically. There’s a lot more people who put a lot more gametes into this resolution than I did. But I’ve been midwifing this resolution since November, talking with leadership at both sponsoring congregations, examining drafts of the resolution, and I (and my co-pastors) are among the 12 individual pastors endorsing the resolution, listed at the bottom of the document. Continue reading
We need to find a new way to talk about the congregations that are leaving MC USA. They’re not leaving us; we’re getting divorced. Leaving is something you do after four OK Cupid dates. We have shared assets. We have children together (MCC, MMN, Everence) and we have the same parent (MWC). Do you want to stay involved in your children’s lives? Do you want to stay connected to your ex-in laws? How will you negotiate custody on holidays like Relief Sale and Schmeckfest? Churches aren’t “leaving”–they’re moving out of the house we’ve shared for 60 years.
This metaphor is scary. The church is still, though sometimes only technically, opposed to divorce. How can we talk about “divorcing well” if it’s something we’re not supposed to do at all? If what Clinton Frame actually did was divorce Indiana-Michigan, then both parties need a moment of self-reflection, self-discovery, and learning how to live separately. Self-reflection is hard, but what I’ve noticed recently is how much churches are struggling to live separately. Continue reading
Buy a coffin and prepare the funeral. If the Mennonite church was waiting for a death knell, it’s today’s article in The fucking Atlantic. That was my first thought when I finished Emma Green’s article. Do we have to start a #NotAllMennos? You know we’re on dire straits when we start #NotAllMenno-ing.
The article is filled will all the passion you can wring out of a regional conference meeting (even one fraught with the tension of impending self-destruction). She even included audio clips of the music sung at the gathering. (I pulled out my hymnal to hum along to “Calm Me, Lord” while I read.)
I can’t go on vacation for six days without missing a firestorm in the ongoing GLBTQ debates. In Part 800 of this series, it’s time to look at the survey MC USA distributed to convention delegates last week. Apparently, the pastor survey was so much fun they wanted to do it again, with more questions.
I’m only interested in one question today. The survey is already under fire for many things: re-asking the same questions to a broader audience; increasing polarization; asking people who have little knowledge of church polity to make decisions about polity. I’ve talked with two people who are separately annotating the survey–yes, you read that right. They’re creating a guide to the questions to explain what the questions are asking. Continue reading
Talking to several people about Mennonite church Executive Board meeting Jan. 29-31, the conversation went like this: Wait, what happened? This week, Alabama became the 37th state to allow gay marriage–meanwhile, the Executive Board recommended maintaining the definition of traditional marriage through 2017. Wait, what happened?
I’m not on EB, but I am in the business of offering biased interpretations of church politics. And, this [expletive] backwards decision is actually a move forward. I’m an optimist. But stick with me. Here’s a few ways to look at what happened:
1. EB went back to the drawing board.
For the last 8 months or so, EB has been talking about a “structural solution” to our GLBTQ debates. Most of the objections to inclusion have been voices coming to be and saying, “He hit me; put him in time out.” EB has responded by saying, “I’m not your mom.” EB spent several months working toward a Not Your Mom Resolution–a resolution that would codify more clearly the power structure of MC USA and try to appease the conservative churches by maintaining a doctrinal stance that they could agree with, but allowing liberal churches to do their gay marriage thing, more or less without repercussion. Both liberals and conservatives called this bullshit, and at this meeting, EB admitted that a “structural solution” was, in fact, bullshit. Continue reading
Most of us live day-to-day in the microcosm of one local church community. For the last four days, I’ve tasted of the macro-North American church, trading good and bad news at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s annual Pastors Week. Here are top five moments for me, from longest to shortest (not counting the food, because the AMBS vegan chocolate chip cookie is its own theology and ecclesiology).
1. When it comes to GLBTQ debates, our denominational staff is close to hopeless. If you’ve worked with a conference minister or MC USA staff in the last year, you know this already. But it was striking how much of the week was burdened by fear of this summer’s impending sexuality “conversation” (or, if you prefer, “explosion”) at the Kansas City convention. Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, moderator of MC USA, spoke to us on Wednesday, which was also her birthday. Perhaps this statement is enough to explain why our denominational leaders are so hopeless.
I call her ESA because her name is 7 syllables.
This hour-long lecture was the most direct I’ve seen ESA–she talked race, sexuality, and ecclessiology. About 35 minutes in, she said, “I am married to a conservative man. We have struggled with the LGBT issue and we will never agree. But we will love each other anyway. But I don’t know if we have that love in the church.” During Q&A time, I asked, “You–and all of our denominational leaders–are tired. We, as pastors, aren’t getting any hope from you. If we can’t get hope from you, how do we sustain our optimism? What is your good news for us?” Continue reading