Teaching Link: Neither the Scriptures Nor the Power of God
Related Teaching: "You Have Heard it Said...But I Tell You." Conflict
Pastoral Letter to the Congregation:
Sep 7, 2014
Dear Trinity Family,
Each generation has one issue that seems so divisive and polarizing, so complicated and intractable that only in retrospect is the way forward clear. The struggle for equality and justice for African Americans during the civil rights movement provided one such issue. For white, Christian America, it was not its finest moment. Dr. King put it this way:
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.
We look back now with the clarity of hindsight and wonder,
“Why did this have to be so difficult?”
One of the most volatile and painful conflicts in the church today is the proper response by the church to homosexual people. How do we remain faithful to scripture while at the same time demonstrating the best of the boundary breaking, ever expanding love of God that we see in Jesus? How can we face the challenge of this issue together in a way that honors God, and will allow us to look back with joy rather than a need to repent?
Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA, Ervin Stutzman issued this plea back in February:
Our differences of conviction run right through families, congregations, conferences and denominations. In the midst of these differences, I call the church to a renewed commitment to Jesus Christ, to ongoing study of the scriptures, to a thoughtful acknowledgement of our Confession of Faith, to a love that is filled with knowledge and insight, to deep listening to fellow Christians on the LGBTQ spectrum, to compassionate welcoming and discipling for all who are marginalized, to respectful conversation with those who differ with our own stance, and to prayerful, Spirit-led discernment in communities of faith committed to God’s mission in the world.
Each congregation must walk through this together in their own way, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are a diverse community, one that holds a variety of views on many issues, including this one.
So, after much prayer and many personal discussions with people within the congregation, on behalf of the staff and the leadership team, I am inviting each of you to come and participate/engage in a time of listening, learning and discerning together.
These will take place over a series of six Tuesday nights beginning on September 23 and finishing up on October 28. During those six weeks we will:
- share our hopes and fears relating to the issue,
- study the scripture together,
- seek to understand those who have different perspectives,
- try and understand why we see things the way we do,
- listen to stories of those whose lives have been personally impacted,
- above all, listen to one another and the Holy Spirit as it works among us.
One of the ways that Trinity is unique, is that, as your pastor, I am a discussion starter-not a discussion ender. My personal position on this topic is not that of Trinity, nor should anyone feel compelled to share it. While I am not neutral on this issue, I feel a deep calling to shepherd this church through a process where every voice is heard, where the word of God is lifted up, and the Holy Spirit is listened to.
This issue will not define us. We are about much more: the centrality of Jesus, the authority of scripture, and a belief that the Holy Spirit guides us in community. This is an opportunity to live out what we say we believe:
How we deal with issues like this is discipleship.
How we deal with issues like this is community.
How we deal with issues like this determines our priorities and leaves us with the energy needed to serve the world that Jesus has called us into.
We are going to call each of you to do 3 things:
- hang in there with us (no choosing up sides, no converting people to your view; please support the process)
- pray for us and each other (be watching for resources from the church office to guide you in praying as we look forward to our Tuesday evenings together)
- participate (we need your voice and perspective, as we wait and see what the Holy Spirit will do through this time of relating to one another)
This is a conversation to unite us, not an issue to divide us. I have incredible faith in this community, and am humbled and honored to be your servant during this time.