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Love is a verb, not a suspension

5.26. 2016 Written By: Meghan Florian, with response from Virginia Mennonite Conference leaders 4,162 Times read

Meghan Florian  is a writer and editor from Durham, North Carolina, where she teaches writing at William Peace University and the Center for Theological Writing at Duke Divinity School. She is a member of Chapel Hill (N.C.) Mennonite Fellowship. We asked Virginia Mennonite Conference leaders to respond to this statement. You can see their response at the end of her piece. 

At Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship (CHMF), we do things together. We celebrate new babies and marriages; we grieve losses. We cook and we eat. We build. We make church together.

Three years ago, together we questioned Mennonite Church USA and Virginia Mennonite Conference’s positions on the full inclusion of LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer] individuals in congregations. A group of us met and planned discussions and lectures and developed a list of resources from a variety of perspectives to guide our congregation as we struggled to listen to one another. Our pastor, Isaac Villegas, shepherded those of us who led the way. We discerned together and built trust as we sought a way forward.

The process was difficult, but it was worth it when we reached consensus, and came out as a place of welcome for all God’s people, announcing that we are a place where all are welcome, celebrated and loved. We entered into a conversation with the Faith and Life Commission of VMC about our dissent and its consequences. We notified them of our decision, in prayerful expectation that we might find a way to be church together across our differences. We chose to trust the FLC, to continue in the spirit of openness reflected by including our conference minister in our discernment process early on.

We complied with every request the FLC made of us. We wrote detailed responses to questions about theology, biblical interpretation and tradition. We met with the FLC to discuss these same questions, and we were told to keep these conversations private. Over and over, we were bypassed by those who would rather talk to our pastor than to the committee chosen by the congregation to represent CHMF to the FLC. We gave and gave of our gifts as a congregation, to show VMC our commitment to the Mennonite church and to the gospel, all while asking, simply, Is there still a place for us here? The FLC did not answer that question when we wrote, and they did not answer it when we met, but they are answering it now, whether they mean to or not. Despite having every reason to bear with us in love, the message we have received is that those making decisions in VMC do not think there is a place for a congregation like CHMF in this conference.

Ignoring our congregation’s wishes after our pastor agreed, with our support, to officiate a same-sex wedding, the FLC chose to summon Isaac alone. Rather than a “conversation,” this meeting consisted of a large group of people questioning decisions he made with our blessing. VMC barred our conference delegate and our deacons, those  whose task is to minister to our pastor, from attending this meeting. There were no witnesses. They have shared no records of this meeting with our congregation.

We have since received the results of the FLC’s process: Isaac will be accused of ministerial misconduct, and labeled as someone who has broken trust, his actions listed on the level of infractions such as harming another minister and embezzlement. Let me be clear: Isaac Villegas has not broken our trust. He has been, and will continue to be, a faithful pastor at Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship.

We have tried for so long to be generous and patient, to play by VMC’s rules, and these actions finally broke my heart. Isaac is our pastor, and this effort to shame him into renouncing his commitments, and the commitments of our church that he carries out on our behalf, is an affront to the very core of who we believe ourselves to be.

On May 21, Isaac officiated a wedding, as he has so many times before, but this time it was the marriage of two women. We honored the commitment these friends made to one another, promising to love and support them as they seek to uphold their vows throughout their lives. And on that otherwise joyous occasion, the FLC was expected to suspend our pastor’s credentials. They no longer recognize his ministry; they have rejected him and the many gifts he has shared with the Mennonite church up until now. But Isaac is our pastor, and what you do to him you do to CHMF. We are not a people who will abandon our pastor when he acts out of faithful obedience to God and the church—when he does what is right.

No other conference in MC USA suspends credentials without first reviewing them. In other conferences, a simple demarcation of “at variance” is enough to recognize our diversity. VMC’s action is unprecedented and unnecessary. In a conference where roughly half of credentialed ministers support the full inclusion of LGBTQ people, CHMF is not an outlier. Isaac is not an outlier. In a denomination that less than a year ago adopted a Forbearance Resolution, VMC has acted as if the decisions of the delegate body do not apply to them, choosing instead silence and censure. According to VMC’s new ministerial credentials policy, forbearance does not exist. It’s true that Isaac and CHMF are at variance, but everything about this new policy goes beyond what is called for in responding to our decisions and actions.

