Polarizing sexual debate distresses reader
I am distressed by the polarizing debate on sexuality in Mennonite Church Canada congregations. I wonder if adequate consideration is given to two questions that are central to a more productive dialogue:
- Is there cultural equivalence between the Old and New testaments and modern cultures? I find the biblical references refer to cultural practices that we now consider sexual abuse associated with rape and pedophilia. Understanding the historical contexts avoids seeing culture as static.
- Does all of Scripture have equal authority? Are Christians followers of Moses or Paul or Jesus?
Gareth Brandt recently reminded MC B.C. delegates that “the Bible is not the word of God, Jesus is.” Jesus addresses questions of sexuality as they relate to healthy relationships that are loving, just, non-judgmental and always seeking the good of the other.
Can this Spirit of Christ bring both sides in the debate together for respectful and healthy dialogue?
Johann Funk, Penticton, B.C.
Are sexuality debates ‘chasing after wind’?
I continue to be amazed by the amount of energy and resources allocated to the issue of homosexuality, as evidenced by the number of articles and letters in Canadian Mennonite, and the seemingly interminable and unnecessarily divisive discussions in some of our area church’s congregations.
In my Bible, there are at most a half dozen references to this topic. Compare this to the hundred or so references of less than acceptable behaviour that should be more familiar to most of us: lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, laziness, envy and pride.
If we have our knickers in a twist about lesbian/gay/bisexual/ transgender/queer (LGBTQ) issues, how much time do we spend on pacifism, reaching out to the poor and homeless, the aliens among us, the prisoners?
Why is sexuality demanding such a disproportionate quantity of our finite resources? Is it really the elephant in the china shop we are making it out to be?
I posed this question to an area church minister who recently visited our congregation. His opinion was that the endless debate is reflective of the inflated importance of the contemporary individual within and outside the church. It’s all about me and my issues.
In our Bible study group, we are reading Ecclesiastes and I wonder if this issue is “chasing after wind”?
Harold Macy, Courtenay, B.C.
Hague Mennonite lauded for taking a stand
Congratulations to Hague Mennonite Church, Sask. I strongly support its decision to declare its position on same-sex marriage, liberalism, women in ministry and peace issues.
We may agree or agree to disagree, but too many times these serious issues simply slide along and the confusion that follows creates much confusion, hurt and long-term negative results.
Regarding Russel Snyder-Penner’s column, I believe that we need to heed this strong word of counsel, come out of the closet and have the watershed moment that many church leaders are shying away from. I believe that a clarification of issues is important because now our discussion is simply going in circles. It is said that insanity is defined as repeating the same action, yet hoping to get different results.
Other denominations have gone through this discerning process and they have survived. Let us not be afraid! Life will go on. The sun will set and rise, it will be the evening and the morning of a new day.
Yes, it is time for the leaders to come out of the closet.
David Shantz, Montréal
Openness sought on issues of identity and sexuality
There continues to be more dividing and pain in groups and families because of questions of sexuality and sexual orientation. I wish we could say enough dividing and pain and secrecy. We need to find ways to stand together, to be good neighbours, In such conversations, we must be gentle with one another, respect one another.
Sexuality can be hard to talk about. We have few tools and little experience in talking about sexuality, in distinguishing between sex and sexualities. A line from Beauty and the Beast is true in this area: “We don’t like what we don’t understand.”
So what is really the question? For most, the question is not about sexuality. Most are not trying to understand the range of maleness and femaleness, most are not trying to understand the critical part that sexuality has in identity for each of us. That may be a question, but usually it is not the main concern. For many groups and for many families, the current question is how do we not rip our families and our groups apart on “this question.”
As we look around the table at each other and our values, what do we really see? These are our children, our brothers and sisters, friends of our children, children of our friends. They grew up in our communities and groups. We taught them our values. Many have our faith. We cannot throw them out. We cannot ask them to lock up their identity and their energy.
I ask for openness. I wish for an end to secrecy, pain and separation on questions of identity and sexuality. I wish for family gatherings with no empty chairs at the table. I wish for churches where all can come to pray.
Ray Hamm, Neubergthal, Man.
Why does the church continue to exclude marginalized people?
Re: “First we need to define what is sin” letter, April 13, page 11.
Not only was the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) community singled out in this letter, but people who struggle with addictions as well. As a youth addictions worker, I have seen firsthand how harmful this attitude towards LGBTQ people and people with addictions can be. Both of these groups are filled with guilt and shame over things that are out of their control, especially if they have grown up in the church.
Yet many people in the church act as though all these people need to do is “pray the gay away” or “pray for healing from addictions.” Prayer is powerful and important, but what happens to these youth who still are gay after they have prayed? What about the ones who are still addicted?
What these people need is unconditional love because what they are dealing with is so misunderstood on neurological and spiritual levels.
The letter does not mention love, but does dictate the conditions on which someone can be a member of a church. If people could just stop being gay or just stop using drugs, don’t you think they would? Yet this view of “just stop” or “just pray” is still going strong, despite all the facts and research to the contrary.
I guess the old saying is true: “Ignorance is bliss.”
Ryan Schmidtke, Kitchener, Ont.