For Randy–For Us All

Recently a colleague of mine was dismissed from his position on the bi-national Mennonite worship committee because he is “actively” gay.  That is to say that he married the man he loves and they live together in a supportive, committed relationship.  Somehow, in the eyes of my denomination’s leadership, this makes him unfit to serve the church.

I am dismayed.  I am deeply sad. I am angry.

There are no tables to turn over right now–except my kitchen table, but then I would have to clean up the mess.  So instead I’ve written e-mails to the denominational leadership. I would encourage other concerned Mennonites to also write to Ervin Stutzman, Terry Shue, and any other people you might know serving in leadership positions for Mennonite Church USA.  I urge you to speak the truth in love.

Here is what I sent:

I am writing to express my sorrow over the decision made by Mennonite Church USA leadership to remove Randall Spaulding from the bi-national worship committee.  Based on the resolution passed in Columbus, I hoped for an open dialog within the denomination regarding inclusion of all people.  I do not understand how removing gay people from the conversation will foster healthy dialog on the question of how we should include gay people in the church.  This action by the denominational leadership sends a message of intolerance, not a message of Christ-like love and a willingness to listen.

I was drawn to the Mennonite church primarily because Mennonites seemed to me to be following Jesus faithfully–particularly in terms of witness and action for peace and justice in the world.  The decision to remove Randall was both unjust and violent, and thus I am deeply disappointed in my broader church family.  I desperately want for all of Mennonite Church USA to be church together so that we can be a powerful witness for Christ in the world.  It breaks my heart that one of my brothers in Christ has been told that he is no longer welcome to be church with us–and it makes me question my welcome within the denomination as one who loves and welcomes gay people.

I will hold you in prayer as you and others lead the denomination through this time of significant disagreement. May all voices be heard, may our dialog remain loving, and may we, as a body, remain rooted in the way of Christ.

Peace of Christ to you,
Joanna Harader

9 thoughts on “For Randy–For Us All

  1. Joanna,
    The letter is beautifully done in a Christ-like manner. I know that you are hurting deeply. I, too, will pray that all voices be heard, that dialog remain loving, and that all may remain rooted in the way of Christ, not just in the Mennonite tradition but in all families of God.

  2. Hi Joanna, Thanks for posting this. Robert and I read about Randall Spaulding’s dismissal and were deeply disappointed as well. I do believe that it is unsustainable to reject followers of Jesus because of their sexual orientation and I am hopeful that change will happen soon, thanks in part to people like you speaking truth in love.

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  4. Ervin Stutzman:

    For the January, 2002 Builder magazine, I was privileged to be the editor for material written by a team from the Southwest Mennonite Conference. We recruited people recommended by the conference and who were willing to volunteer their time and talents for the effort.

    One of the people in the group was from Sarasota, Florida. The man, Randy Spalding, was minister of music and worship at Bahia Vista Mennonite Church and had served there since 1991. Randy’s special contribution to our worship material was as composer for “Here is an Astonishing Thing!” the theme song for the 2002 Lenten worship season.

    That was a number of years ago. I have not had much contact with Randy since that writing team experience, but I learned that he had been part of the worship planning for Mennonite Church sessions planned for nearby Pittsburgh, PA.

    I have now learned that Randy has been removed from the planning group. I am not sure of all the reasons, but a letter on the internet said it is because he is “actively” gay.

    When we chose people for our 202 writing group, we did not check much beyond the recommendation of the local conference officials. We did not feel the need. And as editor, I did not field any negative comments concerning our selection of contributors for that material. If things in the church have changed so that he is no longer qualified because of his choice of committed partner, it makes me sad for both him and the church.

    So many statements on the issue of sexual behavior have already been composed that a further reiteration is not fruitful. But I would compare this expulsion of talent to a previous age when all women’s leadership talents were ignored because they were the wrong gender.

    If at all possible I would urge that Randy be restored to the worship committee and be allowed to use what I observe as God given talent.

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