The Executive Director of MC USA Wept

ervindumdumDear Ervin,

So sorry to hear about your weeping. Truly. It sounds like you’ve come to some very painful and difficult realizations.

I’m wondering though – did you mean to send this to everyone? Was this an unintentional blog post that was meant to be an e-mail? Perhaps you meant to send this to friends and family to ask for support in this awful time, when you’ve realized just how much harm and violence you’ve done, how much you’ve overseen, how much you continue to do.

That is completely understandable. Of course you’ll need that.

And don’t be embarrassed – we’ve all sent something to the wrong person or replied all by mistake. Usually it makes for a funny story later.

Just to be clear though – you weren’t asking queer folks to provide you with emotional support for your weeping? Nor the broader church? You weren’t looking for us to open up our arms and hold you while you cry? You weren’t seeking out sympathy or empathy or comfort or awkward back pats?

Because in the conversations I was a part of, seeking a response from the church, we weren’t looking for you to bring us your emotional burdens. Reading that sentence, do you see just how backward it is? We were looking for the historic peace church MC USA to condemn the violence against queer folks, to condemn Islamophobia in our queer names, to take accountability for MC USA’s theology, culture, and community practices that engender and enact hate and violence toward queer folks – especially and most of all queer People of Color, and to commit to concrete changes.

Do you understand the difference? Truly. It’s a question. Do you understand that this is a moment for you to turn to your family, friends, and community for your personal grief and pain? And it is a moment for you, in your role as Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA, to condemn violence, take accountability for your personal as well as the broader church’s role in it, and to name the ways the church will do better in the future.

Would you like to try again? We’ll be waiting.

Best,

J

Sexual Worthiness

I’ve been out of the blogging business (jk, it’s a nonprofit) for a while now. It’s hard to decide just how much to say about why that is. I can say this, however: it is deeply connected with healing from the many forms of sexualized violence I have experienced as a member of Mennonite Church USA.

As I re-enter the online world of Mennonite discourse, it’s interesting to find myself in the process of profound changes, and MC USA in the same old holding pattern I’ve been familiar with over the course of my thus far 33 years of life.

Mennonite people, most often men, are committing heinous acts of sexualized violence behind closed doors. Some are eventually caught. Then there is generally a Mennonite-orchestrated cover-up. Then there are attempts to prove that enough was done, and the survivor/s was/were hard to work with, and everyone tried their best, and it just didn’t work out, ok? And we’re really sorry! For real this time, and let’s all agree to do a better job next time. Then the hunkering down and the hoping it will blow over.

And, of course, I can’t leave out the moment when we pivot to: “And this is why we have to have the strict sexual boundaries of sexual activity taking place exclusively in the context of a cis-man and a cis-woman who are bound together in holy matrimony, preferably for the purpose of reproduction.”

And there we are, without ever speaking the words, queer folks and those committing heinous acts of sexual violence, all lumped together again as those outside Mennonite sexual boundaries.
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State of the Movement

Below is the address I gave at the Fabulous, Fierce & Sacred event at the end of November, 2014. The concept of brave spaces is not mine. To learn about Brave Spaces in-depth, check out this article.

My beloved community members. My queer folks. My gender queers. My lesbians, gay folks, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, trans folks, intersex, two-spirit, gender variant, androgynous, butches, femmes, studs, third gender, multi-gender, genderless, single folks, partnered folks, and folks in solidarity with us, those my limits have failed to name, and names we have yet to find together:

The state of our movement is sacred. The state of our movement is fierce and it is fabulous: look around you! Are we not fierce? Are we not fabulous? And the state of our movement is brave.

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Institutional Power and Mennonite Responses

Yesterday, I posted about EMU’s use of institutional power to erase and silence Christian Parks’ performance of Corpus Christi.

Previously, there was also an excellent in-depth article detailing the process and experience of that cancellation for Christian and for EMU by Howard Sherman.

As these pieces have made their way through the Mennonite world (and the rest of the world, but the Menno one specifically), there have been a number of commenters on Sherman’s piece and mine, as well as on FB in response to these pieces.

I wanted to share here Stephanie Krehbiel’s thoughts on some of these comments.

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In the play, Jesus is gay

What could cause a university to cancel public performances of a play portraying the life of Jesus, written nearly 20 years ago by multiple Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally? He summed up the play thusly for BroadwayWorld: “All men are divine. That is the simple, universal meaning of my interpretation of [Jesus’s] life.”?

The university in question is Mennonite school Eastern Mennonite University, and in the play Jesus is gay.
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Black Lives Matter

Ella’s Song: We who believe in freedom cannot rest.

“I mean, I read the books, I understood institutional racism, but I didn’t know what it felt like. Until I started listening to people with the assumption that I don’t know, I didn’t hear everything that I hear now. And now I can’t not do anything. And now I realize that this evil is impacting us all.” Reverend Kate Lore

It has been awhile since I posted, and it was my intention for my next post to be my contribution to the State of the Movement from Fabulous, Fierce, & Sacred. That’s still coming, but the Ferguson decision came like a sucker punch immediately following the conference. Instead, here are some of the resources (this is not meant as an exhaustive list) I’m spending time with as I process with my communities the ongoing violence of white supremacy. Be sure to find your local community responses to Ferguson, and connect with your local organizations and communities working for racial justice and an end to white supremacy.
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