Sacred Humanism

After the Sunday morning service on baptism, and the educational meeting  on the environment the Sunday ended with an evening of “New  Perspectives  on Faith” gathering at College Mennonite Church.  

The mission of New Perspectives is “to foster inter-congregational,  inter-denominational, and inter-faith conversations that contribute to new  perspectives on faith for a new millennium.”   Its primary  goal  is to create a forum where serious seekers of truth can meet together to bring  contemporary theological scholarship into the public arena; and respectfully  discuss differing points of view as we discover truth and enrich the life of  each person.”

Ed Groff

The speaker of the evening was Ed Groff.  His subject was  “Sacred Humanism.” Simple humanists believe that people can live without  religion. They use their intelligence and reason instead of depending on a  personal god or religion.  When asked why he chose to speak on sacred  humanism, Groff acknowledged that while he did not feel a need  for a god, he did believe that there was something sacred  beyond humanism.

Groff is on the faculty of California Institute of the Arts in Los  Angeles, CA, where he teaches critical studies courses in the School of  Dance; and serves as Assistant Director of the MFA Program in  Choreography.  If I understood him, Groff sees spirituality in the dances  of native peoples.  But when asked, he could not define  spirituality.

My contribution for the evening was to describe the Saturday evening  session of the Indiana-Michigan Conference at Bethany Christian School.  I  tried to tell of the African-American dancing woman with fans, and the powerful  demonstrative message of the African-American woman preacher of the  evening.

Groff responded by saying that he was glad to learn that this kind of  event had happened in a meeting sponsored by Mennonites.  Groff is not a  stranger to Mennonites.  He is the son of Wayburn and the late Thelma  Groff.  His father was there with white hair and  black suit  seated in a wheel chair to hear his son  speak.    

The Groffs reared their son as a member of a missionary family in  India.  He attended Bethany Christian School when they returned from  India.  He told the New Perspectives that he is gay. 

Randall Spaulding

I learned afterward that when Groff became open about his sexual  orientation, many of his family and his church rejected him and rejected his parents because they would not reject their son.  He spoke several times of his appreciation and  respect for his parents.  I admire them.  I assume  that the younger Groff  will leave a foot print on the Mennonite church  through new perspectives. 

From sing the Journey

From sing the Journey

I thought of another gay man who is leaving a large foot print on the church.  Randall Spaulding was the chair of the committee that developed Sing the Story and Sing the Journey, two supplements of the Mennonite Worship Book. When he became transparent about his gay sexual orientation, the conference revoked his pastoral credentials.    He is now preparing for further ministry. 

When we sing from one of the supplements, I often turn to the page that reveals his role in its preparation and am grateful for the memories of the Randall Spaulding I knew and love.

Should we not rejoice that the church is beginning to honor men and  women for their transparency, and the gifts they offer to the church they  love.

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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3 Responses to Sacred Humanism

  1. Miriam says:

    A fitting blog for June.

  2. Harold Bauman says:

    I have used a cpap for 16 years and have found it very helpful. It has not disturbed my sleep, rather has been supportive. I am in the process of applying for new machine. I am told one can get a new one every 5 years. My 16 years should qualify!!! I hope you will find your cpap comfortable and useful.

    Ed Groff is still young and has not confronted the hard questions in life. (Who am I to say that?) I would be glad to talk with him about the hard questions in life. Perhaps some time when we go to see Rebecca and can arrange sometime with Ed. Hope so!

    Thanks for our emails. Love and peace, Harold

  3. Miriam says:

    I’m glad for you that your CPAP has worked so well for you, Harold!

    Your comment is interesting to me. On the one hand, you ask who you are to say Ed Groff has not yet confronted the hard questions in life. But you seem to be saying it seriously. Written communication doesn’t always impart the full meaning we intend, so I’m unclear on that…but that’s okay!

    I am very curious and would like to ask 1) What are the hard questions in life? and 2) At what age should a person’s philosophical perspective be considered seriously, taken as an adult perspective?

    The Christian community in the United States (worldwide as well, but less so) is in serious decline. Will assumptions that people under 50 / 60 years of age are untested make its message more effective? In our rapidly changing world, we have lost much of the communication that used to take place between generations. It will take creative thinking to recover or compensate for these losses. So I’m asking questions. 🙂

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