This post is part of the MennoCon23 #BeTransformed series. MennoCon23 will be held in Kansas City, Missouri, July 3-6.
Randy Spaulding is the pastor of Boulder (Colorado) Mennonite Church. He is one of the leaders of Inclusive Mennonite Pastors and a co-writer of the Resolution for Repentance and Transformation. Previously, he was a minister at Bahia Vista Mennonite Church and Covenant Mennonite Fellowship, Sarasota, Florida. He served as the project editor for Sing the Journey and Sing the Story. He is married to his husband, Gary, and they live in Boulder.
In March, a group of queer, transgender and ally Mennonite leaders from across Mennonite Church USA gathered for a Queer Mennonite Visioning (QMV) retreat at Camp Friedenswald, Cassopolis, Michigan. We gathered to worship, sing, imagine, share meals, remember, connect and simply be. It was the first time in my 30+ years of Mennonite ministry, and as a gay Mennonite pastor, that queer Mennonites gathered in a denominationally supportive setting. There wasn’t a crisis or a need to meet in secret or a fear that we would be told to leave. At the invitation of the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests and leaders from Inclusive Mennonite Pastors, MC USA’s Central District Conference (CDC) provided funding for the retreat, and Camp Friedenswald provided hospitality. This funding was made possible in large part through MC USA delegates affirming the Resolution for Repentance and Transformation in May 2022. CDC leaders shared that this was a concrete way to repent for past harms to the queer community and to enter into the work of repair.
What does repentance and transformation look like, particularly from a denomination toward its LGBTQ+ members who have been systemically excluded from full participation in the life of the church? Seminar leaders hope that “Living into Repentance and Transformation” a MennoCon23 seminar, will allow for curiosity about that question. We invite seminar attenders — through table talk and group conversation — to offer ideas, stories, actions and creative possibilities! Queer and ally leaders with Inclusive Mennonite Pastors will help facilitate.
LGBTQ+ Mennonites have always been a part of the life of the church, contributing in vital ways to its witness in the world. At the same time, it has been a difficult journey that has lead us to this particular moment in the life of the denomination. Decades of ostracization, rejection and condemnation of queer followers of Jesus have hurt the church’s witness as a place of “grace, joy and peace.” What actions might MC USA — including its conferences and congregations — take that journey toward transformation and repair? Testimonies are already emerging from within the church that are hints to the Spirit’s work among us. The March retreat is one example. Another is a newly forming Queer Constituency Council that will represent the voices of LGBTQ+ people at Constituency Leaders Council meetings each year.
The MC USA website states that, “Resolutions and Statements receive broad support across the church and give direction for faithfulness, often on a current issue.” Our denomination has adopted the Resolution for Repentance and Transformation as an official church statement. What are ways, now, that the Resolution for Repentance and Transformation might “give direction for faithfulness” in the life of the church? The wording in the Resolution for Repentance and Transformation offers some insight that leads to questions:
- MC USA’s vision has been to offer “healing and hope” to all. What might that look like for LGBTQIA+ people, as the denomination affirms that God delights in this “diversity of creation” and recognizes the divine image in queer people (see Genesis 1 and 2)?
- What might it look like for MC USA to affirm the work of the Holy Spirit to empower queer Mennonites to give and receive every gift in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12)?
- How can MC USA “explore historic harms, encourage truth-telling, and address areas of intersectionality”?
- What would it look like for MC USA to “[p]rovide denominational resources for individuals, congregations and conferences to engage with repentance and reconciliation in their own contexts”?
- What are creative and meaningful ways the denomination may bear witness to the full affirmation of the lives of LGBTQ+ people? In what ways can the church affirm the spiritual gifts that God is longing to share with the church through queer Mennonites?
LGBTQ+ Mennonites have always been a part of the life of the church yet have never been joyfully recognized or affirmed in official spaces.
The passing of the Resolution for Repentance and Transformation was historic, courageous and important, yet large parts of the church — geographically and structurally — remain unwelcoming and unsafe spaces for queer Christians. We continue to inch forward, striving to embody a theology that honors queer people as beloved by God. The church can do better, and the imagining continues at MennoCon23.
At the QMV Retreat in March we sang 809 in “Voices Together”:
“Sing a new world into being where each gender, class, and race
brings its rainbow gifts and colors to God’s limitless embrace;
where the lines that once divided form instead the ties that bind.
Sing a new world into being: risk transforming heart and mind!”
Let the church say, “Amen!” The MennoCon23 seminar is only one hour! Yet, it’s one hour to lean into the work that lies ahead of us as the body of Christ. Come, join us!
Register for MennoCon23 today!
The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong to the author and are not intended to represent the views of the MC USA Executive Board or staff.
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