Grace upon Grace upon Grace

SCAN0206Denominations don’t revise a creed, but they can revise their confessions of faith. For example, the June 9, 2014 Mennonite World Review reports that the Mennonite Brethren delegates will consider revising the peace article of their Confession of Faith. They propose to take out the word “nonresistance” and replace it with “peacemaking.”  The Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches (formerly Evangelical Mennonites) have a proposal to add a reference to its Articles of Faith that identifies Genesis 1-11 as being ”literal history.” The proponents of the proposals feel that such changes will increase unity and peace within their denominations.

Everyone needs a sense of unity, commonality and peace. But the peace of the Mennonite Church USA is disturbed by one sentence in Article 19 of the 1995 Mennonite Confession in a Mennonite Perspective. The sentence is that We believe that God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life.

SCAN0222

Joy at Pine Creek Mennonite Church, Arcadia Florida

This sentence feels different to the Old Fool than most other sentences in the Confession of Faith. Most state what “is.” The troubling sentence focuses on the original intention of God.  The Old Fool feels that the sentence does not need to be rewritten because we Mennonites should be able to agree on this simple statement of God’s intention.

Sadly, God’s intentions haven’t worked out. History is instructive. The Bible declares that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Our sadness turns to joy only when we accept God’s undeserved love and unmerited grace and show those same godly qualities to others. Then there will be peace, perfect peace.

Ponder examples of God’s grace with me: Even though Adam and Eve failed, they did not die. Eve became the mother of all living (through pain), and Adam  was made a steward of the earth, to cultivate and harvest it (through sweat.) Their first son murdered his brother. God showed agape love and grace to Cain by protecting him from capital punishment by a mark on his forehead. If you look for God’s agape love and grace you will see it, even in the Old Testament.

IMG_1094

Friends at Funkfest, Prairie Street Mennonite Church, Elkhart, Indiana

In today’s world, the church recognizes that divorce ends a marriage covenant originally intended by all parties to be for life. Many churches act with undeserved love and grace toward divorced and remarried persons and grant them the privileges of full membership.

Some churches rule out lesbians and gays out of respect for God’s original intention. Others accept them openly by practicing God’s agape love and unmerited favor. True, the church needs a renewal of love, grace, and joy. My hope for the Anabaptist Renewal Circles is that they will not use up their time and energy in revising Article 19.  “Grace, mercy and peace” is a key phrase in the New Testament.   Family, church and communal peace and joy will surely be renewed when grace is extended by the unworthy to the unworthy.

 

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.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Grace upon Grace upon Grace

  1. Harold Bauman says:

    Thank you for reminding us that we live by grace upon grace upon grace. This should keep us humble and slow to judge others.

    Jesus’ teachings on divorce and remarriage are quite clear. Yet you write that congregations receive people involved in divorce and remarriage by grace. Your and my congregation does also. This is a kind of pastoral approach that says that on the basis of changed lives we can do this.

    I am thinking out loud now and in writing, which may not be wise. I am wondering if same sex covenanted couples could be received the same way as divorced and remarried couples, without needing to restate what God intended in marriage or negating the texts dealing with homosexuality.

    As you think and pray about this I will be glad talk with you face-to-face. Love and peace, Harold

  2. D. Lowell Nissley says:

    Thank you, Martin. Excellent observation.
    Lowell

  3. Raymond Martin says:

    I am of the impression that Anabaptist Renewal Circles is about renewing outreach mission. What I thought they are about is “Keeping the main thing the main thing.” I use this title from Irvin Stutzman, P. 55, July, The Mennonite because what he says sounds what I’ve heard that the Racial/Ethnic CLC members were expressing in their meeting. What I heard reported is that they said we do n0t want to be talking about homosexuality. They cited outreach as the main thing. I do not think article 19 will be their agenda. For me article 19 is part of the main thing; it is very much a part of the GOOD NEWS! Getting bogged down in a -win/lose argument is to get off the main thing. How can we work on this issue without getting off of the “Main Thing?”
    Just wondering….are we talking about different things? I’m thinking the July 10-12 meeting at Weaverland.

    • Raymond,
      You are probably right that the ARCs wish to get to evangelism as the main thing and that they don’t want to get bogged down in a win/lose debate. It appears to me that to avoid what is dividing the church by inviting only like minded people to the Circles isn’t productive. Evangelism will likely force dealing with that question. Why not invite everyone to the circles regardless of the shirt color, or letters that have signed, and not ask for participants who commit to anything except the main thing. Let’s keep talking

      • Raymond Martin says:

        I live near Weaverland so I registered to go to the meeting without knowing I am to be likeminded. I believe Jesus loves and accepts GLBT people and the church should too. I will not raise the subject at weaverland but if anybody asks I will be free to tell where I stand. I will tell why if I am asked but I will not get into a debate. Yes, I too believe accepting GLBT people is vital to evangelism.

        • Raymond, I am grateful that one like you lives near Weaverland and has registered and are planning to attend with the spirit you have. May your tribe increase!

          • Raymond Martin says:

            I read this blog again to ponder one of your statements. You seem to be saying that the LGBT sexual orientation is a matter of brokenness. While I know I am badly broken, I hesitate to say that the LGBT condition is a matter of brokenness. I’d like to hear a GBLT person respond to that. Perhaps you already have heard such response. Or do I take you wrongly?

  4. Marilyn Slabach says:

    This blog is very interesting and educational. We are all wonderfully made imperfect people and God never gives up on any one of us. This blog is also a reminder of people who made/make a difference in our world like Fred and Dolce and Ambrosio (photo). What a life your brother had. He will surely be missed by those who knew him. Keep up the good work, Martin. God bless.

  5. Martin says:

    Raymond, I did not mean to say that anyone is more broken than others. I understand that brokenness is a human condition that receives God’s agape love and grace, and we do well to show the same to others.

  6. Raymond Martin says:

    The Weaverland event is past. I was not pressed to discuss LGBTQ issues except that a member from my congregation raised the issue with me, feeling that the issue is being processed in a one-sided way in our congregation. My only discomfort was that I did not want others passing by to hear and join with an angry spirit. That didn’t happen.
    The “main thing” in the meeting was outreach/evangelism. There was a workshop on sexuality but I did not ask anybody about that. Christopher Yuan spoke in one plenary session telling his story of drug use and dealing, homosexual (non-covenanted) relationships, jail and finally his conversion. There is great grace in his testimony. He did not say anything about changing ones orientation. There was also a workshop for “parents of gay children.”
    There was a Sat. breakfast for pastors with Ervin Stutzman in which he described how the Executive Board is working with the issue with Mountain States Conference. He entertained questions at the end. Some were asked in a kindly manner and some were fired-up with a “where’s the leadership” sort of attitude which seemed they really had not managed to hear what was said.
    I feel deeply for Ervin and others working on this issue. Ervin is a good brother and competent. Many with the same abilities are working with him. I feel great empathy in Ervin’s asking CLC, “is there no place for me to care for me people on both sides of this issue?
    Meanwhile lets “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”

  7. Thanks for this response and report of your experiences at Weaverland. I, too, respect Ervin and feel deeply for him. I think he may represent a third way in which we all care for those on either side of this issue, which we are trying to make not the main issue. I am now writing what I believe may be my last attempt to speak to the Circles development.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.