Letter to my Mennonite church

Apr 4, 2016 by

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I love my Mennonite church. I love to see the old and the young worshiping together. I love the diversity and the heart of our Mennonite people to break down walls and love each other with the holy love of Jesus. I love the compassion that I see in our Mennonite churches for the hurting and for those who have gone through calamities. I believe it blesses the heart of our Father God to see the way that we as Mennonites love each other. As a delegate at Mennonite Church USA 2015 convention in Kansas City, Mo., my heart was broken as I saw young and old reaching out for acceptance and inclusion in the Mennonite conference as the Pink Mennos LGBTQ community. I heard their hearts and I love them. And I wept for them. I also felt the fear and the anger as each side of this debate voiced their opinions and agendas; to include or not include.

This was my church family, my Mennonite family at a fork in the road, and my heart hurt for both. Each night I would go to my room and cry out to God for answers. I wanted to see through the eyes of God what he saw and how he felt. Our God who created us in his image. Our God who has redeemed us through Christ. Our God who has placed gifts in the body to help us to grow to maturity; to present his kingdom to our hurting world. Our God who loves us beyond any natural love we could ever imagine. Our God who is coming again to receive us into himself for eternity. How does he feel about this? I realize the only answer to this must be found in the word of God and cannot be based on our feelings or opinions. “But where should wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” (Job 28:12) As followers of Christ, our Mennonite church doctrine must be based on his word.

From Genesis to Revelation, God’s word presents marriage as a union between one man and one woman, an example of the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church. That’s us. We are given an offer of marriage to the son of the creator of the universe! What an unimaginable deal that is! The joy of the relationship itself, to say nothing of the benefits and honor that goes with it, is unparalleled in history now and in eternity!

In the Bible, the term “marriage” has only one meaning, and that is marriage sanctioned by God, who joins one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union. In the Bible, God clearly intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other. There is no example or mention of a God-ordained marriage between two members of the same sex. And there is no indication that marriage is merely a suggestion based on current opinion and subject to change by a vote of the church elders.

Also in the Bible, God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Any form of sexual activity outside of marriage is sin and prohibited. Regardless of what any society has approved of, immorality including adultery, fornication, homosexual relations, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography or any attempt to change one’s sex, or disagreement with one’s biological sex, is sinful and offensive to God and to the union of marriage he has instituted for his creation.

With my spirit grieved, in my room I searched each night every instance in God’s word where he addresses homosexuality, including those referring to pagan temple worship (the sexual orgies described there include homosexual acts) to see what God says and I made a list of adjectives God used. Here is my list: detestable, abominable, dishonorable, shameful, unrighteous, wicked, indecent, debased and depraved. Nowhere could I find an exception to his condemnation of this act.

We were gathered in Kansas City to, hopefully, find new ways to please God. Instead we sat around tables where we voted on whether we would actually follow his word or not. How did our discussion at the convention make God feel? Do we care?

Did Jesus say anything about homosexuality? Yes. It’s included in his declaration in Matt. 5:17-19: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the law until everything is accomplished.” In the law, Lev. 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” Lev. 20:13: “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood-guiltiness is upon them.” How does rejecting God’s word as the final authority make him feel? Do we care?

Are there examples in the Bible of people who have successfully changed from a gay lifestyle to a straight one? Yes, more than one. The Bible describes a group of people who were sexually immoral, idolaters, male prostitutes and homosexual offenders, then says, “some of you were like that but now you are different. You are washed and declared right with God! Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God!” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

Yes, we extend love and understanding to those caught in this or any other sin. Yes, we welcome them into our fellowship, treating them lovingly, just as Jesus received sinners. God offers redemption and restoration to all who confess and forsake their sin, seeking his mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. But it is not showing love if we fail to warn them of mortal danger, pretending all is well with those who choose to continue to live in a lifestyle of disobedience to the truth of God’s word.

Back to Kansas City and the final vote — thankfully, enough of us voted to stay with scriptural truth that we have not changed our written policy!

The answer to this question before our Mennonite Church Convention? Jude 24-25: “And now — all glory to him who alone is God, who saves us through Jesus Christ our Lord; yes, splendor and majesty, all power and authority are his from the beginning; his they are and his they evermore shall be. And he is able to keep you from slipping and falling away, and to bring you, sinless and perfect, into his glorious presence with mighty shouts of everlasting joy. Amen.”

Anita Swartzendruber is an artist from Southeast Iowa. Her art is displayed at www.hisartbyanita.com. She and her husband, John, have ministered to a number of foreign students over the years, and she is currently involved with Philadelphia Missions in India.


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