Friday, July 3, 2015

#MennoCon15

I dared to hope that the decisions in yesterday’s delegate sessions at #MennoCon15 would surprise me. They did not. Yet last night I felt as stunned and hurt as if I had actually believed a better outcome was possible, as if I was shocked the Membership Guidelines resolution passed, as if I had expected better of my church. Perhaps it is only that I wish I could have expected better. But working for inclusion in recent years has made me cynical and reluctant, withholding of trust, and perhaps it hurts that much more to be hit when you see it coming, when a peace church chooses to continue its practices of internal violence, when so much screams that inclusion is a lost cause.

Love should never feel like a lost cause.

It’s hard not to feel that way though, when just this morning on Twitter a Mennonite brother called me, and others, lame and ignorant for our support of Pink Menno. Is name calling, being bullied and then told one needs a “thicker skin” and “isn’t ready for this” (whatever “this” may be) what disagreeing with one another in love looks like?

I don’t go around calling Mennonites who disagree with me names; I have never called the conservative voices in our church lame or ignorant. I know our disagreements are more complicated than that. But that’s the thing: I know I will be held to a higher standard than those carrying the majority opinion. I have to tread carefully. I have to be polite and well behaved, a nice, sweet church lady, or else no one is going to give me the time of day. Straight men with authority can call me names, and they will lose nothing. Nothing but my respect, which perhaps means nothing to them anyway, since to some I am just an ignorant woman. I am not ignorant, though – I understand something about power, and I know that playing by the rules doesn’t help you change them. That disruption, resistance, direct action, and strong words are necessary. (Strong words, yes; name calling, no.)

That both the Membership Guidelines and Forbearance resolutions passed simply confirms what I already suspected: that plenty of people are happy to pay lip service to the idea of bearing with one another in love, so long as they can continue the practices of exclusion they've held to all along.

I am tired of playing nice. I am tired of being your well behaved church lady, tired of writing with nuance and balance, tired of trying so hard to get you to listen. Yet here I am again, because as we saw yesterday, you are not going to listen to your queer sisters and brothers when they try to help you understand their lives and their experiences. You aren’t going to listen to their stories – that you have made unbelievably clear.

You are scared. I can see that; anyone can see that. And this decision will do nothing to dispel your fears.

Perfect love casts out fear. But this? There is no love in this. And so your fears will grow, they will fester, and beautiful, faithful Mennonites will continue to be silenced by your fears, and by your violence.

Make no mistake: this is violence.

Do not call it unity, when you widen the cracks in this already fractured body. Do not call it unity when you reject God’s own. Do not call it unity when you choose to ignore not only queer voices but the very voice of the holy spirit moving in your midst, clothed in pink.

I fear that after remaining controlled and polite and gracious for so long, I will lose it. I will give up, or break down, or turn tables. I will tell you what I really think – to your face – instead of letting someone vet my words first, helping me edit out the passion, the anger, the indignation, helping me play the political landscape in hopes that maybe then you’ll listen.

I can do all of that, and still you will not listen. You will never listen because you do not want to hear. This much I know to be true.

Why won’t you listen, when we want so much to gather with you, to sing with you, to live with and worship with you?

What are you so afraid of?

Are you so afraid of what might happen if love goes unchecked? If you give in to the immense, overflowing, gracious, abundant love of God? If you trust that love, vulnerable as it may be, would not overwhelm us, but would bring us together?

I keep looking for a turning point here, a hopeful conclusion, a place to stand and look forward to a better future, but I can’t find one. Can’t – or won’t.

You don’t deserve that today. What little hope I had you crushed.

For now, at least.

8 comments:

  1. thank you for this. exactly how i am feeling right now.

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  2. Hang on. You're not alone! I am a once-Mennonite, once-evangelical, now Holy spirit dancing lady lover-of-Jesus. And still, I feel afraid of being dis-membered by my church if I say what I really think. SO so tired of measuring my words. Weary to the bone of hearing men use their power to control and demean. Sad when women do the same thing.
    Here's what I'm finding in my heart today (hanging on...) I won't let others determine who I am. I WILL act and speak honestly. I will ask Holy Spirit to show me an impossible way...a way that embodies the kindness of God that brings us to repentance. And, a way that follows Jesus, who never told half-truths. He always loved and never spoke dishonestly. How can I speak and act with that kindness that helps to bring us to repentance AND speak truth without compromise? I am asking God to, somehow, keep me facing that North Star. To show me how to act and speak in kindness and truth. To show me because I don't know how to do it.
    Don't give up, sister. You're not alone.

