A Third Way

Annie Maniscalco when she graduated from Jr. High School, 1943

My friend, Lloyd, in his recent comment mentioned  the unique ministry of Bishop Noah Mack.  I am grateful for the impact of Bishop Mack on my own life.  He baptized me at age ten, and since we were all children, the tall, lanky bishop knelt on his own knees to get on our level.  I don’t remember much else of my baptism, but I remember the bishop who kneeled.

In years before my Tampa ministry, Mack often spent winters in the Tampa parsonage where Rhoda, Rachel and I lived for ten years.  He baptized children in the Ida St. and Ybor City missions.  When he baptized Annie Maniscalco he lamented that the children he baptized into the church one winter were gone from the church when he returned the next winter.  Annie heard him say this and stamped her foot saying, “Not me,” meaning she wouldn’t be gone.   I think she is still a Mennonite on the West Coast.

Ann Maniscalco Teaching  1st and 2nd grade -Sharon School - 1953-54

Annie and her 1st and 2nd grade class in Sharon School, Ybor City, Tampa, FL

Annie lived in our home in the year she taught in Sharon School.  I think I taught her to drive a car while she lived with us.

As an adult minister I went to Mack’s funeral.  If I recall correctly, we sang Mack’s favorite hymn, Before Jehovah’s Awful Throne.  You may listen to it by clicking here.

My friend Lloyd also claimed that parting ways like Paul and Barnabas was better than quarreling.   Mennonites are  almost “proud” to be known as a third way that is neither Protestant nor Catholic.  Now I am calling us to learn another third way, neither quarreling nor parting of the ways, but negotiation.

Endless quarreling is not a satisfactory way to relate with anyone, and parting of ways in the church seems to me to violate the prayer of Jesus that all who are His be one, unless the parting is done in what I perceive to be the spirit of Paul and Barnabas.

A third way would be for congregations and conferences to negotiate ways to stay together in spite of disagreement. That is, disagree  clearly and honestly, but without bitterness, quarreling,  or dare I say it,  splitting.  In that case everyone will give in a little. We tend to think that to give in is wrong and a sign of weakness.

MCUSA-LogoThe delegates to the Kansas City Assemble appeared to have struggled to find this third way.  They passed two disparate resolutions.  One resolution on membership attempted to stem change for at least four more years. Another resolution called for forbearance, an attitude that will allow conferences and congregations to tolerate variance.

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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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1 Response to A Third Way

  1. Lloyd Gingrich says:

    Dear Martin, Thanks for sharing your memories of Bishop Noah Mack. I think you missed the point I was trying to make. After he excommunicated some members he said,” We are still brethren”. The quarreling and negotiating have gone on too long it is time to part ways and get on with our work of kingdom building. We can part ways and still be brothers and sisters in that we love the Lord. John 1:12 to all who receive Him have the right to become the children of God. To all who believe in His name.
    Unity is more than everybody thinking the same.

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