What is a conservative to do?

Sep 1, 2014 by

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When I supported the merger of the Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church, I was not aware of the profound differences between the two groups. The MCs traditionally had a top-down, bishop/conference system, while the GCs were congregational.

Mennonite Church USA didn’t effectively combine these different ways of making decisions. But the arrangement worked until we came to the issue of homosexuality. Then the two ways of resolving issues collided.

Some of us call for unity and continued talking. However, that does not address the real issue for conservatives. As I see it, the two groups have different understandings of Scripture and church discipline. For many, what is at stake is simply a different interpretation of Scripture, and continuing to talk is the most logical thing. On the other hand, with a conservative understanding of Scripture, the issue seems clear and unmistakable. See 1 Cor. 5:11:13: “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy or is an idolater. . . . Do not even eat with such a one. . . . Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

Different interpretations of passages such as this are the basis of our problem. Progressives see Scripture more as a guide, to be interpreted in the light of Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Conservatives see it as more like a rule book.

Some might say that Jesus was inclusive, that he reached out in love and continued talking, and that is what we should do. But Jesus apparently did not face this situation. In the case of the rich young ruler — a case of money, not sexual immorality — Jesus simply let him walk away. I can imagine some of today’s liberals might have run after him and tried to convince him to continue talking.

It seems that those who support same-sex marriage will not be changing their position. They do not see it as sinful, so what is a conservative to do? For the conservative, to remain in fellowship with what seems like flagrant immorality makes one a partner in sin.

Would it be possible to let the area conferences do the “GC thing” — be accountable only to themselves? As we are now doing, congregations could line up with any conference in which they feel comfortable. I don’t know if this would satisfy the conservative conscience. But unless we can relieve the sense of responsibility for “wrong” decisions made in other conferences, congregations will continue to walk away.

I do not want to see more division. We have had too much of that already. Both sides have their strengths, and both also limp. How can we move forward together?

Don Nofziger
Milford, Ind.

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