get your schism on!

There’s a lot of talk about wanting to be a church open to people who disagree. On the one hand that sounds like a great idea, on the other hand where does it end? How do we define ourselves as a church? Even assuming a model with more focus on central mission than fringe cases, how do you keep your mission strong while remaining somewhat democratic and having such divergent members? How do you keep it strong after, say, 500 years of people joining the denomination for no other reason than they grew up in it? What does it mean to be a “historic peace church” once you are left with only a minority in the church claiming that all war is sin (see the recent church member profile conducted by MCUSA). Who cares what we are historically, if we’re something different now?

Here’s the point:

If we believe in a church with differing voices, and are opposed to schism, why have a Mennonite church at all? Why not just add to the diversity of a mainline protestant denomination? Why not reunite with Catholicism to create the Ultimate Diverse Universal Christian Super-Church?

OR

If we believe there are things worth splitting over, and reasons to have a distinctly Anabaptist or even more distinctly Mennonite church, what issues are worth it? Why not split over ordination of women? Why not split over beliefs about war? Why not split over acceptance and support of GLBT people? These all seem like fairly important issues to me, much more so than coat buttons or the mustache or even child baptism. You wouldn’t include white-supremacists in a civil rights organization just for the diversity of opinion, so why include militants or homophobes in a peace church?

I can see the argument for going either direction boldly, and could stand behind both. What I don’t understand is a middle ground where we want to be a unique and special church without actually standing by anything unique or special, because that would be exclusive to someone else’s opinion. Let’s make a choice. Either the church is a place for everyone together despite our differences, in which case we are reneging on the entire Anabaptist movement and have some major unifying to do, or let’s start excluding people and splitting over important issues like the early Anabaptists did.

Instead we claim to be open to all various perspectives, including the ones that would exclude people. And, so as not to lose those “equally faithful brothers and sisters” who would exclude women and homosexuals (that would be exclusive!) we just go ahead and exclude women and homosexuals. This is another case in which being open to one group or opinion is itself being exclusive to another. Complacency in the face of injustice is consent with that injustice. Or, as MLK would say, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Despite our rhetoric to the contrary, we always seem to side institutionally with the more powerful group because of “tradition” or some other nonsense. Blessed are the meek, as long as they are straight, white and male.

I digress. What will it be? Intentional and clear exclusion? Universal inclusion? Or just try to keep any exclusion hush-hush and hope no one notices?

Comments (24)

  1. folknotions

    Eric,

    Just as a point of reference, was this the profile finding you were referring to?

    http://www.mennoniteusa.org/news/news/jan-march07/02_01_07.htm

    If it is, the results are pretty saddening. Only 61% identify nonviolence as something important to them?!?

    Talk about an identity crisis.

    “Why not split over ordination of women? Why not split over beliefs about war? Why not split over acceptance and support of GLBT people? These all seem like fairly important issues to me, much more so than coat buttons or the mustache or even child baptism.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I know we disagree about issues of how best to include or exclude folks, but I agree that if congregations, or parts of congregations, are not addressing these issues and it is important to folks in the congregation, then split is necessary.

    Schisms are what make the churches! Ecumenical dialgoue is always necessary but at a certain point you must divide based on these beliefs, as they are some of the most significant facing Anabaptist congregations currently.

    I could not be a part of a congregation whose pastor is not openly pacifist, foremost. I would work for reform within the church of acceptance of GLBT or women being fully ordained, but if it stood firm against these interests, I would have to consider leaving that church.

    If you don’t profess nonviolence, how are you any different from any other church that doesn’t identify as a peace church? 61% may be a majority, but it’s sadly low for a peace church.

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  2. eric (Post author)

    Thanks Folknotions, that’s the study I was referring to, though I was looking at the full report and don’t know if that’s available anywhere online. One of the questions is simply “Is war a sin?” I’m sure it will be online at some point. If anyone sees it or knows where to link to it, please do.

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  3. Skylark

    I’ve heard it said that “it is the goal of every Protestant to become a denomination unto himself.”

