Myron Augsburger and I are friends. We are about the same age and could be considered “cradle Mennonites” since we were both carried to a Mennonite church by our mothers. We married daughters of missionary bishops. While young, we were both ordained for ministry and have roots in Florida. (For detailed information “google” his name, or click here for a short article written near his eightieth birthday.)
After his years in Florida ended, our paths diverged. He became an academic, evangelist, college president and author. My formal schooling ended at Eastern Mennonite High School. I learned on the run. I attended seminars and workshops available to me, read books and magazines, and studied a year in college during Augsburger’s tenure as president of Eastern Mennonite University. Whenever we happened to meet our conversation was usually ended by him encouraging me to write a book. Most of my writing was limited to articles for the Mennonite press, but after my retirement I did eventually write a two volume series of books.
Myron founded the Washington Community Fellowship near the US capital which attracted national leaders. (To hear a Mennonite sermon preached near the capital click here and listen to Del Glick.)
I consider Myron a true friend. When he doesn’t agree with me, the strength of our friendship allows him to question me. If I misrepresent him or his positions in this post, I expect him to correct me. Our latest engagement on homosexuals and the church reminded me of a suggestion he made during the merger of the “old” Mennonites and General Conference Mennonites into Mennonite Church USA.
Myron noted that the Old Mennonites came directly from Europe and governed through conferences, and the General Conference Mennonites had come from Europe through Russia and gave governing authority to the congregations. As I recall, Augsburger questioned the merger of the two groups because of the difference in governance and suggested that a confederation would be better than a merger. Each group could maintain its own style of governance in a confederation, yet the two groups could combine resources in projects of common interest Other Anabaptist groups could be invited to join the confederation.
In hindsight it might have been better if Augsburger had been taken more seriously and the church had confederated rather than merged Since we had a vision of the value of organizational unity, but not its cost, we merged. Having come this far it would be well for us to acknowledge that we can go no further in the flesh. Have we become so attached to the bitter old wine of split after split that we cannot drink the new better wine made of the Spirit’s fruit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, and become more truly one in Christ?
As I was ending this post I looked for a picture of Myron that depicted him more as he is now. I stumbled (or was guided) to a sermon he preached on compassion. Follow this link to see Myron and to hear my brother’s words. When he last heard me speak he came to the table where I was signing books and whispered in my ear, “I like your spirit, brother.”
Every time I sing from “Sing the Story” or “Sing the Journey” I think of Randall Spaulding and the gifts he gave to the church. Often I turn to the page that lists the names of those who selected the songs to be included. Spaulding’s name is first on the list as chair, and I give thanks. Bill Breckbill lived his life for the church and loved and accepted his lesbian daughter. I attended his funeral at the Waterford Mennonite Church. It was packed. I heard his children praise him.
These are they who have been found by the Shepherd, have received the robe, ring, and shoes from the Father, and are waiting to be received by the rest of the family.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7 (NIV)