At CHMF, we try to tell the truth about our lives, even when it hurts, even when it’s not pretty. We are far from perfect, but we are learning how to love as Christ loves us. That love is built on trust. Isaac, our pastor, is our shepherd as we learn to live together and love one another well. He is a gentle guide in this ungentle world. We trust him.

VMC will not recognize Isaac as Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship’s pastor after this wedding. After years of trying to comply with VMC’s requests, we reached a stalemate, but Isaac is still our pastor, as he has been for the last 10 years. We celebrate those years of service, as we also celebrate Isaac’s faithful witness to God’s work among us.

Response from VMC leaders

We feel keenly the sadness of Chapel Hill as expressed by Meghan Florian. Clearly the journey of the congregation in discerning their way forward has deepened their commitment to their pastor, Isaac Villegas ,and has intensified their desire to minister to all people, a call set forth in the Forbearance Resolution.

The three-year discernment process for Chapel Hill did include communication from Virginia Mennonite Conference. During the process, Chapel Hill leaders were reminded of Virginia Mennonite Conference’s standing policy that conducting a same gender marriage would lead to suspension of an officiating minister’s credentials. As a conference, we recognize our call to represent an entire community of congregations and to uphold the MC USA membership guidelines.

Our intention is to remain in conversation with Isaac Villegas and the Chapel Hill congregation as a member congregation of Virginia Mennonite Conference.

Clyde Kratz, VMC Executive Minister
Elroy Miller, VMC Moderator
Patsy Seitz, Chair, Faith & Life Commission

Photo: Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship worship. Photo by Martha King. 

The views expressed in this opinion post do not necessarily represent the official positions of The Mennonite, the board for The Mennonite, Inc., or Mennonite Church USA.

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40 Responses to “Love is a verb, not a suspension”

  1. Chuck Friesen says:

    The VMC leaders indicated “Clearly the journey of the congregation … has intensified their desire to minister to all people, a call set forth in the Forbearance Resolution.”

    But yet VMC has no intention of engaging in the practice of forbearance and has no intention of modeling how such a process might work in their conference? Are they “at variance” with the Forbearance Resolution passed last summer?

    And recently the MCUSA executive board booted Isaac Villegas from the board. Neither did the executive board practice or model forbearance. At this point, two opportunities to apply and model forbearance within MCUSA have been completely fumbled.

    Within MCUSA there is presently (with the exodus of 14000+ members from withdrawing conferences) far greater support for the Forbearance Resolution (between 71 and 83.7 percent) than there is for the Membership Guidelines (between 50.5 and 58%.)

    The tipping point has already occurred and MCUSA is choosing not to acknowledge it.

    • Anita Kehr says:

      Thank you, Chuck, for this. You articulate very well what I have been thinking/feeling about all of this: there is no modeling of forbearance here.

      On top of all that, I am feeling deep sadness for the loss of Isaac’s voice on the Executive Board. We need his wisdom and his humility.

  2. Thank you to The Mennonite for seeking and publishing a VMC response to Florian’s essay. It is telling that Florian omits any reference to VMC’s clear communication to congregational leaders “of Virginia Mennonite Conference’s standing policy that conducting a same gender marriage would lead to suspension of an officiating minister’s credentials.”

    Many in our denomination are confused about the nature of ecclesial authority, which is rooted in the ancient wisdom of Scripture as mediated by the eternal cloud of witnesses we call the Body of Christ and a specific structure that empowers our pastors. Congregational Bible study, prayer and discernment are very important, but the stance of the broader church is always to embody now the wisdom is has received from the past.

    Except for those who declare themselves independent congregations—unyoked by promises or commitments to any other body—all of us who call ourselves “Christians” are traditionalists, no matter how progressive we may think ourselves to be.

  3. John Gingrich says:

    I respect the decision Isaac made, he decided his decision took priority over his role in the denomination leadership and he resigned. He did not try to make himself a victim or martyr. The role had perquisite covenants and instead of demanding they be changed, he stepped down in order to perform the same-sex wedding.