    Ouch.

    How do we keep from splitting, splitting and splitting until we no longer have enough people to do anything worth doing? I can worship God alone just fine, but a lack of community isn’t what God intended for the church.

    How long do you try to educate people about women, minorities, GLBTQ before you initiate a split? I’d hate to have us jump to splitting as a default because we don’t want to deal with people who disagree. Some people will certainly come around when they hear someone speak up.

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  4. joe

    i love how the first response is to split. why is it either/or? sort of a false dichotomy.
    how do we get away from “mennoniting” our way around tough topics and just splitting.
    i’d rather not talk about it, so i am going to leave this place. it is frustrating. we just had a class split over the book they were reading. never talked about it. never reasoned together. dont tell me that isnt the norm either. like i said, we would rather “mennonite” our way around tough issues than deal directly and talk about it.

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  5. Forrest Moyer

    A few challenging thoughts for myself and others on dealing with this tension: Don’t cut and run. Continue to witness from within, while respecting the discernment of the larger body. If people continue to speak prophetically from within the church, things will change eventually. Those who speak lovingly, boldly and patiently from within are those who shepherd the church into the future.

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  6. eric (Post author)

    Show me how it’s a false dichotomy. I’m not saying these are the only two options. I’m saying I think the middle ground isn’t working and isn’t honest.

    Why claim to be a “historic peace church” if that’s not what we are now? Why claim to have any differentiated set of beliefs, if we’re open to any set of beliefs? If we’re not, which are the beliefs we aren’t open to, and why those?

    I’m not proposing that we split without talking. I agree, that is passive aggressive and gets us nowhere. In fact, I’m not suggesting that we have to split at all.

    The question I’m not hearing an answer to is: If we make a point out of reconciliation and community within diversity, then why be Mennonite in the first place? Mennonite only exists because of people not working in the system.

    People left “the system” in order to form our church. Did they do the right thing? If not, should we rejoin the Catholic Church? If so, what makes infant baptism more split-worthy than loving our neighbors and enemies?

    It’s a serious question. Why Mennonite if we don’t like “Mennoniting our way out” and we don’t like splitting? Why not one universal Christian church? Why did the majority of our authors identify most strongly with the “Anabaptist” in our title according to an early poll?

    My sense has been that we respect our Anabaptist ancestors for standing up to a system they didn’t agree with and leaving it despite the consequences. Am I wrong? Why are the rules different for us now? Because that’s harder and it doesn’t feel good? We might make someone angry?

    That’s the most passive-aggressive response of any. Leave well enough alone. That’s the voice of the system and the people in power.

    I’m just asking for an honest mission statement from the church. Something people can stand behind. If not either/or, then what else? How do you combine them honestly without ignoring the issues? Be specific.

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  7. Forrest Moyer

    I appreciate the simple vision statement of Mennonite Church USA: “Vision: Healing and Hope.” Beyond that, the mission/values of MCUSA are pretty well reflected in the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (1995). These two together seem to form a “system” of sorts that most Mennonites feel they can get behind and work together from. There is also in MCUSA, I think, room for prophetic voices. Prophecy (calling/teaching?) that departs from the vision and confession is rightly treated with caution, but nonetheless heard patiently (at least I think that’s what we’re working toward). It seems the church has moved beyond schism as an intentional method of dealing with disagreement. I know I’m not being very specific here, but these are the thoughts I’m having. All of us have things that bother us in the church, potential reasons to split…but I find that for myself, there is a great deal of peace in yielding to community consciousness and maintaining a teachable spirit. I don’t need the angst of schism…I suspect it hinders spiritual growth.

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  8. Forrest Moyer

    How about respectful “give and take” in a spirit of community, where community consciousness holds authority over individual interpretation? In this scenario, individuals could respectfully and lovingly share divergent ideas, but agreed-upon principles would guide the community. After a while things change or blow over, and divergent individuals (who could have chosen schism) reconverge around newly-understood truth.

