Working for MWR over the last three years has often given me a front-row view of church process during a time some will always remember as tumultuous, painful or conflict-ridden.
I’ve certainly witnessed conflict, and reported on those — especially women, LGBT folks, migrants and even young or single people — hurt by the very nature of church process.
Yet — and it will be too soon for many people — I’m ready for the church to think of this quickly changing time as a conversation, maybe a challenge, but surely a change filled with hope.
Absolutely we must mourn the lost connections and be thankful for the good we found in what once was. And I am not advocating for whitewashing the pain that exists in the church. But I don’t want the hope that these changes have brought for many to be missed. I don’t want the future leaders to see a dark cloud over their church and give up. I’ve yearned for a reminder to look forward to the future as one that, because of God’s presence, we should believe will always contain promise and hope.
Because, also in this job, I have encountered beautiful church process in passionate people seeking to better follow Jesus. Within these pages I’ve seen a desire to seek and build a community whose members help each other follow Jesus — but who also find ways to love each other despite differences.
One of the most hopeful moments came during Mennonite Church USA’s conversation on sexuality at this summer’s convention, when 72 percent of delegates voted to forbear with one another. Has any other denomination made such a beautiful witness of wanting to hold together amid differing interpretations of Scripture? Only a group of conflict-sensitive pacifists could dream up such a thing. That makes me hopeful about this time of change.
I’m starting a time of change myself, and it’s the hopeful and relentless call to live thoughtfully and work for justice I’ve seen perusing blogs, editing columns, attending conferences and interviewing Anabaptist pastors, writers and followers, that inspires me as I go.
I have sat in on conference calls with Mennonite Central Committee workers in Beirut and witnessed the beauty of a tightly knit, well-formed priesthood of all believers at Chapel Hill (N.C.) Mennonite Fellowship. I’ve attended my first deaf church service and listened in on the hard questions that arose during the birthing process of a new church entity. I’ve been welcomed by those with whom I disagree.
I am grateful for how working for MWR has helped connect me to corners of the church focused on hope. And I look forward to reading many more challenging, hopeful stories in these pages, stories that inspire Anabaptists like myself to live their call.