There’s Always Something Wrong with Your Generation

The older generation always thinks the younger generation is going to pot.

I hear this statement regularly in the church, repeated by the older generation who dedicated their lives to the church. I also hear it from the teenagers I work with, weighing whether or not to stay in the church.

Everyone knows generational conflict is a tired song. All our complaints — about both the older and younger generations — are reruns of those who came before us.

It’s a self-aware statement: I know my views reflect my cultural context. But often it’s used as a resigned statement at the end of an exhausting conversation about sexuality or communion or baptism. Young or old church members express their view, then qualify it with, “but people like me always disagree with people like them.”

It may be broadly true, but it isn’t relevant. Continue reading

Privilege is not Solidarity: Mennonites and the Anthem

As the national anthem began to play and all activity stopped in the stands, I became acutely aware that I was the only one not facing the flag with my hand over my heart. I hadn’t been to a sports game in months, but as I stood, refusing to pay homage to the flag, for the first time, I realized the way conscientious objection can feel like drowning.

Like many Mennonites, as a child, I was applauded when I didn’t stand for the anthem or say the pledge. Even in high school pep assemblies, when my silence drowned out by my peers’ dutiful pledges, I could hear the voice of my church community encouraging this separation between worship and worship of country.

I was slow to “get” the Colin Kaepernick controversy. I was stumped by the idea that the thing I’d done since childhood and been widely ignored for, was noteworthy, much less offensive. I’d spent a lifetime sitting in Kaepernick’s figurative shoes, and couldn’t remember ever being ridiculed by my peers. Then again, I was 21 before I saw my first football game, and it took years after that before I realized the sport was a religion in its own right. Continue reading

Did we get gay-er?: What the Lancaster and Western District Ideologies Mean for the Rest of Us

It certainly appears that the church’s extremes got more extreme this weekend, as it concerns LGBTQ participation. I don’t think this is the case, though–no one has gotten more extreme, they’ve just finally shaken off the paralysis of conflict and are becoming courageous enough to be who they wish to be. Lancaster Conference is making good on their threat to leave the denomination, while Western District Conference has agreed not to punish credentialed leaders who preside at same-sex ceremonies, as long as they have congregational approval.

Have we really become more polarized since Kansas City? Doubtful. How much do these two decisions change things? Continue reading

An Attempt to Say Something Not Unhelpful about Sex

Recently, a friend asked how I, as a pastor, have conversations about sex. The implication was, how do I, as a single 27-year-old have any coherent conversation about sex with my peers, who spend a decent amount of their time talking about sex. In general, the answer is that I avoid writing about sex, except to critique the church’s inability to talk about sex.

People in the post-college bracket are thoughtful about sex. It’s not all horror stories and hook ups. In fact, there are mostly not very many of those. But, as one friend said, just by being single, Christian, and older than 25, you’re living “off script.” You’re in the minority of Christians and the Church is using an outdated script to keep you on a path you were never on. I think this is why there are so few single young people in church. There’s not a place for them at the table. Continue reading

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.” Continue reading

Fear of (Someone Else) Being Alone

My stomach rolls a little every time I think about writing about being a single pastor. My gut reaction is always, first, that it’s none of your business. I get defensive because in the church, there’s almost always a degree of judgment about being single. When you’re a pastor, that judgment is compounded with concern, benevolence, and confusion. For me, it comes down to this: being single does not define nor limit my ministry and it’s not relevant to the quality of the work that I do. I don’t define myself as a “single person pastoring,” and it’s offensive and reductive when you do.

For the most part, my congregation is supportive and understands that. But every once in a while, someone makes a comment that hints at how this is a “problem” they can help me “fix.” They don’t say it that way, but that’s what they mean. Someone will comment about my future-husband’s participation in the church or express concern that I’ll date the wrong person. (Did you never date the wrong person? Do you realize you’re speaking to me like I’m 16? You trust me to make decisions about the basic functioning of the church but think I’m incompetent to make intelligent decisions about who I spend time with?)

As much as that makes my blood flame, for so many reasons, as a pastor, I get to approach singleness as a work issue, not a big-C Church issue that defines my relationship to the little-c church I attend. But in the aftermath of Valentine’s Day, I’ve had several conversations with single Christians (all women) who do experience it that way. They all noted how… unhelpful the church is. Church is still, largely, a place for married people. My own congregation has upwards of 30 young adults, but I can list the number of single people between 22-35 on one hand (maybe one and a half hands). The church has this fear of single people, like they’re a liability or concern, and single people feel it.

Continue reading

10 Things I Would Rather Discuss at Convention that GLBTQ Inclusion

I’m tired of squinting at articles trying to make sense of the church’s movement/not movement on LGBTQ conversations. I’m tired of blogging about it. So here’s ten conversations I’d rather be having at the Kansas City Convention.

10. Gun Control. Remember that time we were pacifists? Like, for the last 500 years?


9. Vegetarianism. Remember how pacifism is a lifestyle and meat-eating is violent toward animals, people who work in food production, and to the earth itself? Why don’t we work on a resolution encouraging all church members to take a step toward peace by eating vegetarian, at least 5 days of the week? Continue reading

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

Is Your Church Racist?

This Sunday, one of the freshmen in the youth group asked, “Is our church racist?” I wasn’t sure how to respond–you don’t want to tell a 14-year-old everyone who has raised her is racist, unless you’re really, really convinced that it’s true. (Luckily, I didn’t have to say anything, because I work with excellent co-teachers who are quick on their feet.)

But. Her question provoked me. There are lots of white churches. What makes a white church racist? So I made this handy flowchart.

Slide1

Continue reading

Should Millenials Spend More Time in Church?

This is an article I wrote in response to Kate  Baer’s article “Why We’re Not Going to Church,” published in the Mennonite World Review on March 12, 2013. Here it is again, with a few minor changes.

I’m 24 years old. I’m a seminary student who will graduate in May. I’m applying for pastoral positions in the Mennonite Church. And Kate Baer started a lot of discussions in the last 48 hours, so I want to try and respond.

I agree with Kate that “our generation is tired of culture wars.” Or, as bell hooks writes, “organized religion has failed to satisfy spiritual hunger because it has accommodated secular demands, interpreting spiritual life in ways that uphold the values of a production-centered commodity culture.” And if the way to avoid hypocrisy is to avoid church, to most of us, that seems like a healthy response. Church is exhausting. Defending church — especially to your non-Christian friends — is exhausting. Our generation wants a church that entertains, but we also want a church that is honest. Continue reading