    Why be Mennonite, when the foundations of Mennonitism are schismatic? Maybe because centuries of division don’t heal overnight. I think working at ecumenism is a start–it gets us used to that fellowship which I’m sure will be made complete at the wedding supper of the Lamb.

    I’m surprised that I have so much to say about this topic…. Probably because I tend to be schismatic myself, and I’m trying to learn better ways to deal with differences. :)

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  9. Maria

    Forrest Moyer, I agree with your interest in respectful dialogue and we can certainly learn a lot from differing opinions. But what will be (or are) the “agreed-upon principles” that guide us? I think eric has a point that if we want to continue to define ourselves as a historic peace church we need to continue creating pacifist history by living the way of peace now. This ruffles (or will ruffle) some feathers, and that’s probably good. As has been mentioned in other threads, it’s pretty hard to have a community without some kind of center or boundary.
    With some issues, though, such as inclusion of GLBTs, those who take the stance of peace towards ALL people are in the minority. If we run off with our interpretation of Mennonism (or whatever), would we be too small to do anything worth doing, as Skylark says? There’s certainly something to be said for breaking away from a system that is inappropriate for our time. But by sticking it out and working from within, there’s a chance there will be less polarization and more moving ahead together (albeit more slowly) to reach that inclusion that we need so badly.
    Then again, confrontation is certainly not my forte, no matter how strongly I feel about an issue. I’m a compromiser through and through.

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  10. Forrest Moyer

    Maria, I’m content with saying that the agreed-upon principles around which we fellowship and work together are expressed in accepted vision and mission statements and confessions of faith, as I mentioned earlier. And these change over time. Some “agreed-upon principles” expressed in the 1963 Mennonite Confession of Faith were changed in the 1995 Confession, because new understanding/principles replaced or altered them. Other principles were reaffirmed. The same process will happen again, I imagine, next time the Mennonite Confession is rewritten. Beyond general Christian confession, which binds us to all Christians, these confessions (with other “agreed-upon” statements) seem to be “centers” or “boundaries” that help our Mennonite fellowship realize community. (Granted, I’m speaking from an “Old” Mennonite perspective. People with a background in the General Conference Mennonite Church may see this differently.)

    You’re right that there’s something to be said for breaking away from a system that’s inappriopriate for our time (and possibly for our values or morality?), but it seems that so often, years down the road, groups that had broken apart begin to long for unity with one another, often when the issues that divided have passed into history. Perhaps we could learn to negotiate amicable, loving partings/divisions that would allow portions of the church who disagree to more fully follow the calling God has for them. Then future reunion might not be so hard, or might even be expected and awaited.

    Is it possible to maintain boundaries, to bind and loose, while still preserving the unity of Christian love? Can a “schism” or division happen lovingly? I’d like to think that if a division must happen, among Christian sisters and brothers it should at least happen in love….

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  11. Skylark

    Forrest, I like your proposal that these divisions can happen lovingly and not be permanent.

    (The following is pieced together from many conversations from the past ten years.)

    I wasn’t part of my church 22 years ago, when a group at a more established Mennonite church decided to plant my church. That church wasn’t Conservative to the point of separating men and women, but its expectations were restricting them in ways they thought weren’t good. Part of the congregation supported their goals in leaving, and others were just glad to see them go, I’m told. Still, it wasn’t a nasty split like some. I don’t know if there was anything specific they did that made the split less bitter—that’d be something to ask them. By now, they may be considered OARs because the youngest of them are in their 40s.

    As far as the division not being permanent, I haven’t noticed the “mother church” being talked about disparagingly at my church. Both churches’ youth groups participated in Super-MYF activities when I was in high school. No idea what it’s like now. Some of my friends in the area young adult group go to the “mother church.” Sounds like I could ask them how they view my church and if there are still rifts to be mended.

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  12. Forrest Moyer

    Thanks, Skylark. That’s an encouraging story :) At my church (a large, old Franconia Conference congregation), one of the older brothers was a musician in a United Methodist church for years because his musical gifts and mission were not welcome in our Mennonite church of 50-60 years ago. Many years later, as an old man, he has returned to our congregation, where his roots lie, and his piano-playing is now given honor and appreciated by all. I can’t say if his departure as a young man was amicable or full of tension, but at any rate, we rejoice that whatever rift was there, a bridge has been built and relationship restored. What divided in the past no longer need divide.

