A time to weep

Ervin Stutzman, executive director of Mennonite Church USAErvin Stutzman is executive director for Mennonite Church USA.

I arrived home last night from an all-consuming six-day work trip in the nick of time to attend the special service—“Remembering Orlando,” in my home congregation.

Early in the service of lament, punctuated by the reading of Psalms, the congregation sat silently as the chimes slowly rang out 50 times, each vibrant chime shivering into silence, commemorating a life that had been shushed into eternal stillness by an act of horrific violence.

I wept as I listened to each chime, imagining the vibrant lives that had been snuffed out. Wounded in hospitals. Terror, horror, numbness, shock, horror. Grieving families and friends.

The worship leader reads from Psalm 6: “My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?” “Among the dead no one proclaims your name, Who praises you from the grave?”

I weep as I think of the hatred that is growing in our nation like a noxious weed whose alluring fragrance and virtuous appearance belies a death-dealing potion that inspires violence, sometimes in the name of God. And God weeps.

I hear the words of Psalm 94: “They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting.” “They slay the widow and the foreigner, they murder the fatherless.”

I weep as I think about LGBTQ Latinos, targeted for slaughter by cruelly cold scheming. I weep as I think of the life of each victim cut too short. A blanket of terror draped over the LGBTQ community, calculated to inspire fear. Dashed hopes and dreams.

I weep as I think of the ways that our families and churches have rejected immigrants, foreigners, and LGBTQ individuals, not truly giving them a place at the table.

I weep to realize that those who experience pain and rejection because of their sexual orientation and gender identity so seldom find acceptance and love in our churches, and turn elsewhere to find the supportive communities they deserve.

Another verse from Psalm 94: “Take notice, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise?”

I weep as I think of the culture of gun violence that has taken our country by storm. Destructive weapons of war are sold on the open market for monetary gain, leaving a trail of 30,000 lives a year. We are a citizenry armed to the teeth, killing each other with guns designed to take the lives of our enemies at war. In a nation that prides itself on being loved by God, we have become our own worst enemy. And God weeps.

I weep as I witness the political posturing and righteous moralizing that inherently follow horrific events of this scope. I weep, hoping that gazing through tears can enlighten my own eyes to see things in new ways, to understand the world more deeply, to follow God more faithfully.

I weep as I think about our church—our aspiration to become “communities of grace, joy and peace, so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.” In our best moments, when the Spirit breaks through in our lives, we reflect that hope. But I grieve that too often we contribute to the marginalization of the LGBTQ community through attitudes, teaching and behaviors which do not reflect the way of Jesus Christ. And God weeps.

I want to mourn deeply enough, to pause long enough, to listen intently enough, that I can hear the voice of God and my brothers and sisters.

But for now, I can say that God welcomes the stranger, the foreigner, and queer folks with open arms, and I want to do that too. As a leader in our denomination, I pledge to work with the Executive Board to find specific ways for our church to extend that welcome as well, especially as we prepare to gather in Orlando for our convention next summer.

In the midst of my mourning, I am gripped by the prayer of St. Francis. It expresses the longing of my heart:

Lord,
Make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love:
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

May it be so in our church.

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66 thoughts on “A time to weep

  1. It is time to listen to God speaking to us in today’s world and fully embrace theology of full inclusion of LGBTQ people.

  2. You have heard God’s weeping, and the cries of God’s beloved Latinx queer children. Many of us are here to help you an the greater church keep listening. May Mennonite Church USA truly welcome all.

  3. Thanks Ervin, for this meaningful response. I share this heart wrenching sadness!

    Now can give back to pastors and churches the authority to break down the walls of prejudice and hatred between our historical teachings and marginalized communities?

  4. If this letter speaks truth, and I hope it does, MC USA has a LOT of work to do. We have lost so many GLBT people, maybe not due to killing their physical bodies, but due to killing their spirits.

  5. Thank you for sharing your reflection. I hope the Mennonite Church can fully welcome lgbtq persons… But sadly it is very late and so many have been so hurt by the Mennonite Church…. My heart continues to hurt for the pain still un attended.

  6. Ervin, I do not doubt the sincerity of your tears. These are heavy times. I do, however, find incredible dissonance between a statement like “I pledge to work with the Executive Board to find specific ways for our church to extend that welcome,” and the fact that the EB just got done dismissing a queer-loving Latino. Are we undergoing a true moment of repentance here? If so, one “specific way” to make amends would be to beg Pastor Villegas to come back on the EB and help teach our denomination how to be the kind of loving and welcoming place for which you and we long.

