On May 31, our church gathered in the fellowship hall to review the resolutions for the delegate assembly in Kansas City, Mo.
Since that time, I have been in many conversations about “that troubling resolution.”
The one entitled “Forbearance in the Midst of Differences”? No, not that one. Then it must be one entitled “On the Status of the Membership Guidelines.” Nope. Wrong again. That troubling resolution is one entitled “Israel-Palestine.”
Specifically, members of our congregation are troubled by third bullet point: “To consider how our financial lives are enmeshed in the policies of occupation through our investments, individual purchases and tax dollars.”
Not because they disagree but because to agree would be costly to families and the church.
I pastor a congregation that is 15 minutes from the world headquarters of Caterpillar in Peoria, Ill., one of the companies “known to be profiting from the occupation and/or destruction of life and property in Israel-Palestine.”
Many people in our congregation make their livelihood through work at Caterpillar.
They are good Christian men and women who work as engineers and accountants and sales executives. They also give generously to our church which means—you guessed—the ministry of our congregation is also funded in part through funds earned at that company.
For us, it isn’t as simple as avoiding the purchase of a Sodastream product or Ahava body products.
For us to take the resolution seriously goes beyond making sure our financial investments are socially conscious. To really take this resolution to heart and live it out in faithfulness would require people to find new work. It would require us as a congregation to reject financial contributions that come from work done in that company.
My point is not to say that we are not willing to do that.
But it does raise an interesting question about the function of Mennonite Church USA resolutions in everyday life.
Do we pass resolutions and position statements in order to go on the record? Do we pass resolutions and position statements to articulate our theories on these particular issues? Or do we pass resolutions and position statements to guide our daily living.
If it is the latter, how do we hold one another accountable for such commitments? What is the commitment of the larger faith community to my brothers and sisters who, perhaps, after separating from that company cannot find work? How deep do our convictions really go?
It is one thing to ask an institution not to invest in one company over another. It is one thing to ask people in the church not to consume product A and select product B instead. But what about people who work for a company that profits—indirectly but profits nonetheless—from the occupation?
They do not make tanks and guns and missiles and bullets.
They make earthmoving equipment. How deep does this really go?
If it goes all the way down—which it would need to in order to have integrity—are we willing to go there with those most affected in our congregations, conferences and denomination?
Michael Danner is a pastoral contextual theologian currently serving as the lead pastor of Metamora (Ill.) Mennonite Church. On Aug.1, he will leave that work and begin ministry as the Conference Executive Minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference. As a pastor, writer and speaker, he is deeply committed to following the way of Jesus, the Christian Scriptures, and how they relate to local contexts—like one’s neighborhood. He lives in Metamora with his wife Melissa. They have three kids in various stages of young adulthood. He is a D Min. candidate at Northern Seminary (Lombard, Ill.) and blogs at provokelove.net.