Known by our love?

No one will know we are Christians by our exclusion and judgment

May 26, 2014 by

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Here are 10 points to consider as Mennonite Church USA and other Mennonite institutions discuss inclusivity:

1. Hate and homophobia are pervasive in American culture. School kids call each other “fags” and insult people by calling them “gay.” Bullies of all ages beat up gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, from the New York alley to the Kansas highway. Families disown their gay and lesbian children. But Jesus defended the humanity of society’s outcasts. A decidedly secular fear of, and lack of knowledge about, homosexuality shapes many of the negative Christian attitudes about our brothers and sisters who are LGBT.

2. For many Mennonites, it is because of our faith, not in spite of it, that we believe the church and its institutions should accept all people, including those with an LGBT identity. Mennonite institutions have taught me to understand the Bible as a call to the law of love and to practice radical inclusion. I learned not to water down the Bible but to read it alongside its culture and history. I learned not a selective reading of the Bible’s convenient passages but to more fully understand that Jesus’ teachings can help us live in a chaotic world. The Bible’s primary message is about acceptance, inclusion and the embrace of diversity. Jesus spent most of his time with people the Jewish leaders called sinners. Jesus never practiced exclusion.

3. Science tells us homosexuality is not a choice but a biological fact. God creates 10 percent to 30 percent of people with diverse sexual orientations.

4. Biblical passages on homosexuality overwhelmingly refer to male slave owners who abusively sodomized their male slaves, often boys. The Bible refers to male rape as sin. Rape is always wrong. Rape is prevalent in our culture. But rape is completely different from homosexuality. The Bible does not provide any comment on a loving relationship between two people of the same sex.

5. Homosexuality is not the same thing as being sexually permissive. Heterosexuals often fail to respect their own bodies and those of their partners. Sexual integrity is a separate issue. Mennonite institutions should continue to support a culture of sexual integrity for all, as we live in a world that teaches us to abuse others and ourselves.

Perils of judging

6. Jesus does not command us to judge our neighbors or form an exclusive church for those without sin. Jesus does the opposite. He tells us to focus on the log in our own eye rather than the speck of dust in our neighbor’s. He warns against judging others. Perhaps the very arrogance of judging another is the highest form of sin. It places us apart from God and divides the human community.

7. Even if we read the gospel without understanding its cultural context, Jesus mentions many types of sin or brokenness. Who would dare cast the first stone against another’s sins in the church? Would Jesus have turned away anyone seeking to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God?

8. The church is not always biblical. In the past, Mennonite institutions closed their doors to African-Americans. Christians twisted biblical passages to make it seem that slavery was acceptable. It took the leadership of courageous Mennonite women insisting on the full humanity of African-Americans to eventually change church policy to welcome people of all colors. In the footsteps of these women, we must defend our right to learn from and with LGBT people in the church.

Taking great risks

9. Some Mennonite leaders are taking great risks to stand against official church teaching on sexuality. When I started leading campus dialogues on homosexuality at Eastern Mennonite University in 1997, I began getting hate mail. Other faculty shouted into the phone to me that I was a sinner for facilitating such dialogue. To this day, one EMU neighbor will not greet me as I pass by her home. It leaves me wondering how people concerned with biblical teaching can be so hateful to those with a different biblical understanding of homosexuality. Do we also disagree about what it means to love your enemies? Can we practice the skills detailed in MC USA’s statement “Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love,” or is our pacifism only a theological position against state violence?

10. How will the world know Mennonites are followers of Jesus? They will know it by our love, by our tolerance for diversity, by the way we care for and respect each other. No one will know we are Christians by our homophobic exclusion and judgment. I hope MC USA will continue in the Anabaptist tradition of following Jesus’ radical love for and inclusion of all people, no matter the financial or institutional costs.

Lisa Schirch is director of human security at the Alliance for Peacebuilding and a research professor at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.


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  • Barbra Graber

    Thank you Lisa, for your clear and articulate response to the church process going on about the private lives of our queer brothers and sisters in Christ. It is time we end this cruel, exclusive practice aimed at our best and brightest.

  • Ron Adams

    Well done, Lisa. I am grateful.

