This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Let’s get on with church

Elwood Yoder teaches history in Harrisonburg, Virginia. 

It’s time to move on from debates in Mennonite Church USA and get to the business of being church. The American political atmosphere is so charged with shrill attacks and diatribe that a Christian response in a nonconformist Anabaptist mode would be to deliberately choose to go a different direction.

That direction could be discovered if we get on with the ministries, the needs, and the vision for being Christ’s church that is so clearly woven into the fabric of Mennonite Church USA. Let’s be nonconformist in the way we speak, act, and talk to one another, countering the devastating attacks currently taking place in the American political arena.

One of my roles at Zion Mennonite Church, Broadway, Virginia, is to serve as a delegate to our Northern District and Virginia Conference. Recently we held a District Council meeting on a warm Monday June evening, when everyone who attended could have found something else to be doing outside. The Council represents 14 congregations, and I came to the meeting expecting that we’d hear about the initiative from the denominational discernment group on sexual abuse recommending an investigation into Virginia Mennonite Conference and Lindale Mennonite Church, a congregation in our District. Our chair gave us a one minute update and we moved on to ministry-related issues. I came to the meeting, with about 20 pastors and delegates in attendance, thinking I’d hear about Chapel Hill (N.C.) Mennonite Fellowship that’s been in national news recently, and is a member of VMC, but our chair gave a one minute update and we moved on.

Instead of sitting around debating the issues of the day in the denomination, we worked at ministry issues. One of our small rural churches needs a well drilled to replace an aging cistern, and we agreed to spend money from the District treasury to help them. The pastor at Iglesia Enciende una Luz, a District congregation, brought a powerful devotional, detailing his work in the local prison and encouraging us to be engaged in Christ’s kingdom business. We learned about a potential new Hispanic church plant, using space in one of our District meetinghouses. One of our District overseers beamed when she announced that a 23-year-old seminary student who grew up in the District had been approved for an internship in his home congregation.

I walked out of this District Council meeting refreshed, motivated, and inspired to be engaged in the work of the church. On the way to and from the meeting my pastor and I didn’t debate the Luke Hartman case or the Isaac Villegas suspension, both in our conference. Rather, we talked about how we could help a very needy family who had recently moved into our community.

Let’s be about the business of the church, work together, and so challenge the shrill debates so commonplace in our wider culture. To do this would be missional, Christ-like, and would be a bold nonconformist stance in a society desperate for examples on how to amicably relate across lines that can so easily divide.

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