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Last updated March 24.

March 31, 2014 issue

Lancaster to re-evaluate relationship to MC USA

By Paul Schrag Mennonite World Review

The Lancaster Mennonite Conference Board of Bishops has called for the conference to re-evaluate its relationship to Mennonite Church USA.

“For many in Lancaster Conference, the question of our affiliation with Mennonite Church USA is back on the table,” said Keith Weaver, who chairs the board, in an interview.

In a Feb. 28 letter to credentialed leaders, the bishops announced “a time of discernment and exploration” during what they described as an “experience of conflict in the church.”

The letter did not cite reasons for the call to re-evaluate. Weaver said one reason was Mountain States Mennonite Conference’s licensing of a lesbian pastor, which has sparked controversy across the denomination.

Other concerns, he said, include a recent letter by 150 pastors and others supporting the inclusion of members in same-sex relationships, and Eastern Mennonite University’s review of its employment policy that prohibits hiring people in same-sex relationships.

“People are viewing those actions as indications of change,” Weaver said.

With 14,000 members in 170 congregations, Lancaster is the largest of MC USA’s 21 area conferences. It joined MC USA in 2004, more than two years after the denomination was created by a merger of the Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church.

Ten years later, “differences over whether LMC can remain in this affiliation have reached a breaking point,” Weaver wrote in a report to the Constituency Leaders Council, an MC USA advisory group that met March 20-22 in North Newton, Kan.

Weaver describes the conference as at an “impasse.” Whether it stays in MC USA or leaves, it can expect to lose a significant number of congregations. “It feels like a lose-lose proposition,” he wrote.

Lancaster already has lost more than 75 congregations since 2000.

In their letter, the bishops said they would “design and lead a process of corporate and spiritual discernment for careful listening to God and each other across the spectrum of regional and global relationships.”

The process has not yet taken shape. But Weaver wants it to address questions deeper than current controversies. These include thinking in new ways about how members of the body of Christ can be the church together.

“Our hope for the re-evaluation is that we can step through the fog of this conflict and see a new way of being church,” he said. “We have to ask questions about the sustainability of our methods and structures that this crisis might help us to face. We need to leverage the energy into positive change.”

Comments

  • To get a perspective of size:

    1. "Lancaster already has lost more than 75 congregations since 2000."

    2. "With 14,000 members in 170 congregations, Lancaster is the largest of MC USA’s 21 area conferences."

    3. The next largest MUSA conference, the Ohio Conference, has 78 congregations.

    - Debbie (mar 24 at 10:36 a.m.)

  • Should we who are conservatives separate ourselves from our denomination because it includes those who, in our understanding, disregard Scripture on same-sex partnerships and bless a community who is making peace with the oversexed spirit of the age in which we live?

    We must go very slowly. 1) Out of love for our church. See how the denomination responds to Mountain States and to EMU. If there is any indication of the pendulum swinging back toward support of our church's official position, stay and encourage it! 2) Out of trust in God. It takes a lot to stop a gracious God from working in and through a church. God in mercy visits and sustains us even when we have a lot of things wrong. That's something that we conservatives need to keep reminding ourselves: a little less fear and a little more faith.

    - hnmiller (mar 24 at 10:37 a.m.)

  • I am now a member of the Church of the Brethren, but I grew up in a church of the Lancaster Conference. 60 years ago when I left the Mennonite Church, there were huge controversies and the Bishop Board ruled with an iron hand. The controversy then was plain clothing. I would guess that 60 years from now, this controversy over the LGBT community will seem just as silly as the one over clothing seems now.

    - Jay D Weaver (mar 24 at 10:46 a.m.)

  • I appreciate hnmiller's urging for "a little less fear and a little more faith." Indeed, fear is at the root of too many of our conflicts and inclinations to separate. However, I object to the idea that those who support inclusion of same-sex couples in their churches are a "community who is making peace with the oversexed spirit of the age in which we live." In reality, we are simply in support of the inclusion of GLBT individuals into the very conventional institution of marriage, which will only strengthen our culture. What would happen if conservative individuals and churches focused their attention and advocacy on resisting a culture of sexual exploitation and violence that is actually causing harm to our children and young people, rather than giving so much time and energy to ensuring that the church excludes committed same-sex couples now and in the future?

