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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Dear, Dear Ervin

The following is a letter to Ervin Stutzman from my brother and Pink Menno co-creator, Luke Yoder.
The pic is of my mom and one of my sisters. Because the family that Pink prays together, stays together.
Image

Hi Ervin,

I wanted to express my ongoing sadness that the MC USA Exec. Board continues to find every opportunity to hold down and oppress when there are wonderfully prophetic voices that are showing us how we can live into a new reality.  I don’t have the words to express my disappointment that the Executive Board seems to believe that its role is to hold a false unity rather than celebrate a very real diversity.  This is an incredibly disappointing (and, ultimately, damaging to countless individuals who continue to be reminded that the Mennonite Church does not have enough love to accept and welcome them) response to Mountain States.

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RE: Elephants, a Call to Allies and Humans in the Mennonite Church

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:

  1. 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.
  2. I am not an elephant.
  3. I am not an issue.
  4. I am not a crucible time.
  5. 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.
  6. I am not even “homosexuality.”

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A LETTER TO MENNONITE CHURCH USA FROM A MEMBER

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 CHURCHWIDE STATEMENT ON DIVERSITY, POWER, & PRIVILEGE

Updated 5/7/2015

Introduction

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.

Action

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