I was really excited to meet some of the YAR authors/lurkers at the San Jose conference this week, to hear of the kind of things you are doing inside and outside the Church, and to hear the insights you had about the future of the church.
On Wed, July 4th, several YAR authors and sympathizers had dinner and discussed issues that they felt were pressing in the church. Here are my notes from the meeting.
YAR meeting began by introducing each other and asking everyone to finish this sentence “I am radical because…”. Here are the responses:
“I am radical because I believe the church has to constantly challenge the status quo and push our comfort zone rather than make a comfort zone for us”
“I am radicals because I believe the Gospel is countercultural”
“I am radical because being decent to people is a radical thing these days”
“I am radical because I believe Christianity can be queer in a countercultural way that can change the world”
“I am radical because I am a black vegan anarchist that skateboards and watches The Young & The Restless but is committed to the church”
“I am not a radical, the church is just crazy.”
“I am not a radical, I just think a lot of issues in the church are overthought and could be a lot simpler”
“I am radical because I think of the world (the church) in terms of institutions – both just and unjust”
This was followed by a discussion of my post about church and business
One YAR present disagreed and believed that the church is open to criticism and that leadership are very willing to hear things which challenge the church authority. Another YAR agreed that “getting too off track” with interpretation or understanding of the gospel will get you in trouble with your congregation. Another said that in relation to her service with MVS, criticism was open and encouraged – and it was necessary for her personhood.
There was a lengthy discussion about the danger of an agency that was meant to serve the church ends up becoming a business – the example used was Mennonite Mutual Aid and its investing in business involved with the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.
This discussion dovetailed into a discussion of the institution of the church and why the church sometimes sacrifices prophetic vision in favor of tradition so that it can survive. Does the church need to survive or does it need to be prophetic? Is a shrinking church really a bad thing? If the church only wants to survive and doesn’t want to shake things up or really be “different”, then shouldn’t we just have one, big, universal church? Isn’t being Mennonite supposed to be a “niche”?
It was said that the church, because it has become a nationwide institution, has had the ability to call someone into account who they have never met. Can you call someone into account for something that they had no say about, let alone that someone they never met did have say about? It was said that there are people in the church who have tried to overpower others, holding onto something (tradition, doctrine,etc) so tightly they are choking it (the church) to death.
We then had a discussion, off the topic of the church and its goal of survival, of the schismatic line. Where is the line? At one time it was over baptism – for some YAR’s, the interests of LGBTQ folks is more important than infant baptism. If we aren’t interested in splitting over tough issues and towing the same line, why don’t we join the Catholic Church again?
Feel free to comment on some of the question that were brought up in this meeting. We did do more questioning than answering, which (I feel) was more constructive than answering.