This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Forbearance in Lancaster

I was moved by the April discussion of 52 leaders from Lancaster (Pa.) Conference regarding the “Radical Center” document.

I wondered, Could this be a type of forbearance?

In addition to patience, forbearance means restraint and tolerance—especially during the challenge of listening to others’ opinions.

Being from Lancaster Conference myself, I am familiar with “history [that] is one of pain and division” that the document mentions.

I worry when I hear people refer to this reputation, as I hope this is not Lancaster Conference’s defining feature.

The informal group that gathered to discuss the Radical Center document came up with several suggested “paths forward,” for example, including all voices in the church, maintaining an identity larger than Lancaster Conference and a commitment to shared beliefs.

Another suggested idea included: “Finds a way to serve, be served by and serve with LGBTQ community members in this discernment process.”

Beth Good, leader of the Radical Center writing team, explained the process in which the leaders came to these action items: Those present worked at table groups, then listed action items on newsprint. Then people “voted” with sticker dots. The list of five items are the items that received the most dots.

A willingness to include LGBTQ members in the process is significant.

Good told me that not everyone at that meeting is in agreement regarding LGBTQ inclusion in the church—or other issues that affect church life.

Like the authors of the “Forbearance in the Midst of Differences Resolution,” which will go to the Kansas City 2015 delegate assembly, these Lancaster leaders are “not all of one mind on these matters” (Forbearance Resolution).

However, both see the value in staying together during disagreements, and the Radical Center is open to extending the reach of the conversation to the very individuals the conversation is about.

I don’t know what will come of the Radical Center document or the idea to serve alongside LGBTQ members.

But that’s not the point. Neither do the individuals involved.

One table group mentioned a commitment to process but trust in the Holy Spirit for an outcome.

This seems in contrast to the “Resolution on Membership Guidelines” from the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board, which includes “a commitment not to reexamine the Membership Guidelines again for four years.”

The EB calls for this in order to “exercise forbearance on matters that divide us and to focus on the missional vision that unites us.”

Both documents ask for forbearance, but the Radical Center document calls for us to stay together, have faith and keep talking—not pause the conversation.

Their intentions sound like Gamaliel in Acts 5: “For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

This ran as the editorial in the June issue

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