I left both Virginia Mennonite Conference (VMC) Assembly and Mennonite Church USA Convention in Kansas City feeling deeply moved by the worship experiences with emphasis on what it means to live like Jesus during challenging times.
I was intrigued by the notion that holiness and unity aren’t just two dynamic concepts on a continuum, but rather “two sides of the same coin.” Both must be experienced in context of the other to fully appreciate their meaning.
As moderator of VMC I asked the following questions:
“What in the world can the church of Jesus Christ, including VMC, do in the face of the sea-change going on in our society and church?”
“How are we, traditionalists and progressives—for lack of better terms—going to “forebear” with each other?”
“How can we restrain ourselves from the temptation of judging each others’ motives and behavior over the society’s changing legal definition of marriage?”
“How can we live incarnationally when our differences go so deep?”
In the face of these differences, it seems to me we are foremost called to pray about the sea-change we are facing. This change will impact us all in the future one way or another.
The church is also called to discern how best to respond to the inevitable changes that are coming from society’s changing definition of marriage. In his book The Way of Transition (2001, p.2), William Bridges writes that “most people don’t resist change.” We change jobs, adjust to a new boss, accommodate a new baby, lose a loved one or move from one country to another.
However, he notes, “we resist transition, the process of letting go of the way things used to be and then taking hold of the way they will subsequently become.” In coming to terms with transition, we face the truth about our differences; we engage in prayerful conversation and discernment of scripture and culture, and come to some understanding about finding our way forward.
The outcome may not be what we personally would like to see, but I can’t imagine just walking away and avoiding the hard work of being church to each other.
We do what the Apostle Paul admonishes us to do, amongst other things, in Romans 12:1-18—
“Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (v.1)
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (v.2)
“Test and approve what God’s will is” (v.2)
“Think of yourself with sober judgment” (v.3)
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly (sisterly) love” (v.10)
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (v.12)
“Practice hospitality,” (v.13)
“Be willing to associate with people of low position,” (v.16)
“As far as it is possible, live at peace with everyone.” (v.18)