    - Beverly Lapp (mar 24 at 12:17 p.m.)

  • "disregard Scripture on same-sex partnerships and bless a community who is making peace with the oversexed spirit of the age,"

    By far the majority of examples of the "oversexed spirit of the age" which I have observed on a daily basis for the past 60 years or so is rampant heterosexuality being used to sell everything from cars to toothpaste, not anything resembling same-sex relationships. In fact I know several same-sex married couples and they do not appear to be in any way "oversexed" but rather appear to be devoted to each other and the children they are raising.
    Beverly you are quite correct that it is the culture of sexual exploitation and violence which is harming children and young people - not same-sex marriage.

    Unless all sides in the debate acknowledge that those who disagree are also sincerely reading, respecting and discerning scripture and refrain from making dramatic accusations about those who disagree there will be no path except schism for MCUSA. In my opinion the great emphasis of Jesus and the NT is on the fruits of the Spirit, not correct belief and legalism. To paraphrase Beverly, what would happen to MCUSA if we focused on the fruits of the Spirit, particularly the one called "long suffering gentleness" in some versions?

    - Herbert Reed (mar 24 at 12:41 p.m.)

  • As a student at EMU and someone who grew up in Lancaster and attends a Lancaster Conference church, this is heartbreaking. I know that my church is in complete support of LGBTQ inclusion, and this ruling and threat of withdrawal is not representative of what many LMC congregations actually believe. And as much as I care about the inclusion of myself and the LGBTQ community, there are more important things we could (and should) be focusing on rather than arguing over something that was not even a concept in the time that the Bible was written. Why are we not arguing about distributing wealth and making sure that everyone has adequate healthcare? Jesus was far more interested in those things than making sure people were committed to the "right type" of person. (Isn't commitment something we should embrace?)

    - Erin Freeman (mar 24 at 2:09 p.m.)

  • Having lived through the decision of the FEBC to reorient itself away from its historic Mennonite heritage and to seek fuller re-alignment and compliance with American-style Fundamentalism, I am somewhat skeptical whenever I encounter threats of schism or secession. Divisive pressures seem to often have little to do with the church, being based rather in secular politics and personal ambition. I truly value the fellowship of Mennonites with whom I disagree but who share a common commitment to shaping and maintaining our shared Mennonite community and identity. I have also seen that those who threaten to leave, secede or schism have most often made up their minds long before the threat was uttered and it is best to let them go but to leave the door open should they desire to return. In this case, the Prodigal's parent serves as a moral case study in how the ethnic heritage church should encourage those who are born to it but experience more restless spiritual, social, and personal inclinations (reflect also on the reunion between Jacob and Esau). On the other hand, the decision to schism over the recognition of basic LGBTQ Human Rights is one of choosing to deal with the inevitable later rather than sooner. The Mennonite heritage is one of conscience. Once we understand that denying human rights and equality to our fellow believers is wrong, we are required to confront the disconnect between our behavior and our beliefs. To do otherwise is un-Mennonite, regardless of to whom one pays one's conference dues. Perhaps someday, those of us on both sides of this debate will again be able to sit down together and break bread in a feast celebrating our shared "ethnic" faith and heritage, but until then, those who need to wander should be allowed to do so, while knowing that the welcoming feast awaits their return.

    - Steve Wall (mar 24 at 4:42 p.m.)

  • Erin Freeman wrote, "this ruling and threat of withdrawal is not representative of what many LMC congregations actually believe."

    Really Erin? Of the 150 pastors and credentialed leaders that signed the letter calling for change in policies toward gay Christians only 1 was a current pastor of a LMC church.

    - Nathan (mar 24 at 4:52 p.m.)

  • "We face an epic mess... But we also face an epic opportunity. Let's not waste this crisis." --Keith Weaver, Lancaster Conference Celebration of Church Life

    You can listen to Keith's "State of the Conference" address here --> http://www.lancasterconference.org/p/ccl/KWeaver2014SoC.mp3

    - Nathan (mar 24 at 5:04 p.m.)

  • Steve Wall, thank you for emphasizing that it is our relationship that matters more than the issues that we disagree about.

    - Connie (mar 24 at 6:08 p.m.)

  • hnmiller, I expect Weaver learned a lot at the CLC meetings in Kansas about whether "the pendulum (is) swinging back toward support of our church's official position."