  • Dale Welty

    Was God’s love on display when he destroyed Sodom
    & Gomorrah with fire for their sinful same sex
    lifestyles? Are Mennonites known by their love when
    they remain silent on the ongoing violent murder of
    innocent living unborn babies in the womb? Dale Welty

  • Karl Shelly

    Clear, concise, and prophetic. Thank you, Lisa.

  • Joel Miller

    Dale – Abraham tried to talk God out of that one and perhaps didn’t bargain hard enough (Genesis 18:22-33). Thanks Lisa for these fine and challenging words.

  • Donald Blosser

    Very well said. You write with clarity and compassion with the spirit of love
    present in all that you say. Thank you.

  • QueerMenno – Jen Yoder

    Beautiful, Lisa. Thank you.

  • berryfriesen

    Schirch’s essay brought a couple of quotes to mind that complicate matters considerably.

    In response to her paragraph 3, Barbara Kingsolver’s Harrison Shepherd in The Lacuna says: “One hundred percent of men are homosexual for 4 percent of their lives and 4 percent are homosexual for 100 percent of their lives.”

    And to her paragraph 6, the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 5:12, speaking about a man who was sleeping with his father’s wife and about rich members of the assembly who were taking poor members to court: “For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge?”

    As for paragraph 2, might we as a church do better if we acknowledged that the “primary message” of the Bible is about what kind of political community we want to be? Of course, Schirch recognizes this too by the various judgments she makes regarding practices that she and many of us oppose. But if we acknowledged that we are engaged in a political exercise that involves making judgments, then the experience of the early church would actually begin to help us and the numbing effect of an abstract and unattached “love” would not so hobble our progress toward a real-world solution.

    • Lisa_Schirch

      Berry, Thanks for your response. I love the fictional novelist Barbara Kingsolver, but I’m not sure where she is getting those statistics from – there is lots of science and real research that suggests her first statistic may be correct, but the second one is not.

      I had a longer section written on the role of judgement in the church that MWR took out when they published my comment. The difference in judgement is that some want the church to judge and exclude. Others of us think the church should be open to everyone, no matter what.

      The church is political in the way people contest theological ideas. It should not be political in terms of its membership. Jesus called all people to follow. He did not tell people he thought were sinners (like those who were rich, gluttonous, or corrupt tax collectors or pious religious leaders) that they could not be a part of the church. The point I am making is that there are lots of ways to disagree about who are the real sinners in the church and who needs to be reformed. But I would never suggest that I am without sin the way many in the church today do. I would never suggest that people I disagree with should be forced out of the church.

      • berryfriesen

        Lisa, what is it we as a church should learn from the first church, the one
        started by Peter and Paul as a communal expression of the body of Messiah
        Jesus, the one that understood itself to be a new political community competing with the empire of Rome for the loyalty of every person, the one that
        made countless judgments about what it meant to give one’s loyalty to the Peace
        of Messiah Jesus rather than the Peace of Rome and to call Jesus (instead of Caesar) “Son of God,” “Savior,” and “Lord”? What should we learn from its countless judgments about participation in patriotic civic banquets, lawsuits against the poor, sleeping with a parent’s spouse, patriarchy, slavery and such?

        From your comments, I get the sense you would prefer we skip over all of that and instead forge a new church, a different one than Peter and Paul started, one that follows Jesus by making room for everyone, no matter what they bring with them.

        And would that church you yearn for provide guidance (make any judgments) for the 96 percent of us who desire same-sex intimacy occasionally but not all the time?

        • Lisa_Schirch

          Berry,

          Today’s church of course is rooted in the early church. But unlike some, I favor following Jesus. Paul was not perfect. The early church was not perfect. It is wrong to idolize the early church. the early church made mistakes, just as the church today makes mistakes. We can learn from the early church. We can learn from Anabaptists. But there are many ways the early church and Anabaptists were unfaithful to the path of Jesus. When did Jesus shun? When did Jesus exclude? When did Jesus not embrace?

          I’m a little confused by other parts of your message – so I’m not sure this forum is the best place to try to understand that.