    Likewise in the relationship of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship to Virginia Conference there were covenant understandings with prior agreements and ongoing conversations that made it clear the consequences that would follow the actions taken to officiate the wedding. When we do not want to continue in a relationship that has clear commitments do we simply break the commitments or do we wait until there is a renegotiation of the rules? Isaac stepped out of the Executive Committee role instead of breaking covenant. CHMF however decided to break covenant with the other congregations in the conference instead of taking the decision to step out of the agreements and out of membership in VMC. To claim victim-hood or martyrdom to me is very unfair and almost immature. Or is the agenda to take this incident and try to use it to smear the denomination in the national religious press?

    • Dave Hockman-Wert says:

      John, can you please clarify how CHMF “broke covenant” with VMC? As I understand it, the policy that is being cited is directed solely at the pastor performing a same-sex marriage, not at the congregation itself. Did the congregation make some kind of covenant with VMC that they wouldn’t accept LGBT+ members and/or wouldn’t support their marriages (and subsequent commitment to fidelity)?

      Ms. Florian indicated that they “expected” Isaac’s credentials to be suspended. What I hear her most taking issue with is VMC’s decision (not required by the policy) to call Isaac’s action “misconduct,” and place it on the same level as perpetrating sexual misconduct or embezzlement. I agree with her that this seems like a major overreach and a sign of disrespect for Isaac’s years of commitment and contributions to the Mennnonite church.

      • John Gingrich says:

        Dave, read Meghan’s article again. Everything is written in “we” language. Isaac would not have done the marriage without CHMF agreement and blessing. He was acting on the will of the congregation. I am from the generation where it was important to keep your word, no matter the cost. A man’s promise was his bond, not some legal process. When the conference guidelines are not acceptable to CHMF they could have very easily withdrawn from VMC, other congregations have done this over the past couple years. That way they could have honorably taken any action on gay marriage without including the total conference in the process. But this is not my fight, you and them work it out, I am not involved. I should never have commented in the first place.

  4. M. South says:

    We hear about consensus – among those who are left in the congregation after de facto exclusion of those opposed to the new dispensation. What do those consensus numbers look like? That is important to know, when communications are controlled in a congregation by only one side. What happened to those who couldn’t in good conscience go along with the LGBTQI agenda? The many folks I’ve heard from don’t tell a tale of love as a verb, but marginalization as “bigots” and “haters” and being “invited to leave” for upholding a faith of 2,000 years that welcomes all, but whose fellowship of believers is based upon repentance, rather than celebration of our sins.

    • Caren Swanson says:

      M., this was a conversation that unfolded over many years and through the process of consensus. No one left over this issue, and no one was ever called names.

      • M. South says:

        Are you saying that everyone in the congregation was in agreement, and is in agreement? That defies credibility.

        The experiences I have heard are that those who openly disagreed were invited to agree, and if they resisted, their opinions were called bigotry and hatred. (Just as those in the conference and denomination now are called.) It was made clear that their views were unwelcome and it was suggested they’d be happier somewhere else. Even more folks unwilling to experience this treatment never bothered to disagree openly but simply stopped their support and no longer attend. Needless to say, they were not missed by the commentator.

        • M. Froese says:

          Our congregation also went through a multi-year process that led to a vote accepting a statement of affirmation. Consensus doesn’t mean that we are all in agreement; our congregation is diverse and you’ll find highly varied opinions in our group on virtually every issue. I can’t say no one was left feeling hurt – the process and the end point required compromise at every step. I can say that everyone had multiple chances to speak, to be heard, and to listen, and no one left our congregation.

          • M. South says:

            I’m not seeing the other posts I made about this issue.

            However, without asking to “out” anyone in public who left without wanting to argue about it anymore, there is a question about the freedom of belief and opinion at CHMF, which means nothing if it isn’t allowed to be expressed.

            The consensus was achieved by a vote which wasn’t unanimous. It is also admitted that there are people who still hold different opinions on this and other matters. That means that there are those who believe homosexual activities remain sin and that there is no equivalence of homosexual relationships to the sacrament of marriage, which models the spotless relationship of Jesus and the Church.

            Are the dissenting members allowed to voice their beliefs, or have they been silenced? Are their views celebrated and affirmed, or not?

            Folks can continue to make contact confidentially with their experiences at the link.

