Mennonite Church USA has roots in seventeenth-century churches planted by what today we might call “radicals” and “social justice activists” from Europe. 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 reject our country’s mistreatment of people, repent of our silence, and commit ourselves to act with and on behalf of all our 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. Our first collective member is Carol Wise of Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Interests, and she’s speaking with potential members from African American Mennonite Association, Iglesia Menonita Hispana, and the Anabaptist Disabilities Network to begin. Their first effort will be filling out the collective with more members. Those stepping down will be available to the collective to provide information about past procedures, solely at the discretion of the collective.
The Bible offers us some valuable insights about welcoming strangers, which is often how we frame anyone different from us. “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do [the stranger] wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love [the stranger] as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt…” (Leviticus 19:33, 34). We affirm that God has called us to welcoming, because all of us are sojourners (Exodus 23:9, Deuteronomy 24:17, 18). We believe that when we welcome “strangers,” we welcome Jesus (Matthew 25:35).
In the United States
We may not realize it, but our nation’s laws are structurally oppressive. Laws police our bodies in ways that oppress many and privilege few, and that hurts us all. To name only a few examples, welfare and healthcare laws are designed by people who will rarely or never need those systems, leaving out the voices of those the laws actually affect. It is the same with laws impacting poverty, with laws affecting those who have experienced violence, with laws impacting people without documentation, and a plethora of others. Indeed, many of the laws that govern our bodies are not ostensibly about race, abilities, gender, or other status, yet they deeply negatively impact people in the communities.
In our current system, our government’s policies lead us to view “strangers” as a threat to our safety, comfort, and economic security.
In our congregations
People who are part of the communities above are members of many Mennonite Church USA congregations. People who are members of our churches face a society whose policies and practices discriminate against them and their families. People in these communities are often more deeply affected by poverty, housing issues, healthcare issues, interpersonal violence, and other issues at the heart of Mennonite values. For too long our church leaders have mimicked the governmental structure of the United States and represented a privileged group, with token efforts of inclusivity, while still making decisions about marginalized groups without including their voices in a meaningful way.
We affirm individuals and churches that are already working against oppression and privilege and toward peace and justice. We affirm those who are speaking to the government about our nation’s unjust policies. We affirm the church’s work with anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, anti-stigma, anti-xenophobia, and all peace and justice work while we acknowledge that much more work remains. We also affirm the church’s support of agencies that are addressing the roots of inequality, which causes people to suffer. Because of our nation’s abundance, because God has called us to welcome the “stranger,” and because of the richness that all people bring to the Mennonite Church USA, we commit ourselves to action at the direction of and with our marginalized community members.
We invite Mennonite Church USA congregations to the following actions:
- Listen, listen, listen – and then act. Take action based on the requests of the communities themselves.
- Immediately cease all punitive actions in our conferences, and wait for further actions and words from the collective.