By Jessica Griggs for Mennonite Church USA
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Mennonite Church USA) — More than 160 people attended a MennoCon23 seminar called, “Resistance and Healing: Queer, Decolonial Movements,” July 6. The seminar was a panel discussion about issues relating to the church’s treatment of people on the margins. Panelists included Sarah Augustine, executive director of the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery; Katerina Gea, an organizer with the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery; Tim Nafziger, a writer, member of the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery and former leader of Pink Menno; and Annabeth Roeschley, executive director of Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT interests and former leader of Pink Menno.
The panel began by answering some questions that they had prepared in advance, then they offered a time for audience-submitted questions. Panelists left the audience to ponder what it means to commit to breaking longstanding cycles that keep people marginalized.
Nafziger and Augustine gave examples of how progress has been made to bring justice to LGBTQIA+ and Indigenous communities, both inside and outside of the church, but they stressed that more needs to be done.
“I do not want representation. I do not need representation,” said Augustine. “I want justice! What is justice? It’s a just reordering of human systems, Jubilee.”
Gea offered some tangible ways to get involved with the Repair Network through the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery. Roeschley emphasized the importance of honoring the struggle, including all of the complexities, good and bad, that LGBTQIA+ people have faced.
Participants submissions ranged from requesting guidance on helping youth persist through the slow process of change in the church, to wondering how to deal with the anxieties and tensions brought on by change, to lamenting the way others pity the marginalized rather than joining in action.
Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, approximately 517 congregations and almost 52,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 59 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana, and Newton, Kansas. mennoniteUSA.org