        • Nick Plummer says:

          M. South,

          Your comments of May 31, 5:45 pm imply that you have heard from numerous people at CHMF whose opinions were called bigotry and hatred, who were invited to leave, or who were silenced. Can you clarify whether you are making a specific claim about the process at CHMF based on first hand knowledge, or a more general statement about how you believe it must have unfolded?

        • Nick Plummer says:

          Since M. South may have left the discussion, I’ll follow up by saying that I have been a member of CHMF since it was founded, and to be best of my knowledge, none of the horrible things he (or she?) describes actually happened during the long discernment process. There was, and I am sure still is, diversity of opinion on this and other contentious issues in the congregation, but we found a consensus that we could all live with and still be church together. Forbearance, you know?

          People leave CHMF all the time–its members include a lot of students who move on when they finish their studies–but Caren is entirely correct that there was no exodus over this issue, and the deacons and pastor were very careful that no one was silenced or ostracized. I’m not sure if “the commentator” is Meghan or Caren, but either way, I think M. South owes her an apology for insinuating that she knew about people being driven from the church and didn’t care.

          • K. Yoder says:

            I can’t speak for your congregation but I’ve been a part of two congregations (both urban) that had this discussion and heard from others is that what M. South is describing is accurate. It may be people on the fringes it, it may be people who came every now and then, it may be people just fearful of the backlash if the spoke out, but I think it is negligent to imply it doesn’t and hasn’t happened. The spirit make work more clearly in Durham than elsewhere but I think it’s fair to say we are still finite and human and around such a heated issue not everything we see is what happened.
            Blessings as you guys live into your call and I hope it proves to be faithful and fruitful in the future. I just don’t think M. South is out of line.

  5. Frank Lostaunau says:

    Isaac is a good man. He is respectful. Thank You Isaac.

  6. Scott Smith says:

    I’m wondering why affirming congregations don’t join United Church of Christ or Metropolitan Community Church rather than battling the status quo.

  7. Berry Friesen’s above comment is right: it is “telling” that Meghan omits any reference to VMC’s clear communication to the congregation of the policy that “conducting a same gender marriage would lead to suspension of an officiating minister’s credentials.”

    Meghan also pointed out that VMC suspended Isaac’s credentials “without first reviewing them,” something she believes no other MC USA conference does. But immediate suspension was also part of VMC’s clear communication. Their 2013 policy states that “if a credentialed person conducts a covenanting ceremony for a same sex couple, their credentials will be immediately suspended while a review is under way.”

    Meghan also complains about VMC acting as if the Forbearance Resolution does not apply to them. But we also affirmed the Membership Guidelines at Kansas City. Forbearance doesn’t cancel the Guidelines any more than the Guidelines cancel Forbearance.

    I also think John Gingrich’s comment is right: when a congregation in a conference relationship with clear commitments chooses to break those commitments and faces consequences they were told they would face, it’s “very unfair and almost immature” for that congregation to claim victimhood or martyrdom.

    In her RNS May 27 op-ed piece, Meghan fully takes off her gloves, calling her conference leaders “untrustworthy” and charging them with “protecting those who are complicit in violence.” (She is referring to another crisis that VMC is dealing with, and is prematurely and unjustly assuming the rightness of things said in the social media.)

    • Dave Hockman-Wert says:

      Harold, Berry isn’t right. Ms. Florian indicates that “FLC was expected to suspend our pastor’s credentials.” Berry has to claim that CHMF somehow ignored VMC to prove his frequent talking point. But her story clearly shows how involved they were in ongoing discussions and how much they respected VMC (as shown by their willingness to engage in many discussions prior to their decisions/actions).

      Given this significant engagement, how can Isaac’s action be considered a “breach of trust”? A disagreement, sure. A different way of reading and interpreting the Bible, absolutely. But a breach of trust? VMC knew exactly what CHMF and Isaac were planning to do, and their strong values-based and biblical-based reasons for doing so. In what way, then, can this be considered a “breach of trust”? CHMF didn’t mislead VMC. They didn’t lull them into a false sense of security and then spring this on them out of nowhere. They told them what they were going to do and they did it. (Apparently that kind of action gets you plaudits if you have the right politics.)

      What I hear Ms. Florian taking issue with is VMC’s decision to “divide and conquer” and focus on Isaac as an individual scapegoat rather than deal with the congregation as a whole, who was fully behind this decision.

