As I reported in this post, I was a part of a conference that was held in regards to the Mennonite Church and their stance on homosexuality. It was located in Lansdale, PA at Grace Mennonite Church. There were about 200 people in attendance, and from what I gather, the feedback as been positive. Though, there has also been some negative feedback.
One of the biggest things that I loved about this conference was that finally, the Mennonite Church was taking action. One of the biggest things that some people didn’t like about the conference (those who attended and those who protested it) was that there was no room for dialogue. I want to address both reactions.
The negative one first:
The conference held no dialogue about the issues at hand: how does the Mennonite Church handle gays and lesbians, why is practicing homosexuality a sin, and why can’t they be ordained, received into membership, married, etc. This is a fair point. There was no dialogue – no room to “converse” points from each side.
However, to my knowledge, the Mennonite Church has been in dialogue about this issue since the mid-1980’s. In 1999-2000, just before Mennonite USA was formed, this issue rose to a head. Some churches pulled out of the Mennonite merger, because of the “homosexual issue,” and a new conference was formed (AMEC). Side note, the Mennonite Church I was a part of, helped start this new conference … when I think of being a Mennonite, I side with them.
However, despite the uproar among the churches, nothing was done. There was no “Affirming the Faith” conference … there was just more dialogue. Eventually, the issue was toned down and the Mennonite Church went on its way. Churches continued to struggle with gays and lesbians, churches still pulled out into the AMEC conference, or they became independent churches, or they formed new Mennonite churches that just switched districts. More dialogue happened … but no action was taken. The heart of the issue was never really addressed. And it seemed that no one wanted to address it either, because that would mean the church would have to make a decision … thus causing confrontation, and they weren’t ready for that.
So, yes, while this conference in Lansdale, did not offer up dialogue between those from both sides of the issue, as history has shown, the dialogue needed to end and action needed to be had. Which leads to …
The positive feedback:
I give a standing ovation to Grace Mennonite for taking the (long-overdue) step forward. The “gay issue” has finally moved from the conversation-table to the action-table. Finally, was there a place to not only take a stand but also a place to learn how to move in compassion towards the gays and lesbians within the Mennonite Church – and those outside of the Church walls.
The conference was soaked in Grace and Truth. Every speaker was compassionate, and yet did not waver from what scripture clearly spoke forth. One of the aspects I loved, was that each speaker didn’t just address “homosexuality,” they addressed every sinful person who considers themselves to be a Christian. Yes, the conference was about homosexuality, but what was shared wasn’t directly about homosexuality … it was about the Church and how Christ was calling all of us to live. More so, it was a conference for the Church on how to be the Church – especially towards those in the gay community.
You cannot please both sides of a debate – one side will always feel cheated by the other. But if truth is compromised for the sake of keeping “peace” between sides, then both sides are cheated … both sides end up loosing. At all costs, the Church must stand for Truth. In that, the Church must stand in Love … because Truth and Love go hand in hand. They are one in the same. “Affirming the Faith” taught us just that.