          I wish you well.
          Lisa

          • berryfriesen

            When a rich man came to Jesus seeking eternal life, Jesus told him he lacked something that had to be taken care of first: sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor. When a woman at a Samaritan well asked for the water that would leave her forever without thirst, Jesus told her she first needed to call her husband. When a group of Pharisees came seeking a sign, Jesus broke off the conversation, got into a boat and left. En route, he cautioned his disciples to stay away from the yeast of Herod and the yeast of the Pharisees.

            Are these ways of engaging people part of what you mean by “embrace?”

          • Lisa_Schirch

            Yes, these are each excellent examples of how Jesus always chose creative engagement – even those he disagreed with. It would be wonderful if the church would engage with the wealthiest people in this way. It would be wonderful if the church would be as open to offer the living waters to all – even the Samaritans of our day like the woman at the well. And we would do well to send a message of generosity and sharing to our leaders when they ask for a sign of our faith. Jesus was most interested in reaching out to the most reviled members of society – and not to the religious hierarchy. In the same way, I think the church should be most interested in reaching out to those whom the religious authorities have rejected.

          • berryfriesen

            So shall we find a new word for judging, since many people don’t like that one but Jesus and the early church did a lot of something that involved the application of values to situations and people? Perhaps discerning can be what we call it.

          • Joelyn Metzler

            Lisa- I agree whole-heartedly with your message that we need to do a much better job at reaching out to those who have been cast out from society and the church. But, I’m struggling to understand your message that to reach out in love means to put aside some truths of scripture. As Ephesians 4:14 tells us that instead of being blown here and there by winds of teaching and deceitful scheming, we should speak the TRUTH in LOVE and then we will grow in every respect to become the mature body of Christ. What is that truth? Verse 22 says that we all must put off our old self, which is corrupted by its deceitful desires. There is something for ALL of us in the list of instructions that follows, of things that have no place in the Christian life, and I’m the first one to stand convicted of things in my life that I need to “put off” in order to be who God created me to be- which is like God in true righteousness and holiness (vs. 24). The broader discussion about this issue within our denomination concerns me because I hear this message being twisted or lost completely. In the effort to not name homosexuality as a sin for the sake of inclusion of the LGBT community, in my opinion it actually seems unfair that you might still call anyone’s desires “sin” (as long as it doesn’t appear to harm anyone) and so the whole concept of our fallenness is left out, and then what really is the Good News? I’m struggling with this on our denomination’s journey, because I’m with you on a desire for inclusion of everyone, but what would it look like to apply the words Jesus spoke to the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11, “Neither do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sin”. I am told by others that to speak those words of Jesus in the context of homosexuality is not truly inclusion. How would you then encourage us to apply those words of Jesus as we seek to speak the truth in love to our brothers and sisters who experience homosexual desires?

          • Lisa_Schirch

            Hi Joelyn, Thanks for your comment.

            I agree with you that we do need to be able to talk to each other about what we perceive as harmful behavior. I agree with you that we all need to look inward, at our own lives. Jesus tells us to look at the log in our own eyes before the speck of dust in our neighbors.

            I do a lot of work that tries to draw attention to the “sin” of consumption and the way that damages our relationships and to creation. I do urge people to change the way they are living. But more often, I try to look critically at my own life – as our actions speak much louder than our words. Judging others and telling them they are wrong rarely works on anyone. So I think judging is ineffective as a means of changing people in most cases.

            There are two more issues I want to respond to in your letter. First, my article lays out a Biblical interpretation of the passages you note that many theologians have put forward. The Biblical passages are about male rape – not same sex love. Of course we should say that rape and any type of sexual assault is wrong.

            Rape happens in marriages between men and women and is an act of domination and violence, not love, in any context. Why is the church so silent on these types of violence in heterosexual contexts? Why has the church been so silent and reluctant to address Mennonite leaders who were sexually abusive to dozens of women? Why is the church not focusing on the many ways Mennonites sin through over consumption, gluttony, and many other ignored Biblical teachings such as those on loving your enemies? Why is there so much focus on the secular – not Biblical – homophobia that is hateful to people with the God-given gift of same sex sexuality?