    1. Ervin, like Joel Miller, I”d like, I’d LOVE for this to actually be authentic, too and couldn’t have said it better. Thank you, Joel. Thanks for the tears, now stop causing them. We’ll be anticipating your action.,

    2. Joel Miller,
      I Could Not Agree More!! I Have Been Following The Story Of Pastor Isaac Villegas From Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship…By Way Of The Magazine Called “The Mennonite” My Heart Is Truly Broken For Isaac, And His Family As Well As His Church Family.
      I See In This Letter Written By Ervin Stutzman That He Talks A Really Good Game. But How Willing Is He To Walk That Talk?? I Now Know EXACTLY Why I Left My Home Church In Hartville, Ohio. It Was Because Of The Serious Lack Of Love, And The Insane Amount Of People In My Hometown Who Are EXTREMELY Judgemental. My Grandfather Was Our Bishop (God Rest His Soul)…And I Am Not Sure Where He Would Stand Today, In Accepting Anyone From The LGBTQ Community Into Their Church. But I Would Hope That He Would Love As Jesus Loves…Without Judgement Or Strings Attached.
      When I First Moved To Columbus, Ohio I Went To Visit A Pastor From The Mennonite Church On The OSU Campus. They Were Part Of The Conservative Conference That I Grew Up In. After Spending An Hour Talking With The Pastor…He Told Me That He Thought I Would Fit In Better In A Church That Was Not In Their Conference. I Asked Him Why, And He Said, “Well, You Are Divorced And That Is Something We Don’t Believe In, And You Would Never Be Allowed To Be A Member And Take Part In Communion, Teach Sunday School Etc. I Asked Him If He Knew That I Was Still A Member In Good Standing In My Home Church… And He Told Me That Was Only Because My Grandfather Was The Bishop. I Left That Church A Few Minutes Later And Have NEVER Been Back Inside Another Mennonite Church…Of Any Kind, Since Then. I Am So Grateful That My Son Was Too Young To Understand What This Pastor Was Saying…Because I Have NOT Raised My Son To Believe That People Are Bad Or Wrong Because They Are Divorced, Or Because Of Who They Choose To Love. My Bible Teaches Me To Love ALL People. And That Is What I Do.
      Mr. Ervin Stutzman, I Truly Pray That You Meant What You Said When You Wrote The Words, “I Pledge To Work With The Executive Board To Find Specific Ways For Our Church To Extend That Welcome”. Please, Extend That Welcome To Pastor Isaac Villegas And Beg Him To Come Back As Full-Time Pastor To CHMF. Then Beg Him And The Rest Of His Family, And Church Family For Their Forgiveness For Tossing Him Out Like A Dirty Rag. Should You Choose NOT To Do That…One Day You WILL Stand Before God Almighty Himself…And I Pray That God Will Have Mercy On Your Soul For Your Lack Of Christ Like Love, Acceptance And Forgiveness.

    3. Joel,

      The dissonance you feel could be the result of your preconceived ideas not being followed in lock step of what “extending that welcome” means.

      As a member of the “welcoming but not affirming” movement in the church, people like me have received condemnation from heavy activists on both extremes of the spectrum. I can’t speak for Ervin, but I gather he’s trying to walk an incredibly difficult third way between those extremes.

      For far too long the church has stigmatized our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and placed them in a special place reserved only for contempt and hatred, frowning and excluding if they happened to darken the doors of our churches or join our network of relationships. For those many sins the church is responsible to repent and reform.

      Yet those of us who believe what I just stated also believe we would do a tremendous disservice to our brothers and sisters to simply baptize their longings as holy and deprive them of the deep joy that comes from a life lived in the painful trenches of continual transformation. We are all called to this awful and beautiful work of transformation by the power and grace of God and our fellow brothers and sisters, and so many of our struggles are so deep-rooted and do not resolve even with years of committed work.

      Tim Otto’s “Oriented to Faith” was so helpful for me to be challenged to grow in hospitality and care while remaining rooted in what I believe to be true and loving and deeply good.

      I hope in the din of the activism of opposing sides more voices that are “welcoming but not affirming” are able to be heard as meaningful participants; especially as we acknowledge the deeply shaping influences of American liberalism and conservatism that seek to encroach on consistently Christian patterns of living alongside one another and engaging in critical examination of challenges that come before us.

