14 July 2015

Meditation on Mennonite Church USA Convention 2015

After attending the MC USA 2015 convention, I was scheduled to be the worship leader at church. The service this past Sunday was a lament, of sorts, over the painful decisions that were made at the convention this year. Our congregation found the resolution on membership guidelines particularly upsetting, but we should also not forget the pain that our Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters feel over the Palestine and Israel resolution (click here to read the reactions of some Palestinians and Israelis to the decision to table the resolution), as well as that of others who have been hurt by the church, while at the same time not discounting the positive resolutions that were passed.

I am posting my opening meditation from this past Sunday's service below, along with the hymn I used to craft a call to worship.

The scripture we are considering today was the focus of the MC USA convention this year. As two disciples walked to Emmaus, Jesus met them, but they did not recognize him. At the end of the story (spoiler alert), Jesus is revealed, and the disciples realize that they should have known it was him all along; they said their hearts were burning as they walked and talked with him.

Since returning from convention, I have been thinking about how my experience parallels the Emmaus road story. During the week, I experienced loss and pain with the rest of the LGBTQ Mennonite community and allies. I felt the pain of a poorly-timed, aggressive protest, an unloving response, and a delegate vote to affirm the divisive and exclusionary policies of MC USA. I felt the pain of the woman who came up to me at dinner on Thursday because I was wearing a pink shirt and said "I am so sorry. You are loved." I felt the pain of loss when I was told that my uncle Atlee had been hospitalized and I would never see him alive again.

But at the same time, I felt my heart burning these past two weeks. At the Pink Menno worship service on Saturday, one of the speakers asked of us "Were our hearts not burning this past week?" My heart was burning when the youth and I attended Pink Menno symposia and hymn sings. My heart was burning when the forbearance resolution passed on Thursday Morning, and when I sat down to talk to that woman at dinner and found out that she had been sent as a delegate by a conservative church to vote her conscience on the matter of LGBTQ inclusion in spite of the fact that she was at odds with the entire congregation on this issue. My heart was burning when I talked to our youth, engaging them in meaningful conversations and listening to their thoughtful questions. My heart was burning as I felt the support of this congregation following the death of my uncle. At all these times, I felt my heart burning because Christ was present in these moments, manifested in these people.

Reading the Emmaus road scripture, I also realized that the disciples could very well be describing relationship the church has with the LGBTQ community right now. It could easily read:

"Are you the only Mennonite who does no know the things that have taken place in these days? ...The things regarding our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, who are prophets among us mighty in deed and word before God and all the church, and how our delegates and leaders handed them over to be condemned to exclusion from the body of Christ, and voted against them..."

This is where MC USA is in the story. They have not yet invited our LGBTQ brothers and sisters to stay with us, and have not yet realized that their hearts were burning all along as they engaged in this conversation. It is up to us to help the church move forward in the story.

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