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A church known for grace, love, forbearance

7.13. 2015 Written By: Richard A. Kauffman 3,880 Times read

What if a significant number of members of Mennonite Church USA would say we’re sick and tired of being part of a denomination racked by conflict over same-sex issues?

No, we’re not leaving, but we want to be part of a different kind of church—a church not shaped by the culture wars.

What if we refuse to follow the old Mennonite impulse of splintering to keep the peace, and we also refuse to adopt political means of remaking the church the way we think it should be?

Rather, we want to be part of a church truly known for grace, love and forbearance—all three.

What if we want to be part of a church known for what binds us together instead of what divides us? We want to put Jesus the Christ at the center of our corporate life and play down the separate “parties” to which we tend to gravitate?

What if we were to humbly confess that this church isn’t our church; it belongs to Christ?

We want to prayerfully commit ourselves to the leading of the Spirit to make us into the kind of church the Spirit wills, not what we want.

That is a leap of faith and we have no idea where we all will land.

And what if we would have a critical mass of people who would commit to such a vision for the church, people who come from all across the spectrum on same-sex matters and other issues that tend to divide us?

Richard A. Kauffman is book review editor for the Christian Century magazine and member of College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind.

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8 Responses to “A church known for grace, love, forbearance”

  1. John M. Miller says:

    Richard, that is the kind of church I want to be a part of. I think it would look a lot like Evana, but without the hard line on rejection of acceptance of same-sex attraction and marriage. I was not in Kansas City, but it is my hope and prayer that a church like you describe might emerge. It would be a church in which the hard tactics political analysis would give way to the speaking the truth in love and respect for those with whom we disagree. It would give priority to Jesus’ prayer that his disciples be one and for Paul’s exhortation that we not pass judgment on each others ministry. It might even be a church where love covers a multitude of sins, but the Holy Spirit would continue to lead us on to perfection in faithfulness to God. I pray for such a church to become manifest out of the chaos as the Spirit of God moves over the waters.

  2. Mary Schertz says:

    I’m in, Richard!

  3. Faith Weedling says:

    Thank you Richard for your healing words of possibility spoken into the brokenness of my life when I was beginning my seminary journey in a formation group under your leadership, and thank you for your words of possibility spoken to the church today. Mennonite, United Methodist, or any other denomination that seeks to live out the love of Christ will need to ask these questions. It’s good to hear your words of wisdom yet again.

  4. John Gingrich says:

    This is a wonderful sentiment, but it is magical thinking. Phrases borrowed from the political world like “Third Way” and “Radical Center” are used to wish for the same utopian freedom from conflict. We are like children trapped in a family full of strife and we are trying to wish away our problems. What are you going to do when in the middle of the meeting where you are putting Jesus at the center of your corporate life you are confronted by an event organized by a “cultural issue” group? Are you going to exclude them so you can get back to the Holy Spirit? Are you going to sweep this under the carpet somehow and ignore the Elephant? Life if full of conflict and unfortunately it is part of church life as well. We have worked at this issue for so many years it is time to have the courage to stop running away from a decision. We do not solve conflict by magical thinking, we do it by love, truth, courage, honesty, and sometimes by pain. But it is time to be adults and not children. I believe in the miraculous but if you notice in the scriptures, Jesus usually uses people to hear his Spirit and be the agent of the answered prayer. We need people who respond to the Spirit, have the courage to look the elephant in the eye, and escort it out of our church home.

  5. John Gingrich says:

    I don’t like my last sentence, I love the people in the church on both sides of this issue and the elephant leaving is not people, it is the issue.

  6. Paul says:

    The way I see it is you ALL have it wrong! How do you interpret what is Biblical without being “Politically Correct?” The Bible explicitly tells us about Homosexuality! The words don’t tell us to wed same sex, God forbids it and Jesus did not say that this was OK! Whatever church you want to attend or start needs to be based on God’s Word, not mans! People you can’t pick and choose what scripture you want to use and throw the rest out! Jesus told us to LOVE one another, the sin is the problem! Yes, you were right when you said there is an elephant in the room, it’s Satan telling you lies and God is letting you believe it, because you have free will!

  7. Eugene Witmer says:

    Sick and tired of these discussions? I would agree and affirm the position of my own 285 yrs old and counting congregation. For the past 10-14 years there have not been any of these discussions. The congregation came under the leadership of 35-45 yr olds and they aren’t interested in controversy. This congregation in Paradise, PA is where the missions movement started in the Mennonite Church, with the likes of J. A. Ressler to India and Hershey Leaman to Chicago. That set the pace for a long history of interest in missions. No, we aren’t immune to problems…we still have people. But we don’t engage in the discussions that seem to be dividing the larger Mennonite Church in the U.S. Our affiliation has been for years with the Alliance of Mennonite Evangelical Congregations (AMEC). The congregation has changed the name some years ago to Grace Point Church of Paradise. What a lot of folks don’t seem to realize is that MCUSA is a very small percentage of the larger Mennonite Church around the world. The church in the global south is on a different path it would appear. I’ve seen it all in my nearly 88 years, working for a slice of those years across the U.S. and Canada with churches of many denominations as an organizer of preaching missions led by Myron Augsburger. Until the church decides it cannot be all things to all people the discussions will continue. May eyes be open to what the Church of Jesus Christ should really look like.

  8. Thank you for the great work your doing expanding the kingdom.

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