Tradition

Saint Agatha

[Icon of Saint Agatha] In the middle of the third century, Emperor Decius of Rome announced an edict against the Christians, the most ruthlessly violent yet. Senator Quintianus, seeing an opportunity, offered to drop charges against one particularly beautiful Christian woman, a virgin, in exchange for sexual favors. When she refused, he sold her to a brothel to break her—but she managed to stave off ‘customers’ there as well. Furious, Quintianus subjected her to savage torture and sexual mutilation; her breasts were cut off and she was rolled on burning coals. “Cruel man,” she cried, “have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” In a vision, St Peter appeared to take away her pain. She was near death when an earthquake struck the city and drove away her tormentors. She thanked God for an end to this terror, for the patience to suffer for the sake of Christ, and gave up her spirit.

Today, February 5, is the feast day of Saint Agatha, whose story has been told since the early days of the church. Pray to her for the protection and deliverance of women everywhere who suffer from abuse, rape, and every manner of sexual offense.

“Jesus Christ, Lord of all things! You see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am—you alone. I am your sheep; make me worthy to overcome the devil.” —Saint Agatha

In a different spirit

I wrote this yesterday before I read Angie’s post. Her thoughts on Dorothy Day and the church reflect very well my own thoughts. While Angie’s post is thoughtful, mine is angry. Maybe in a few days, I can manage thoughtful but for now, this is what I’ve got:

A Little Stunned

A couple days ago, as I was skimming through the Mennonite Weekly Review. I noticed this item on the front page. My immediate response was to roll my eyes and think, “well, they would wouldn’t they?” and I went on with my day. Now, the more I think about it, the saltier I get. Carol Oberholtzer, the chair of the conference’s Women in Leadership Subcommittee, said she “was a little stunned.” Well, I guess so. I mean, this is 2007, and they are having a vote on whether women can be ordained? LGBT people don’t have a chance there. Here’s what I have to say to all those “credentialed leaders” who took that vote: “well done, the church will be better for it.” No, I’m not just blaming the minority that voted against women and justice but all of them, and the rest of the Mennonite Church with them. (more…)

Split Youth in the Southern Cone

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. (more…)

Hospitality

Christian hospitality is not simply good manners, it is an entire way of encountering strangers: receiving them as Christ, as St Benedict says. It takes a peculiar imagination, of course, to hear a knock on the door and know it to be Christ—an imagination rooted in prayer, in a person who knows the hospitality of the God who welcomes truly, even up into his own trinitarian life. So Christian hospitality, as mutual reverence, has a profound contemplative dimension. (Which is also why, for St Benedict, guests cannot linger indefinitely. There must be space for silence.) And Christian hospitality does not require a home or a table or an abundance of food, since it is primarily an open invitation to enter into life together.

What’s Next?

I really enjoy YAR. There are great discussions about great things here, they are intriguing and they make us think. But what’s next. Do we just continue to talk about these things and hope that some day our churches and our communities will change? Or do we do something. I would love it if we could start discussions about practical ways in which we can do these things we have discussed. But of course, not stop there implement these things in our churches and communities and then report back on YAR how God is working. In this way we can honor our heritage as radical Anabaptists and continue to reform the church in the 21st century.

living tribute

I learned of Martin Luther King, the hero of the Civil Rights Movement, in school.
I learned of Martin Luther King, the peacemaker, at church.

In both cases I learned about King as an icon. He was like an angel-man, superhuman. King became a real person when I moved to Atlanta.

It was a fall from a pedestal of sorts, when I learned about all of the trials, the fractures, the tribulations, the anguish, and the arguments that went on behind the scenes of the marches and the committee meetings. To listen to lectures by the veterans of the movement, (Former Ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. Joseph Lowery, R. D. Abernathy, Rev. James Orange) all still involved, but some bitter, some who have appropriated the movement…whew! I learned about the hundreds of sidelined and under-recognized women who laid the groundwork for so many of the church meetings, boycotts, and potlucks (Septima Clark, Montgomery Women’s Council, Ella Baker, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson). Most of all, when I saw the struggle of his immediate family to know how to live out the legacy of the father they lost when they were young children, it all became so tangible. (more…)

NEW Year

It’s January 2, so I’d like to write an entry for the NEW year.

Growing up, I learned that “the blood of Jesus washed me white as snow” (It confused me, since I’m bi-racial…but that’s another blog entry). Anyhow, there was emphasis put on the fact that an acceptance of Jesus “made you NEW, CLEAN,” You were born again (Like Peter, I was the kid in Sunday School who asked the anatomy question, but I get it now). Today, I recognize that I still cling to this concept and feeling state because I remember that I did feel NEW and different when I accepted Jesus.