      1. The LBGTQI people who are among us, and those who come to us seeking, are not simply having “longings” and it isn’t for anyone to “baptize” what you seem to think are urges or desires. This is not a choice, other than it being God and Jesus’s choice in the way they were each put together in their mother’s womb, just like the color of their hair, their ability to write poetry, their long fingers, their stubbornness, their green eyes, their curly, fiery red hair, their dark, chocolate skin. It is simply one more choice of colors hat God has in His Palate to paint us with when He creates us each of us, fearfully and wonderfully made. And there has been research into how the very word that has been translated into homosexuality actually has no modern English translation, Biblical historians saying how what Paul was addressing was the rape of young boy slaves and of soldiers in battle, theology how the main point of this passage in Romans was to keep your heart with God and not on things that would separate you from Him, any kind of lust. You can go and find all of that. If I am “extreme” for following Jesus and not condemning my LBGTQI brothers and sisters, and leaving judging them to Him, as He asks, and simply loving them and welcoming them to His table, showing them His love, HIs grace, feeding them His Body, and Living Water, and giving them healing, as He asks me, I will gladly be “extreme” until my dying day. It is easy to safe and “welcoming but not affirming” and that way not really have to learn to know that these are real people, and learn to love them the way that He does, isn’t it? Jesus’s Way is never the easy way. Ever.

        1. Jennifer, I agree with what you say here. I am grateful for Ervin’s words and hope they represent a change in the way MCUSA treats LGBTQ people. Among other things, these brothers and sisters need to be recognized as a constituency group within our denomination.

  7. Welcome them is good, but do you witness to them that what they practice is wrong in God’s eyes.A sin is a sin. juSt as a child molester,an adulter, a murderer.Do you allow them to be teachers in your church?

    1. Your attitude isn’t helpful. And as the mother of a gay son who was created by God, your words hurt. And this is why I I would no longer consider attending a Mennonite church. Love for my son is more important to me than the church I attend.

      Martha Maust

    2. Eldon, many others and I, do not believe sexual differences to be sin! God did not create sin!

    3. Are you kidding me! How interesting that you take the worst examples and compare me to them. Child molester? What have you done that makes you so much better than me. I worked in child protection with children who were sexually abused. Not a single child out of 200 were molested by a gay man. 100% of the children were molested by their straight mother, father, or parents straight significant other. I now work in a hospital helping save lives, not kill people. I have never cheated on a partner, but have worked with straight couples who cheated on their spouse. I am nothing like those you list. I am so tired of people using those lists of sins when talking about LGBTQI. When to compare us to the sinners living in homes larger than they need. Or those who are not generous with their time and money. Or to the sinners who refuse to treat with love the least in our community. Or the sin of not loving their neighbors as themselves. Or for those who worry more about laws and rules than about sharing God’s love. I am going to guess those are not listed as sinners when pointing out LGBTQI are sinners because it hits too close to home or you don’t see them as sins because of the plank in your own eye. Yes you value laws more than the lives of LGBTQI. Yes you do not love us. You have proven the fallacy of love the sinners hate the sin. If you truly loved you have known that now is not the time to make the remark you just did. You would let people grieve (both gay and straight) before or cell again pointing out how nasty, awful LGBTQI people are. What was it Jesus said to those who put laws above people: you vipers brood, you make people twice as fit for hell as you are yourself. Thank you for ripping away the hope of Ervin’s letter that the Mennonite Church may be welcoming to me. You and others who think it is appropriate to punch LGBTQI in the gut at this time, then I am not sure you should be allowed to be a member of or hold a leadership position in the Mennonite church. Thank you for putting the last nail in coffin of the Mennonite church for me. The Mennonite church is dead for me. I am just appalled that your understanding of the laws was more of a priority than the grief many people are experiencing. Am I angry yes. Am I hurting get yes. Do I sound like a good Mennonites Christian, no. But then again you don’t believe I am anyway.

      Thank you Ervin, for that brief glimmer of hope in a dark time, but alas that has now been darkened again. I must stick with my decision I made in Kansas City that I no longer want to e associated with MC USA.

