The Verdict is In . . . Sort Of

I know some of you are interested in the status of my ministerial credentials. They have been under review by my conference’s Leadership Commission because I officiated a wedding for two women. (You can read some of the background here and here.)

I received a phone call this afternoon from the Commission chair, and he told me that they have finished their review: I retain my ordination credentials with the Western District Conference of Mennonite Church USA.

This decision was not unanimous, and the Commission members continue to work on a draft of the letter announcing their decision and stating the majority and dissenting views.

I am pleased with the Commission’s decision. And I am also disappointed that this stands as a singular review of my credentials at this time and not as a more general statement of policy. That is to say, if I officiate at another same-sex wedding (which I told the Commission I would likely do) my credentials will come under review again. The make-up of the Leadership Commission will change over time, and a future credential review could have a much different outcome.

I am grateful for the time and energy that the Commission members gave to the careful consideration of my credentials. Yet I am sad that the broader church is in a place where so much time and energy is directed toward something like this. These folks spent three multi-hour meetings talking about me. And the work isn’t finished yet.

For one thing, this kind of attention could really go to my head. (And no one needs a pastor with a big head.) For another thing, doesn’t the church have better things to worry about? (I’m thinking along the lines of the unjust prison industrial complex, out of control military spending, racism, the wealth gap . . .)

If we really do want to spend our energy making sure that all of credentialed pastors in Western District Conference toe the Mennonite theological line, we could keep the Commission busy for the next decade or so. Let’s pull in the pastors who admit active military personnel and police officers into full church membership. What about pastors that allow the American flag in the sanctuary? Or offer open communion? Or drive SUVs? Or are divorced? Or don’t know how to sing in four part harmony?

I love the Mennonite church. I am Anabaptist to the core of my being. The centrality of Christ, believers’ baptism, priesthood of all believers, pacifism, deep discipleship, focus on scripture over tradition . . . I love all of it. That’s why I am where I am–still. That’s why I did what I did–and will most likely do it again.

If I’m honest, what I really wish is that every Mennonite would wake up tomorrow convinced that homosexuality is not a sin and every single Mennonite church would fling open the doors for GLBT folks (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered).

I know that won’t happen. What I realistically hope for, pray for, is that we can all root ourselves in Christ, agree to be church together, and give our time and energy to the business of the Kingdom: working with the Creator for peace and justice in the world, proclaiming the Good News of Christ, enjoying an abundant life in the power of the Holy Spirit.

(And in case you were wondering, I am wearing my pretty panties again today:-)

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13 thoughts on “The Verdict is In . . . Sort Of

  1. “What I realistically hope for, pray for, is that we can all root ourselves in Christ, agree to be church together, and give our time and energy to the business of the Kingdom: working with the Creator for peace and justice in the world, proclaiming the Good News of Christ, enjoying an abundant life in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

    Amen and amen.

    I am sorry that your denominational jurisdiction, like so many other churches, seems to focus its concerns about the ethical conduct of pastors and members so much on the question of sexuality and so little on the whole of the Gospel and of kin-dom living. Every blessing to you and your congregation and your ongoing ministry together.

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  4. Thanks for your witness. It gives me hope as I enter into similar conversations with my own conference. And your “pretty panties” are an inspiration as well.

  5. Man, I miss you and PMC sometimes.

    You are right that there are other issues to be working on. To add to your list, I’d like to call a discussion about whether or not it is acceptable to be a christian and voluntarily live in the suburbs.

    But (as you know) this isn’t an insignificant thing at all. The ways the church deals with diversity on all levels is of the utmost importance. You have examined your conscience and extended the community to those being left out of it. I can’t think of anything more Christ-like.

    Many prayers for strength and endurance and ‘egolessness’ (I just made that word up) while the spot light is on you. It can be really annoying. Thanks for stepping out into it, and for sticking with the beloved community–as broken as we are.

    Much love,

    -Andy

    • Much love back at you, Andy. PMC and I miss you, too. Do you mean to suggest in your note that some people involuntarily live in the suburbs? I like the word egolessness, by the way. I’m not kidding about the temptation to let all of the attention–even if it’s negative–go to my head. Thanks.

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