      I also hear her decrying the FLC choosing to go beyond mere suspension, to the charge of “misconduct.” (I find it telling that you are silent on that particular point. Do you really think that a pastor celebrating a covenant of two of his church members (that is fully supported by the congregation) deserves being compared to a pastor performing actions that are clearly harmful and victimize one or more members of the congregation?)

      Finally, re: Forbearance, your lack of nuance is surprising. Is the only option for the MG resolution to “cancel out” the Forbearance resolution (or vice-versa)? Why can’t VMC consider how the Forbearance resolution might affect their current policies and practices (as other conference boards have done)? If the Forbearance resolution is truly a delegate-supported decision (as it was, strongly), doesn’t VMC have a responsibility to take it seriously? If they don’t, are they at variance with MC USA? Maybe Forbearance won’t “cancel out” the suspension policy (although the policy does go well beyond what the MG requires), but it might temper it in certain ways. How is sticking to their rules “[offering] grace, love, and forbearance toward … congregations and pastors in our body who, in different ways, seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ on matters related to same-sex covenanted unions”?


      • K, Yoder says:

        VMC claims they spoke clearly about decision and put on policy right up to the month before the marriage. What people are really upset about is that it didn’t go there way. Or that VMC didn’t wait forever. Our polity really doesn’t have as much room for disciplining congregations as it does pastor’s. They could in the end discipline the congregation but they chose to start with pastor. Again, sometimes things don’t go our way.
        But Dave my biggest disagreement is that you write as an all seeing eye that knows all the conversations as well as the truth of Kurt’s family life so clearly you can name justice and injustice in room and situation you never saw. The comparison to conference discipline to stand your ground is also just meant to score easy points rather than lead to conversation.
        Also, CHMF as a scrappy congregation that could is a stretch as well. It’s benefited from being near a huge university (hence the young and progressive nature), one their pastor gets to serve at. It’s an area of a conservative state that thrives on this kind of public action politics. It exists in a huge medical industrial money area of the country. It’s pastor is one of the most published in the Mennonite and served on the executive board.
        Given all this perhaps CHMF is the one punching down. They also have the benefit of being able to direct anger towards an organization while raising up an individual and gifted one at that. I’m glad my congregation isn’t a part of VMC but that’s the nature of the beast we call MCUSA
        Whether you or other like it polity is happen more on the conference level than national. You might want to decide what forbearance mean to VMC but you don’t that right. VMC doesn’t get to decide the membership guidelines mean to Central district. I think misconduct is an overreach as well but to other conferences the idea of using the membership guidelines on this issue is a joke.

  8. Scott Smith says:

    I’m wondering why affirming congregations don’t join United Church of Christ or Metropolitan Community Church rather than battling the status quo. I’m puzzled because, after I became a pacifist, I came across the 1995 Confession of Faith and left my previous denomination (rather than battle it) to join MCUSA and VMC.

    • Linda Rosenblum says:

      Scott, that is a question many of us who affirm the CoF and Membership Guidelines would like to ask. Why those who disagree with the denominational documents don’t find fellowship with folks who agree with them rather than intentionally break covenants and then shout victimhood.

    • M. South says:

      Scott, there are many like yourself, who discovered there was a church theology that conformed to what the Spirit of the Lord had already led you to – unfortunately, as too many of the ethnic heirs to a church that was once faithful to it were running away from it. More comfortable within the same ethnic community than they would be at that other MCC that is in line with their own disbelief – Troy Perry’s organization – they seek to transform the historic Mennonite church’s beliefs through radical political tactics.

    • Jim Bridges says:

      “I’m wondering why affirming congregations don’t join United Church of Christ or Metropolitan Community Church rather than battling the status quo.” Perhaps because the UCC and MCC are not Mennonite and have little to no Mennonite or Anabaptist heritage. As a young child I attended a small Mennonite church in Illinois, but when I reached school age, my parents switched their membership to an UCC congregation closer to home. I intentionally now attend an affirming Mennonite church, preferring it to other styles of worship, song, and preaching. As to the Guidelines, I was told that when they were passed, they were referred to not as a required creed, but as literally GUIDELINES. It seems to me that some are pushing the guidelines to become a confession of faith, which is not what had been agreed to originally.