    I haven't heard anything to suggest Mountain States Conference is walking back its decision. So the critical variable is how the other conference leaders are responding. If they are ambivalent about Mountain States' "variance with the relationship covenant," then would you still counsel a go-slow approach? I wouldn't. A significant number of congregations are likely to leave during a prolonged debate and decision-making process, and then still more after the that process results in a decision.

    So I think Weaver is doing everyone a favor by being clear and forthright about what's at stake. I hope his clarity helps everyone in the church-wide system understand how serious this is.

    - Berry Friesen (mar 24 at 7:05 p.m.)

  • Nathan, In a coercive environment, where signing letters asking for moderation or evaluating hiring policies invites discipline and/or none-to-subtle threats of schism, it shouldn't come as a surprise that some may not feel free to openly state what they believe. In my view, for LMC to so aggressively act while the MCUSA is in the midst of its own process is a step closer to throwing elbows than it is to brotherly persuasion.

    - Ed Miller (mar 24 at 7:19 p.m.)

  • The Word of God is clear on this subject. The issue is settled. Sin is sin.

    - Jake and Emma (mar 24 at 8:24 p.m.)

  • By equating homosexuality with an "oversexed" society, hnmiller illustrates why I have little hope for a anything akin to a successful resolution: conservatives have little if any understanding of homosexuals and homosexuality.

    - rdp (mar 24 at 10:04 p.m.)

  • rpd, you state "conservatives have little if any understanding of homosexuals and homosexuality". I am uncertain as to why I should try and understand homosexuals and homosexuality. God has already stated through out the Bible that it is an abomination (detestable) which means it is sin. To those who understand that, no explanation is needed. For those who don't understand that, no explanation is possible.

    To Erin Freeman, for you to state that this is an argument over something that was not even a concept in the time that the Bible was written is an extreme display of ignorance of scripture. I doubt very much if that is what is taught at EMU. Read Elaine Fehr's comments (3/23/14 at 11:27 a.m.) in the MWR blog Sex and the City of God. She lays out scripture very clearly that I think EMU students, faculty and administration should understand.

    - Dale Welty (mar 24 at 11:21 p.m.)

  • I grew up in the Lancaster Conference and was about 15 years old when the "Mennonite Messianic Mission" - a "renewal movement" was operating within the LC. Leaders of the MMM assured everyone that the goal was not to establish a new conference but rather to renew the LC. Within about 2 years five bishops affiliated with the MMM were granted a release from Lancaster Conference with virtually no consultation with the affected congregations (at least in the case of my home congregation). This generated a lot of hard feelings in our congregation and others both with the dissenting bishops and with the LC Bishop Board for taking this step without making any provisions to discern the opinion of individual congregations and members. A number of months went by before the LC Bishop Board and the dissenting bishops agreed on a plan to have a vote by individual congregations on whether to stay with LC or join with the dissenting bishops in forming a new conference. In the interim there were actions taken by individuals on both sides which bore more resemblance to a partisan political campaign than a spiritual discernment process. And there was one particularly strident and divisive sermon preached in my home congregation. The result was an ugly split with a number of congregations, including my home congregation, divided almost down the middle. The splitting did not stop there on either side. Things settled down over time but one has to wonder how many young people left the church during this time and how many mission opportunities were lost during all of the maneuvering? I am flummoxed that the LC really wants to revisit this history and I am convinced that if it goes down this road there will be many young people who will give up on the LC if not the church altogether. Is it really worth it? I still personally grieve over the loss of the community which our little LC congregation had when I was growing up. We were brothers and sisters together and all of that was lost in 1968-69 when I was 17-18 over what I and most people my age thought were tangential issues. All of this while young men my age were being shipped off to Vietnam and many were coming back home grievously wounded physically, emotionally, and mentally and the numbers of names on a future black granite wall on the National Mall were being added to on a daily basis. All this while the nation was being torn apart with assassinations, riots and National Guardsmen opening fire on college students in Ohio. And the LC was splitting over whether women should have to wear a cape dress and a prayer covering. I know many will say today's issue is more important than all of that that. Is it really? Are we so sure of that? I was there. I heard the sermons. I can tell you that much of the language I see on these boards and elsewhere is quite similar. I even had the experience of listening to one sermon which took me back to that memorable sermon I heard in 1968. This time why don't we develop ministries for the wounded warriors in our MCUSA congregations and conferences and maybe our differing interpretations of scripture on LGBT issues will not seem so important anymore.