            Given the misinterpretation of so many Biblical texts, it would be helpful for more people in the church to hear directly from the theologians who have been seeking to understand these texts. Back in 1986, I asked a group of prominent Mennonite theologians why they did not speak out on the Biblical interpretation they offered to me in a private setting that informs my article here in MWR. A majority of Mennonite theologians hold the point of view articulated here. But for 30 years, many theologians have been afraid the “people in the pews” would reject their interpretation. They thought there was too much secular hatred of GLBTQ people to even hear the message that Jesus did not condemn same sex sexuality in loving relationships. Today, we have more Mennonite theologians ready to speak out. This is why there is another wave of voices in the church speaking out. But still, many leaders who hold the views I articulate are deeply afraid of losing institutional funding and donors as well as dividing a church that we all love.

            Second,I would love for the church to hold both heterosexuals and GLBTQ people to this standard of sexual integrity. The church has a role in helping people live their lives in ways that do not harm themselves or others. But I don’t see this as the church needing to “judge” who is or is not acceptable for membership in the church. Does church membership require that no member every sins? Or ever disagrees with church policy? Regardless of the Biblical interpretation on same sex sexuality, I can’t imagine how any church would have any members if that were the criteria.

            I recognize that this is a lot to take in. I have many LGBTQ people who are gifts in my life. They are beautiful, loving people in relationships with real integrity. I wish more people could see that they are in no way “sinners” because of their God-given sexuality.

    • Tony Cutty

      I know this is an old thread but I have to post this comment here in response to this essay’s assertion – I fully disagree that 100% of men are homosexual for 4% of their lives. That means that roughly once a month (every 25 days) I will be homosexual, have homosexual feelings or comply in some way with the writer’s definition of homosexual. While I am an affirmer, and I have gay friends, I can categorically say that I have never – not once – had homosexual feelings for other men. I have male friends with whom I have ‘bromance’ – but it is completely, 100% deep, close friendship and there’s nothing homosexual about it at all. Maybe I am the only man in the world who feels this way, but for me the exception invalidates the rule. Plus I am an Aspergic and so I tend to see things in black and white. But I have never, ever had any homosexual feelings or inclinations whatsoever.

      Granted, the writer/researcher may be confusing friend-love with sexual love, but I am 100% hetero, always have been. And I’m 52 so I have had plenty of opportunity to know which side my bread is buttered on!

  • Joelyn Metzler

    You make a good point in #4 that the Bible makes no comment about committed, sexual relationships between people of the same gender. Doesn’t that in itself speak volumes? And and then what would be the model and guide for those relationships within the church?

    • Lisa_Schirch

      But the Bible also does not speak about a lot of other things that we do today. So absence isn’t condemnation. During Biblical times, marriage was a contract between two men: the father of the bride and another man. Women were viewed as property. This was the secular value of the day. Jesus challenged this view of women as property. Yet many still prefer to think that the secular cultural beliefs reflected in some Bible passages means that women should continue to be property. So it is very important to understand the secular culture of the day – and how often Jesus challenged the values that it reflected. I think the same is true today. Homophobia and hatred of people with same sex sexuality is a secular value – not a religious value. Its important that the church challenge this hatred.

      • Joelyn Metzler

        Absolutely! As Mennonites famous for finding a 3rd way, let’s radically pursue love and not hatred for all people, while following the example of Jesus that we can still encourage each other to leave our lives of sin.

  • Conrad Hertzler

    “The Bible’s primary message is about acceptance, inclusion and the embrace of diversity”. Is it? I would really be interested to hear a case made that this is really the Bible’s primary message. It seems like the message of the Bible is better summed up as God’s Redemption of His people. The whole story of the Bible is how God’s people whom he created fell away and needed to be bought back with the ultimate sacrifice of the death of Jesus and how His resurrection gives us hope and power to walk with Him in holiness. Yes, we are a diverse and messy bunch of people on this planet and we as believes are called to love one another. But to say that acceptance, inclusion and the embrace of diversity is the primary message of the Bible, I don’t understand. Perhaps someone can enlighten me on this.