      Why should affirming Mennonite congregations be forced out of the denomination, especially if their membership represents the majority of those churches remaining in the MCUSA? That strikes me as backwards.

    • Dave Hockman-Wert says:

      Scott, should congregations have left the Mennonite Church when they started accepting women in ministry (not acceptable to the earlier Menno status quo), or when they started accepting and remarrying divorced people (not acceptable to the earlier Menno status quo), or when they started accepting men who wore ties and women who didn’t wear coverings (not accep– you get the picture), or, more relevant to your story, when they started accepting members of the military?

      The history of the Mennonites and Amish is filled with stories about conflicts (and splits) akin to the ones we are experiencing now. This really isn’t “anything new under the sun.” If congregations or individuals have had enough of “battling the status quo” and want to find peace in another denomination, I wish them God’s peace. But unless we want to return to the days when Daniel Kauffman and his buds decided where the boundaries should go and who was inside, I’d suggest that we let congregations discern their preferred affiliation.

      Finally, did you mean to use the “You dare criticize the USA? If you don’t like it here, then why don’t you move to Russia!” trope? Thanks for the 80s nostalgia trip.

  9. Kurt Horst says:

    This reminds me of an incident growing up. During a meal discussion my young foster sister piped up and asked if anyone wanted to hear a joke. Everyone at the table said, “no.” She proceeded to begin to tell it anyway. I said, “If you tell the joke I’ll throw what’s left in my water glass at you.” She continued. When she finished I threw my water on her. She appealed to my mother for “justice.” I fully expected repercussions. To my surprise (and I think everyone else’s) my mother said, “Well, he told you what was going to happen.”

    • Dave Hockman-Wert says:

      Kurt, after reflecting on your story, I think it describes the situation between CHMF and VMC very aptly.

      You tell the story of a person with less power (younger, foster child) who wants to be heard When the more powerful members of the family deny her request, she persists. At that point, you express your power (older, biological child) and threaten her with disproportional consequences (physical affront vs verbal annoyance) that you have decided and declared on your own, as judge and jury. When your sister persists and tells her joke, your declared “consequences” occur. Your mother, having even more power in the family system, sides with the more powerful of the two children (bio/older vs foster/younger).

      From my perspective, there was nothing “right” about your actions. Yes, you warned her that you would do it, but it doesn’t make your choice of response correct or proportional or appropriate. The only thing it proves is that you were true to your word.

      In the same way, CHMF, a younger congregation with a fair number of non-cradle Mennos (I think, but I don’t know the actual %), wants to be “heard at the table” by living faithfully in its context. VMC, the “older brother,” warns them of what will happen (rules and consequences) if they persist. They do persist. VMC exerts its “older brother” power and does what it said it would. Yes, they followed their rules, but that doesn’t mean the rules are right. But “Mom” (Executive Board) will back them up, given that they encouraged and accepted Isaac’s resignation.

      I am sad to see the situation with CHMF and VMC be acceptable to people solely because “they were warned.” Attitudes that support “the rules” so blindly lead to things like the “Stand Your Ground” laws that led to Trayvon Martin’s ethically-reprehensible but Florida-legal killing. As Anabaptists should know, “rule-following” isn’t always the best way to judge the rightness of an action.

      Dave Hockman-Wert

  10. Frank Lostaunau says:

    There’s nothing like a foster child doing what she can to fit in only to be humiliated by adults. sad…very sad indeed…

  11. Charity Gourley says:

    I’m an 81-year-old Mennonite woman, who has been married to my dear husband for 60 years next March. I stand in solidarity with Pastor Isaac, his congregation, and the collaborative consensus-building process that brought them to celebrate this union of two loving women. We need more love in the world and in our church policies.

  12. M. South says:

    “celebrate this union of two loving women”

    Let’s be clear – it is a sexual union, therefore there is lust as well as love. Love alone for another does not require lesbian sexual practices.

    As was pointed out, historically, some churches in the past affirmed close loving friendships, being joined together, without sexual relations, as sisters in the Lord, without compromising on the matter of sexual sin.

    Abandoning scripture may well appeal to what we want to do sexually, but it is not in God’s will to do so.