    - Herbert Reed (mar 25 at 12:46 a.m.)

  • Herbert,

    I appreciate reading your thoughts here, and in response to other articles. I regularly catch myself wondering why on earth I keep coming back and reading the comments, as the process is not the most beneficial thing for my depression and anxiety. I often find your perspective refreshing and thought-provoking. However, it is in part thanks to the picking apart of that very perspective, or the outright ignoring of it that I have, at 23, decided to give up on both the conference I grew up in (LC) and the Mennonite church in general, and use my energy in ways which are more life-giving to myself and those I interact with.

    - Michael Sheeler (mar 25 at 1:38 a.m.)

  • Thank you, Herbert, for recounting your story of Lancaster Mennonite Conference (LMC) schism. It is an important story that I have not heard before. It should serve as a warning to us.

    I also appreciate your and Erin's reminders that our current preoccupation with gay and lesbian couples is causing us to neglect weightier matters.

    That said, I ask that we not fall into the error of viewing all schisms in a negative light. More often than not, the direction fueled by schism is toward an emphasis on purity around incidental matters, toward American fundamentalism, and away from a broadly-based Anabaptism. But would a decision by LMC to withdraw from the MC USA fit that template?

    I don't think so. LMC is itself a large, diverse and broadly-based Anabaptist church. By withdrawing from the coalition, it may keep within Anabaptism many congregations that would otherwise drift off into American fundamentalism represented in these pages by Mr. Welty. Thus, I don't see LMC's current discernment process as the kind of schism story you told.

    I am a member of a LMC congregation, which will be split down the middle by a LMC decision to withdraw from MC USA. So this all could have a major impact in my life. Nevertheless, I think it important to recognize that a lot is at stake here, and the weight of the long-term Anabaptist witness may come down on the side of withdrawal from MC USA, not staying the course.

    - Berry Friesen (mar 25 at 7:06 a.m.)

  • I, like you Herbert lived through the 68-69 divisions. The one difference now in having personal experience with two churches that left LMC (to CMC) in the past two years is that it did not split families and congregations. There were conversations and meetings and the final decision was a congregational vote with the one case being unanimous. Trust me, there are more congregations that have already made the decision to leave MCUSA and if LMC does not make a decision to disaffiliate they will be forced to leave LMC. Some will join CMC but some may as Berry fears join a non-Anabaptist network and clearly there is a possibility of an evolution to a fundamentalist theology. This happened to a large local congregation that pulled out of Eastern District Conference a few years back.

    The argument that the threat to leave is throwing elbows in the conflict is a not a fair way to demonize those who feeling violated in the process of Mountain State's decision. When some of us in LMC were expressing concerns about joining MCUSA we were assured by our leadership that the guidelines were accepted by the national denomination. Now we are told some conferences signed on but in their hearts they didn't really accept the agreement. MCMC violated this covenant with the other conferences like LMC and LMC is being criticized for walking away. Isn't this like an unfaithful husband blaming his wife for breaking the marriage?

    - JohnG (mar 25 at 10:32 a.m.)

  • Thanks Berry for your kind words affirming the authenticity of my experience even as we may disagree on what that Anabaptist witness is/ ought to be. I can't deny that schisms can have long term beneficial outcomes in terms of both Christian and Anabaptist witness and I agree that the current process being proposed by LMC appears to be more thoughtful and discerning than what happened in 1968. But I wonder at what cost to our youth and young adults, many who appear to be mostly in sympathy with full inclusion of LGBT individuals? Many of them see it as a human rights/civil rights issue and not as “tolerating sin.” Also in my opinion a withdrawal of LMC from MCUSA would increase pressure on LMC churches to move in the direction of American nationalistic fundamentalism as many voices against such a move will no longer be in close fellowship with the LMC. It appears to me that in many cases this is exactly what is happening with congregations which are leaving MCUSA area conferences over this issue precisely because the American fundamentalist view of scripture appears to be in line with arguments being made against LGBT inclusion. I must admit that my knowledge of what is happening in LMC is not as current as yours and I hope for the sake of the church conference of my youth that I am wrong because I see American fundamentalism as coming uncomfortably close to idolatry of the American experience and doing more harm than good for the Christian witness in many cases. I fear in particular for my alma mater LMS (LMHS) to which I give a great deal of credit for preserving Anabaptism and possibly Christianity for me at a very difficult time in my life. I did not tell nearly the whole story of my personal involvement in the 1968 split, partly because it is too painful to share in this kind of forum and partly because it would be hard to avoid revealing identities of individuals whom I truly hope I have forgiven.

