On being “At Variance”

Several people have asked how I feel about being “at variance.” I think that having the note on my Ministerial Leadership Information form is a reasonable consequence of the choice I made. And for some of the people in Western District Conference, all they wanted was for me to have some sort of consequence for going against the membership guidelines.

Trust me, there have been plenty of consequences. But if this final (?), formal consequence makes people feel better, I am glad for that. I think that the note is a means of clear communication within a denomination that increasingly has different standards of ordination from conference to conference.

So how do I feel about being labeled “at variance”?

As an Anabaptist Christian, I can’t imagine being faithful without being at variance with some of the dominant cultural norms–be they norms in the secular world or norms within the institutional church. If Jesus had had an MLI, I’m sure it would have said “at variance.”

My spiritual director reminded me that, throughout history, it has never been the case that those in power changed the rules before the rules were broken. It is always the case that a faithful minority chooses to be at variance with the established rules and then the rules change. Slavery, conscientious objection to war, racial segregation, women’s rights . . . Lots of rules were broken–outside and inside the church–before the rules changed.

So I’m glad to be at variance with a policy of the church that I find to be unfaithful and discriminatory. And I am glad to have such variance noted on my MLI.  The note is an acknowledgment of where our church policy is and a reminder of the work still ahead.

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Categories: GLBT Concerns, Mennonites | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “On being “At Variance”

  1. ordinary (mostly)

    If Jesus had had an MLI, I’m sure it would have said “at variance.”

    That is the quote of the day!

  2. Jerry Weaver

    Very well put, Joanna. Those who seek to change things for the better always will be considered “at variance”.

  3. Rangel5

    I would humbly suggest that this ‘at variance’ is not comparable to slavery, racial segregation, women rights, etc. These injustices were part of a large society in which oppression involved an entire nation, change had to take place. Change does not have to take place within the Mennonite church for your goals to be attained. Within this agenda, the choice is being made to be at variance with an independent/free organization with whom there is a disagreement in their policy. Unlike the aforementioned oppressions, we have the freedom (Praise the Lord!) to use our ministries outside of the Mennonite church if we don’t like their “rules”. In my opinion, there is no need to force a policy change upon an independent organization when the goals for change could be done without the Mennonite name. A church can be established for the inclusion of all people without causing a split in a denomination who holds a very strong heritage. It saddens my heart to see it crumbling. Thank you for this forum, I speak in peace and love.

    • jharader

      From my perspective, the Mennonite church is not crumbling, but is growing stronger. If I and all others who want to be in a church that includes and affirms LGBT people left the Mennonite church, THAT would be a church split. The fact that we are staying and talking is, at least on my part, an effort to keep the church together.

      • Rangel5

        Then you all would have a great start to your own denomination and could minister is peace. And those who want to keep the mennonite name as is, under the current ‘rules’ and ‘policies’ could continue to minister their way. That is, after all the awesome freedom of having different denominations. Seems like a great resolution for all parties.

  4. Pingback: On Being Notorious: A Personal Story of Self-Differentiation. - The Peace Pastor

  5. Pingback: Defining Some Terms: A Response to the MCUSA Executive Board Statement | Spacious Faith

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