Bouncing directly from Angie’s latest post… always got to give a shout-out to Dorothy! But Last week the passion for exclusion came not from the institution, but from the people themselves, YOUNG people, and a student in seminary…
At the Southern Cone Mennonite Anabaptist meetings in Uruguay last week, there was a large division among the Chilean, Argentinean, Paraguan and Uruguayan youth about what was important about church and our lives as Christians. After a large time of dialogue together as young people, a small group of youth got together and wrote a letter (which was read in front of the whole assembly) about the fact that they were worried about a few themes (of the many that were mentioned in the youth meeting and throughout the conference). They took an anti-dialogue stance towards the mention of issues such as homosexuality, abortion, sex before marriage, and referring to God as Mother and Father/inclusive language. In the letter they invited everyone to do further study of the bible so that it is clear that all these practices are sin and they condemned anyone who practices or teaches these things.
This letter was received with wild applause from majority of the adults gathered.
However, later in the same meeting, another young person spoke up to say that not all of the youth were in agreement with this letter and that in fact it was written behind their backs and that it is important to discuss a Christian perspective on these important modern issues, and Jesus asks us to always be close to those who are marginalized in the society. This comment was received with half aplause from the adults.
So, this week I am spending a lot of time listening, via email, to more perspectives and trying to figure out how in the world to plan a conference in Paraguay (from where some of the most angry voices emerged, and although supported by funding from multiple agencies in the North, there is a clear distrust of North American and European churches).
Who here has had experience dealing with flashpoint issues in a way that does not marginalize voices but at the same time does not cede to oppression and exclusion?
Engaging in these issues is important as a church. I believe that there is a role for advocacy on these issues, and that we as a church need to engage these issues to demonstrate that faith is relevant. I am now working with church conflicts at the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center.
As a facilitator of group dialog, I am not going to be able to speak out on my own views, but I may find myself in a position to promote healthy conversation. And I believe that is a necessary role in getting people to consider each other’s views in a thoughtful way.
When it comes to resources for structuring healthy dialog, I’ve been most impressed with the work of Public Conversations Project. http://www.publicconversations.org/pcp/index.php
Check out their free downloadable resources, outlines of structured dialogs, even resources in Spanish!
I wish you well in your efforts! I really believe you’re on the right track!
You may well be aware of this one, but I’d check out the “Safe Space Dialogue” resources on the MCC Washington Office web site.