    - Herbert Reed (mar 25 at 12:26 p.m.)

  • I may be a very small minority, and quite non-vocal, this comment not-with-standing, and am not now nor have I ever been officially a member of any Mennonite church, though I grew up in Scottdale at Kingview Mennonite Church. Back in high-school I found the "us vs them" mentality rampant in all things church, and not just the Mennonite version, to be the moral antithesis of the teachings of Jesus that I did hold to be above all others - to love God above all else, and to treat others as you/I/we (would) want to be treated, even to treating our enemies as brothers. Somehow this central and overriding (to me at least) message has been lost and undermined by scripture, to the point that I would throw the whole thing out, starting from that fundamental place stated above. By saying throw the whole thing out, I am suggesting that rather than taking a literal view of the Bible, cherry-picking scripture, or whatever other way it is currently in use, that everything in life be held against the yardstick of "Am I treating this person, place, event, thought, as I want for myself?" Also, "What would Jeshua/Jesus do today, here, now?" Would Jeshua/Jesus denounce anyone for being in loving relationship to another? I for one think he would sit with the Gay, Lesbian, Transexual, Bisexual and all of the others, as the brothers and sisters they are.

    For me, this is my creed: God created All That Is; Corollary - All That Is IS God. God is indivisible from any part of All That Is. There is no place, thing, idea, speck, grain of sand, atom that is not full of God stuff. This implies that every being that is here on this planet, and by extension, every other planet, IS God in some way. As is sometimes stated, quite seriously, "Show me a place where God is Not." I cannot. This is my challenge to anyone, church, institution.

    From this, if God is in All Things, All Ideas, if all things, ideas, people, animals, plants were created perfect, by God, then how can anything be imperfect? And if you say that we err, sin, or fall from grace, then does that not say, rather arrogantly, that we are more powerful than God? In order for us to be 1) not more powerful than God, and 2) sin, err, fall from grace, then God had to have created the capacity for all this in the first place.

    If all things were Not created perfect, by God, or should I say, created by God to be Not perfect, then how can we judge them - again I ask where in the perfection that is or is not, where is God Not?

    I continually ask myself where my assumptions may have blinded me to greater truths. Questioning everything, including church, beliefs instilled in me from childhood that have not served me well at all, questioning every sacred text there is, questioning even the nature of reality, of our world, our place in it, our origins and the nature of the control under which we live, has served to bring me closer to a personal understanding of God, and my connection to God. For me, God created everything to be unique. It is said there are no two snowflakes alike. Nor grains of sand, nor trees, flowers, blades of grass, leaves, days, nights, people, stars, galaxies, or anything else we have found or discerned. Given this, why would God restrict to a single choice the way to God? Would there not instead be an infinity of choices? Or more succinctly, would not all paths lead to God, in some way, shape or form? I believe this to be true.

    Forget your differences - celebrate your commonalities! You ALL breathe, dance, sing, wish for joy, laughter, family, home, and Peace! May it begin with me!

    - Jan S Yoder (mar 25 at 12:39 p.m.)