    • N. North says:

      It doesn’t appear you have any idea what you are talking about. Sexual Union therefore there is lust?

      • M. South says:

        Last time I looked, love didn’t require sex.

        A sexual union between two women is intrinsically about doing mutual sexual things things with their bodies together.

        It’s not just innocently holding hands. It defies credibility to say that sexual appetite plays no part. And that exercise of sexual appetite for those of the same sex is not what God intended.

        The fact that people come to have these desires, does not automatically make them right. This is just more sixties’ sexual revolution fallout, “If it feels good, do it” and the idea that the individual is endlessly self-validating, part of the secular religion, consumer culture. There are many impulses that we ought to control, but don’t, and the prime place of America in incarcerating the majority of the world’s prisoners is a testament to how destructive it has become to try to fulfill every desire that an individual might come up with.

        Whatever new religion folks want that affirms what it is they already want to do, sexually, with the same sex, or for that matter to ignore any sinful practice, let alone to proclaim it good, it is not a religion faithful to scripture, to the apostles or to two millenia of church teaching through the Holy Spirit.

        Searching for past errors of certain denominations in other matters, does not validate a new error. If one doesn’t like the religion that was shared with Menno Simons, go start one somewhere else in opposition and don’t use a name so associated with opposition to what you want to celebrate.

  13. M. South says:

    “As to the Guidelines, I was told that when they were passed, they were referred to not as a required creed, but as literally GUIDELINES.”

    I suppose, in the same spirit that avers that the Ten Commandments are really “The Ten Suggestions” that the Confession of Faith could be taken with several grains of salt, as guidelines that don’t really need to guide anyone nor have any meaningful lines.

    I realize that we ought to respect our elders, but age alone may not have resulted in wisdom. I am sure we can find people even longer married and even older, who nevertheless hold fast to the faith they received when young, and have only been strengthened in it through experience. However, such arguments from authority, derived from the age of the claimant, don’t alone grant any logical conclusion. I’m sure that all of us who are parents have had children who are not impressed by our merely asserting age as a trump card in a discussion.

  14. Frank Lostaunau says:

    I strongly suggest that many of the above posters get a grip and not a stranglehold.

    There’s nothing in the free world like diversity! HOORAY DIVERSITY!

    VIVA LBGTQ Mennos! VIVA!

  15. M. South says:

    “I am sad to see the situation with CHMF and VMC be acceptable to people solely because “they were warned.” Attitudes that support “the rules” so blindly lead to things like the “Stand Your Ground” laws that led to Trayvon Martin’s ethically-reprehensible but Florida-legal killing. As Anabaptists should know, “rule-following” isn’t always the best way to judge the rightness of an action.”

    This a remarkably false analogy which tries to prove equivalence of whatamounts to some degree of murder with not approving same sex “marriage,” just by mentioning them in the same paragraph, hoping for guilt by association.

    But first, there’s a difference between rules ginned up by any particular political party, that don’t claim to be based upon God’s word or any religious understanding. Those are the laws of the United States. We could say that the intersection of God’s Kingdom and the rule of the American government is almost always accidental and occasional.

    Yet adherence and judgment according to those laws is praised, it it’s against those we disagree with politically or otherwise. We applaud,most of us, what we personally like, and make little to no effort to defend what we don’t. I don’t think that kind of selective rule following is particularly anabaptist or even principled. That leads to not following the law when one disagrees, yet demanding others who disagree be held to every jot and tittle. Which I note, that where they triumph, LGBTQI advocates shut down and exclude those who disagree, as per their new rule.

    However, the matter of discipline in violating church covenants that have been agreed to contractually, ending the contract according to its provisions, certainly has no resemblance to the issues in the Trayvon Martin case. The crux of the matter there is that if a person kills another, with no witnesses, there is no accountability outside of the version offered by the person left alive. That is a problem with overly broad statutes meant to protect people in their own homes or vehicles who are attacked, if they use deadly force to resist violence on their own persons, but have been interpreted to legally allow deadly confrontations where people could reasonably withdraw rather than use deadly force. This also has ramifications for police overuse of deadly force.

    One could agree that the above instances and examples are the very worst moral violations one could find.

    Putting street shootings in proximity to the situation where congregations and pastors by virtue of a covenant they agreed to in the matter of not performing same sex “marriage” then violated it with consequences to licensure, does not make the two in any way equivalent.