    “Science tells us homosexuality is not a choice but a biological fact. God creates 10 percent to 30 percent of people with diverse sexual orientations.” Is it? So, if I, as do many other followers of Jesus, believe that homosexuality is not part of God’s plan, I guess this fact makes me appear homophobic and uneducated even though we can biblically support our beliefs. And those of us who believe this way have certainly been called as much in this publication and in many others like it even though it couldn’t be farther from the truth. I still don’t believe that you have to agree and accept someone’s lifestyle in order for you to truly love them. You call for tolerance and respect. Agreed. Someone screaming at you over the phone and not talking to you is certainly not Christian. But please, how about some respect and less looking down your nose at those of us who believe differently and are perhaps less “progressive”. Thanks.

    • Lisa_Schirch

      Thanks for your note Conrad. I just responded to Joelyn below and would say many of the same things to you… Thanks for making the distinction that there are many different approaches to how people in the church are handling our different ways of interpreting scripture. I should have acknowledged this in my article. I had previously written another article exactly on that topic for The Mennonite, but I am reworking it as the first version had too much overlap with other articles according to the editor. So I’ll make sure to make this point clear that you have highlighted here.

  • Joelyn Metzler

    Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough response, Lisa. I appreciate the chance to ask these questions that have been weighing on my heart. I understand we disagree on the interpretation of the scripture, as do many many theologians, Mennonite and otherwise. It’s clearly not the role of church to “require” that no one sins…of course we’d all be lost and why God sent Jesus. What I love about my church is that we can at least recognize that we are in the same boat, in need of the saving grace of Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit and with gentle guidance and support from fellow believers become more like God created us to be- and for the most part can acknowledge and agree on what our sins are. It’s my true desire to include EVERYONE in that family of believers. I think the key difference is that it does require humility and a willingness to recognize our own sin and be changed. Not everything born in me, my tendencies and desires- are from God. My anger, pride, selfishness, etc. all come very naturally and can feel like they are just part of who I am, but I am called to put them aside for the sake of bringing glory to God. If I wanted to hold onto those things as part of who I am, I would also feel very offended and unwelcome by some of the things said at my church. But, to me, it’s not truly love to allow someone to live with less than God’s best for them….the people who truly love me call me (gently and lovingly) to God’s will for my life. We want to offer that same support and love to the LGBT community, but it’s unwelcome due to our disagreement on the scripture. I don’t see how my conscience will ever allow me to change my reading of scripture to an understanding that matches yours, it just seems too clear in many translations from many scholars over thousands of years. My goal would be for you and others to hear that there are some who have a heart of love and desire inclusion for all peopl, I share your desire to see the hate and injustices end, and especially within the church where they have no place! I agree that they are beautiful, loving people with many gifts to offer. And I couldn’t agree more that all the other issues and sins within our church need to be viewed with the same standard. But again, I think the key difference is that we tend to be grouped in churches where we agree on what sin is. I would not feel comfortable attending a church that preaches a “prosperity gospel” where the pastor drives an incredibly expensive car because I would view that as unrepentant greed in his life, and based on my view of scripture I wouldn’t want my tithe supporting him as a church leader until he resolves that area of his life. Of course our leaders aren’t going to be perfect, by no means, but don’t we tend to group ourselves in churches where we at least agree to help each other grow in certain ways and acknowledge what our sin is.

    • Lisa_Schirch

      Joelyn, I’m so grateful for the loving tone of your comment. Thank you for acknowledging that we interpret scripture differently, but that we share much in common in terms of how we think we should live with those differences while challenging each other – but mostly ourselves – to live more faithfully.

      My article is less oriented to people like yourself than it is to people who want to push me and other supporters of GLBTQ people out of the church. They tolerate all kinds of other “sins” without any type of humility or confession- except for the one sin that they cannot accept… a sin that I don’t see as sin at all but a God-given identity.

      I know many others like you in the church who interpret scriptures differently than I do, but who reach out to me and others with love rather than a judgement that seeks to exclude our voices from the church.

      Many thanks, Lisa

  • Elaine Fehr

    Lisa, I appreciate your willingness to dialogue with people who have opposing views on this sensitive subject. Could you help me understand your fourth point in which you state that Biblical passages on homosexuality overwhelmingly refer to male slave owners who abusively sodomized their male slaves, often boys?

    I’m interested in how your interpretation relates to Romans 1:26 & 27 – “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”.

