Change

Some Thoughts About Reforming the Church

This is in response to a discussion on “A Platform for MCUSA”. http://young.anabaptistradicals.org/2009/04/09/a-platform-for-mcusa/
I got to thinking about something there and it got so long, I decided to post it seperately.

I suppose pretty much everyone on this forum is interested in reforming the church. Perhaps we don’t all agree at exactly what this reform looks like, but we agree that it must be done. There is a lot of talk here, but little action. It is time to make some changes. (more…)

Search for next Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA

Given all that we’ve talked about here, maybe there are some opinions on what the next Executive Director should do? Who it should be? How they should act? What salary (if any) they should be paid?

This is a chance to weigh in to the process. The search committee is consulting far and wide across the Mennonite church. Feel free to add your voice in the comment section below. (more…)

Recession Revolution

This is part of a discussion on the PNMC Peace And Justice Forum:

I think it is time for the church to reconsider its politics.. I’m not advocating that we all try to get elected or take over the government necessarily. But I do think we might be entering a 1930’s scenario where if we think things have been bad for the middle-class and poor through the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I know I’m going to hear it from those who like to keep Jesus out of politics (and I do still harbor many healthy anabaptist political hesitations myself) but I’m becoming equally angry with a church that seems more interested in building new administrative centers and benefiting from our MMA retirement portfolios (well, up until 6mo. ago at least), but seems less interested in walking the neighborhood, asking how people are doing and searching for real ways to bring hope and healing to those who know first hand what it feels like to search for scraps beneath the “master’s” table. I’ve recently been inspired by reading about church leaders of the 1930s who searched for ways to move beyond insular spiritualism to both care for the poor AND passionately advocate for significant social change. I wonder if the coming revolt might need some committed nonviolent Mennonites who can help keep it nonviolent.
-Matt F.

I think, Matt, that you’re barking up the wrong tree. I feel I can say this as a person who is deeply involved in my communities here in Portland. I personally think that the governments and corporations and banks are so full of their own self interest, especially in maintaining whatever status quo there is, that the system itself is unreliable. I believe that if we as Christians took over the system, then we would do no better than those who hold it now (or previously). Part of the problem is the structure of the system itself, whether that be the U.S. government, capitalism, the banking system, or modern labor being controlled by large corporations. What is needed is a complete breakdown of the systems– which we will get when Jesus returns. (more…)

Amish for Homeland Security

I haven’t read Shane Claiborne’s book Jesus for President yet, but I borrowed the title of this post from one of the chapters.  This post actually has little to do with the Amish or homeland security, but I wanted to point out two interesting items shared with me by a friend from church.

The first is a blog entry by Greg Boyd (who is mentioned in a previous YAR post) entitled, A Word to My Mennonite Friends: “Cherish Your Treasure!”. Just let’s not let it go to our heads.

The second is a segment from American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith (R) called Evangelical Politics: 3 Generations which features Charles Colson, Greg Boyd and Shane Claiborne.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this segment and would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

“We are the agents of our own change” – Arthur Mutambara

Cross-posted from As of Yet Untitled

This week Zimbabwe has wrestled its way back into the news with reports of over 600 dead of Cholera and as many as 60,000 cases feared in coming weeks. Inflation is so high that at restaurants you pay before the meal because the food will cost more when you finish. Unpaid soldiers are looting and rioting in the streets.

On Monday I was part of a gathering to hear from Arthur Mutambara, the leader of the smaller faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), one of two opposition parties currently in negotiation with the Zanu PF, the governing party. On September 15, the two parties signed a power sharing agreement that, if ratified, will make Robert Mugabe president, Morgan Tsvangirai (leader of the larger MDC faction) prime minister and Mutambara deputy prime minister.

Mutambara sees the power sharing agreement as the only path forward for Zimbabwe. In a country deeply traumatized by the violence before the June 27 election, a coalition government, Mutambara said, would offer the stability for a national healing process, a return to economic stability and could oversee the process for fair elections.

