Why I’m Packing Pink

Fellow Pink Menno, Elizabeth Speigle

True to form, I haven’t packed yet for the national Mennonite convention in Phoenix. I have, however, been avoiding pink clothes this week to make sure they are clean when I do pack.

Because once again I will be joining with other Pink Mennos to bear witness to our denomination–witness to the hurt and exclusion many sexual minorities face within the church; witness to the love and acceptance required of us as we walk the way of Jesus.

I wear pink knowing that it will upset some people. People who feel threatened by it. People who feel like they are being judged and scolded every time they see someone in pink. People who fear that the church they love is moving away from the scriptures they love. People who are confused by the mixed messages about sexuality that they receive from within the church.

Awhile back I asked our denomination’s executive director how someone with my theological beliefs can work toward healthy relationships with others in the church who believe differently. He said a lot of things, but one basic and strong suggestion was to NOT wear pink. “It makes people feel defensive,” he said.

To be honest, his words made me feel defensive. I didn’t respond to him in the moment, but I have been thinking about what he said. And why it made me feel defensive. And why I’m packing pink anyway.

For one thing, at the last national convention this same executive director got up in front of the entire delegate assembly and affirmed that his personal convictions are in line with the so-called “teaching position” of the denomination: “that God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life” (from the Confession of Faith), and that homosexual activity is sin (from earlier denominational statements).

Somehow his use of authority and position to condemn an entire group of people was acceptable, but me wearing a certain color to show my acceptance of those same people is offensive.

Maybe if I had an opportunity to address the entire delegate assembly and share my theological views on human sexuality, I would not feel the need to communicate that same information with the color of my clothing. Actually, I did not wear pink (except for my mostly hidden ankle bracelet) at our conference assembly last year, because most people there knew who I was and where I stood.

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But the invitation to address the gathered body at Phoenix has not come. (Though I am super excited to be co-preaching at the inclusive worship service there!)

So I will pack pink.

I will pack pink because people who say, “It’s obvious that the Bible condemns homosexuality,” need to know that it is not obvious to all of us.

I will pack pink because sexual minorities who have been pushed out of the church for so long need to know that some people are working to make a safe space for them.

I will pack pink because, while some people will respond with anger, others will respond with curiosity.

I will pack pink because, by associating myself with Pink Mennos, I will be accountable to the group’s standards of faithfulness, gentleness, and love for all.

I will pack pink because I am doing my best to follow the path of Jesus Christ.

I will pack pink because, well . . . those are the clothes that are clean right now and I’m getting on the bus tomorrow.

 

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12 thoughts on “Why I’m Packing Pink

  1. as a Presbyterian Gal who preaches in freedom, I want to know where I can get one of those kickin’ pink t-shirts to support you. I also want you to know that women and men all over the world are supporting you in your peaceful resistance movement.

  2. Thanks again, Joanna.

    As someone who has felt defensive most of the time I’ve been in church, I would respond to the executive director that their homophobia makes those of us who are often excluded feel even more defensive than pink shirts make the homophobes feel.

    Jesus never condemned homosexuality. Jesus never condemned being different.

    Jesus condemned self-righteous religious leaders who tied up heavy burdens, and didn’t lift a finger to help others bear them. Jesus condemned those who passed judgement on others. Jesus condemned those who kept to the letter of the law, and ignored the Spirit.

    We Christians sometimes feel self-righteous because Jesus condemend JEWISH religious leaders. Yet Jesus condemned Jewish religious leaders as a Jew himself. If he were to come today, as a Christian, what would he say about our Christian religious leaders? Would he be just as angry with us?

    As for me, as hard as it is, I try (and do not always succeed) to take the high road. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, I have been directed.

    And so I shall pray not only for you, my friend, but for your executive director and all of those who feel defensive because you wear pink. I often think that they need the prayers more than you or I, because if they can’t accept or forgive imperfection (or perceived imperfection) in others, then they can’t accept it in themselves, either.

    As I worship God with hundreds of others in Toronto’s Pride Day church service tomorrow, I will say a prayer for you and yours.

  3. The question was asked “Why aren’t you packing pink?” Easy answer: I’m not going to convention this year. 😉

    But to answer the question more intelligently:

    1 – I do not think that a church or denomination needs to change a teaching position in order to express the welcoming love of Jesus. The church has teaching positions on honesty, stewardship, slander, gossip, divorce, etc….and yet it is possible to hold specific teaching positions on those life areas and still remain welcoming. A denomination or church CAN welcome people from all backgrounds and areas without having to compromise stated convictions. I would not pack pink because I disagree with Pink Menno that in order for the denomination to welcome those of the LGBT community they need to specifically affirm such lifestyles as acceptable. There is a third way…reference Zach Hoag’s review of David Fitch’s book “Prodigal Christianity” signpost 9…and even better…read that chapter…there is, I believe, a better way than choosing a “position”.