    I don’t see anything in the context of Romans 1:26 & 27 to suggest that rape is an issue there. Rather, this passage strongly suggests consensual relationships among men with men and women with women.

    • Lisa_Schirch

      Hi Elaine, Thanks for your comment.

      My articles says “most” not “all” Biblical passages refer to rape. So you are right that this passage suggests that Paul (not Jesus) is directing people in a different way. As Christians, I do find it important that we make a distinction. Paul is not Jesus. Paul had many flaws and I think we have to look at his writings as written by a human being.

      Still it is important to figure out what is meant by Paul’s teaching in Romans. Theologian Walter Wink goes through each Biblical passage and looks at it within the cultural and social context.You can read his explanation of each Biblical passage on this website – including this Roman’s passage: http://liferemixed.net/2011/07/08/wink-bible-homosexuality-2/

      In sum, this passage focuses on heterosexuals leaving their “natural identity” as heterosexuals and turning instead to lust for people of the same sex. But people with same sex sexuality don’t have a “natural” heterosexual orientation. They are not leaving anything natural behind and replacing it with the “unnatural” behavior that Paul describes. Their natural, God-given sexuality is not based on “lust” but on real relationships with integrity. Paul is warning about sexuality without integrity – with out real relationship, care or love.

      We should all be concerned about the prevalence of this type of secular sexual objectification and lust. I think all Mennonites would agree that the secular portrayal of cheap sex where women and men are objects of lust is wrong. We all need to be working to push back secular society’s lack of morality and ethics on this sexuality without integrity.

      I encourage you to read more of Walter Wink, as I find him to be very compelling theologian on sexuality and pacifism and a range of issues that Mennonites feel passionate about…

      Thanks,
      Lisa

      • berryfriesen

        Lisa, your introduction of the term “natural identity” brings us back to Barbara Kingsolver’s Harrison Shepherd in The Lacuna, who says: “One hundred percent of men are homosexual for 4 percent of their lives and 4 percent are homosexual for 100 percent of their lives.”

        For a significant share of the 96 percent of men who are homosexual for only a fraction of their lives, “natural identity” is a cultural construct, which is what Paul understood and addressed in Romans 1.

        As a church, a critical element in moving forward is discussion of this aspect of sexual identity. Most of what we read in church discussion to date is the 4 percent (or choose a bigger number if you wish) and the injustice of requiring them to put on an identity they have known from childhood is not theirs. But Paul was speaking to a larger and much more dynamic reality, one in which identities are shaped and molded by a prevailing mentality (the Roman empire superimposed on Greek culture in his case) that had exchanged “the truth about God for a lie.”

        So what we say to the 96 percent is important to many of us in the church, because we know that many more identities than the 4 percent are in play in this discussion.

      • Elaine Fehr

        Thank you for your response, Lisa. You have identified a key reason as to why we would differ in our interpretation on what scripture has to say on this issue. Rather, it’s not even so much the interpretation that is at the core the difference, but the fact that we differ in whether or not what is contained in scripture is divinely inspired. Paul wasn’t Jesus, but he was one of the specially chosen men of God who was inspired by Him to write a significant amount of what we know as scripture.

        From 2 Timothy 3:16&17 – “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

        If it were strictly an interpretation difference, I would gladly try to continue on with this conversation, but because it is an issue of scriptural integrity, that would need to be settled first. requiring us going off topic. But again, thank you very much for your time and reply.

        • Lisa_Schirch

          Hi Elaine – I agree with you that there are many deeper issues that are dividing those of us in the church. After learning how the Bible was put together by a small group of men who had many political interests in determining what was left in the Bible and what was left out – I’m less sure that it was all divinely inspired. I prefer to look at the life and words of Jesus. I went through a crisis of faith in college when I learned that the Bible was written not by the disciples. The books of the Bible were written hundreds of years later by the disciples’ followers who tried to remember each of the teaching. For me, the similarity between the gospels and how the disciples followers similarly report the very challenging things Jesus said to his followers is remarkable. I put more weight in Jesus teachings than I do in Pauls.

          But does this disagreement mean that those of us with a different interpretation of the Bible – and a different understanding of how the Bible was put together – mean that some of us should be denied membership in the Church?

