Sex, Sanctions, and Overstepping Orthodoxy: Part 800 of Infinity on GLBTQ Conversations in the Mennonite Church

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

Advertisements

Sex and the Splitting Church: What Just Happened?

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

10 Reasons I Love MC USA and Don’t Want it to Change

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):

Join me in a future where we never have to sing

Join me in a future where we never have to sing “Spirit Friend” again.

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. Continue reading

Clergy Sexuality Survey: The TL;DR Edition

Are you too lazy to read the survey on GLBTQ issues that just came out? Do you want a totally biased, subjective, moderately educated perspective on the 2014 Survey of Credentialed Leaders in Mennonite Church USA? So I present to you: Clergy Sexuality Survey: TL;DR (more to follow, if I feel like it).

Totally Biased Summary, Part 1: The People

Remember what I said in the last post about some of the respondent bias? Essentially, in the Mennonite Church, credentialed clergy (those who are pastors, retired pastors, or working in church leadership like chaplaincy or specific missions) are disproportionately male and three-quarters of them are 45+. There’s no statistics on race for the survey, but (spoiler alert) they’re mostly white.

Women in MC USA

MC USA clergy are 6% more female than the 2015 Congress. Make your own metaphor about the church being 6% more effective than Congress.

Totally Biased Summary, Part 2: Their Issues

There are at least some intelligent people reporting on the survey results on the internet. There are also lots of people just venting. Here are some of the highlights they’re arguing about: Continue reading

Merry Christmas and Happy Conversations about Sex and Politics

If you celebrate Christmas on Three Kings’ Day, you’ve got a big present coming. In addition to the crazy relatives, you’ll have a thousand Mennonite pastors at your table talking about gay Christians in the church. Yes! It’s another installment of Church Politics and Sexuality. On January 6, Mennonite Church USA is releasing the results of this summer’s survey of church leaders, which focused mostly on pastors’ views of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered role in three areas: church membership, church leadership, and marriage.

I open Christmas presents early. As one of the 1,323 church leaders who took the survey, I got an early peak at the results. And yes, it was one of the highlights of my Christmas. I’m not going to give away any numbers, but, just to get you excited, I have a few hints. This year’s survey builds on a 2006 survey of lay Mennonites and pastors from across the country. So, drawing on the 2006 survey, here’s a few things to watch out for in next week’s data. Continue reading