I thrive in NEW situations, but sometimes begin to trip up as the NEW situations become routine. Sometimes I feel sad or angry at my inability to maintain the special NEWness feeling. At these times I turn to the meaning of faith to get me through, but I crave the NEWness again. That is partially why I love the coming of the NEW year and New Year’s Day so much. (more…)

Pax Mennonita via Flexible Pacifism

It was with much excitement that I read the most recent MCC Peace Office Newsletter (Vol. 36, No. 4), entitled “How do we Protect, Responsibly.” The World Council of Churches had met and released a statement on the “Responsibility to Protect,” hereafter to be referred to by its catch acronym: R2P.

Such Mennonite notables as Mennonite World Conference president Nancy Heisey, German Association of Mennonite Congregations vice-president Fernando Enns, and MCC International Peace Office co-directors Robert Herr and Judy Zimmerman Herr seem to be in favor of said statement, which offers amazing ideas for the current Decade to Overcome Violence. One of these ideas happens to be violence, but we’re going to call it something else: “flexible pacifism.”

(more…)

Response to MJS on Coverings and Conservative Mennonites

A few days ago, a woman named MJS replied to a comment by Brian on a post by Laura in which he said, “I’m going to go out on a limb and actually advocate a return of head coverings for women and plain coats for men.” Although he went on to suggest he was mostly joking, MJS says, “let me assure you that being stuck in a conservative setting & being treated like an archaic museum piece everywhere you go is NOT a picnic–it feels more like a prison.” MJS goes on to describe the negative reaction of family and friends at the thought of her not wearing a covering. To those of us who grew up in more liberal communiites, she says “Consider yourselves fortunate that you don’t have to deal with the huge cultural divide between conservative Mennonites & others. It stares me in the face every day.” (more…)

Things we don’t say

I’ve been thinking about things we think but don’t say because we’re still afraid to challenge some parts of the status quo publically and out loud. By “we,” I mean people in general but especially those of us of a more progressive or even radical persuasion. I feel there is a certain amount of self-censorship among us because sometimes if we said what we really think, it might prove all of conservative’s worst fears about us. It may also be that we don’t feel like getting into a big annoying discussion that will really just go around in circles and would be easier to not have. Have you ever tried to explain your faith or politics to someone in your second or third language? It gets confused and difficult and it is easier to talk about the weather because that is what they taught us in high school language class. That is what it seems like to me. (more…)

Advent Post (numero uno)

Nimblesixpence has a thoughtful Advent post, entitled What if God was one of us?, that I thought was worth sharing. Hopefully she won’t mind a few more readers. Below is just an excerpt:

Because I don’t believe that church is most meaningful when it goes exactly according to plan. I believe that if we wanted to, we could show up on a Sunday morning and sit like Quakers, with nothing planned at all, and God could do something. Or everything could go wrong, and we could still get something really important from gathering together.

Intro to Jason

I’m someone who’s mostly been away from Mennonites for the past three years, but having the distance has shown me (maybe by omission) the value for me of relationships with young Anabaptist folks — particularly ones who are passionate about investigating what it looks like to try to form our lives and relationships based on taking seriously this faith we supposedly ascribe to.

I was talking with Sarah Thompson — who’s the North American representative to AMIGOS, the Mennonite World Conference’s global young adult network — about those sorts of interests (wanting to get to know passionate Menno young folks, to talk about the church and if/how it fits with us), which is what tipped her off to nominate me for the position I’m now in as the Mennonite Church USA rep to AMIGOS. More specifics will be coming up on AMIGOS, I’m sure, but feel free to check in or ask any questions y’all like. (more…)

some small thoughts

radical self love
a roommate once wanted to start a “masturbate for peace” campaign. he was shot down by everyone he talked to. i now wish i had backed him up. but this isn’t really a post about that…

“love your neighbor as you love yourself.” is that a command or a statement of fact?

make someone happy – buy yourself an iPod.
maybe this is a post about that after all…

world peace
i’ve discovered the key to world peace. (more…)

the numbers game: a cranky opinion

I spoke at a small Church of the Brethren congregation in Napannee, Indiana last Sunday. The church seems to be an older congregation, which was interesting mainly because in Sunday School, a somewhat skeptical older gentleman turned to me, and out of the blue, said that while the numbers of non-denominational churches are rising, the Church of the Brethren (and, he presumed, the Mennonite Church) is shrinking. He asked me why I thought that was. I didn’t say that I think it’s dangerous to assume that growth is always the best indicator of the health of anything (take obesity as a prime example). (more…)