    2 – Along those lines, I disagree with the methodology of Pink Menno…it speaks more of earthly political activism… it makes the church into a democracy with the need to vote, lobby, campaign, etc., than a community of mutual love. This does not mean that I think LGBT people shouldn’t have a voice or say, but that, again, there is a better way, I think…rather than using power politics to sway opinion, I have to wonder that there is a better, more community minded way…the conversation room in Pittsburg was a good start and I think should be continued…but I wouldn’t pack pink because I don’t think that method is in keeping with the communal church as described in the Bible nor is in keeping with centuries old Anabaptist thought…

    I know I’m probably in the minority here…but you asked. 🙂

    • Thanks for your response, Robert. Regarding #1, you and I disagree about how to interpret the Bible regarding this particular issue of human sexuality. But we already knew that. 🙂

      Regarding #2, this is the part I struggle with most. But the reality is that LGBTQ people do not have a sanctioned voice at the convention, and wearing pink is a way to subvert the silencing. I think of it as a form of non-violent resistance. The conversation rooms are continuing, and I hope to participate again.

      I wish you were going to Phoenix. We could have some good conversations.

      • Yup. Wasn’t expecting agreement…but then, my point is, is agreement necessary to be “welcoming”? I don’t think it is and hence why I like the emphasis on “mutually tranforming” the Fitch and Holsclaw put forward…as I said, potentially a “third way” that I feel is worth pursuing…

        As for your second rebuttal…an excellent point and worth mentioning. But as subversive as it is, I think it has become, in it’s visibility at the last few conventions, less of a subversive presence and more of a contention, at least as it has been practiced… it is a wrestling point…at what point does some practice become less of a help and moe of a dividing point? I’m wondering if Pink Menno has become more of an issue of divisiveness and less of a point for conversation?

        But all this is stuff that probably is better hashed out in conversation and not so much discussed via comment threads online… I’m with you…wish I could be there.

        Save travels, Joanna!

  4. It’s nice that you can speak so philosophically about the ins and outs of queer issues in the church as straight folks.

    It’s a little harder for those of in pain and heartache, those of us who have had people pull us aside and whisper nasty things to us where no one else can hear just because we’re wearing pink. Those of us who have been told our lives and loves are wrong, disgusting, and sending us to hell since we were young. Those of us whose eyes well up with tears when we enter a church outside our home congregation because it’s so hurtful and scary to walk through those doors with someone we love, not knowing if someone will “discover” who we are and behave hatefully.

    Do you know what Pink means to someone like me? Safety. People with whom I can feel safe. Everyone wearing pink is an island in a stormy sea to me. Pink means love. Pink means kindness. Pink means relief, for a minute, from the uncertainty and fear. Pink means support. Pink means someone who will intervene when they see someone behaving hatefully to me or speaking hateful words.

    If political activism is what you think Pink Menno is, you’re obviously so safe and loved and accepted by the church that you cannot fathom what it means to need people to wear a color to show you they don’t hate you.

    • Thank you for this reminder and challenge. The nasty comments and words of unworthiness directed at me–as a straight ally–have been in the context of church politics, not personal identity. You are right. It is a very different experience.

  5. I will be at WDC assembly, but not Phoenix. Wrapping you in prayer, sister. I don’t know how I feel about pinkwear, but I do wish that the denomination had not chosen to politicize this teaching position. And it was, indeed, the denomination, not the Pink Mennos choosing to wear pink shirts, who did that. As Robert says, there are many teaching positions (all open to discussion) in the Confession of Faith from a Mennonite Perspective. However, under the 2001 Membership Guidelines of the Mennonite Church USA, THIS teaching position alone is NOT up for discussion, and violating it will subject a pastor to a “credential review.” (Cue ominous music.) Many Mennonite churches practice open communion, for example, and that doesn’t jive with the early 1990s teaching positions, but the pastors do as their hearts lead without fear of “credential review,” and they do so with their congregations’ oversight and approval.

  6. In the many words spoken here, the name of JESUS was used only seven times. Is this a, “I’m more intellectual than you” conversation or is it true compassion for others?

  7. That you still love the church enough to stick around and change it is a true testament to your faith and devotion to Jesus Christ. Good luck and you’re always welcome with us lazier, disillusioned ex-mennos who wander churchless for lack of finding a place that is as inclusive and loving as we were taught in Sunday school that a church should be. xo.

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