Turns out I had some more thoughts on Sunday morning’s shooting. This letter was written in collaboration with some wonderful colleagues and signed by even more wonderful colleagues and was originally posted on the Inclusive Mennonite Pastors web site.
“We are dying, and you are killing us.” These are the words Jay Yoder writes to the Mennonite church as a member of the Mennonite LGBTQIA+1 community in the wake of the shootings at the Pulse Nightclub. Their words point to the truth that no murder happens in a vacuum, even when done by a single person, because inside each murderer is an echo chamber of the religious and cultural discourse that affirms hate.
So far there has not been a response from the leadership of MC USA to the tragedy in Orlando or to Jay’s accusation of the church’s complicity in this violence. (Note: The Moderator and Moderator-Elect of MCUSA published this statement on June 15; Ervin Stutzman, the MCUSA Executive Director, published this statement on June 16.) While it is difficult to find words at such a time, we realize that silence serves to enhance the violence being done to the bodies and spirits of people within the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color. And so we, as Mennonite pastors, choose to not participate in the silence, but to offer these words, however inadequate they may be.
To those who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, your voices matter, your experiences matter, your presence in the Mennonite church matters. We are deeply grateful that you are part of the Mennonite church. We desire to support you in whatever ways we can. If you reach out to any of us we will seek to be a nurturing, Christ-like presence as we listen to you in your grief and anger. We love you.
To the larger Mennonite church body, we must acknowledge that this hate crime was directed against people who are part of both the Latinx and LGBTQIA+ communities; it is disingenuous to claim that our desire to welcome Hispanic Mennonites requires us to shun LGBTQIA+ Mennonites.
We must do a better job of listening to and believing the testimonies of those within the LGBTQIA+ community who have experienced violence within our churches. If we continue to insist on the unworthiness of those who do not conform to “official” standards of sexual identity and attraction, we must acknowledge the ways in which that message promotes ideologies of hatred and violence. We cannot continue to preach peace in one breath and condemn our LGBTQIA+ siblings in the next.
If we hope to even begin a faithful response to the horror of the Pulse Nightclub shootings, we must listen well, speak in love, and back up our listening and our speech with actions of compassion and justice. As the book of James exhorts us, “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
As we attempt to resurrect our faith, let’s consider engaging in the following works:
- Read the statement published by Brethren Mennonite Council (BMC) and support their work financially.
- Thank your nearest Pink Menno advocate and support the work of Pink Menno as they prepare for our next MCUSA Convention in Orlando.
- Give financially to the Pulse victims fund set up by Equality Florida, the state’s LGBTQIA+ civil rights organization.
- Take any opportunity you can find to show God’s abundant, all-encompassing love in this world that so desperately needs it.
“Love is a verb.” Indeed. So let’s do something.
Ron Adams, Madison (WI) Mennonite Church
Rose Marie Zook Barber, Eugene Mennonite Church (OR)
Laura Brenneman (chaplain), First Mennonite Church of Champaign-Urbana (IL)
Susan Gascho-Cooke, Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster
Theda Good, First Mennonite Church of Denver
Joanna Harader, Peace Mennonite Church (Lawrence, KS)
Ruth Harder, Rainbow Mennonite Church
Cynthia Lapp, Hyattsville (MD) Mennonite Church
Chad Martin, Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster
Joel Miller, Columbus Mennonite Church
Ryne Preheim, Rainbow Mennonite Church
Megan M. Ramer, Seattle (WA) Mennonite Church
Mark Rupp, Columbus (OH) Mennonite Church
Jeni Hiett Umble, Living Light of Peace (Arvada, CO)
Ben Wideman, University Mennonite Church (State College, PA)
Juel Yoder Russell, Salem Oregon
Ryan Koch, Peace Mennonite (Dallas, TX)
Michelle Burkholder, Hyattsville (MD) Mennonite Church
Kathleen Temple (Harrisonburg, VA)
Joanne Gallardo (Washington, DC)
Emily North (Harrisonburg, VA)
Adam Tice (Goshen, IN)
Weldon Nisly (Seattle, WA)
Rachel Ringenberg Miller, Shalom Mennonite Church (Newton, KS)
John Tyson, Bethel College Mennonite Church (North Newton, KS)
Trevor Bechtel, (Ann Arbor, MI)
Renee Kanagy, Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship
Janet Elaine Guthrie, First Mennonite Church of Champaign-Urbana
Rachel Epp Miller (San Antonio, TX)
Carol Rose, Shalom Mennonite Fellowship (Tuscon, AZ)
Lee Lever (Austin, TX)
David Moser, Southside Fellowship (Elkhart, IN)
Michael Crosby, First Mennonite Church (Champaign-Urbana, IL)
Tina Schlabach, Shalom Mennonite Fellowship (Tuscon, AZ)
Samantha E. Lioi (Lancaster, PA)
Kelly Carson (Bloomington, IN)
Helen Hopson (Austin, TX)
Robin Walton (Columbus, OH)
James Matthew Branum, Joy Mennonite Church (Oklahoma City, OK)
Marty Troyer, Houston Mennonite Church
Tim Peebles, Chicago Community Mennonite Church
Amy Aschliman, Christ Community Mennonite Church (Schamburg, IL)
Beth Ranck Yoder (Harleysville, PA)
Gwen Gustafson-Zook (Goshen, IN)
Pamela Dintaman (Tuscon, AZ)
Debra Sutter, First Mennonite Church (Champaign-Urbana, IL)
Brian Bolton, Shalom Mennonite Church (Harrisonburg, VA)
Lloyd L. Miller (Goshen, IN)
Jane Thorley Roeschley, Mennonite Church of Normal (IL)
Karen Cox, Boulder (CO) Mennonite Church
1Lesbian, gay, bissexual, trangender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual
In order to honor the pastoral intent of this post, I have turned off comments. If you are a Mennonite pastor and would like to add your name to this letter, you may contact me, Joanna Harader. If you have questions about the Biblical and theological understandings of those who signed this letter, I commend to you the resources on this page and other posts on this blog.