"We cannot wish away Mugabe," Mutambara said. "He has the presidency in his hands and the power that goes with it." The economic crisis alone is not enough to topple Mugabe and the country is far too traumatized for an uprising, violent or otherwise.  It very painful to imagine an election, let alone a free and fair one. In any election held now, traumatized voters would re-elect Mugabe.

(more…)

The Trouble with Thanksgiving: A Reflection by Nekeisha

Thanksgiving makes me nervous.

For years, I’ve gotten a sinking feeling in my stomach as the month of November draws to a close and this day looms. On the one hand, Thanksgiving is about joy and gratitude. It is a time when I travel to see family and friends, welcome a few days of rest and look forward to the holiday season. In my mind, I know it is a good thing to have a day where the sole emphasis is to give thanks to God for all God has done. I also appreciate the opportunity to celebrate all my loved ones do and are to one another.

And yet Thanksgiving reminds me of a beautiful but altogether itchy sweater. Sure it looks good on the rack in my closet. It is slimming, well-made, gorgeous color—everything you could hope for in a sweater. But if I put it on I’m guaranteed to spend the whole day tugging, scratching and feeling downright uncomfortable. Try as I might, I can’t shake that weird feeling about that good ole holiday. It gets to the point where weeks in advance I’m trying to come up with other things to say besides “Happy Thanksgiving.” And since “Happy Day Off” doesn’t cut it I go ahead and mutter the greeting anyway, wheels still turning for a suitable substitute. (more…)

What happens in church on a Thursday night when you are not looking.

The church basement’s cinder block walls radiate the cold. Coffee permeates the air. Two dozen people or so sit at 8′ X 3′ wooden folding tables, set up in a circle, eating cake and drinking the aforementioned coffee. Another dozen or more sit at chairs placed around the room. My friend, we’ll call him Brian, sits at the front, the Serenity Prayer scrawled on a plaque on his right.

God, Grant me the serenity,
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

This is an A.A. meeting.

Brian is celebrating one year. He is chairing the meeting, which means he gets to tell his story, speak however long he likes, and call on any member he sees fit to call on. Before any of that can begin, though, the various “officers” read off various lists of A.A. “rules”, “codes of conduct”, and other bureaucratic regulations. You would think these to be many considering A.A. has a reported 1,867,212 members worldwide with 106,202 meetings.

To put this in perspective A.A. is about the same size as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and larger than the Assemblies of God in the USA. (more…)

Why I Don’t Vote

I just want to say at the onset, that I am not really an evangelist about not voting. But I am tired of people telling me that I am immoral or unpatriotic for not voting. And given that some have spoken of the presidential election on this site, I figure I can give my “third way” point of view:

1. The system of choosing leaders requires the leaders to boast about themselves, to be self serving. But Jesus tells us to have our leaders be humble, to serve others, not themselves.

2. The only people who gain the highest offices are those of the rich elite. We do not live in a democracy, where the people have a voice, but a plutocracy, where only the wealthy have a real vote to change the country.

3. Voting is the least effective of all political action. Our ideas would be heard much more by the world if we act out the life of Jesus, or if we write people in the government, than if we vote.

4. There is not a single candidate that is concerned about the issues Jesus is concerned about. Not one has a platform about loving our enemies. Not one has a platform about giving to the poor. Not one is concerned about living out a radical life-transforming faith in God. Although some talk about health issues, no one is really concerned about healing the sick. (more…)

When will they update the 12 marks?

In class we’ve been studying a lot about New Monastics. Lots of good stuff that you can read about it in many places, some even on this blog. Since it’s a fluid movement, I was wondering when they are going to update, change, or adjust their 12 marks. I have some comments on a few, and I’m sure others do as well, so when is the next conference? Or do we just email somebody like Johnathan W-H?