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  14. jdaniel

    two related but somewhat random thoughts:

    how does MCC do it? they get support from seemingly every group (or at least a wide variety) with an anabaptist connection. is it because they’re not a church that meets on sunday?

    and, regarding the question of ordination of women in lancaster conference, keith weaver, conference moderator, said this in his address to the credentialed leaders and congregational representatives in march:

    Over the last weeks, I kept imaging what will be written in the 2121 LMC history book about these days. I keep thinking that we can decide that right now – one of two options:

    1. This whole experience could end up being reported in one short footnote, “They did it again! They encountered some differences and, once again, split up and went their separate ways, doing further violence to the Body of our Lord.”

    2. Or, it could be a whole chapter that tells an amazing story about a part of the Body of Christ that, by a grace of the Holy Spirit, found a way to live into the redeeming, restoring, and reconciling purposes of God to finally break a long history of splintering.

    Which will it be? A footnote on division or a story of reconciliation?

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  15. Katie

    jdaniel asks – “how does MCC do it? they get support from seemingly every group (or at least a wide variety) with an anabaptist connection. is it because they’re not a church that meets on sunday?”

    Well, one way they do that is to not hire openly lgbtq people or their more outspoken allies and by firing people if they come out or get outspoken. Just like the church, their unity is based on exclusion, which isn’t exactly unity in my opinion. Of course most of this is done through asking people to “sign a record of agreement confirming that they intend to comply with all policies as outlined in the MCC Policy Handbook”.

    This seems innocent enough, doesn’t it? Really it is a don’t ask, don’t tell policy (kinda like the military, interestingly enough). If someone is willing to sign their agreement and say they’ll live up to certain “lifestyle expectations” (whether they intend to or not) they are welcome to work for MCC as long as they shut up and stay in the closet. MCC is held hostage by their conservative constituency just like any other part of the church (who do you think quilts all those quilts, bakes all those pies, and does all the other work for the relief sales?).

    I served with MCC when I was 18 but I really doubt I would be welcome now. I sure couldn’t sign that statement now with any semblance of integrity. But that’s not them excluding me, is it? No, I guess I would be excluding myself for not agreeing with their “expectations.” That is how they “do it.”

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  16. jdaniel

    thanks katie. i’m ashamed that i hadn’t really thought about who MCC excludes.

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  17. Katie

    jdaniel, I’m glad I could help. If it is any consolation, most people don’t think about it unless it affects them or their loved ones (the joy of privilege). MCC has been doing if for over 30 years, just like every other Mennonite institution (except a handful of welcoming congregations). That is the really insidious thing about discrimination and exclusion. Once glbtq people and their friends and families have been treated poorly either formally or informally for so long, they usually just get fed up with it and quietly leave or if they are pushed out formally, they’re not around to witness to the wrong that has been done to them.

    That is part of the reason I try to be pretty out. That is why I’m trying to stay involved in the church…so I can work for change by being present. I’m doing things like writing on this blog, and going to San Jose as a delegate of my congregation, and serving on my church’s missions and services committee and volunteering and donating at the local MCC relief sale, and going to conference annual meetings. These are great opportunities to network and educate and to show that I haven’t given up on the church, even when it seems to want to give up on me. Maybe it is a little bit of Menno-pride (maybe even hubris) but I feel like since I grew up in this church, I have just as much right to be part of it as anyone. I’m not going to give up and leave just for my own comfort and definitely not for the comfort of those who want to discriminate against me. I also am not willing to give up on the church yet. I think the church can and should do better and I wouldn’t stay to try to make it better unless I actually cared about it, and I do.

    I’m also working more actively by working as a voluntary service worker for Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests.