          I think the church should have space for dialogue. If people are studying the Bible but coming to different conclusions, I think there should be room in the church for their voices.

          I worry about a church that throws some people away – if they serve in the military, if they have a different Biblical interpretation, or if they have a same sex sexuality.

          I also worry about a church that denounces some activity deriving from different Biblical interpretations as sin, while ignoring other blatant harms that people in the church do that would be inconvenient for the church to condemn because so many of us would be guilty… such as the way we consume way beyond our rightful share of the world’s resources and the gluttony we partake in when we “pig out for world hunger” at our Mennonite relief sales or even when we just look at the extra inches around many Mennonite waists thanks to the plethora of delicious Mennonite foods.

          I think we can challenge each other and disagree with each other in the church while we still acknowledge that we share some similar values.

          In the past, Mennonites have split over the use of buttons, over having sunday school, over whether to drive cars. At the time, one group felt self-righteous and believed they were the true followers of Jesus who just couldn’t corrupt their pure faith by rubbing shoulders with those who believed that buttons, Sunday School, cars and many other things… were un-Biblical.

          So… I hope people like me won’t continue to feel the wrath of my brothers and sisters in the Mennonite church. I think we belong.

  • Fred J Morgan (Jeff)

    There is so much wrong with this I really do not know whereto begin.. As i and members of my faith always tell me… We love the person NOT the sin… That does not even apply when someone states “Science tells us homosexuality is not a choice but a biological fact.” a popular idea but one that simply has no basis… do a simple internet check using Research Organizations and NOT OPINION websites – popular or not. We live in a fallen world… one in which things are getting worse… we simply do not go with the OPINION it is normal… we do note hate the individual… BUT we do not back down on sin.
    Yes, people do oppose what is wrong… If you are of opinion that the action is “Normal Behavior” such as believing Political Correct statements … you will face opposition. in fact these same “good, caring people” will call you a HATER and do so with contempt and of FAITH, but not the love and faith of God. What we are hearing by the OPINION MAKERS is a campaign to make those with opposite their opinion (faith beliefs) HATERS. It is important in our faith not to strike back with the same hatred but with love. However, it is important to see that this tactic is used also to infiltrates the church.. it should not, but unfortunately we have allowed Godly acting political leaders who are willing to bend Gods word to BOW DOWN to these attacks of character. This has allowed serious “Falls” from what we have know as wrong to be allowed in the church….
    Mennonites beliefs like those on divorce and remarriage i many Mennonite groups is not only allowed but churches now attempt to find new spouses for remarriage. Homosexuality is becoming acceptable not only in member groups but in clergy. What next… ??? Sorry, but I will continue in my actions… I accept all as sinners as I am, but also as children of God capable of God’s free Grace by accepting His Son, His Word and Walking in Christ. If in the future the fall has caused our DNA to mutate so we all develop a will to attracted to the same sex, I will still resist and follow what I believe God intends… It’s definitely not an easy walk, even the faithful have admitted this… but it is the walk I choose regardless of political correctness.

  • Lisa_Schirch

    A number of people have emailed me off line asking for the research to back up the 10-30 percentage of people who have a same-sex sexuality.

    The research on this is difficult. Other authors cite that only 3-6% of people “self-identify” as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer. But in other research, it becomes clear that many people do not self-identify as having a same sex sexuality because of fear of persecution, shunning, hateful behavior. And we know that many people in the church who do reveal their same sex sexuality suffer depression and commit suicide at a higher rate because of the church’s negative reaction to them. If people punish people for having same-sex attraction, it seems obvious that less people will self-identify this way.

    If communities did not punish people with a same-sex sexuality, many more people would likely self-identify as something other than 100% heterosexual. People are more likely to fall on a spectrum – a reverse bell curve with some people being 100% same sex attracted and some people being 100% opposite sex attracted. Research has shown repeatedly that there is a large number of people in the middle. Social norms prevent more people from expressing this. There is plenty of research from scientists.

    The Smithsonian published research last year that shows that the actual percentage of the population that has experienced same sex attraction at some point in their life is much higher, as cited in my article here in MWR. I did not link to the research in my article, so I am going to post it here, as citation:http://www.smithsonianmag.com/

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