Carrying Love with Me

By Kelly Bates Oglesby

KellyBatesOglesby
Kelly Bates Oglesby resides in Indianapolis, Ind. She was a participant at the All You Need is Love conference in Leesburg, Va. She reflects on her experience in this post.

For nearly two years, I have been embedded in a Mennonite congregation.  I came to fulfill the requirements for my Master of Divinity degree.  Christian Theological Seminary (Indianapolis, Ind.) requires two years of ministry field service and am blessed to reach mutual agreement with First Mennonite Church of Indianapolis to complete my pastoral internship there.

After the usual stumbling and awkwardness of getting acquainted, this Free-Will-Baptecostal developed an authentic respect for Mennonite faith.  Slowly, my eclectic spiritual journey begins to fuse Mennonite ways of being into my faith discipline and life. And I realized rather than being an intern I was becoming at home in the Mennonite church.

Love markThe immersion of love expressed in a myriad of ways during the Anabaptist Women Doing Theology Conference, “All You Need is Love: Honoring the Diversity of Women’s Voices in Theology,” left me feeling bittersweet.  The time at the conference affirmed and confirmed all that was in my spirit, and spoke to the dreams I dared since I was girl.

Yet, I knew this more than likely was not going to be a continual experience but a treasured stop on my spiritual journey.  So I willed myself to be present at each moment, dared myself to love and to allow myself to be loved during this period of uplift and embrace with my sisters.

Saving my coins, overcoming transportation mishaps, and sacrificing time away from family, I had finally made my way to this place where love had everything to do with each person there.  Love was the paradigm of the conference, love was the proclamation of every notice regarding the conference, and the love of God purposed in my spirit that I must go to this conference when all indicators said “not so.”

Preparing for the conference I submitted two proposals–one I believed in with all of my heart and a backup that was safe and traditional.  The committee selected the one prepared with love: serving inner city as an urban missionary.  At the time, I had hopes of doing so as a Mennonite.  Recently, developments have changed my status and I find myself as Mennonite in my heart without a local congregation.

First Mennonite Church is an exceptionally kind and welcoming community that is in the midst of leadership transition at the lead pastor level.  The current Pastor/Elder Team did not  feel it an appropriate time to commit to becoming the covering/sending congregation for a church plant, given the other discernment at hand.

Hence, I plan to honor the Mennonite Church USA pastoral/ecclesial policy and protocol for pastors not to engage with congregations after ending official duties for at least a year.  The end of my time was planned when I began my service. What was unexpected was for me was to find myself theologically, ideologically, and simply at home during the internship.

Since the  Anabaptist Women Doing Theology Conference, women have reached out to me and continue to connect with me.  I pray this continues.  The Women in Leadership Project, African American Mennonite Association, and the many individual connections assure me that love is not confined or constricted to a building.

As I engage in the urban mission work God has given as a vocation, I will use the lessons and expressions of living love shared at the women’s conference. As we sang together:  “i found god in myself and i loved her i loved her fiercely” ― Ntozake Shange

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20 thoughts on “Carrying Love with Me

  1. Thank you Ervin for your thoughtful and pastoral approach to this discussion. One thing is bothering me though. In all of the discussion regarding same-sex marriage we appear to be deliberately ignoring the elephant in the room. I refer to divorce, which is specifically referenced in the same MCUSA teaching position statement often mentioned in the context of same-sex marriage. It seems to me that divorce is a greater threat to marriages and to the spiritual health of our congregations than same-sex marriage. When are we going to begin to have “really good discussions” about how to strengthen marriages within MCUSA and better minister to those whose marriages are in trouble or have ended in divorce?

  2. I am relieved to learn that rethinking our current organization and polity is one option being identified as a way through this. Having traveled around the church leading discussions that often involve human sexuality, I fear there is no possibility of consensus–no matter how well we listen to each other. Rather than spend the next decades discussing our varied understandings of what the Bible really says and how we should apply Scriptural understandings to today’s situations, I pray our leaders will help us find a way for us to bless each other and then challenge us to get on with our missional call of bringing healing and hope to our hurting sisters and brothers, our communities and our world.

  3. a federation, alliance, or association… a loose affiliation of independent national bodies with a small core of common convictions…some warned that we might too easily cluster into homogeneous groupings with less cross-cultural capacity, or lose the ability to hold each other accountable to our Anabaptist ideals. Some worried that we might lose the capacity to learn from each other’s differences in a less diverse body.

    I recently made two posts at rruuaacchh.org that argue for splitting and, at the same time, on another level, not splitting. That we go our separate ways in some respects, but we commit to a regular engagement to continue calling each other to account and learning from each other, in a sustainable rhythm. This commitment is not based on our common opinions, but on our need for each other despite both sides considering that the other side is immoral. I’ve written a ton about this issue, on that blog. I’m loathe to copy both posts (Split 1, and Split 2) here, but I’d appreciate your critique on rruuaacchh.org.

  4. Wisdom words. This site is inspiration for my new day that began at 4 am. (Since grade 9 I’ve loved the early morning and this day I’m preparing to teach today’s Heritage Watchers.) Script below: May our people groups know new life, new hope, and new commitment to God’s ways which are higher than our own. Special Note: We may associate without being married to one another. Peace and great blessings to all readers!

  5. I have to admit a great deal of frustration that such a simple, beautiful church is so ensnared in this debate. It has all the inanity of arguing whether the color blue is actually blue. The Bible, both New and Old Testaments, are clear on this issue; homosexual practice is a sin. Those with homosexual dispositions should be loved, valued, helped, and challenged alongside the rest to live holy lives. They are no worse and no better than any other sinner, of whom we each can say, I am chief.

    My husband and I recently left our beloved congregation over a refusal to take a Biblical stand on this issue. We hoped to stay within the Mennonite Church, but as we see this issue come up over and over, we feel a keen sense of hopelessness. We served for six years with EMM in Chile and know the wild blessing it is to be busy about God’s business; reaching out and discipling new believers. Here in the States it seems we are too busy trying to skirt scripture so that we can be culturally palatable.

    I know those who would disagree with me are operating from a place of deep love; I see that, I do. Many have children who have come out as gay or close friends who have confided their struggles and they wish to minister to them. They interpret the Bible differently than the preceding thousands of years of Christians. They believe God is doing something new; lowering a sheet from Heaven where unclean are made clean.

    My challenge to them is this: Where is your point of reference for your beliefs? Your own empathy? Pervading culture? The scriptures? If it is the latter, please share from that point of reference, because as I see it, that is our only common ground, that we believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant Word of God. If you don’t believe even that, why are you Mennonite in the first place?

    Respectfully,
    Sarah Gingrich

  6. The issue seems simple to me. We are moving in the direction of becoming Unitarian. Does the world really need another Unitarian church? I personally think the third way of historic anabaptist theology has much to offer and I am feeling like we are giving it up for something that has no substance.

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