      1. Michael, I Am So Deeply Sorry For Those Who Have You With Their Words And their Lack Of Love, Forgiveness, And Their Lack Of Welcoming And Affirming Who you Are As A Man…Gay Or Straight, I Love You For Who You Are As A Man Created In the Very Image Of God Himself. I Truly Believe That Jesus Weeps Whenever The Members In ANY CONFERENCE Of The Mennonite Church Brings Hatred To People Because Of Who They Love, Their Color, Or Whatever Race Or Country Or Religion They Come From.
        Michael, Please Know That Not Everyone In The Mennonite Church USA Feels The Way That Some Of The People In this Forum Do!! For Example, If You Were To Attend Chapel Hill Fellowship In Virginia…You Would Not Only Be Welcomed, But Affirmed As Well! I Truly Pray That You Reconsider Your Choice Of Not Wanting To Be A Part Of ANY MENNONITE USA Church. I Chose To Not BE A Part Of ANY MENNONITE CHURCH Whatsoever…But My Reasons Were Definitely Not The Same As Yours.
        Please Know That I Will Be Praying For You Michael, And I Hope You Know Just How Very Much Jesus Loves You For Who You Are, Not For Who You Love, The Color Of Your Skin, Or What Country Or Religion You May Have Been Born Into. I Hope You Find Peace And Comfort In Some Way…Even If It Is Not In The Mennonite USA Church. Remember, There Are MANY Mennonite USA Churches Where You Will Be Welcomed, Affirmed, And Loved.

  8. The Mennonite Church has indeed contributed to the marginalization of the LGBTQ community. Ervin, your comments minimize the impact of MCUSA policy towards LGBTQ people. I agree with Valerie Weidman’s comment above. MCUSA has “pulled the trigger” in unimaginable ways that cannot be understood without an open mind, a willing heart and a humble spirit. I hope this Church that I once called home will truly reflect and change.

  9. Ervin, you are weeping and I am weeping. You are listening and I am watching. Your pledge “to work with the Executive Board to find specific ways for our church to extend that welcome” matters to me a great deal as a lesbian and a Mennonite. I am watching for the fruit of your words. There is so much work to be done to make this real.

  10. Thanks for this statement Ervin, especially for your pledge “to work with the Executive Board to find specific ways for our church to extend that welcome as well.” How will this be done? Who will you be asking for the ideas about how to do this? I pray and hope that you truly have been given a new heart to recognize the damage the church has inflicted and continues to inflict on LGBTQ people and wish to make concrete steps to change. I’d love to hear back from you with your thoughts about your pledge.

  11. When I see comments such as “But what about the sin?” and “witness to them that what they do is wrong”, after what happened in Orlando, it feels like the commenters are aiming a gun at me and pulling the trigger, spraying angry, hateful feelings/words/thoughts at me and so many others around me.

    This is not an exaggeration. Sometimes people’s own children have heard those words and picked up the gun to help aim it at themselves, committing suicide because such words and attitudes of rejection are so painful to them.

    Do people who publically denounce homosexuality as “sin” not understand Jesus’ very specific words against the sin of judging others? How can someone claiming to follow Christ throw stones/aim guns at people they think are “sinful” when they themselves are acting in direct disobedience to Jesus by their very act of accusing someone else of sin (judging)? How can we let people like THESE be teachers, leaders, role models in our churches? How can we let people like THESE influence our children?

    Isn’t there an excessive, sinful pride/vanity in any Christian thinking that they know what is sin, but others don’t? Does not our Confession of Faith say in the very first article that God is beyond the power of human beings to understand? Then how is it that some people are so quick to know which sins not clearly mentioned by Jesus are, in fact, sins in the eye of God, and which sins He discussed at length but really didn’t mean were sinful? Isn’t it vanity to think a mere human knows the answers?

    Every word from every Mennonite describing or inferring homosexuality as the worst, most unforgivable sin is another assault rifle aimed into a crowded room…a crowded room filled with your own dear relatives and friends, our parents and children, our teachers and students. In the dark, in the bloody melee, you will never know what mortal wounds your bullets/words caused.

    Isn’t it so easy to pull the trigger, when others around you are similarly armed and firing? Isn’t it so easy to not take responsibility for the harm caused by your words/bullets? Because you can look at the dead bodies…your own dead children…and say, “but it wasn’t my words that killed them” because they are dead and they are the only one who knows which word was the mortal wound.

    Please. Stop. Stop thinking you know what is “sin”. Focus on what is good and kind, focus on lovingly serving others.

    Love one another…that’s what Jesus commanded us to do. Even “enemies”…even “self”. Rethink who the “good” and “bad” guys are, like the story of the Good Samaritan. The good or bad isn’t in any labels or categories…it’s the individual acts of selfless, loving kindness…which I don’t think include aiming words/bullets at either friends or enemies.

    Remove the motes in our own eyes. Human beings will always sin,. each in our own ways, time and again, all our lives. If every member of the church would just focus on understanding their own sins and removing them, no one would have time or inclination to aim bullets/words against someone else’s apparent sin.

