PROLOGUE TO CONFLICT FATIGUE
I write in the midst of national denominational conflict. I just returned from three days of emotionally intense denominational process from Mennonite Church USA’s Constituency Leadership Council, as a representative for Ohio Conference.
The Constituency Leadership Council has become the “Elders” or the “deacons” of the denomination. It is within this body that the denomination receives the feedback in terms of direction for our denomination.
Presently we continue to be divided in our responses toward the LGBTQ community. However, I continue to find hope and signs of God’s kingdom coming in the midst of this group. I have never before experienced such respectful and open dialogue amongst people who do not agree.
It is within the context of worship and prayer that our denomination continues to move along amidst brokenness. At the same time, tomorrow begins two days of our Annual Conference Assembly for Ohio Conference which is expected to be an intense time of conversation around tables pertaining to the future affiliation of Ohio Conference with Mennonite Church USA.
This conflict ultimately pertains to our denomination’s lack of a “stance” toward the LGBTQ community.
The denomination strongly desires to maintain relationship and community dialogue, however there are many within our denomination who do not value such a posture. There is a strong voice within Ohio Conference in particular that says that we should take a strong traditional stance against the acceptance of LGBTQ relationships.
It is from within this context that I am seriously struggling with fatigue in general, and the fatigue having to argue one way or another.
RESPECTING THE CONTEXT
I have to be honest, I am having a very difficult time speaking critically into a context and process in which I am not fully engaged. Perhaps that is one reason I have been asked to be a model of respectful conversation.
I think we live in a “bumper sticker” mentality kind of world, where we can too easily question authority or give our advice without the context of relationship, history or without the risk of accountability.
I believe that critique must always belong in the context of community and relationship.
Because of that I highly value the role relationships and community played in both processes held by Eastern University and Sammamish. I think what I highly respect from both processes was the ability to bring both sides together to do intentional and longer processed work.
Again, the beauty of both of your processes was in your ability to bring people from across the spectrum together to dialogue in order to better understand one another, which it sounds like the community became more important than the “stance.”
I find the fullest and most beautiful example within both processes was the ability for people from both “sides” of the spectrum of responses being able to maintain and grow relationship regardless of opinion and that in the end the health of the community was the highest good. And by that I mean that if one member of the body is hurting, the whole body is hurting.
I believe it is this way of being community that is a sign of God’s new covenant in Christ. If we, the Church, are to be the sign of the new covenant, God’s new people pointing toward the Kingdom of God, we have to be able to exemplify a new way of behaving. We have to be so intriguing to the watching world that they want to ask questions and hopefully be inspired to join along.
LIVING INTO INCARNATION
I think the most difficult aspect of these conversation is in that we cannot respect the context of others.
I will never fully understand our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, because I am not a part of their community. I will never fully understand my Eastern or Sammamish brothers or sisters for the same reason, but I can recognize that Christ’s gospel is incarnational and should always fully represent within its context.
I think the fullest of what we are called to do as a community of Christ is to pour ourselves out on the behalf of others, to regard ourselves and our positions as less than our own. If each person could live in such a manner we would be able to exemplify an alternative to the polarized world we live in. This is the mission we are called to.