  • John G, I sympathize with your feeling of the conflict that LMC feels over the membership guidelines which were agreed to at the time of the formation of MCUSA. I would only point out that those favoring a more inclusive approach for LGBT individuals were also conflicted and perhaps naively believed that the call for “loving dialogue” and “ ongoing search for discernment and for openness to each other” provided a safe space for congregations and area conferences to be inclusive of LGBT individuals if that is where discernment led them. It is clear now that there may have been wishful thinking on both sides and by MCUSA leadership in trying to move the process forward. Gordon Houser's article on the CLC meeting in the latest issue of the Mennonite sheds a lot of light on the process and I believe it suggests that the analogy of the "unfaithful husband" is not appropriate. For one thing, "unfaithful husband" suggests insincerity and I do not believe there is evidence of that either on the part of MC area conferences, the GC Districts or MCUSA leadership. To me the question is more of how to move forward both for LMC and for the other MCUSA conferences and churches. For sure all sides need to repent for misunderstandings and failure to be more discerning and more open regarding doubts about the process. At the time I thought that maybe we were forming an “unequal yoke” which would come back to haunt us and I was disappointed that the result was two national based churches rather than one North American church. But what if we accept that the process, however flawed, was Spirit led? What does that mean moving forward? At the least I think it means we try harder, starting with the call for “loving dialogue” and “ongoing search for discernment and for openness to each other”, as difficult as that seems in the current climate. I think it is fair to say that MCUSA as a church has neglected at least the second part of that call which was accepted as a teaching position on LGBT issues at the time MCUSA was formed.

    - Herbert Reed (mar 25 at 12:39 p.m.)

  • Herb, it's a rare day; I agree with much of what you've written.

    Your last sentence to JohnG strikes me as especially important. I haven't wanted to talk about sexuality, convinced as I am that we should be talking about other things; I still feel that way as I write just now.

    Apparently our leaders in the church have felt the same way. They've been willing to do the difficult work of integrating into our congregations a host of others who do not reflect our highest values (the divorced, the co-habitating, the active-duty military, the bankrupt, those who love to make money, those who love litigation, those who love partisan politics and so on) but have not been willing to do that work for lesbians and gays. That is our error.

    Yet I think JohnG's "unfaithful husband" metaphor is apt. Our leaders could be talking right now about taking up the work they've neglected over the past 15 years. Instead, thanks to the unilateral decision of Mountain States Mennonite Conference to break its commitment and challenge the coalition to enforce its own rules, we are talking about division. Yes, MSMC has moved this to the top of the agenda, which may be close to where it should be. But now that it is there, why has it done nothing to reduce the tension and turn the conversation toward healing and hope rather than sanctions and schism?

    Don't you expect MSMC to help this boat stay afloat?

    - Berry Friesen (mar 25 at 1:52 p.m.)

  • Berry, the answer to your last question is no. If you go to the Mountain States Facebook page and read the comments it is clear they feel a spiritual superiority that is proved by their profound joy and love.

    - JohnG (mar 25 at 2:54 p.m.)

  • As a member of MSMC I am sad to hear that people think we feel a "spiritual superiority" proven by anything. What makes you feel that way? Perhaps had you been able to join us for our conversations prior to this decision you would have heard many of us express deep concern that our denominational brothers and sisters wouldn't understand or approve of our decision. No one took it lightly then nor now; it is an issue that is divisive. But we felt that it is also important to open our arms and fully include those people that we feel have been shunned for too long. Some, like me, don't see Scripture as condemning a loving and committed relationship and I'm perplexed when people say it's so clear. It's not clear to me. I am concerned that people discuss this like there wasn't a real person involved here. Things are said without regard to how it must feel for someone, someone who was given the gifts of the Spirit and a passion to serve the church. She is my friend and I love her and I affirm her many gifts and her gentle spirit.

    - Connie (mar 25 at 3:26 p.m.)

  • Connie, I say this in love, but your response proves my assertion. You feel total justification concerning the decision because you know better than us the scriptures and the "mind of the Spirit". Your only concern is that those of us not equally enlightened might not understand. I cast no aspersions on Ms Good, my problem is with the conference and their breaking covenant with the national denomination.

    - JohnG (mar 25 at 3:44 p.m.)

  • I second what JohnG wrote.

    - Berry Friesen (mar 25 at 3:50 p.m.)

  • Berry, I don't know that MSMC has "done nothing," as I understand it they are participating in the CLC discussions. Yes the MSMC action precipitated the recent discussion, but what does one do with the failure of MCUSA to revisit the membership guidelines in 2007 at San Jose which was also part of the agreement? I don’t see how it is safe to assume that MCUSA leadership would now be "taking up the work they have neglected..." if they weren't having to deal with MSMC. And honestly how much "loving dialogue" and "ongoing search for discernment and for openness to each other” has there actually been since 2001? I wish that MSMC could have been in more dialogue with MCUSA in conjunction with this action, but dialogue does take two and I don't see that MCUSA has done much in terms of facilitating that loving dialogue and discernment/openness.