    God will judge us each in our final moments, and no other human will have any part in that. His judgement is all that matters. We have until then to find our way to a closer walk with Him. My path may not look like yours, but it still has the same goal…His loving arms, the mansion He is preparing for me. My own thought is to struggle to practice humility now, so that I may better bear it when He lovingly enumerates the wrongs I’ve done, forgives me, and welcomes me (I hope) home.

    Please, beloved brothers and sisters, will you join me in the practice of humility, and leave off the sinful judging of people you don’t even know? Especially in this time of so many wounded, bleeding people, when people are already in so much pain?

    Those who wish to quietly walk away from the circle of stone-throwers, as a humble response to reflecting on their own sins, could probably ask to have their harsh, judgemental comments removed from this thread.

    1. Natalya, we need to all be encouraging each other in this fight against this kind of homophobia right here in the church that we love so much, not only because of the fight itself, and because what they are doing is hurting so many, but also because Jesus Himself is asking us to this, for the least of these, for the youth in our congregations that are coming up in our MYFs that are being taught there is something wrong with them, and it leads to depression, or the person who comes desperately seeking Jesus’s love to our door, only to find judgement and coldness instead. Neither of these things is what Jesus wanted for His Kingdom, not by a mile. We have to fight for this, it is His fight.

  12. Did anyone from the EB notice the weeping of lgbt people at convention, or when they are rejected by their churches and good Christian families. I see your weeping. Have you seen my lgbtq siblings weeping? They’ve been weeping for decades and decades.

  13. I weep, also. I weep because my church has turned it’s back on truth in the name of tolerance and embraced the “wisdom” of our culture. I weep because instead of being challenged to face sin and and repent we encourage people to continue in sin, we even go so far as to rejoice with them, which only leads them farther away from God. I weep because the eternal repercussions are so much greater than the temporal pleasure afforded by indulging in what God clearly calls sin, which, I would like to point out includes all sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman. God does not wink at any sin. Read the Bible for yourself and stop listening to all the “talking heads” out there who say words that sound good, but lead to death (or at least, ill health). “How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? The wise will be put to shame, they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what kind of wisdom do they have?” Jer. 8:8-9. Violence practiced on anyone, regardless of race, orientation, religion or any other reason that can be used as an excuse is always wrong and , obviously, is also a sin. Guns are not the problem. Other places of the world experience violence in the form of machetes or Molotov cocktails or explosive devices of various types. Sin is the problem. A tragedy such as the Orlando shooting is just that, a tragedy. A heartbreaking episode in the world in which we live. Horrible, wrong and all messed up. Tragedy should bring us all to repentance, for all the sins in our lives, it should not be used to justify sin, of any sort, ever.

    1. Haven’t we turned or back on truth when we allowed women to speak in church (or reply to a man’s teaching online). Did we forego the truth when we thought slaves should be free? Didn’t we follow the wisdom of the world when we allowed divorced women to remarry? Did we forsake Jesus’s teaching though Paul who said do not get married, except if your weak in flesh? Which then we should only has single, celebrate male pastors. Didn’t we turn away from God when men wore ties and women wore make up and earings. Didn’t we turn against the truth when Mennonite churches put idols in the churches – the American flag? (And we don’t even consider those churches at variance) Did we turn our backs on truth when our colleges play the national anthem? Yes the church has turned its back on truth. However that did not begin with acceptance of LGBT. We have turn away from God when we decided to spend all of our time figuring pointing out who the sinners are rather than showing God’s love.

    2. Do you also weep at those who eat shell fish while wearing mixed fabrics? Your cherry picking of Bible verses stands as a sinful barrier between you and the love of God.

    3. Amen Charlene. To Keith Hiebner, it’s not cherry picking at all. The Old Testament laws you referred to show us how life was to be lived before Jesus’ death on the cross gave us freedom from the old laws/animal sacrifices. It makes us appreciate even more what Jesus did for us. But that doesn’t give us a free pass to now sin. We are called to be holy, not to satisfy our every whim or sexual desire. Yes, we are called to love those who practice homosexuality, but that is very different than affirming and celebrating their lifestyle. We are called to lovingly point them to Christ and encourage them to turn from their sin, just as we all should be daily fighting our sinful desires and “picking up our cross” to follow Him. God, in His wisdom, has given us certain moral laws for our own good. When we stray from the clear guidelines He has set for us, we are in dangerous territory. I mourn the precious lives lost in Orlando. I also mourn those who affirm sin in the name of “love”.

