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.
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.
The 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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