Flawed but important

Jul 31, 2017 by

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Your headline, “Mennonite Church USA Makes a List,” aptly describes the results of the Future Church Summit: a 154-item, nine-page document summarizing wide-ranging discussions within 97 focus groups. Thankfully, the delegate assembly rejected the attempt by the Executive Board to elevate this list into a direction-setting document. Instead, the delegates expressed the hope that we at the grassroots will use it to “guide further discernment for living into God’s calling.”

As we thank our delegates for sparing us unnecessary troubles, let us as congregations and conferences also resolve to engage the FCS list with respect and anticipation. It reflects the input of nearly 700 brothers and sisters working face-to-face over a period of 14 hours. It gives us a rare window into how those committed followers of Jesus perceive our denomination and calling.

There is much to criticize in the FCS process. It used a methodology from corporate marketing and partisan campaigning, made it difficult for congregations to shape delegate input, deliberately amplified progressive voices and ignored our own spiritual discernment practices. These built-in weaknesses erode the credibility of the implicit direction in which the FCS list points — an activist Anabaptist buffet of choices in which Jesus-followers of varied flavors can participate freely.

Still, I hope we will take the FCS list seriously. What if we were to combine 1) the traditional practices of spiritual discernment and 2) the core stance of religious faith — humbly looking backward to ancient sources of wisdom, inspiration and redemption — with 3) a new openness to variety in the expressions of religious faith? As God is our help, we may find ourselves caught up in a surprising fusion of tradition with grace, the rigor of biblical teaching with the gentleness of mercy.

Berry Friesen
Lancaster, Pa.


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