Church must offer redemption, not embrace judgment and spiritual violence
Apr 28, 2014 by Jennifer A. Yoder, For Queer Menno
How should Mennonite churches respond to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer? The feelings of entitlement to judge and the “rightness” of a heterosexual lifestyle that will rise up are strong, and they are hard to unpack and think about critically. Please pause, and pray, and breathe deeply when this occurs.
My decade of being a Mennonite out queer person making peace through social justice, practicing peacemaking to end sexual violence and advocate for survivors, working to end structural violence by providing access to health care to all people, advocating for people with mental health issues, and witnessing with existing queer communities and community members within the Mennonite Church provides me with some rich perspectives from which to converse with you, my community members living the heterosexual lifestyle. Continue reading
MC USA’s power-holders meet and gather, discern, hem, haw, and engage in thoughtful discussion with no particular end in sight. Individual conferences meet and write letters, agree, disagree, talk about leaving the denomination, struggle, worship together, find commonality, despair (or rarely delight) at difference.
We queer folks in the Mennonite church and allies for inclusion gather, support, write, lean in, take a breath, take a break, envision new paths, hug, plan, build.
At this moment I feel called to engage a particular voice within our community. Perhaps we can engage with each other and model for the broader church ways to agree and disagree in love. To call in, to lean in, to strengthen solidarity, support, and community. Let’s dive in.
Good afternoon, allies and humans of the Mennonite Church. I (a human who is queer) have a quick note, a “call to action,” if you will.
First, some facts:
- I am a human with a human life partner and a human (step/bonus/partner’s) son. In addition, members of my family such as my mother, brother, sisters, and father are humans.
- I am not an elephant.
- I am not an issue.
- I am not a crucible time.
- I am not a dilemma, a burden, a conflict, a problem, a discussion, a question, a challenge, a threat, or any other non-living, non-breathing thing, noun, verb, adverb, what-have-you.
- I am not even “homosexuality.”
Today, what I have to give is only support and love for my community harmed by church polity, exhausted from the violence of power, privilege, and oppression. Let’s hold each other up.
Here are some songs shared with me recently:
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. Continue reading
Mennonite Church USA has roots in sixteenth-century churches planted by what today we might call “radicals,” and was impacted and shaped by “social justice activists” and thinkers. Our church continues to grow and be enlivened by people who join us from many countries, backgrounds, races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, as well as other diversities and differences. As Christians, we believe we are called to welcome these seekers of church community in our congregations and communities, especially as our government fails to serve all but a privileged few, with harsh laws frequently punishing difference. Assumptions about identity make some people more vulnerable to political biases and discrimination than others. Our concerns about the status of peace and justice in this country and in this world relate to how people are treated based on race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, ability status, citizen status, religious identity as well as other statuses. We seek to join with the new civil rights movement happening all around us, galvanizing around the movement created by three Black women, two of whom are queer women: #BlackLivesMatter.
We reject our country’s mistreatment of people, repent of our silence, and commit ourselves to act with and follow the lead of all our marginalized community members regardless of any status.
MCUSA Executive Board has thought and prayed deeply about power and privilege. Prayerfully and humbly, every member of the MCUSA Executive Board will be stepping down, and will be replaced with a consensus-based collective composed only of members of the communities mentioned above, and the collective will remain open to marginalized communities we have overlooked in our privilege. Continue reading
So, I have a blog about internalized oppression in the works (hey, I saw your eyes glaze over! Stop that! It’s exciting stuff!).
However, some news came up, and at the risk of being a one-trick pony, I rewrote the Record Article announcing Goshen’s non-decision decision on the hiring policy.
BOARD TAKES STAND ON HIRING POLICY, DIVERSITY
When the Goshen College Board of Directors met this past Friday and Saturday, the hiring policy was part of their discussions. They decided it would be unethical if they did not make any changes and chose to continue the conversation at their next meeting, especially because channels of conversation are in full swing in a much larger context – the Mennonite Church itself.
You can read Response by Ervin Stutzman here, if you missed it.
Several days ago I noticed a flurry of activity – a letter signed by 150 pastors calling for welcome of LGBTQ folks, the Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA in response “earnestly desir[ing] that our church be faithful to scripture and God’s call,” articles about these developments, and comment section dust-ups. It seemed appropriate for me to acknowledge this flurry on behalf of my queer Mennonite self, and to make an initial response to the hopes and Menno-speak voiced within that flurry.
Whelp, for my first post, I think I’ll just introduce myself.
My name is Jennifer Yoder. I was raised in a big (4 kids, lots of cousins and other family about) Mennonite family in Archbold, OH. My extended family on both sides includes/included a whole lot of Mennonite college graduates (and one professor), a Mennonite pastor, a member of a Mennonite publication, and many a “helping profession” or social justice professional – and many others, just as awesome, of many professions.