    I would say a little shame is okay, but I hope you don’t stop there. Write a letter to MCC telling them what you think of their discrimination. Educate yourself on glbt rights in society and in the church. Find out what the denomination is doing and not doing. Find out what your congregation is doing if you have one. Start educating others and speak up when you have the opportunity. I’m willing to offer plenty of other ideas for you or anyone else who is interested and willing to get active.

    The thing is, the church is running out of time. It would be a shame if the church drug its feet behind society on lgbt inclusion for so long that when it finally got around to being welcoming, there wasn’t anyone around anymore to welcome. The relevancy and integrity of the church is at stake and it’s not looking good. The end result is a  known, it is just a matter of how long it will take and if the church will lead or follow.

    Sorry if I’ve gotten all soapbox-y and inspirational-y on you but I only have a little more of that. Maybe this seems trite or cliche but this reminds me of a quote from Martin Luther King Jr from his Beyond Vietnam speech. He wasn’t talking about lgbt issues but he did say something wise that applies in this situation.

    “We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood — it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, ‘Too late.’ There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: ‘The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.’ … If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

    Ok, I think I’m done for tonight. Sorry, that got long.

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  18. Skylark

    A tiny point of light happened this evening with regard to GLBTQ acceptance among Christians.

    I was covering the first meeting of an area Christian singles group in one of the towns on my beat. Only seven people came, but these things take time. The coordinator and several others were from a local Presbyterian church. Still, it’s a heavily Mennonite area, so I can’t imagine the local Presbyterians are light years more progressive than the local Mennonites.

    I’d talked with the coordinator extensively toward the beginning of the informal evening, but before I left I realized I had one more question for him.

    “Is this group just for straight people, or can gays and lesbians join, too?” I asked him.

    He paused, then said sure. He hadn’t thought about it before, but there’s no reason not to since the group is for everyone, he said.

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  19. Skylark

    For every tiny point of light, there’s someone running around with a big ol’ candle snuffer.

    At the end of my news story about this new singles group, I included a line about the organizer’s response to my question. Today I got a call from another person I met there, an older woman who said she was there not so much to find a spouse but to get out among people and enjoy life. In her voicemail message, she was absolutely livid I included that line. She’d called her pastor and her son to make sure they knew she “would never be involved in anything like that, how disgusting” and I should never have said that, she said.

    Heh. Way to shoot the messenger. I suppose she’d just rather not know who might disagree with her on the subject? Hopefully the organizer won’t cave in, but if he does, I suppose I’ll have another story to write… :-(

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  20. Katie

    Skylark,

    It is pretty amazing how much people get their shorts in a twist over this. And you were just writing an article reporting on an event. Seems pretty irrational doesn’t it?

    I hope the organizer doesn’t cave either, that would set a precident that the lgbt community is expendable in order to “keep the peace” and that people can get what they want just by making a big fuss. I think that is holding the church hostage and it happens all the time. I would also see that as an act of violence. sad.

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  21. Nevin

    Great post, Eric—this is a subject which I have thought a lot about in the past too. Honestly, I’m not really sure where I come out on it, although I’m not too keen on either becoming a “church of one” or forming one universal mega-church. It seems to me that schisms are never, strictly speaking, a good thing, but that they may sometimes be necessary. I would tend to err on the side of not breaking off, although it may well be that since the whole church errs on that side, it becomes weak and impotent. As others have observed, though, we are liable to split over something now and regret it in the future. Not only is the question of what is actually worth splitting over is of course a difficult one, but then comes the question of what the split will actually accomplish, and what our motivation is in splitting. If schism is necessary on some matter, how do we accomplish it without becoming high and mighty ourselves, condemning all those warmongers/homophobes/what have you. One of the reasons I’m not so big on schism, even on matters I feel strongly about, such as nonviolence, is that I am all too aware of the difficulties of making definitive statements about any theological or ethical issue. My past two years in college have given me a lot more respect, for instance, for the just war theory, and its adherents. Two years ago I was a rather self-righteous pacifist with a general disdain for anyone who would suggest that war might sometimes be necessary. My beliefs haven’t changed that much, but my attitude has (or at least, I’d like to think it has), and I no longer view just war theorists as simply warmongers who don’t have as good an understanding of the gospel as I do. These are difficult ethical issues, and there are good reasons that people come out at different places than we as Anabaptists necessarily do. The same goes for homosexuality or whatever else. Indeed, with the latter I clearly do not have the same perspective as most of the bloggers on this site, and I must confess that the thought of splitting “over acceptance and support of GLBT people” seems ridiculous to me. I wholeheartedly support working against homophobia within the Church, although I might have a different definition of that than some, but sexuality in general is so peripheral to Jesus’ teachings that it seems ludicrous to split over it, whichever side of the issue one is on. Pacifism is one thing I could see splitting over, as I do believe peace to be absolutely central to Christianity and to Christ, and I see great value in being a “peace church.” On the other hand, I am quite apprehensive about excluding non-pacifists, for the reasons outlined above. Somehow one must maintain a balance between keeping a firm identity and welcoming everyone. How should we do that, practically speaking? I don’t really have a good answer.