    4. Charlene, it has nothing to do with the wisdom of our culture. Biblical historians have done research into the culture of Rome when Paul wrote this letter, and they feel that he was writing about they rape of young boy slaves and of the rape of soldiers in battle, things that would have been deeply horrifying to Paul and were probably what he is speaking about in Romans, and even in speaking about the women as well, the passage is about being consumed with lust, with sin, which then drives out your desire for God, your desire for closeness with Him. This was happening in Rome with the whole temple prostitute situation, and no one had room in their hearts for seeking salvation and seeking a relationship with God. This has nothing to do with people who are in a loving, committed same sex marriage covenant with God and with each other, two people who are also Christians, something that is happening between LBGTQI believers all over the world, whether you want to think so or not. Once two people who are the same sex get married, how can it be anybody’s business what they do in bed after that? It isn’t a sin any more than what happens in a different sex marriage, as long as they have made that covenant. Note, I am not saying they can just go willy nilly, any more than anyone else can. Sin is sin. Adultery is adultery. If it is done before marriage, or outside of marriage, than it is. I believe in sin as much as any Christian, it is not a matter of following whatever culture’s wisdom is telling me. But I follow Jesus first, and even Paul goes on to talk about this in that same letter to the Romans, that we are to show each other love most importantly, and serve them, that judging them is up to Jesus, not us.

  14. Too late for tears, Ervin. We have been discussing the un-welcomeness of the LGBT community in the Mennonite Church for 30 years. I have been part of these conversations, standing on continuum lines, seeing my church break apart, listening to naval gazing congregants “trying to understand”. Too late, church. We have been talking and talking about this until we are all sick of it, but we haven’t moved an inch because we are all so concerned about what our conservative members are going to do. However, these congregations are already leaving the denomination. So all of your tears have come to naught. You are still losing the conservative congregations and you are losing people like me. Even more sadly, you are losing most everyone under the age of 30. Too late for your tears. Way too late

  15. The Orlando horror was staged by people in our own government to cause trouble for a few different reasons. It’s more than about gays, moslems or guns. Get off the anti-gun bandwagon.

  16. I notice in the comments (here and other articles) that there is a decided difference in understanding of sin. Most of us have been taught to view sin as the breaking of some moral taboo but if we examine our history we can see where that has gotten the Mennonite church, 40 groups and counting. Through some hard personal experiences I have come to realize that sin is not the transgression of a moral purity code but is simply broken relationships. Do a word study and you will see what I’m talking about. Sin in the NT scripture is almost invariably singular and denotes a state of being.

    We understand the John 8:1-11 story as teaching against sexual misconduct but if we stop there we miss the fact that when Jesus said “any one who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” he was also saying that anyone without a broken relationship to this woman is the one that is allowed to start the stoning. You can’t stone someone who you care about.

    As one who is on the fringes of the MC I see this clearly in our current debates about the LGBTQ issues. Those who are willing to or already have broken relationships want to keep the group purity and not be welcoming, and those who want to maintain relationships are on the other side. Ervin, as a leader in the MC I challenge you to work on exposing our differing interpretative matrices, and address those reasons why we are having these current problems.

    1. Sin means ‘to miss the mark’. Look up the Hebrew or Greek word. That means not thinking, acting, living in the way God intended. Both marginalising anyone, queer or ‘homophobic’, and desacrilizing sexuality as God created and intended it falls into this category. There are people with rare physical anomalies that we cannot presume to understand, but besides these all physical appearances at birth including x and Y chromosomes show Gods sacred intent. May God have mercy on all of us, regardless of which sin(s) we are guilty of.

  17. You don’t get to be the leader of a denomination that exerts active violence on LGBT lives, that excludes LGBT voices, that makes queer-loving Latino voices resign from leadership roles, to make a statement, *six days* after the most horrific assault on queer bodies in the history of the country, about the damage “the church” has done, and not admit that you are complicit in that.

    You have allowed this to happen, and by your silence, you perpetuated this. This is the logical result of everything you have allowed. You don’t get to blame “the church” and not take responsibility for “the church”.

    How about working the words, “I am sorry for the ways I have harmed queer lives, and have made spaces unsafe for them. I am sorry for the ways I have ignored queer voices, and tried to silence them. I am sorry for the ways I have shut down discussion, and ignored the concerns of queer folk. I did this, and I am sorry. Please forgive me.” into this statement somewhere.