    JohnG, I don't see how we can be so condemning of MSMC for following a careful process of spiritual discernment on this issue when much of the rest of MCUSA has failed to heed the call for "loving dialogue and ongoing discernment and openness." That also was part of the covenant. I do not think it is fair to characterize what was in the heart of MSMC regarding their attitude toward the rest of MCUSA. I also fail to see how expressions of "profound joy and love" are indicative of "spiritual superiority." Are those not actually "Fruits of the Spirit?" Connie made her points in a gentle way. We would do well to emulate her.

    - Herbert Reed (mar 25 at 5:33 p.m.)

  • Jan S. Yoder, I totally agree with your loving and lovely comments. Interesting that no one else has made a responsive peep thereto! I might add that I am also eternally grateful for parents who allowed - indeed, insisted on - and modeled the freedom to think for myself, to question without condemning, to ultimately accept and affirm the "theological position" at which I finally arrived, even though it bears little resemblance to those Mennonite Sunday school classes of my childhood. It's too bad more people weren't afforded that luxury. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

    - Debra Bender (mar 25 at 9:40 p.m.)

  • Debra, our names always appear on this forum when we agree.

    This is like 1969 all over again, back then was the time when Eastern Pennsylvania Conference broke off from Lancaster conference to preserve the distinctive dress including mandatory wearing of veils for women, and women having no place in the church, save for rudimentary roles. They also clung to their book of doctrine & discipline treating it as if it was as sacred as scripture. I was a teenager then and was facing excommunication for simply desiring instrumental musical accompaniment for informal church services as opposed to 4 part harmony acapella. I was also doing the unthinkable of being schooled Quaker, which meant no more plain dress and really relaxed mores and no more religious legalism. To save face, for my family, I simply renounced the faith. Television was a pretty benign entity back then and MYF boys and Camp Hebron attendees were embarking upon a quest to find the quintessential Marcia Brady, who did not wear a covering with strings or a caped dress but may have been seen wearing culottes and a mini Dixie cup shaped cap, which sat atop braided hair. We also were baby boomers leaving the farms, cities and small towns that had spawned us and it was off to Goshen, Hesston or EMC (now EMU) but if you were bold it was to a school of a different denomination or maybe even a secular institution. If you were drafted it was off to VS or 1W. When I got drafted, I agreed to enlist so long as they let me finish my undergraduate studies so I .managed to stay out of Viet Nam as the war along with mandatory military service ended before I graduated. So now it's no longer guitars, puritanical dress codes, as I and the other heretics of my generation opted not to be burned at the stake but we left the body of the church until it came to its senses on excessive legalism. This resulted in off shoot non-denominational churches with Mennonite roots, which attracted larger crowds then just defecting Menno’s and mega churches were born. These were driven more by profit then concern for your soul. Sadly, practically all of the cherished Anabaptist teachings got lost in the process. We have now graduated onto GLTB issues. I say Kudos to the Mountain States Conference for ordaining a lesbian pastor, and I further say may she be the first of many. Brothers and Sisters we must stop the infighting among conferences, which results in fracturing us as a group. As one large group we are much stronger than our multiple aggregate smaller parts. Also, with no disrespect intended, as a denomination we now have an abundant supply of life, medical, behavioral and social scientists, who can formulate a think tank to help educate the decision makers. It would perhaps be prudent for the Divinest and Theologists to stop bantering with other groups over what is most likely normal biological diversity among the human populations. If you guys would stick to preaching and stop acting as a governing body then maybe we could all live together in harmony. I am sure all of the conservative non MC-USA congregations have equal numbers of GLTB members, who are forced to go to Exodus or some other organization to “pray the gay away” when these brainwashing torture therapies fail they are forced into the closet. Just imagine if someone forced you to attend a brain washing camp to compel you to think heterosexuality is a sin against God. Let’s leave these folks alone, they have suffered enough as it is and welcome them to be part of our church families. Also, if they have the calling and desire to be ministers lets ordain them and welcome them to lead us and to teach us more tolerance. I am certain this would have been the approach Jesus would have pursued. As the decades pass so will our lack of toleration of persons, who chose an alternative lifestyle.

    - Tom (jun 3 at 12:08 p.m.)

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