I agree (in thought and action) with a lot of what is said in the 12 points and what I see in the daily lives of the community around me and my interaction with some of these folks. But my particular question is spurred with regards to mark 1, which says that they relocate to abandoned places of Empire.” Some think that I am doing the “new monastic thing…” I’m not sure about that, but I do know that I am in my home area…and it fits many of the descriptions, but it’s not abandoned by Empire. Or do they mean that it’s abandoned by Empire because no (or hardly any) white people live in the area? There is a beautiful organic culture here and I don’t want to discount that by saying it’s abandoned. I think it is important to affirm the initiative of persons rather than possibly falling into “white savior” complexes again. I see that many New Monastics are very aware of race and class dynamics, so I’m hoping that mark 1 can be articulated in a more antiracist way. (more…)

Leviticus 3:16b “All fat is the Lord’s.”

Hi Friends!
It is time for the 2nd preach-off between Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Goshen College. The first one was in 2006 (organized by some YARs) and it was very successful.

For the preach-off, folks will give three-minute sermons on scriptures they’ve received 24 hours prior. People can vote with their donations, and a panel judges will give humorous feedback.

The donations benefit up and coming young adult leaders from the Global South by giving them a full scholarship to attend the Global Youth Summit (July 10-12 in Asunción, Paraguay).

In addition to the fun of preach-off, we realize that the lives of many people in Northern Indiana have been enriched by connections with the global church. So this event will be interspersed with short testimonies from people in the area, celebrating these ties as we raise funds to support the next generation of Anabaptist leaders from around the globe.

So, YARs…we’re collecting crazy passages. If you know of one, please write the reference as a comment. Your help is appreciated…and if you’re in Northern Indiana at 6pm on Dec. 6 you are warmly invited to materialize and participate!

Ministry to the Outcast

In every society there are the rejected that Jesus is intensely interested in assisting. But the church often is in the place of judging the outcast at the side of the rest of society. Below is my vision, based on Jesus’ ministry, of how the church should look when they are responding to the outcast as they should. These are also the principles on which my ministry is based:
All true ministry has the goal of leading a people to faith in Jesus as Lord and living that out in their lives.

Identification—I Cor. 9:19-23
Some within a congregation that will take on the role of an outcast in order to reach them. Get rid of the separation between the “server” and the “served”.

Offer to be Family—Mark 2:15-17; Luke 15.
Total love of the “sinner”, and an offer to partake in acceptance. This is the major felt need of the outcast—social acceptability. To offer acceptance is not to have the outcast feel that acceptance—this only comes with an acceptance of forgiveness and inclusion in the community. This sense of family cannot be created by a program, but one can use a program as a base-point to increase this acceptance.

Listening—James 1:19
You cannot meet anyone’s needs until you know what they are. Get past the first hurdles in order to discover their real needs (e.g. no one needs money, money is a means to meet the real need)

Benevolence
Trying to meet their needs, but doing so with dependence on God. Those with resources, give what you have (Luke 12:33); those without, pray for healing (Matt 10). To give what we have, may be to offer what God alone has to give, instead of the petty resources we have (Acts 3:1-8). (more…)

Jesus for President: An Ecumenical Campaign

I wrote a report for the office of Interchurch Relations (MCUSA) on our district’s sponsorship of the Jesus for President campaign stop in North Carolina. You can read part of it below.

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The Jesus for President campaign came to Raleigh, N.C. on July 22nd. Chris Haw, Shane Claiborne, and their crew took the stage at 7pm. People started filling the seats at 6:30, anticipating the acclaimed campaign. For two and a half hours, Shane and Chris spoke about Jesus and politics to an attentive crowd. Although our Mennonite district took the lead role in bringing them to town, we were a marginal presence. With no money spent on advertising, we drew around 650 people to a midweek event. Duane Beck, pastor of Raleigh Mennonite Church, had the idea of inviting the Jesus for President tour to make a stop in our area.

