In an earlier post I noted an observation that church divisions carry with them the seeds of divisions to follow. Perhaps an outsider should be asked to research the nature of this trait.
To this 89 year old there appears to be a human need to set boundaries. make laws and require that anyone who breaks the law must be criminalized.
This may be the demon that troubles the church. I once heard the phenomena described like this: after a decision to move ahead had been made by the group, a brother rose from his seat, took his black hat off the hook on the wall and walked out the door, never to return. This disorderly trait can be traced back to the Amish and Mennonite division.
In the beginning, Anabaptist believers formed a covenant community with requirements and a boundary. They disagreed on how to deal with one who varied from a requirement. There is an Amish way and a Mennonite way. Much can be learned from Cindy Woodsmall, an outsider that blogs about the divisions among us.
Today, some good people leave the Mennonite Church USA because it requires too much, and other good people leave MCUSA because it requires too little. This poses a dilemma for leadership. How can leaders lead without losing members?
Ted Grimsrud is an insider who has labored long over the probable end of the MCUSA as an institution. As I understand him, Grimsrud urges MCUSA to allow those who disagree with it to “self select” to be outsiders and set boundaries and requirements of their own. This will allow MCUSA to pursue single mindedly the mission of Jesus in the world.
The Evangelical Anabaptist Network EVANA is trying not to be divisive though it identifies two groups of anabaptists – traditionalists and progressives. EVANA promises to allow member congregations to belong to both EVANA (traditionalists) and MCUSA (progressives). In the mind of the Old Fool, EVANA likely carries with it the same divisive seed that is disturbing its relationship with MCUSA.
The Lancaster Conference is struggling to maintain an identity that is both traditional and progressive. Fifty two leaders in that conference have proposed a radical center in a courageous attempt to hold the conference together.
EVANA, MCUSA and the radical center within Lancaster Conference assert their loyalty to the 1965 Confession of Faith from a Mennonite Perspective. Yet I fear that each carries with it the damaging seed that assures division. Each seems to be like the church described in I Corinthians 3:1-3
It is the Old Fool’s opinion that division is not as unavoidable as death. Division is an illness that can be healed by repenting from ungraceful, unmerciful and unpeaceful behaviors. Is not repentance within our human capabilities? And can we not adopt the simple A B C behaviors of faith, such as grace, mercy and peace?