On Grieving in Public on the Internet

I’ve been thinking about dancing. How much I love it. The places I’ve danced–literally thrown up my arms and been absorbed by the beat–in the middle of something terrible. How dancing is always a desperation, a need to move every limb and moment and be as present in every nerve of my body, as embodied, how the extreme of embodiment is the beginning of the mystical. About dancing as a sacrament, the way I nod–head bob, even–when I read my friends’ posts about dancing as a form of worship, how queer clubs are the closest thing queers have to church.

How I once said to a friend,  “I love dancing.” And he said, “No you don’t, I’ve seen you not dance. You don’t like going out to dance.” And I said, “No, I mean dancing when it’s safe. Like at liberal arts college parties when you know everyone in the room and you know no one is going to hurt you, they just came to dance.” That may be the least Anabaptist thing I’ve ever said. Somehow, in a religious tradition that spent 400 years eschewing dancing, the act of having a body with music still feels sacred to me. Continue reading

Advertisements

Executive Board Renders Itself Irrelevant, Again

As usual, the report of Executive Board’s meeting brings up the question: What the — did you actually do? After this weekend’s meeting, today brought another convoluted and dysfunctional report from our most centralized leadership body.

Most Mennonites aren’t terribly interested in Executive Board, and for good reason. In a healthy organization, EB has little to do: their primary job is to manage the finances and administration of MC USA, the organization. CLC (the Constituency Leaders Council) is responsible for keeping a high-concentration of theology in that cocktail of worldly tasks. When we get mired in conflict–like our present debate over GLBTQ inclusion–EB is, in a way, called upon to overextend their original mandate. That’s important–a crisis requires additional leadership, management, and discernment. EB isn’t violating their original mandate; they’re stretching their responsibilities because questions about theological vision necessarily impact administration, finance, and structure of the organization. Continue reading

Gay Marriage, The Supreme Court, and the Church: The Losing Side of Winning

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

State of the Mennonite Union: Pastors Week Recap

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.

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