I began to write this post on Saturday, July 14, the last day of the Convention of the Anabaptist Renewal Circles. The last of its eight commitments is close to what Raymond Martin called “the main thing:” the renewal of outreach mission. Raymond’s most recent comment reported that the convention really focused on renewal of outreach mission. He was there and should know.
The last of the eight published commitments by Circles cheers me. It is a compound commitment. The first half of the commitment is to encourage (provide conditions that will help something to happen) fellowship (to share common interests, goals, experience or views) in the Mennonite church. The second half of the commitment is to welcome (accept or anticipate with delight and eagerness, often because of a felt need) a new move (replacing or supplementing that which already exists) of His Spirit.
As I review the commitments made by the Circles it seems there is a consistent desire to focus on the main thing, a renewal of outreach mission. Ponder the following, perhaps costly, eventualities:
Might a new move of God’s Spirit be welcomed even if it comes as a more radical love for the Lord and compassion for our neighbors, even if the more radical love and compassion for our neighbors leads us to welcome lesbian and gay members into our fellowship; even if a new fullness of His grace and truth as we passionately follow Jesus leads the church to minister to lower class citizens, to those whom the old law deemed to be unclean and outcasts?
The Anabaptist Renewal Circles was already committed to earnestly seek more of the Holy Spirit and His transforming power, and now it welcomes a new move of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit 1s described in Galatians 5 as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. … Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” Might a new move of the Holy Spirit use the fruit of the Spirit to remove conceit and unify the Mennonite Church in our pursuit of the main thing?
The Anabaptist Renewal Circles is committed to rejoice in the holistic witness of Scripture. The Old Fool is not sure what the Circles mean by holistic witness. In the preface to the Kingdom New Testament, N. T. Wright reminds us that Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread and says that we cannot live on yesterday’s bread which is like the interpretations of previous generations. A living faith requires that we do business with God for ourselves; we need to think things through, to struggle and pray and ponder and try things out for ourselves and be open to new possibilities, Might a new move of the Holy Spirit change our evaluation of the scriptures that stand in the way of our doing the main thing?
The Anabaptist Renewal Circles is committed to affirm the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective and call the church to faithfulness. Might a new move of the Holy Spirit reveal to the church that we should not use the confession of faith as a strict standard for membership or ordination, and that disputes about such use takes our eyes off the main thing?
The Anabaptist Renewal Circles is committed to joyfully embrace Biblical sexuality as taught by Jesus and His apostles. Might a new move of the Holy Spirit reveal to the church that Biblical sexuality includes sexual activity between any two people who are permanently bonded by mutual love and thus allow us to focus on the main thing?
The next to the last commitment by the Circles is to understand our brokenness and in humility seek spiritual renewal. The last commitment is to encourage fellowship in the Mennonite church and welcome a new move of His Spirit. Understanding, brokenness, humble seeking, encouraged fellowship and a welcomed new move of God’s Spirit are essential components of these last two commitments. Might the realization of these eventualities be the unanticipated aftermath of the convention and the precursor of a joyful focus on the main thing, the renewal of outreach mission?
Recently while in a safe environment a man revealed that years ago his teenage lesbian daughter committed suicide. He spoke bitterly of the “closet” in which he and his daughter were compelled to live by a church that does not understand.
This week I was pleased to read in the the story of a mother, her gay son, and an understanding church. Click here to read it.
Please send this post to friends who might be ready to welcome the eventualities suggested in this post. Introduce them to the Old Fools Website