Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mennonites abroad

The Church keeps growing. It is well-known that Pentecostal Christianity is one of the fastest-growing movements in Asia, Africa and South America. An interesting stat is that the Episcopal Diocese of Nigeria has more members than the whole of the Episcopal Church, USA. When Archbishop Akinola speaks, lots of people are listening, not just in Nigeria but around the rest of the world. Why do you think there is a rift between ECUSA and the rest of the World Anglican Communion?

But that is not what this post is about. This is about a much smaller growth of Christianity. I'm still getting used to the notion of Evangelical Mennonites, but I really like the idea. What better group to show the world the core beliefs of our faith? Think of them as Amish people who don't look so different and go on to college. And think of them as Christians meeting the world with love and forgiveness with the simple expectation that the world will accept them for who they are.

Look at how a community of Mennonite Christians came to terms with the sticky problem of how best to deal with Christian converts who had been practicing polygamy. All you panic-stricken hand wringers who don't know how to deal with same-sex love and it's consequences, heads up! There may be a lesson here...

The Meserete Kristos Church General Assembly decided Oct. 6-7 that polygamous converts need not divorce multiple wives and that women can serve in church leadership roles.

The MKC is the world’s largest Anabaptist conference, with 144,600 members.

The assembly approved a recommendation to allow baptism of polygamous converts but to restrict them from leadership positions.

Polygamy, a form of marriage in which a man has more than one wife, is common in Africa.

Look now at this gentle and insightful message found at Young Anabaptist Radicals.

...the Meserete Kristos Church of Ethiopa, recently made two groundbreaking (maybe even radical) decisions. One is that women can now be fully active in leadership in the church. My only comment to that one is: well done, the church will be better for it. More interesting to me is the other decision. Polygamous converts can now be baptised into the church without divorcing all but one of their wives. The church is still saying monogamy is the way to go (their “teaching position”) and men shouldn’t marry any more wives once they are part of the church (also probably shouldn’t be leaders).

The little cynic sitting on my left shoulder wants to make a comment. [On the other hand...]

There’s a clever little Mennonite lesbian sitting on my right shoulder, tapping my ear. [On the other hand...]

So she comes to the point. It seems the Mennonites in North America might look to Ethiopia to learn something about how the faith might be practiced.

Right now the Mennonite “teaching position” on same-sex sexual behavior is kinda like the “teaching position” of the MKC was on polygamy: it’s bad, you should change if you want to join us (even if it is personally damaging) and you definitely can’t be in a same-sex relationship. It is also kinda like the new decision on polygamy: it’s still bad but we can see how it could be personally damaging to change so you can be here as long as you are celibate (or safely in the closet), also, you still can’t be in leadership (but you are welcome to sit here, share your gifts of money and talents as long as you don’t ask for any respect for heaven’s sake). So basically, you can stay as long as you hate yourself enough to follow our bigoted rules or shut up about it enough that we don’t have to notice (also, could you play the organ on Sunday? Oh, and we’re looking for pledges for the new building project, do you think you and your “roommate” could help us out with that? -nudge- -wink-). That was the little cynical Mennonite lesbian sitting on top of my head.

Sound familiar?

It does to me. And I'm not even close to being Mennonite.
Oh, and I really like that little recurring line "Well done, the Church will be better for it."
Quiet and gentle but firm.

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