Over the past several months I have been working with others to craft a resolution. I am happy to announce that the “Becoming a Just Church Resolution” has now been submitted to the Mennonite Church USA Resolutions Committee! Those of us supporting this resolution believe it speaks an important word to our denomination as we are in the midst of “intense conflict” and “difficult conversations” about the “issue” of “homosexuality.” (Yes. I do understand appropriate use of quotation marks.)
As you might imagine, however, not everyone is completely thrilled with this literary and political masterpiece. Apparently there are some Christians who understand Biblical teachings about sexuality differently than I do. These people obviously do not support this resolution.
There are also people who agree with the Biblical perspective presented in the resolution; they agree that current denominational statements and policies related to LGBTQ Christians are unjust and outside the way of Jesus. Yet they do not fully support this particular resolution. Those are the folks I would like to address in this post. (I directly address some common Biblical concerns in a previous post.)
To begin with, there are people who feel that the language of the resolution is too strong. Some have pointed out the statement that “the current policies of MC USA do violence to the personhood of LGBTQ people” as being particularly harsh. Pacifists do not like to be called “violent.” Some think that suggesting a connection between church teachings against homosexuality and the high suicide rate among LGBTQ young people is too extreme. Some people don’t like the word “perpetrated” because, well, it suggests violence (see above).
I want to be fair to people who hold these concerns. Many Mennonites who advocate for LGBTQ inclusion have had harsh language and unfair accusations leveled against us. We do not want to simply repeat the abuse from another perspective. There is also concern that strong language will provoke further conflict within the denomination rather than bringing Mennonites of differing perspectives closer together.
Still, I believe clear and strong language is needed. Those who support exclusionary policies tend to invoke “sin” and “clear Biblical teaching” while advocates of inclusion use phrases like “differing perspectives” and “congregational discernment.” This can give the impression that those who wish to exclude LGBTQ people are passionate and convicted and Biblical, while those of us who seek full inclusion just have a kind of quirky idea about church we’d like to try out if you don’t mind.
We don’t want inclusion because we think it might be a good idea. We want inclusion because we passionately believe it is what Jesus wants for his church. We believe inclusion is supported by the witness of scripture. And we believe that as long as the church—which we love—continues to teach false doctrine regarding sexuality, it sows damage and despair in the world rather than healing and hope. That is what we believe. And we are allowed to say it. And it might hurt some people’s feelings. And that is OK.
There are also some people who are concerned about the conclusion of the resolution, where we call on the denomination to “extend grace and forbearance to those individuals, congregations, and conferences that will choose to remain in fellowship with MC USA despite being at variance with the inclusive position of the denomination.”
If an exclusive policy truly does violence to people, why would we, as a peace church, want to remain in fellowship with the perpetrators of that violence?
It’s a legitimate question.
One response would be that we are seeking the middle way. But frankly, I’ve had about enough of this middle/third way rhetoric.
Another response is that none of us are right about everything and none of us are wrong about everything. If we are willing to stay connected, I believe the Holy Spirit will help us learn from each other and grow in our faith together.
Another response is that being kicked out of a denomination sucks. And we don’t wish that on anyone.
Another response is that there are LGBTQ young people in churches that would be at variance with inclusive policies, and if we kick out those churches we cut off potentially life-giving resources to those young people.
So, while I know it is not perfect, I strongly support this resolution. I know a lot of other people who support this resolution. (You can show your support for the resolution by filling in the form on the resolution web site.)
Even if you do not support this resolution, I hope that it will contribute to positive, respectful conversations about how MC USA can become a more just and faithful denomination.