    Another thing. You ask, Eric, how we keep the Church “strong after, say, 500 years of people joining the denomination for no other reason than they grew up in it?” This is a good question, and one that touches on another point to remember in regards to what the Church is and isn’t. While we tend to speak of the Church as—ideally, at least—a body of people who have committed themselves to living lives served in submission to Christ, in reality it is a very different structure. It is, to an extent, a community of like-minded believers, it is also a cultural institution. As you note, the Mennonite Church has been around for five centuries. For many who grew up in the church, faspa and borscht are just as “Mennonite” as nonviolence and adult baptism. Mennonite jokes tend to center not around doctrinal issues (sans the old trepidation about dancing) but around Mennonites being “cheap.” The point is that there is a lot more to being Mennonite than affirming pacifism, believer’s baptism, and whatever other doctrines. Now, on the one hand, it is quite unfortunate when people see cultural traditions that don’t really have anything, strictly speaking, to do with following Jesus as more central to Anabaptism than, say, nonviolence. Moreover, we certainly don’t want to start excluding people—intentionally or unintentionally—because of cultural differences. But on the other hand, I don’t think we really want to throw away these cultural traditions either. That is one problem, at least, both with splitting more and with rejoining the Catholic Church. In the real world, people are connected through family, ethnic, geographical, and cultural ties, and we can’t just group different like-minded Christians into different denominations. How do we respect the cultural aspects of being Anabaptist while still maintaining an emphasis on those theological and moral issues which are important to us?

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  22. lukelm

    Hi again Nevin,
    You wrote a number of posts that touch on the LGBT acceptance issue. I was debating whether to respond to all the posts in one comment or to spread them out to the various threads – I decided on the latter, but they could also easily all fit under the “is it really a sin” thread.

    You’ve raised a number of connections to the debate on acceptance of GLBT people and have, I think, done a very good job of showing your thinking/perspective at this particular moment in your life, attempting to stake your place in the middle ground here, where you continue to live out Christ’s love to everyone, acknowledging where you may still be unsure of things or where you might be wrong/incomplete in your thinking. Yet several things about your posts lead me to think you don’t have any familiarity with the real human cost of the church’s status quo on this issue. In your post on the schism thread, you say

    I must confess that the thought of splitting “over acceptance and support of GLBT people” seems ridiculous to me. I wholeheartedly support working against homophobia within the Church, although I might have a different definition of that than some, but sexuality in general is so peripheral to Jesus’ teachings that it seems ludicrous to split over it, whichever side of the issue one is on.

