A response to the letter from Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, found here.
To my dear Mennonite community,
I greet you with love in a time of profound searching and learning for all of us. I address you as a member, a humble servant of the Lord, and someone who fully supports the first Latina woman serving and leading this beautiful Mennonite Church which I love. May we move beyond isolated gestures, and fill the ranks of our leadership with many from marginalized communities – those without documentation, women, people of color, those with different abilities, different economic statuses, different education levels, different ages, and many other statuses I may be missing in my privilege.
I urge each of us, in the midst of the profound differences that help us learn and grow, to be able to love ourselves, and to listen deeply to our marginalized community members and step up in the ways asked of us. Let us embrace and live up to the call that Jesus gives to his followers in John 15. As Anabaptists, we are Christ-centered people, and we should focus on these words of Jesus. Jesus motivates his followers to love one another, to remain connected, to abide in love, just as the Father and the Son abide in love. May we be able to be communities of grace, hope and love to one another..
I am reminded that Mennonite Church USA exists because there are many things we can do together to make peace in our communities. This is the time to raise our eyes to the issue of LGBTQ welcome that is pressing our hearts as well as to connected issues – things like our community members of color calling for racially inclusive change, to the upcoming conference highlighting women’s voices in our theology, to the work of Iglisia Menonita Hispana, to the work of the Anabaptist Disabilities Network and more.
The Purposeful Plan has given us many important tasks for the church to engage. How could we not take the pain and passion of this moment as a guidepost in our journey, urging us onward in our work to make peace where there was oppression, power, and privilege? We have much work to do. Let us not turn away from each other’s pain and suffering. Instead let us support each other in love, even as Ruth did for Naomi. At Naomi’s moment of pain and sorrow, when she wanted to turn from the only family she knew to protect them from her bitterness and grief, Ruth declared her commitment to stay by Naomi’s side. So shall we stand beside the marginalized members of our community.
In my journey of faith, I have seen many signs of renewed energy in our church. I have seen churches being active peacemakers, and I have heard many testimonies of how God is at work in their lives. I’ve seen faces for whom the love manifested in the gospel is an urgent need, and I met leaders committed to work hard for Christ. Walking alongside Pink Menno and BMC, members of the LGBTQ and allied communities work to make peace for LGBTQ folks in the church, and work to be allies to all marginalized communities – willing to make peace where there was oppression, privilege, and power, even and especially when that privilege and power stems from us. We are preoccupied with keeping our ministries going and on growing as a faith community. That is the church living out God’s purposeful plan. That is the spirit moving among us.
Let me conclude with the realization that God has placed in my heart that God loves this church more than any of us can love it. Mennonite Church USA belongs to God, and God is taking care of us. Let us be lead by Jesus the peace-maker to be the peace-making church we are called to be.
I believe that God’s revelation has not stopped yet, and that God is yet to write many good chapters in our beautiful, yet young, Mennonite Church USA. Upon the birth of Mennonite Church USA, we all committed to stay connected to one another. I pray that we examine even this covenant relationship for oppression, power, and privilege to make peace from. After all, this relationship first belongs to God, and secondly to each other as members in our community.
Let us commit ourselves to diligently pray for direction and to seek the voice of God so that we might discern together “for such a time as this.” Meanwhile, we have a purposeful plan to accomplish here on earth.
With a loving heart, your ally in Christ,
Jennifer A. Yoder
Member of Mennonite Church USA
“The moment we choose love, we begin to move toward freedom.” – bell hooks