There were many sacred moments during the public sessions of the Minority Ministries Council reunion: quiet, applauding, hugging, singing, memory, and moments of prayer. One had to be there to take it all in.
College Mennonite Church has its recent sacred moments. For months we had pondered if we should publicly own ourselves as an open community. Some of our sons and daughters and their parents had been deeply hurt by past rejections. Could we dare to own up to a public welcoming practice? The statement proposed by the church’s board read,
“We believe that all individuals are created in God’s image, and all people, regardless of age, gender, race, citizenship status, abilities, or sexual orientation, are welcome as full participants in the life of our congregation.”
It is understood that the statement will inform and represent our collective practice of welcoming people into our congregational life. Slightly more than 90 percent of voters affirmed the statement. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that we hold diverse beliefs on many matters. The decision was received in respectful silence. I believe that both our agreements and our many diversities are sacred.
However, since the decision I listened to an interview by Krista Tippit of Layli Long Soldier who is a writer, a mother, a citizen of the U.S. and of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Krista introduced Layli by writing that a single voice can be a window into a whole world. The topic of the interview was “The Freedom of Real Apologies.” The interview opened a window of understanding for me, and I now feel deeply that our work as a congregation is unfinished.
Unfinished, because the reality is that our statement contains no apology to the people hurt by the congregation’s rejection. I like the statement. I admire the leadership that proposed it, and the process that produced its overwhelming approval. My new understanding and belief is that those who felt rejected should be sought out and should receive a real apology.
What makes an apology real? Real apology is embedded in the biblical concept of repentance. Those who repent are filled with such devastating sorrow that they cannot reject again. We will not be free till we have extended a real apology to the ones whom we have hurt in the past.
Feel free to forward this blog to anyone you know who has power in a congregation, conference or MCUSA!