The district pastors (including myself) enthusiastically approved. With the support of our Eastern Carolina District of the Mennonite Church, we explored our ecumenical networks to form a coalition of sponsors. Pastor Spencer Bradford of Durham Mennonite Church approached the North Carolina Council of Churches, which gladly agreed to help sponsor the event. Since our Mennonite churches have small worship spaces, Duane Beck found a partnership with First Baptist Church in downtown Raleigh which agreed to host the campaign. Though the Mennonites did most of the legwork, various churches came together to bring the Jesus for President crew to town.

People of different Christian traditions came to hear Chris Haw and Shane Claiborne preach the gospel of Christ’s peace. In many respects, the evening felt like an evangelistic crusade. One member of my congregation even said that it reminded her of the Campus Crusade rallies she attended as a youth. (more…)

Jesus for President Report

As I reported to ya’ll a while back, our Eastern Carolina District of MCUSA brought Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw to town in July for a Jesus for President campaign stop. Laura Graber Nickel from our church in Chapel Hill, N.C., wrote a news piece on the event that ran in The Mennonite this past week (look here). But the editors took out a lot of good stuff. So, with Laura’s permission, below is her full report on the event. Enjoy.

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On a July evening in Raleigh, NC, every one of 500 seats in the First Baptist Church auditorium was occupied. The 200 people without a chair leaned against the walls and sat on the floor. Next door at Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, another crowd gathered to cheer their candidate for president. But back in the church auditorium, through storytelling, song and worship, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw described an alternative political perspective: Jesus for President.

The pair is promoting their co-authored book, Jesus for President, nearing the end of a month-long nationwide tour that has attracted crowds of 500 to 1000 people at every stop. In Jesus for President, Claiborne and Haw ask Christians to think differently about their political and religious allegiance, re-evaluate the church’s role in the arena of American power and politics and examine the way they live their faith day to day. “We’re saying that we see in Jesus not a presentation of ideas,” said Claiborne, “but an invitation to join a movement that embodies the good news with the way that we live in this world.” Their message includes a strong emphasis on peace and puts a high value on communities of believers who reject the world’s ways and live their lives according to Jesus’ teachings; both familiar themes to Mennonites. (more…)

People’s Summit in Winnipeg – Why is it we gather?

After attending the “People’s Summit for Faithful Living,” in Winnipeg a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about the reasons we gather.

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Some fine reports were written on the summit, here and here. The only things I would add or highlight would be…

In addition to Canadians, white people were also over-represented. (Out of 570 participants, I’d estimate around 550 were white.) Not to say that such numbers preclude valuable interactions or prove tokenism – I greatly appreciated some the learning tracks that connected indigenous traditions with relating to our creator and caring for creation – but I think it’s important to notice.

I also had a notable conversation with a young pastor who’s drawn to working with suburban youth – creating vibrant alternatives to our destructive culture and showing them there can be more to life than what we consume. I’m glad to know those conversations are happening.

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So as a participant I got some ideas and resources, met some cool folks, and ate off compostable plates. But I’m still not sure that conferences like this are justifiable in their current form. (more…)

Everything Must Change Conference

In May, I attended Brian McLaren’s conference for his new book Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. I was hungry for the ways he articulated the dangers and opportunities we face in this century. Attending Brian’s conference was so refreshing, just to see people talking about these issues. There’s a further summary of the conference content by ST.

Much of the ideas in his book are not new to the faith-based peace activists I know. However, there is a lot we need to face in the inconvenient truths of environmental issues, and crises connected to humanity’s overconsumption. When activists talk about these issues, people are put off by the stark realities we expose them to, those realities being hard enough to face as it is.

McLaren talked about these painful issues in a way that was easily understandable for mainstream evangelicals or folks on the fringe of the church. He applied the example of Jesus and his relevance to our times, naming the social and political backdrop of Jesus’ life during a period of Empire, inequality, and injustice.

What was so important for me, was the chance to go deeper than intellectual discussion of crisis scenarios, deeper than fix-it mode. It was an opportunity to feel, to grieve and to struggle with hope through worship and the arts. (more…)