So recently YAR has had introductions from the The Reluctant Christian and The Impossible Anabaptist. So in the spirit of things, allow me to introduce myself as The Unexpected Pastor (To Be). I say “unexpected” because I never expected that I eventually would work on my MDiv at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. I never expected that I would want to be pastor. And in the darkest days of my disbelief and disorientation, I never thought I would want to be a Christian. However, since I graduated from Goshen College six years ago, I’ve had these quiet tugs pull me into this direction. Is this God? Is this insanity? Is this proof that God has a sense of humor?
I live with my wife Maegan and the expected Baby Yoder in Baltimore. We attend North Baltimore Mennonite Church, which currently is experiencing a lot of change since our pastor retired at the end of December. I feel change is a good thing — we needed to shake up status quo. There are good people in this community, but there are a lot of problems and divisions as well. Like a lot of urban Mennonite churches, there is broad theological/political diversity in the congregation and we have to somehow find a way to get along together.
What else? I grew up in Berlin, Germany and Evanston, IL. I am an alum of Reba Place Church and was there from 1988 to 1995. Reba’s has had a significant impact on me and what I feel churches should strive for. We attended Reba’s 50th Anniversary last summer and I it felt good to reconnect with Reba’s vision.
I can be ornery and contrary. One of the things that I struggle with at EMS are the subtle pressures to conform to particular views on faith and the broader Christian church. I find that the seminary tends to underplay some of the “yucky” parts of Christian history — historical developments in faith movements and Church politics are taken on as face value. There is little attempt to problematize the checkered Christian legacy.
For example, my prof in my missions class, acknowledges the role that missions played in Western Imperialism, but I am not sure how it informs the material we are working through.
I find that the basic assumption at seminary is that the Church is “good” and the Bible is “good.” While I believe that aspects of the Church and Bible are “good,” they are also complicated and contradictory. The Church has hurt and abused; the Bible is not a perfect text. We need to find ways to acknowledge the bad or destructive aspects of both and hold them in tension with the “good.” I am concerned about power dynamics and hope that my ministry can help serve as a corrective to historical abuses of religious power.
Finally, according to my Meyers-Briggs personality test, I have a “fascination with the profane.” You’ve been warned.
I look forward to the future discussions.
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