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Last updated March 17.

March 17, 2014 issue

Trust the Spirit

By Joyce Hostetler Goshen, Ind.

It is difficult to understand why the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board cannot trust the Spirit to work in congregations and conferences that do not agree with it. Board members seem to think “the church’s organizational structure and official agreements” are more important than “Mountain States Mennonite Conference’s work to discern the voice of the Spirit” and the conference’s “sincere desire to follow Christ” (quotes are from the board’s official statement). Do they think congregations and conferences cannot be trusted to discern God’s will? That is sad — and perhaps not very Anabaptist.

Congregations that are “welcoming and inclusive” are doing God’s work. These churches are overflowing with the fruits and gifts of the Spirit and growing in numbers. The Spirit is with them!

I also don’t understand why congregations say they will leave MC USA if everyone does not believe exactly as they do. I wonder: What would Jesus do? May­be ask us simply to disagree in love. Then we would have a lot more time and energy to share God’s good news.


  • Joyce, I couldn't agree with you more. None of the LGBT welcoming Mennonite congregations that I know are unwilling to remain in fellowship with other congregations who disagree with them, whether within a particular conference or across the denomination. I've never understood why some conferences/congregations are so quick to threaten leaving and/or expelling other congregations of which they often know so very little.

    - Larry E. Miller (mar 19 at 12:31 a.m.)

  • Larry, we can't forget that MC USA is a coalition of independent conferences. They came together to form MC USA because they shared a vision and understanding of scripture. When that shared vision and understanding begins to fray, AND and when a member acts recklessly and unilaterally to carry out its separate vision, then reality has changed and it's time for the structures (if they are honest) to be updated.

    So this isn't about some congregations that can flex and some that can't. This is about whether the coalition of conferences still shares key assumptions.

    - Berry Friesen (mar 19 at 7:27 a.m.)

  • Oh come now Berry. It was obvious to even a causual observer that there was no "shared vision and understanding of scripture" as it relates to LGBT people at the formation of MCUSA, or even for years before that. A forced uniformity is hardly a shared vision.

    - Larry E. Miller (mar 19 at 2:43 p.m.)

  • Then perhaps you could call me a less-than-casual observer, Larry.

    Actually, I don't buy what you're selling. Each conferences clearly said at one point in time that collaboration via MC USA was a higher priority than having membership guidelines that reflected its particular biblical nuance. That's what we call a "decision." Saying afterward, "I didn't like it but didn't feel I had a choice" is just spin to deflect criticism from one quarter or another.

    - Berry Friesen (mar 19 at 3:58 p.m.)

  • "Each conferences clearly said at one point in time that collaboration via MC USA was a higher priority than having membership guidelines that reflected its particular biblical nuance."

    Berry, I must be missing something, because this statement appears to be in agreement with Larry's point that there was no "shared vision." And the renewal of previous calls for continued dialogue on LGBT issues at the time of the formation of MCUSA also strongly suggests that although there was agreement on the teaching position it was not a "shared vision." I agree with Joyce and Larry.

    - Herbert Reed (mar 21 at 12:27 p.m.)

  • Of course there was shared vision. That's why they put aside the quibbles and signed the covenant. Haven't we all been there hundreds of times?

    And then later on, when we want to avoid the stigma of having betrayed the one we joined in troth, we say, "You know, I had my reservations right from the start, but s/he just wouldn't hear them." It's the way of the world, very familiar, but rubbish all the same.

    - Berry Friesen (mar 21 at 1:32 p.m.)

  • Until someone explains why my comments, written in accord with the rules and regulations, keep being removed, I'm going to keep reposting them. I am not calling anyone names, I am not insisting that it's my way or the highway, I'm not asserting that I'm the only one who has all the answers. I think I'm being relatively logical and pleasant.

    In any event, let me repeat. About 20 years ago, a situation arose involving Oak Park Mennonite Church and Illinois Conference, a disagreement about whether gay and lesbian folk could be members of Oak Park. After some really ugly meetings, incidents and actions, Oak Park was kicked out of the conference. However, several years later, Illinois Conference apologized and Oak Park was reinstated. I find it quite interesting that Illinois Conference has stayed out of the present fray; it's sad because I believe they have experience and knowledge that could be helpful.

    All I'm saying is perhaps there are lessons to be learned from that experience. Is that so threatening to whoever keeps removing my comments? Really?

    - Joan King (mar 23 at 3:51 a.m.)

  • I appreciate your persistence, Joan, and for providing a bit more background on Oak Park congregation. How does Illinois Conference stay out of the fray? Doesn't it participate in the CLC along with the other conferences?

    - Berry Friesen (mar 23 at 6:23 a.m.)

  • Thanks, Berry. I'm not sure how it all played out in the Oak Park situation; it's many years ago, I was young, but I remember a lot of anger and frustration and loud meetings (the youngsters' favorite story was about a preacher throwing his Bible on the floor and yelling, "What am I supposed to tell my church?"). I also remember forgiveness and acceptance and apologies. And the matter being quietly resolved. Perhaps someone from Illinois Conference, who's a little older and was more involved could enlighten us. I'm also curious about the Germantown situation. Is that still ongoing? Could we possibly learn from these two specific situations?

    - Joan King (mar 23 at 1:54 p.m.)

  • Joan King, I've written several emails explaining why your comments have been removed. Your comments are coming from an account suspected of disregarding this part of the comments policy: "Commenters are strongly encouraged to provide their full name and not pretend to be someone else."

    Please contact me directly:

    Thanks, Kelli Yoder Assistant/Web editor, MWR

    - Kelli Yoder (mar 23 at 2:06 p.m.)

  • A question that was raised here, "What would Jesus do?", can be answered from Luke 5:31,32: "And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

    And then from Luke 13:3, "...except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."

    Is that call of repentance being made to the GLBT in the church where the pastor is in a same sex marriage? Not only in that church, but others who are "welcoming and inclusive"?

    - Elaine Fehr (mar 26 at 8:30 a.m.)

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