This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Taking words to heart

In “Don’t Break Up the Body” (April 27), James M. Lapp writes that the church is “our laboratory for learning to love, even when we disagree.” He states further, “What holds our body together is our allegiance to Jesus, not theories of inspiration or atonement, details on being peacemakers or our views about people with same-gender attraction. Must our disagreement break relationships in the body of Christ?” What powerful words from a longtime minister in Franconia Mennonite Conference. I absolutely agree. Let us all take these words to heart and action. However, the irony is not lost on me. In 1997 when Lapp was conference minister of Franconia Conference, he and the moderator of the conference met with Germantown Mennonite Church to inform the members that they were being excommunicated from Franconia because they accepted gay and lesbian people in covenanted relationship into membership. Now, 18 years later, it is time for Lapp to practice what he preaches and return to the people of Germantown and apologize for excommunicating them. I encourage him to plan with other leaders in the conference to work toward reconciliation. It will not be easy or fast. But it will be much more rewarding for all involved to do this now rather than to have this come about when his spiritual descendants will be doing it.

Gloria Horst Rosenberger
State College, Pa.

James M. Lapp responds: I appreciate the concern of this letter. I have grieved deeply about my involvement in this action by our conference. I did not believe in 1997, nor do I believe now, that it is necessary to divide over this issue. The article was intended to make that point. I confessed my regrets about my involvement in this action to the pastor at Germantown, and she extended grace to me. I have spoken to conference leaders about my desire to seek healing between the Germantown congregation and our conference. Sometimes leaders need to act on behalf of the people or organization they serve, even if it is contrary to their convictions or preferences. I am now largely retired and freed from such institutional constraints. But I respect those who carry such responsibilities and the challenges they face. They need our prayers, understanding and grace.

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