  18. Ervin, if you had made even one genuine attempt to understand the LGBTQ community within your own denomination, as you have been graciously invited to do many, many times, perhaps your profession of tears would not ring so hollow to so many LGBTQ folks. What you’re seeing now is what real accountability looks like. Your hostile indifference to the queer folks who are trying to be part of the church has empowered the most hateful voices in MCUSA–and you witnessed the intensity of that hatred in the delegate hall in Kansas City. You should have spoken out against that hate when it happened. It was the same kind of hate that led Omar Mateen to despise himself and his LGBTQ siblings so much that he did what he did–it’s only a matter of degrees. Have the humility to thank the queer folks–your queer folks, your denomination, your people–who have been trying to tell you about this violence for the past six years. I don’t doubt the sincerity of your grief, but you can’t throw it at a community whose trust you’ve done nothing to earn and expect instant forgiveness. There is so much to forgive.

  19. I have forced myself to continue reading through these many heartfelt comments that reflect the pain, frustration, sense of longing, desire, and anger regarding another horrific event of hatefulness perpetrated on valuable human life. (I felt it important to hear the comments)
    Yet, I wonder how we will ever as a church, as a people, as human life, move to a more loving, valuing place of all humanity when it is seems that often the method of response used is the same hateful, critical, demonizing language that assumes knowledge of one’s heart, passion, and motive. As the finger points outward it seems to use the same method of accusation as the accusation itself! This too does not reflect the “love” of God nor will it lead a society, a people, to a better place of valuing the humanity that God refers to as “beloved.”
    Is there not a way to identify what we desire, we hope for, what we believe is truly loving, without regarding another or their assumed intent as rubbish…

    1. I agree with this wholeheartedly. I am so disheartened by the meanness that is used more than it should be, when writing responses. It also feels that those who assume they are tolerant, really aren’t that tolerant at all, of anyone with a differing view than their’s. The issues are so polarizing and it pretty much feels discouraging and hopeless. Who of us has truly prayed and ask God for wisdom regarding our thoughts on issues? How much do we rely on our own thought processes and intellectual knowledge to explain what we believe? I feel like God has been pushed aside.

  20. I find the fact that the convention next summer will be in, of all places, Orlando, Florida, to be very profound!

  21. I appreciate this first step to publicly add a new voice to the lament for healing and justice. Forward progress happens step by step, and anyone who takes such an action as this–to make up so much lost ground–should not be expected to cover all of it in one, giant leap.

    We will be looking for these words to be lived out in concrete ways that go beyond a rhetorical commitment and demonstrate true ally-ship, to be sure. But I want to acknowledge that there is immense value in this first, honest and emotional step, no matter how tentative or incomplete. There is immense potential for this message to speak, not necessarily to those who have been yearning deeply for the church to hear and acknowledge the pain it has caused them, but to those who feel a nagging discomfort with the judgement and injustice they hear from the pew, witness in congregational meetings or see in their communities.

    I mourn deeply and I am glad to be joined by Ervin Stutzman as I seek to pause, listen and then ACT.

  22. Isn’t MCUSA promoting hate the same as others by disciplining welcoming churches? You shun the LGBT community the same as the Donald Trump, the Orlando shooter and others who don’t like people different than themselves.

  23. The shootings in Orlando are tragic and a loss for all those families for sure. I am sorry for their losses. I do have concerns however about the overall sinfulness of our nation. We are all sinners and there is a lot of evilness in this world. It makes me think about Sodom and Gomorrah. God became so frustrated and disgusted that He destroyed everything. It seems like we are headed in that direction. It seems our country is trying to remove Him from everything. I just feel we are heading the wrong direction.

  24. We don’t give LGBTQ people a place at Christ’s table so they go to bars for a safe place. Why? Why aren’t churches safe places? Why can’t any LGBTQ person walk into any church in American and KNOW they are welcome, safe, loved? Instead LGBTQ people walk into churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples and find a place to learn to hate themselves. Marginalization. So LGBTQ people go to bars to find sacred, safe spaces, and community. Doesn’t this sound like what a church is supposed to be? Aren’t churches supposed to the essence of safe, sacred spaces, and community for the marginalized? Now even bars aren’t safe places. The call to communion at my church says, “This is the table of Christ, not the church.” Our theology and our limited human judgments are not the foundation of the church. The church is the body of Christ. My church welcomes all. I can’t describe the feeling in the center of my chest – the fierce gratitude and love I feel for my church that collides with the pain I feel for Christianity and Mennonites. It is time for all Christianity to repent and to open our doors to all. It is time for all Christians all over the world to create safe, sacred community, welcoming LGBTQ people, welcoming and creating community with all marginalized people. We keep asking Muslims to repudiate terrorism. I call on Christians to repudiate emotional and spiritual terror and implicit acceptance of physical violence done to LGBTQ people in the name of Christ.

