I attended my denominational region's annual conference last weekend. (Don't be jealous.) And it was remarkable in many ways. On Friday night, we had worship during one of the World Series games, and I only saw one person with an earbud--listening to the game while singing hymns.
Even more notably, delegates voted to institute a new policy that allows pastors to officiate same-sex weddings (or not) if their congregations support them.
Now, if you live in the secular world where gay marriage is legal and everyone loves Ellen, this policy may not seem notable at all. But if you live in the Mennonite world, this is (sadly) huge.
Before last Saturday, speaking from personal experience, here's what happened when a Mennonite pastor officiated a same-sex wedding:
--Her church council made her tell her conference minister
--Who explained to her the many biblical and theological and moral reasons she shouldn't do the wedding
--To which she responded with thoughtful, articulate reasons why Jesus would indeed want her to do the wedding (all the while thinking that no one should have to talk about sex this much with their conference minister).
--She did the wedding (and it was lovely and probably the only time she will marry a couple where both people are shorter than her),
--Then an official group that controls her ordination (her official "pastorhood") started a review process
--Which required more thoughtful articulation and a road trip with fun people from her church to go talk to this group about why she should still be a pastor.
--Her pastorhood remained intact, though some people in the group wrote pointed statements about why it should not,
--And other people in the conference got mad and tried to pass resolutions that would take away her pastorhood
--But the resolutions failed and so churches just left the conference rather than have to be in a conference where such immoral pastoring was allowed to exist.
--Oh, and she got "at variance" put on her official file.
Now, when a pastor officiates a same-sex wedding, she will still tell the conference minister and get "at variance" on her official file. She may even have to be thoughtful and articulate about why she is officiating the wedding. But all that other stuff should go away.
I have heard that some churches are already leaving our conference because of the new policy, and here's my confession for this week: I do not care. Or rather, I do not care in the way I think I am supposed to care.
I do not have much compassion for conservatives who feel they are losing their church. Because, guess what, it's not their church. It's Jesus' church. And sharing is not losing. And frankly, choosing to leave is not losing. Nobody is telling these churches they have to leave. Nobody is even telling them they have to marry gay people to stay.
Some of us pastors had a big Bible study on Ephesians before these meetings began. We especially looked at Ephesians 2 where Paul (or probably not Paul but maybe and who cares--except some people apparently really do, so I'm not going to say one way or the other) says that Christ has torn down the dividing wall of hostility. And we got this warm fuzzy feeling about Christian unity.
Then we went to the church meetings and remembered what it looks like in real life (as opposed to theoretical Bible study life) when the wall comes down: a whole bunch of people from side X come crawling over the rubble to side A, bloody and weary from the journey--at which point some people from side A who didn't want the wall down in the first place scramble across the broken pieces to get over to side X as fast as they can.
Having the wall down doesn't mean we will all be together singing Kumbayah--it just means people have greater freedom to choose their location. And some people are choosing a location that is "not with you gay-marrying people." O.K. The wall is down. They can go where they want.
But here's my other confession: in some ways, I care more than I think I should that churches are leaving.
I care because, as much as I love my "liberal" and "progressive" Christian siblings, I also appreciate being church with people who disagree with me and challenge me in my faith. Sure, I complain about pompous pastors who call or email to tell me how wrong my theology is, but the truth is that those conversations are kind of fun. And they force me to think through my theological positions--which more people should do more of the time. (Think through my theological positions, that is; and I suppose their own as well.)
And I care because the more those churches isolate, the less chance there is for people in those churches to realize that not all Christians believe homosexuality is a sin; the greater the chance that lgbtq people who are part of those congregations will never hear a message of grace about sexuality--a message that could literally save their lives.
So I do care that churches are leaving. Except I also don't.
Mostly I am glad that the next time I agree to officiate a same-sex wedding, I won't have to spend inordinate amounts of time talking about sex with my conference minister.