What would you do?

Nov 21, 2016 by

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I have questions for credentialed church leaders. If you found out your child or grandchild is gay, would you welcome them into your church? Or would you hold the security of your official position more important than including them? Do you interpret Scripture in light of the teachings of Jesus, who included those not considered worthy of inclusion? What about the [Mennonite Church USA] Forbearance Resolution? If that resolution were followed, would [North Carolina pastor] Isaac Villegas still have his credentials?

Ruby Lehman
Harrisonburg, Va.

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  • Bruce Leichty

    I’m not a credentialed church leader but I’ll suggest the answers to Ruby’s questions. Yes, these leaders rightly did welcome and would welcome their “gay” and lesbian children and grandchildren into the church. But it didn’t stop there. For many Mennonites, blood is thicker than Doctrine, so they stopped preaching God’s will for male and female, refrained from confrontation and examination in love, and also then became convinced that not allowing these loved ones marriage–and indeed not blessing same sex marriage–was a sin of unlove and “discrimination” (that peculiarly American addition to the Gospel) outweighing all the teachings of the biblical tradition, time and nature. It is not the welcome that is problematic; it is the failure to critique the warp of modernity and Western culture, and the normalization of and advocacy for same sex unions, that fails the test of godliness and nature. And so we are now in the state of disunity and demise that threatens the very existence of the once-faithful (MCUSA) Mennonite wing of the Remnant, and many there are who will deny it in the name of Inclusion (and Isaac). The inclusion practiced by Jesus, however, must be reconciled with the narrowness of the Way he took.

  • John Gingrich

    We know the tremendous power of the family ties and the way our emotional connections are especially effected by our blood family. I have no criticism of anyone who embraces a family member like Ruby references in her letter. But since we are “interpreting scripture in the light of the teachings of Jesus” lets not forget the incident recorded in three gospels where Jesus says “who is my mother and who are my brothers?….whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. (Matt 12) Relationships in this instant for Jesus were secondary to obeying the Father’s will. So the most important question that has two opposite answers from the two sides in this debate is what is the Father’s will.

    • Matthew Froese

      I don’t think that resolves the question here, though, since there’s a great deal of disagreement about what the Father’s will is.

      Another passage to consider – we read in Matthew 7:15-20 that we are to judge true and false prophets by the fruit of their teachings. Has the traditional teaching produced good fruit, or caused harm that has driven faithful people away from discipleship and from God? We are responsible discern good fruit from bad, and to ensure that the bad trees are “cut down and thrown into the fire.”

      • John Gingrich

        Your first sentence says exactly what my last one said. And my biblical training is only the years of reading the bible which doesn’t give me any creds in the debate game. But the verses you quote are preceded by Jesus’s warning that the gate to life is narrow and only a few find it, and followed by the statement that many preachers and healers will not enter the kingdom because they did not do the will of the Father in heaven. So we are back to the Father’s will. But it is not miracles, preaching, or numbers of followers according to Jesus in the verses preceding and following your verses.

        • Matthew Froese

          Indeed – I wasn’t disagreeing with your post, but intending to carry the discussion forward from the point you brought up. Tone is difficult to communicate well in short comments.

          I also find much the same as you do in reading the rest of Matthew 7, and I think that’s what many find quite unnerving in these discussions. It seems we are to be held to account for the path we choose to follow even when we do not know which path we are intended to take, and following the crowd (whether progressive or conservative) does not amount to a defense. Uncertainty tends to get people riled up.

  • Charlie Kraybill

    The real problem is the fetish Christians have with going to the Bible about everything, as if this ancient text is authoritative and/or infallible on any topic. The few comments here already pit one scripture passage against another. And so it has always been and ever will be. As Robert Heinlein said: “The Bible is such a gargantuan collection of conflicting values that anyone can prove anything from it.” Can anyone argue with that astute observation? It’s why the Christian religion (including the Mennonite version) produces so many schisms, cults, and evangelicals. Anabaptist leader Hans Denck was fond of compiling lists of paradoxes in the Bible, in order to make the following point: a literalistic dependence on the “outer Word” (the Bible) is undependable and prone to problematic interpretations. Only the “inner Word” is infallible and authoritative, said Denck. By which he meant that Truth is best perceived by the power of reason using our God-given minds. So what does the “inner Word” have to say about the inclusion of our gay sisters and brothers (leaving aside totally the paradoxes and conflicting values of the physical text)? The answer is simple and obvious: Include them, with open arms.

    • Keith Wiebe

      Charlie, That’s too simple and you know it!

    • Soghomon Ishkhanian

      I do not know where to start to respond to this hogwash. But I can not resist myself. Although I saw this very late,I have to bring my two cents.

      1.- Christians do not go to the Bible for everything. You have to stop this nonsense. Even the most biblical fundamentalists do not go to the Bible for everything. They acknowledge that sciences, crafts, other skills and careers exist so they do not go only to the Bible.

      2.- So the reason that the Mennonite Church and other Christians produce schisms and problems is that you cannot trust the Biblical values? With this broken logic, I cannot trust anything in life. Politics, social relationships, humans, reason, sciences etc. because in a way or another anyone can easily see schisms, changes, break-downs and many things in them. But the reason of their divisions is that they are humans beings and have free wills.

      3.- You quote Hans Denck? Every time that you do, I only laugh. Because what you do is pick and choose. Hans Denck has other quotes about the validity of the Christian faith, revelation, Jesus, God, the Church etc. Why you do not quote them? You won’t, because they do not suit your own agenda.

      4.- You have revisionist attitude and approach to what Denck means by the “inner Word.” And then, see this circular and empty argument. On the one hand, the Bible is not the infallible Word of God for you. It is a mere human product and you do not trust it. But you trust the authoritative power of reason. But according to you, this same reason(s) was not the one who wrote the Bible? Why then you have a problem with it when it comes to the Bible?

      5.- The inner Word, the illumination of the Holy Spirit told and is telling the Church for over 2,000 years about sins that are against the will of God, among them is the homosexual sin. Every sinner is welcome. He/she has to repent and make a decision to follow Christ, his Church and his Word. Period.

  • Debra B. Stewart

    Maybe the old story about the six blind men and the elephant is in order.

    “Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg. “It is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail. “It is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant. “It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant. “It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant. “It is like a solid pipe,” said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

    They began to argue about the elephant and every one of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one
    of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”

    “Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.

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