    In any case, Christianity is not content-free, at least in the version that has prevailed as orthodox for two thousand years. It does have certain standards that necessarily exclude willful practices that are called sin. Some people are claiming that only no rules at all can be loving and inclusive.

    But that would lead to even worse atrocities than that which unjustly befell Trayvon Martin, and there wouldn’t even be the scrutiny of a Zimmerman trial required, not even an unfair one.

  16. M. South says:

    “Why should affirming Mennonite congregations be forced out of the denomination, especially if their membership represents the majority of those churches remaining in the MCUSA? That strikes me as backwards.”

    Why are they called “affirming Mennonite congregations”?

    They are certainly not affirming the church’s official Confession of Faith or theology.

    It sounds so positive to be “affirming” – but without the nuisance of mentioning what it is that is being affirmed, which is the practice of sin It is the opposite of “affirmation” to discredit the church’s teaching, however.

  17. Frank Lostaunau says:

    What are those congregations that you refer to “affirming”? Would you please be more specific? How come you’re so concerned?

    There are many Mennonite males/females that report being happily married, with children and they engage in sexual relationships outside of their marriages. Hardly anybody knows about their dark and “naughty” secrets so they’re socially accepted in their church communities. In a few instances, even their children are a ware of the secrets of the parents but have been strongly advised not to tell.

    I have interviewed 4 families and have agreed not to disclose details. What is tragic is older children are quite literate and read The Mennonite blog. It hurts them when they view various mean spirited posts on The Mennonite. Please, show some mercy for those youngsters.
    They have not anything wrong other than to observe what is happening.

    • M. South says:

      “How come you’re so concerned?”

      I sometimes ask myself why someone who’s not a member of the Mennonite church is so concerned.

      Now as a mental health practitioner, surely folks with deep-seated troubles will be encountered far more than the rest of us will. That’s why they consult you.

      But that is surely no basis upon which to pronounce judgment of hypocrisy on the vast majority of Mennonite families you will never encounter professionally or personally.

      Given that being Mennonite is often as much a nationality for many as it may be a faith for others, certainly unresolved spiritual problems may exist among the former in equal incidence with any other national population. But those whose faith is primary to them, and taken very seriously, aren’t going to be engaging in sexual relationships outside their marriages, putting their relationship with God to shame and violating their vows to husband or wife.

      Now it’s true that sometimes these things done in darkness in violation of relationship to each other and to God do come to light. Whereupon, instead of repenting, some decide that celebrating each other’s sins is the new theology they’d prefer, since then they don’t have to be sorry or change their behavior – or even admit their behavior was sinful. That’s a very convenient theology, or lack of same.

      If we are interested in children not being hurt, then we ought not to try to deal with a problem of sexual abuse, by introducing and tolerating even more sexual sins in the church.

      It’s absurd to propose that posts on The Mennonite against sinful behavior, somehow hurt children, who in actuality were hurt by those who engaged in that bad behavior.

  18. Frank Lostaunau says:

    Correction: Please show some Mercy for those youngsters. They have not done anything wrong. They are innocent. They are not “bad” children for being intelligent and having observed duplicitous adult behavior?

  19. M. South says:

    “There are many Mennonite males/females that report being happily married, with children and they engage in sexual relationships outside of their marriages.”

    I don’t know how many there are who claim Mennonite membership in this situation. Such activity, however, is forbidden to Christians.

    But there is some truth to what Frank says as I discovered in a congregation that is on the path to welcoming, affirming and celebrating the LGBTQI agenda. There are some who are married to a woman, with children, yet claim to be bisexual, and say that they have been true to their marriage vows to their wife, because their sexual relationships outside the marriage were with men, not another woman. With the new developments in the church, such have felt empowered to reveal their proclivities, and have endorsed changing the church’s theology to accept, affirm and celebrate these other forms of sexual practice outside the church’s Confession of Faith.

    So while I disagree with Frank on the matter of sin, staying faithful to the church’s historical and consistent teaching of thousands of years, it must be admitted that hidden things not known to most have occurred, with considerable hurt to children and spouses, both before and after discovery. And it is true that some of these have been respected and influential church members, and remain so.