Much has happened since I last wrote any thing that responded to the Anabaptist Renewal Circles. Since then, the Indiana Michigan Conference met in annual session at our church. The conference had a sad task. Clinton Frame, a large and historic congregation asked that it be allowed to withdraw from the conference. The permission was granted.
A friend of mine wrote a letter to the conference and suggested that it communicate like this to the withdrawing congregation: We cannot stop you from withdrawing from us. Still we feel that we will always be brothers and sisters in Christ and neighbors because we live so close to one another, share a common history and faith, and have many common interests, including family ties.
Also, since the last post on this theme, the Executive Board of MCUSA has had executive sessions and released a subsequent report of its activity. No punitive action was taken toward the Mountain States Conference deemed to be at “variance” because it discerned that a sister in a lesbian relationship to have gifts of ministry. Instead of sanctioning the conference it was asked to reconsider its discernment process. At the same time, the Executive Board is deliberately trying to develop a new organizational pattern as advised by the Conference Leadership Council of the MCUSA.
The Old Fool feels that the Southern Baptist New Heart Community church in California is charting a promising new way. When its pastor changed his stand on homosexuality, a majority of the church established New Heart Community as a “third way” church that neither affirms nor condemns homosexuality but agrees to disagree.”
Some leaders of the Southern Baptist convention deny that there can be a third way. They believe that Baptist congregations should be forced to choose to either condemn homosexuality and stay with the convention or affirm homosexuality and separate from the convention. The stance of the New Heart Community Church appeals to me. Small, urban and innovative congregations often show the way to the future for a conference or a denomination. These brave and insightful churches should be valued, not disciplined. That is what history teaches us.
I like the way Edwin Markham put it:
“They drew a line that shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout!
But love and I had the wit to win
We drew a circle and brought them in.”
The College Mennonite Church and community has suffered the loss of Don Lee Steider since I last wrote. He was a member of Borderlands class of which I am a member. My Joy and I went to the memorial service at CMC and we were blessed with laughter and tears as family and friends recalled his life in a beautiful service filled with song, scripture and stories. He was director of maintenance at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary for many years. He was a skilled craftsman and managed the beautiful cherry wood trim that adorns the AMBS library and the new Mennonite Church offices in Elkhart. It seemed that no task was too challenging or too menial for him.