  25. This sounds like a step in the right direction, but it was written by someone who has a degree in Communications. Words are cheap. I want to see some actions.

  26. I sat and thought too of making a comment. But I think many of the posts represent exactly what he was pointing to. Use his words to advance my position. Can we not all take a moment and grieve what has taken place. Left and right in MC USA would agree what happened in Orlando was a horrible evil act. Let us all take a moment and weep. Whether you agree with the LGBTQ lifestyle or not.

  27. I’m trying to reconcile these words with years of push back from MCUSA leaders and from Ervin specifically. Where were the tears when congregations were punished for accepting gays into membership? Where were the tears when pastors were excoriated for performing same-sex weddings? Where were the tears when talented LGBTQ persons left the Mennonite church because their gifts weren’t recognized? And where were the tears in the past three years as Mountain States Mennonite Conference was scolded for licensing a lesbian woman for ministry? It’s not just the queer community that has been badly damaged by MCUSA actions. It’s also their families, friends, and pastors. I don’t want tears. I want an apology. I want change. I want welcome, acceptance, and support for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

  28. Dear Ervin,

    Thank you for sharing with us your beautiful and heartfelt post. For me, it speaks deeply and eloquently of the heart of a servant of God.

    As you know, my ministerial credentials were terminated in 1987 in the Central District Conference when I declared that I did not see a sexual relationship between two men as sinful. For many decades I had struggled with the accusation that my sexual involvement with another man was violating God’s will. The Bible contained some specific statements which seemed to clearly indicate I was breaking God’s law, just as my accusers were declaring. However, in the years following the termination of my credentials, I had an experience with God that dramatically changed matters. God spoke to me clearly indicating that just because the church no longer recognized me as a minister, that didn’t cancel God’s call to me. God continued to have work for me and still considered me ordained for that holy work. God said to me, “Keith, my calling for you to minister is much broader than it was before. You are still called to be a minister for me; now your sacred work is as a man who loves men.”

    In the many years since then, I have had continued affirmation of that call. The peace and joy, the opportunities to minister, and the sense of God’s presence in my life have been abundant. Again, God’s grace has changed my life in ways the law never could. I pray that the Spirit will continue to lead me and give me courage to do God’s will each day of my life.

    If anyone in the church or on earth wishes to condemn or exclude or denounce me because of what I experience as my “sexual orientation,” the above is my witness to them, in love and with respect. If it is true that God spoke to me as I testify He did, then that means that something new has come into the world and into the works of God and His Son that goes beyond that which existed and was conveyed in Old or even New Testament times.

    With sincere love for you and for every sincere soul, “liberal” or “conservative,” “straight” or “otherwise,” who loves Christ and who wishes and seeks to do God’s will.

    Keith G. Schrag

    1. Keith,
      Thank-you for sharing such a personal, authentic message from you experiences.
      I hear your love, respect for all in the midst of sharing the very “real” pain you have felt in your personal journey. I find your note inspiring as it creates a bridge for many to cross…

  29. I am a sixty-three year old ‘ex-Mennonite’ gay man who still searches daily for Christ’s love. It is hard to find. When I read Mr. Stutzman’s article my heart soared thinking; ‘someone finally gets it!’ And then, near the end’ comes the words ‘queer folk’ reaffirming that Mr. Stutzman really isn’t there yet. Do we love our African American brothers and sisters by still using the ‘N’ word to refer to them? While reading the views of others I hear the desperate need of some to take on the job of the only true judge, Jesus Christ. I have been ‘out’ since 1971 and although my family tries their best they continue to focus on the sin and not Christ’s love and his commandment to ‘Love they Neighbor’. No earthly man or woman needs to point out the sins of others. God takes care of that. Christians sit in pews every Sunday knowing each and every sin in their heart and where work and repentance is necessary. And yet they leave their church with pointing fingers while ignoring the ‘wooden beam’ in their own eye. God alone weighs on the heart of the gossiper, the spouse with the roaming eye, the business person that cheats ‘just a little’ on their taxes, and those who have hate filled words against our government and our leaders. When will believers learn that God will take care of pointing fingers and that followers have only one roll to play and only one commandment to follow; to love one another? Is it any wonder that ‘the church’ has no attraction to the World? I pray that Mr. Stutzman’s heart continues it’s journey to the goal it searches.

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