Thursday, March 19, 2015

"We’ve just been obnoxious and stuck around anyway"

Emma Green at The Atlantic, writing about the Allegheny Mennonite Conference debating the status of LGBT persons.  This is a terrific article: it adds to my understanding of the Mennonites, and it is a great case study of how these issues are playing out in American denominations.  No easy answers are offered.  On principle I side with the progressives, but I respect the traditions and heritage that the conservatives are defending.  I also like the audio clips.

My title here is taken from a quote by the pastor of the Mennonite congregation in Hyattsville, MD.  It was the first church in its conference to accept openly gay members, and the conference yielded to the congregation's wishes in the beginning.  As Hyattsville's identity as LGBT-affirming became stronger, it began sending gay members as delegates to the regional meetings, and it was then that the conflict emerged: Hyattsville was placed on probation, its voting rights suspended, its pastor's ordination reviewed. 

You'd think the Hyattsville group would take a hint at this point.  But they didn't; they kept attending meetings, "obnoxiously" making themselves visible if officially powerless.  This year things came to a head: the limbo of probation could not be sustained. Hyattsville won the vote to be restored, but by the narrowest margin.  As a consequence, three other congregations withdrew.

Part of the legacy of the Reformation is that some issues are important enough to split over....

Another choice quote -- One conference delegate, a gay man and Hyattsville member, is confronted with people who quote the Leviticus verse calling same-sex relations an abomination.

But Miller said he tries to ignore them. “I don’t react very much any more—maybe an eye roll. Anything that biblical writers were addressing had nothing to do with modern same-sex couples,” he said. “Some people’s whole focus about gay and lesbian relationships is all about sex—thinking below the belt, and that’s not the totality of what our life together means.”
 That's a great, succinct response -- painfully arrived at.