Shall we Change the Issue?

Myron Augsburger suggested in his most recent comment that since he and I are unlikely to agree on homosexuality and the church, that we let the issue “rest with our Lord to continue influence by his Spirit for the best in the Kingdom, and focus more on the major problems in the world and how love can bring a transforming impact on causes of violence.”


Myron Augsburger

Karl-Shelly (1)

Pastor Karl Shelly blessing bicyclists in his congregation

Assuming that he will do likewise, I will agree to do as Myron suggests and let matters “rest with our Lord and to continue (t0) influence by his Spirit . . .”. Strangely perhaps, I was persuaded to do this by listening a second time to Karl Shelly. I suggest this listening discipline to scholars of all perspectives. It must be noted that Shelly was asked to speak to pastors as a pastors.  He disclaimed any role as a Biblical or theological scholar.  He is a lawyer called to be a pastor.  It was in this latter role that he spoke to us.

I believe I am attracted to him because of my role on the Listening Committee in the past. I understood then that we were to be pastoral style listeners, not as prophetic judges.  I’m still happier when I perceive myself to be listening.


Webmaster, Pete Oakley

The New Perspective’s webmaster gave me the news that Karl Shelly’s talk was now published and all can listen or download it here. The webmaster gave me the freedom to share the link with others whoever may be interested in hearing what Karl had to say in this forum.  A valuable question and answer period that followed the talk is included.

Near the end of his talk Karl highlighted the recent message of nine Spanish pastors to the Western District Conference. These usually conservative leaning leaders offered a reasonable way to unity in the Western Conference as long as there is mutual respect among groups with different views.

In response to this conservative initiative by the Spanish Mennonite pastors, Karl offered for consideration three-sentences of his own that mirrored the message from the Spanish pastors.  I think I can say that the message from the nine Spanish pastors as mirrored by Karl was received critically, yet warmly, by Karl’s audience.


How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.

Warmly, because he offered a way to preserve the  organizational unity of the denomination, and that was appreciated for we do still want to do things together.  Yet critically, because the proposal maintained organizational unity by allowing injustice to exist among us.

Congressman John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis

My agreement with Augsburger suffered a series of jolts on Sunday morning: I listened to Krista Tippett’s interview with congressman  John Lewis; for the first since becoming ill, I went to  church and heard a powerful MLK remembrance service on justice highlighted by stories from the witness of MCC among Moslems; during the christian education hour we examined what the Mennonite church would be like if it were known as a justice church instead of a peace church.

God Loves EverybodyIt was like Jesus to spring love surprises during his life on earth. What joy there would be if by the Holy Spirit we were all surprised by a Spirit motivated unanimous delegate action in July in Kansas City declaring the Mennonite Church a welcoming church.  Remember, Jesus is the same  yesterday, today and forever.  I once used that text to admonish a congregation to be ready for a surprise filled future. Not every one liked the sermon.

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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3 Responses to Shall we Change the Issue?

  1. Myron Augsburger says:

    Thanks, Martin, but you kept on in comments, something we can hardly avoid, eh. Yes, I believe justice is so primary, but how do you define justice? Is not justice the correction of the problem, as God correcting our estrangement,m Rom. 3:21-23. Greetings from Sarasota where I’m blessed with some time to think. Myron

  2. Kendal Sommers says:

    Martin, thank you so much for keeping the torch burning on this issue.
    I agree, there is much violence in the world that needs to be addressed. That violence includes the high number of suicide attempts by LGBT youth, including in the Christian church and in our own denomination. According to studies cited by the CDC, LGBT teenagers are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. Other sources push that multiplier even higher. But things are changing for the better. The wind of the spirit is blowing, just as it did when Martin Luther and Menno Simons refused to be “the quiet in the land”.

    • Kendal, you make a telling connection between LGBT teenagers and violence. Lyle Schaller, author and consultant to change agents advised a group of us that if we proposed a change five times and nothing happened, to stop proposing it. After a time, he said, someone else will propose the same change, it will be accepted and someone else will get the credit for it. So, I will not be surprised that you and others feel the need to speak up, and the change we pray for will quietly happen. I agree, the wind of the spirit is blowing, and will not be stopped.

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