A Third Way

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.”

image0The 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.


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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4 Responses to A Third Way

  1. Carroll Lehman says:

    Martin, I thought you and your readers might be interested in my reply to the EMU note, that they have decided to keep the current policy about homosexuality of faculty in place. Maybe some more of your supporters, who are EMU alum, will do the same.

    As an EMC alum, I am greatly disappointed in and ashamed of the decision reached by the Board of Trustee. It is sad to me that you continue to discriminate against the lesbian and gay community. I am not gay, but, am privileged to have many gay friends and some family members. When I was at EMC, the issue of the color of your skin was a hot topic. There were Mennonite businesses in the community that wouldn’t serve a black member of the basketball team or allow them to stay in their motel. The college took a clear stand on that. Gay people no more choose their sexual orientation than people choose the color of their skin. How many years will it take for the gay members of the Mennonite Church, and there are many, some who are faculty at Mennonite Colleges,–most still in the closet, to be accepted as who they are — God’s children also? I have just retired from teaching college for 42 years and I always believed that an academic institution should be at the forefront of thought and social development. Even more so, and Mennonite Institution should be an example of where the Church is going, or should go–not leading from behind. In the early 60’s, I was fortunate to have some foreward thinking and well known EMC faculty members who required that we read Tillich, Bonhoeffer, Gorden Kauffman, who was viewed as a heretic in those days. We read “Catcher in the Rye” and “Is you God too Small?” I’m afraid EMU is more concerned about the pocketbook, loss of Church support, than it is about what is the right, Christian, thing to do. Dr. Carroll J. Lehman, ’64

  2. Raymond Martin says:

    Here is my trivial response Carroll: I’m glad there are guys like you and just as glad that not everybody is so minded.

  3. Lowell Nissley says:

    To Carroll & Martin: I just finished reading Perry Bush’s book, Two Kingdoms – Two Loyalties. He helps put things in perspective, sadly, a vision lacking clarity today.

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