This article was originally published by The Mennonite

“Hey, denomination, can I bend your ear for a tick?” Part 1

Two Women with Contrasting Dress, Mennonite World Conference, 1967

Last year, Anna Groff asked me to join the team of bloggers for The Mennonite, and I said yes.

I even had a plan for what I was going to write about: reflections on a series of Christian practices that the 21st-century Church can do to be relevant to the world and deepen the spirituality of its members.

But a funny thing happened. 

I started about half-a-dozen posts, I just never finished them because all I could write about was the conflict Mennonite Church USA has been in for the past decade.

I held off on posting any of my rants because of that icky social media dynamic where I’d feel compelled to internalize anything and everything people said (or didn’t say) about my blog posts.

Did they like it? Was I insightful enough? Who felt upset by what I’d written? How do I fix it? But more importantly, I didn’t post those rants because that’s what they were: rants.

But now, in the post-Kansas City reality, I am feeling assertive and have some things to say that I hope are more compassionate and grounded than rants.

I am offering my opinions, questions, critiques and gentle admonitions with the intention that as we look for practical and relational ways to move forward, we also develop theologically meaningful ways to move forward too.

As I develop my posts, my goal is to write in a style that reflects a few commitments that I want to be transparent about. I will make mistakes and fall short of my commitments.

When that happens, I hope that as readers, you will be able to extend grace and compassion to me, and keep reading anyway.
  • I am committed to practicing nonviolent communication, and I expect to take responsibility for my emotions and not put that responsibility on others.
  • I am committed to using the blogging medium as a teaching tool, so if/when I use technical vocabulary, I will give readers guidance about the terms I am using.
  • I am committed to communicating with intercultural competence and persuasion—I strive to hold my beliefs and convictions in a way that does not make me either superior or inferior to you — while also making a case for how we might analyze the current state of affairs in MC USA.
  • I am committed to understanding Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) as one denomination that is part of the Christian Church; I will not use the word “church” to refer to MC USA. While MC USA is the expression of church that most of us are most familiar with, we are not the totality of Christ’s body—our denomination is both part of his body and only one expression of Anabaptist-Mennoniteism.
  • I am committed to cultivating a theologically grounded approach to conversation about the life of our denomination that draws on the seven priorities of MC USA as well as my personal study of (Mennonite) Christian theology.
So here’s a list of the working titles that I’ve given to the posts that will be appearing over the next couple of weeks.

You’ll notice that the language is rather polemical and even confrontational, but I hope that won’t keep you from reading my posts.

I hope you will join me in wondering aloud how we Mennonites might move past polemics, accept our emotional turmoil, and use our (peace) theology to remind ourselves that we are a vital part of Christ’s body.

  • “The Cost of Passive Aggression: Being Right, (Non)Violent Communication, and the Politics of Persuasion” or “Q: What happens when we think the antidote to passivity is aggression?”
  • “Getting out of the Export Business: What Mennonites Might Learn by Embracing Conflict Instead of Perfectionism” or “Q: Why are we known by others for our conflict resolution/mediation skills but we fail to apply those skills to ourselves and our conflicts?”
  • “The Effects of Education: How Knowledge Complicates and Enriches our Tradition” or “Q: Why are we so ambivalent about loving God with our minds and our hearts?” 
  • “Duck & Cover: Mennonites’ Dance with 20th-Century Christian Fundamentalism” or “Q: Are Mennonites fundamentalists?”
  • “Red, Brown, Yellow, Black & White: Evangelicalism, Race, and U.S. Mennonites” or “Q: Why are most of the Mennonites who are politically active around social justice issues White?”
  • “Let’s Talk about Sex: Alfred Kinsey, John Howard Yoder, and the Pink Menno Campaign” or “Q: Why aren’t people of MC USA persuaded that the most faithful expression of our denomination is one that values everyone’s sexual orientation equally?”

Photo credit: Mennonite Church USA Archives.


Malinda Elizabeth Berry is a member of the teaching faculty at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary where she teaches theology and Read More

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