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  3. Thank you? And don't give up.

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  4. Brilliant. Yes. I stand in that same anger. To scream and rave = no one is listening. To be calm and nuanced = really, really hard.

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  5. As one who disagrees wholeheartedly and also with a broken heart, I sincerely appreciate your being civil. I would like to ask you what you base your position on/how do you know it's right vs. wrong? I do beg you in love to consider whether you are wrong about what "love" is. I can totally understand how you might think your position is loving based on what the world is clamoring for right now. But when I look at what Jesus says is loving - as He defines it - I see that He came and died in our place to deliver us from the penalty and power of any and all sin. Loving people is giving them hope in Christ that they can be set free from any sin and truly transformed. Part of trusting Christ is trusting He knows best for me even if it doesn't make sense from a worldly perspective. Because sin by definition destroys and enslaves me, not forgetting it is also rebellion against God, the one who created us and designed our sexuality. It's like the pot saying to the Potter - I don't like who You made me and I demand my own way. How it must break His heart, but even more so when we in the church who should be lighting the way to freedom from enslavement to sin are mistakenly desiring to keep people in their shackles...and calling it love/justice/inclusion! My freedom in Christ doesn't mean freedom to sin, but freedom from it. It doesn't control or destroy me anymore. Because of what Christ did to conquer it on the cross and by His resurrection – that’s how love wins! Praise God.

    This whole issue centers on understanding the gospel. As a Christian, I am not called to cozy up to my sin, just as I would not to a venomous snake entering my place of residence. I am not going to be ok with people thinking they can be in God's kingdom without repenting of sin. I am truly loving them by warning them to get off the "broad road leading to destruction" as I needed to (Mt. 7:13). We are forgiven and cleansed...only when we repent! (Lk. 24:44-47, Acts 2:38, 3:19; Lk. 13:3, and on and on) That's what Jesus talked about. When I surrendered my life to Christ and was born again through reading His Word, I wanted to know the truth and face reality - whatever that was - not live in denial to feel good about myself. Knowing Him and worshipping Him in truth is the highest pleasure. He has given us His Word on this and made it explicitly clear what sin is. Celebrating sin and demanding it to be "included" is not loving God or loving one another. "Whoever says 'I know Him' but does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected" and "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (1John 2:4, John 14:15). "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).

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  6. Please let me make a distinction here, between struggling with sin and applauding it. The church should embrace anybody struggling with any sin as long as there is repentance and desire to be set free - which is what Jesus preached - repentance - "go and sin no more." In other words, we should accept anyone who is willing to acknowledge sin as sin and willing to turn away from it in the strength of Christ and through support from their loving community of fellow believers - whether the struggle is drug addiction, pornography, fornication, same-sex attraction, alcoholism and so on. (We don't want to single out one sin struggle over others.) We want to have compassion for anyone determined to fight their sin - that is true courage and passion for Christ.

    What we should not accept is a celebration of sin and a demand for what is evil to be called good. As Christians, we are called to love and that means not condoning sin, not demanding that it be allowed to continue destroying people's lives. I am called to "Put to death therefore what is earthly in [me]: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming...put off the old self...put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator"(Col. 3) "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24). Those who fight God, determined to remain in their sin and celebrate it, are in serious danger. "Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" and "has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Gal. 5:21, Mt. 13, Rev. 21:8, Eph. 5:5). "No one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him...no one born of God makes a practice of sinning" (1 John 3:6, 9). I do not have His Holy Spirit if I have never repented of my sin - His Spirit evidences Himself by convicting me of sin not condoning it.

    I am speaking God's truth in love. Because I love you guys who I believe are well-meaning in believing you are standing up for the right cause. I beg you with all my heart to reconsider and desire the truth in God's sight. I realize this would involve radically turning away from what you're very invested in and passionately committed to at the moment. If you have trouble accepting all of God's Word as truth or understanding how Jesus affirmed all of Scripture (because people mistakenly believe Jesus didn't speak on this) or understanding where Scripture makes this issue clear, then that's another discussion we could have. Please keep an open mind. I hope this helps to receive feedback from those who don't share your view and to contribute to open-minded, honest, charitable discussion.

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