    Do you really think that this issue is about one side wanting to believe something about sexuality and the other side wanting to believe something else? If that were only the case, this would be as small of a debate as its subject matter would seem to actually warrant. This debate has to do with the fact that individual people – many of whom have grown up in the church their whole lives, dedicated much of themselves to the church, and are as sincere as any other person in their desire to follow Christ and be a member of his body – are kicked out of the church because of their sexuality (namely, because they are drawn to a relationship/partner with someone of the “wrong” gender.) And then entire congregations of people who have journeyed with these individuals for years are kicked out because they refuse to carry out the kicking out. Do you really get that? This is not about a disagreement over sexuality. If one side wanted to believe one thing and the other side wanted to believe another this really wouldn’t matter at all. This is about one side deciding that people who grew up in the church, entire families, entire congregations, are going to be thrown out – discarded – because of sexuality. When are congregations ever KICKED OUT of a conference? When does that ever happen? Only over sexuality – over something so peripheral to Christ’s message that you (rightly so) consider its seeming centrality to the Christian message “ridiculous.” Radical inclusion, especially of the marginalized in society, calling every human to be a member of the body of Christ, refusing to discard anyone – does that now sound like something kind of central to Christ’s message?

    Really, I don’t think any gay Christians are all that worried about whatever some official church paper says about homosexuality. They’re worried about some hand from some on-high church institution reaching down and removing them from their church community (or just removing the community wholesale.) LGBT Christians want to have the space in the church to work out their own faith, listen to God’s voice, hear what God is truly calling them to – yes, even to understand where God is calling them to sacrifice and to suffer. Yet we have a church that says, no – there are any number of things we can tolerate – but you are not allowed to stay here. You’re out, and anyone who speaks up instead of just watches is out too. Ridiculous is indeed the only word applicable to such a status quo – but “ridiculous” does not apply to those who find this practice so antithetical to ths possibility of taking Christ’s words seriously that they would split over it.

    For some of us, to schism or not to schism isn’t even a choice. We’ve already been “schismed” against our will (they used to call it shunning), and so have some of the people who have wanted to support us.

    Reply
  23. Nevin

    I fear I am getting typecast. I appreciate your response, Luke, but you’ll understand if I’d rather not offer another extended rebuttal on an issue which really is not one which I want to define me on this site. I don’t even like being viewed as “that pacifist,” even though that’s a belief I feel quite strongly about. Not to say that you are viewing me as “that guy who believes homosexuality to be wrong,” or what have you, but seeing as the one response to my post in this thread picks up on that little bit which was really incidental to the overall things I was saying, I think you can see where it might at least come off that way. I wish I hadn’t even brought it up in this thread. I suppose it’s my own fault for continually bringing the subject into my posts. Still, just to clarify my position, I’ll offer a brief response. Firstly, you’re undoubtedly right that I don’t really understand the human cost of the church’s actions (or lack thereof) on this issue—I doubt that I ever can, not being gay myself. But I think I’ve failed to be clear in stating exactly what I meant about the “ludicrousness” of splitting over this issue. I wholeheartedly agree that it is ludicrous that LGBT Christians are kicked out of the church because of their sexuality, and that is what I meant to convey with “whichever side of the issue one is on”—although it’s true that I was talking specifically about splitting, shunning or what have you could go in there just as easily. What I don’t like, though, is having something like the Metropolitan Community Church which builds its identity off of something that, as I said, is quite peripheral to the gospel. Maybe it is regrettably necessary because of the remarkably bigoted and, frankly, stupid approach much of the Church is taking to this issue, but even if that is the case (and I’m not convinced that it is), I still think that it’s wholly unfortunate that it should come to that. I’m not claiming to know the ins and outs of church politics or to have a firm grasp of what is always appropriate in terms of splitting, shunning, schisming, and what have you. I’d just like to see more churches defining themselves on things that I actually find to be central to Jesus’ message.

    Reply
  24. DanL

    Eric,

    I confess I didn’t read all the comments here. I just came upon this post as I was looking through past ones.

    I just wanted to quickly say I appreciate this post. I’m living in Lancaster at the moment, in a conference that is not supporting the ordination of women, and sexuality is a long way down the road. What you said couldn’t be more relevant for churches like the one I go to- where we are firmly opposed to conference decisions but are trying to mantain some sort of psuedo unity. I think we need to start asking who is exluding who? Are we excluding the gifts of women to mantain the unity of power amongst white men? Whose community is this anyway?

    Anyway, I think you are right on.

    Reply

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