What if the Suburbs aren’t Godforsaken?

A version of this post was first published at Mennonite World Review.

In most circles, theological ones included, the suburbs are spoken of as the illegitimate child of urban and rural life — and with good reason. The suburban ideal emerged in the 1950s and 1960s under the influence of highway construction and white flight. Isolated family units in gated communities became the symbol of the American dream, accomplished. The suburbs promised “security” in the form of distance from one’s (fearsome) neighbor.

Shane Claiborne often says, “Creation began in the garden and ends in a city.” Claiborne has used this metaphor as a call for Christians to be present in urban development and revitalization. A side effect of this image, though, is the implication that God has no room for suburbs. Continue reading

Advertisements

Who’s Afraid of Denominational Collapse?

This post first appeared in Mennonite World Review.

Early in my teen years, I asked myself if I really wanted to belong to the Mennonite church or if I was doing it out of family habit.

But during my freshman year of high school, as the U.S. charged toward an open-ended war in Iraq, my 14-year-old self arrived at a war protest with my family, weaving through the crowd until we saw the quilted, colorful banner that read “Mennonites for Peace.”

That spring, I walked miles across Seattle’s protest-riddled streets, running between the church’s delegation and my friends from public school, who had no church to march with. Somewhere in that year, in the chaotic, warmongering Christianity of the Bush presidency, I decided that not only could I commit to the Mennonite church but, later, when I finally digested my call to ministry, that there was nowhere else I would rather pastor.

When I was installed as a pastor at Lombard Mennonite Church, I felt the presence of every Mennonite church I had attended and a deep, abiding love for the denomination that raised me. Continue reading

What the Church can Learn from Bernie Sanders

This article first appeared in Mennonite World Review.

Two months ago at Sent, the Anabaptist church-planting conference, I spoke with some young church plant­ers about what brings millennials to church. “May­be we should be more like Bernie Sanders,” I joked.

“Why not?” one planter responded. “If the church offered free education, millennials would be all over that.”As the Sanders campaign meanders onward, many speculate how the 74-year-old attracted such a rabid millennial following. But the church should ask another question: Has Sanders said something to our young people that the church has failed to say?

As I scroll through my Facebook feed, as I listen to a Goshen College alum explain his tithing to Sanders’ campaign, as I talk with a recent Wheaton College graduate celebrating Sanders’ win in Indiana — the answer is a resounding yes. Continue reading

What is Lancaster Doing Right?

We have a phrase around here: Chicago over Everything.

Chicago over everything

No, you can’t make your own hoodie.

It means we have mad love for the city when they do something right: when Chance the Rapper is on SNL, when people start blowing up about Vic Mensa, when the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2016… and when the city messes up, we keep our pride and stay loyal.

I’m starting to believe Lancaster Mennonite Conference has a similar phrase, because these days the shout rising up seems to be Lancaster over Everything. How odd that when Iglesia Menonita Hispana, the body of Spanish-speaking Mennonite congregations in the U.S., met together in November, the question appeared to be “Can we, as a body, stay affiliated with Mennonite Church USA, given their (ambiguous) stance on homosexuality?” Instead, it became clear that those answering “no” were almost all in Lancaster Conference and already planning to leave the denomination. (Mennonite World Review has an excellent print article about this that I haven’t been able to find online.)

So IMH remains part of the denomination, albeit with 25% of congregations moving on. Most Spanish-speaking churches want to stay in MC USA. But those who are connected to Lancaster conference, when given the choice, have chosen Lancaster over everything. So once again, our church split is confoundingly geographic. Something about Lancaster Conference is the greatest thing since sliced bread, at least for those who are part of it. Continue reading

We Never Expected Easy: Reflections from Convention

So we want forbearance. And we want things not to change. All the reports I’ve seen from last week’s Mennonite Church USA read like howling at the moon. They are fresh wounds and many of them deeper for having spent a week together. I have a jumble of thoughts that I’ll try to piece together coherently in the coming weeks, but here is where I begin.

We walked away from Kansas City certain of one thing: we done fucked up good this time. Continue reading

Still Saying Yes: Making the Best of Kansas City

(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

Evana: The Other Churches’ Other Woman

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